As the missions arm of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS), the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) relies heavily on partnerships with the Methodist churches in Singapore to extend God’s kingdom in mission fields within our region. Its strategy adopts an integrated approach of church planting and community development, with transformed lives and communities as the desired outcome.
MMS does not and cannot work alone. The Book of Discipline of MCS states MMS’s key role as: “to…work with local churches as its partner to promote the service opportunities and needs of mission fields selected by the Society as well as to ensure that missionaries are adequately cared for” (¶371). It can fulfil this role only with the support and partnership of the whole body of Christ in the Methodist community.
Church engagement is therefore an important initiative to engage, excite, encourage, equip and establish missions interest, involvement and partnership in all Methodist churches.
Theological perspective for church engagement in missions
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gave the Church our mission: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matt 28: 19—20), and “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind…You must love our neighbour as you love yourself” (Matt 22:37, 39).
In order to be truly alive, we embrace Jesus’ mandate to love God, to love our neighbour and to make disciples of all people. The Church seeks to fulfil its global mission through the Spirit-given ministries of all Christians, both lay and clergy. Faithfulness and effectiveness demand that all ministries in the Methodist Church be shaped by God’s mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Methodists around the world and in Singapore are bound together in a connectional covenant in which we support and hold one another accountable for fruitful discipleship and missions. Integrally holding connectional unity and local freedom, we seek to proclaim and embody the gospel in ways relevant to our specific cultural and social context.
Whenever the Methodist Church has had a clear sense of mission, God has used our Church to save persons, heal relationships, transform social structures and spread scriptural holiness, thereby changing the community and the world.
With a common understanding of our Wesleyan theological viewpoint on missions, we can proceed to engage MCS, the Annual Conferences and Methodist churches in a deeper conversation on how to establish lasting, meaningful collaborations to fulfil the God-given mission to the Methodist Church. In all our engagement efforts, we seek to adhere to the following three Partnership Principles in order to establish lasting, meaningful collaborations with key stakeholders and the community.
- Strategic Synergy: Achieve win-win outcomes aligned with strategic objectives for MMS and partners
MMS seeks to be a value-adding partner in all our collaboration with key stakeholders. Instead of duplicating efforts, we should brainstorm ways to collaborate more effectively in strategic synergy. This is to reduce wastage of resources and deploy limited resources (e.g. human, monetary, etc) to achieve the strategic objectives of our respective organisations.
- Trust Building: Work towards shared understanding to achieve common goals
The trust building process is critical because leadership change and renewal occurs at all levels of the Church over time. With each new leader appointed at Local Conference, Annual and General Conference levels, MMS has to establish contact with the newly-appointed pastors and leaders so that we can renew our commitments if necessary. The same trust building process is also necessary with the existing leaders of the various organisations that MMS works with.
- Effective Collaboration: Increasing level of commitment and purpose of goals to sustain ongoing partnerships
Engagement will take time to bear fruit as there is a structured process for both MMS and the key stakeholders to go through before we can move from conversation to collaboration. This structured process is fully dependent on the level of commitment and purpose of goals of both MMS and the respective partners—there is no shortcut. We need to be very clear where we are in the journey of collaboration with our respective partners so as to move the partnership to a higher level over time.
There are 21 Methodist churches with ongoing partnerships with MMS in church planting, mission trips, projects and regular financial support for missions work in MMS’ seven mission fields. In addition, other Methodist churches provide ad-hoc financial support for MMS’ missions and projects.
With 46 Methodist churches, there is still great potential for MMS to reach out to the other 25 churches. MMS aims to touch base with every church by Dec 2021 with the aim to engage, excite, encourage and determine partnership potential. With an overarching church engagement strategy and plan in place, this will help to prioritise churches which MMS has yet to engage while not forgetting those with whom MMS has engaged.
While not every church may be in the season for missions nor have the capacity or resources to support missions, the aim to engage all churches is not just to make known the available mission opportunities, but to increase awareness of MMS’ role and maintain an ongoing dialogue so as to foster future collaboration or for MMS to provide support for future mission development.
In The Character of a Methodist, John Wesley wrote of Christian perfection—commonly understood as a perfection of love. We are to love God wholeheartedly and join together in Christian service as we reach out to others with God’s love and truth. We are also People of the Flame. The flame of the Holy Spirit has been a Methodist symbol, reflecting a Spirit-filled life. The Holy Spirit enables us to recognise our calling as God’s people to go forth united in His love as we reach out in missions and evangelism.
Col (Ret) Quek Koh Eng is the Field & Church Engagement Director in MMS, and the MMS Area Director for Thailand and Vietnam. He is a member of Charis Methodist Church.
Photos courtesy of the Methodist Missions Society