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The sixth edition of GoForth National Missions Conference 2018, held once every three to four years, drew to a close on 23 June 2018, with participants from close to 200 churches and Christian groups.

 

More than 2,330 participants – including children, youth and adults attended this Conference across the English and Chinese tracks at ACS Barker Road Campus. Among the participants were 400 children, aged seven to 12, who attended a very engaging two days of activities in the Children’s Programme as well as more than 500 invited guests at the Leaders’ Programmes organized respectively by the two language tracks.

 

In addition – each of the three free Public Night Rallies saw an exuberant crowd of 1,300 persons as believers from all over convene for an uplifting time of worship, honoring of previous generations, drama presentations and inspiring sharing by keynote speakers.

 

The other highlight was the Exhibition where 40 missions agencies and Christian outreach ministries showcased a myriad of ministries globally and within Singapore, testifying to what the Lord is doing throughout the world. Exhibitors offered opportunities for participation and preparation for the Great Commission, in areas such as cross-cultural training, discipleship courses, social enterprises, multi-media evangelistic ministries, working with the persecuted and oppressed, crisis relief and so forth.

 

During the two and a half days of the Exhibition, conference delegates took time to explore these opportunities and resources at the different exhibit booths, of which many were colourfully decorated with banners, craft products, literature and innovative evangelistic tools. For many exhibitors, GoForth was also a time to catch up with old friends, share God stories from the ground, and immerse themselves in a “marketplace of missional ideas”.

 

All Protestant denominations in Singapore were represented as well as many of the independent churches. There was also a good representation of members from overseas churches in Asia and further afield.

 

GoForth 2018 was very much a multi-generational Conference, with about 45% of the participants attending the English Track below 35 years old. For many, GoForth 2018 was their first missions conference experience. 27-year Lee Wan Xiang, of Trinity Christian Centre said: “This was my first experience in a missions conference. I enjoyed how down to earth the whole experience was, which ironically made it a heavenly one. It was very encouraging to be in the same place with so many who have run the race before me, and are still running. I caught a glimpse of how God is at work, through some of the practical tips and processes shared, and how missions can be done, even in unconventional ways.”

 

Another first-timer, 20-year national serviceman, Jegan said: “I thought it was going to be a ‘the Bible calls us to do missions, go forth’ kind of thing, but it was so much more. I have never been a missions-oriented type, but after hearing people talk about their struggles, successes and ultimately what God has been doing, I was challenged to reach out more. I don’t think I’ve seen so many missionaries come together and celebrate the work of the Lord, and educate others on how to carry on the same way. My personal message from God was clear – I need to take missions much more seriously if I am to call myself a follower of Christ.”

 

For 29-year old En Li, a Ministry Staff with Bukit Panjang Methodist Church, GoForth 2018 was: “…an inspiring two days of learning. I enjoyed the wide variety of workshops. The speakers were inspiring as they had such wealth of experience and knowledge. I think God is inspiring me with ideas on how I could re-look and re-shape my current ministries.”

 

The focus for this Conference was to empower individuals and churches to reach and transform cities with the love of Christ. The Go Urban theme is especially relevant given that 54% of the global population is now living in urban areas, with this expected to rise to 70% by the year 2050. Southeast Asia alone is home to 2,728 people groups, with 7.7 million unreached Southeast Asians (source: International Mission Board).

 

40 years ago, a clarion call was given to Singapore to be an Antioch of Asia. Within this broad context, the programme line-up for GoForth 2018 was shaped to encourage, equip and empower Christians to be on the cutting edge of current global missional trends to fulfill this calling.

 

Missions-Centric Programme: Plenaries, Bible Study, Workshops, Circles of Passion

The two-day main Conference programme was packed from morning to night with a content-rich line-up presented by more than 133 expert speakers and 42 facilitators. 

 

English Track keynote speakers, Bishop Efraim Tendero, World Evangelical Alliance; Dr Mark Beliles, Global Transformation Network & the America Transformation Company; Rev Guna Raman, City to City Movement & Agape Baptist Church; Mr Joseph Chean, Fellowship of Missional Organisations of Singapore (FOMOS) & Youth with a Mission (YWAM) Singapore; and Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon, Retired Methodist Bishop; led Bible Studies, Plenaries in the Leaders Track, Morning and Night Programmes as well as workshops together with other specialists in different aspects of urban missions. 

 

With the overarching theme of ‘Urban Realties, Seeing Possibilities’, the morning plenaries showcased four important aspects of urban missions-related topics: livelihood and the marketplace, navigating digital spaces, growing the urban church and hope amidst social realities. Delegates had opportunities to engage with one another during these plenaries, through interactive games, videos and discussions.

 

There were also 12 Circles of Passion (COP) lunch-time networking sessions that looked at different urban-related topics like developing a viral church, giving voice to the voiceless, tapering the wealth gap, inter-generational disconnect; education; and riding the digital wave. During these sessions – like-minded participants had opportunities to engage and discuss with specialist speakers to be further empowered and enriched. Close to 600 participants participated in the COPs and learnt from one another and shared ideas and resources. Possible long-term endeavours were also explored.

 

24-year old student Janan Lim loved the COP for the inter-generational discussions. He said: “It gave me insights on what other generations felt as well as misunderstandings they might have about youth and young adults. While many may know that the harvest is plentiful, but workers are few, many still do not know that there are uncultivated lands where there are no sowers at all. I felt God was speaking to me, and He knows that at the right time, He will be more excited than I for me to fulfill my calling and destiny!”

 

Participants then adjourned in the afternoons to attend up to two of the 55 TED-style workshops on each of the two days. With the theme ‘Embracing Realities, Creating Opportunities’, these were organized along four tracks – Multicultural Mix, Ministry Mandate, Maturity March and Megashift Mastery. Topics included reaching out to migrants; discipling international professionals and students; cross-cultural communication; urban poor; arts ministries; ministry to the exploited, the heart-broken, the dysfunctional and the broken-spirited; multi-lingual education; using sports as a catalyst; business for transformation; marketplace mentoring and workplace collaborations; and harnessing technology and digital spaces and so forth.

 

In the Business for Transformation workshop, there was a fresh call to global missions enterprises and where links between business and mission can be forged. Social enterprises offer a lifeline to the oppressed, like sex workers, victims of human trafficking and the poor as they can provide dignified jobs. The speaker reminded workshop participants that it all begins with giving dignity and respect to those in need, one individual at a time, so that transformation can take place from inside out, hence giving hope to the community over time.

 

With such a wide selection and so many good speakers, 20-year old student Sarah Ann Wee had a hard time deciding on which workshop to attend. She finally attended Ministry to the Broken Spirit Through Art workshop where she learnt: “We should be observant and sensitive towards those we are helping. Sometimes people react in ways we are not sure how to handle. These are normal people with normal reactions in abnormal situations. Hence, we should treat them like anyone else and expect a normal recovery!”

 

At the morning plenary she attended on Friday morning, conducted by keynote speaker, Dr Mark Beliles, who recounted the story of Nebuchadnezar’s dream and the dazzling figure with clay feet, Sarah Ann was challenged by the question posed: “Are your feet made from clay?” She reflected deeply on this and thought about her foundation as a Christian. She asked herself: “Am I stable enough to try and bring people to Christ? Are my feet made of clay? How can I firm up my foundation to better equip me to go out and bring people to Christ?”

 

GoForth 2018 Chinese Track Sees Best Ever Attendance

About 300 participants from 60 churches here in Singapore and around Asia and missions agencies attended the Chinese track of GoForth 2018. This was the largest number of participants to date at a GoForth Chinese Track programme.

 

Response was not just encouraging, it was uplifting right through. 180 church pastors and leaders attended the special Chinese Leaders Track on the first day. In addition – the 17 workshops on various aspects of urban living and missions were well attended by about 300 participants.

 

On the second and third days, morning Bible Study was led by Rev Dr Caleb Soo Lee Chong of Singapore Life Church, with the focus on the lessons of Abraham’s blessing and sacrifice. Rev Soo encouraged believers to step out into the world and offer their service unto the Lord as Abraham did, leaving his people and sacrificing his son to the Lord.

 

Rev Dr Chen Lip Siong, Asian Centre for Mission, Sabah, shared at the morning plenary on mission trends and the mission base today.  He provided insights on strategies to win the world and to transform cities. He encouraged believers to step out to engage the world. The mission of the church is in the cities – and just as Paul the apostle chose cities as the starting point for evangelism, we should too. 

 

Rev Dr Joshua Ting Sih Chung of Chinese Coordination Centre of World Evangelism, Hong Kong led the two Public Night Rallies for the Chinese Track. Each night, he reminded believers that ‘faith is living, living is mission’. He encouraged believers that as the ‘salt and light’ of the world, we are to go into the world and influence all around us. Each night – close to 90 persons responded to the altar call. All praise to our Heavenly Father!

 

Public Night Rallies: Three Evenings of Uplifting Praise, Worship & God’s Word

Giving hope, transformation and giving dignity and respect to those in need resonated closely with the hearts of each of our three keynote speakers who spoke at the three Public Night Rallies.

 

Dr Mark Beliles laid the foundations for being called to serve the city through the seven spheres on the first night, ‘Birthing in Love’, which was a combined rally with the Chinese Track.

 

On the second night, Joseph Chean spoke on social justice as a ‘Bridge of Hope’. In his message, Joseph shared that God has revealed Himself in all spheres of society – as Artist, Parent, Great Teacher, Provider, Creator & Healer, Communicator and King.  We are called to fill the earth with the knowledge of God, but each of us – on our own, hold only a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, and therefore, we need others along the journey.  It is only when we walk with God – the fuel – that we can fulfill the Great Commission in collective obedience. This Great Commission is made up of three strands – the Gospel of Salvation for every person (Mark 16:15); a Gospel to transform every community and people group (Matthew 28:18-20); and a Gospel serve the poor and marginalized (Matthew 25:37-40).

 

On the final night, Bishop Efraim Tendero challenged all present through his message ‘Blessing to Nations’ to fully appreciate and arise to our calling as an Antioch nation, as we are like unique keys with the heart of Jesus to bless the world.

 

The Auditorium was filled to capacity on each of the three nights, and the overflow crowd had to be accommodated in the Concert Hall of the Campus. The first evening was a combined Rally between English and Chinese tracks, and showcased multi-ethnic elements. Drummers of various ethnicities ushered in the first night’s Rally with a rousing performance to urge one and all to march to the beat of the Master Drummer and the Antioch Call. A 17-member Mandarin choir accompanied by an erhu (a traditional two-stringed Chinese instrument) player sang beautifully.  Subsequently, all voices at the Rally joined in a symbolic ‘You Are the Seed’ proclamation to underscore the need to be catalysts for Jesus.

 

The second night featured a musicalette entitled “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”, which shone the spotlight on the challenges of urban living, peer influence and the value of care, compassion and friendship.

 

Children led worship and prayer on the final Rally night, as the call was for the ‘transformation of cities’. It was very heart-warming to see the children, lined up on stage to pray for the seven spheres of society, with the call for each of us to go forth into the world. In addition, the realities of the Third Culture kids were also clearly portrayed to encourage participants to play a tangible part in helping them to adjust when they return home to Singapore with their parents from the mission fields.

 

On each of the nights, a special segment was dedicated to recognizing and appreciating the following persons who have contributed the larger part of their lives to the work of missions within and out of Singapore as well as those who have shaped Christendom in Singapore.

 

Those who came and sowed in Singapore: Rev Dr Fred Seaward and Rev Dr Margaret Seaward; Rev Dr Naomi Dowdy; as well as a special tribute to the late Rev Dr Rick Seaward.

 

Those who went from Singapore to sow: Bishop Raphael Samuel and Mrs Michelle Samuel (Bolivia, South America);  Dr Andrew Ng & Mrs Belinda Ng (Niger, West Africa).

 

Those who have impacted our city: Canon James Wong; Dr Bobby Sng.

 

The extraordinary stories of each of these individuals inspired everyone present at the Rallies, including youth and millennials, many of whom may not be familiar with these servants of the Lord.

 

Creative Lessons and Activities in Children’s Programme

Within the safe and secure premises of Oldham Hall on the ACS Barker Road Campus, 400 primary school children gathered to learn about different aspects of urban life, how to use creative tools to grow in God and to relate more effectively with their friends.

 

Led by a dedicated group of volunteers, the children very quickly got down to doing many hands-on activities – including doing up storyboards on how to share the Gospel, learning to put love into action, watching cross-cultural videos, finger painting, leading worship and doing cross-cultural worksheets. Some of the children shared their testimonies – including one on how she prayed and trusted God together with her friend. As these testimonies were shared, the children reflected on and wrote down what they learnt.

 

On what impacted them most, a Primary 5 child’s written response was: “I was impacted to know more about the love of Christ. I am a child of God, and to promote world peace, we can go home and love our family. And we need to know if there is someone we can pray for to know God’s love.”

 

The Children’s Programme concluded with the dedicated teachers and helpers praying for the Lord to use the children like ‘saga seeds’ to bless others.  Each child also held up a ‘key’ as they dedicated themselves to be used by God’s glory.

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