It is impossible to sum up this ex-British territory, this strategic trading post in one blast but I will do my best in so far as the role of the Christian church is concerned. This is what has drawn me in in recent weeks. It is refreshing to find a part of the world where the Christian faith is growing. You will of course not read this in the newspapers that are dedicated to either propaganda or bad news. In other words good news is no news. Statistics do not reveal everything but my friends from Singapore think that up to 20% of people are Christians. This is not a nominal appellation. When you become a Christian in Singapore you are expected to go on a course to make sure that you understand the fundamentals.
Pepys Diary Friday 25 November 1664
All political and trading stuff today.
Nothing I am moved to comment on.
Trawling the Internet I have found at least 300 Christian churches and meeting places and there are probably more. Because of the prosperity of the country, the money is available to give preachers and lecturers the time to prepare and as a result the standard of sermons and addresses is in my opinion the highest in the world. To put it another way, churches can take their pick of the best of the world. In other words, unless you are excellent and have a proven track record you don’t even get a look in.
Right from the first exposure, I was struck by the quality of the models for administration, publicity, and presentation and felt that the rest of the world could benefit from it. Organisations such as the Cornerstone Church already regard it as part of their remit a reach out to other countries including the UK. An example is Bristol.
Singapore enjoys a unique set of parameters that makes it pre-eminently suitable for a sustained and solid evangelical campaign. The parameters include a mixture of political, social, historical and intellectual qualities.
Mental acuity. The standard of education in Singapore is very high which means that people are literate, numerate, and able to think abstractly.
Numbers of the faithful. Official figures say that 12% of the population of 5.7 million, but as said above, my friends think it is closer to 20%.
High level of professionalism. If you look at a list of staff in some of the bigger churches there can be 30 or 40 whereas in some of the equivalent churches here, three or four people can struggle to fulfil the same commitment. This means that those selected for preaching duties can spend the time on energy producing excellent well researched sermons and addresses which bring the whole thing to life.
Good harmony with other faiths. I am told that the relationships are cordial. If I go to Singapore I will report back on this one.
Good financial base. Singapore is a prosperous country where the government, who own 95% of the land did you know, will not hesitate to invest wisely in structural projects. The same thinking goes into churches which seek to extend their influence to society at large including the business world. Congregations are generous and if they have benefited from the church they will give money
Stable economy. Due to the long trading history, and the fact that when England withdrew they did not immediately dismantle anything British bar worked alongside with the ideas. The GDP is healthy and gives people a certain confidence, hopefully not a certain complacency, about their position in the world.
Lack of corruption. Transparency International is an organisation that analyses trustworthiness in commercial and political dealings and on a world scale after Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland, Singapore comes at number six. This is considerably higher than the United Kingdom, America etc. and is the only country in the east that is thus favoured, save Hong Kong which comes in at Number 17.
Good electronic communications. hi Internet speed, discipline with timekeeping, high standard of politeness means that any visitors to Singapore, particularly to visit the churches, will find their path straightforward
Language – a good proportion of Singaporeans speak English, higher than an apparently similar city, Hong Kong.
Transport – with over 700 km² and 8000 inhabitants per square kilometre the transport system has to be good and functional. It is.
Surveillance – the churches are overseen by a national council of churches which attends to matters of quality and regulation. As it is Singapore, they are effective and have a powerful voice.
Situation on the planet – strategically, you could not ask for much more. Singapore is a centre for long distance between East and West, a hub second only to the Middle East cluster including Dubai.
Cultural politeness – it is important to keep to the customs and don’t even think of throwing down chewing gum or any form of litter otherwise you will be fined. As the joke goes, Singapore is a fine city.
I consider that Singapore is a unique place for the propagation of ideas such as the Christian faith. As if the above were not enough, there is an excellent generic Think Tank the Ethos Institute for public Christianity which produces a stream of instructive lectures and videos on all Christian subjects. I am watching one at the moment on ‘The Contribution of C S Lewis” by Dr Robert Banks, an Australian cleric. It can be found on YouTube. There is no other country or city state on the planet that has all its advantages so I would expect great things to come and I think it is high time that Singapore had a public image makeover.
My original plan which I have since modified was to go out to Singapore, which I still intend to do, and see some of these amazing instruments of power deliver what they’re best at. I would love to be part of a normal everyday or every week should I say congregation of 3000 to 4000 people just for the experience. I have since decided to start on my home patch here in the UK and produce a website specifically to facilitate the exchange of ideas both for churches or institutions to help them what they do better, and for potential participants, to encourage them to attend.
This means that in addition to my daily diary which you are reading now there will be another type of utterance, perhaps a bit more like the relational database, which hopefully will be part of the blessing of God and goodness that we badly need in this wretched and degrading situation on this planet.
I aim to launch this new project in the New Year or thereabouts so watch this space.