Missional Business From Singapore: A Singapore Journey
Singapore is a multi-racial, multi-cultural city state with a population of 5.3 million. Due to its size, the Singapore economy is heavily dependent on the global export market for its continual growth. Singapore entrepreneurs and business professionals often look beyond the shores of Singapore for growth markets and for new opportunities. Thus Singapore businesspeople are accustomed to an externally focused business environment, in an export-oriented economy. Many foreign companies are attracted to Singapore, a result of attractive incentives offered by the government and the availability of managerial talent in Singapore.
In terms of the history of missional business—or business as mission—in Singapore, there were some early forays into business by individuals, as well as by churches, some of which date back some 20 years. Some of these early attempts at business were started primarily as platform to gain access to or to remain in the field for those sent as missionaries. Many of these early enterprises faced setbacks of various kinds and some were subsequently closed down when the business was not viable or did not fit the context of the country, or the business owners found it too demanding. Some of these early attempts at business survived and persisted after having gone through several business cycles, with their most recent iteration better informed by the growing literature on business as mission.
Business as mission (BAM), though not entirely new to the church in Singapore, is not widely adopted as part of the church’s missional strategy. Many of the churches seem more attuned to involvement in social enterprises than with BAM enterprises, since BAM tends to be considered more commercial in nature. This in part is due to the notion that profits in a commercial business is synonymous with profiteering and that the lower profit motivation of social enterprises is congruous with the purpose of the church, and thus is more appealing to the Christian mindset and ministry.
The dichotomous view between the sacred and secular, ministry and business is one of the challenges that besets the development of BAM as a mission strategy. Another challenge is the discomfort of having profit as a intrinsic part of a missional business. A third challenge is the differing notion about what is a holistic ministry. Alongside a sound theology of missions, there is a need to review the theology of work as well the theology of business as part of a wider effort to seek the adoption of business as mission as a mission strategy.
Some in Christian circles have considered Singapore as an “Antioch of the East”, drawing parallels between these two important centres of commerce that bridged the East and the West. This is also an expression of aspiration for Singapore to become an important sending centre for global missions. Singapore has also been seeking to position itself as an important hub in numerous aspects of commerce and trade as part of an ongoing effort to charts its course for continual economic growth and prosperity. Perhaps through business as mission, Singapore could truly fulfill the expectations of so many who have gone before, and claim the recognition of being the Antioch of the East. In order for this to become true, the Singapore church must be prepared to incorporate missional business as part of its overall missions strategy to reach the world for Christ.