A longtime Emerge attendee chalks up the defining aspects of this year’s Emerge, City Harvest Church’s annual youth event.
Nine years ago, I attended my first Emerge event. I was a “baby” Christian then, having received Christ just two months before that. This past week, I witnessed many younger ones sign up for the same thing; if my own experience is anything to go by, it will go down as a life-changing five days for them.
At the ripe “old” age of 25 (Emerge participation age is from 13 to 25), I was more of a helper rather than a participant this time round, but having attended every single Emerge event since 2005, I can safely say that this year’s Emerge was the absolute best of all. Here’s why:
1. Bonding “in the trenches”
Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
On the first day, participants were grouped into different “houses” according to their schools to compete in games that seemed to have been designed to leave everyone as sore and exhausted as possible by the end of the day. But while limits were tested, friendships were formed. At one of the games I facilitated, the participants had to hold up a huge basin of water using their feet for a full five minutes (it’s a lot tougher than it sounds) and I witnessed first-hand how teammates encouraged each other to press on. Despite being exhausted, legs cramping up and all, nobody threw in the towel, knowing their teammates would have suffered if they gave up. You cannot not make good friends after going through this sort of travails together.
As I witnessed this camaraderie, I was reminded of my own Emerge experience in 2007, when I joined the Parade of Schools as part of the Nanyang Polytechnic cluster and got to know many other fellow City Harvesters from NYP. Our friendship remains intact to this day—in fact, we all re-gathered when one member of this group recently celebrated her baby’s first birthday. I’m absolutely sure that many of these friendships forged during Emerge will only grow in the years to come.
2. Challenged to plunder hell and populate Heaven
Acts 2:47 says “ … praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” One of the key highlights for this year’s Emerge was the Book of Acts challenge which was launched three weeks earlier. Over 21 days, participants read the entire Book of Acts and fasted corporately.
On the second night of Emerge (Thursday Jun 26), Pastor Kong challenged attendees to put aside “friendship evangelism”—building relationships without mentioning Jesus—and be bold in sharing the Gospel with our friends.
And bold we became. Midway into Emerge Wars the next day, the campers broke for lunch and embarked on ‘Evangelism Hour’ where for one full hour, everybody texted, called and Whatsapp-ed their friends and classmates, inviting them to church service that weekend; many of the new friends who came on gave their hearts to Jesus. I was also extremely touched by the sight of students heading to the ‘Stand for Revival’ wall at Suntec Convection’s Hall 605 and writing the name of their respective campuses and schools. It was so heartening to see the youth taking ownership and pledging to make a difference in their campuses.
3. Soaking in Presence so thick you can “slice it with your hands.”
Exodus 33:14 reads: “And He said, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” The defining moment of this year’s Emerge was not the activities or even the explosive praise and worship, complete with headbanging and all. For me, it was still the wonderful presence of God. I loved how my house leader Derrick Chen put it in his prayer—“Let the presence of God be so thick we can slice it with our hands.” And it was indeed so.
As I worshiped with young people in one accord over the past five days, the presence of God overwhelmed the entire hall—whether the venue was the Jurong West church or the Suntec Convention auditorium. There was so much joy unspeakable as we jumped and lifted our hands, praising and worshiping God together.
It was the same glorious presence I encountered when I attended my first Emerge event nine years ago. It is also this presence that sets Emerge apart from every other school/ holiday camp.
I could not help but tear every single time we entered into praise and worship.
Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” There is always something special when young people come together to pray and seek God wholeheartedly.
In the book of Acts, 120 people waited and tarried during the day of Pentecost until the Holy Spirit came. Over the past five days, I witnessed how the young people cried out collectively for the touch of the Holy Spirit, just like the 120 in the Book of Acts.
On the finale night (Friday Jun 27), Pastor Kong asked all the youth cell group leaders and connect group coordinators to come forward to receive an impartation. Although we were supposed to board our buses home at 10:30pm, practically nobody left the auditorium. Leader or not, everybody stayed and tarried in the auditorium hungering for that one touch from the Holy Spirit. We worshiped and sang, arms lifted, knees bended, and hearts abandoned for our Lord and King as the power of God swept through the entire auditorium, consuming our hearts.
Jeremiah 1:7 reads: “But the Lord said to me: ‘Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak.’” Emerge may have ended, but the revival has only just begun. As I scroll through the Instagram posts of the young people under the hashtag #chcemerge, I am so touched to see the youth making a public declaration and commitment toward the cause of revival in their own campuses.
Beyond all the hype and rave, Emerge is really all about empowering the youth to stand in the gap and be channels of God’s love and power to their schools and campuses. I was once again reminded that the youth are not insignificant, undependable or unspiritual.
Emerge 2014 may be over, but something has been set in motion in the hearts of every Emerge participant. What is birthed in the spirit can only be sustained in the spirit. Some of the greatest miracles recorded in the Bible were performed by youth, and I know some of the greatest revivals we will see in our generation will be carried out by the young people of Emerge 2014. God has called all of us to stand for Him. It is time for us all to live out the Book of Acts. It is time to stand for revival.