Strategizing for Changes

        Author: Edmund Ng

We live in a time of unprecedented changes that are both rapid and complex. This has prompted management guru Peter Drucker to coin the word “raplex”. “Raplexity” is mainly caused by the intrusive and unrelenting pace of modern technology. Megatrend analyst John Naisbitt listed the symptoms of a society intoxicated by technology as one that favours quick fixes, having a blur distinction between real and fake, living lives distanced in relationships, accepting violence and worshipping technology. These symptoms are fast sweeping across Asia.

Interestingly, Naisbitt also noted that “the more technology we introduce into our lives, the more we seek a high touch balance, a human ballast.” The quest to balance the material wonders of our times and the spiritual needs of the human nature has led to the revival and proliferation of world religions, mysticism, cults and non-religious substitutes such as New Age, pluralism, post-modernism and Falun Gong. Statistics peg the global growth rate of non-religious spirituality movements at 4.5% from 969 million, Bahai at 5.5% from 5 million, Islam at 2.9% from 1,035 million and spiritist religions at 2.7% from 144 million.

In contrast, Christianity is estimated to be growing at only 2.3% and forming less than one-third of the world population. Something is amiss! A story was often told of a missionary who went to a remote part of the world and discovered that the people there knew and tasted Coca Cola but not yet heard the name of Jesus. Much is yet to be done to fulfil the Great Commission. This is true not only with the unreached peoples but also with those who live next to our doorsteps. It is not surprising then that our Lord has not return after two thousand years although He told the disciples that He would return soon after His death and in the lifetime of some of them (Matt 24:34).

It was also said that the Church would have slept through modernity over the last century if not for God’s merciful intervention from time to time. Indeed, this was glaringly illustrated in Asia when the region went through its latest economic crisis without a visible response from the Church. How can this be when Christians claim to have God’s revelation and counsel? As this is an undisputable fact, the Church should rightly be one step ahead of the world, “ready to give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15) in and out of season.

The need for Christians to wake up is more critical as we race into the twenty first century. The process of globalisation will bring about either more economic upheavals or prolonged booms. In both scenarios, Christian futurist Tom Sine expressed the concern that the foreseeable increase in consumerism will lead to longer hours of working in order to earn more for keeping up with the Joneses. This will result in a decline of Christian commitment and giving.

In the light of the abovementioned global scenario, this paper seeks to establish certain pertinent parameters for promoting further thought and research to formulate strategies for a more effective Church of tomorrow. What follows are the views of a lay Christian who is involved both in the corporate world and in church/para-church work. As I am neither a bible scholar nor full-time practitioner, I am not totally invested in the established paradigm community. For any paradigm shifts, it is said that one must look to the fringes where the new rules are written.


The concern for the future of the Church is growing more and more. Indeed, many Christian writers have echoed the urgency to rethink what it means to be Church in a time of “raplexity”. In particular, the Church has for too long allowed too much room for the forces of secularism that seek to establish dominant values in the world, to shape our Christian lifestyles and faith in spite of our claim of the Lordship of Christ over us. Since we are significantly domesticated by the world’s expectations and demands, we often offer back to society mere symbols of the world’s values dressed in Jesus’ name.

If we do not have something distinctive to call people to, we cannot be totally effective in our Christian mission. Let us remember that Jesus was obviously counter-cultural in the society of His age and He expected His followers to be so. In the first place, we will not be effective followers of Jesus if we just withdraw ourselves as tribes of peculiar people into holy bless-me clubs that only try to carry out sporadic soul-saving and need-meeting exercises as a Christian obligation. Indeed, the Church urgently needs to undergo some radical transformation before “raplex” changes overtake the Church to make us totally irrelevant.

Let me start by examining how products like Coca Cola or McDonalds managed to sweep the world and gained overwhelming global market share. A simple answer would be that these products are (1) appealing and affordable, (2) they serve their purpose well and fast, and (3) they are aggressively marketed. In another sense, these products stand above their competition because they have become (1) different and better, (2) relevant and offering the best options, and (3) highly visible. Now, no Christian will deny that the Gospel is a much more excellent “product”. Why then is the world not attracted to the Gospel in the same manner a consumer will seek to enquire and try out an excellent product?

To answer this question, we will take the above 3 factors one at a time. Firstly, to match a product that is appealing and affordable, Christians must be known to be practising a faith that is different and better than what the rest of the world has to offer. The problem is that there is too much dichotomy between our secular and church lives. Outside the spiritual realm, we do not totally integrate into our daily lives what we profess in the Church. As we have noted earlier, people nowadays are looking for a deeper spirituality and what they want is a different and better life that is grounded in a faith that impacts every aspect of their lives. If we build our faith around a life that is as committed to the ways of the world as they are, we will not have something different and better to offer them. Therefore, we must drastically change our Christian commitment to be a whole-life proposition of discipleship and spiritual transformation. Only then do we have something endearingly different and better that the world is attracted to.

Secondly, to match a product that serves its purpose well and fast, our Christian lifestyle must change to be relevant and offering the best options to society. The problem is we are as self-seeking as the rest of the world. We are too privatised as Church and too individualised as Christians. Hence, we must prayerfully re-orientate ourselves back to the communal lifestyle of the Early Church Christians where lives are wholly centred on God and the caring of others, and where resources are shared with the poor and needy. In particular, John Stott in his exposition of the Early Church community in The Message of Acts remarked that “It is part of the responsibility of Spirit-filled believers to alleviate need and abolish destitution in the new community of Jesus.” Only then will we enjoy the fullness of life in harmony with God as envisaged in John 10:10.

Thirdly, to match a product that is aggressively marketed, we ought to be highly visible as Church in society. The problem is the local church is usually perceived to be an old cathedral or some obscure shop lots on the third floor. We must be visible not as buildings but as communities of God’s people who are actively involved with society. Hence, we must redefine our Christian mission not as incursions into society to religiously convert the lost, but as breaking into society God’s kingdom and His values with a witness and service that others are attracted by our presence and they desire to be converted as Christians. That is to say we must become a community of believers that actively penetrate society in creative ways to advance God’s purposes in response to the challenges of the new millennium. The verse “Let your light shine before men that they see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16) must be translated into concrete actions that impact society with our presence in the most tangible way.

Indeed, these 3 factors represent the key characteristics of the Early Church, namely, (1) the Early Christians were devoted to a whole-life discipleship, (2) they had a communal lifestyle of shared lives and resources, and (3) they had a visible outreach to society with kingdom values that turned the then world right side up. They are relational with respect to God, with fellow believers and with the lost. They are what postmodernism writer Stanley Grenz calls the ideal individuals-within-community that contemporary communitarians dream of. Sadly, the modern church has drifted away from the Early Christians’ approach to discipleship, lifestyle and mission. Hence, we must urgently reorder ourselves back to the biblical approach, as it is God’s way for His Church.

The Muslims have learned well from the Early Christians. In fact, the situation is now reversed in that there is much the modern Church can learn from the Muslims in their approach to discipleship, lifestyle and mission. As for whole-life discipleship, their children are trained from young to recite the Qur’an in religious classes after school. They integrate their religion into every aspect of their daily lives through performing regular prayers amidst work, their dressing, the display of scripture verses in their vehicles, shops and offices, and the praise of Allah before official functions. We are familiar with their communal lifestyle and the sight of throngs of Muslims streaming to the mosques on Fridays. We witness their massive festive processions and we marvel at the zealousness of a Muslim unashamedly performing his solitary prayers in a busy foreign airport during transit. Their zakat are used exclusively for missions and meeting the needs of the poor. Their visible outreach to society extends even to the Islamic architecture that characterise the high-rise landscape of the city. Three Muslims will go into a business partnership to sponsor one of them into missions.

Therefore, we must rediscover our lost heritage and immediately work towards at least a close approximation of the three key characteristics of the Early Church in our modern context. If we do this, the Church will become not a building that we go to from our separate homes but a community that reflects the final kingdom of God on earth. To put it in another perspective, the Church will no longer be an organisation that is professionally managed and marketed but an ever-growing neighbourhood organism where life and resources are shared for God’s purposes in the worship and celebration of the Almighty. The inward focus is personal and relational purity arising from a close walk with God. The outward focus is to fulfill the Great Commission arising from our witness and service to society. Christians then are a closely-knit but open and out-reaching community of love, mutual care and accountability that others see and recognise as something radically different in the definition of the good life. Hence, they become attracted to “the Way” (Acts 24:14) of the better life. Sine sums it perfectly by stating that “We need to join with other exiles [of the world] and create new communities of celebration and subversion [to society] that have more of the aroma of God’s new order than the stench of the dominant reality.”

The nearest modern equivalent of the Early Church that I can think of in our country is a well-run rehabilitation centre where ex-drug addicts and ex-prisoners are picked from the streets to live in houses as a community within an established residential precinct. Although this is only a narrow representation of church life (in this case, more in its philanthropic aspect), the model nevertheless meets quite well the three key characteristics of the Early Church. Within such community, members are spiritually nurtured and taught to paint buildings as a trade. After morning devotion each day, they leave together for work contracted by the centre. The centre pays wages to all its residents and utilises the balance of its earnings to upkeep its premises. By late afternoon, the men are back at the centre, enjoying a communal Christ-centred lifestyle. At least once a week, they are back in the streets, feeding and serving the poor and needy, joyously proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.


The challenge to us is to visualise across the board what models of the “Modern Early Church” that are most applicable to us in the full spectrum of life. In what manner will the transition take place? What will make the average Christian take the quantum leap forward? The different environments of each nation will naturally necessitate a different yet undiluted adaptation of what is considered to be the radical but biblically based direction for the local church. Before embarking to layout a possible approach to strategise this pursuit, let me first of all highlight two other pertinent components that are often neglected or not taken seriously in our quest for a better Church of tomorrow. I am speaking from my background as a charismatic Christian with a premillennialist eschatological perspective.

Many Western thinkers and writers work on the premise that we can transform the world to be a better place to live in. Knowingly or unknowingly, they position themselves into the postmillennial view of the16th century. This view sees the world as becoming increasingly better until we climax with a golden age of spiritual prosperity before Christ returns. With two thousand years of the Church in hindsight, history tells us that the world is not becoming increasingly better but worse. Indeed, we are seeing more pronounced the context of 2 Timothy 3:1-5 that “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” This does not sound like the better future on earth that the postmillennialists envisage! The better future will eventually come on earth, but not until Christ returns. This is shown, for instance, in the linear thought process of the Hebrew writers (in this case, John) where the new heaven and new earth in Rev 21 comes after the return of Christ in Rev 19 and 20, not before. Till then, things will get increasingly worse!

This degenerative view of the future is not fatalistic to Church mission if we can accept the paradox that God wants us to be ready as if Jesus is coming back today and do His will as if He is not coming for the next thousand years. That is to say that we ought to live as if Christ will return imminently so that we will do our utmost in urgency for ourselves and society in anticipation of it. At the same time, we must be prepared and not be disillusioned if He does not come, for by our earnest eschatological lifestyle, we would have tried all we could to give the world a way out of its disorientation.

G.E.Ladd categorically stated that only when our personal ethics are well grounded in eschatology can there be an outworking of our social ethics. If we have it right, we can constantly be motivated to witness and do good to others that corresponds with our understanding of what the world will one day be when Christ returns. Where there is injustice, poverty, hardship and illness, we will do what we can to make things better to affirm the aspects of the present life that are best and closest to that ideal. When that happens, “every little victory over evil is thus a reminder that the ultimate victory is coming.” The most potent aspect of eschatology is therefore the vision of the complete kingdom of God on earth (when Christ returns) that He pulls us towards, about which we cannot remain idle nor afraid to go where it leads.

Our eschatological perspective, whether or not it is the right one if there is such a thing, is important because it alters altogether the premise with which we project the trends of things to come. The fact is we can be guided in our projections not only by what is happening or emerging in the world today but also by God’s revelation of what the next climactic scenario will be, even if the next climax is not the ultimate one that leads to the parousia. This will definitely give us an added advantage in accuracy and foresight. Certainly the eschatological prophecies that God has given to us are not for us to ignore. For instance, if we believe that the world is moving towards a One World Economy, Government and Religion as some Christians have read as such in the book of Revelation and other end-time passages, we will naturally tend our scenario projections towards that direction instead of just relying on our human observation, analysis and educated guesses. It is obvious that the projections will be very different if the premise of our assumptions is based on a world that is becoming increasingly better rather than one that is getting worse. Therefore, we must have scenario projections that fit linearly along God’s divine plan and purpose in history.

Kenichi Ohmae in his classic The Mind of the Strategist stressed the importance of foresighted accuracy in extrapolating the forces at work in order to gain maximum advantage. Such accuracy will come about only by a process of diligent observation and analysis that is guided by God’s revelation in His Word and prayer. Then only can we see through the dark clouds of a world that is increasingly losing its direction, meaning, reason and values to identify the silver linings where we can impact God’s kingdom upon them in the most effective way. While the outworking of the strategies can be similar in the short term, one aims to transform the world to be a better place to live in whereas the other focuses on providing an attractive alternative to the world in a powerful way through anticipating and countering the trends accurately rather than contrasting with them.


Let us also not for a moment forget that behind the outworking of the global trends looms a spiritual battle between God and Satan. In warfare, the target is always the enemy. Paul in describing the armour of God (Eph 6:10-18), made no mention of a back piece. There never was because the ancient Roman soldier was trained never to turn his back against the enemy. Since “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (v. 12), the importance of spiritual warfare cannot be over-emphasized. Yet, many Christian leaders repeatedly overlook this as though they can make a difference to the Church solely by human ingenuity. Satan has been around longer than any human being and hence more knowledgeable and wiser than anyone of us. In fact, the Bible described Satan as originally “the model of perfection, full of wisdom” (Eze 28:12). Therefore, the weapons to counteract the enemy must come only from God’s revealed Word and prayer.

In warfare, whether military, business or spiritual, there is only one key approach. In particular, Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the oldest military classic that is compulsory text in major military schools worldwide, puts the focus on attacking the enemy’s main strategies as the highest form of generalship. Hence, we need to study carefully what the Bible tells us about Satan’s main strategies.

At the fall of man (Gen 3:1-7), we see that Satan’s main strategies were threefold. One, he attacked (persecuted) Eve through her physical senses until she “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food” (v. 6a). Two, he corrupted her allegiance to God through casting doubt on God’s Word by saying to her “you will not surely die” (v. 4). Three, Satan distracted her away from God by drawing her attention to the gaining of wisdom as “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (v. 5)

At the temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13), we see again that Satan’s main strategies were threefold. One, he tried to attack (persecute) the flesh of Jesus through His hunger by asking Him to turn stone into bread (v. 3). Two, he tried to corrupt the reality of Jesus’ Sonship and His relationship to the Father through doubting and testing God’s faithfulness by throwing Himself down from a high point (v. 9-11). Three, Satan tried to distract Jesus away from His mission on earth by offering Him all the kingdoms of the world if He would worship him (v. 5-7).

At the beginning of the Early Church (Acts 4:1-6:7), Satan repeated his three main strategies. One, he tried to persecute the disciples by putting them in jail (v. 4:3, 5:18), threatening them (Acts 4:21) and flogging them (v. 5:40). Two, he tried to corrupt the interior life and fellowship of the Early Church through Ananias and Sapphira when they lied and pretended to be generous in giving (v. 5:1-11). Three, Satan tried to distract the apostles from their primary responsibilities of prayer and preaching by preoccupying them with social administration, which was not their calling (v. 6:1-7).

So, at the three most-critical moments in human history from God’s perspective, we see that Satan’s main strategies has been threefold, namely, persecution, corruption and distraction. They are aimed at the body, the soul and the spirit. They are concentrated at the weakest areas of human nature, namely, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16).

There will be a final, most-critical moment in human history. This will occur just before our Lord returns to usher in the full kingdom of God on earth. Chapter 13 of the Revelation of John tells us that Satan will once again adopt the same threefold strategies to the fullest. One, he will persecute by pain of death all who refused to worship the image of the Antichrist (v. 15). Two, he will corrupt man’s true spirituality towards God to worship him as counterfeit god by his power (v. 4,7,8), signs and miracles (v. 3,12-14). Three, he will distract man’s allegiance to God through forcing all to prefer monetary necessity over eternal life with God by receiving the mark of the beast (v. 16-18).

What is important to note is that Satan is not inactive in the intervening period but he is busy gearing up the world for the climax. He did so with the Old Testament Church of Israel (qahal in Hebrew). One, he was persecuting the Israelites until the Babylonians and Assyrians eventually conquered them. Two, he was corrupting them with idolatry, sexual immorality and value perversion until they turned away from God. Three, he was distracting them with dissension and political infighting until they were weak and divided as a people and kingdom of God.

Satan is doing the same in the world today. One, he is persecuting Christians more and more. The rise in the persecution of Christians worldwide, especially in the three most populous countries of China, India and Indonesia, is a documented fact. Two, he is corrupting mankind more and more. This takes the form of counterfeit religions, mysticism and cults, and in more recent times, the rapid spread of non-religious spirituality substitutes like New Age, pluralism, postmodernism and Falun Gong, vis-à-vis rising sexual immorality, violence, the misuse of drugs, music, technology and knowledge. Three, Satan is increasingly distracting man from God through materialism and the misuse of money and power.

On the other hand, God is also in the process of working out His purposes. Praise to God, for just as He sustained the exiled Jews by the hope of the glorious New Temple of Ezekiel 40-47 and restored the qahal to Jerusalem, God is sustaining us by the Blessed Hope of Revelation 19-22 and He is presently restoring the ekklesia of the Early Church as the bride of Christ ready for the Lord’s return. The challenge is how do we cooperate with God to do His will at this critical moment of time in history?


There is no doubt that Jesus has won for us the victory in the world but the Church still has to enforce that victory as we live in the tension of what is already (because Christ has come) and what is not yet (because Christ will come again) before the kingdom of God is fully established. The Asian economic crisis taught us clearly that the local churches must take responsibility to think through our true existence as Church of the present and of the future. This calls for serious and collective efforts in self-examination, research, analysis, strategy formulation and organising for change.

The start of any strategic decision process is Situation Appraisal. Jesus said in Luke14:31 “Suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” Indeed, in military warfare, Sun Tze’s advice is: “Know your enemy, know yourself, and your victory will not be threatened. Know the terrain, know the weather, and your victory will be complete.” In management, this is called competitive analysis through SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). The objective of such effort is what Paul states in Eph 5:15,16 “Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

Situation Appraisal involves knowing the self, the enemy and the environment. The areas of study are the strengths and weaknesses of the Church and her adversary as well as the opportunities and threats existing or emerging from our environment. Thus far in this paper, we have noted the following:

  1. The Strength of the Church lies in how close we can approximate the three key characteristics of the Early Church because this is the model of the Church that God has revealed to us in the Bible.

  2. The Weakness of the Church is our tendency to allow the forces of secularisation to shape our lives and faith and become totally overwhelmed and syncretised by the dominant values of the world’s culture.

  3. The Strength of the Enemy is that he is more knowledgeable and wiser than anyone of us and we can win only by spiritual warfare and doing things God’s way.

  4. The Weakness of the Enemy is that “we are not ignorant of his devices.” (2 Cor 2:11) God has revealed to us Satan’s main strategies and attacking the enemy’s main strategies is the first goal in any form of combat. No team wins a game by just defending its goalmouth!

  5. The main Opportunities before us include the following: (a) Mission Field: We live within the 10/40 Window which houses 60% of the world population forming 97% of the least evangelised countries. (Source: Youth With A Mission Target 2000) Only an estimated 7% of the Asian population are Christians! (b) Spiritual Hunger: High Tech is bringing about a greater sense of spiritual meaninglessness and hunger amongst the people of the world. (c) Scenario Projection: God has revealed to us the trend of things to come in the last days so that we can have farsighted accuracy in our scenario projections to meet the challenges ahead.

  6. The main Threats before us include the following: (a) Persecution: Anti-Christian sentiments and persecution are on the rise. This is probably the third greatest threat to Christianity. (b) Other Faiths: World religions, mysticism, cults and non-religious spiritual substitutes are spreading rapidly amidst increasing moral decay. This is probably the second greatest threat to Christianity. (c) Seduction of the World: The process of globalisation riding on the Knowledge Revolution and the acceleration of scientific and technological advances will heighten secularism at the institutional level. At the personal level, people, including Christians, will increasingly seek a spirituality that “works” for their materialistic well-being. This is probably the first greatest threat to Christianity.

Note that these threats are predictably the intensification of Satan’s three main strategies manifested in (a) anti-Christian persecution, (b) corruption through other faiths, and (c) distraction through seduction of the world in a globalised economy. He is busy gearing up the world towards the climax of Rev 13!

The world is changing rapidly and the Church must either respond proactively or we are left behind as irrelevant. Setting out these parameters makes it easier to formulate and prioritise our goals for research, study and analysis for the purpose of working out the strategies for change. It is obvious that the choice and development of strategies have to be compatible with the goals that are formulated and appropriate to a given situation and time. A chosen strategy has to be evaluated and ground-tested before implementation. As the environment is constantly changing, there must be operational controls and feedback for re-planning to take place.

Arising from the parameters above, the corresponding issues that merits consideration in various degrees of priority according to their importance, urgency and the availability of resources, include the following:

  1. Strength of the Church: We need to study and design for popular adoption a wide spectrum of creative church structures and outreach models that approximate the three key characteristics of the Early Church, namely, (a) whole-life discipleship, (b) communal lifestyle, and (c) visible outreach. These models must hold promise of a different and better alternative of the good life for both Christians and the world. They must be particularly attractive to the youths because many local churches are already losing their under-25s.

  2. Weakness of the Church: We need to do more research and publish our findings to convince the local churches to undergo radical transformation or we perish for lack of vision. We must prepare the churches to accept change by first discarding their dead bones of religious rituals and traditions which are no longer productive and try out innovative practices of contemporary relevance. In addition, we must be careful not to allow the demands and expectations of modern society to pressure us, for example, into syncretism by being part of the fast-growing inter-faith movement, supposedly for the sake of national and religious harmony.

  3. Strength of the Enemy: We need to seek sustainable ways to mobilise the entire Christian community to wage unceasing spiritual battle against Satan and the territorial powers and principalities to paralyse their grip and influence on both the Christians and the people around us. Besides corporate intercession, intelligent and well-informed spiritual warfare ought to form part and parcel of our daily discipline of prayer and study of the Word.

  4. Weakness of the Enemy: We need to rethink some of our humanistic ways in which we react to issues of the day. These refer to those that superficially treat the surface symptoms and not the root cause. Rather, we should take proactive actions that have more lasting and strategic significance, hitting directly at the main strategies of Satan of (a) persecution, (b) corruption, and (c) distraction. For instance, instead of demeriting the popular New Age seminars on their negative moral practices, we should be actively counteracting Satan’s main strategy of corrupting our oneness with God through life in Christ, for Satan is doing this by offering to the world a counterfeit spirituality in New Age concepts.

  5. Opportunities: (a) Mission Field: We need to find more creative ways to harness a greater global concentration of efforts and resources in Church mission within the most under-evangelised part of the world (10/40 Window). This includes the training and mobilisation of local leaders to reach their own nationals. (b) Spiritual Hunger: To meet the spiritual meaninglessness and hunger of the people, we need to demonstrate to the world that Christianity is the different and better faith that is relevant and offering the best options to them by being intensely involved with society with a visible outreach. Our presence will be felt and seen only when we penetrate deep into the fabric of society, actively addressing social ills or needs and applying kingdom values in providing solutions to societal and national issues. To maximise this, we need to take maximum advantage of technology, the mass media and our network with influential individuals, institutions and Governmental agencies both at the formal and informal levels. (c) Scenario Projection: We need to do research and carry out scenario projections that fit linearly along God’s divine plan and purpose in history. As there is often a time lag before a new phenomenon or mega trend of the world hits us, we must strategise in advance, implement pre-emptive measures to upset its influence and divert it to the advantage of the Church. For instance, if we believe that the intensification of natural catastrophes is part of the end-time trend, we must view seriously the importance of planning and advance preparation for relief work in disaster areas at short notice. Disaster relief is a highly visible approach to witness and service in society.

  6. Threats: (a) Persecution: In our context where Christians are not allowed to openly evangelise particular groups of people and anti-Christian sentiments will increase according to global trends, it is more important that unbelievers are outwardly attracted to what Christianity has to offer. Above all, we need to teach Christians that ultimately there is only one biblical response to anti-Christian persecution, and that is to accept it as it comes to the extent of “not loving their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Rev 12:11b) Christians ought to count the cost of discipleship by knowing the full meaning of “witness” that comes from the Greek root word martys (martyr). (b) Other Faiths: To thwart the spread of counterfeit faiths, we must find better ways to expose and counteract this subtle strategy of Satan in corrupting the world through deceit and compromise. In campaigning for truth encounters, we must tread carefully to avoid escalating religious tension through offensive confrontations with the other faiths. From the inside, we must especially guard against doctrinal corruption of our own faith through the spirit of the antiChrist in the last days. (1 Jn 2:18,19) (c) Seduction of the World: To counteract secularism, we must first take the worldliness out of ourselves in our discipleship, lifestyle and mission so that society will know and be attracted to a better alternative in dependence on our God. We also need to strategise against the adverse repercussions of globalisation and turn them into opportunities for the Church. After all, the Bible tells us that God is in the business of turning what Satan intended for evil into what is good for His purposes. If we are attentive to the changes, we will be at the forefront to uncover new avenues of contact with society that has not been exploited by the enemy and harvest them for the glory of God.


Thus far, we have seen that there is an urgent need for the Church to undergo radical transformation in view of the rapid and complex changes happening around us. By examining why the modern Church has not been totally effective, we found that it is necessary for us to rediscover and live out the key characteristics of the Early Church, as this is God’s model for us. By being clearer on our eschatological perspective, we are able to carry out scenario projections of existing and emerging trends with scripture-aided far-sightedness so that we can cope with “raplex” changes to think globally and act locally. By knowing Satan’s main strategies, we understand what the enemy is doing in the world today in the spiritual dimension and we know where to focus our spiritual warfare. In the process, we have identified the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Church and the enemy as well as the Opportunities and Threats before us. These are the key areas for consideration for a SWOT approach to promote a fresh vision for the Malaysia Church that will have a proactive response to change. What needed now are the researchers who will gather the information of what is happening in the world today and what God is doing in His Church at the same time, the futurists who will project ahead and the strategists who will chart the most appropriate approaches to catalyse radical changes expeditiously.

The SWOT approach described above is quite unlike the management planning tool of the Industrial Age as it is future-orientated and vision-driven. Industrial Age strategies assume that the playing field stays more or less the same as today. We are living in the Knowledge Age. Knowledge Age strategies must project far into the future and identify the major structural changes as the playing field can be completely different from today. Hence, our approach is future-orientated in that we advocate scenario projections with an eschatological perspective. We are vision-driven because our approach is based on God’s vision for His Church through His Word and our prayers.

Finally, let us remember that changes, even if they are not radical, are resisted as they disturb our comfort zones, habits and traditions. Hence, promoting change is never an easy task for the initiators. Vision, focus, inner drive and creativity are the essential requirements. It involves taking risk and lots of hard work in research and prayer. Agents of change must have a nose to sniff out what is in the air. Uncovering and selecting what is important, they must be able to translate the sea of information from what is complex to what is simple, orderly and void of jargon and platitudes. They need enormous energy, courage and determination to pursue and articulate their convictions with a loud and lonely voice. Above all, they must possess the ability to cope with what management strategist Ohmae calls “static tolerance”. This means that innovative agents of change must be able to withstand and overcome scepticisms, criticisms and even hostility that they will inevitably encounter along the way.

Let us pray that God will raise up in our midst a number of Godly and resourceful agents of change who will constantly seek God for new directions and in the process, catalyse our local churches to new heights, ready as the Bride of Christ for the Lord’s return!



  1. John Niasbitt, High Tech High Touch, Technology and Our Search for Meaning, (London: Nicholas Brealey, 1999), Preface.
  2. Ibid., Preface.
  3. New Age is a movement that insists everything is fundamentally spiritual and forms part of an impersonal life force equivalent to God.
  4. Pluralism is an ideology that maintains all religious truth is relative and of equal salvific paths.
  5. Post-modernism is a new mindset that rejects human reason and senses for there is no objective truth, whether moral or scientific, apart from experiential truth.
  6. Patrick Johnstone, Operation World, (1993), p. 23.
  7. Modernity is the character and system of the world produced by the forces of modern development especially in capitalism, industrial technology and telecommunications.
  8. Tom Sine, Mustard Seed vs McWorld, Reinventing Christian Life and Mission for a New Millennium, (London: Monarch, 1999), pp 21-29.
  9. According to Joel Arthur Barker, an expert in the business of paradigms, paradigm pioneers are usually those who have nothing to lose in the old paradigm in creating the new paradigm.
  10. John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts, (Inter-Varsity, 1991), p.84.
  11. Stanley J. Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), p. 168.
  12. Tom Sine, Mustard Seed vs McWorld, Reinventing Christian Life and Mission for a New Millennium, (London: Monarch, 1999), p.236.
  13. G.E.Ladd, The Presence of the Future, (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), p. 303.
  14. Donald E. Gowan, Eschatology in the Old Testament, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), p.125.
  15. Kenichi Ohmae, The Mind of the Strategist, (New York: Penguin, 1982), pp. 242-268.
  16. Griffith S.B., Sun Tzu: The Art of War, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971).
  17. Kenichi Ohmae, The Mind of the Strategist, [New York: Penguin, 1982], p. 276.


Selected Bibliography:

Ben Witherington III, Jesus, Paul and the End of the World [Illinois: IVP, 1992]

C. Peter Wagner, Strategies for Church Growth, [London: MARC, 1989]

G.E.Ladd, The Blessed Hope: Second Advent and the Rapture [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956]

G.E.Ladd, The Presence of the Future, [New York: Harper and Row, 1964]

Griffith S.B., Sun Tzu: The Art of War, [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971]

Hoekema A.A., The Bible and the Future [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979]

John Niasbitt, High Tech High Touch, Technology and Our Search for Meaning, [London: Nicholas Brealey, 1999]

John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts, [Inter-Varsity, 1991]

Kenichi Ohmae, The Mind of the Strategist, [New York: Penguin, 1982]

Klaas Runia, “Eschatology in the Twentieth Century” Calvin Theological Journal 32/1 April 77

Marvin C Pate, The End of the Age has Come The Theology of Paul [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995]

Robert E. Logan, Beyond Church Growth, [Grand Rapids: Revell, 1989]

Ronald J. Sider, For They Shall Be Fed, [Dallas: Word Publishing, 1997]

Stanley J. Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996)

Tom Sine, Mustard Seed vs McWorld, Reinventing Christian Life and Mission for a New Millennium, [London: Monarch, 1999]


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