SINGAPORE, 23 NOVEMBER 2008 — IT HAS BEEN five Spirit-drenched, Bible-filled, tear-soaked days at the Asia Conference. Delegates from 72 countries have been immersed in a concentrate of Bible teaching, impartation and faith to carry the key message in their hearts, as they go out to put what they have learned into practice.
Kong Hee had taught that God redeems everything — even manmade pagan items — for His glory. Ulf Ekman had emphasized that the Holy Spirit is the one who does the work and we must walk so intimately with Him before that power can work in us. Phil Pringle illustrated how we are to bring the resurrection power of Christ into whatever dead situations we find ourselves in, to rattle the dry bones back into what that body is meant to be by speaking into our apparently dead situations.
The finale to the Asia Conference was spectacular — not so much in the way that the opening night of parades and pomp had been, but in that there was a spirit of great unity in Expo Hall 8, with hearts and heads sharing the same understanding and faith for the Cultural Mandate. That collective consensus that all 20,000 delegates (25,000 on peak nights) had that we are, as Christians, called not to isolate ourselves from the world, but to insulate ourselves then penetrate the world.
The evening began with a loud praise and worship by the CHC Band — surely every delegate will go home with “Ele-elevate Your name high” playing over and over again in their heads! — followed by a marvellous testimony by three members of City Harvest Church whose cell group growth exemplified how CHC’s caring system works. What a single girl did to reach out and show care and concern for another girl led ultimately to nearly 200 people who came to Christ and are all entrenched in cell groups now, sharing their care and concern with others.
It was a celebrity-filled night, with Taiwan singer-actor Liu Geng Hong (Slam Dunk) sharing his testimony of how he got saved in New Life Church in Taipei, and how he began getting his celebrity friends saved. To date, he has brought over 100 friends to church, and is now leading a group of famous young singers, including songwriter and guitarist, Wing. Geng Hong shared about how he got his celebrity friends together — including Jay Chou — to sing on a CD album that the church produced. With this CD, this group of Christian celebrities did tours in schools, reaching over 100,000 young people with their songs of hope and message of love. Geng Hong was joined by seven of his cell group members on stage as they sang ‘Seed of Hope’, the theme song of their album.
The crowd were bowled over when Singapore-born Taiwan-based superstar JJ Lin stepped on stage in a dapper yellow shirt and a fedora. “Praise the Lord! Jesus loves you!” he said, by way of greeting the rapt audience and singing his R&B hits.
JJ shared his testimony of getting saved at the age of 15, but when he became a singer in Taiwan, he felt very alone. By God’s grace, he found a great group of friends — Geng Hong and gang. Geng Hong invited him to sing on a “demo” — which was Sun’s song. JJ became part of their circle, and received help and counseling from Sun Ho and Rev Abraham Ku of New Life Church.
Kong asked JJ how he, as a Christian celebrity, shines for God. “I include God in what I share,” said JJ. “I thank God in my songs. Every idea comes from Him.”
When JJ had left, Kong took the opportunity to make a salient point. “If we are not in a position to influence culture, the non-Christians will set the agenda. Of course you don’t say Jesus outright in your songs — that would make you a Gospel singer, not a pop singer. But to be like JJ and put God in your songs without mentioning ‘God’ takes skill.”
Following the celebrity segment, the audience watched a moving video about CHC’s work in supporting Frank Godberg’s Bethel Mission Church in Kola Gold Fields, India, which runs an orphanage and computer centre for abandoned and unwanted children. One of the orphans, Benjamin Selveratnam, who is now grown up gave a touching testimony of how Sun Ho’s simple donation of 10 computers to the centre impacted the town. “It may not seem much, 10 computers, but Sun drastically changed our town of 100,000 people.” For the first time, he says, the children of Kola Gold Fields have a hope and a future.
On that note of bearing lasting fruit for God, Dr AR Bernard took the stage as the closing speaker of Asia Conference.
The Wheat and the Weeds
Drawing from the parable of the weeds among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30), Dr Bernard explained that the farmer is Jesus, and He plants good seed, which are the children of God, in a field, which is the world, or the kosmos.God plants people in the culture, as seeds. God wants what we grow into to impact the culture.
Although the enemy plants weeds among the wheat, Jesus is not afraid of leaving us in the world, because He has put the power in us to insulate us from the world. And ultimately, Jesus will send His angels to remove everything that offends Him (Matt 13:39-40).
Dr Bernard explained that relationship precedes ministry — without a relationship, we cannot speak into someone’s life. He explained how the church has so far failed to do what Jesus sent us to do — to go into the world and be the salt and light. Instead, when a celebrity gets saved, and comes to church, the church becomes judgmental of them, and expects them to grow up overnight. Even celebrities need to go through discipleship — get them insulated, get them to practise spiritual disciplines constantly.
We must have a strategy to win souls for Christ. Dr Bernard’s son, Jamal Bernard took the stage to share how he strategized to reach out to the prisoners in Guatemala. Another church group had gone up two weeks before and preached fire and brimstone. The inmates threatened that if they came back they might be leaving in bodybags.
Jamal and his teen group went in, and instead of preaching Jesus right off the bat, they took time to understand the prison culture. Jamal bonded with the “boss” of one of the prison gangs over a Snoop Doggy Dogg song. He talked to one man who had tattooed his gang number on his face — tattoos were often of dead gang members or homeys (friends) who had “died in honor”. Jamal showed his tattoo to the man, and explained that Jesus was his homey, and Jesus died for him.
The inmates had been rejected before by the church, but Jamal’s creative testimony and culturally-appropriate language won them over.
When OT Meet NT… Transformation!
Dr Bernard ended his message with a startling revelation. In the Old Testament, the language was a theology of place — it had to do with land and location. In the New Testament, there was no more conversation about place, but Jesus had encounters with persons, so the language was a theology of person. The church understands the Theology of Person to have replaced the Theology of Place.
But Dr Bernard points out that, just as Jesus called Zaccheus by name and gave him value, and Jesus changed a Person. Zaccheus responded by restoring money to the people, and by so doing the Place was changed. “The Theology of Place and the Theology of Person come together to affect transformation.”
When we change a person and that person gets God on the inside of him, he changes the place he is in, and that place transforms the culture. The Kingdom of God is within us — and every place God puts a believer will not be the same again.
As Dr Bernard’s message transformed the minds of all present this final night, Kong closed the entire Conference with a beautiful prayer.
“I pray the church of Asia is a church God knows: it is righteous and holy, faithful and true. Christ is revealed, because we have penetrated.”
With that the CHC Band led the audience in a joyful party time of praise and dancing as pyrotechnics and thousands of balloons signaled the close of what was for many, a life-changing first Asia Conference.
|PHOTOS: Daniel Poh|