City Harvest Church saw 457 students graduating from its School Of Theology last weekend.
By Melissa Chen
Jude 1:24-25 says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Saviour, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.”
This was a verse Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church, gave to encourage the 457 graduating students on the School Of Theology graduation service held on Sep. 22 and 23.
He exhorted the cohort to live a life of love, wisdom and spiritual fulfilment that will bring “glory to God alone”, or in Latin, Soli Deo Gloria.
The students have gone through seven months of hard work and training, learning practical applications of deliverance, evangelism and missions; skills to build an effective ministry in a local church; and the character needed to fulfil the Great Commandment, the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate.
Dressed in black graduation robes and mortar boards, the 18th intake cohort waited expectantly for the graduation ceremony to commence—a service that would be run by their fellow graduating classmates. SOT musicians, choir members and song leaders were given the opportunity to lead the congregation in a time of praise and worship, while others shared their testimonies and seven-minute messages.
Keith Tay and Sheng Gang encouraged their cohort with lessons learned from Bible heroes. Tay exhorted his fellow classmates to be willing like David was, while Sheng reminded them to find strength from God’s Word and His Holy Spirit like Gideon did.
Two powerful testimonials shared by Yasumasa Aoki, 64, a former Yakuza gang leader, and Tan Si Ling, 21, a student with speech impediment, showed how God can bring hope and victory into any bad circumstances.
WISDOM FROM FOUR CREATURES
Kong inspired the student body in his commencement address with a message derived from Proverbs 30:24-28. He encouraged the students to gain wisdom from four things which are little on the earth, identified by the wisest king in Israel, King Solomon.
1) Ants: A Lesson On Preparation
Verse 25 of Proverbs 30 says that “The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer.” The ants’ philosophy is this: “During summer, think winter”. This means that the ants are always preparing for their future.
“If we are wise, we would do the same,” Kong said. “We have to prepare ourselves by seeking after God with all our hearts.”
In Luke 22:9, Jesus told the disciples to prepare four things. Firstly, “go to the city“, which signifies seeking the Kingdom of God; secondly, “to look for a man carrying a water pot”, which signifies looking for a place with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit; thirdly, “follow the man into the house”, which is to go into the House of God; and finally, “go to the upper room” which means to commit to prayer, worship, service and ministry. Kong emphasized that the place to prepare these things as Jesus instructed, is in the local church. It is thus important to stay connected to the church in order to prepare for the future.
2) Rock Badgers: A Lesson On Habitation
The rock badger is an extremely vulnerable creature but it has wisdom to take refuge in the rock. Every great man and woman in the Bible has weaknesses, but he or she becomes victorious when he or she takes refuge in God.
“Like the rock badgers, we need to be wise and find a rock to be our dwelling place, we need to stand on Christ the solid rock and take refuge in Him.”
3) Locusts: A Lesson On Unification
Locusts move in ranks because they know that they are weak when left alone; to survive, they need to work together. “The Bible says ‘one can put one thousand to flight; two can put ten thousand.’ Satan knows this and his plan is to divide and conquer,” Kong said. “That is why prayer is so important; a Church that prays together stays together.”
In Acts 2, when the disciples came together in one place and one accord, the Holy Spirit fell upon them. “There is power in agreement and if we stick together as a church, we live up to our name bringing harvest to the city!”
4) Spiders: A Lesson On Determination
Once a spider decides to stay in a place, it will not move. “You can sweep a spider web in the night, but a new web will appear by morning,” Kong said.
In moments of trials and difficulties, people tend to get weary and give up. But if a person is wise, he would choose to learn from the spider to never give up. Faith is clinging on to the promises of God and never letting go. When a mistake is made or a failure happens, restart, restore and rebuild.
Following the short preaching of the Word, the official graduation ceremony began. The graduating class of 2012 received their Advance Certificate of Theology from Kong, his wife Sun and Tan Ye Peng, the deputy senior pastor of CHC. At the end of the services, winners in six categories were announced for Best Attendance, Courage Award, Best Academic Performance, Minister of the Year, Best SOT Team and the Best Overall Student.
Tan Si Ling, who shared her testimony in the service, won the Courage Award. She said that her strength and courage came from two Bible verses, Matthew 6:33 and Psalm 50:15, both of which she often mediates on. When she faces problems and feelings of inadequacy, she chooses to trust that God has good plans for her future, and as long as she put God first, all things will be added unto her.
Shawn Wong won two awards, Best Overall Performance Award and Best Academic Performance Award. He said that the key to his success was leaning on God’s grace and being led by the Spirit. “My motivation lies in the fact that SOT is just seven months and I want to do it unto the Lord. It was difficult managing both full-time work and studies. My strategy is to maximize my day and put 100 percent at work and in school.”
The Best Team Award was given to Team 2 this year. The team’s motto “2gether, we gather” motivated members to stay united and each one made an effort to make sure no one got left behind. During their mission trip to Cambodia, the team came up with the idea of helping the less fortunate by selling bangles and friendship bands bought from Cambodia and donating the profits to the needy.
The graduation service ended with the SOT students leading the church in a beautiful rendition of the hymn “In Christ Alone.” The song was accompanied by a trio on keyboard, violin and the Chinese musical instrument, pipa, played by one of the top pipa soloist in China. The song was a beautiful reminder to the students that no matter what happens in the future, they can find their strength and hope in Christ alone.
Graduating SOT students share their thoughts with City News.
Zhang Shuai, 24, research engineer
I had been struggling with attitude problems for a long time. I almost lost my job before I came to SOT, due to my low self-confidence and fear of facing problems. But through my daily communion with God, the Holy Spirit helped me overcome these, and I now know that in God all things are truly possible. Through constant prayer and thanksgiving, my attitude problems have changed, and my boss likes my performance.
Shilpa Susan George, 28, former aircraft engineer
Going through SOT was an exhilarating journey which set alight my inner spiritual being. It is a wondrous compendium of knowledge and experience, full of interesting deeper Bible truths which transformed my thinking from being a mere human into a confident individual, as I discovered the innate talents that God has deposited in me. SOT is like a fire that shapes our mind, invigorates our spirit, warms our body and prepares us to live an impactful life in an uncertain world.
Vivienne Leaw, 35, financial consultant
I came to SOT with anxieties in my heart. I couldn’t wait to graduate in the first month. But it has been nothing but amazing. I experienced the grace of God in the most supernatural way, especially my sister’s salvation back in Malaysia. SOT has left me with a deeper hunger and thirst for God. Truly, SOT is not the peak of my journey with God, because I want more!
Clement Phua, 24, student
Learning to bring every thought captive to Christ was the key to one of my miracles at SOT. I was set free from my guilt and shame of a particular sin which I was not able to let go previously due to lack of knowledge.