How has your life story brought you in to this present role?
My journey toward Christ was formed by a fascination with the thinking of C.S. Lewis and that somebody gave me a Bible. As I got further involved in my church, I was asked to meet with OM Mercy Teams International to explore ways we could collaborate. Through various ups and downs, my wife and I, and our two young children eventually joined Logos Hope in 2014 to help in the non-technical coordination for the Power Up project, which entailed sending hundreds of ship crew around the world in ministry for five months. After more than two years, it was time to return home. Many months before we left Logos Hope, I was approached about becoming OM Singapore’s Field Leader. At first, I didn’t see a good fit, yet I began to understand the huge potential here for world missions—and here we are.
The Singaporean ‘way’ of doing things places high value on efficiency and systems. What are the benefits and pitfalls of that philosophy for the Church’s mission mandate?
Accountability and discipline are important; we learn from past experiences and should be constantly improving. Yet a common pitfall could be that we chase after results and rely on targets and outcomes to measure our success and shape our thinking and decision making, rather than waiting on God or persevering in tough situations. Some churches expect a certain return on their ‘investments’ in missionaries. There is also pressure to do things, including planting churches, the ‘Singapore way’ rather than trusting that God will contextualise the message and methods to suit host cultures. Take the issue of time: Singaporeans are monochronic, and time must not be wasted. But much of the developing world is polychronic; time is more flexible and certainly not more important than relationships. We need to be aware of our blind spots. Of course, any nationality can make this same mistake.
OM’s new mission statement is: “We want to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached.” How do you intend to promote that mission among Singaporean churches?
Absolutely, we want to take our place as Singaporeans in the front line of missions globally. But in recent decades, the world has also come to us and we have significant groups of migrant workers from throughout Asia as unreached as anywhere else. True, there are hundreds of churches here that should embrace ministry to them, but few do. A number of churches are exemplary in their commitment to send workers to the ends of the Earth, but bringing the gospel to the local red-light district or construction sites in Singapore either doesn’t register or it repels.
OM is not claiming this mission field, but we are ready to lead by example and involve young people from various churches to share Christ’s love with the unloved. We are trusting God that this exposure can be a stepping stone for those who volunteer in this ministry: Once their eyes and hearts have been opened, they will see the bigger global missions picture and serve abroad with OM.
The new mission statement is meant to concentrate our focus and global priorities on a tangible, shared goal, rather than justifying a hundred divergent efforts. How should this influence the aim and priorities of all that OM Singapore does at present?
In parallel to local outreaches, OM is very clear that Singapore should remain primarily a resourcing field for the rest of the world in praying, giving and going. The mission statement gives us a kick (call it encouragement) to intensify our efforts even more. We will research with purpose: What are the real needs of workers in Nepal as they visit mountainous villages to see those vibrant communities formed? What about ministry in Africa: What role can the Singaporean Church play? How can our marketplace skills make a difference in Arabia?
Singapore’s churches have generously shared workers for many short-term efforts around the OM world, but few have committed to long-term leadership abroad. What needs to change to see more career mission leaders from Asia and from Singapore in particular?
I’m in a process to understand the significance of short term and long term. Clearly, there is a place for both. But recognising that true transformation demands long-term commitments, I wonder if we short change ourselves by cutting the task into smaller chunks and presenting these options to churches. We package a two-year commitment as ‘long term’ and OM becomes known as short-term to a degree that there is little awareness of the possibility and necessity of a missionary career. Jesus never talked about short term or long term; He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” He focused on the task, period.
There could be meaningful alternatives in this debate. For example, if a professional person residing in Singapore spends two months every year serving abroad in the marketplace (by teaching, consulting, etc.) and continues this for a decade, that’s looking long term. We haven’t begun to consider that impact on a larger scale.
If you could take a plane full of pastors anywhere in the world, where would you go—and why?
If we could secure round-trip tickets, then I would take them to hell. To grasp the horror of damnation and eternal separation from God—the end reality for those who do not confess Jesus—would give us all a very clear message as to the urgency and importance of sharing the gospel with as many as possible. We need that kind of perspective to redeem what remains of our lives here on Earth.
Greg Kernaghan joined OM in 1978, a time when most of OM’s pioneers were still in leadership and when tales of early exploits could be heard of first hand. He and his wife, Anni, have served on the ships, in Finland, in Canada and as part of the OMNI (communications) team internationally.