Christianity arrived in Singapore in the year 1819; churches opened their doors to believers by 1820 and in 1829, there were approximately 200 churches comprising of Catholics and Protestants. The Singapore government is considered being autocratic and hence involved in shaping most of the aspects of the society, this is inclusive of culture and political expression. However, the government emphasizes on the protection of all the religions in the country which include, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism among others. Christianity is among the religions possessing two national holidays as stated in the law.
Contemporary Christianity is the succession of evangelical Christianity. In the 21st century, with the changes in culture and traditions, Christians all over the world are finding it hard to remain authentically Christians. Contemporary Christianity is relative, and people observe it with different views, there is a common observation that contemporary Christianity is more flexible, less stringent and individuals can question the norms in this religion. When compared to the traditional Christianity more followers are leaving the faith, for it is more acceptable to persons due to changing lifestyles.
The major critics of contemporary Christianity argue that even though it is important to reach out to the people who are not Christian, the Gospel should not be compromised for the sake of making the non-believers feel more comfortable and welcome in Christianity. According to the critics, this is wrong and dangerous for the society at large. In addition, contemporary Christianity is based on people doing what they want, however, traditional Christianity focuses on the needs of other people, not individual needs. Contemporary Christianity is described as ‘trendy’ while others describe it as charismatic Christianity whose main objective is social justice.
The Impact of Economic Growth on Christianity
Singapore has had an exponentially growing economy from the 1990s, as a result, high levels of wealth have been generated in the country’s economy, the level of education has significantly improved, oversees travelling and living standards have risen. Due to the rising level of wealth in the country the setting up of new churches has been possible; Christianity has become the fastest growing religion in the country over the years. After the release of the 2010 Singapore’s census results, the figures showed that there was a rise in Christianity, a further analysis of the result displayed that Christians were not only growing in number but also became stronger in the sense that they were willing to exercise their voice in areas which have predominantly secular public life. Moreover, there was a rising size of mega churches occupying well known landmarks such as EXPO, One North and Suntec. The fundraising ability of the churches has enabled the churches to invest in some of the largest commercial properties in the country. The church is described by some as an investment, such that the more give the more get. The churches use the expression that the more you show commitment to the church through financial contributions, the more you are closer to God.
Christian churches are divided into two branches in Singapore, the Catholics and the ‘other’ Christians. The rise of new mega churches is a clear indicator that there are new believers; hence the churches are not poaching believers from other churches. In the year 1980, 10.2% of the population were Christians, in 2000 14.61%, while in 2010 18.31%. While mega churches and the Catholics were recording incredible growth over the last decade, traditional churches recorded only 1% growth in membership.
Characteristics of Contemporary Christianity
Contemporary Christianity deviates from traditional Christianity. The mega churches are typically large commercial auditoriums with no symbolic drawings or artwork, the altars are not as monumental as in the traditional churches, the rituals traditionally performed at the altar are no-longer performed in the new churches. The significance given to the altar meaning that only the highest of the church leader can serve on the altar differs with that of mega churches, such that any person given a responsibility can serve at the altar.
The churches are able to adopt a new way of dressing and language imitating the pop culture; this is because according to changes in lifestyles, those are the things that appeal to the new middle class or those who are working and aspiring to be in the middle class. In the city state the churches standout with thousands, their church leaders are almost like celebrities, they also have innovative outreach strategies which involve magic shows and worship concerts that are backed by electric guitars. Contemporary Christianity embraces prosperity; as a result, self-empowerment and individualism are integrated in the theologies so as to lay emphasis on positive blessings and living. The ideologies used in setting up the churches are well researched on and of high professionalism; there is a deliberate use contemporary music, lighting and sound.
Mega churches thrive in newly developed countries such as Singapore, as well as in the urban centers. An urban area is the best location for this mega churches for they are able to capture the middle class mostly living in the urban centers. The genesis of contemporary Christianity is, therefore, in the urban centers. In Singapore there is no conflict between the churches and the political class, there is a Religious and harmony act preventing religious leaders from creating disharmony between the different religions or the government. As a result, the religious leaders refrain from criticizing political leaders; hence most of the leaders stay clear of political discussions. The country has had no religious conflicts as a result of this regulation.
Contemporary Christianity does not deviate from the Biblical teachings; however, it is subject to continuous reinventions so as it can be socially relevant. The worship in these churches is conceptualized as dancing, singing, and praising the most high, the style is upbeat. Churches are Christ-centered, and there is the need for individual relationships between the church leaders and the believers. The hierarchical levels of decision making have been simplified so as to involve the believers in decision making.
Practical theology is applicable in contemporary Christianity; practical theology is leading a Christ-centered life and applying Christ’s directives in one’s life. The preaching is well researched and expands the relevance of the Bible in a person’s life. The believers pray for blessing and expect miracles, there is casting out of demons and healing of various kinds, the church leaders have encounters with God through visions and dreams. The mega churches have names relating to the vision that the inventor of the church had before setting up the church. The believers seek a personal relationship with God through following the basic teachings of Jesus. Contemporary Christianity has improved this need through implementing a social organization that allows frequent interaction between members for spiritual growth, as a result, there are various small groups either called home groups or mini churches. They are usually organized depending on the interests of individual or their needs; the core to the groups is bible study sessions. The members to the groups are able to share different issues that one is going through, and as such they are able to compensate one another. Such social organization has to create a generation of long lasting friendship among the believers and, as a result, no member can miss the church or consider abandoning his/her faith.
Contemporary Christianity involves persons who have been called to do the work. You may find individuals who have not studied priesthood but can stand at the altar and give a sermon; some church leaders are accountants while others are doctors. Self fulfillment and self actualization are the greatest values in a society, and this is what contemporary Christianity aims to achieve. The Christians in the new churches are impoverished; the worship of the individual is replaced with the worship of God. Christians are free to interpret the scripture according to their own understanding and follow the teachings according to they own interpretation. One of the causes of rapid growth of new Christianity is the formation of freedom in the places of worship, the basic idea is to follow Christ teachings and also maintain a Godly life.
The social organization in the new paradigm Christianity is highly accessible. Since the members account for growth and sustainability of new Christianity, they are able to organize themselves in groups which cater for most of their social needs. The church leaders are always available for consultations from the members; as such the believers’ lives are highly influenced by their leaders. There is a close relationship between urbanized societies and the new paradigm Christianity. An urban setting is, therefore, a genesis of this new form of Christianity. The rapid growth in Christianity is raising a lot of questions in the Asian countries, as the majority of the population including immigrants turn to Christianity; they will be able to influence major political decisions in the country. Moreover, it can lead to conflict with other predominant religions in the country.