“What a great privilege it is for us to be part of this global effort, which will definitely accomplish the task by the power of God’s Spirit.”
Rev. Chua Yeow-san, the Senior Pastor of Grace (S.C.C.) Church in Singapore, points out the very essence of the Church’s role in God’s mission.
Once Upon A Time…
Grace Church is regarded as having a good tradition in missions. Its story dates back to 70 years ago when Singapore was not yet an independent country. The Japanese War was just over. The island was recuperating. At that time, no one could predict this small fishing village would turn into one of the world’s most advanced and prosperous countries. Likewise, no one could predict God had already raised up a small group of Christians as pioneers to share the gospel in Singapore and beyond. Kan Ki-yick, who was only around 12 at the time, was one of them.
“A Hong Kong pastor came and preached to us. I remember he said, ‘You have to share the gospel you hear with others, especially to places where there was no gospel ever,’” Kan Ki-yick reminisces.
“But where are these places?” They thought of those outlying islands and they went to Tekong Island to share the gospel. Kan and others were so young and untrained that they just read the content from tracts, but God still used them to introduce people to Christ!
Kan Ki-yick has a strong passion for sharing the gospel. This old member has also witnessed of the growth of Grace Church for almost 70 years.
God blessed this group of Christians. In 1950, Grace Church was founded. Their membership has grown from around 30 to more than 900 now. What remains unchanged is their passion for God’s mission. It extends from inside the country to far beyond.
A Passion Lasting for Over 50 Years
Walking through the church building of Grace Church, even newcomers can feel a powerful missional ethos: The glass doors at both sides of the small hall are decorated with floor-to-ceiling world maps. A big notice board shows the pictures and names of their supported missionaries, the news of mission fellowship and events. Ascending the stairs to the main office on the second floor, the visitor will notice that all the rooms are named after countries in the 10/40 window, like Nepal, Cambodia, Zambia…. A usual Sunday sermon is penetrated with the message of world missions. Always praying for those who share the gospel cross-culturally. And the annual Mission Convention, which is the focus each year and involves almost all church members, has been held since 1974 without ceasing.
As of mid-2015, 65 cross-cultural workers are supported by Grace Church. The footsteps of these workers extend over many countries in Europe, Asia-Pacific and Africa.
The annual Mission Convention has been held in Grace Church since 1974 without ceasing. Here shows a brochure for their Mission Convention 2013.
So what are the reasons this church has been so involved in mission for over half a century?
Rev. Chua hits on one of the driving forces behind God’s mission with this statement, “The Great Commission is the heartbeat of God.” He is thankful that God has provided them with several mission-minded Senior Pastors. From Rev. Jacob Fung and Rev. Chan Fong to he himself. These pastors helped establish a sound foundation for mission and an atmosphere, or even a culture for the mission of God has been gradually cultivated in the church over the years.
No wonder a church member described it with joy, saying, “It is part of our DNA.”
A Sunday morning at the front gate of Grace Church.
In Grace Church, solid and consistent sermons on mission are helping the congregation to follow the heartbeat of God. What is more, they are greatly encouraged to witness God raising up fellow Christians or pastors among them to serve cross-culturally.
The Training Ground for Mission
It has been said that when a church pastor leaves the church in response to God’s calling to mission, the congregation can feel abandoned and hurt. For Grace Church, a few pastors have been sent out already, yet the church members have no hard feelings. On the contrary, they are joyful as they are proud of their pastors.
Pastor Leslie Ip, the mission pastor of Grace Church, says, “To see their own pastors becoming missionaries is quite exciting to the congregation.”
In fact, it is an entry requirement to be their mission pastor – to have a heart to serve in God’s mission himself! The church thinks a mission pastor without a mission heart is only an employee and could not truly facilitate mission education. They do not even mind if he serves in the church for only a few years before being sent.
The two predecessors of Pastor Ip were good examples. One after the other they served in Grace Church and nurtured their respective successors while preparing to be sent out in God’s good time.
“We need to get new blood as successors,” shares Christine Ng, the ex-chairperson of the mission committee. She says in their church all pastors are required to sit on the mission committee in their first year. By doing so, a heart for mission can be nurtured in every pastor.
Moriah Mission Fellowship
In order to help those who have a burden or interest in God’s mission, in 1997 Grace Church formed the Moriah Mission Fellowship whose members meet monthly.
Sally Ong is a founding member of the fellowship. She says the fellowship was started as a small prayer group in the English congregation. Encouraged by Rev. Chan Fong, these mission-interested members expanded the group into a fellowship on a full congregational level. Rev. Chan named the fellowship “Moriah”, which comes from the story in Genesis where Abraham was to offer his son Isaac to the Lord on Mount Moriah.
And the fellowship turned out to be a fragrance attracting many mission-minded Christians. As they come together to learn, pray and seek, they progress in their understanding of mission hand-in-hand.
Praying for missions is one of the many ways that Grace Church is involved in missions.
From Pain to True Transformation
However, a church is after all a group of humans. Grace Church also has times of disagreement among members. An example is the mission pledge target every year. Some members question if the target is set too high, saying, “We don’t have enough. Why do we need to raise funds for missions?”
Yet Pastor Ip said, “God blesses us [not only] for our own welfare, but also for us to share.”
“It is our decision whether we want to follow God and honor Him, or just receive blessings and stop there. It is His command, His example and His priority. In other words, we cannot be selfish.”
Pastor Ip understands why people struggle; yet he says, “If there’s no pain, then we don’t have transformation…. we need to feel the struggle, feel the pain and still do it. Otherwise God cannot transform our lives.”
“The issue is not so much whether we give or not, but how much we give….It is a change of mindset: everything you have belongs to God. Use whatever for your basic needs, the rest you can give sacrificially to God….So give until you feel the pain,” adds Pastor Suhandy Yao, the Mission Executive.
“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. ” －Psalm
Over the years, Grace Church has testified to the truth in this Bible verse again and again. An elder member, Kan Ki-yick, recalls 1974, soon after Grace Church had spent a large amount of money on their church building. They held their first mission convention that year and the invited speaker challenged them to pledge money for missions. Most of them felt uncomfortable with that challenge. However, they all submitted to do so after serious praying and seeking, and God blessed the church so greatly that they collected a faith pledge double that of the target amount. The church was able to send out six missionaries that year.
Go and See with Your Own Eyes
Grace Church also encourages their members to join short mission trips besides praying and giving.
Pastor Yao agrees, “Sometimes you get a burden for missions when you go and see the field yourself. Hearing a report is good, but being there to see with your own eyes sets you up for life-changing moments.”
Grace Church’s members Koh Kin-teng and his wife Sabrina Sin are hard-core mission trip veterans. Koh shares his experience of visiting an orphanage in Southeast Asia.
“After visiting them, we were connected… I know that through our prayer and financial support, a group of children in a remote corner of the world now have hope,” he says.
“We’ve heard so much and learnt so much in church, yet that’s flat. But after our visits, everything came alive.”
Sin also recalls her first mission trip in 2000 to West Malaysia where she was greatly encouraged to witness God calling two teammates to serve in mission. Of the two, one has started serving in Mekong already while another, Pastor Ip, is now the mission pastor of Grace Church.
Grace Church’s members Koh Kin-teng and Sabrina Sin encourage all Christian families to join short mission trips.
Koh and Sin like to go on mission trips with their two sons whenever they can. Though they grew up in Singapore, on the mission trips their teenage sons were happy to eat simple meals with their hands and play with the local kids. As their parents, Koh and Sin were moved and grateful.
Unity in Partnership
Grace Church is an independent church; it does not belong to any denominations. Yet through mission involvement, they establish partnership and unity with other Singapore churches.
“No church can function as an island.” Pastor Ip says. He points out that other churches come to them to ask about their experiences and ways of being involved in missions. And they are happy to share.
Grace Church connects closely with several mission agencies including Wycliffe. Grace Church has been supporting Bible translation ministry through Wycliffe since 1988. Currently among the 65 cross-cultural workers sent and supported, 13 are with Wycliffe.
Pastor Ip says, “Through Wycliffe, we know the need of Bible translation and the world situation.” Wycliffe Singapore’s director, Cheng Kim-leong, echoes, “We have many chances to serve together…. they [Grace Church] have given much support to missionaries and many blessings to Wycliffe members.”
Challenge and Honor
Living in this information age and situated in a multi-cultural metropolis like Singapore, Grace Church and its members are inevitably exposed to various challenges and competing priorities, both globally and locally.
Rev. Chua admits it is not easy to keep the church members enthusiastic about God’s mission, or to prevent them from becoming arrogant or cooling down. However, being the Lord’s disciples is full of challenges anyway. Just as Rev. Chua says, the mission will be accomplished only by the power of the Holy Spirit and it is certainly an honor for the Church to be part of it.