Walls are more than physical structures separating one physical place from another, Pastor Munther Isaac (Bethlehem Bible College) said in one of many excellent addresses that day. Walls have a profound psychological and mental impact. They change the way we think and how we feel about others. Walls block our view and create an unknown. Walls encourage our tendency to assume the worst of what we do not see and can only imagine. Walls make us fear.
But when we break down walls, we see others for who they are. We can have a conversation, and we can empathize.
At the Micah Singapore Conversation, we broke down several walls:
The wall between proclamation and demonstration
Micah Singapore is part of the International Micah Network. The Micah Declaration on Integral Mission states that (2001) states that:
Integral mission or holistic transformation is the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel. It is not simply that evangelism and social involvement are to be done alongside each other. Rather, in integral mission our proclamation has social consequences as we call people to love and repentance in all areas of life. And our social involvement has evangelistic consequences as we bear witness to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.
Dr Melba Maggay demolished the compartmentalized framework that sets up social action and church planting as opposites. It is reductionist, she said, to think that kingdom transformation is social action only, or that church planting only plants churches. For instance, doing justice while identifying as Christians has, by itself, evangelistic consequences. Mission is witness to the lordship of Jesus in all of life.
Tamar Village and Homeless Hearts live out James 2.14-22 integration of proclamation and demonstration by caring for the oppressed and marginalized of all faiths. Their selfless love as Christians who love their neighbours as they love their God is their proclamation that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
The wall between sacred and secular
Reuben Ang (Elsie’s Kitchen) did not set out to “do missional business”, but with a clear understanding that faith touches every aspect of our lives and work, he set out to be the best possible employer and business associate in the market. James Quek (MyHelper maid agency) pours out his lives to serve foreign domestic helpers and make their lives better, with passion and sacrifice usually associated with missionaries. Covenant Chambers LLC, a law firm, has a calling to see everyone have the legal representation they deserve and be cared for as human beings, as well as to build a healthy eco-system for lawyers to thrive in.
The wall between church and community
“We see the community dinner as another church service. Because the people who come will never sit through a traditional church service.” Thus, Woodlands EFC re-defines “church service”. It serves meals on its premises together with fellowship, worship, and caring relationships.
Living Hope Methodist Church’s Mighty Connection ministry also breaks down the walls between church and neighbourhood. The ministry is upfront about its inclusion of bible stories in its tuition and kids camp programs. Tampines residents who otherwise might never step into a church eagerly enrol their children.
The very format of the Micah Conversation refused to extract the church from its surroundings. Covenant Presbyterian Church was chosen as the venue for its location in Little India, and delegates were sent out into the neighbourhood for meals and a vision walk.
Dr Munther Isaac spoke movingly of the walls that divide Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews, and of ideologies that pitch Christians of Zionist persuasion against Palestinians’ right to exist. Dr Isaac spoke to all of us when he spoke of the universal biblical imperative to intentionally tear down walls that divide people. He does not think it incongruous that he should be involved in inter-faith dialogue and peace efforts as a pastor and bible school teacher. He made it clear rather that for someone in his situation, to not engage in the public and political space would be to leave lives untouched by the Kingdom of God.
The wall between mine and ours
The nine case studies of integral mission in Singapore were presented by volunteers who interviewed and visited the ministries, followed by Q&A with the people who did the ministries. As a result, the impression was not such much that people were presenting “their ministries” to “us”. Rather, the feel was a lot more collective: “Here is this ministry. It’s not mine personally, but isn’t it amazing. It’s in this space where we all are, and here’s how any of us can be involved.”
Redemption Hill Church breaks down the wall between “mine” and “ours” by not adopting the common church strategy of setting up its own social service arm. Rather, the church works in partnership with social service agencies already working amongst the poor in the church’s Chinatown vicinity, mobilizing church members to volunteer with them. This personalized, grassroots approach contrasts with programmatical approaches which might accentuate which ministries belong to the church and which do not.
There can be separation not only between church and social service agency, but even between church and church! A call rang out for neighbouring churches to speak to each other and avoid trying to serve their local communities in silos.
Pastor Raymond Fong challenged the young people in the room not to think of the lack of understanding of integral mission in their churches as “someone else’s problem”, but to own the issues as their own and step up into leadership in their churches!
The wall between private life and ministry
“When I prepare a bed for someone, I feel it is worship to God.” A young participant shared with me that this sentence, uttered by Adeline, was what touched her the most. Kenneth and Adeline Thong (The Last Resort) radically personify what it means to follow Jesus without holding back, to the extent of sheltering in their own home and sharing their lives with teenagers and young people who need a place to stay to weather a crisis in their lives.
This entire event was put together and pulled off by volunteers who have “day jobs” doing something else. For them, as it should be for us, this work is ministry and ministry is the work. Our lives are about the Kingdom, and the Kingdom is about our lives.