At its 23rd Anniversary Services, City Harvest Church demonstrated the vision, unity and love that have become its calling card over the years.
By Terence Lee Jun Rong
Not content to rest on past glory, nor defeated by present difficulties, churchgoers created an exuberant atmosphere of expectant celebration, convinced that greater things have yet to come, and that greater things are still to be done in this city and in the world. City Harvest Church celebrated its anniversary, on the weekend of Aug. 11 and 12, with visitors from around the world. Many long-time friends of the church like Canon James Wong, former executive pastor Derek Dunn and his wife Susan, were all in attendance to share in the festivities.
The members of CHC celebrated their birthday with their talents in music and dance, with performances weaving in and out of the various testimonies sharing and preaching. A beatbox-and-dance combination kicked off the service with a bang. Dancers in black tank tops and combat fatigues, representing the army of God, executed a killer hip-hop routine. For the second dance item, which was a modern dance piece, the performers glided across the stage with a limber ease that belied their many hours of preparation.
Instead of the usual one speaker, one sermon format, the anniversary services were each preached in five parts, by five different pastors, each focusing on a different aspect of God and His church. Kong Hee, senior pastor of CHC; Paul Scanlon, senior pastor of Abundant Life Church, Bradford, UK; Jeffrey Rachmat, senior pastor of Jakarta Praise Community Church, Jakarta, Indonesia; Abraham Ku, senior pastor of New Life Church, Taipei, Taiwan, and Phil Pringle, senior pastor, Christian City Church, Sydney, Australia reminded the church of God’s great work in His people—in things past, present and in things that are yet to come.
In the past 23 years, CHC has seen 161,964 decisions for Christ as well as 116,906 rededications. During the Crossover project from 2002 to 2004, 136,783 people received Jesus Christ over 140 concerts. The School Of Theology, CHC’s Bible school, has seen 5,480 students graduate; and now, CHC has 49 affiliate churches throughout Asia.
Of the many who have felt the impact of CHC’s work in Singapore and in Asia, two took to the stage to share their testimony of how God and the church had changed their lives.
Vivien Yap was a former teenage runaway who found her life spiraling out of control as she became ensnared in a cycle of drugs and bad company. She shared how she was brought to CHC and, before the service was out, had given her life to Jesus. Subsequently, she slowly overcame her depression. As a volunteer at one of the Crossover concert, she learned how Sun Ho overcame her past, and left with a desire to “find a hurt and heal it; find a need and meet it.” This was a turning point in her life. She enrolled as a private candidate to complete her education, and subsequently registered for the SOT. Yap has been working as a staff member of CHC for seven years, and has reconciled with her family. She credited Sun for teaching her “how to love again.”
In his own words, before Teddy Hung became a Christian, he was “Satan incarnate”–he had four wives and six to seven girlfriends, each of whom was a top model or actress in Hong Kong. The triads feared him, and, over the 1970s and 1980s, he achieved notoriety as one of the top drug dealers in the world. He “hated people who shared about Jesus,” cursing and swearing at them, boasting that “I am prepared to go to Hell.” However, as he grew older, his conscience ate away at him, and soon he found himself depressed and unable to sleep. Doctors could not cure his depression or insomnia. At his wit’s end, he accepted an invitation by a group of pastors to attend a Crossover concert 10 years ago where he was invited to give his life to Jesus. He said the sinner’s prayer, went home, and prayed, “If you are real, Jesus, heal me and I am yours.” Almost before he could finish, he experienced the first restful sleep he had had in years. “This Jesus is so powerful,” he shared, “that with just a few words, I was healed.” He invited himself back to church, where he received many miracles. He gave up his illegal businesses, relationships and enrolled in Bible school. Three years ago, he planted a small church reaching out to ex-triad members. Now, it has 120 members and is still growing.
In his sermonette, Kong Hee spoke about the greatness of God–“God’s true greatness is because He cares greatly for us, and because He cares for His church.” The love and undeserved favor he showers on his people are eternal testaments to His greatness.
“God uses imperfect people to do His perfect work,” shared Kong. Bringing God’s love to the world, he added, was one of the reasons that CHC embarked on the Church Without Walls and the Crossover projects. He reminded churchgoers that “it is okay to be broken, because the Bible says, ‘a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise’.” Despite the current tough circumstances, he reassured the church that God cares for His church–it is built on Jesus Christ, and God has promised that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Scanlon continued on this theme, reminding the congregation that the people of God are special–“you’re the most amazing bunch of people on Earth!” God’s people, he said, are chosen before they are born–“we are not the people of God because of anything we have done.” Because of that, “God’s people are all on the same level … we’re all chosen first … we are chosen for life.” Even when they were sinners, he reminded the church, God loved them and chose them. “And,” he concluded, “being chosen means you’re special.”
For churchgoers in times of difficulty, finding rest in God presents a miraculous time of growth and restoration. Jeffrey Rachmat spoke of the cycle of day and night as a representation of the partnership between Man and God: “Daylight is for us to do what is possible, for us to fulfill our potential; night time is for us to rest, while God does the impossible.” Despite our primitive fear of darkness and night, Rachmat reminded churchgoers that “God created both day and night, and both the day and the night are good.”
In a Christian’s spiritual life, he explained, daytime is meant for work, for sowing. That is when he receives clear direction from the Holy Spirit. However, when darkness comes and spiritual direction seems unclear, Christians ought to go to Jesus to receive His rest. When we sleep, Rachmat said, “the night feels shorter; Jesus works on our behalf; we get new visions from God; we grow.”
Preaching in Mandarin, Abraham Ku brought greetings of peace and love from his church in Taipei. The heart of God is one of peace and love, and he reminded the church that God is most creative and powerful when, as in Genesis 1:2, the earth was formless, empty and dark–symbolic of difficult times. Like a mother hen guarding her eggs, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters, protective and loving. By His Spirit, God formed Adam out of Adamaha (Hebrew for dust) and gave him dominion over all the earth–Adamaha was nothing, but Adam had everything. Ku exhorted the congregation to “let God choose you, set you apart and cover you, shape you and mold you.” He commanded the congregation to “rise up, and continue to build the church,” to be good stewards and caretakers of all that the Lord has given.
For all the blessings of God that are given and that have been given to CHC, Phil Pringle reminded the congregation to be grateful and give thanks. “The password is ‘Thank You.’” For past, present and future blessings, the first response of a believer, Pringle said, should be to give thanks. Trials and difficult times are times to be thankful: “I am thankful for my friends, but also for my enemies, because they show me what’s inside of me.”
Echoing his message, churchgoers were thankful for the support and love shown by these leaders. Wong Jieyun, 25, shared, “Seeing the leaders of these different churches coming all the way from different continents to stand with us and support us with words on encouragement really brought affirmation and strength to us.” Her fiancé, Dwayne Lum, 25, agreed, “I think all the messages and testimonies were very encouraging. They lifted my spirit and made me realize that God is in control and working even in the midst of trying circumstances.”
Pringle reminded the church that just as important as things that have been, and things that are, are the things yet to come. “When you give thanks for your past, you rewrite your history; when you start thanking God for the future that you can’t yet see, you become a self-fulfilling prophecy!”