Who will benefit from reading On Being the Antioch of Asia?
While this book emerged from a case study research about partnership in missions, I beleive that many stakeholders in missions will benefit from reading the book:
(1) Mission Agency leaders will be challenged about how we can shape our ministries to remain relevant and effective partners with the local church in the current environment
(2) Church Leaders who want to grow their church's missions capacity will learn about the opportunity of greater ownrship and involvement, but will also be given some non-negotiables as we collectively move forward
(3) Missionaries will learn some keys about how they can be an effective bridge between their mission agencies and churches.
(4) People who aspire to be missionaries, missions committee members and other people aspiring to be involved in missions projects will learn some of the foundational lessons which the global missions movement has learned over the years about being effective in cross-cultural missions. The skills required to work cross-cultrally involve the skills we develop for local ministry, but also require us to acquire an additional layer of undrstanding about such things like contextualisation, incarnation and cultural intelligence.
Collectively, I hope this book will help us understand what is happening in our missions system to help catalyse some dialogue and align our thinking.
Why were so many chapters written in narrative form (the 12 "Conversations")?
It was my privilidge to speak to so many amazing people in the Singapore missions community that early in my research, I had already decided that I wanted to share what I was learning. I also wanted to communicate the "variety" of opinions which were emerging - those which applauded what we were doing in our missions movement and those which called for some adjustments. Each voice is important and many of the ones I included in the book represent some of the "ah ha" moments I had during my study. I hope you will be as blessed as I was, as you listen in on these conversations.
Why narrative form? A narrative is essentially a story, and many of us have experienced the compelling nature of story telling. Not only are stories easeier to read, but they touch our hearts as well as our heads.
Some research even seems to indicate that a story is more likely to move us to action.
Why did the study focus on Singapore?
Singapore happens to be my base of ministry at the moment, but it has some qualities which make it an idea subject for a case study that I beleive will not only inform the Asian missions movement, but the global missions movements also:
(1) It has a mature, growing local churches
(2) It has seen seasons when missions sending has ben very strong
(3) There are many churches that are committed to missions involvement, and are allocating significant resources to their missions programs
(4) The nation is ideally loacted in Asia to have a regional impact
(5) It is a convenient meeting place between east and west
(6) It is estimated that there are around 700 churches co-existing on a 700 square kilometre island, no further than 50 kilometres apart. With the proximity and the depth of resource in the nation, we have an almost unique opportunity to collaborate on a national level in missions.
(7) Above all, there are significant numbers of local churches that are questioning the relevance and value of partnership with mission agencies in their strategies.
The last element was the one which callenged me as a mission agency director, and it drove me to want to study this question from an academic as well as practical point of view. I beleive that how we answer the question about missions partnership will determine how we live out the mandate to be the Antioch of Asia.
How valid is the Antioch of Asia title to Singapore?
There is some difference of opinion about this, but one thing that became clear to me is that everybody I interviewed knew about the alledged mandate to be the Antioch of Asia. Some people felt strongly that the title has been given by the Lord to drive us to be a strategic centre for missions in Asia. Others felt that the title was valid but also felt that we had not yet lived up to the call. Others still, were cynical about the title and felt that it was not relevant to how we outworked our national missions call.
I have personally come to believe that it is a benchmark for us to aspire to, to drive us to greater things in global missions - especially to drive us to venture to the hard places and unreached people. Like our namesake in Scripture, we stand on the doorstep of multitudes of the unreached - we have the opportunity, the means and the mandate to dare great things for the Lord of the Harvest. You can decide for yourself after reading the book. I also believe that as the 40th Anniversary of the alleged proclamation approaches in 2018, it is time to review what it means to be the Antioch of Asia. I provide my own thoughts about this in the final chapter (The Fifth Era) and Concluding Comments.
related page in the Key Ideas section.