JACKSON, Tenn. – May 10, 2010 – A trip to lecture multiple times in Singapore left Union University President David S. Dockery “physically exhausted, spiritually exhilarated” and hopeful about a future partnership between the university and Singapore Baptists.
“If Union University is going to be involved – as I’m committed for us to be – in being a Great Commission university, to be a part of a Great Commission resurgence in Southern Baptist life, I pray Singapore is our partner to help make it happen,” Dockery said.
Dockery spent a week in Singapore in late April, primarily lecturing at the Baptist Theological Seminary, which is celebrating its 21st anniversary. A leader at the seminary had heard Dockery’s presentation at the 2007 Baptist Identity Conference and read his book, “Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal,” and asked him to address some of the same issues at the Singapore seminary.
Dockery lectured four times at the seminary on such topics as Baptist history, identity and beliefs. He gave two public presentations at International Baptist Church for the Singapore Baptist Convention on why Baptists are different from other Christians and what Baptists have in common with other Christians.
He also spoke to a gathering of faculty members from all the seminaries in Singapore. In addition to his formal lectures, Dockery met informally with pastors, missionaries, every member of the Singapore Baptist Convention team and key Baptist lay leaders.
“The Lord blessed every session,” Dockery said. “The receptivity to my talks was terrific. I think the opportunity to encourage missionaries, to visit with pastors, and to help strengthen the work of the convention were all things that were spiritually energizing for me.”
Located on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia, Singapore is an island city-state of 5.6 million people. Dockery said the city is expected to grow to 7 million inhabitants over the next 10 years.
The population is 75 percent Chinese and 15 percent Malay, with the remainder a mixture of Indian, Eurasian, Filipino and Indonesian. About 60 percent of the population is Buddhist, 15 percent Muslim, 14 percent Christian and 10 percent Hindu. Singapore has the fifth highest per capita income in the world, with a small upper class, a large middle class and little poverty, Dockery said. About 90 percent of the residents are homeowners.
“It’s a very pluralistic, diverse population,” Dockery said. “Within all that diversity, different than any other place in Asia, 95 percent of the people speak English. I didn’t need a translator for anything. I could read all the signs. I could read the paper. You feel like you’re in a very different place, but communication is just like here.”
The Baptist convention in Singapore consists of 36 fairly strong churches, with about 12,000 members. The convention has reached a state of health, and “They are thinking strategically how to be united, cooperative, Great Commission people,” Dockery said.
That’s where he sees Union fitting in, with a partnership that could help equip the Baptists in Singapore to do their part in reaching the nations with the gospel. The city is strategically located, with Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, India and the Philippines all within just a few hours of travel time. Plus, with the population speaking English, translation wouldn’t be necessary.
Dockery’s book “Renewing Minds” has served as a playbook of sorts for how Union University has operated since his tenure began in 1996. The last chapter of the book, “Thinking Globally about the Future,” is the last piece that Union has yet to implement.
“Singapore is the ideal place for us to think about,” Dockery said. “I’m hopeful that we can find ways to be a strategic partner with Singapore Baptists and the Baptist Theological Seminary there for years to come.”