Growing up, I had many opportunities to volunteer.
Every Christmas, I would help out at the Boys’ Brigade Share-a-Gift drive. In junior college, I also started a mentorship programme for primary school students.
However, I never quite viewed these activities as an essential part of my Christian faith. In my mind, I compartmentalised volunteering in the community as volunteering, and church as church.
For most of my youth, I ended up thinking that the former was a helpful but optional thing to add on to what I do in church on Sundays.
WHEN MY MISCONCEPTIONS WERE SHATTERED
But when I left for the UK to study law, I was forced to rethink what was important to me.
Living alone in a new country, I had to build a routine from scratch. In doing so, I felt that I needed to understand why the things I spent time on were important, rather than doing them for their own sake.
Was it important to volunteer? How did this relate to my faith?
On one level, it seemed like the two were separate. We don’t earn our salvation through good works, and at the heart of our faith is the proclamation of the gospel through discipleship and evangelism.
But on the other hand, the gospel is proclaimed not just by what we say, but also what we do. It felt strange to say that I loved my neighbours, while doing nothing about social issues that affected them.
Intrigued by these questions, I interned at the Jubilee Centre, a think-tank that helps Christians connect their faith to their public life through research, training and academic publications.
I got the chance to read papers on a Christian perspective on banking reform, attend talks on Christianity and transhumanism, and listen to a law professor explain how Old Testament biblical principles are relevant to modern legal systems.
Every Tuesday, a staff would pick a random news article to discuss over lunch, where there would be a roundtable discussion on ‘what does the Bible say about this’?
I never knew that my faith could, and should, inform my view on so many different issues. I had two big takeaways from this experience.
First, it showed me that the gospel is to be integrated into the rest of my life: Christianity was much more than what I did or said inside church. Seeing the world through the lens of Christ changed the way I looked at “secular issues”. In fact, it wasn’t just my viewpoints that changed, but also my actions.
Second, I saw how every vocation brings a unique perspective to how the gospel can transform lives – both in identifying the problems that exist and what a Christ-like response would look like.
For example, when a natural disaster strikes, someone involved in marketing and communications might look at the way appeals for donations are presented, while someone with a background in social work might be more concerned about how families are taken care of.
During the time I volunteered with a homeless outreach in the UK, I also learnt that there was no one way in which people came to be homeless, nor one way to solve everybody’s challenges. What was important was to listen to each person’s story and seek to understand their individual struggles.
Through all of this, I began to realise that social concern is actually an integral part of our mission as Christians – not an optional extra as I had thought.
COMING BACK TO COVID-19
Returning to Singapore just as COVID-19 was beginning, I wondered how I could continue this conversation on the relationship between faith and social action, especially in light of how life has changed because of the pandemic.
Through my friends, I came to know about Micah Singapore and decided to help out with its communications efforts. We are a network of Christians passionate about integral mission, which involves integrating the demonstration of the gospel into our social involvement.
COVID-19 has affected us, our families and our friends in so many different ways, which is why the Church needs to hear a diversity of views to see how it can respond to these changes.
As a follow-up from last year’s Micah Conversation, we are asking: What does integral mission look like in a post-COVID-19 society? Like it or not, the Church’s response to COVID-19 is our Christian witness to the watching world.
Indeed, many Christians have already stepped up to lead initiatives. Others have already been serving communities in need long before the pandemic hit. Such deeds are all part and parcel of living out an authentic witness of our faith.
Even if we don’t have a passion for a specific cause or don’t know where to start, we can contribute our personal experiences by observing what’s happening around us.
Maybe you’re supporting a friend through mental health problems. Maybe staying in touch with your grandparents during the circuit breaker has made you think about how to prevent the elderly from missing out on online church services and cell groups.
Based on what you’re studying or your line of work, you could also help identify a need in society that others may not have seen.
Every vocation brings a unique perspective to how the gospel can transform lives.
For this reason, Micah Singapore is launching a nation-wide survey to understand what young Christians aged 15-35 think are the most important issues during this time.
We want to discover what challenges exist and how different churches are responding to those issues. With this data, we believe that this would help churches to learn from one another and create more opportunities for collaboration. These insights would also allow us to have a more informed Micah Conversation 2021 taking place next year.
Every one has a unique perspective that can enrich our collective vision of what integral mission means, so we want to hear your views!
Do the survey and share the link with your friends, particularly those who attend a different church. We hope to include a wide range of responses so that we can have a conversation that’s truly representative of the Church in Singapore.
- What does it mean to love your neighbour?
- How has COVID-19 affected you and/or the people around you?
- How can the Church better respond to these needs?
- Make your voice heard! Fill in the survey and share the link with your Christian friends.