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Jesus told His first followers that the value of living fruitfully for His Father’s glory was “that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full”. John 15:11

The joy of Jesus is something all believers desire. Yet many in multi-cultural Singapore face practical difficulties and challenges in living out their faith within the traditions of their family. 

These difficulties can suffocate the joy that comes with knowing Christ and the good news of salvation. The implications of living a “Christian life” deter many from responding whole-heartedly to His invitation to life.

The introduction to Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, a discipleship course that aims to help every Christian develop the vision to live a life of purpose, says:

“As the name implies, the Perspectives course is about vision. It’s the same vision which empowered Jesus to live His life with joy, hope and single-hearted passion. This course explores that vision and will help you respond to Christ’s invitation to live for the same purpose and significance that He did.”

Expanding vision

By exploring God’s global purpose from four different angles – biblical, historical, cultural and strategic perspectives – Perspectives hopes to help local churches and believers have a bigger view of God and His purposes, and to equip them to fulfil their individual role within those purposes.

Instead of a shrivelled vision limited by the horizon of our own concerns and culture, our new life in Christ can be “a matter of heart-blazing hope”. 

How do believers follow Christ in such a way that will welcome many more of their family and culture to follow Christ? 

For course participant Angeline Teoh, learning the cultural aspects of discipleship was especially poignant. It was the capstone experience of almost three decades of struggle. Through it, she found closure because it gave her the understanding and vocabulary she needed to articulate and process her experience.

In her discipleship journey, Teoh had experienced first-hand the cultural difficulties of living out her Christian faith. After receiving Christ at the tender age of 15, it took her almost 20 years to settle into a church, and yet another eight years before her water baptism.

She describes that experience as feeling “sandwiched” between having unreached parents who thought that she was “betraying” their Chinese roots and the expectations she believed were duties of Christianity.

What she went through was in fact, a commonly-faced challenge that Steve Hawthorne, founder of WayMakers and co-editor of the Perspectives course, termed as “the wall and the canyon”.

Our missionary work

Essentially, there are two parts to the missionary task of sharing the Gospel.

Hawthorne puts it like this: “The first (part) is to see that the Gospel is understood in such a way that Christ and His salvation are revealed. The second is to see that the Gospel is received in such a way that Christ is openly followed.”

The challenge to the first part is termed “the wall of communication” where there is a barrier to understanding.

Instead of a shrivelled vision limited by the horizon of our own concerns and culture, our new life in Christ can be “a matter of heart-blazing hope”. 

However, it was the second part that hit home for Teoh. “The canyon of conversion” refers to the difficulties that a believer faces in following Christ while still living in their culture.

How do believers follow Christ in such a way that will welcome many more of their family and culture to follow Christ? How should they do so without losing their socio-cultural identity?

In Teoh’s situation, did her new identity as a child of God require her to disobey and to disrespect the wishes of her unreached parents who highly valued their Chinese roots? Did she need to resort to dishonesty so that she could attend church weekly?

Navigating these questions of culture are difficult. But in the lesson, Hawthorne cautioned that while these problems “seem trivial”, they are very real barriers.

Heartfelt repentance

To Teoh, the mere acknowledgement of these questions was a reassuring sign from God that He cared for her, that He saw her struggles and He loved her anyway.

The liberation felt like pure joy.

After years of feeling “stuck”, Teoh recognised that her salvation was given to her by the mercies of God. There were no prerequisites nor hoops she had to jump through to gain acceptance by God.

“Almost three decades of clumsily navigating my sense of belonging to a church and figuring out what to openly say about my Christian identity passed before I heard God speak through Steve Hawthorne that evening that it is okay, He understands perfectly.”

She was even able to see the significance and the redemptive aspect of her experience – recognising that “by God’s mercies and grace, my desert-wandering experience of feeling sandwiched between regular church-going Christians and my unreached parents turned out to be the best years for relating with Jesus in intensely personal and authentic ways”.

Cross-cultural challenges

Like Teoh, many Singaporeans face complexities in their efforts to present the Gospel within the context of cultural and social forms.

Accepting practices like fengshui would have blended Gospel truths with culture in an unbiblical way, which is termed “syncretism”. But what of the problem that Angeline faced between honouring her parents and attending church weekly?

We are not called to perform dull religious duties. He is enlisting His followers to lead lives of huge significance.

Although these are complex issues, they are important ones that cannot be approached with ignorance. As believers, we must be able to speak the truth in love and to give an answer for the hope we have – gently!

Seeing God at work

The course introduction puts it clearly: 

“We are not called to perform dull religious duties. He is enlisting His followers to lead lives of huge significance. We are convinced that God has a ‘world-sized’ role for every Christian in His global purpose … Discovering that vision makes this course valuable, and perhaps crucial, for any Christian.”

Ailene Chou, one of the coordinating team members of Perspectives in Singapore, shares: “Over the years we have seen God touch participants in many ways, but perhaps chief among them is the new or renewed desire to see God glorified in all the earth, and to see every people come to know God. On a day-to-day level, it has impacted conversations and situations they have encountered with non-believing family members, and recommitments to go wherever God calls. One participant described this signing over of her life to God as a ‘blank cheque’ moment.”

Perspectives helps Christians see the work of God in this world and the work that He has given us to do. It is work that He started, is continuing, and will finish – the “heart-blazing hope” lies in the fact that God wants to do this work in us and with us.

Perspectives runs concurrently at these two locations: Friday nights at Adam Road Presbyterian Church and Sunday afternoons at Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church. The first two lessons are free for those who are interested to attend. You can register here.

Adam Road Presbyterian Church
Friday nights, 7.30-10pm
May 4, May 11, 2018

Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church
Sunday afternoons, 2-4.30pm
May 6, May 13, 2018

Course Overview:

The course is designed around four vantage points or “perspectives”– biblical, historical, cultural and strategic. Each highlights different aspects of God’s global purpose.

The biblical and historical sections reveal why our confidence is based on the historic fact of God’s relentless work from the dawn of history until this day. 

The cultural and strategic sections underscore that we are in the midst of a costly, but very “do-able” task, confirming the biblical and historical hope.

The Biblical Perspective

Lesson 1. The Living God is a Missionary God (Free to attend)  God’s purpose is three-fold: Against evil, for the nations, and for God. Exploring God’s purpose for the nations.

Lesson 2. The Story of His Glory (Free to attend) Exploring God’s purpose for Himself: How God has been steadily unfolding a plan throughout all nations and generations to bring about His greater glory, ultimately drawing to Himself the worship of all the peoples. 

Lesson 3. Your Kingdom Come Exploring God’s purpose regarding evil: How God has accomplished a defeat of evil powers in order to open a season of history in which the nations can freely follow Christ. 

Lesson 4. Mandate for the Nations The Great Commission and the ways of God’s sending in relational power. Dealing with the ideas of pluralism (all religions the same) and universalism (all persons saved).

Lesson 5. Unleashing the Gospel The freeing of the gospel in Acts to be followed by Gentiles without Jewish traditions as a requirement. A foundational act of God which speaks to the situations where the Gospel is hindered today.

The Historical Perspective

Lesson 6. The Expansion of the Christian Movement An overview of the largest and the longest-running movement ever in history. How the Gospel surged through the peoples and places of the world. Important insights for our own day.

Lesson 7. Eras of Mission History Why we could be in the final era of missions. The global harvest force comprised increasingly of non-Western missionaries.

Lesson 8. Pioneers of the World Christian Movement The wisdom and the heart of ordinary people who did extraordinary things in earlier generations. 

Lesson 9. The Task Remaining Understanding the concept of “unreached peoples” to assess the remaining task. Recognising the imbalance of mission resources shapes strategic priorities. The need and opportunity of urban mission.

The Cultural Perspective

Lesson 10. How Shall They Hear? Culture and intercultural communication of the gospel. Communicating the Gospel with relevance. 

Lesson 11. Building Bridges of Love Explore the intricacy and complexity of presenting identity with integrity in a globalised, terrorised, pluralised world. Recognising the dynamics of social structure.

The Strategic Perspective

Lesson 12. Christian Community Development A survey of world need. Dynamic balance of evangelism and social action. Exploring the charge that missionaries destroy instead of serve cultures. Healing the wounds of the world between the peoples.

Lesson 13. Spontaneous Multiplication of Churches Look beyond institutional features of churches. Churches as counter-communities, acting as salt and light, bringing change to their cultures. How movements multiply.

Lesson 14. Pioneer Church Planting How the breakthrough of the Gospel in an unreached people requires that the Gospel be “de-Westernised”. Distinguish and appreciate people movements, church planting movements and insider movements.

Lesson 15. World Christian Discipleship Exploring the practical ways of pursuing God’s purpose. The basic practices of world Christians and the essential disciplines of world Christian discipleship. 

About the author

Tan Huey Ying

Salt&Light writer Huey Ying is a millennial with a résumé to prove it – she was a plankton-sized part of the finance industry before serving in a Christian organisation. She loves the sea and you will find her somewhere near the water during her holidays.