The expanding scope of urban missions

Twenty-five years ago, a few Christians from different churches were drawn together with a common vision. They saw men from South Asia coming to Singapore by the hundreds and thousands – not as tourists but as workers in the burgeoning construction sites.

Meeting these workers at the worksites and hostels, they shared God’s love and brought them the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Soon, the outreach ministry to these men grew, and a small fellowship began in Tamil Methodist Church (Short Street).

The migrant workers shared their stories of struggles, pain, and loneliness of having to leave their families and travelling thousands of miles away in order to seek a better life for them. Here, they found hope in Jesus, and some even returned home as missionaries! This is the Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference story of the ‘urban fishers of man’.

Migration today has opened doors in many ways to reach out to the world from where we are. The concept of ‘missions at our doorstep’ reminds us that doing missions does not need us to travel far and wide, because globalisation has brought the world to us.

Urban missions, however, now encompasses more than just the focus on migrant ministry which we have become accustomed to over the years. It is now not just blue-collar working men, but people of all ages and walks of life, who are drawn to cities like Singapore with hopes of a brighter future, or who are connected as a ‘global city’ via the Internet.

The challenge of urban missions also extends to those who have lived in the city all our lives. How do we reach out amid rapid changes in Singapore’s unique character as a city that is a melting pot of cultures? The Church faces the challenge of reaching diverse people in a social media age.

Not all churches are equipped for every kind of ministry the city needs. Hence more than ever before, churches must learn from and collaborate with one another. The GoForth National Missions Conference 2018 will be an opportunity for churches to network and learn how together we can best  serve this city-state.

At the start of His public ministry, Jesus invited disciples to “follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). At the end of this same gospel he commissioned them to “Go therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20).

The call and commission of Jesus Christ for the Church has always compelled us to be ‘salt and light’ wherever we are – and for many of us, that means in cities.

May God help the Church fulfil His call to make disciples of all nations as we bear His unchanging message of love for all creation.

The Rev James Nagulan was elected President of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC) in 2016 for the quadrennium. He is also Pastor-in-Charge of Tamil Methodist Church (Short Street) and Seletar Tamil Methodist Church.

Picture by World Image/