Mark Kwan is the Creative Director of City Harvest Church and CityWorship.
I was 18 in the year 1995. Young but definitely not fresh-faced to religion, I had my share of Christian friends from school who brought me to churches around the island, cajoling me to stay in each one but I never found a reason to.
Then came City Harvest Church. At that point in history, the church had just made its home in Hollywood Theatre at the edge of Geylang Serai and its debut album, Against All Odds, was all the rage with the young Christians I knew. “Fresh”, “on fire”, “exciting”, “alive” … these were just some of the words I kept hearing them use to describe the church and its music. Now you must remember that in those days, most churches in Singapore barely had full bands or modern-style arrangements, so, in many ways, CHC was pushing the envelope even back then with its pop-inspired music and homegrown songwriters.
Would it be a cliché for me to say that the air was electric when I first stepped into CHC? But it’s true. I came into the hall and knew that something was going to happen to me that day. That something was the Holy Spirit. I count that day as my genuine salvation moment: the day the Holy Spirit marked me.
The Holy Spirit has always been a crucial component of ministry at CHC that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. He takes our song and makes it a sweet-smelling aroma; an effective, fervent prayer unto the Lord. And our words and music coupled with the Holy Spirit is what create worship.
I’m always thankful for the overwhelming privilege, opportunities and accomplishments that God has given to me, and more than that, the unceasing grace that enables me to pull through hand-in-hand with Him each time.
I was never the singer with the best range or technique. Neither was I the most confident or eloquent. Mine is pretty much a run-of-the-mill progression that most ministry-serving members who serve in CHC can relate to, where faithfulness is the keyword. I guess that’s what makes it even more astonishing for all of us, isn’t it? That the Holy Spirit would take our “ordinary” and consider it worthy to serve His extraordinary purposes.
I thank God that right from the beginning, Pastor Kong and Sun have consistently acknowledged and honored the power of worship and music in our church. Their example of dedication and excellence towards all things worship demonstrates how precious we must regard it. And as we celebrate 30 years of City Harvest, that value remains ever so strong within us.
Right now, we are writing our stories in reams of music more than ever before, inspired by the Holy Spirit to find our own voice of adoration, gratitude and unadulterated passion towards Jesus. Because of the deep love for worship in CHC, I’ve experienced and learned so much about God, and I’ve realized that there’s so much more of Him we need to explore.
Worship is a weapon.
Worship is a crutch.
Worship is isolation.
Worship is community.
Worship covers a multitude of shame and pain.
Worship exposes the darkest areas of our hearts.
Worship is a journey.
Worship involves standing still.
Worship is congregational.
Worship is often unusual and uncommon.
In many ways, worship is all-encompassing and paradoxical, a mystery that has so much to offer. But at its heart, worship must not be the object of our desire, but the expression of it towards our Abba Father.
As we cross our 30th year as a church, we’ve seen worship expand and develop in its meaning to CHC, particularly in the last decade. In times when we have chosen to surrender ourselves to worship in the midst of tremendous pain, God has never failed to respond to our cries with His aid, comfort and strength. The core tenets of word and worship have dug deeper into the foundations that hold City Harvest up, and I look forward to the adventures we will experience together in the presence of God with this verse in mind:
“In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way.” (2 Corinthians 3:10, NLT)