The body of Christ is living and active in Singapore and Malaysia. During our months in East Asia, we have joined our brothers and sisters in Christ for worship and fellowship in many settings, from a small gathering of Indonesians in a small room in an office tower to about five hundred people packed into a ballroom at a hotel in the middle of the city. We attended services that carried familiar denominational names but some of their distinctives were not exactly like what you might expect in the U.S.
One Anglican church used no liturgy, a Brethren church had an entire pastoral team of five, plus deacons and elders, and there was a Presbyterian congregation with no pastor.
However, all were firmly rooted in the Word, teaching from it and living it out in their community and beyond. All the churches were very evangelical and missions-minded, serving their neighbors through education, health, and social services, and supporting short and long-term workers around Asia and further afield. At one church, there was a call for volunteers to greet people at a Christmas-week outreach event in a multiracial neighborhood, whose multi-religious residents had already signed up to attend. At another service, about forty members were commissioned for a two-week trip to Nepal, accompanied by three leaders from that nation. It was Missions Sunday at another church we visited, and eight local and international organizations were represented.
Some of the larger churches had multiple services in multiple languages, reflecting the diversity of the members. One church in Singapore had an English-speaking congregation split into three services on Sunday and one on Saturday, and a Chinese-language congregation with one service in Cantonese/Fukienese and the other conducted in Mandarin. Another ran two English services and one each in German, Indonesian, and Mandarin. At many churches, there were worshippers from multiple countries.
Contemporary praise music was featured in many churches, regardless of their label. We had to look quite hard to find a more traditional service with hymns we recognized. And just about every gathering was in an air-conditioned room, and Eunice soon learned to bring along a shawl while I wore long-sleeved shirts. We were warmly welcomed everywhere, usually with the same first question: “How long have you been in this country?”
Given our transient status, it is not surprising that we have not yet found a church home. Nevertheless, we are thankful that we have experienced the nations praising God as we met with the people of God every Sunday.