This year’s FOPx was an exuberant celebration of God’s goodness and a call to the young Christians of Singapore to take the gospel and run with it.
The Festival of Praise is a yearly event that was started by the Festival of Praise Fellowship, a network of local churches in Singapore that was founded in 1986 by Rev Canon Dr James Wong. The threefold mission of FOP is one, to unite the body of Christ in praise and worship; two, to proclaim the love of God and three, to pray for our nation.
Up till 2015, with the exception of 2012, the Festival of Praise was held as an annual gathering of the Christians of all denominations in Singapore at venues like the Singapore Indoor Stadium to give God praise and worship.
In 2016, FOPx was launched as the youth arm with a vision to see the move of God in the next generations. Led by the Festival of Praise Fellowship, comprising youth pastors from churches all over Singapore, the annual FOPx youth worship conferences now are the main FOP event.
This year, FOPx took place at Bethesda Cathedral from November 21 to 23. The daily conference sessions were ticketed and the nightly rallies were free for all. Delegates numbered 1,062, from 73 registered churches and five nations: Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia and Cambodia. The night sessions packed the third floor sanctuary. The FOPx committee estimates 2000 attendees from over a hundred churches each of the three nights.
DO NOT DESPISE THE DAYS OF YOUR YOUTH
For those who remember the Festival of Praise from the days of yore might surprised by FOPx. The core elements remain—strong preaching and uplifting praise and worship—but where the former Festival of Praise was a neatly-organised spectator-oriented event, FOPx is set up to bring attendees into an intimate, no-holds-barred connection with God. Today, the Festival of Praise Fellowship organizes the annual FOPx conference. It is a sign of the times: Generation Z seeks authenticity and relevance, and this year’s FOPx brought it in spades.
This year’s theme, “Go”, reflects the heart of the organizing committee, led by Pastor Andrew Yeo of Cornerstone Community Church. “This conference serves to challenge the young people of this nation to take the gospel and run with it,” he explains. “Run with it into our homes, our schools, our army camps, our internships, our workplaces and to the nations. God has been gracious to our land, and we see His hand over the city and the generation. We also hear His heartbeat and we want to help this generation hear it too.”
The passion to empower Christian youth was found in all the speakers at FOPx this year: evangelist Todd White of Lifestyle Christianity, Tyshone Roland, youth pastor at Free Chapel Youth, and Robby Dawkins, a missionary and itinerant minister, all from the US. Jason Wong, from Centre for Fathering, and Wu Yuzhuang, pastor at City Harvest Church who oversees Emerge, the CHC youth movement.
It was a beautiful sight to see believers united, regardless of church and denomination, to hear the word of God and catch for evangelism. What was particularly moving was seeing the Generation X pastors encourage and create a space for the Generation X worshipers to connect with God in their own way and their own language.
“I can’t win a generation by myself; FOPx can’t win a generation by itself. Our youth ministries, our churches, our ministries, they can’t win this generation by themselves,” explains Pastor Andrew. “We need the body of Christ to fight for this generation together. We need to win this generation together. Let me give you an analogy: we may be all from different tribes but if there is a war, we will put down all our differences to come together to defend our land and fight.”
A strong message coming out of FOPx 2019 is that of unity among the churches in Singapore, particular unity among the youth. This was evident throughout the conference; after all, the challenges met by youths across churches are alike.
“This generation is under attack,” notes Pastor Andrew. “The Bible says we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but we war against the power of darkness. Depression has got to go, suicide has to stop. Every life is precious in the eyes of God. There is hope for our young people. We have the answer and His name is Jesus.”
Plans for FOPx 2020 are already underway. The FOP Fellowship is believing for thousands of youth to hear and be transformed by the Gospel through a year-long engagement that will culminate at the National Youth Rally over Dec 11 to 13, 2020, headlined by evangelist Nick Vujicic.
TODD WHITE: WHY YOU MUST SHARE YOUR TESTIMONY
Todd White, the president of Lifestyle Christianity in Texas, headlined FOPx. His bold approach to ministry touched many who attended the conference as well as the nightly rallies.
On the second night, he delivered the congregation a sober reminder: “Don’t let people fool you—heaven and hell are real. That is the Christian faith. Life is eternal. Eternally with God or eternally separated from Him. It’s all real.”
Known for his life-changing testimony of being an ex-drug addict, White certainly stands out in a crowd, especially in this crowd of Singaporean youth, with his blond-tipped dreadlocks and massive athletic build. Right from the beginning of his sharing, he emphasizes the importance of knowing the real from the fake.
“My whole life, I studied everything and had no idea what was real,” he said, speaking at the rally on the second night of FOPx 2019. “If it was going to make me feel better about (myself), I’d go after it. You can spend your lifetime trying to figure out all the counterfeits or you can just study the real thing. Now that I’ve found something real, I’m not looking at anything else. I can’t explain to you how important that is.”
LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD
White expressed his amazement that Singaporeans are “scary smart” and talked of how brilliant everyone is. However, your heart always needs to be bigger than your head. “If you can’t love God with all your heart, you can’t love Him with all your mind; you can’t love Him with all your soul and strength,” said the preacher. This was the first commandment God gave: that one believes with the heart first, and not the mind.
Believers can seek the Lord as much as they want in knowledge, but that always needs to be surpassed by the heart, he explained, because “your heart can take you places your brain never could”.
Throughout his sharing, White’s fervency for healing through Christ was evident. He asked people in the crowd who were experiencing pain of any sort to lift up their hands and he prayed for them.
“I came for the session with a high fever and headache,” said Kaz Foo, 20, a student at Temasek Polytechnic. “When Todd White spontaneously asked us to confess healing over ourselves, I saw an amazing move of God where people were standing up, reporting their healing and I believed too. Though I was not healed immediately, when I left the meeting, I felt better. After three days, I fully recovered!”
THE POWER OF YOUR TESTIMONY
White told the congregation that a testimony is not just a story. A testimony means that if Jesus worked in one person, He will work and move in everyone. “By you not testifying, it’s withholding someone else from getting healed,” he said.
White then spent the rest of the meeting sharing two powerful testimonies: one of how he preached Christ to his Grab driver, and his own life testimony.
The bold preacher shares the gospel any chance he gets, even on Grab rides. He recounted the story of how he led a Grab driver to Christ. His driver was depending on idols he kept on his dashboard to keep him safe from accidents. When White noticed this, he posed his driver this question, “What if you were in someone else’s car? How would you be protected?” They got to talking after that, and the preacher shared his heart with the Grab driver.
White moved in a word of knowledge to ask if the driver had an ache in his shoulders, and prayed for healing for him. Not only were the driver’s shoulders healed, but he eventually believed in and received Christ.
“When your salvation hits your heart and it’s real, it’s not just a theory but it’s actually applicable. To love God with all your heart, to experience the unexplainable joy that hits. No matter what trial you’re in, God will manifest Himself in that trial and He will show Himself faithful and crush hell everyday through your life,” White said, encouraging the congregation.
He addressed an important point on the work culture in Singapore, where people put others down to lift themselves up. He pointed at himself first—he had done it his whole life before he met Christ. The key to overcoming this is humility; we should follow as Jesus did, who focused on others and not Himself.
“When it’s all about you, you’ll never see Jesus. I lived my whole life that way,” he added.
A LIFE TRANSFORMED
At 11, White was put into a children’s home and was a full-on drug addict by 12. He also dabbled in witchcraft, watched pornography and basically anything else that would make him feel real and get through life.
When he left the home five and a half years later, he joined the US Marine Corp, and graduated top of his squad. “They basically trained me until I was invincible”. After that, White tried to run away multiple times and eventually got a Bad Conduct Discharge.
He spiralled further, lying on his resumes to get a job. “I lied about everything. I got job after job after job, but my real job was getting high, drunk and watching pornography; I was hooked on everything. My whole life was a loss,” he exclaimed.
“None of that stuff was real, but I never ever met a Christian who told me that Jesus was real. No one witnessed to me because everyone was afraid of me—people live by the fear of man, instead of the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. Fear of the Lord is the place where the only one you fear is God.”
He encouraged the congregation to be bold in sharing their faith, and not be afraid of what others may think of them, as the only thing that matters is what God says about us.
“I was lost and no one told me they were found. Why would I want what you have if I can’t see Christ in you?” he asked bluntly.
White had a girlfriend, and they had a child together, but their daughter committed suicide. White himself was suicidal and manic depressive, and he started physically abusing his girlfriend and manipulating her into staying with him.
One night, his girlfriend and daughter left him, and he decided he was going to commit suicide. Something stopped him and he opened up a phone book, and it fell open on a list of churches. “The last thing I wanted to do was go to church,” he said, but somehow he visited one. There, he met a pastor who told him about Jesus and he led him through a prayer. White thought he was saved.
From then, White told everyone around him about Jesus. His family, his best friend Bobby, and even the members of the band he was in. Everyone thought he was crazy. But “I didn’t surrender my life to Jesus, I incorporated him.” He was still leading a life plagued by drugs and pornography.
One night, White impersonated a police officer and stole a cocaine-filled car from a 15-year-old dealer, who shot him from a distance of three meters, yet he got away unscathed—even the car had no bullet marks. “As I was driving away from that boy, an audible voice in my car said, ‘I took those bullets for you, are you ready to live for Me yet?’” he recounted.
That night, he still got high on drugs. However, that phrase kept ringing in his head, like a mantra.
Soon after, White picked himself up and check into a rehab program at Teen Challenge, which he quit on the third day. But those three days did not go to waste, as he was struck by a moment of epiphany that he needed to apologize to his family and make things right with them.
GOD IS LOVE
“You can’t be a father unless you encounter the Father,” he said. For the first time, White understood what it meant to be a father, to truly love his family. He promised his wife and daughter he would pick himself up and find a job to provide for his family. He had encountered a love that nothing in the world could provide.
Adding on to the miracles, his girlfriend said, “While you were away, I gave my life to Jesus.”
The couple also made things right by getting married the next weekend. “If someone’s willing to sleep with you outside covenant, what makes you think they’re not going to sleep with someone else once you’re in covenant?” White said.
He highlighted the importance of finding a partner that loves God so much that they can love you right, as God is love, and He loved us so much, He sent Jesus. (John 3:16)
The miraculous account of Todd’s testimony left the congregation in awestruck silence. He then gave an altar call for healing and freedom in Christ, where many were set free that night.
On the final night of FOPx 2019, White and the pastors of the FOP Fellowship formed a prayer tunnel and laid hands on the attendees for an impartation of boldness and passion to go and bring the gospel to the world.
Tan Lee Yi Coco, 19, of Bethany Presbyterian Church, said of FOPx 2019, “Through the conference, I have learn to stand still and to never stop seeking and looking for God even when I don’t see it or feel He is around. However, putting that faith in Him, even when sometimes I don’t feel Him.”
“I was really impacted spiritually. The sermons were really relatable to me and throughout the whole conference, I just felt God’s love,” said Zachary, 16, from The City Singapore. “A 100 percent, I would come again!”
Watch the highlights of FOPx 2019
* * * * * * * *
THE ABCD OF SOUL-WINNING
To equip the youth to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all the earth”, Pastor Wu Yuzhuang brought to FOPx a message on the steps to take to win the lost to Christ. He broke it down into four step: A is for taking action—one must build a bridge and have a strategy, and then take action to reach out. B is for boldness—just as the disciples preached the word boldly, so must we; boldness and conviction attract. C is for compassion—the key to evangelism is to have a heart of compassion just like Jesus. Finally, D is for determination—there will be rejection and failure, but we must be determined to complete the mission. Illustrating these four points to effective soul-winning, Pastor Lee Yi Lun brought two of her cell group leaders, Jasmine Kon and Jeremy Peh, and member Kit Yi, who shared how through faith and determination, fuelled by the passion to see others saved, Jasmine’s cell group multiplied and one of the new cell groups multiplied again and yet again. Their testimony aimed to encourage the Christian youths present to obey the call to “Go”.