Interview with Samuel Whitefield
On 13–15 July, our little red dot was a nexus for like-minded believers from Southeast Asia. The Burning Hearts Conference was a divine combustion of laid-down lovers, sold out to the mission and cause of Jesus Christ.
During the course of the conference, I had the privilege to speak to Samuel Whitefield, Director of OneKing — a ministry which helps connect the global church to God’s plan for Israel and the nations. Samuel is also part of the senior leadership team at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. What struck me the most about Samuel was his passion to seek out God’s desires for the nations. Even his tall frame could not contain the love, sincerity, and genuinity he has towards the nations of Southeast Asia.
You have been involved in some work in Singapore these past few years. What has God put on your heart for Singapore?
Singapore is in a very unique situation and there are a number of things that come to mind.
She has a very unusual relationship with Israel. When we think about the missions movement, we often think about the mission to reach every tribe and tongue. But the Bible tells us the missions movement actually ends with a witness given to Israel. The unique relationship between Singapore and Israel (from the very founding of the country) is an indicator of a divine, sovereign calling by God on Singapore to play a unique role — to be a witness to Israel.
Secondly, Singapore has a unique location in the middle of Southeast Asia. Whenever we see a city or a nation that has an influence much larger than it should be, it tells us that there is a redemptive calling upon that people. It’s not because that city or nation is better than another, but that there is a sovereign purpose.
Israel might be a small country but they have a bigger influence than they should have in the nations, because God has a sovereign calling on them to spread the knowledge of God to the other nations. Similarly, Singapore has been given “exaggerated” influence in the world, which is an indicator that God has a sovereign purpose. The blessings and providence that God has given Singapore are tools that He has put in her hands to use for His divine purposes.
You mentioned that Singapore parallels Israel, even from the time of her founding. What should the local church think about Israel?
God has a burning heart and desire to see Israel come to salvation. He has given Singapore such a unique relationship with Israel, where Israel is willing to listen to Singapore as a friend. I believe the Lord set up this friendship in a very unique way so that Singapore can speak the gospel tenderly but clearly back to Israel from a place of friendship.
In your message at the Conference, you said that the apostle Paul strategically put aside his Roman citizenship to gain an audience with the Jewish crowd, and then subsequently revealed his citizenship to caution the Roman authorities against ill-treating the Jewish people (see Acts 21–23). In other words, Paul was judicious in both withdrawing and applying his privilege for the sake of the gospel. What are a few privileges the millennial generation need to either let go or take hold of in order to advance the kingdom of God?
In this generation, we have some unprecedented privileges. One of which is access to technology, travel, and information. These are tools God has put in our hands. For example, we have ways to communicate and share the gospel to audiences that the apostle Paul could never imagine. Through the use of technology or media, you could give a witness of the gospel and touch more people than apostle Paul had ever touched in his lifetime.
Another privilege would be access [the ability to gain entry to many countries]. A Singaporean has one of the best passports in the world in many ways. Do we ask God, “I have the access to places other people don’t have access to. Is there a reason for that?” Perhaps a businessman could ask, “How can I carry the gospel to a place that is very difficult for other people to go?”
These privileges are gifts from God that we can leverage for the sake of the gospel.
The challenge is: privileges often come with the certain distractions. We might think, “I can use these privileges for my own sake. These resources that I have access to can be used for me instead of the nations.” Our wealth and influence can be our greatest threat if we become enamoured or captivated by them.
Another risk is seeing ourselves as superior due to our privileges. Singaporeans need to ask, “God, why have you given me this? Why do I get to live in peace and prosperity while in other parts of the world there is calamity and war?”
What do you think God is calling or commissioning the church in Southeast Asia to do?
Across generations, there are global shifts. We are now in a generation where there is a shift to Asia on a number of levels.
In terms of economics, we’re slowly seeing a shift towards Asia.
Moreover, church thinkers are seeing growth in what they call “The Global South” [non-Western, developing countries]. Right now, most of the Christians in the world are from these countries.
Southeast Asia is actually being pointed to by Bible verses that say songs must emerge from the ends of the earth [Isaiah 42:10]. I believe the fact that these songs are beginning to emerge in our generation tells me that God’s time for Southeast Asia has come. Those songs could not have emerged 250 years ago, but they are suddenly emerging now, and I believe God wants to raise up labourers for the gospel from this part of the world.
Southeast Asia is in a key moment for releasing “night and day” worship and raising up labourers that will communicate and speak the gospel in a way that only you can from this part of the world.