Singapore is Not a Christian Nation--And I am Grateful
Pastor Ian reminds us that we should not allow the world to define what it means for God’s children to succeed.
If there are lessons to be learned from Christian history, one of the most important must surely be that, true spirituality has never at any time been the preference of the majority. While it is true that Christianity has on occasion been popular in some times and places, God's truth has never truly been broadly embraced by the world in which we live. The early church, while she was yet a hated minority group, had a spiritual power that made her a terrible threat to the spiritual and secular authorities. But when in the 4th century the Roman masses, without any transformation of heart and mind, were made Christian by their baptism, the Church lost her spiritual vitality, even as she gained in public acceptance. Church attendance became increasingly popular and God’s people became increasingly more Roman…and less Christian.
This is the historical pattern: whenever Christianity is embraced by culture and wherever church attendance is most in vogue, true faith has tragically, already died. In fact, it was ‘popular’ Christianity that killed the Reformers; it was cultural Christianity that jailed Quakers and drove John Wesley into the streets. It was while the church enjoyed broad, societal acceptance that William Tyndale was executed for the crime of translating the Bible…into English. The Church was popular. And godless. Because when it comes to true, life-changing faith, the majority has always been wrong.
Jesus knew this, and so warned His followers, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." (John 15:19)
Perhaps this is a reason to celebrate that Singapore is not a ‘Christian nation’. It means we are reminded daily that we live here as aliens and strangers. We are constantly aware that this island—amazing as it is—is not our home. And so I am grateful that to stand with the truth of God in this place, one must put his or her face into the headwinds of current of religious vogue, because in doing so, it strengthens our missional resolve and causes us to live with holy purpose. And, I thank the Lord that in the face of this, our Young Adult ministry is consistently exploring ways that we might be a joyful, spiritually-vibrant minority while living and serving among the majority.
This past Saturday about 40 young (and not so young) adults gathered for a timely conversation about how one might maintain a vibrant spiritual life and represent the gospel while serving in a secular work culture. The event was entitled God at Work. During this event, young working adults were strengthened by hearing from a panel of three older GBC members who have each known the dignity of secular work, and yet have also experienced the grace of God amidst trials, uncertainty and disappointment. During the course of the morning conversation many insightful questions were asked, including:
- How do I represent the gospel in a toxic work environment?
- How can I respond to a Christian boss who asks me to do something unethical?
- Are there certain jobs I should avoid, for the sake of my testimony for Christ? And do I really have a choice in times of recession, especially when I have a family to feed?
- With limited capacity and such busy schedules, how do you carve out time to be with God every day?
- What do ‘rewards’ from God look like at work? What are they indicative of?
- What does it mean to trust God when you are an unemployed university kid, who is looking at a challenging job market and is scared about not being able to get a job?
As a pastor, I am pleased whenever I see evidence of ‘Luke’s passion’ to pull the good news of Jesus out of the mouldy vault of religious mystery, and place it in the open air of the secular marketplace. I am delighted when the church creates safe spaces for honest conversations about real issues. And I’m grateful for the willingness of those who have gone before, to invest in those who are going now!
A common refrain throughout the conversation last Saturday was the gentle reminder that we should not allow the world to define what it means for God’s children to succeed. Young adults were challenged to redefine ‘success’. In the words of Elder Thian Chye, “If people can see Jesus in the way that you work, then that is success. True success is having the joy of the Lord in you!”
May we all enjoy such success!
- We are grateful for the two GBC mission teams that went out to support the work of our missionaries serving in Pua and in Bangkok. Thank you so much for strengthening the hearts and hands of those God has sent out!
- We bless God for five new members who will be joining the GBC family this Sunday.
- Let’s pray for Nathan Tang and our Youth Ministry Team as they experience the sleepless nights of Youth Camp this week. Ask that God would use them to sow the seeds of the gospel in the hearts of our young people.
- Let’s prepare to meet with God this week, by reading this week’s sermon text of Luke 1:39-56, and deciding to come ready to sing “Our Song of Praise”!