City Harvest Church has entered into a season of seeking God and encountering His presence, and members of the church are responding by going deeper in their personal devotion.
Songs of Solomon 2:10 says, “My beloved spoke, and said to me: ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.”
“Come Away” is the theme of City Harvest Church’s 28th anniversary. Executive pastor Sun Ho explains that the theme represents the church’s new focus on deepening its walk with God and encountering Jesus in His presence.
There was a prophecy given by an Indonesian prophet Abraham Joel to Ho and her husband, the church’s senior pastor Kong Hee, which left a deep impact on them:
“I see a vision that in 2017, God wants you to be very close to Him. So close with Him that your forehead is touching His forehead. Forehead to forehead … very close, very close. God wants your heart to be closer to Him more and more … This church will become a mighty people—an army of worshippers. Your power is worship …”
“As we celebrate our 28th anniversary as a church,” says Ho, “my prayer is that this prophecy would come to pass in CHC. I know we are inching closer to God, and as we come away to Him with a deeper hunger and renewed consecration, we will truly fulfil God’s higher calling for us as a church, and see Him as He is.”
To come away with God is a call that has been sounding from the pulpit increasingly over the course of this year. In her sermon on the weekend of Sep 9 and 10, Ho taught the church about having encounters with God. “Encounters are an integral part of a Christian’s walk with God,” she explained as she shared her personal encounters with God in great detail, giving the congregation a glimpse of what it was like to feel God tangibly.
One such encounter took place at the Worship Night service that capped this year’s Emerge Conference for the youth. As Ho led the youth deeper and deeper into worship, she felt a physical touch from God, like a “fire in her belly”, so much that she staggered backwards from the impact, and she found herself weeping.
A few weeks later, while on a trip to America to preach at CHC US in Orange County, a church led by pastors Derek and Susan Dunn, Ho and members of her team paid a visit to Bethel Church in Redding, California. At that service, Ho found herself coming to God with expectancy in her heart once again. Since April 23 this year, when her husband Kong began serving his time following the CHC trial, Ho found herself unable to laugh. But that day, she had a deep encounter with God as she experienced “moments of deep joy flowing out”, laughing and crying at the same time.
JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF GOD
Going deep with God has permeated CHC’s consciousness this entire year, through different preachers giving completely different sermons. In March, Kong declared a fourth element in CHC’s mission statement following the Great Commandment, the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate: Divine Priority.
He explained that God has given the earth to humanity as their inheritance; when Jesus came, He restored them to their original purpose. “In Christ Jesus today, once again the earth is part of our divine inheritance,” Kong said.
A Christian’s task is then to recognize that he is a citizen of the Kingdom and a child of the King. He is not to be ignorant of the authority given to him. Jesus taught His disciples the kingdom way of living in Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
The Divine Priority is to seek first the kingdom of God. “To seek is to pursue with fervency and determination,” Kong said. “It means to not give up until you find it. We need to make seeking the King and His Kingdom our highest priority.”
On the weekend of the Pentecost Sunday in June, executive pastor Bobby Chaw brought the church through the Old Testament and showed them that through the Holy Spirit, God keeps His promise that He will always be with them.
“The outpouring of the Holy Spirit has been mentioned all throughout the Old Testament and it is called the promise of the Father,” Chaw taught. “The promise of the Father is His presence with His people.”
After Jesus redeemed humanity with His death, the Holy Spirit could now live in His people. “We are now the carriers of God’s presence,” Chaw said. “God is with us wherever we go.”
At the Emerge Conference on Jul 7, district pastor Wu Yuzhuang reminded the young people about the necessity of being God’s vessel.
In his message, Wu taught the youth that to be carriers of the Holy Spirit, they first needed to be worthy vessels: clean and empty. He told them the story of the widow in 2 Kings 4, in which Elijah told the widow to gather empty jars and fill them with oil. The oil did not stop flowing until the widow ran out of vessels.
“It matters that you stay pure,” Wu reminded the young people. “Just as you will not pour fresh milk into a dirty bottle, God will not pour His fresh oil into us if we are not clean. In order to be filled by the Holy Spirit, we need to be clean, empty vessels. To do that, you need to take out the trash that is taking up space within you.”
Wu closed with this: “The devil thought he had destroyed the vessel that was Jesus Christ, but now there are hundreds and thousands of vessels that God can fill. Now that Jesus has resurrected—you and I—we are the vessels to bring His miracles into this generation.”
The three-day conference saw an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, not only on the youth, but also the adults who attended the weekend worship services. The conference culminated in the worship session on Jul 9, led by Ho.
At that session, Ho taught on the mindset of worship. “Until you have a ginosko (have intimate knowledge of) experience, no fear will be removed from your heart,” she told the youth.
The presence of God filled the hall as the congregation went on their knees in worship. Each of the attendees encountered God for themselves that afternoon.
Mark Kwan, CHC’s creative director was kneeling at the back of the hall during that worship session. “The presence of God was so tangible that it felt like the Holy Spirit was running into us, colliding into us!” he recalled. “It felt like He was claiming His people back—by force! “I was blown away by how powerfully God moved among us, and it created in me an even deeper desire to encounter Him—as the Bible puts it—to ‘know Him and the power of His resurrection.’”
Mark Kwan, 39, creative director of CityWorship
“The prophecy given to CHC that we would birth unusual worship has proven to be an amazingly accurate precursor of things to come in the year.
“In June, I was preparing my heart to lead worship on one of the weekends and I was scheduled to teach the song ‘Amazed’. It was an important song to me because it had ministered to Pastor Kong in his private moments with the Lord during the trial, and I knew if it meant something to him, it would mean something to the church as well.
“As I was praying, God spoke into my heart and said, ‘I will bring tidal waves of My presence.’ That weekend, I sang those words out by faith without knowing exactly what God had in store for us.
“Less than a month later, the Emerge worship session proved to be the first encounter with the tsunami waves of God’s presence and power—the flooding of His Spirit into His people.
“Following that session, I’ve felt God closer to me than ever before. It’s a constant awareness of His presence and purpose in my life and in the life of the church. On more than one occasion, I’ve sensed the Holy Spirit tell me that ‘the floodgates have been opened’ above our church and our lives. We have struggled through a long and arduous season of purification. I feel as if that season is now turning, and from purification, we are now finding ourselves in a season of tenderness: we not only sense our Abba Father’s tender heart towards us, but we are also being drawn to respond to Him in greater measures of tender adoration and worship.
“The most precious difference I have seen [since we started spending a longer time in worship] is the spiritual hunger manifesting within our church for a greater move of the Holy Spirit. I see how the people are much more engaged during our weekly moments of worship in service—how fully abandoned they are to worship their Lord and Savior—and that really encourages me. There is no greater honor as a worship leader than to see the people you are leading encounter the presence of God powerfully. That is the whole purpose of being a part of the worship team, to connect the hearts of man with that of our Father.
“What seems simple onstage takes many hours of hard work, sweat and tears, and it is no different for the CityWorship team. Both the staff and volunteers of CityWorship have put tons of effort into singing and playing their instruments better so that skill and talent do not hinder the move of the Holy Spirit. More than just exercising the talents that we have been given, our level of breakthrough depends on the level of our walk with Jesus.
“Being at Bethel with Sun and the team made me realize just how much the Holy Spirit wants to partner with us as we serve Him. Worship is not just singing a song, it is about making room for the Holy Spirit to move through that song.
We saw the possibilities of how God can move in worship, and are inspired to apply that boldness and freedom in our unique style of worship at City Harvest.
“It has been a steep learning curve for the CityWorship team. When we first came back from Bethel Church and told the music directors we wanted to move into this ‘new flow’ of worship, there was an initial sense of hesitation and apprehension. Not because they were unwilling, but it was hard for them to understand the new direction without experiencing it for themselves.
“Our team has really come a long way over the past seven years. We have built up a strong sense of synergy and trust among the team, so even though this is uncharted territory for many, they were willing to follow by faith. I believe God has honored this faith-filled obedience with more of His presence and glory!
“After last year’s CityWorship album Draw Me, many of the more musically-inclined in CHC have been inspired to write new songs. As God touches His people, we become so full of His love and presence that we have to express it. Most of the Emerge youth camps this year had their own worship anthems. Following the Passion Pursuit Songwriting workshop, the participants submitted over 30 original compositions!
“It does take a lot of effort for us work on the songs before they can be introduced in church, but I’m excited in my spirit because these songs represent the voice of City Harvest Church—the voice of this generation of believers who have been called to take the nations by storm. Moreover, I believe that the more we write our story out in song, the more our testimony for Jesus will be heard and celebrated around the world.”
Lester Chee, 28, first-time father
“I think to ‘come away’ is to really to know God more. In this season of my life, I’ve been reflecting about the nature of God. We all love to see the works of God, but we sometimes forget about getting to know God for who He is. One of my recent revelations is in Zephaniah 3:17 (AMP), that “God will rejoice over you with joy; He will be quiet in His love [making no mention of your past sins], He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” This is such an extravagant display of His love—He desires for us to come away with Him!
“I am in a transitional phase of my life: being a new father, looking for a new career direction. Forty days often marks a watershed in the Bible and I felt this would be my turning point, doing something consistent. I had long heard of Rick Warren’s book A Purpose-Driven Life and thought it would be a great material to have in this 40-day devotional journey that I started on Sep 11. I had a desire to fast, so I fasted for the first seven days of this journey. I also penned down my thoughts on Instagram (@l.40d)–where I’m also accountable to share my daily takeaways.”
The Heart Of Worship
Joann Leong, early 30s, compliance officer
“The recent style of praise and worship in the church is amazing. I’m always tearing by the end of it. I remember at one of the services, after we sat down, I looked at my phone and saw it was 10.57am. I thought to myself, ‘Did one hour just pass by? I felt like it could go on forever.’
“It felt like I was in another dimension; just simply wanting to stay close to God and hear from Him. It is a very tangible feeling, the whole atmosphere is changing and it is something I would not want to let go of. It helps me especially in the workplace. In the midst of the busyness, I find myself stopping to think through my next steps, asking God to lead the way, and sometimes humming worship songs.”
My Cup Runs Over
Esther Tan, in her 30s, restaurant worker
“I work as a server in a cafe. My colleagues—the dining managers, waiters, chefs and the dishwashers—they do a lot of hard manual labor every day. As God has gifted me with a strong voice and I can sing a capella, so I thought I could spice up the atmosphere with my voice. I was inspired by how Sun held concerts overseas during the Crossover. I decided to use the similar approach to bring the presence of God to those who have little chance to step into a church.
“Most people working in the Food and Beverage industry have to work during the weekends so they cannot attend church services. I decided to ‘bring the church’ to them.
“I would usually sing a pop song, followed by a Christian song for my colleagues. Each time I do that before the cafe opens, the business would be extremely good for the day. There would be so many customers flooding in. Something special that happens almost every time after I’ve sung is that birds would appear in front of the cafe. Even animals are attracted to God’s presence! When children pass by the cafe, they look inside with curiosity and have an urge to come in. Recently two of my colleagues received salvation, and it all started with my worship unto God!
“The presence of God has become more tangible when there is only worship during service. Praise and worship changes the atmosphere. When I brought praise and worship into my workplace, it broke barriers of misunderstanding and created peace and harmony.
“Bringing Christ into the marketplace prospers the business. When we put our heart and soul into even the most menial of jobs, like serving food and clearing dishes, God is magnified. If God has given you the gift of serving and you feel happy doing so, you are glorifying God in your own special way. Do not despise small beginnings—your faithfulness in the little can propel you to managing greater things in future.”
A Faith Encounter
Althea Tan, 13, student
“I encountered God during Limitless camp, organized by Pastor Tan Yah Lan’s zone, in June this year. I had just graduated from Harvest Kidz and this was the first time I was worshiping God in a youth meeting with many others who were very passionate about God.
“There was one session where the camp leaders encouraged us to step out in faith to sing in tongues. I can speak in tongues but had never sung before. At first, I was very nervous, but after one of the camp leaders came to lay her hands on me, I really felt the presence of God and I was able to sing in tongues.
“After the camp, I decided to put aside more time to read the Bible and pray, even though there seems to be a lot of schoolwork. My mother also encouraged me with Colossians 3:23, which says that we are putting in efforts for God and not for anything or anyone else.
“Recently, the style of worship has helped me feel closer to God. Some of the newer songs like ‘Pure As Gold’ and ‘Jesus I Live to Sing’ really bless me. I am reminded that God loves me and has not forgotten me. When I study in my room, I play worship songs in the background and I feel His peace.
“Knowing and feeling God is very special to me, because I know there is Someone who really loves me no matter what, and that Someone will always be there for me. I want my friends to experience that too. If they get to know God, we can grow together.”
God Loves Us As His Children
Mabel Lee, in her 20s, mother of two
“When I became a mother for the first time, the parenting journey took me by surprise. It was not as straightforward as I had imagined it to be. Often, I struggled with conflicting feelings. My heart desired to fully worship the Lord and serve Him in the capacity I used to, but physically, I was drained. I was torn between my responsibilities as a mother and a Christian. “I often felt discouraged and attending church became a routine, not an enjoyment. I entered a season where I felt spiritually dry and distant from the Lord. Even though I still attended service regularly, it was nearly impossible to concentrate while attending to my child at the same time in nursery.
“However, deep down inside, I always knew that God was with me. During a recent service where Sun preached on encounters with God, I felt the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit in a way I had not felt in a long time. God began to show me that just as I love and cherish my child, He loves and cherishes me deeply too. I began to realize that I had unconsciously been trying to walk the motherhood journey on my own. God reminded me of 2 Corinthians 12:9, which says that God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His strength is made perfect in my weakness. During that moment, I truly felt how deeply God loves and cares for me, and in my season of faithlessness, He has always remained faithful.
“From then on, I began to consciously partner with the Holy Spirit, praying often for myself and my children. Through my own parenting journey, I began to understand how our Heavenly Father must feel towards His children—His desire to love, protect, and be close to them, to strengthen and to guide them on the right path of life. Parenting started to become more of a partnership with God, rather than a separate way of life. Truly, it is through encounters with God that we can find success in our many different seasons of life.”
Dancing Before His Throne
Khye Loh, 29, dance instructor
“As dancers, we are naturally drawn to music, so praise and worship is really the best way for us to encounter God. I really love how the church is taking time to tarry in His presence. I find that God speaks to me the most during worship; it is always then that I receive a word or a vision, and God just ‘downloads’ into my system.
“Personally, 2017 didn’t start out easy for me, especially in the area of my business. When I was going through some challenges, I felt that God was silent most of the time. I was busy dealing with issues and didn’t have time to dig deeper into His presences and seek my breakthrough.
“At a recent worship night for leaders, I decided to let go of my doubts and worries, and spent time to pray and seek God. That was when God spoke so plainly to me, encouraging me to trust Him. I asked God for a clear direction and specific instructions on what to do.
“A few days later, the dance ministry had a leaders’ meeting with Pastor Gary Heyes, a prophet from Canada. He prophesied over me in the exact things I had asked God for, giving me new vision and specific steps to take for my business.
“In the dance ministry, other than the performances and competitions we take part in, we are also involved in missions. Dancers are like an army pulling down strongholds. When we dance in the mission field, heavens are open and people are set free. The people we minister to feel very liberated. Some of them have even requested us to go back and teach them the ropes.
“During one of our practice sessions, I paired them up and as one party danced, the other was to observe and discern what their partner was going through, and then pray for each other. This is something I want to bring in as much as I can into our sessions. Last year at our dance camp, we involved dance ministries from overseas churches. We shared a worship dance for about two hours, taking the participants through a time when they were ministered by the dance, and felt like they were dancing with God.
“For me, to ‘come away with God’ really means putting aside everything and just being with God. God will multiply what we have in that time with Him.”
To Tell The World Of Jesus
Tricia Tan, 13, student
“I feel that the praise and worship songs impact me a lot, especially the song ‘Glory To Glory’. As the song goes, ‘We will tell the world about Your story”—it makes me want to tell God’s story to others. It also makes me want to invite my friends to church so that they will be able to be touched by God and experience His love and goodness. I’m inspired to think about how I should use my talents to serve Him and help other people to know Him better.”