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An Introduction to Mission Consultation theme: "Life Community"
Rev Teo Yew Tiong
Jan 2021

This year in 2021, we celebrate the 140th Anniversary of the Presbyterian Church in Singapore. As part of the celebrations for this special occasion, the Synod Missions Committee has decided to hold two Mission Consultations, one locally for our member churches, and one internationally with our mission partners overseas.

When deciding on the theme of the Mission Consultations, the committee agreed on “Life Community” in unison.

This could partly be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) reminds us: “A global pandemic requires no less than a world effort to end it. None of us will be safe until everyone is safe.” The pandemic helped us to realise that we are not just individuals, but are together as one body.

When man was scattered across the nations, in Acts 17:26 the Bible states:

“From one man (or From one blood) he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” (New International Version)

We are all from the same source, and belong to one another in the same body. And since we are of the same body, there should not be any parts that are more superior or inferior than others. We belong to and need one another, in our daily lives, as well as in missions. It is a relationship of mutual need.

As Apostle Paul was raising funds for the poor believers in Jerusalem, he said:

“For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.” (Romans 15:27b)

Paul saw the donation to the poor believers in Jerusalem as an act of “mutual sharing” out of faith; he did not lower himself and saw himself as inferior when he asked for financial help – and this is Paul’s view on missions.

However, while the Western missionaries started bringing the gospel to the east, albeit out of love, many of those in the areas that were “missioned to” felt a sense of “imperialism” instead. As these missionaries proceeded with mission work, they gave off a feeling of cultural superiority, disregarding the local culture and sentiments of the people, and at times even considered the locals as cults. This caused those who were being missioned to be unable to truly experience how the Word became flesh and made dwelling among them.

As Christians in Singapore gradually became more well-to-do, we have started doing mission work in areas that are poorer. It is not uncommon to experience how the people in these areas treat us with utmost courtesy and respect, as we provide the “help” they need to them. Although being courteous to others is a virtue, the problem is there seems to be a difference in status - between the poor and the rich. This is not a balanced relationship of needing one another, and is different from Paul’s views on “mutual sharing”.

An elder once shared his missionary experience with me. He is a renowned eye surgeon in Singapore, and serves passionately in the church. There was a time when he was invited to a neighbouring country to do missions - to provide medical help and surgery for serious eye problems for the poor residing in the area, partnering up with the local church over there which took care of the patients, in hopes to share the gospel with these people.

In just a span of a few days, he operated on hundreds of people; some of the patients’ conditions were as serious as their eyeballs had hardened like stones. It was very meaningful to be able to help so many see in those few days.

Upon returning to Singapore, the elder was sitting in the air-conditioned hall of the church sanctuary worshipping God. He then thought to himself: “What am I doing sitting here, when there’s such a huge need over there?” And he also said this that left a strong impression on me, “I went there to open (operate on) the (physical) eyes of the people, but instead my own eyes were opened!”

I believe this is what mission is about. It is not about who is helping who, but to share the goodness that God has provided us with one another, as we are one body in Christ.

This elder had used his expertise to help others, and in turn the locals helped his spiritual life grow. He later on also shared his experience with his church, which encouraged the church’s mission work development, and now this church is a strong support in Synod’s mission work.

The theme of our mission consultation is “Life Community”. In the days to come, we will be sharing more meaningful stories, and we hope for your fervent interest and participation in the upcoming mission consultation happening later this year.


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