January 2020 Issue- LCF 40th Anniversary DInner

by by Tong Suit Chee & Gregory Vijayendran

More than 185 Law Christian Fellowship (LCF) members, friends and students gathered on 5 December 2019 evening to celebrate its 40th anniversary dinner at the National University of Singapore Society Guild House, Kent Ridge.
There were several overseas delegates from South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia/Fiji, Indonesia, Myanmar; and representatives from the Indonesia Christian Legal Society, Kingdom International Legal Network, and International leadership team of Faith and Law Around the Globe, vIce president of Advocates International, and executive director of Christian Legal Fellowship Korea.
Honouring the LCF pioneers
The LCF was formed and affiliated as a sectional group to the Graduates’ Christian Fellowship (GCF) on 1 November 1978, and inaugurated on 3 February 1979 at the Shangri-la Hotel. It was formally ratified as a GCF sectional group at the GCF AGM in June 1979.
Messrs Joshua Lim, Francis Lim and William Wan were called onstage and honoured as the pioneers, who were involved in the setting up and became members of the first LCF committee. Mr.Joshua Lim shared on how the LCF was formed and God’s faithfulness in his life.
LCF’s vision -- Injustice, Intercession and Inter-generation
Next, LCF chairman Gregory Vijayendran shared on how the LCF executive committee (exco) waited on God during a retreat at the end 2018. He said:”We sensed a divine download from Isaiah 59 of three aspects regarding the future vision for LCF, covering Injustice, Intercession and Inter-generation.” The key points in his sharing were as follows:
a) Injustice
 “The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice.” (Isaiah 59:15b NIV)
 In this verse, we see that there was evil and there was no justice and God is displeased with injustice. We need to catch God’s heart for the situations of injustice around us.  What evokes His strong emotions of displeasure in this season? The pioneer generation of LCF exco leaders caught God's heart for situations of injustice in proposed divorce laws and made representations to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Women's Charter (Amendment) Bill.
b)  Intercession
  “He saw that there was no one, He was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so His own arm achieved salvation for Him, and His own righteousness sustained Him.” (Isaiah 59:16)
In this verse, God was appalled that there was no one to intervene, no intercessor. This emphasis on prayer is also underscored by a verse that follows shortly thereafter. “When enemies come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will put them to flight.” (Isaiah 59:19) We need to realise that intercession is spiritual warfare. Indeed, we put out enemies to flight even as we pray.
Isaiah 59:16 is symmetrical with Ezekiel 22:30 on “standing in the gap”. Committed intercessor tries to repair the gap. We need to see this verse "standing in the gap" through the finished work of Christ on the cross in the New Testament. Christ stood in the gap through the power of the cross.
So, we do not stand in the gap commando-style in our own strength and steam or else, we will get bombarded by the enemy. God wants us to “stand in the gap” in Christ, who is our lead advocate and senior counsel/spiritual counsel in the courtroom of heaven. Jesus is our advocate making intercession for us. (Hebrews 7:25)
We need to pray. As lawyers, what we do in the natural is symmetrical with the spiritual. All that God has done in the LCF ministry (from legal clinics, mentorship programme, ministry meetings and special events) is precisely because of heavenly advocacy first so the glory is all God's.
c)  Inter-generation
 As for Me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and My words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 59:21)
This is an inter-generational covenantal blessing. Malachi 4:6 is a verse that God spoke in different seasons of this ministry - turning the hearts of the fathers to the children first and then turning the hearts of the children to their fathers. This is the foundational verse for our mentorship when Christian seniors mentor juniors. This is a work of the Holy Spirit turning the hearts of the fathers and mothers of the profession to the children of the profession. We are reminded that: "One generation commends your work to another; they tell of your mighty acts." (Psalm 145:4) There are grandparents, parents and children here tonight and God is knitting our hearts together.
I shall leave you with three reflection points from these three themes in Isaiah 59:
- Discern the heart of God for situations of injustice around us;
- Pray;
- Share with the previous and next generation about the works of God in our generation.
Three phases of LCF’s history
Mr Darius Lee then shared on the LCF’s history which can be divided as follows:
a)  1960s to 1992: Establishment of LCF as a sectional group within the Graduates’ Christian Fellowship (GCF)
b)  1993 to 2000: Continued engagement
c)  2000 till today: Revitalisation of LCF
He went to elaborate on Phase I (1960s to 1992), which focussed on its establishment and social concerns. The key highlights during this phase were:
-          1979, representations to the Government Select Committee on divorce
-          Since 1982, Annual Dedication Service
-          Since 1984, engagement with Varsity Christian Fellowship
-          1985, representations on abortion to the government
-          1989, started the Christian Conciliation and Arbitration Ministry
-          1990, representations on the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act
Phase II (1993 to 2000) was a period of continued engagement. The period from 1993 to 2000 was relatively inactive due to issues facing LCF and GCF. However, LCF members continued to participate in some activities of significance, for example, Living Wills or Advance Medical Directive (AMD).
Phase III (2000 till today) was focused on the revitalisation of LCF.
-          During the AGM on 27 May 2000, a new committee was elected, with Justice Lai Kew Chai re-appointed as chairman and Gregory Vijayendran as vice-chairman
-          New committee had modest aims -- to set in place some regular events that LCF could carry out from year to year for the benefit of those in the legal profession
-          Regular meetings held at TSMP Law Corporation
-          Since 2003, involvement in Advocates International and Advocates Asia
-          Since 2007, legal clinics (Boscombe, Charis, West)
-          2008, talk by Nicky Gumbel, founder of Alpha
-          Since 2009, Angel Tree Project
-          Since 2011, Law Students’ Conference
-          Since 2013, Mentorship Programme
-          Since 2013, Young Lawyers’ Retreat
-          2014, evangelistic outreach event From Death to Life featuring Suzanne Chin
-          Change of name to Law Christian Fellowship (2014). On 27 October 2014, the LCF was renamed from the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship to the Law Christian Fellowship. This was because LCF’s ministry extends to non-practising members of the legal fraternity, such as members of the judiciary, legally trained members of the government service, in-house counsel, paralegals and legal secretaries.
Mr Lee concluded his presentation by asking: “What’s next?” for LCF.
Indeed, this challenge thrown to lawyers and others present at the dinner was a good way to end the night’s celebration. As we give thanks for the Lord’s goodness to the LCF over the past 40 years, we also ask for His direction and strength in the years ahead.  





January 2020 Issue-Remembering Dr Bobby Sng

by Tong Suit Chee

Dr Bobby Sng, who served as Graduates’ Christian Fellowship (GCF) Graduate Secretary from 1978–1981 and 1989-1992 was called home to the Lord on Monday 14 October 2019 at the age of 83.

Many of us who knew him through his decades of service in student and graduate ministries, and para-church organisations, as well as a Christian stateman will miss him dearly. He was widely acknowledged as having had a key influence on generations of evangelical Christians in Singapore.

Since he first started serving in Christian ministry a year after he graduated as a doctor in 1962, Dr Sng also became the general secretary of the Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES), and president of the Bible Society of Singapore. He also sat on various boards and councils of many Christian organisations such as the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore, Overseas Missionary Fellowship (Singapore), Scripture Union (Singapore), St Luke’s Hospital, and the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.
Dr Sng has been associated with GCF since 1962 when he was first elected to the executive committee. In GCF, he played a significant role in its many activities, especially in the setting up of St Luke’s Hospital and the purchase of the premises at North Bridge Centre. He has written many books including In His Good Time – The Story of the Church in Singapore (first two editions published by GCF and the third edition GCF co-published with the Bible Society of Singapore). The following are tributes from previous GCF presidents and a GCFer, who has worked with him for many years.

A very hard-working co-worker in the Lord
It was in 1964 when I first met Dr Bobby Sng. He was already running a clinic in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia where the GCF/FES were holding their combined annual conference that year. I attended the conference with my family. My six-month old younger son was taken ill and God providentially sent Dr Sng to the conference where he prescribed some medicine for my son’s illness.
Our friendship was established when Bobby returned to Singapore in 1969 to assume the appointment of general secretary of FES. As we are both members of GCF, we had regular fellowship through meetings and annual conferences, either in Cameron Highlands or Fraser Hills in Malaysia.
I had greatly benefitted from the sharing by Bobby at GCF Spiren meetings, where he was a regular speaker. His sharing was usually based on his personal experience of biblical truths and knowledge of church history. They were insightful and edifying. I remembered one afternoon when he called me for clarification of a certain term relating to the building industry as he wanted to use it as an illustration in a talk that he was preparing. This incident gave me the impression that Bobby was careful and thorough in his messages that he gave.
When Bobby became Graduate Secretary, 1978-81 and 1988-92, I was also the GCF president about almost the same time. It was during this period that I found Bobby as a very hard-working co-worker in the Lord. My experience of working with him was at the initial search for the premises for the Graduates’ City Centre, which became a reality in 1988. Another time was when GCF conceived the idea of a Christian nursing home for the aged and I was involved in the building project. In both these instances, Bobby was in the forefront of action.
The ministry of GCF and student work had truly been blessed by the invaluable contribution of Bobby’s services. He had been the driving force in many of GCF projects. All that this servant of God had done, he did it for the Lord, who is his saviour and master.
By Kok Siew Hoong (GCF president -- 1976/77 to 1978/79, 1987/88, 1988/89)
Appealing leader & engaging Bible expositor
Bobby was ten years my senior. When I knew him in my late twenties, a decade seemed like a generation. He was my “Big Brother”. My Christianity was nurtured mainly amongst peers in church. It was only on joining the GCF that I had fellowship with many more mature Christian professionals. Together, we searched Scripture to contend with many issues that confronted our faith — marriage and divorce, abortion, the sanctity of life, and the Charismatic Movement.
Bobby wrote the book, In His Good Time - the Story of the Church in Singapore, since the founding of Singapore by Stamford Raffles in 1819. I read both his first and second editions. Truly, God was at work blessing the growth of the church with different waves of migrants from China and India in search of a better way of life. For the author, it was no easy task to research through archives from different sources and interview elderly church leaders to build a collective memory of the church in Singapore. Contextualised in an anti-establishment era, it was Bobby’s book that sealed my fundamental love of the church. For every generation, an update of God’s story of our Singapore church will be a national blessing.

Essentially, Bobby did not believe in mentoring. With his respect for “individual sovereignty”, he preferred to teach and expound the word of God faithfully that we become servants and disciples of Christ. When my company was holding a weekly Bible study in the office in the city, he was there to help us. Whether in our GCF, committee or Spiren meetings, many of us were eager to hear his exposition of Scripture. We knew his teachings had been refined by wisdom and maturity. He handled contentious or “out of bound” issues with integrity and clarity of thinking. With his understanding of Scripture and macro worldview, his leadership was more appealing than assertive. He engaged us to think biblically.

God certainly led him to initiate the founding of St Luke’s Hospital by inviting five major church denominations to participate while GCF was to be the coordinating sponsor of this project. When I was GCF president and with Bobby’s encouragement, we were able to purchase our own centre at North Bridge Road. Today, the centre has become a city meeting point for many of our fellowship meetings and is where the premises of the GCF and FES offices are now located.

Now in my seventies and his eighties, the age gap is no longer so daunting. My wife and I value Bobby and Ivy as our dear friends and certainly, Bobby as my mentor. We will dearly miss him.

By Lim Hua Min (GCF president 1979/80 to 1981/82)
A mentor-in-chief to GCFers
I first heard of Dr Sng as a child on a family holiday in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. When I was a young boy, our holidays consisted of road trips to Malaysia. Dad was a civil servant who was entitled to ballot for a place in Cluny House in Cameron Highlands. On one of these holidays, I remembered my parents announcing that we would be attending Sunday service at the chapel where Bobby Sng used to preach. Dad explained to me that Dr Sng was an exceptional expositor, who was a missionary in Cameron Highlands.
As a young man in the Overseas Christian Fellowship in Wellington, New Zealand, we were constantly reminded that our role was to go back join our respective graduate fellowships to minister as working adults. We heard of what Dr Sng was doing in the Singapore GCF through the visiting leaders from the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), where he was accepted as one of the leaders of the movement in Asia.
I joined the GCF in 1995 when I returned to Singapore after university. Soon after, I served on the GCF executive committee and for a period of five years, served as its president.
Dr Sng was a man of godly wisdom, vision and gentleness to whom all of us in the GCF owe our gratitude. We are reminded of his achievements as a pastor, writer and para-church leader but for me, the overwhelming impression of Dr Sng was as the mentor-in-chief to all of us in the GCF. I would go to him when I faced difficult issues and needed guidance and direction. He would always listen intently to me even though I was always one of many seeking his advice after a meeting or over dinner. His response was always measured and succinct but he tended not to answer my questions. Dr Sng would instead respond with a comment on doctrine or from the Bible. His insights often revealed his love for people and his commitment to the word of God. He was never afraid of upholding biblical truths even if it meant going against accepted norms, inside or outside of the church.
We will miss Dr Sng but are comforted that he is in the hands of our Father, whom he served so faithfully in life.
By Timothy Goh (GCF president 2002/03 to 2006/07)
A listener and an encourager
I have many fond and special memories of Dr Sng.  One of my earliest memories was my chat with him at the University of Singapore campus at Kent Ridge in 1979.  I was the newly elected VCF executive committee chairman (1979/80) and he asked to chat with me after a VCF lunchtime meeting which we had invited him to speak at.

Although Dr Sng was the FES general secretary then, a highly regarded and well-respected Christian leader, speaker and Bible teacher; he treated me not as a young Christian student but as a co-worker in the student ministry.  He did not talk down to me or dish out unsolicited advice. He asked and listened to me. He asked how I was doing as the VCF chairman and about the VCF. He encouraged me when I shared about my sense of inadequacy as the chairman. He helped me think through the issues when I sought his advice on them. 

I do not remember much about what we talked about that day in 1979, but I have always remembered how he made me feel. I felt listened to. I felt encouraged.  I felt affirmed. I felt helped. That was 40 years ago and all these four decades, I continued to feel listened to, encouraged, affirmed and helped whenever I met with him for chats and fellowship.   

A few years ago, when I was struggling with a serious issue with a ministry co-worker, I spoke to him and he agreed to mediate between the person and me.  Despite his deteriorating health, he offered to help and met with both of us together.  And again, he listened and sought to help us clarify our misunderstanding and to agree on a way forward.  I am deeply grateful to Dr Sng for his love and concerns for me, for his prayers and encouragement on this issue, and for all the help he has given me all these years.  I will miss Dr Sng and his encouragement and wisdom, and his reassuring presence and fellowship. 


By Kua Wee Seng (GCFer, former FES associate staffworker from early to mid-1980s when Dr Sng was the FES general secretary, GCF executive committee member in early 1980s when Dr Sng was the Graduate Secretary.  Served together in the Bible Society of Singapore's executive committee from mid-1990s)






July 2020 Issue-Coping with Circuit Breaker & Our Faith

by Shelwyn Tay

On 7 April 2020, the Singapore government flipped the switch that would bring almost all group gatherings and communal activities in the country to a halt. Offices were shut down, students were sent home, eateries were closed, and even family visits were discouraged. These measures were taken in response to the threat of Covid-19 spreading unchecked in the community, and few would argue that they were frivolous or unnecessary. Nevertheless, the weeks and eventually, months that followed were challenging for many.

As a Christian care professional and a cell group leader, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with many of those who were struggling. These interactions led me to reflect on what it was that allowed some people to cope better than others, and in particular, what this circuit breaker revealed about our faith and our foundations.

Expectations and reality

It was interesting to observe how similar the conversations were between believers and non-believers. People talked about what they were doing to safeguard their health, how their routines had to change, and their opinion on how the government was handling the situation. In more sober moments, they expressed their worries about jobs and livelihoods, described the stress of juggling work and family demands, and admitted how hard it was being apart from loved ones and friends. For many, there was relief in sharing and comfort in knowing that others understood. Some conversations led to offers of practical help. Among believers, there was additionally the opportunity to affirm one other in faith, and to come before God together in prayer.

However, some individuals struggled to accept what was happening. Conversations with others brought little comfort but exacerbated their sense of fear and anxiety. When they thought about the changes that the circuit breaker would bring, the risk of a life-threatening disease, and the reality of an uncertain future, they simply did not know how they would cope. Christian believers were not exempt. Among those who seemed to hit a crisis point are clients, whose faith was important enough to them to deliberately chose to see a Christian psychologist; and cell group members, who had known and testified of God’s goodness in their lives. They were overwhelmed by the circumstances around them, and filled with questions and doubts.

Psychologists have found that people tend to expect the future to be positive (the optimism bias). They also tend to believe that if they do the right things, things will turn out right (a belief in a “just world”). These expectations guide their actions, and provide a basis for making sense of the world. Yet, they are not necessarily true! There are times when reality fits nicely into the frame that we have created for it. At other times, it clearly reveals the fallacies in our thinking. Distress arises when reality does not meet our expectations, and if the discrepancy is large enough, we become completely disoriented and lost. Covid-19 and the resulting circuit breaker challenged our expectations about what life should be like in a very real way. With rising rates of local infections, the unprecedented closure of schools and businesses, and enforced social and physical distancing, we were confronted with the fact that the future is not always rosy, and the world is not always just.

In contrast, Jesus said to His disciples: “In this world, you will have trouble.” (John 16:33a NIV) He would go on to assure them of His victory but first, they needed to know what to expect. He spoke to them plainly because He saw how their mistaken beliefs and false expectations would lead them into confusion and distress. He did not want them to be caught off guard when troubles came.

However, more than simply managing expectations, Jesus’ words are a reminder of truth, of what is, and what is not. The troubles we face, Covid-19 included, are part of the reality of living in a fallen world. They are not a sign that God has abandoned us, or somehow lost control of the situation. Acknowledging our difficulties does not reflect a lack of faith, nor does the desire for relief suggests a lack of piety. Jesus did not discount the distress His disciples would experience. He went on to encourage them and to pray for them. He told them to “Take heart!” (John 16:33b) precisely because He knew that the troubles they would face were real, and that they (and we) would be tempted to lose heart.

What helps when reality bites

The circuit breaker brought hardships at many different levels. The disease that prompted it raised fears about health and mortality. The closure of offices and businesses strained the economy and put livelihoods at risk. The distance necessary to limit the risk of infection intensified feelings of loneliness and isolation. Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in John 17 points us to what helps us cope during such difficult times. “Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one ...” (John 17:11b)

Firstly, Jesus prayed that His disciples would be “one”, as He and the Father are one. We know that God the Father answered His prayer because in Acts 4:32, we are told that “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” Imagine the difference it would make if in the face of hospitalisation, unemployment, financial hardship or loneliness, you knew that there was someone thinking about you, reaching out to you, taking care of your needs, and making sure that you were not forgotten.

What was it that allowed the early church to respond as they did? Our instinct during times of uncertainty and insecurity is to circle the wagons and batten down the hatches. We rush to the supermarkets, and we hoard toilet paper. We rarely think of others first.

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, explains it. He writes: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:2-3) When we recall who Christ is, what He has done for us, and who we are in Him, we are comforted and encouraged. Our own anxieties and fear of lack are quietened. We are then able to be like Jesus, to look beyond ourselves and to care for one another.

 “My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one... Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:15,17) Jesus knew that His disciples were vulnerable to another source of threat. Even with the assurance of help from others, there are times when we struggle with our fears and feelings. When Jesus prayed that the disciples would be protected from the evil one, I believe He was praying for their mental health and well-being. Satan is called the father of lies (John 8:44) and the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). He works to destroy men through deception and condemnation. We are particularly vulnerable to his attacks when we are stressed and distressed.

The family man who has lost his job, starts to feel depressed because he believes that he has let his wife and children down. The working mother trying to juggle work and home-based learning fights guilt constantly, and judges herself to be a failure. The swinging single, now home alone, is tormented by the thought of not ever being able to find love or family. The examples could go on.

We recognise and repel the attacks of the evil one by knowledge of truth. God’s word, as revealed in the Bible and the person of Jesus, is truth. When we hear about the number of new infections each day, when we find ourselves at home with no work to do, when we feel ready to scream either because of the noise or the silence around us, we are tempted to listen to our fears and feelings. But to do so would only be to lead us further into despair. Jesus’ prayer for His disciples reminds us instead to turn our ears to what God has to say. As we immerse ourselves in God’s word, it becomes the sword by which we are able to cut through fears and falsehoods, and emerge not just safe but set apart for his service.

Looking back now

Looking back on the past months, were you able to find unity, love and support in your community despite physical isolation and social distancing? Did you find yourself vulnerable to the attacks and lies of the evil one when faced with the pressures of the circuit breaker and uncertainty over the future? Have you taken the time and effort to know the truth? Ultimately, the circuit breaker led me to realise once again the importance of building our lives on the right foundations, of being not just hearers but doers of the word, and of living by faith and not by sight.

 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

 (Shelwyn Tay is a psychologist and former head of the Fellowship of Christian Care Professionals, a GCF sectional group)

July 2020 Issue-Covid-19 & Global Missions

by Timothy Liu

Recently, a few friends and partners in ministry have asked me about the implications and impact of Covid-19 on global missions. At this point in speaking [4 June 2020], we have passed the 7 million mark on cases with more than 400,000 deaths. In comparison, SARS took only 8,098 deaths globally in 2003. For first time in history, crude oil went negative briefly and dropped from US$65 per barrel to US$15 per barrel. DOW Jones fell from 29,500 points to 19,000 before recovering to around 25,000, losing about 40 per cent market capitalisation before rebound.
With the closing of Wuhan, the industrial hub of China, and lockdowns in many other cities due to the pandemic, some are expecting this to be worse than the 2008 fallout. So, what has this got to do with global missions and ministry moving forward? What might be some fundamental shifts across the globe? How does the work of the gospel continue in this new global reality?
I cannot help but keep hearing the words of Revelation 18, especially 10b-13 (NIV):
“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
 you mighty city of Babylon!
In one hour your doom has come!’
 “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore — cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves.”
There is an eerie echo as one imagines walking through the empty streets, malls, airports and city centre. To answer some of the above questions, we must first segregate between the “what” and the “how”.
1) What is the context of new realities and content of the gospel, which is going to be relevant post-Covid-19?
2) How do we re-organise the missional and ministry initiatives and take advantage of opportunities presented to us?
Context of new realities
a)     New global supply chain will emerge as the lockdown in China has made many realise that we are too reliant on China for most spare parts, goods and services. Manufacturing in Europe and elsewhere are affected because parts are not forthcoming when China shuts down. Multi-national companies will diversify with strategies to place manufacturing plants or parts suppliers across the globe rather than put their eggs in essentially one mega basket. Re-ordering of global supply chain will bring greater diversification across the globe in terms of industries though they may be on a smaller scale compared to the mothership in China. Business continuity plans will be re-drawn.
b)     Globalisation will shift more towards regionalisation. Even as countries continue to pursue free trade agreements, the shift towards regionalisation will take greater dominance. There will also be greater impetus for each nation to look at self-sufficiency when it comes to essentials such as water, food and medical supplies. Some of this is driven by national interests. For example, a few countries who produce surgical masks, have issued orders to halt export during the pandemic in order to have sufficient supply internally, leaving some other countries in the lurch.
c)     Economic downturn is inevitable. All counties have already adjusted their gross domestic product (GDP) growth into the negative sector and many more are put out of work. If this is going to be worse than the 2008 Lehman Brother crisis, according to some predictions, then we may have yet to see the domino effect once corporations, banks or even governments are unable to fulfil their obligations on debts. Already, government are spending large reserves or using quantitative easing measures, resulting in much greater debt that could not be repaid for generations to come. The United States (US) non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget released estimates on 13 April 2020 that the US debt will exceed the size of the economy this fiscal year ending 1 October 2020. We should also see a rise in unemployment figures in the coming year at least.
d)     The gig economy will continue to grow and permanent jobs, save those in essential services such as healthcare, will be reduced to keep a nimble workforce and costs low. This means many younger professionals and lower skilled workers may find themselves with more contract work and with less benefits such as social security, insurance and vacation benefits that are associated with permanent positions. Demand such as deliveries and online purchases will reach a new stable level that will be higher than pre-Covid-19 days. However, some elements of the gig economy, particularly those requiring sharing with others, will probably see a reduction as social distancing and an acute awareness of the disease spread, will be on the top of people’s minds.
e)     More will work from home post-Covid-19 as many realise that it is possible to work from home and still be effective with occasional face-to-face meetings. Businesses will also build in these mechanisms with greater time-saving from travelling to work. With IT enablement, costly real estate and footprints could possibly be reduced as more hot-desking and teleconferencing will become the main stay rather than occasional use.
f)      Repatriation of cross-border missionaries has not only started but settled as many missionaries have packed up and headed home as the pandemic spreads from China across the globe. Even as the lockdown eases up, it will be hard to get them back into the field again. Though that may be an unfortunate repercussion of the pandemic, it also presents an opportunity for indigenous believers to step up and take leadership. As one veteran missiologist has said to me, many missionaries err on the side of overstaying in the field to the detriment of the church, which they have helped to build. The indigenous group became over reliant on foreigners and their resources and never quite become part of the church leadership. More mentoring and support remotely in such cases can be a good thing to build the local movements.
g)     Fundraising for missions initiatives will be increasingly harder as cross- border missionaries retreat home and the economy gets harder for many people and businesses. Missions agencies and para-church movements which rely solely on donations, will also see a strain on resources with the possibility of closure. It is therefore imperative that new model of operations needs to be found in order to keep the work of the gospel moving forward. National and local churches which are used to relying on foreign sources of funding, need to look internally for alternatives. This may require breaking of some paradigms and sacred cows.
Content of the gospel
Of course, the content and the core message of the gospel do not change. Neither does the everlasting Trinitarian God. However, how the gospel is relevant in the context to the cultures of this world will change. The global church which needs to be faithful to the gospel, must continually contextualise in order for the unbelieving world to hear, see and experience the gospel in a manner, which is relevant and makes sense to them.
We all also assume that we know what the gospel is. Unfortunately, much of the modern evangelical church has been inundated with a Western evangelical gospel, which though well-meaning, has presented a fairly narrow view of what the gospel is. This Western evangelical gospel presents salvation as an escape from sin and the sinful world through faith in Jesus, awaiting an eternal spiritual heaven. Thus, the church’s existence is solely for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel and bringing every person to faith in Jesus Christ.
I contend that this is not the whole gospel but a narrow version as it forgets that Christ has commanded us to make disciples and not converts (Matthew 28:16-20). This means we learn to obey Christ’s teaching through every aspect of our daily life, be it work, family, community, society and the public square. Through Christ’s life, death and resurrection, He is reconciling all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven (Colossians 1:19). The gospel of reconciliation then is not only to reconcile people to Christ but also all that is fallen and marred by sin — the injustices, the broken systems of this world — through creation care, businesses, financial systems, product designs and services, education, policy-making and so on. God cares about all these! He is Lord of all these! We cannot ignore the power of the cross in restoring all these arenas to align them with the kingdom of God.
The implication is far reaching when we understand that Christ intends to reconcile all things to Himself. The work of the gospel is not only proclaiming and bringing them to faith in Jesus but while we are doing that, to be part of the redemptive plan and post-Covid-19 can present new opportunities and transformation of the global missional initiatives.
Society of post-Covid-19
In the world which is post-postmodernism (also known as metamodernism, post-millennialism, pseudomodernism, trans-postmodernism), attempts are made to correct the pendulum swing of extremes between modernism and post-modernism. Tom Turner (one of the first people to coin the term “post-postmodernism”) view this as an attempt “to seek to temper reason with faith”. Post-modernism has given rise to greater scepticism of the unbridled optimism of the modern era post-WWII, where man’s ability to develop and solve world’s problems using technology and scientific advancements, has ceased to exist for the most part.
The present generation has a greater acceptance that this life and world are messy and will continue to be messy. The post-postmoderns seek meaning, purpose and fulfilment in life, more than previous generations. They hope to turn around all the “wrong” they see in the world. In addition to work-life balance, they also see community involvement as well as self-development. The Covid-19 pandemic further presents that we will never be quite prepared for what is to come, no matter how advanced in science and technology we become.
The gospel must therefore present an authenticity, which accepts the imperfect and messy world of today, just as Jesus’ world was centuries ago, where Christians are not perfect but are confessed sinners struggling to live a life faithful to Scriptures as wounded healers. The ultimate purpose and ending of this world are clear when Jesus said, there will be “wars and rumours of wars” (Matthew 24:6) and the Revelation 18 passage speaks of things getting worse before getting better.
The church must also embrace a social consciousness that has both the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel as Jesus did when He fed the masses after speaking to them in Mark 8:2-3. He said: “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some
of them have come a long distance.
The rally call for the church therefore, is to “ ‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.” (Revelation 18:4b-5) The problem why churches today are ineffective is because it resembles too much of the fallen world, so much so that the lives of Christians are no different than those of the world. The present-day presentation of the gospel from a Western evangelical perspective only echoes the hollow past of the modern era. What “sins are piled up” but it is that “the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries”.
It was reported a flagship Hermes International store in Guangzhou, China reportedly took in US$2.7 million on its first day of reopening after the coronavirus lockdown. It is a reminder of the days when Isaiah warned Israel, where there was worship with meaningless offerings for which the Lord detested and Israel was judged for thwarting justice by oppressing the poor, fatherless and widows (Isaiah 1:11-17). Many churches and leaders are basking in luxuries, be it explicitly or implicitly propagating prosperity gospels.
Covid-19 is a stark reminder that perhaps we really do not need all the nice things that we think we want. Being in lockdown mode has demonstrated for most middle- class families that we really need very little to survive. It has also exacerbated the plight of those who are poor and marginalised; and we realise how little they have to buffer a storm like this. Someone shared about a response of a lower income man when he heard the phrase about the pandemic that we are “all in the same boat” by retorting that “we may all be in the storm but not all of us are in the same boat”. Indeed, some are weathering a little better in our boats while others are leaking or sinking. We must therefore return to a life of simplicity.
The World Economic Forum has just released a report that 40 per cent (2 out of 5) job lost during Covid-19 will be permanent. [https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/42-of-jobs-lost-during-covid-19-may-not-come-back] We are still not sure how well government measures to prop up economies are working. We are already hearing of bankruptcy by a few airlines and major cuts in companies such as IBM and HP. Many companies are also closing due to cash flow issues. Will another financial crisis come after the pandemic? Are we seeing the bottom of the challenge?
Missions re-tool
a)     Social and community ministries
The gospel is all about being seen, felt and heard. Ministry is no longer just about proclaiming the gospel but being involved in social changes; distributive justice; and caring for the poor, sick and marginalised. It is so heartening to see churches stepping up to distribute food, house homeless and in general, reach out where we were previously too comfortable to do so in our little enclaves. We also see how para-church ministries such as those involved with migrant workers, have been effective because they have taken years before to build foundations of trust and friendships, for such a time as this. For example, pastor Samuel Gift Stephen is “brother” to many migrant workers as he makes daily visits to them in factory-converted dormitories.
With this new inspiration, we need to continue to engage purposefully and meaningfully in social ministries, integrating a holistic gospel into every facet, including for Christians who work in non-religious based companies and social services. By being genuine, real and authentic, we earn the right to be heard, and truly show Christ’s love to an unbelieving world.
b)     Churches as vocation centres
Churches, ministries and those who are in places of influence (business, professional, government leaders) can help towards job creation as well as help those who have lost jobs through job placement assistance and vocational training. We can demonstrate Christ’s love by supporting those who are struggling with daily necessities. For a small nation such as Singapore, matters such as food and medical supplies security will now be of greater priority. Local industries and supply chain ecosystems for business continuity planning will also be aggressively reassessed. Impetus to grow business, through Business as Missions initiatives for long-term ministry, mission and economic sustainability, makes more sense even now. Churches can bring together business, government and ministry leaders for greater collaboration and dialogue.
As the nature of work and how we work will also change, including greater “work from home” arrangements, there is also a need to guard and contextualise how these new arrangements will affect family dynamics, boundaries between family and work and the spiritual journey of believers. Practical help in childcare, counselling for work and family stress, mental health and marital support are new areas of ministry.
c)     Workplace and online ministries
Since large worship gatherings and massive evangelistic gathering may be limited, a decentralised strategy of having “church” in homes, factories, offices and online video chat rooms will be more of a norm than before. This is an opportunity to be serious about office fellowships or workplace ministry to continue to advance the kingdom. How Christians support fellow workers, and how Christian supervisors and bosses handle the crisis speaks volume as the unbelieving world continues to watch how believers behave and how the gospel is lived rather than preached.
Use of media such as broadcast, social, video, movies and music and patterns of use will also change. Since many churches have already learned about broadcasting Sunday services to replace physical gatherings, how then do we harness these new tools and skills we have acquired to advance the work of the gospel?
d)   Cross-border missions
Traditional cross-border missions will be limited as nations will probably restrict travel. Therefore, there is a need to focus on building indigenous leadership for local churches. Opportunities will then shift within borders for cross-cultural ministries amongst migrant professionals, labourers and domestic workers’ communities, so that they can be evangelised, trained and released back to their home nations when ready. I was very encouraged that over the past 10 years for one church, which has served migrant workers from a closed nation, was able to reach out, convert, disciple and release them back home. A few started businesses with savings earned and one became a pastor while running a business to support his own pastoral work.
e)     Tentmakers and itinerant business travellers are new champions of cross-border missions. They will be more welcomed as there is still a demand for a skilled global workforce. Regionalisation and realignment of supply chains will open doors for businesses. As nations and companies seek new opportunities for economic growth, new industries such as renewable energy, information systems, automation, robotics, new media and healthcare will accelerate. Developments such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative and other mega national projects will open doors for skilled professionals to cross borders.
Covid-19 will indeed bring unprecedented challenges and change many things moving forward. But so has many events in the past. Yet, there are also many things that will remain the same despite those changes. Ecclesiastes 1:9 teaches us: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” It therefore takes wisdom to discern what they are and to determine what can be allowed to change and what should not. It is easy to follow the crowd, and make a whole bunch of changes only to realise that we have altered that which should not be changed, and changed that which should not be altered.
Post-Covid-19 presents opportunities for which we must not miss. It is a wake-up call from God for His people to “Come out of her”, to return to an authentic faith in Jesus Christ, who cares for the “poor, sick, widowed and orphaned”, that they see, hear and feel the gospel through the proclamation and demonstration by the people of God.
(This is a talk given at an online webinar Post-Covid -- Implications on Work, Family and Ministry, which was held on 4 June 2020 and co-organised by GCF Singapore and GCF Malaysia. Timothy Liu is the CEO of Dover Road Hospice and former president, GCF Singapore)