City Harvest Church, Sydney, carries a mission and passion to see Australia saved.
Contributed By Andrew Ong
The vision of Kong Hee, senior pastor and founder of City Harvest Church, is to strengthen and build local churches in Asia. However, that did not deter John Yun-Suk Lee from planting an affiliate church of CHC in Sydney, Australia, with Kong’s blessings, of course.
Lee, an Australian of Korean descent pastors City Harvest Church, Sydney, a youthful and thriving church in the beautiful sprawling cosmopolitan city. He fondly recounted the time when he shared with Kong, whom he regards as his spiritual mentor, how he felt that Australia was part of God’s plan for Asia.
“I shared with Pastor Kong about my call and heart for the nation of Australia. My vision was to bring the same spirit and DNA of CHC into the local churches in Australia. And Sydney is a multi-cultural city that comprises a substantial population of Asians. After hearing me out, he gave his blessings for me to pursue my call and vision,” said Lee.
CONVERTED IN A LAND OF IMMIGRANTS
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 31.7 percent of Sydney’s 4.5 million city population is born overseas. Apparently, immigration to Sydney exploded after World War II, and again at the end of the 1980s. The immigrants mostly came from the United Kingdom, China and New Zealand, followed by Vietnam, Lebanon, India, Italy, and the Philippines.
Lee was residing in Australia when he encountered Christ in 1994. He was a third-year undergraduate in a university in Melbourne, studying dental science. An atheist back then, he was involved with a communist group called the Resistance.
It was not until a personal crisis hit him that he started to search for true meaning in life. His then-girlfriend contracted leukaemia and Lee was devastated. A close friend took the opportunity to invite him to church, where he felt the overwhelming sense of God’s love. That was when he responded to God and gave his heart to Jesus.
“I was convinced that Jesus truly loved me and died for me,” said Lee. “The next day when I woke up, I felt my world had changed. I could feel the fullness of His joy and love in me!”
Subsequently, his life went through a radical transformation. God revived his passion for his profession as a dentist; he started to enjoy serving people, not just earning money. With his new-found faith in God, Lee was also able to quit his bad habits of smoking, drinking and pub-crawling. All he desired was to know God more and to study the Bible.
ANSWERING THE CALL
Not long after his conversion, Lee went to the Philippines for short-term missions and there he became acquainted with several pastors who were blessed by the ministry of CHC and its School Of Theology. They encouraged him to enroll into SOT. With God’s assurance, Lee traveled to Singapore and attended SOT in 1998.
His first visit to CHC—then located at what used to be Hollywood Theatre—was “a mind-blowing experience.” Coming from a traditional church background, Lee was not used to CHC’s dynamic and contemporary style of church. But while at SOT, he personally witnessed the exponential growth of CHC from 4,000 to 6,000 people; and learned many spiritual principles of leadership and church growth that were to help him in future.
After graduating from SOT, Lee returned to Melbourne. At his home church, Lee tried to introduce the cell group system. Attempting change within a traditional church from the bottom was nearly impossible. So after a year, Lee decided to return to Singapore to attend CHC. While in Singapore, he made time and effort to follow Kong whenever he conducted leaders’ conferences in Johor Bahru.
BIRTH OF THE SYDNEY CHURCH
After five years in Singapore, Lee returned to Australia to complete a Master’s program at the New South Wales University. At the same time, he started a prayer meeting group at the campus with seven fellow Christians who were Singaporeans. The group soon grew in number.
Upon Kong’s encouragement, Lee started his first weekend service and this resulted in the birth of City Harvest Church, Sydney in 2005 with 24 people. Within three months, the church grew to 98 people.
Today in 2011, the Sydney church is a 220-people congregation of 14 nationalities: 120 are Korean, the others are from around the globe. Because of its growth, the church had to move no less than 10 times in the six years since its inception. Now it has two separate worship venues for its Korean congregation and the international congregation. The church is now embarking on a church-building program for their own permanent building.
Nathan Lee, 30, who has been attending CHC Sydney for three years, is full of gratitude for being rooted in this spiritual family. Before joining the church, his life “was a mess”—he was a drug addict who peddled drugs. After receiving Christ during a weekend service, he gave his heart to the Lord and his life was totally changed. He went through Bible study and discipleship for three years. Now he is serving as a cell group leader at CHC Sydney, and is enrolled in a Master’s Degree course in business management.
He said, “Pastor John has been a great role model for me. It was his sincerity and love that moved me towards God. Before and after knowing Christ, he has always been there like a father-figure to me.” His 58-year old mother, Jennifer is thankful for the positive influence the pastor has on her son.
Lee concedes that the early beginnings of the church were tough due to his lack of experience in pastoring and leading a church. Moreover, he was constantly juggling between his dentistry work and ministry in the church. He attributes the existing success of the church to Kong and his constant encouragement and guidance.
“Whenever Pastor Kong and I conversed, I would receive new revelation and renewed faith to overcome the obstacles that I faced in pastoring the church. Pastor’s belief in me also empowered me,” Lee said. “When I’m doubtful, he will always remind me that it was God that called me to start this ministry; hence, He will give me the power and strength to overcome.”
CHC Sydney has a vision to reach an attendance of 3,500 people in the next five years. This vision has energized the congregation as they now do not merely see themselves as a small church but a church with a big vision to be of influence in the city.
The church will be holding a Transformation Conference from June 27 to 29 this year, in which Kong will be speaking. This is part of the church’s efforts to bring a wave of transformation into the lives of individuals in the marketplace.
Although Christianity is the predominant faith in Australia, CHC Sydney considers it its mission to see the fullness of Christ revealed in their nation.
To learn more about CHC Sydney, visit www.cityharvest.com.au.