The Republic of Singapore, a garden city where east meets west, is an independent city-state and one of the most important commercial centers of Southeast Asia.
The population is ethnically diverse and consists of Chinese (74.2%) Malay (13.6%), Indian (9.2%) and other (3.2%) peoples. The majority of the population is concentrated on the southern part of the island. Most people live in public-housing tower blocks. There are more than 1.8 million non-citizens (foreigners) in Singapore.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution. There are Religious Harmony laws which ensure that each of the main religions are treated equally (each has two public holidays, for example) and that members of one religion don’t try to convert members of another.
The different ethnic communities continue to preserve their respective cultural identities and separate languages. The country has four official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. English is widely spoken and is the language of education and administration. An additional 20 languages are also used among the population.
Located just one degree north of the equator at the southern tip of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore’s 402 square miles occupy a crucial place in the cross-currents of Asia. Additional land near the city center has been reclaimed from the sea to enlarge the country. Once primarily jungle and swamps, the land is now fully utilized for residential, commercial and industrial use. It is around 90 percent urban, with the remainder mostly forest and woodland or arable land.
The country has a wet tropical climate, with an average annual temperature of 81°F (27°C). Thunderstorms occur on nearly 150 days each year on average, with November to January being the wettest months. Humidity is very high.
Singapore was part of the Malacca sultanate (one of the Malay kingdoms) in the 15th century. The modern city was founded in 1819 on the site of a fishing village by the British colonial administrator, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, and it was ceded to the British East India Company in 1824 by the Sultan of Johor. Its advantageous location on the narrow passage between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea and its free-port status soon turned Singapore into a major commercial center. Chinese immigrants soon settled, drawn by the trade. After World War I, Britain designated the island its principal naval base in East Asia and undertook extensive military construction. During World War II, Singapore was captured and occupied by the Japanese. In 1946 Singapore was made a separate crown colony, and 13 years later a self-governing state in the Commonwealth. In 1963 Singapore joined Malaya to form Malaysia. The union, however, was unsuccessful. Economic and political disputes led to separation and Singapore became a sovereign state. The Republic of Singapore, a parliamentary republic, was founded on August 8, 1965. From 1959 to 1990 the country was led by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. He shepherded the country with a firm hand, fostering astounding growth and progress. The current President of Singapore is Tony Tan Keng Yam, who began serving in September 2011. Singapore has one of the highest standards of living of any country in the world. It is a key trading center for Asia, with the world’s busiest harbor. Industry is strong, and its commercial influence continues to grow.
Shortly after arriving in Singapore, Sir Thomas Raffles, a British statesman often called the “founder” of Singapore, gave some land to the London Missionary Society. The expatriates also asked for a chaplain, and in 1834 a small Presbyterian-Anglican work was begun. The Roman Catholic Church in Singapore dates back to 1819 and the Armenian Orthodox church was also established there from the early 1800s. Initially the Protestant missionaries reached out to the Chinese population and, together with other denominations, began to plant churches. Outreach to schools was an early and ongoing emphasis and this has had a significant impact on society. Since the end of World War II, many people have turned to Christ. The church matured considerably as Bible schools were set up and as Christians focused on reaching students. Large numbers of students and professionals such as doctors and teachers claim to be Christians, and Christians have more influence than their national percentage would indicate. But many of the working class and those living in the high-rise concrete jungles have not heard the gospel. Today many young people go to church. However, intense pressures from work and culture mean that they often fade from congregations when their careers get under way and their zeal is sapped by materialism. OMF International first came to Singapore in 1951 when it moved its international headquarters following the evacuation from China. From the start, strong links were formed with the Singapore Bible College (founded 1952). OMF International also started the Asian Cross-cultural Training Institute (ACTI), a missionary training center and the Discipleship Training Center (DTC) to train Christians from across Asia to take the gospel cross-culturally and continues to supply theological lecturers and other personnel for these institutions. OMF International’s workers have also been involved in the local English-speaking and Chinese-speaking churches, giving training, teaching and counseling. Some also work with ethnic minority churches and are involved in evangelism. Increasing numbers of Singaporeans are working in cross-cultural missions, with OMF International and other agencies. Singapore is strategically placed and endowed with spiritual and material resources to have a major influence on East Asia. The lure of a comfortable and successful lifestyle and responsibility to parents within the culture’s strong family ties make such service a real and costly sacrifice.
- To mobilize Singaporean churches and Christians for the urgent evangelization of East Asia.
- To assist in training full-time workers and church leaders.
- To facilitate the development of indigenous biblical church movements in Singapore and beyond.
- Missionary trainers and seminary lecturers in Singapore-based seminaries and missionary training centers. Candidates for these posts must be excited about training people for ministry, academically-qualified, and passionate about missions and experienced field workers.
- Urgent need for godly, willing and effective missionaries to be sent to fields all over East Asia.
- Skilled computer and finance staff for OMF International’s international headquarters.
- Church growth was very strong from 1970 to the mid-2000s. The responsiveness of Singaporeans, active evangelism by churches and agencies and the concentration of committed, giving Christians played a large part in this. Church growth has since slowed.
- The insidious spread of alternative lifestyles and philosophies such as the New Age Movement, the Gay Movement and New Atheism has reached many parts of society.
- Institutionalized gambling has helped create a larger pool of gambling addicts that fuel vice and crime.
- Young people are open to the gospel and a significant number of students and young adults are Christians, yet the challenges mentioned above threaten discipleship. Pray for the effective integration of young people into local churches and for their mobilization for world evangelization.
- Singapore’s seminaries and missions training schools are becoming a key ministry for Christians all over Asia. Some churches run their own theological training programs.
- Christian books are widely available, and much Christian literature is printed in Singapore for worldwide distribution.
Major challenges facing the church:
- Discipleship challenged by affluence, materialism and commercialism.
- Doing effective ministry in an environment of restrictive legislation and public intolerance.
- The wholesale import of western church theology and practices without critical biblical scrutiny and contextualized assessment had brought about problems.
- The preaching of a prosperity gospel in some churches confuses Christians.
- Scandals of alleged misappropriation of church funds and controversies involving church leaders has in recent years damaged the witness of the gospel.
- Maintenance of adequate family life and witness.
- Unity among the various churches and denominations.
- The majority Buddhist and Daoist population.
- The Malay population.
- The older Indian community.
- Migrant workers: Filipinos, Chinese, Thai, Burmese, Indians, and others. There are some lively congregations of Koreans, Filipinos and Indonesians.