Growing from a handful of worshippers in a small house to tens of thousands in Suntec Singapore, the CHC journey has been an amazing walk for this member who joined the church 20 years ago.
Contributed By Jesscy Chua
On May 7, 1989, 20 youths led by their leader, Kong Hee, had their first gathering in a small office at Peace Centre on Sophia Road. Then, they were known as Ekklesia Ministry. Over the years, they held their worship services at several places such as 41A Amber Road, Singapore Bible House, the former Duke Hotel, Hotel Grand Central, NTUC Conference Hall, the Ministry of Environment Building, the National Productivity Board Auditorium, DBS Auditorium, PUB Auditorium, Mandarin Hotel, Orchard Hotel, Hephzibah Christian Centre, and Westin Stamford Hotel.
I remember vividly when I first entered the conference hall at World Trade Centre on June 14, 1991. The atmosphere was full of God’s presence and the people were full of zeal. During that time, there were around 600 attendees. Gradually the church reached 1,000 and was officially named City Harvest Church on Dec. 21, 1992.
On June 4, 1995, CHC moved to the former Hollywood Theatre at Tanjong Katong Road. Six years later, the church moved to its very own building—a titanium-clad complex in Jurong West Street 91 that seats 2,300 in the main underground hall. However, in 2005, the church had to lease the Singapore Expo Hall 8 to accommodate its rapid growth which hit more than 18,000 attendees that year. Besides the main English congregation, there have been new worship services added over the years such as the Chinese Church, Dialect Church, Children’s Church, JAMs Church (for people with special needs), and the Indonesian and Filipino services.
Cell group meetings were not always held in the homes of members. At the time when I came in 1991, members attended their weekly cell group meetings at 15A Mackenzie Road in Little India, where the church’s corporate office was. Gradually we had to move to “home cells” when the attendance increased. In 1998, the church office moved to 363 Joo Chiat Road, and in 2001, it relocated to its current venue at 8 Temasek Boulevard, Suntec City Tower 3.
EQUIPPING MEMBERS FOR THE HARVEST
In 1994, the School Of Theology (previously known as City Harvest Bible Training Centre) commenced with its first intake of 29 local students. It saw its first intake of international students in 1995. By 2007, SOT had birthed a total of 10 affiliate Bible Schools in the region and to date, it has produced more than 4,600 graduates.
As one of the students in the first cohort, I remember the first day of school in a small room at Mackenzie Road. Most of us had no idea what to expect as there were no predecessors to share their experiences with us. Apart from the regular lessons, we had to travel to different parts of Singapore to attend conferences held by other churches which at times, were full-day events. It was a two-year course and we were involved in three mission trips, twice to Iloilo city in the Philippines and once to Mumbai in India. Those were days of intense training as I was constantly tested in the areas of academics, spirituality, faithfulness, discipline, attitude and finances. Yet the biblical knowledge and the experiences gained from spiritual encounters; from being discipled by the School’s founder, Kong Hee; from friendships that grew in the class; from mission trips and from financial breakthroughs—they were all priceless.
CHC places great emphasis on missions. Significantly, from October 2003 to May 2004, CHC had a record turnout of 280,002 people and 103,683 decisions for Christ over the course of 80 gospel meetings in 36 Asian cities.
Besides members’ participation in mission trips, the church held events such as the International Pastors’ School in 1997, 1998 and 2000 to equip and train pastors and leaders in Asia. In addition, CHC hosted the Southeast Asia Congress of Evangelism in 2002 for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
In 2008, CHC held its own conference—the inaugural Asia Conference saw the participation of 20,356 delegates from 68 cities. The event’s resounding success brought forth its next conference—CGI-Asia Conference 2010, in collaboration with Church Growth International, founded in 1976 by Dr. David Yonggi Cho, senior pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church. The conference recorded over 25,000 delegates from over 70 nations in attendance.
Another of CHC’s signature events was Emerge Youth Conference, inaugurated in 2003, which birthed a series of youth conferences over the years. Emerge proved such a hit that affiliate churches held their own, such as Emerge Taiwan Youth Conference and Emerge Malaysia Youth Conference.
By 2009, CHC had 47 affiliate Harvest churches that today are growing and influencing Asia for Christ.
SUPPORT GROUPS WITHIN
In addition to missions, CHC has also set up ministries and committees to cater to various needs of our church family. Aside from the 36 ministries, there are also support ministries such as: the Marketplace Ministry, which started in 2008, reaching out to the professionals in the marketplace; Edunet, a gathering for educators to share ideas and inspire one another to impact the future generation; the Aircrew Fellowship whereby Christian aircrew can reach out to and develop meaningful friendships among the aircrew community; Empowering Single Parents Network or ESPN, as well as the Expat Fellowship for expatriates in CHC.
EMBRACING TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA
Whether it is in the areas of music, media, lighting, and drama ministries, our church has been bold and innovative to obtain new technology for the advancement of God’s Kingdom. One good example is the Drama Ministry whereby the use of special effects and soundtracks are successfully blended into the acting and script. This is where talented individuals, with the use of technology, create high-quality performances. The drama performances are something I’ve always looked forward to.
CHC launched its live Internet webcast of the weekend services in 2002. To date, there are 10 satellite and cable television networks broadcasting CHC’s church services in Taiwan, Indonesia, Australia, India, Hong Kong, South Korea, the United States and the United Kingdom. While I lived overseas in Australia and China for more than four years, I would, without fail, tune in to watch CHC’s live webcast services every week. It was my source of encouragement and spiritual growth.
The church was awarded the Annual Intelligent20 Award in 2002 for its use of IT for high business value. CHC also received ISO 9001:2000 certification in 2004, and Internet Hitwise Awards from 2005 to 2009.
“SOW IN TEARS, REAP IN JOY”
Due to the growth of the church, the need to have a bigger area to worship God has been constantly in the prayers of the CHC leadership. Hence, for seven years from 1996 to 2002, the first “Arise & Build” building fund campaign was started and another wave of giving took effect from 2005 to 2010. Many members who had participated in the “Arise & Build” campaign testified that their sowing had resulted in financial breakthroughs and blessings in other areas of their lives.
For me, to participate in the “Arise & Build” is both a sacrifice and a rewarding process: I learned to manage my finances, and I experienced breakthroughs in wealth and in health. Whenever I go to church—the house of God, my second home on earth—I realized how much I need it, and I know all my sacrifices are worth it.
In retrospect, as I recall visiting preachers in the early days of CHC uttering words such as “Do not despise the days of small beginnings,” I feel privileged to be a witness to these words becoming flesh: from a handful to the masses we are today; from a small room to Suntec Singapore.