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11 & 12 June 2022 (Pastoral Page) REMAKING THE BIBLE CHURCH

By Elder Tan Chin Tiong

Not wanting to rest on their past achievements and doing the things they are accustomed to, the “Remaking Singapore” committee was formed by the government in 2002. The main vision was to reshape the existing political, social and cultural norms of Singapore with the view of remaking the nation into a country that is connected to the present and a vibrant city to live in.

The findings of the committee were published as a report titled “Changing Mindsets, Deepening Relationships”. In the report, the committee put forth a set of proposals for renewal and change that were categorised under four themes: A Home for All Singaporeans, A Home Owned, A Home for All Seasons and A Home to Cherish.

As I read the report again after 20 years have passed, I cannot help but realise that the themes of the report are not only relevant but applicable for the Christian community today. In the light of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, leaders have been asking themselves, “What is church all about beyond the weekend worship services?”, “How do we reach out and remain relevant to the people in the post-Covid era?” and “How can we not only survive but flourish in this challenging environment?”

Like the government back in 2002, The Bible Church needs to embark on a “Remaking Church” journey not just to survive but to grow and flourish. It is also timely as the leadership team prays, discerns and crystalises the Vision 2028 for the Church. I think it will do us well to embrace the spirit of the report made 20 years ago and use the four main themes of the report to guide us as we chart a new direction.

1) A Church for all people (A Home for all Singaporeans)

Churches tend to attract people who are similar, often because the gospel proclamation starts with our immediate families, colleagues, and friends (our Jerusalem). But if we are serious about moving from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, we will encounter people who are different from us. Many will come from different economic social status and educational background. They may not dress, talk and behave like us.

Not only that, because of the pandemic, we are seeing more people and families struggling with loneliness, anxieties, burn out, financial difficulties, health issues and broken marriages. These challenges may not be new but they have certainly become more complex and prevalent over the past two years.

How prepared are we to reach out to these ones? How ready are we to share our own struggles so that they can identify with us and let them know that while our struggles may not be the same, we are in the same boat – sinners in need of a Saviour.

Let us pray and aspire to be a Church where all people, regardless of their background and the complex life struggles they are in, be welcomed, reached, integrated and accepted in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. For God so loved the world and so must we.

I know it is not going to be easy but we must set aside our fears and prejudices. We must step out of our comfort zone. On this note, I like to applaud the ‘Good Neighbours Initiative’ (GNI) that the church has embarked on. Indeed it is a small but important step for us to becoming ‘A Church for all people’. This will be an important component in the ‘Remaking Bible Church’ journey going forward.

2) A Church we can call “My Church” (A Home Owned)

Over the past two years, through the convenience of online platform, our allegiance to God’s Church has been tested and sadly we did not fare very well. Participating in weekend church service is becoming like choosing which supermarket to go to once a week. The only loyalty we have is based on what is on offer for the week. Unfortunately, our consumer mentality towards Church has been reinforced over the past two years. As a result, the mindset of belonging and committing to a Church is losing its appeal. So what should we do about it?

One Outreach magazine puts it this way; ‘Whether we like it or not, the debate about online church is over. Online won. Stop trying to stuff the online genie back into the bottle. Instead pray that the church will be strong in both online and in-person services without cannibalizing each other.’

My prayer is that regardless of the emergence of online services, the future Church in the metaverse or whatever hybrid versions, the message to the people must be clear - each one of us must see ourselves being affiliated, committed and accountable to one local Church. We must see ourselves as joint-owners and not customers. Beyond just investing in a headset and a computer app, we must see ourselves as a meaningful life-giving asset, contributing toward the eternal building project called ‘My Home Church’.

Some restaurant owners have trained their service staff to greet their repeat customers not just with ‘Welcome’ but ‘Welcome home’. Maybe we should do the same each week as we gather and greet each other, ‘Welcome home’, online or in-person service.

3) A Church that remains relevant in all seasons (A Home for all Seasons)

Besides engaging the ever changing external forces, The Bible Church has its internal challenges too. One such challenge in this season is how we regenerate our Church. 64 years may not be a long history but it is long enough for us to grow from a group of students to a community of four generations ranging from babies to seniors in their 80’s. In tandem with the demography of Singapore, we are seeing a trend of an ageing Church.

For this reason, the leadership team needs your prayers as they discern how best to have a Church that remains relevant for people in different seasons of their lives. There is a need for a tangible plan and the leadership team is asking tough questions:

- Besides helping the seniors to prepare for a good ending, how can we challenge the older generation to invest their remaining years in the younger generation?

- How can we seek new ways to communicate and engage with young people today?

- How can we either organically or organisationally encourage young people to meet to explore Christianity and encourage each other in their faith?

One initiative that the Church has started is The Young Adult Service, called ‘Crux’. Is this the best solution? We do not know for sure but not doing anything is not an option. In fact, the leadership team will put this issue high in our priority for Vision 2028 because it is a matter of survival. We will be investing more resources and get the whole Church to be part of this regeneration effort because we must be a Church that is relevant in all seasons.

4) A Church we love (A Home to Cherish)

Throughout history, there has been much anger, hostility, disappointment, and disillusionment with the institutional church. So I can understand why it may be difficult to love the Church.

But, fundamentally we cannot say we love Jesus and not love the Church since He is the foundation of the Church and we are the living stones of this spiritual home. One way to increase our love quotient is to invest our lives in the Church. As we do more of that, we cannot help but learn to cherish the Church more. Why? Because we will begin to appreciate why God established it in the first place and why it is central to the life of all who believe and trust in Him; it is for our own good and for His glory!

So the next time we invite someone to Church, maybe we can be more enthusiastic in our messaging – “Welcome to my Church. You will love it because I do!”

‘Remaking Church’ is a process that calls for commitment and an unquenchable desire to want The Bible Church to grow and flourish. And it will involve everyone who calls The Bible Church, ‘Home’. Are you ready?

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I feel that changes in life and circumstance will impact us and we do drift. I agree that we should 'remake' so that we remain aligned/realigned with what God is doing in the world and how He wants the church to be the salt and light in changing times. Thanks for reminding us esp as a church these last months to act according to Father's will and to remain centered in Him as we .

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