Christ is for all, but is the Church?
This is a new Salt&Light series entitled Urban Shalom, focusing on what it means to be a missional church community in a local urban neighbourhood.
Ps Matthew Tan // January 30, 2019, 6:00 am
Photo by Akson on Unsplash
In Matthew 10:1, we read that “Jesus called his 12 disciples to Him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness”.
After that, the disciples were sent out to do the ministry that Jesus had been doing. They were sent as an extension of God’s hands to minister to the people.
We are all God’s hands, feet and voice to the people within our reach.
I believe that today, we who follow Jesus are also a “sent-out” people. We are an equipped and commissioned community, sent out to carry on the ministry of Jesus so that everyone might experience reconciliation with God.
We are all God’s hands, feet and voice to the people within our reach. We are a “sent-out” church, not a “sending-people-out” church.
If we think of ourselves primarily as sending others away to do missions, we may then forget that we have been sent by God into our particular segments of the world to fulfil His mission, right where we are.
A house to be filled
Recently my attention was arrested by this video floating around the Internet. It got me really emotional as I recalled my church experience in my younger days. I was an average kid from a typical neighbourhood school and I was put together with Sunday School classmates who were from elite schools.
We had good times together and my command of English got better because of Sunday School. My peers were neither exclusive nor were they unfriendly, but I remember constantly feeling inferior, trying to fit in. I was unconsciously comparing myself with them.
“Go out to the roads and country lanes and call them to come in, so that My house will be full.”
I suppose one of the big reasons why people fall out from the church is because they do not fit in. I mean, we all want to do community work, but if the community wants to come to our churches, can they fit in?
I think as a church in Singapore, we have unconsciously positioned ourselves as a religion for the middle- to upper-income bracket. The events we run, the sermons preached over the pulpit, even the way we do discipleship – they are all seemingly done with this specific strata of society in mind.
We as Christians can bridge that gaps across society when we see ourselves as a sent-out people with missions right at our doorstep.
Jesus put it across very plainly in the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24). The essence is captured powerfully here: “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and call them to come in, so that my house will be full.” (Luke 14:23)
I believe that this reflects the heart of our Heavenly Father: God wants to save all sinners from their sin regardless of methods, protocols and social standing. Let the house of the Lord be full!
It’s about people
I was told by one of our missions partners from East Asia that back home, doing missions work is one of the most respected forms of ministry “because they (the missionaries) really serve God with their lives”.
What he meant was that many of us are willing to serve God using our gifts and talents but not many are willing to serve with our lives.
So what does it mean to serve God with our lives?
I believe that people – not programmes – reach people and “same kind attracts same kind”.
Every one of us is a human with real struggles, and all of us need Jesus the same.
For example, one thing I learned from indigenous church planting efforts is that if we want to reach a certain group of people, the most effective and sustainable way is to ask one of their own people to head the efforts.
In urban churches, I believe this would translate to how we intentionally do outreach to the different strata of society.
The church where I am pastoring at is predominantly Chinese. I remember the time when some church members from the Indian community volunteered to serve as greeters for the English services at our Bukit Batok campus.
The leadership positioned them outside the main entrance to the service hall. From that moment, we witnessed more and more Indians joining our English services. The Indian community in our church grew quickly because the Indians who visited the church started to bring their friends and family!
One God for all
The pitching of our outreach efforts can be a tricky thing, and there is no one effort that appeals to everyone. What we do to reach that specific strata of society might not appeal to others.
However, imagine if we had a culturally-diverse community in our churches, how much more attractive the church would become!
Every one of us is a human with real struggles and needs, and all of us need Jesus the same. I believe that the churches in Singapore can successfully grow to become more inclusive because Jesus is Christ to all people groups, across all cultures.