City Harvest Church came back to the heart of worship at its first-ever Encounters evening.
Contributed By Venessa Thor
On Oct. 25 at 8 p.m., thousands of City Harvest Church members came together for a night of worship at its Jurong West premises. The first of its kind for the church, Encounters was conceptualized by CHC’s co-founder Sun Ho and assistant creative director Mark Kwan, inspired by worship sessions organized by various churches in the USA. Senior pastor Kong Hee explained that he wanted Encounters to be a “spontaneous, agenda-less” meeting.
Upon returning from overseas a year ago, Ho began gathering the church’s pastoral and creative teams regularly to brainstorm ideas to improve the functions of the church in order to better cater to the needs of the congregation. Among the ideas were priority seating areas for people with special needs, the “My Inflections” journal, the church-wide Bible reading plan and an upcoming devotional music album. Along with these, Encounters, the inaugural worship night was birthed.
Encounters would not have happened without the close collaboration between the worship, creative and technical teams. While the worship team rehearsed for the music and vocal arrangements, the audio, video and lighting crew worked equally hard to help create an environment that would enhance the worship experience for the members. “I’m really proud of the teamwork and ‘coming together’ that our various departments displayed to make Encounters a success and a blessing to our members,” Kwan shared.
The service started on a high note as members joined in a time of worship with Hillsong’s “Yahweh.” This was followed by two energetic praise songs, Israel Houghton’s “Friend Of God” and Hillsong United’s “All About You.” Ho led the church with the classic “Heart Of Worship” and “How He Loves Us.” At one point, the lyrics of “How He Loves Us” was modified to “How I Love You” as members sang to each other in what CHC senior pastor Kong Hee described as “a lovey-dovey moment.”
After an hour of deep praise and worship, Kong shared a message about the meaning of true worship. He emphasized the importance of being known as a church of love, instead of just a “big and groovy” church. Kong reminded the church staff and leaders in particular that their primary calling was not to a career, a ministry or even a church, but to the Lord.
Kong drew from the story of Mary and Martha in the book of Luke. He contrasted Mary, the one who worshipped at Jesus’ feet with Martha, who was always busy serving. Even though Martha was the “natural-born” leader, Mary was the one who impressed Jesus the most because of her heart of worship. While others knew about the acts of God, Mary understood the ways of God. The senior pastor exhorted the leaders to take time out from worrying about their cell groups to enter into worship, because the best expression of a believer’s love toward God is time.
Next, Ho shed light on the origin of the event name, Encounters. “Encounters move us from the natural realm to the spiritual realm,” she explained. In the same way Moses’ life was changed after his encounter with God at the burning bush and how the great apostle Paul’s life was changed after an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, encounters with God through worship will also transform our lives, Ho said.
“Worship always leads to encounters and without encounters, Christianity is just a dry religion,” she explained. Because of encounters with God, everything that we read in the Bible is no longer just head knowledge; it manifests as something that is alive. Ho also shared some of her personal encounters with God from her journal, and encouraged members to write down their God-moments.
The highlight of the evening happened when Ho and Kwan surprised everyone with a rendition of the popular hit “Have I Told You Lately?” by Van Morrison. Sung to the Lord, this wedding staple took on deep meaning for all.
This night of worship was a time of refreshing and awakening for many. Tan Xin Yi, 19, a student, shared, “The most memorable part of the service for me was when we sang, ‘How He Loves Us.’ I felt the tangible presence and love of God and it really refreshed my relationship with God. The atmosphere was so charged with love, for God and for one another.”
The future of Encounters looks promising, with plans for a larger-scale version to be held at Suntec Singapore in the near future, to enable more members to attend and be blessed. The team also plans to invite other music ministries for subsequent Encounters.