City Harvest Church is a “missions church” that has carried out the Great Commission since its inception. Missions director Bobby Chaw recounts CHC’s history spreading the Gospel.
In 1989, a young man named Kong Hee had his heart set on being a missionary. Just as he was about to embark on a journey to be a full-time missionary to the Philippines with Christ for Asia, a Singapore-based organization, the Holy Spirit gave him another mission: to “raise up a new generation of believers that will take the nations by storm”.
Kong heeded the call of God and, along with 20 young people, birthed City Harvest Church. But he never lost his desire to reach the nations outside of Singapore.
“Mission work has always been in Pastor Kong’s heart and part of his DNA,” says Bobby Chaw, CHC’s missions director. “His theological belief is to go outside of Singapore into all the world, preach the Gospel and make disciples.”
Although Kong focused on building the local church in the early days, he would make regular trips to churches in countries like the Philippines and Malaysia to preach, usually with one other church worker.
“At that time, overseas missions involved only Pastor Kong and the full-time church staff,” recalls Chaw. “But in 1994, when CHC launched its Bible school, then called City Harvest Bible Training Centre (CHBTC), now the School of Theology (SOT), the church started sending Bible School students out to the mission field.”
IN ALL JUDEA & SAMARIA
In 2002, following a prophecy he received, Kong declared CHC was a “missions church”. That year, the church launched the Crossover Project, sending Sun Ho, the church’s co-founder and wife of Kong, out into the world as a secular singer who used pop music to bring the Gospel to the unchurched. To organize Ho’s Gospel concerts, CHC began working with churches in different parts of Asia, like Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia.
“The Crossover Project was a big breakthrough in our overseas missions work,” Chaw says. “Through this project, we were connected to different churches in Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia. As we started working with them, many of these churches formed a relationship with us. We worked together on the concerts, and we got people saved for the city.”
To each city Ho held a Gospel concert in, CHC would send an advance team to conduct training for the ministry workers of the partner church before the concert. “We taught them whole process: how to walk with the counselees to the front, say the sinner’s prayer with them, take down their particulars, pray with them and how to conduct follow-up after that. Because of this process of working together, relationships were built,” explains Chaw.
The Taiwanese churches that had collaborated with CHC on the Crossover concerts started sending their members to SOT, CHC’s Bible school in Singapore. Up to that point, SOT had mostly trained Singaporeans in English, but in 2002, the School received its first batch of foreign Chinese-speaking students. Since that year, SOT’s yearly intake has become increasingly international, and lessons are simultaneously translated into Mandarin and Japanese.
In 2003, Kong felt a burden to reach out to China. When he shared this with the church, church members began to go to China for short-term mission trips and study trips. Chaw says, “Each zone in CHC adopted a province in China and started praying for the people there. At that time we were still seeking the Lord on the direction for China.”
The teams that went on the trips established connections with the local Chinese churches. In 2004, a missionary to China, Dennis Balcombe introduced CHC to several local churches in China and that opened many doors. Over the years, CHC has made over 700 trips to these parts of China.
THE BLUEPRINT OF CHC’S MISSIONS
By April 2014, CHC has sent its church members to 86 global cities on missions. CHC’s belief in building strong local churches has resulted, today, in 48 affiliate churches and 30 associate ministries, as well as Bible schools in Indonesia and the Philippines.
“Pastor Kong’s concept of missions is that we don’t knock on just any door, but we go to places where we have a relationship with the people,” Chaw says. “This is because we want to have longevity in our work in a certain place—we don’t want to be doing one-off mission trips. We want to keep going back to help them build their local church, to make disciples, to help their church grow, help their music band transform and help them become more effective in evangelism. We mostly go to the churches started or run by SOT graduates because we already have a relationship with them.”
Since it was founded, SOT has played a crucial role in CHC’s overseas missions work.
“The sending out of Bible school students for mission trips from 1994 marked a milestone for CHC’s overseas missions,” notes Chaw. “From just Pastor Kong and full-time staff going on missions, the Bible school students were now involved.”
Because of such mission trips, CHC was able to extend its influence to the overseas churches. Two years later, CHBTC received its first batch of international students from nations like India, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
The relationship between CHC and the international SOT graduates does not end the day they graduate. Many of them keep in touch with the leaders in CHC because they want to bring CHC’s “DNA” back to their churches in their home country.
“After receiving their training, many international students return to their countries to build churches but they stay in regular contact. When they share with us the needs of their church and the problems they face, we would try to send teams to help them build their church. Some may not give us a formal invitation because they are too shy, but every year they would come and visit CHC with their team. When we start to know them better, we would offer our help,” explains Chaw.
To date, SOT has equipped up to 6,663 students from 38 countries with a passion for the Word and a heart for the harvest. “Many of the relationships we have with our affiliate and associate churches today started because our SOT graduates stayed in touch with us and asked for discipleship,” Chaw says.
“We have a covenant with these churches because they want to build a church that follows CHC’s mission. We want to help them achieve this so we provide the training and resources they need. In return, they would give us regular progress reports.”
3 TYPES OF MISSIONS
Chaw identifies three types of missions CHC conducts. The first are overseas evangelistic meetings.
To support overseas churches, Kong would visit and preach at their services, and spend time in discipling and fellowshipping with the pastors and leaders of the church. Sometimes, he would bring a worship band or visual communications staff to train the local ministry workers to improve the quality of their worship services.
The overseas Emerge meetings, which began in 2006 in Taiwan, Kuching and Kuala Lumpur are an example of such support. Emerge is a CHC youth movement that holds a major event once a year, and affiliate churches have adapted its format for their youth populations. Chaw describes, “We sent the pastoral team to work together with the ministry workers in the local churches so they could get ‘on-the-job’ training. Many of our members volunteered on these trips to show the locals how to run the evangelistic services, youth camps and they also helped facilitate events.”
The second type of mission work is training and teaching. Currently, apart from SOT in Singapore, CHC has Bible Training Centers in Indonesia and the Philippines that equip church pastors and leaders in those countries. To date, these Bible Training Centers have graduated 3,786 students.
Chaw explains that sometimes it is difficult for overseas leaders to come to Singapore to attend SOT, “so we want to help them. At the Bible Training Centers in these countries, we gather the local church leaders and members and teach them CHC’s Bible study curriculum. The program is short-term: lessons are conducted over a week each month, for five or six months. This allows them to cover five or six books in the Bible study program.”
Further support comes from church members and SOT students who organize short-term mission trips.
“The SOT students or church members would usually hold evangelistic meetings on their mission trips because it gives the local church a reason to have a big meeting and invite their unchurched friends,” says Chaw. “Sometimes, our members help to organize youth camps or do humanitarian work like refurbishing orphanages and homes for the elderly.”
Church members keen to go on such mission trips gather their own team members, then work with the church’s missions department. The department then finds out the needs of the affiliate and associate churches, and connects the teams accordingly.
The third kind of overseas missions that CHC conducts is disaster relief work. CHC has sent medical aid into places that have suffered earthquakes and tsunamis, like Banda Aceh, Haiti, Sichuan, Sendai and most recently, Nepal. Unlike the other types of missions, these preach the Gospel not with words but with actions. Says Chaw, “in theology, humanitarian work is part of Christian missions. Jesus said, ‘When I was hungry you fed me, when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink.’ We reach those in need with the love of Christ, just as Mother Teresa did in Calcutta.”
NEXT: REACHING THE CHINESE IN SINGAPORE
This year, CHC’s missions has a new focus: reaching unchurched Chinese nationals in Singapore. Chaw explains this does not replace the mission work CHC has been doing overseas. “What we have established, we will continue to do,” he says, “but the new work we are doing now is to reach out to the mainland Chinese here.”
This grew out of a revelation that Kong had when he met Rev Dr Chan Kim Kwong in Hong Kong this year. Chan is the executive secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Council, whom God had given a burden for China. For over 30 years, Chan traveled across China, studying the development of Christianity in the mainland and its territories over the decades.
Chan told Kong that God has brought over a million Chinese nationals to Singapore. Many of them are here to study and work for a period of time. Since CHC has already sown into China’s mission work over the years, why not reach the Chinese people in Singapore?
To create the momentum for this vision, CHC organized its inaugural Chinese Leadership and Revival Seminar in June this year. Almost 300 church pastors and leaders from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan gathered for the three-day conference.
Kong taught the leaders about the secrets to CHC’s growth and revival over the years, and about the relationship between youth ministry and pop culture.
CHC members were encouraged to invite their China-born friends to church that weekend. A special item, the Parade of Provinces showcased representatives from different provinces, highlighting the unique characteristics of each province. Taiwanese singer, Wing Luo, performed and shared his testimony. That weekend, many people responded to the altar call for salvation and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Chaw says that in the coming months, CHC will hold regular English services with a Chinese emphasis “to create a platform for the English-speaking members to bring their China-born friends,” he says.
Where God leads CHC in this next phase of its missions remains to be seen, but the church will remain faithful to its call to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.