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The Concept of "Life Community"
Rev Dr Li Hau Tiong
Mar 2021

The Presbyterian Church in Singapore was established in 1881 and will celebrate its 140th anniversary this year. In lieu with the anniversary, the Synod will be organising two mission consultations; one locally in 2021, and one internationally in 2022, whereby international partners will be invited to share regarding missions. The theme is "Life Community": a unity movement in the community of faith that encompasses the universal community of God's creation (the global community) and the body of Christ (the church community).

"Creation" and "Mission"

Genesis 1:27-28 records that man was created in the image of God and given the responsibility to govern the created world, therefore, the common mission of mankind is to protect the universal family created by God;

1 Corinthians 12:13-27 records that Paul uses the analogy of the body of Christ as a community of life linked to Christ, no longer separated by ethnicity (Jewish, Greek) or class (autonomous, slave), but caring for one another: if one member suffers, all suffer together, and when one is honoured, all rejoice together. The community of faith shares with Christ the mission to bring about the universal return to the ideal kingdom of God's governance.

"Mission as Humanity"

Indian scholar M. Thomas Thangaraj, in his book The Common Task, refers to "mission as humanity" by using the words "responsibility," "solidarity," and "mutuality" to illustrate that human beings are created in the image of God and therefore have the ability to respond to the issues of creation. At the same time, we are also given the responsibility to maintain the sustainability of the created world. In fulfilling this "responsibility", we must carry out our mission with empathy and compassion for others, based on the principle of "solidarity", and with humility, reciprocity, and the attitude of the weak, acknowledging the interdependence of our own existence with others ~ "mutuality", and working together with others to fulfill the common mission entrusted by God.

The "Mutual Establishment" Model

On the basis of the above theology, the church should follow in the footsteps of Christ, serve the community as a humble servant, and invite the community to join in creating an environment of righteousness, peace, joy, and love, breaking away from the traditional self-perception of "saviour", "helper", and even "judge". On the contrary, we need to understand and identify with the local history and cultural situations, and work together with the people to enhance social values.

In addition to local communities and ethnic groups, the universal church community must also have a witness of unity. The missionary concept of the traditional Western church of "sending and receiving" should be transformed into a relationship of sharing and partnership, not only in the form of slogans, but also in the form of renewal of faith values and concrete actions. In the reality of society in general, the "resource giver" often plays the role of a strong leader or influencer, while the recipient always suffers silently in order to obtain the resources. Yet the Christian faith confesses that all resources come from God; the subject of the believer's giving is also God, but church decision-makers often see resources as owned by the church. The "Life Community" movement seeks to change the strong "messianic" conquering image of the traditional Christian church and put into practice the "Suffering Christ" as the mission of God, invite the churches to connect and live out the witness of servants, and the world to come together to restore the "life community" that God sees as good.


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