Why are Singaporeans so afraid of missions?

by Joanne Kwok // July 25, 2019, 12:20 pm

Singaporeans afraid of missions2

“Our generation is being robbed,” John Kim announced to the listening crowd. We aspire to be famous, but have we missed the heart of Jesus?

“Guys,” he continued, “We are the people of the Cross. We are called to die daily and follow Him.”

Speaking at the Burning Hearts Conference 2019, Kim, who serves on the Executive Leadership Team of ACTS, an international missions organisation, pleaded with Singaporeans to reconsider our attitudes and possible apprehension towards missions.

Photo courtesy of Burning Hearts.

“I hope that the world does not know Singapore for Crazy Rich Asians,” he said to laughs all around. “That is not your story.”

Singaporeans have many fears and perceptions of missions that stop us from even considering ourselves called to step out for the Gospel.

“There’s a lot of fear blocking our hearts for missions,” he said. “But if we’re praying for revival, we’re praying for global missions.

“The glory of God spreading throughout all the earth – that’s the heart of missions.”

Burning Hearts Conference: Do we care about the dream of God’s heart?


1. The fear of losing

Kiasuism – the fear of losing. Are we too afraid of losing comfort, possessions, riches or position? Are we afraid of losing face because we are in doubt like the Apostle Thomas?

Because if we truly believed the Gospel, what do we have to lose in sharing it? You can’t say: “I believe in the Gospel, but I just don’t tell anybody about it.”

Reasons not to share the gospel are excuses

But doubting is part of the reach for faith. “I’m just glad I’m not known as Doubting John,” Kim said, in reference to the disciple whom we all know as Doubting Thomas. “I’ve had a lot of doubts about God my whole life. Thank God that’s not my identity!”

The encouragement of Thomas’ initial doubt and subsequent encounter with the risen Jesus is this: After putting his hands in Jesus’ wounds, which still remained on His resurrected body, Thomas would be the only disciple who travels the farthest in physical distance out of the Roman empire – preaching the Gospel as far as India, where he would be martyred for the faith.

You can’t say: “I believe in the Gospel, but I just don’t tell anybody about it.”

“Are there heroes in this generation?” he asked, urgency in his voice. “There are 7,000 unreached people groups of 3 billion people who are going to die without the Gospel because nobody went and shared.

“Does this bother you?”

He continued: “Do you know the primary reason why God sent the Holy Spirit? It wasn’t just for cool experiences in church when we get touched by Him.

“The Holy Spirit was given to us so that we would be imbued with power from on high (Luke 24:49), so that we will take the Gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).”

My true fear is growing comfortable

2. The fear of waste

Do we see doing whatever it takes to follow God’s call on our life as a waste, the way Mary of Bethany was criticised for pouring out a jar of perfume that cost her a year’s worth of wages?

“I faced a lot of this at a young age,” Kim shared. “I would get asked: ‘Why are you going to church so often?’ And I wondered if it was possible to go overboard with what you’re trying to do for God.”

But would God say it was too much, or ask us why we sacrificed for Him? “I don’t think any of us would regret giving the strength of our youth to the Lord,” Kim said to a cheering crowd.

What are you willing to sacrifice?

He shared about being asked by several parents if sending young people into the mission fields was ruining their lives, causing them to fall behind their peers who were working and climbing the corporate ladder.

“I told them that it was a bunch of 20-somethings who brought the Gospel to Korea over a hundred years ago,” Kim said, referring to his native country. “And many of them died before they even got to share the Gospel because of sickness or shipwreck.”

“Mary was criticised for pouring that perfume. Only one person, Jesus, did not criticise her.”

“This is why Paul charged Timothy not to let anybody despise your youth. People will try and convince you not to break that costly oil,” he urged.

“I want to charge you – God is giving you permission to be radical and passionate for Jesus. Mary was criticised for pouring that perfume. Only one person, Jesus, did not criticise her.”

In fact, Mary of Bethany is honoured for what she did because she caught the message Jesus was preaching – that He was about to die, said Kim. The disciples weren’t paying attention to Him and they insisted they would never allow that to happen; Peter even tried to kill the person trying to take Jesus away.

But Mary of Bethany treasured the words of Jesus and with her actions that day, responded this way: Let me prepare Him for that with this perfume, a traditional Jewish burial custom. This was her gift of love – it wasn’t a waste to her.

Passion Week: How much are you willing to spend on Jesus?

Likewise, God has been preparing the Church of Singapore to break a costly perfume at His feet. And yet, we know nothing of sacrifice the way He does. “This is not sacrifice,” Kim declared. “It is a privilege for us to do this for Him.”

3. The fear of pain

Do we throw in the towel when we feel a little pain? A little loneliness, a little sadness? “We are called to overcome,” Kim said. “But we can’t overcome if we don’t want to go through trials.”

He then read out a letter written by 19th-century American missionary Adoniram Judson, who was asking his would-be father-in-law, John Hasseltine, for his daughter’s hand in marriage. He was 24, she was 23. They left for India two weeks after their wedding and never returned.

“I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death.

Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God?” (Adoniram Judson)

The early missionaries were young, but full of grit, tenacity and a burning desire to bring Jesus to souls. They knew the Cross they would have to take up to follow Him (Matthew 16:24-26), and whatever it was going to take, they gave their lives for the cause.

Some student missionaries were even known to pack their belongings into coffins instead of suitcases when they left their countries for their missions, as these same coffins would be the ones used to bury them when they died.

“Do we have sacred cows that we can’t give up?” Kim asked. “There will be no revival with no sacrifice, without people counting the cost.”

Where in the world are our young missionaries?

He went on to share what a 70-year-old missionary had once said in response to a question on enduring harsh persecution and still saying “yes” to Jesus. It didn’t happen overnight, she had said. “But when you’re young, choose to die little deaths every day.”

The daily practice of laying oneself down doesn’t have to be glorious. Maybe today it’s buying food for someone. Or making time for someone. We neglect these little opportunities to die in some way, when it’s the Lord who prepares these things so that we can be built up for the big trials of faith. 

We consider Abraham’s ordeal in sacrificing his beloved son, Isaac, as requested by God. “It’s not because He didn’t know if Abraham would do it,” Kim said. “I believe God wanted Abraham to know what he was willing to do for God.”

In Matthew 24, we read that the love of most will grow cold because of the increase of wickedness and calamities on the earth. But at the same time, the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to the whole world, and then the end will come.

It doesn’t make sense, Kim observed. Don’t we need a bigger army if the Gospel is going to be preached everywhere? It seems like on the contrary, with love growing cold, that the army of God will shrink.

“My only explanation is that there will be a sovereign move of God,” he said. “No longer will the Church be ashamed of her bridegroom; we will no longer feel awkward sharing the love of God with someone who doesn’t know Him – we will be so gripped with the love of God that a boldness and courage will come upon us.

“We will be willing to go to the ends of the earth for love.”


  1. What are you fearful of when you consider a life of missional living?
  2. What are the costs you are hesitant to pay in the bid to follow Jesus?
  3. How can we grow our trust in God and His direction for our lives?
  4. Will we go anywhere and do anything for God?
About the author

Joanne Kwok

Joanne is a bundle of creative energy commonly heard before she is seen. She believes in the triune power of good conversation, brilliant writing and bold ideas. She also likes milo.