City Harvest Church defied its circumstances to live out its most spiritual and miracle-filled year yet.
2016 has been an exceptional year for City Harvest Church. This year, the church has been hungrier than ever for the things of God, more spiritual, more sacrificial, more generous, more creative than it has been in a long while in its 27-year history.
Despite the many odds it has faced and it continues to face—this was the sixth year since the start of the “City Harvest trial”, and as the year closes, the verdict of the appeal by the six and the State’s prosecutors has yet to be delivered—CHC has not just withstood the tough times, it has, in 2016, flourished in many ways.
It cannot be denied that the trial had taken its toll on the church, and for five years the church bore that cross. But this year, as if in a physical manifestation of Ephesians 6:13, CHC, having put on the armor of God, being able to stand its ground and having done all, stood.
MORE OF GOD
CHC pastoral team pulled out all the stops this year when it came to building up the congregation’s spiritual life. The pastors and pastoral supervisors sought to develop members’ love and hunger for God’s presence through constantly moving in the gifts and praying for healing during services as well as during zone meetings and even during cell group meetings.
To undergird this growth, there was intensive study of God’s Word throughout the year. Kong led the charge with Part 2 of his church-wide Bible study of the end-times, while three times this year—from January through November—18 revised Bible study modules were taught over a series of weekends, plus a number of new modules, including an expanded Sermon on the Mount and Home Cell Group Leader modules, and two modules on the Cultural Mandate. The churchwide Bible study sessions saw over 3,500 attendees each week, while the weekend Bible study sessions crossed 1,000 in attendance.
Even the School of Theology (SOT) went deeper into the Word with a two-week course in July on Christology, an advanced study on Jesus the Christ that saw the attendance of 461 students and alumni of SOT.
Pastoral departments and ministries levelled up this year. Harvest Kidz, CHC’s children’s church, formed a curriculum committee comprising parents and school educators to work towards a stronger curriculum for the children and introduced new ways to encourage more Bible-reading and constant communication with parents.
In a timely boost to the spiritual atmosphere at CHC, the CityWorship team released a new album Draw Me, its first in five years. The title track is a song Kong wrote in the early days of CHC, a symbol of the church returning to its roots of worship. The album, comprising songs oft-sung throughout the last three years, including “Miracle”, “Greater Are You”, “I Remember” and “Called Out”, shot to the number one spot on Singapore’s iTunes chart on its day of release.
The Marketplace Ministry was reactivated this year to serve and strengthen members who work in the marketplace as employees or business owners. The Ministry conducted a marketplace dinner with Kong attended by over 500, as well as a series of business owner fellowship sessions and office fellowships. The purpose of these is to encourage those in the marketplace to understand their calling in their work or business, and to work as unto God and not people.
To understand the “state of the flocks” at CHC, Jeremy Choy, the pastor overseeing families as well as Christian education in the church, engaged Focus On The Family to conduct a church-wide survey called the Whole Life Inventory Survey. Some 2,973 members responded to the survey, which shed light on the spiritual status of each member from married adults to teenagers in cell groups. It also sought to identify issues that affect each demographic in the congregation, allowing pastors to be better equipped to support married couples and families, as well as other individuals. “From the findings, I am grateful and so encouraged to find out that we have a spiritually strong church. We endeavor to equip our members for each season of their lives and to make their walk with God all the more fruitful and fulfilling,” says Choy.
This year, parents in the church were also amply supported through a series of powerful workshops on marriage and parenting, covering sometimes thorny issues such as roles and responsibilities of a husband and a wife, money, sex, communication and even in-laws.
A new initiative to engage and support young parents also began in August: City Parents, helmed by Vivien Yap, is a website and online community that reaches out to parents within the CHC congregation, primarily those who are new parents and may find themselves unable to participate as fully in church as they used to.
CHC has always been a praying church, but 2016 marked a new passion for prayer. Before every weekend service there would be a prayer meeting, alternating once a month with a “Powerhouse”-style prayer meeting (where members come and pray for their own needs or intercede for others). “Powerhouse” was a foundation stone of the church, a practice from its early days that allowed every member to build her or her own altar before God in a place of prayer.
Two new prayer-based ministry was founded in June: the Liberty Ministry, headed by pastor, Audrey Ng, was set up to provide Christian counselling, prayer and deliverance, while the Intercession Ministry began weekly intercessory sessions in August. Simultaneously, there were monthly prayer sessions led by Eileen Toh, pastor of Harvest Kidz, to intercede for different needs each month.
One of the most memorable experiences of the year for many in the church was a churchwide 72-hour fast in early September, supported by round-the-clock prayer sessions and meetings, helmed by Kong and the pastors. This took place before the six leaders went to High Court for the verdict proceedings in mid-September.
CHC has long been reputed to have one of the strongest youth ministries in Singapore. This year, consecration was key. Emerge Weekend, the church’s annual youth conference was a heady mix of fun, music and getting serious with God that saw an astonishing attendance of 11,803. Youth cell groups have continued to hold their own prayer sessions, initiated cell group fasts and move in the gifts of the Spirit.
The youth cell groups have seen new friends coming and catching the fire of God. Lee Yi Lun, a pastor heading a youth zone, has seen many new young people joining cell groups and catching the fire of the Holy Spirit. During Emerge weekend, Ian Lau came as a new friend and was so touched by the presence of God, he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior during the zone’s youth camp. Hungry for the Lord, he progressed quickly through Bible study sessions and within two months, was baptized.
CHC has some 47 affiliate churches, mostly across Asia, and another 29 associate churches. This year, CHC has two new overseas Bible training centers—in Vietnam and the Philippines—on top of the first, in Indonesia.
Kong and many of the pastors have travelled substantially this year to strengthen the affiliate churches across the region, particularly in Kumamoto, Japan, which experienced two devastating earthquakes in April this year. CHC also welcomed a new addition to its affiliate network, CHC Prai.
Affiliates from Chinese-speaking countries also came to CHC in Singapore for this year’s Chinese Leadership Revival Seminar in June, which saw 1,114 delegates from 19 countries. The seminar was practically a round-the-clock conference that centered on the ministry of Jesus. The highlight was Kong and Ho washing the feet of representatives from different countries—an act that moved many in its representation of servant leadership.
Kenneth Sim, the pastor in charge of disaster relief efforts in CHC, led teams into Kumamoto, Japan as well as Nepal, where CHC entered last year to bring medical aid to Sindhupalchowk and this year to complete rebuilding a school for the village.
SIGNS, WONDERS & MIRACLES
The messages from the pulpit this year have centered around the core element of the supernatural. Kong began the year continuing from a series on “Faith, Trust and Rest”, which laid the ground for going deeper with God. As the year progressed, the senior pastor took the congregation through the power of meditation, to applying faith, to a genuine knowledge of the Holy Spirit to miracles, signs and wonders. Healing services took place early in the year and altar calls for healing happened almost every weekend throughout 2016. Testimonies were many: during a service that Kong preached in Kota Kinabalu one lawyer experienced healing in his right leg which was injured six months before. A Malaysian pastor who had caught the spirit of supernatural healing prayed for a relative, a Datin who had late-stage breast cancer. He received a vision that God’s hand reached in and plucked out the cancer. When the Datin went for surgery, the doctor could find no trace of cancer.
Closer to home is the testimony of CHC staff member Amy Tan, who was scheduled for a breast surgery to remove what looked like a seven-centimeter growth—her doctor discovered upon incision that the cancer cells had inexplicably died as if Tan had undergone chemotherapy, which she did not.
The testimonies are growing in number, telling of what supernatural things God does that man cannot even dream of. Nothing short of a miracle would be the collection of this year’s Arise and Build service. Usually a four to six-month campaign, Arise and Build is CHC’s annual building fund collection to reach self-sustenance for the ownership and use of Suntec Convention Center. This year, the decision was made to just have a one-time collection over a single weekend. The amount raised was nearly $6.5 million—remarkable seeing that it was more than half of what was raised in four months last year.
“Often throughout this year, I’ve wondered why we have to go through what we do: the trial, the uncertainty, the pain,” says Ho, who is the executive director of CHC. “And as I look back, I’m reminded of this quote I’ve read before: ‘You are given this life because you are strong enough to live it.’”
“It took me a long time to think back on what is the most significant or precious moment to me in 2016. There is not one single ‘most significant’ moment in the year, because with every step that we have taken, our church has risen up to the occasion in strength, in courage, in tenacity, in hope, in love and in our dependence on God.
“Truly, God is doing a great work within City Harvest, and like the Bible tells us in Ephesians 3:20, I believe that it is our surrender and obedience that allows Jesus to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can ask or think!”
“Looking back at 2016, I give thanks to God for the following:
1. My family. In 2016, I had several opportunities to spend quality time with Sun and Dayan both locally and overseas. Those family moments are what I hold dear to and God has been using such moments to strengthen our faith, and deepen our love for Him and for each other. I am thankful to God for His protection over us.
2. The spiritual growth of our members. As I minister each week over the pulpit, I can sense a tangible deepening in the spiritual atmosphere of our church. Our members have truly risen up to the occasion in spite of what’s gone on in court. This alone has brought much edification for me as it gives me great liberty to preach the Word of God with ease.
3. The complete implementation of CHC 2.0. The handover of the spiritual leadership of the church to a new management team, pastoral and administrative departments, and the renewal of the Church Board was successfully done. The church’s future is secure.
4. Testimonies of supernatural, miraculous healings that have taken place in the services and cell groups. This is evidence of our members’ faith to the Word of God to be witnesses to the resurrection power of our Lord Jesus Christ.
5. The generosity of our members as seen in the recent Arise and Build Weekend. Although it was just over one weekend, our members’ giving far exceeded our expectations and it was a momentous spiritual milestone for CHC!
As the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:3-6 (MSG): “Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”