All that you have heard about SOT… is true. If you want to start the new decade right, or if you just want 2020 to be the best spiritual year you’ve ever had, sign up for CHC’s School of Theology now, says City News’ senior editor and SOT2019 graduate.
When I first came to City Harvest Church, I was a 2-year-old Christian. I was so hungry for the Word and for good teaching that every service was like a Christmas feast. When I learned that CHC had a School of Theology I was so excited—I couldn’t wait to sign up and learn more of God!
But God had a different timing for me in mind. I got pregnant and, as every Singaporean mother can empathize, that pretty much killed any possibility of SOT until PSLE was over.
The annual SOT Graduation service is one of my favorite services, because every year my heart would be so moved by the stories of transformation that took place those seven months, stories of God’s supernatural provision, stories of being ignited with a lasting fire for the Lord. Every year, when the graduating cohort sings “In Christ Alone”, I would cry like a baby. And every year, I would ask the Lord, “So, is it my turn next year?”
In October 2018, during that SOT graduation service, I asked God, “Lord, PSLE is over in a few days. May I please go? Call me!”
At that period I was feeling particularly low, spiritually and emotionally. For the whole of 2018, I had had to look after my parents-in-law, both of whom have dementia, as they live with my husband and I, and I’m the one who has the more flexible work hours. Countless visits to countless doctors, dealing with the effects of their memory loss, dropping everything to drive to some remote place to pick up my father-in-law all because he had lost his way yet again, answering the same question from my mother-in-law for the 20th time this week…that latest challenge really drained me psychologically and spiritually. I had never felt so dry and far away from God as I did that year.
God heard the cry of my heart. Also, I believe, His timing is always perfect. I was now at a point where I was hungry for more of God with greater desperation than ever in my life. It prepared me for an encounter with Him that I would not have had, should I have gone to SOT any earlier.
You would have heard, no doubt, from friends and cell group mates, glowing reports about the SOT journey. I had too, for 13 years. But nothing prepared me for the tremendous blessing it truly was. I won’t bore you with the daily details but I’ll share five things that SOT did for me, and why I highly recommend you go this year, because as they say, “good things must share.”
ONE: AT SOT, YOU WILL HAVE HONEST CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD AND YOU WILL KNOW THAT HE IS REAL.
Taking that step to enter SOT is an invitation to the Lord to have His way in you, and believe me, He will take you up on it. If you are feeling confused, angry, complacent, ambivalent about your faith, yet you know that you love God on some level, SOT is for you.
For me, I felt like the ground in the Parable of the Sower, where the troubles of the world emerged like thorns and choked the seed of the Word, and I had been bearing no fruit for a long time, maybe a decade. On the first day of SOT, when praise and worship began, the presence of God came like fire—I am sure, not just upon me—and my spirit was reawakened. I felt as if I had been asleep for a long, long time, and suddenly, now, God was breathing His Spirit upon me and my lungs were filled with life-giving air. For the first time in a long, long time, I saw the Holy Spirit face-to-face, and He said, “Hi! It’s Me!”
That was a powerful beginning to what would be seven months (and beyond) of genuine encounters with the Lord. For me, being “stripped bare” before God happened very quickly during SOT, but everyone will have their own timing of coming face-to-face with Him. When all your walls have finally broken down, when all your defenses have been laid aside and you’re completely vulnerable with the Lord, that is when you will understand what it means to be loved by Him and to be completely dependent on Him. It is a fantastic place to be! I wish it on every believer and those who will come into the Kingdom.
When you come to this place, you will have honest conversations with God. Because you will quickly realize it’s a total waste of time to indulge in any religious rituals or fake faith. Nobody cares that you fasted every day for seven months if your countenance is not transformed by touching God forehead to forehead often.
SOT is where God will speak into the depths of your heart. He will call you out on the lies you have told yourself for so long that even you believe them. He will cleanse you, He will change your thinking, He will tell you secret things that will rock your world.
You will weep a lot, and not because you’re sad, but because when He pours into you, you cannot help but overflow.
Pro-tip: Buy travel-size tissue packets and make sure you are stocked up for school every day. Otherwise, initiate a Tissue Ministry in your team like we did.
TWO: At SOT, you will learn to truly love.
I had always thought of myself as a very tolerant person. SOT revealed to me that I was as prejudiced and selfish as anyone I had ever judged. Every cohort is made up of not just Singaporean students but students from all over the region—Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar, Hong Kong—and beyond (this year we had Canadians and a Bulgarian living in Germany). You’re not only putting different cultures, habits, social statuses, ages and levels of hygiene into one room, you are also putting together people of different spiritual levels. We had pastors, we had people who had graduated from other Bible schools, and we had baby Christians.
I cannot praise the SOT staff enough for their immense wisdom and grace in planning, sorting and disciplining the student body. I would have lost my patience before the prep course was over.
In SOT you are sorted into teams, and your team will very likely comprise people of all ages, from all countries. Language barriers are a common issue. Cultural differences are another issue. Then there are always, always the space cadets, who will come to you after every briefing and ask “What are we supposed to do, ah?”
But as you walk through the seven months with your team and your class—led by God—you will come to a place where you realize, as lovers of Jesus, you have more in common than not. When you listen to your teammates pray in their native tongues, the spirit of their prayers strikes you in your heart like an arrow and you find yourself praying along and weeping, as I did when my Japanese teammate Misato prayed. I had no idea what her words meant, but I understood her prayers perfectly.
When you go on your mission trip with your team, you will learn to seek and boost the strength of every member and you will understand precisely what “every joint supplies” means.
When you see how your classmates, who have come to Singapore in faith, without any means to pay for their lodging, experience miracles of provision, you rejoice with them.
I had the privilege of being a team leader together with Angelina, a fellow cell group leader in my zone. I came to realize that I am a bossy person, and I am extremely uptight about things being done “the right way” (ie, my way). That included the Powerpoint slides for the services during our mission trip. I also realized how much grace my team extended to me by submitting to my impatient leadership. Most of all, I came to understand that in our imperfections, we love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, and that’s how God loves us too, warts and all.
Learning to see your friends, your husband, your children, your pastors through God’s love-filled eyes—that is one lesson I learned during SOT that will always stay with me.
THREE: At SOT, you will understand and experience the power of the Holy Spirit practically.
It’s hard to argue that the most exciting module at SOT is Pastor Mike Connell’s course in deliverance. (For Harry Potter fans, it is Defense Against The Dark Arts for Christians, only better.) This is an area that is not widely taught, and I consider it one of the greatest gifts SOT has to give to all its students past, present and future.
The very real war between humans and the kingdom of darkness is not something many Christians pay too much attention to, perhaps because of some bad experiences, bad press or bad Hollywood movies. But as Hosea 4:6 puts it, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
While not every problem we have should be credited to satan, the fact that “our war is not against flesh and blood” (Eph 6:12) should never be ignored.
Pastor Mike has been a blessing to CHC and to SOT for nearly as long as CHC has been around, and I urge you to enroll in SOT to learn from him as soon as possible. Being equipped in spiritual warfare is essential to every Christian’s development—how can we be victorious if we don’t know how to use the weapons of warfare God has already given to us?
At SOT you will learn from Pastor Mike how demons can gain a stronghold in our lives—yes, newsflash: demons can enter Christians—and how you can help to set a person free from torment, and how to maintain a Spirit-filled life after being set free.
Of course, a key part of these lessons is hands-on practice, and you will have plenty of opportunity to use what you have learned, both in class, in school and out in the mission field. And after that, in your daily lives, your work place, your home and in the lives of those you love.
Most of all, if you continue to practise what you are taught during Pastor Mike’s classes, you will come to know and walk with the Holy Spirit more intimately than you ever have. You will receive revelations that will transform your faith and turn you into a fire-filled believer.
FOUR: At SOT, you will get to know your pastors in deeper ways and be mentored by them.
Even though I have been in church for 14 years and a member of the church staff for 11, it was at SOT that I got to know my pastors better than ever before.
Pastor Bobby Chaw is the Principal of SOT, and he is also my zone pastor. While we have worked closely enough the past decade as colleagues, and I have been so blessed by his preaching during weekend services and at zone meetings, it was at SOT that I got to see Pastor Bobby’s uncompromisingly devotion to Jesus, particularly during the Christology module. From him, I learned what is probably the Number One spiritual lesson of 2019 for me: how to be a doulos (bondservant) to my Lord, and how to be a servant leader to the Christian body.
Pastor Tan Kim Hock is the Academic Dean of SOT, and he was battling cancer throughout SOT this year. I had always known him as the resident theologian—he’s the one to ask if you aren’t sure if you have your theology straight—but it was at SOT that I heard him speak from his heart about how, throughout his journey dealing with cancer, he has found perfect peace. For the first time, I heard him talk about how much he loves his wife, Pastor Lily Yong, who is the pastor of CHC’s service for the intellectually-disabled. For the first time, I saw the immense joy his sons bring him. It was a revelation to me that to him, to go on missions and to see souls saved was the chief reason to get well and live on.
For this reason, SOT alumni have a direct connection with CHC’s pastors—in fact, many have a special relationship with the pastors that even CHC members don’t. And every alumnus is considered “a son/daughter of the House”—the blood of Christ runs through our veins.
Bonus info: This year, Pastor Kong Hee, senior pastor of CHC, will be back teaching at SOT. Alumni are also welcome to return for updated modules that he will be teaching.
FIVE: At SOT, you will have a great spiritual family
I know every team will say this, but I believe Team 6, SOT 2019 was and still is the best team ever! We comprised mostly people above 40, but our mix of Singaporeans, Japanese, Filipino and Burmese was perfect.
Team 6 quite literally embodied “Eat Pray Love”.
We had a team of Mamas and Papas who always made sure everyone was well-fed at every break, and I mean every break. We also tended to each other’s needs, small and big. We took care of each other’s kids, we prayed for each other’s spouses, parents, children. We fellowshipped enthusiastically.
Other SOT teams of years past have even gone on to do mighty exploits for God, such as Missio Dei Harvest, a missions outreach started by two SOT alumni and their teams that has turned into a quasi ministry. I have met some teams that still go on mission trips together, others that make it a point to meet up at least yearly.
Whatever your SOT team is like, you will graduate with a spiritual family that you know you can turn to, because these people have seen you on your knees, or on your face, or on your back having been overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. They have seen you wash your face clean of makeup with your tears during prayer meetings. They have heard you share intimately about your challenges and your breakthroughs. Every SOT team is bound together by these shared experiences, and by the blood of Jesus.
Since graduation, our team mate Unity Lian has been made Youth Pastor of her church, Myanmar Apostolic Church in Yangon. Jeffrey Roque, the youngest member of our team, was just ordained a Reverend of his church this past weekend, and we are all meeting up in Guagua next May to celebrate his wedding! Our Whatsapp chat group is alive and well. And we cover one another in prayer, and in practical needs: my team mate Elida Yong helped me overcome a huge insurance problem just last month. I know for sure God has put us all together for His pleasure and His purpose, and I pray we will serve Him as Team 6 for many years to come.
For those who have never felt like they belonged, SOT will change that.
So has SOT changed my life now that I’ve come back down to earth? I won’t lie and say it’s been a bed of roses, because reality bites. But it is definitely a joy when I am able to see my circumstances as merely stepping stones to the purpose God has called me to. I’m happy that God has enlarged my heart and mind towards my parents-in-law—the Holy Spirit constantly reminds me that their condition is temporary, and they will be fully restored when they are with the Lord. When troubles come, and they do, I find now that the first thing I do is to pray and praise, because they have become weapons of warfare natural to me. Most of all, I now have a tribe—SOT 2019—that I know I can rely on. They will forever reside in this special place in my heart.
If you hear Jesus knocking at the door of your heart, or if you have this overwhelming feeling you should be signing up for SOT 2020, do it. Don’t let excuses and inconvenience rob you of an experience that will bring you daily into God’s arms, that will strengthen you and prepare you for the years to come.
School of Theology 2020 is open for registration now. Click here to change your life.