You may be struggling with emotional issues, or failing at every stop, but it does not mean that you are not walking in God’s will. Pastor Erwin McManus brought an important message to the young people at the Emerge Conference, teaching them that life is a journey of fighting—the good news is, God is fighting for them.
The much-awaited Emerge Conference 2019 opened with a bang as Erwin McManus, lead pastor of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles preached up a storm about the struggles of the human heart.
The annual conference, for young people aged 13 to 25, ran from Jul 12 to 14. The theme for the Emerge movement this year is Grow+. Since the beginning of the year, the young people have been “growing”–personally in their walk with God, and seeing growth to the church through the sharing of the gospel to their friends.
The month of June saw the youths gathering in youth camps organized by the different pastoral zones. All the activities in the beginning half of the year culminated into the weekend of the Emerge Conference 2019.
Before Pastor Erwin delivered his message on Friday, five Tag Team Preachers delivered an impactful word on what growth is. Growth is change, growth is intentional, growth is painful, but growth is necessary.
They ended their preaching with a reminder to the youth: “This is the time to grow. This is the time to answer the call. This is the time to realize our purpose. This is a time for a revival. So will you be the one to grow the kingdom of God? Emerge! Let’s grow together!”
THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR
Pastor Erwin opened the meeting on Friday evening with his own story. Growing up, Pastor Erwin went through a series of hardships. “McManus” was not even his real family name–it was his stepfather’s alias, after convincing the police that the family’s identity cards were stolen.
“That day, I walked out of the police station as Erwin McManus,” he said. The congregation was on the edge of their seats, eager to find out how God helped Pastor Erwin through his darkest seasons.
He talked about his depression and becoming a follower of Jesus.
“When you become a follower of Jesus, put your trust in God, everyone thinks everything should be ok. What do you do when you love God, with every fiber of your being but, you still struggle with depression, anxiety, and the list goes on?”
The pastor went on to explain that the most important battle one could ever fight is the fight for his soul. God, being just and kind, wants to inject peace in the hearts of His children but that can never happen without a fight.
“As messed up as you may be, you’re in perfect condition for God to do something amazing in your life.”
Preaching from 1 Kings 18 and 19, Pastor Erwin introduced the youths to Prophet Elijah. “Elijah is like a superhero–he runs very fast, he calls fire down from heaven, he speaks to the clouds to stop raining for three and a half years.”
Yet shortly after he called down fire from heaven and proved that God is real, he ran for his life when Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him. “Sometimes we think that what’s missing is something spectacular, to prove to us that God is real. But even if fire fell down from heaven, you would still struggle with doubt, fear, insignificance, and maybe even in despair.”
Elijah was so overwhelmed with self-defeat that he prayed for God to let him die. But it was obvious that Elijah did not really want to die. If he truly wanted to die, he could have just gone to Jezebel and his death wish would have been fulfilled. Elijah was just trying to run away from a problem he could not fix.
“Have you ever just ran from the battle, the challenge, that God wants you to take on?” the pastor asked. “I find that everything I run from, God will make me run to–it’s always going to come back around. Because God will not allow you to define yourself as a coward; God will not allow you to convince yourself that there is any giant you cannot bring down.”
Eventually, Elijah fell asleep but awoke to an angel’s gentle touch, hot bread and a jug of water. God cooked for Elijah and gave him time to recover. Because when a person is spiritually unhealthy, he becomes emotionally unhealthy, physically unhealthy and his whole body just crashes.
There are times in life where everything gets exhausting. “Most of us aren’t afraid of death, we’re afraid of life. Sometimes, the greatest act of courage is to live each day,” the pastor said.
“I love that God tells Elijah that the journey is too much for him. Maybe you’ve had some struggles in life, challenges, and disappointments. It’s never going to get easier, you just get stronger. Why would God call you to a journey that is too much for you? He’s calling you to a life that’s bigger than you because you have a God that is bigger than you,” he added.
“If you open up your life and let Jesus in, then He becomes the warrior who will fight for your peace.”
Pastor Erwin told the youth that there is a God who knows their struggles and is not afraid of their questions and their brokenness. “I love that God used me in all of my brokenness and inadequacy. God loves proving the world wrong. When people look at you and say you’re not enough, God wants you to know that you were never supposed to be good enough, He is supposed to be enough (for you).”
WITH GOD, NOTHING IS WASTED
Pastor Erwin began the Saturday morning session’s sermon with the story of bringing his son to meet his step-father, whom he had not spoken to in 15 years. Just before they said goodbye, his step-father said to the 15-year-old, “I don’t know what he told you, but your dad was just average.”
Pastor Erwin was very bothered by what he said—mainly because it was the truth. He walked away that day asking himself, “Am I satisfied living a life that’s just average? Or a life that someone else wants for me and not the life that God created for me to live?”
“Have you ever felt like you were just average?” he asked the crowd. “Do you ever feel like there’s nothing special about you? It’s amazing how you can feel as if your life has been wasted so quickly.”
If there was a person who felt like their life was wasted, it would be Moses. The Bible records that Moses was born and then there was no mention of him for the next 40 years. In Exodus 2, Moses killed an Egyptian when he saw him mistreating a Hebrew, Moses’ own countryman. Yet, Moses showed no remorse for the murder—Pastor Erwin suggested that it was his own brokenness that caused Moses not to see that killing the Egyptian was wrong.
Moses eventually had to run away because people knew that he had killed the Egyptian. He was not mentioned again for another 40 years—until he met God at the burning bush at the age of 80. “But even if it takes you that long to get into the story that God has created you to live, with God, nothing’s wasted.”
Acts 7:20 reads, “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child.” How did they know that he was no ordinary child? Pastor Erwin explained that the author was not talking about Moses’ looks but the fact that he grew up to be an extraordinary man.
The pastor himself believes that every baby is born extraordinary. Yet most people live “tragically normal lives.” “If only we could just see our lives from the extraordinary ending, you would change your mind about yourself.”
Reading Acts 7:21-23, Pastor Erwin noted that Moses was meant to lead the Hebrews, yet God put him in the house of the Egyptians. It seemed like God was preparing him the wrong way.
“Have you ever felt like God was preparing you in all the wrong ways?” But God did not put Moses in the wrong place. His destiny was to lead a nation into the Promised Land and where better to learn leadership skills than from Pharaoh himself?
God puts every moment in a person’s life to good use, even their brokenness. “God chose to use a wounded individual to become the healer of the people,” The pastor said. “With God, nothing is wasted. He will use all of your wounds to make you a healer of others.”
In Acts 7:29, the Bible records that Moses ran away to Midian when he realized that others knew he had killed an Egyptian. He stayed there for the next 40 years. He ran away because he thought he had failed in life.
“Have you ever had a failure in your life you just thought you could never get over?” Many people think that when they are walking in God’s will, they will never fail. But the truth is, failure is not only possible, but it is also a reality. Pastor Erwin shared that failure is the material from which God builds our future.
“When you fail, it gives God an epic opportunity to step up and show you how faithful He is,” he said. It is when a person fails, that they become dependent on God. “No one can hold you captive to your failures but you, because God does not hold you captive to your failures.”
For the same reason, there is no record of the 40 years Moses spent in Midian–God does not write the story of a person’s failure. “So stop trying not to fail, because if you are afraid to fail, you’re afraid to take risks. If you’re afraid of risk then you’ll never live a life of faith.”
Pastor Erwin shared a personal lesson. He was playing basketball and one of his teammates called him a “self-check”. He said, “You’re a self-check. We don’t have to cover you because you don’t want the ball. You don’t want the responsibility of missing a shot.”
That, sadly, was the truth. There and then, Pastor Erwin admitted that he was not just a self-check in basketball, he was a self-check in life. Whenever God had something big for him, he would pass it on to someone else, for the fear of missing the shot.
Most people are so afraid to miss the shot that they never ever take it. “You need to be careful that what you pretend to be humility isn’t fear.” The way to overcome the fear is to be prepared, the pastor taught.
“If you prepare yourself and the moment comes, you won’t be afraid. You will be alive in the moment.”
Pastor Erwin went on to read Acts 7:30-35—he noted that even after all the detours Moses took, God still brought him back to his destiny, to be His voice to the Hebrews. “There is not a single moment in your life that is wasted,” the pastor reiterated.
Even in nature, nothing’s wasted. Predators keep herds moving so that they don’t eat where they defecate and when they manage to eat an animal, the remains are left for other animals and scavengers. Finally the bones decay back into earth to nourish it. Even the waste that comes out of an animal’s body has its use in the ecosystem.
Yet humans created plastic—a material that does not naturally go back into creation but instead destroys the environment. If all things created by God will never be wasted, then could it be possible that when someone is out of alignment with God, they are creating plastic in their life?
“When we’re living a life we’re not supposed to live, it seems as though our lives are being wasted,” said Pastor Erwin. “But the moment we realign our lives to Jesus, the moment we open our lives to God, we become part of God’s supernatural order.”
In closing, Pastor Erwin urged young people to stop living a life that is plastic and give their lives to God.
EQUIPPING THE YOUTHS TO SHARE THE GOSPEL
Besides the main sessions with Pastor Erwin, the church also organized a series of workshops for the youths. The topics included, “The Art of Reaching a Broken World”, “The Art of Being a Supernatural Soul Winner”, “How to Turn Converts into Disciples”, and “How to Answer Hard Questions when Evangelizing”.
CHC’s pastor Tan Kim Hock shared some apologetics in the workshop on “How to Answer Hard Questions when Evangelising.” Quoting Matthew 22:37, Pastor Kim Hock shared, “Loving God is more than just a spiritual thing; it involves your heart, your will, your emotions, as well as your mind.”
The purpose of Christian apologetics is to present a rational basis for the Christian faith and to defend the faith against objections and misrepresentations. Pastor Kim Hock shared that laying down the truth could help a non-believer become more receptive to the gospel.
In answering questions that non-believers pose, it is important to know that it is fine, to be honest, and admit that they do not have the answer. “Just tell them, I don’t have the answers now, but I will check and get back to you.” Pastor Kim Hock laid out practical steps that one can take if faced with challenging questions about the faith.
The workshop also listed out common hard questions one may face when walking in the Christian faith. Pastor Kim Hock took the time to explain these questions and gave the young attendees some theologically correct answers to them. At the end of the workshop, Pastor Kim Hock also took time to answer some hard questions that the attendees had.
EMERGE DANCE PRODUCTION: REALIZING YOUR DESTINY
The final day of Emerge 2019 ended with the highly anticipated Emerge Dance Production.
Titled “Predestined”, the dance production was put together by City Harvest Church’s dance ministry, The Disciples. The production focused on how the Valor clan, that was once the most powerful in the land, re-discovered their destiny and overthrew their oppressor, the Tyros clan.
Across the sea, the empire of Cyprus had been observing Valor. Rumors have it that the source of Valor’s prosperity and might came from a hidden treasure, and the queen of Cyprus was eager to get her hands on it. She was seeking to invade the land when a mysterious man intervened. He turned out to be a Valorian and he turned the situation around when he inspired the next generation of Valorians to fight for their land.
With the use of music, movement, rhythm, and drama, The Disciples put up a highly entertaining, riveting and meaningful performance. The 44 dancers had been training hard prior to the Emerge Conference and they were eager to use their gifts to reach out to the lost.
After the performance had ended, Pastor Wu Yuzhuang took to the stage to preach the message of salvation.
Preaching from John 8:2-12, Ps Zhuang shared the well-known Bible story on the adulterous woman. “The Pharisees were religious leaders who did not practice what they preached. They preached forgiveness, and yet, they were always condemning people. They preached honesty, and yet, they were always cheating people of their money.”
The Pharisees have been trying to put Jesus in difficult situations and this time, they presented him with the adulterous woman and asked him for his opinion. But Jesus, in all His wisdom, wrote the 10 commandments on the floor and invited those without sin to cast the first stone. The Pharisees, upon reading what Jesus wrote, began to leave because none of them were truly sinless.
“All her life, men had desired something out of this woman, whether it was for her looks or her worth. No one had truly seen anything in her. But that day, Jesus saw her differently and restored her worth.”
Pastor Zhuang shared compelling stories of Jesus’ love and His desire to restore and forgive all. That Sunday, over a hundred and fifty youths made their way down the tiers and aisles to give their hearts to Christ.
HAVING A BALL OF A TIME AT EMERGE PLAY
Emerge Play was impossible to miss. Walking into Suntec Singapore, Hall 605, over the weekend of Jul 14 and 15, lots of screams and laughter could be heard surrounding a giant inflated Hungry Hippo. The Hungry Hippo was a game for two to four players. The players were strapped to a bungee cord at sides of the round inflatable, making it difficult for them to run towards the ball pit in the middle. To win the game, players had to drag themselves to the ball pit and grab as many balls as they could in one minute.
The Hungry Hippo drew lots of crowds. At its peak, the installation saw a long line of CHC members and friends waiting for their turn. After the game, players could be heard talking about the fun they had at the game.
Pang Rui Yuan, a 16-year-old student who won a few games, exclaimed: “It was fun! It definitely made my cell group draw closer as we laughed together at all the things we did during the game.”