The Antioch of Asia
“There are times when an idea takes hold in a nation in a way that becomes almost prophetic. It does not require complete agreement or even acknowledgement as an absolute reality, but the idea is strong enough to rally a vision and to raise a standard. This is so with the title, ‘the Antioch of Asia’”. (From page 13 of OBtAoA)
I do not ever recall meeting a Christian leader in Singapore who did not show an understanding of Singapore being called the Antioch of Asia. Some do not put much weight on the alleged mantle, but others like a church leader, Colin felt that the prophetic word bestowed upon the nation a ‘double calling’ and an amplification of the Great Commission mandate – a benchmark for this strategically located nation to measure itself against. It is a title which is mentioned often, to support the need for us to raise the standard in our missions endeavour.
What is not so clear, however, is WHAT it means to be the Antioch of Asia. Apart from having a general sense that, we are called to be significant in the region, in missions - a strategic centre - there was no clear consensus on what it calls us to be. Many speak of the need to go to the unreached, others speak of sending more missionaries to the nations, but others are less clear about this.
Edward Keith Pousson does write about how the Antioch of Asia mantle naturally leads to comparisons with our namesake in Scripture. In his article, Are We Antioch Yet?, he encourages us to press in to understand what the mantle represents and warns that “demographics alone do not make us Antioch.” He highlights that what happened at Antioch was profoundly significant in global outreach. “Antioch produced the first international, cross-cultural mission outreach that involved a church and was not a result of persecution. This was the ‘official’ beginning of the Gentile mission.”
In the absence of a general consensus about what it means to be the Antioch of Asia, it is therefore interesting to me that there was a common feeling amongst many interviewees that we have not yet lived up to the Antioch call (responses ranging from hopeful optimism for what God may do in the future to dismissive cynicism that we will ever live up to the call). In Section 1 of the book, I address these issues in the sub-sections: The Antioch of Asia: A Double Conviction and Falling Short of the Antioch Call.
In 2018, it will be the 40th anniversary of the alleged proclamation over the nation by Rev Billy Graham that we would be the Antioch of Asia. In my Concluding Comments chapter, I touch on the need to re-envision what this means and to be the Antioch of Asia and what it means to even “go beyond Antioch.”
While the book was a case study in partnership in missions, the nature of the guided discussions allowed an evaluation of sorts to emerge, each interviewee telling me what the strengths and weaknesses of our relatively young Asian missions movement are. They also revealed facets of what being the Antioch of Asia should include.
We have done some tremendous things in missions – much to be proud of as a nation – but we now have the opportunity see what the research is telling us and to take steps to grow our collective missions capacity. I believe effective partnership will be a key to this.