On 31 July to 2 August, Christians from all over Singapore gathered for Festival of Praise (FOP) 2009. From as early as 6pm in the evening, long queues had already begun forming outside the four main entrances of the Singapore Indoor Stadium, eagerly waiting for the doors to open. They were not waiting to attend another rock concert, but rather, to gather for a time of worship, prayer and fellowship.
FOP was founded by Rev. Dr. Canon James Wong, 70, and held for the very first time in the year 1983. Then, there were only about 500 people in attendance. Fast-forward 26 years, to the year 2009, FOP today has an expected attendance of no less than 12,000 thousand devotees from about 113 local churches each night, over the 3-night event.
The first night kicked off with a rousing time of praise and worship led by Sidney Mohede and the True Worshippers, a popular, contemporary worship band from Indonesia. Renowned songwriter and legendary worship leader, Bob Fitts, took the stage right after, much to the delight of many older generation Christians who remember Fitts when he used to lead praise and worship in FOP during the early 90s. Throughout the entire session of praise and worship, the crowd lost all sense of time as they were captivated by the presence of God felt so strongly in every corner of the Indoor Stadium. While True Worshippers and Fitts, anointed worship leaders of two different generations, endorse diametrically different styles in their respective music-making, they were united in the purpose of bringing Christians closer to God in worship, truly a remarkable sight to behold.
|PHOTOS: Aaron Low, Gary Sim & Michael Chan|
Following the praise and worship, a dance crew made up of Emmanuel Assembly of God church members showcased their energetic dance and rap items. The dance and rap items were distinct examples of how youth today can use their diverse talents and abilities to glorify God.
A video produced by Heart of God Production Team was then screened. The video, clearly targeted at Singaporean youth, was a message on how Christians can boldly engage the community with the gifts and talents that God has bestowed upon them. A prayer was said for the young believers of the nation, for God to raise up a new generation of Timothys and Joshuas — individuals who, despite their young age, would be willing to make a difference for the Kingdom of God and be the hands and feet of Jesus in their schools and community.
The guest speaker for FOP this year was Mark Conner, senior pastor of City Life Church in Melbourne. Conner, a gifted communicator of the Word of God, pastors a congregation represented by 105 nationalities. Conner shared a power-packed message of how the many things we worry about could become a prison in our lives, in which many of us are actually entrapped, sometimes even unknowingly. Conner cited a study by psychologists which has proven that up to 96% of our worries concern things not worth worrying about, or things that are out of our control; and emphasized that excessive worrying is simply a waste of time and energy that could be better channeled to problem solving. He went on to share about how we can deal with the remaining 4% of our worries. The STOP framework (which stands for Specifying your worries, Taking action on your worries, Offering up a prayer to God, and Placing your trust in God) provided practical, in addition to spiritual, advice on conquering worries. The message equipped all who attended with essential tools for dealing with the slew of worries in present times.