Through a structured system and syllabus, City Harvest Church trains and disciples its affiliate churches for growth.
Since its inception more than 20 years ago, City Harvest Church has been active in spreading the good news of the gospel throughout Asia. Part of the “secret” of this lies in the 47 churches throughout Asia that are affiliates of CHC. Many of the pastors from these churches have received training at the church’s School Of Theology.
An affiliate church is one that comes under the official discipleship and leadership of CHC. Each affiliate church must fulfill four criteria before it can become an affiliate.
Firstly, the applicant church has to be willing to flow with the vision of CHC.
Secondly, there has to be a pre-existing relationship between members of the applicant church and CHC. For example, its founder or pastor might be a graduate of the School of Theology (formerly known as City Harvest Bible Training Center), which was set up in 1994.
Thirdly, the applicant church needs to be recommended by the CHC Missions Committee and deemed suitable to be an affiliate of CHC.
Finally, the applicant church has to be willing to enter into an agreement to take CHC on as its consultant church.
Over the years, the number of churches requesting discipleship continues to grow. This meant that CHC needed a systematic way to optimize its resources to provide the most help to the most people. Some are new-minted churches that need mentorship, while others are established churches that need training or discipleship in specific areas.
CHC provides a range of resources to aid its affiliates: from financial aid to guidance and discipleship, and even specific training for various areas of church life.
“If one of our affiliate churches needs improvement in the area of worship, we will send our musicians and worship leaders over to evaluate its worship sessions. If there is a need to strengthen the marriages in the church, we will help conduct marriage seminars. Likewise, should the church have a vision of engaging the marketplace, we will send our marketplace leaders to teach and disciple the members on the cultural mandate,” said Bobby Chaw, pastor and Head of the Missions Department of CHC, and Dean of SOT.
The affiliate relationship has helped churches to take control of their growth. Affiliate churches have their progress charted through monthly reports; phone calls and visits are also regular occurrences to make sure things are on track. Through this mentorship system, the affiliate churches have seen tremendous growth, and their communities have been significantly strengthened through them.
Planting A Seed
Catching a vision from God in 2000, Kevin Loo, then a young graduate of SOT, felt led to pioneer a church in Selangor, Malaysia, by raising a team of youth who would fervently spread the good news of the gospel throughout their country.
With guidance from Kong Hee, Loo set up City Harvest Kuala Lumpur in 2001. By emulating and adapting CHC practices, such as hosting Emerge conferences for youth in KL, CHCKL has grown from 20 members when it was founded in 2001 to 1,750 members today.
In East Java, Indonesia, a plane crash robbed GPdI Elohim Sidoarjo church of its senior pastor and his wife in 2007. Nina, the pastor’s sister, and her husband Franklin Lumoindong were pushed into leadership, despite not having pastoral experience. In the turmoil after the crash, they approached CHC for help, and within the year, Kong and several CHC workers implemented a Bible school curriculum to train church leaders there. Also, the church emulated CHC’s three pillars of the Great Commandment, the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate.
Currently, GPdI Elohim Sidoarjo stands at 2,270 members, from 1,550 members in 2007. This is an increase of 68 percent in three years.
Leading The Change In Communities
In addition to emulating CHC systems and practices, the affiliate churches are also closely allied in terms of vision and beliefs—many are inspired to “go beyond the four walls of the church” to improve and strengthen their societies. They have done this in so many different ways, each targeting those who have been neglected or forgotten by society-at-large.
In the Kolar Gold Fields, South India, Frank Godberg leads the Bethel Mission Church. When he took over in 1979, the town was spiraling downwards economically; the church was tired and spiritually drained. Managing the church’s finances was a balancing-act that went off-kilter when the church’s roof collapsed during service. Overcoming what had been disastrous beginnings, the church has since become a pillar of society through its work in the community.
|CN FILE PHOTO
“One of the most important steps we took in overcoming the obstacles was to strive for unity among the brethren and to develop leaders. We were also ministered to by CHC’s mission team, which was a real blessing to the body of Christ here in KGF,” Godberg explains.
To improve living conditions there, the church has dug wells to supply clean water, set up medical camps to provide medical screenings and free treatment, run AIDS awareness campaigns, cared for traditionally-shunned patients with leprosy, and instituted feeding programs for the hungry. Every month, 250 widows receive cash grants; every year, 800 women celebrate Christmas with new saris from the church; those residing in slum areas have their bellies filled every New Year’s Day when the church gives out 2,500 loaves of bread.
In Southeast Asia, Harvest Christian Fellowship church in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and Indonesia Harvest Church in Medan, Indonesia, have set up facilities tending to the mental health of their communities.
Initially intended as a shelter for the elderly, HCF’s new facility unexpectedly became a care center for the mentally challenged. Miriam Tay, pastor-in-charge of the ministry explained their methodology. “As we drew motivation and inspiration from CHC, persevering in lavishing close attention and prayers on our charges, some of them have been successfully healed of their mental ailments and returned home.”
In Medan, IHC’s Bukit Doa Sunshine Rehabilitation Center has helped thousands of drug addicts and mentally-ill patients reintegrate into society, after a successful rehabilitation program. Some have since returned to work and others to their studies, with a few even enrolling in Bible seminaries.
“As such,” says Johnny Seragih, senior pastor of IHC, “people know our church as one that operates through the healing power of God.”
Hsin Tien Covenant Church in Taipei, Taiwan, has implemented very different programs to strengthen their community. Run by Chang Mao-Sung, and his son Wayne, the church runs an after-school program that caters to children from low-income families. They have also taught 428 struggling families to harness the Internet to launch their own businesses.
It also reaches out with great success to inmates via its prison ministry. Every year, over 500 inmates get baptized. The church also offers programs to help them reintegrate into society: it built a halfway house, and set up a restaurant where they can work and learn a trade.
Even on the remote island of Lanyu, southeast of Taiwan, residents of the aboriginal enclave of Tai-don have had their lives touched by HTCC. It provides school fees for children, as well as after-school education, and even feeds hungry students.
In Singapore, Heart of God Church led by Tan Seow How, has a young congregation age 25 and under. It focuses on helping its students excel in school by partnering with educators and parents to understand the holistic needs of each student, and adjusting their involvement in church accordingly. This approach strengthens the family unit to build a strong church. They also offer generous incentives for academic performance, from iPods to cash prizes awarded to deserving students as part of their Academic Excellence Program, started in 2004.
Mentorship With Love And Respect
Even this week at the Asia Conference, the “mentorship program” continues, as pastors from all the affiliate churches come to catch a new vision, as well as get inspiration for new programs, or methods to bring back home.
However, this relationship is not just one-way. Visitors impressed by CHC’s Harvest Fair and the myriad competitions and games will be interested to find out that it was inspired by New Life Church, Taipei, Taiwan. The church ran a four-month-long project, Rainbow Heaven, which drew students from high schools and junior colleges with enrichment activities such as drama courses, music workshops and makeup training, showing off the various ministries of NLC in the process. They even recorded a music video composed, choreographed and produced by the church members and these students.
The project was immensely successful in sparking interest in the youth, and empowering them for change. Today, the youth are at the forefront of the revival sweeping through the Taipei church that suffered from a shrinking, aging congregation in the ‘90s.
Great mutual respect and affection exists between CHC and its affiliate churches. Loo views Kong as a “spiritual father.”
During CHC’s search for a site for its new church premises, the former Hollywood Theatre along Tanjong Katong Road became available once again. Despite it being attractive for sentimental reasons, Kong immediately rejected it, because Heart of God Church, a CHC affiliate, holds its services at Singapore Post Centre in Paya Lebar, which is within walking distance of Hollywood Theatre.
“What kind of spiritual father would I be if I move my church right across the street from Seow How?” asked Kong.
More than the mentorship, it is this attitude of love and respect for one another that drives the affiliate church program. The latest affiliate churches are Taipei New City Church, under the Wang Dao Yue, and Global Harvest Network, led by Stephen Goh. Both joined in mid-2009, in August and September respectively.
Along with the SOT, the affiliate church program helps to build strong churches throughout Asia, fulfilling Kong’s vision to “raise a generation of believers that will take Asia by storm.” In its almost-21-year history, CHC has mentored 47 affiliate churches, built six Bible schools as well as various orphanages and homes in six different countries.