OUR PLACE IN THE BODY
THE SERVANT ROLE OF SCGM
By NG ZHI-WEN, Project Co-ordinator at SCGM
I’ve been on secondment to the Singapore Centre for Global Missions (SCGM) since 2017. But my experience with SCGM goes further back to 2012, when I first visited its office at Tamil Methodist Church. Between 2012 and 2017, I got engaged to do various projects on a voluntary basis.
So it’s been 9 years now. Along the way I’ve wondered to myself a few times: What exactly is the work that SCGM does? What would happen if SCGM suddenly wasn’t there – what would change?
I’m sure many others have wondered the same.
Here is my simple ‘unofficial’ attempt at answering that question. I’m sure that more can be said, but let me just list four key ways by which I see SCGM serving the Church in Singapore:
CONNECT WITH THE GLOBAL CHURCH
Over the last 200 years, there have been two major global evangelical missional movements – one is the World Evangelical Alliance, and the other is the Lausanne Movement (started by Billy Graham and John Stott). Did you know that SCGM is closely connected to both of these as Singapore’s national centre for missions? We are also involved with international networks of Christians who focus on reaching the unreached in Asia.
These connections help us keep our eyes and ears close to how God is at work among the nations, and the current trends in missions strategy and missions work. We also get to play an active role in getting Singaporean Christians plugged into these global movements, so that they in turn can go on to influence their respective corners of the Church in Singapore. At the same time, we get to play a role at the international level, as a conduit by which the Church in Singapore can contribute to the Global Church.
So what would happen if there was no SCGM? Simply put, we (and I mean, we the Church in Singapore) would be more disconnected from the global missions movement.
And even if we are connected… what then? Now comes the next point:
A PLATFORM FOR THOUGHT LEADERSHIP YEARS AHEAD OF TIME
Getting plugged into the global Church grants SCGM a long-term perspective on global missions.
What are the key missions issues that we are not paying attention to now, but will become major issues 10 years down the road?
What are the pressing current missions issues that require a more thoughtful, coherent and overarching response?
What are the gaps in our missions thinking and practice, but for which we have not the time or the platform to think about them on our own?
7 years ago, you could say that SCGM was stressing the biblical vision of the Whole Church bringing the Whole Gospel to the Whole World. This incidentally was the theme of the 2014 GoForth National Missions Conference. I’m glad to say that this has much more traction now with the Church than back when I was a university student.
And for the last couple of years (and probably for a few more to come), SCGM has been pushing missions-related agendas that are not often featured in a local church’s missions strategy:
Contextualising the Gospel to Asia;
Urban Missions – i.e. Gospel Transformation for the Cities of Asia;
Creation Care in Missions;
and Missional Business (both as a means of creative access and a platform for bringing the ‘whole gospel’).
As a future-oriented organisation, SCGM is the binoculars for the Church, helping to bring missions issues that are further down the road clearer into focus; and helping to chart the way to move ahead. We are the idea champion for what should become important planks in a church or an organization’s missions philosophy. When these ideas and practices take root, and what we had been stressing for some time becomes established practice, then we know we have done our job. It would be high time to cast our view even forward. This is how we serve the Church – helping her be ‘future-ready’.
Now on the matter of bringing clarity to missions issues unique to Singapore, this also we do:
MAKING SENSE OF THE PIECES
Guess how many churches there are in Singapore?
Now guess how many Christian organisations there are, ranging from the one-man-operation to the institutional missions agencies?
The answer to both questions lies in the hundreds.
With such diversity in organisation there is also much diversity in missions endeavours. Who is there to try to piece the pieces together and make sense of what is going on, to observe and perceive what God is doing among and through the Church in Singapore for missions?
SCGM serves to play that role, not least in the form of research.
Since 1988, the National Missions Study has been an important initiative by SCGM to collect data from the churches on pressing missions issues of the day. I remember reading the report for the 2009 study and I could tell that missions leaders back then was thinking very much about the tension between “missions” and “evangelism”. The 2014 study, which I was heavily involved in, examined the issue of partnerships and the growing diversity of missions workers (beyond the ‘traditional’ missionary model).
These were trends that people may have been sensing on the ground, but without data it was still hard to tell if the sensing was representative of what is happening Church-wide or mere guesswork. The findings from our research are made widely available to the churches and missions agencies, to inform their missions strategy and policy.
By now, you may have had the sense that SCGM should possess a mother-lode of missions resource.
I think so too, and it’s too good not to be shared!
Now comes my final point:
THE HUB FOR MISSIONS RESOURCES
SCGM should be the central repository of missions resources for the Church. All the issues and topics I’ve mentioned above should have written and audio-visual literature on them, preferably located in one place.
Yes, there are theological institutions in Singapore, and they contain academic and deep-expertise content for the global Christian movement. SCGM serves to make such knowledge more available for educated lay Christians.
On occasion, SCGM also provides the platform for bringing together leading missions thinkers and practitioners to discuss issues of the day and do sense-making together. For instance, just a few weeks ago I was involved in a dialogue for missions leaders to discuss contextualising missions work in certain parts of South-East Asia. There is a separate platform hosted by SCGM for bringing together missional business practitioners.
All of the resources that arise from these sources will be made available through a smart phone application called the Missions Resource Hub (MRH). It literally means SCGM’s missions resources at your fingertips. We’ve been working on it over the past year and are very keen to make it fully launched.
Because that’s what SCGM is all about… it exists to serve the Church in Singapore. In fact, SCGM was set up 40 years ago precisely to serve the local churches to take the next steps in being involved in Global missions – more intentionally, more thoughtfully, more strategically, and more collaboratively. To this end, SCGM will gladly come alongside local churches to provide resources, consultation, and platforms for learning in community with other local churches and missions agencies.
And where there are any other Christian organisation or movement (current or emerging), SCGM is happy to support where it can in partnership.
All these are done so that by any means we may help to catalyse the national missions movement, and so speed the day for the return of our Lord and the end of our mission.