In troubled times, members of City Harvest Church choose to stand in unity and prayer.
By Dawn Seow
It was a weekend of unity and strength exemplified. City Harvest Church gathered as a family to worship God on Jun. 30 and Jul. 1, filling Hall 1 of the Singapore Expo on both days.
This was the church’s first worship service after five senior leaders of the church were charged in court on Jun. 27. Despite the news, more than 14,000 churchgoers attended the church’s English and Chinese services to hear senior pastor Kong Hee and deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng preach (this figure excludes attendance in CHC’s other services).
Leaders from churches across the region attended the weekend services to show their support as well. Senior pastors of C3 Church, Sydney, and the C3 Global Network of Churches Phil Pringle, also the advisory pastor of CHC, flew in to Singapore together with his wife Chris Pringle. Tan Seow How, senior pastor of Heart of God Church, Singapore; Raymond Fernando, pastor of GPdI Elohim, Surabaya; Nala Widya, pastor of ECC Bandung; Leonardo Sitorus and Yesaya Henubau, pastors of GEKARI Church, Jakarta; Yoji Nakamura and his wife Kyoko from Kumamoto Harvest Church in Japan were among those who flew in to stand alongside CHC at this time.
Minutes to the start of the service, members were seen praying in small groups, while others put finishing touches on placards to show support to their senior leaders. In an atmosphere that was already thick with faith, the worship team took to stage to lead the church in praise and worship. As the members lifted their hands and hearts to worship God, His presence was felt throughout the hall, ministering to the hearts of many.
When Kong appeared on stage, the whole hall rose in a standing ovation; unlike two years ago when he had stayed away from the pulpit for a period of time when investigations started, he was visibly confident, even if he did seem somewhat subdued this weekend.
“I just want to be here to thank you for your love, support for me, for Sun, for the leadership. [To] all our friends from all around the world, from US, Europe, Australia, South Africa… thank you so much. As you know, the past few days have been very challenging for me, my family and my team. Many allegations were made in the media. Obviously as this is an ongoing case, I cannot comment on the details. But please know that there are always two sides to every story, and I look forward to the day I can tell my side of the story in court.
“So please continue to pray for us. We need your prayers. Church, I want you to know, in spite of everything that’s happening, Sun and I have always felt the love of God surrounding us. Every single moment His love was always there, and His love is more than enough. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
“Please continue to pray for us. And yes, I do maintain my integrity.”
Two members of the church came upon stage to share their testimonies of how the Crossover Project, now a central issue to the case, has impacted the lives of many.
Dr. Fong Wai Yin, a medical doctor, shared how the Crossover Project inspired him to use the language of the youth to reach out to the young people in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Fong explained, “This is a generation that doesn’t respond to traditional sermons. Their language is sports, fashion, music and dance.” Inspired by the Crossover Project, Fong and his team started The Dream Academy in Chiang Mai, to help young Thais fulfill their academic ambitions and creative potential. They conducted an evangelistic Youth Conference last month, where 250 youths took part in sports competitions like futsal, basketball and volleyball, and talent competitions like beauty pageants and dance competitions. Over two nights, 77 young people gave their hearts to Jesus.
“This is an astounding number in a country where only 0.3 percent of native Thais are Protestant church-going Christians, and where a total of only 2,500 out of 63 million non-tribal native Thais accept Christ a year,” Fong noted.
Giving credit to the ministry of Sun Ho, wife of CHC’s senior pastor, Fong said, “To me, Sun is a game-changer. She was able to cross over into a world inhabited by the younger generation. She packaged the Gospel in her music, testimony and lifestyle. We followed in her footsteps and brought this language of pop culture to Thailand. If we don’t, a whole generation of young Thai people will be lost in darkness. We thank God for Sun for crossing over, and for Pastor Kong to teach us all how to be relevant in the marketplace and to bring Christ into our culture.”
“In the beginning, I was very puzzled and confused wondering why the wife of a pastor in City Harvest Church would hold her own secular concert? Isn’t she supposed to stay in church to sing and worship their God? At times, I even judged her for those fanciful and non-conservative costumes,” Lam confessed.
When she was picked to go to Hollywood to dance on Sun’s music video for the single “China Wine”, Lam was ecstatic that her life’s dream had come true. She began working closely with Sun, and watching her live her life changed Lam’s point of view.
“She was always so driven, focused and hardworking in her dance practices. No matter how tired she was or how hard the steps were, she never stopped trying. The way she talked and expressed herself was always filled with sincerity and love.”
Looking at how Sun live out her purpose in life made Lam wondered what her own purpose in life was. Feeling lost and aimless, she turned to her fellow dancer Kenny Low who introduced her to Jesus and led her to Christ. Today, Lam says, “I have found my life purpose: it is to use my God-given gift, which is dance, to serve Him and touch the lives of the youths out there.”
Tears welled up in her eyes as she ended her testimony thanking Sun.
The church stood up cheering, as Kong took to the stage to share the message. This was the first time he addressed the church after the case broke on Tuesday.
He thanked the church for their love and support for him, Sun and the leadership. He especially thanked the Pringles for their love, support and presence.
Reading from Luke 7:36-38, Kong shared a revelation that touched him in his devotion time this week. It came from the story of a woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, wiped them with her hair and anointed them with an alabaster flask of fragrant oil.
“This woman is a prostitute, the Message Bible even said she is a ‘town harlot’. She came to the house because she wanted to worship Jesus. The Lord showed me three things about her,” Kong said.
The woman worshiped Jesus in humility, in honesty and wholeheartedly. She was a broken person, kneeling down before Jesus, touching Him in her brokenness. She brought the alabaster flask of fragrant oil, which was the tool of her trade. It symbolized her life: her strength and weaknesses, her past, her aspirations and her future. She poured the oil on the feet of Jesus, worshipping Him with everything she had.
“Especially in the toughest times, we must worship God with our real selves. And I am very comforted because I know that the true City Harvest Church is here to worship Jesus,” he said.
“What attracted this woman to Jesus?” Kong asked. “Was it because He was such a great miracle worker? When I looked at the passage, I realized that there is something greater—it was His love that attracted her.
“Brothers and sisters, family, I want you to know that despite all this, Sun and I, we always feel the love of God surrounding us, every single moment. And His love is more than enough.”
As Kong, together with Sun, led the church into a time of worship, he reminded the church to be real before God, to worship Him in spirit and in truth. The members were once again reminded of how God loves them, and how He has always seen the church through difficult situations.
The Saturday evening service ended with Pringle giving a word of encouragement to the church. He reminded them that those who were “highly favored” by God didn’t live trouble-free lives. Mary had to convince the world her baby was from God; Noah was misunderstood for 120 years when he was building the ark; and Jesus suffered intense misunderstanding and persecution, and gave His life as a ransom for man’s sins.
“But the good news is, God will never ask you to go through things that are not in line with your capabilities or your calling,” Pringle assured the church.
“That so, so many of our members turned up for the service reflects an unity that no outsider can comprehend or understand,” said manager Tiang Pek Yin, 57, a member for eight years. “Each member has willingly committed himself and showed up to show support and love for the church and its leadership. It is this unity that shall guide us as a family through any valleys. City Harvest is our church, our family and our life.”
For Jacqueline Lim, 13, who joined the church just a few months ago, the service showed her what a family should be like. “In the service, I saw people praying and supporting each other as a family. Through it, I learned to cherish the people around me and stand with them in times of trouble.”
The weekend’s service moved many members. Carol Pou, 45, an account manager, commented, “The atmosphere of the service was very good and I’m very touched to see the unity and support that the members are showing to our pastors.”
Karen Tay, 37, a financial planner shared the same sentiments. “The banners and cheers from the members showed that they are supporting Pastor Kong and Sun, and standing with the leadership. We believe and pray that the truth will prevail.”