How Church of Singapore Harvest is strengthening the Chinese churches in Malaysia.
Contributed By Gareth Yeo
A vision to build a Chinese church in every village and town and a vision to strengthen the existing Chinese churches in Malaysia—this is the calling and vision that George Ong, 61, founder and senior minister of Church of Singapore Harvest had when he first set up the Harvest Christian Fellowship in Skudai, Johor, in 1997.
The church started as a humble cell group of 10 people. The gathering grew rapidly to reach a size of 50 within a short time. That was when Ong felt a calling from the Holy Spirit to officially start a church in Skudai (Johor) by renting the premises of an existing church. When the group grew to a few hundred people in a short span of a few years, Ong had to move the church to a bigger venue.
By the grace of God, and with the help of one of his members, the church procured a 15,000sqm space in a commercial complex. With a seating capacity of 600, the space was converted to house the growing congregation, as well as the children’s church, a nursery, a bookstore and an administrative office.
GROUNDED IN GOD
Ong, who is married to Helen and has three children, first came to Christ in 1966. In 1977, he entered into full time ministry, focusing on the work of the Holy Spirit as well as skills in inner healing and deliverance.
Ong envisioned three main goals when he first set up COSH. Firstly, he set out to build a church where members would be molded in their characters and attitudes to achieve the Great Commission. Secondly, he wanted to build up a trained ministry of church workers who would be able to serve the community, go on missions and disciple new members. Lastly, he wanted to build a church grounded in prayer, praise and worship.
“Our church is packed with a lineup of exciting activities every week. Besides the regular cell group gatherings and worship sessions for youths and adults, we conduct a variety of activities to cater to the different needs and interests of our members. For example, we have classes to teach praise and worship and songwriting, taking care of the elderly and handicapped, men’s ministry gatherings and spiritual renewal sessions for youths,” said Ong.
As a City Harvest Church affiliate, COSH shares many common characteristics with CHC. For example, the church encourages all its members to be water baptized as soon as they can. In addition, Ong encourages members to have a strong prayer life and to develop a strong, Christ-like character so that they can reach out to new members effectively.
HARVEST SCHOOL OF MINISTRY
It was this emphasis on character development and discipleship that led to the founding of Harvest School of Ministry in February 2001. The school is jointly set up by Ong and CHC’s senior pastor, Kong Hee, and its chief mission is to train and equip more leaders to build up and strengthen the Chinese churches in Malaysia. The school currently conducts a structured six-month program which focuses on leadership and church building topics such as spiritual growth and renewal, preaching techniques and discipleship.
Ong shared, “Over the years, SOM has managed to train up a core group of leaders and volunteer workers to reach out to the lost and needy in society. Moving forward, we are committed to building up new churches in different parts of Malaysia, especially in the smaller towns and villages where no churches exist.”
COSH also has an ongoing Bible training program to equip leaders and members with solid theological knowledge and Christian beliefs. Through these teachings, Ong aims to impact the community and work places, build up and strengthen the marriages within the church, as well as educate a new generation of youths.
“I am grateful for the help which Pastor Kong and City Harvest Church have rendered to us over the years. CHC has always been there for us, especially when we were developing our Bible study materials in the early years. CHC came here to lead and develop our ministries and outreach programs,” recalled Ong.
Ong is a firm believer in church members leading by example. He feels this is important in drawing and retaining new members in a church.
“In order for a church to grow, members must first display correct attitudes toward each other. They must be honest and respectful when dealing with one another, and most importantly, show genuine love and concern. It is this atmosphere that will draw others to the love of God. As Jesus said in John 13:35, ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’”
COSH has also made an impact in society. To date, it has set up two old folks homes to care for the growing population of elderly. Its volunteers have also been active in counseling drug addicts, as well as rendering financial aid and practical assistance to the mentally handicapped.
GLORY TO GLORY
From one church in Skudai in 1999, COSH has now set up two other affiliate churches—Harvest Christian Fellowship (Muar) and Harvest Christian Fellowship (Batam).
In November 2007, the church also managed to acquire its own building in the form of three five-storey shop houses in the Taman Sutera Utama district in Johor. The current premises has a worship capacity of 1,200, and also houses its Bible college.
“All glory goes to God for the goodness he has shown to our church. Going forward, I feel a strong sense of calling to continue to train up more leaders for the Chinese churches in Malaysia. In addition, we have set a goal to plant a new church every three years,” said Ong.