Building on the foundations of discipleship and commitment, CHC’s Indonesian Service caps ten years of ministry with steady, organic growth.
By Timothy John Chandra and Yong Yung Shin
Ten years ago, City Harvest Indonesian Service was but a group of 40 young people. Led by Aries Zulkarnian, CHC’s executive pastor, it has since grown—and not just in terms of numbers—into a congregation characterized by a particularly anointed music ministry.
On Nov. 3, the Indonesian Service celebrated its 10th anniversary at Singapore Expo, kicking off with an exuberant praise and worship session. Sharing in between song items, Zulkarnian recalled how the Indonesian service started as a gathering with no properly qualified songleader and musician, just a handful of people who caught the vision for a new journey, one that started from scratch.
The Indonesian Service started when Zulkarnian and several others felt an increasing need to have an avenue for Indonesian believers to express themselves and develop their ministry talents in their native tongue and tradition, referring to the Indonesian culture to gather, “in whichever country we find ourselves!”
Being the Service’s main preacher, Zulkarnian himself had to work at improving his mastery of Bahasa Indonesia. “I wrote out my sermon word-for-word, and committed myself to conversing and praying more in Bahasa Indonesia.” He was also given opportunities to preach overseas, which helped significantly in building his confidence. Today, Zulkarnian is a bilingually effective preacher. But that was just one of the challenges. “We also had to work around the inconsistency in the attendance, as many of the members have to go back to their home country every once in a while, so there was a lack of regular critical mass.” The imperative therefore was to raise up strong cell group leaders who had a burden to reach out to their fellow Indonesians.
Making do with what they had, they started discipling and training younger members in who made themselves available regularly. Commitment was key, as was consistency.
Pioneering member Raymond Sigarlaki, 35, recalls the initial years as a period when his character was molded, thinking changed and capacity enlarged. “Being the only full-time worker, I was involved in doing the music, translations, order of service, follow-up with new members … I remember going to a friend’s house at Toa Payoh every Saturday night to use his computer, sometimes until 3 a.m., to prepare materials for service the next day.”
Tiredness got to him one particular evening, but just before he wanted to throw in the towel for the day, Zulkarnian said to him, “If you want to do something, you can do it.” It was a simple phrase, but one that caused a paradigm shift in him to serve not in his own strength but God’s.
Slowly but surely the ministry began to bear fruit. “When I see the favor of God in the personal lives of our members, people being blessed by our ministry, I am just so thankful to God for everything in the past ten years, and I know that He is with us every step of the way,” says Sigarlaki.
In 2010, a praise and worship band was formed out of the Indonesian Service. Naming themselves 3PM in reference to the hour at which the Indonesian Service used to start on Sundays in previous years, the band’s debut album, Unto You, was launched at the Church Growth International and Asia Conference in May 2010 to much positive response. It even clinched the Album of the Year award at the Indonesian Gospel Music Awards 2010.
The band has since traveled around the region to bless and minister to the Body of Christ, especially to churches in Indonesia including GPdI Elohim and GBT Kristus Alpha Omega in Surabaya.
All members currently serving in leadership and ministry positions have grown up in the Service itself, groomed and discipled in-house. In fact, all the songs sang that morning are original compositions by members themselves—no small feat for a congregation no more than 200 members in size.
Adds Timothy John Chandra, 22, a student at the Singapore Management University who is serving as a cell group leader, “Indonesian service has taught me, firstly, how to serve God with my heart, even if it is just stacking chairs and sorting bulletins.”
“Fast forward to this year—my sixth—in Indonesian Service, I have been given opportunities to serve in leadership positions, by helping mentor the youth God has entrusted to my cell group in the past years, and even preaching offering messages during the main service. It is a humbling opportunity which helps prepare me for the vision of becoming a pastor in Indonesia.”
His vision for his homeland echoes that of Zulkarnian’s. “Whenever I travel back to Indonesia, I will always meet hundreds of our SOT (School of Theology) students. This reminded me that the work of God here in CHC should not just be contained in Singapore but brought to Indonesia, and through this ministry, we are sowing many seeds.”
The service was also attended by Nala Widya, senior pastor of El Shaddai Community Church in Bandung, who gave a rousing exhortation to the members to continue serving in and growing the ministry.
Today, the congregation size stands at about 150, a family of close-knit, committed members. A strong sense of community prevails, especially when one member even announced his wedding on stage and promptly invited everyone to attend as he “did not have everybody’s email addresses”, promptly loud cheers from the floor.
Zulkarnian’s hope for the coming years is that the ministry will encounter more growth in tandem with that of CHC itself.
“If I were to re-live my time here in Singapore, Indonesian Service will still be a part of it,” says Chandra.
The Indonesian Service is currently on break and will resume in January 2013.