Chua Yi Kwan looks more like a cool rapper than a church-worker in a Chinese-speaking church. But this 26-year-old has seen God use his yielded life and transform his church, Tabernacle of God, in Batu Pahat.
In a city one and a half hours away from Singapore sits Tabernacle of God, a Chinese church in Batu Pahat. Its senior pastor, Chua Kik Chon recently graduated from City Harvest’s School of Theology.
At his graduation, Pastor KC, as he is popularly known, shared with City Harvest Church his journey of building the church and how he came to SOT. He was a businessman when God called him to start a church in the small town of Batu Pahat. With no experience or training, Pastor KC could only imitate what other churches did but that did not help his church to grow. After four years, he decided to stop wandering aimlessly and told God the church needed help.
He decided to enrol in the Bible school in 2019 after seeing his son, Chua Yie Kwuan (better known as YK) graduate from SOT in 2016 with a fresh fire for God. For the sake of growing his church, Pastor KC took a step of faith, setting aside his concerns about his language skills. At SOT, he saw the commitment to God that CHC members possess, and he learned how to seek God wholeheartedly. His vision now is to make more disciples for Jesus together with his son.
FROM A GAMER TO A CHURCH-BUILDER
City News got YK to share his story of how God has worked in his life, and in turn, his father’s and his church’s.
Even though he has been a Christian since young, YK hadn’t always been serious with God. “I was a gaming addict in my secondary school days. Besides sleeping, all I did the whole day was play games,” he admitted.
His team was so good that they won a national gaming competition one year.
“I would go to church and I also served in the music ministry; I played the drums for praise and worship,” he described. “When the pastor was preaching, I was sleeping on the snare, then just before altar call, someone will wake me up and I’ll start playing again. It was really bad.”
When he entered university, he started to commit himself to serving God in church. His gaming lifestyle subsided. “My dad wanted me to go to Malacca to study because of a church over there. It’s a Pentecostal Chinese church and at that period of time, they were in revival because they prayed a lot. Every morning at 6, all the students from the church will gather to pray. Their cell group meetings and services were very good and that was when my life changed.”
When YK was in his second year of university, his father founded Tabernacle of God. YK went back to Batu Pahat every weekend to lead cell group and help in the services. God started to prepare his heart to serve Him.
“The church in Malacca often invites prophets to pray for the congregation and prophesy over them,” he said. “Out of the 10 prophesies given to me, nine said that I would become a pastor. Since young, everyone tells me that I’ll become a pastor one day. My friend always jokingly call me Pastor Chua, Pastor YK. I’ve always known that God has called me, but I just didn’t want to admit it.”
He finally gave his life to God when he broke up with his first girlfriend. “I decided then, that I should start being serious with God and live my life for Him,” said YK.
“When we first started the church, we had no experience and no one to help us. But I’m the sort of person who likes to do my own research and learn things by myself,” he explained. “So I went online and I asked around. That’s when my friends told me about CHC.”
The person that attracted him to find out more about CHC was Annabel Soh, CHC’s worship leader. “I have a whole file of Annabel’s songs in my computer,” he confessed with a laugh.
YK knows that CHC uploads their weekend service online on Wednesdays, so he would log on and listen to the sermon. “When our church first started, we copied everything from CHC. From landing worship to welcoming new friends, taking the offering—we did everything exactly the same way,” he recalled.
When the church was 4 years old, both YK and his dad felt that the church needed a breakthrough. But more than the ministry, YK was facing a crossroad in his personal life. “I was in the final year of university and I didn’t know if I want to continue studying accounts. I didn’t like it and I felt lost because I knew I wanted to become a pastor one day, so studying accounts felt like a waste of time.”
Just when he was struggling, he found SOT. “I wanted to study theology. Initially, I wanted to go to Planetshakers because I saw their advertisement at a conference I attended. But the course is over two years, which is a little long. I was also scared that the culture would be too different from Malaysia and I wouldn’t be able to apply what I learn,” he recalled.
“Then I heard about SOT. It’s a seven-month course, so I only needed to take one year’s leave from university.”
FINDING HIMSELF IN SOT
SOT was a time where God challenged YK. “Before I went to SOT, God gave me two verses. The first verse was ‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go’ (Jos 1:9). The second verse is ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.’ (Ps 51:10) I was wondering why God gave me these verses, very ‘normal’ verses.”
YK came from a Chinese-speaking world and his command of English was not strong. But God placed him in an English-speaking team and cell group. “I can only manage 30 percent English words in a sentence before I have to switch back to Chinese. I wanted to go to a Chinese-speaking team because I was aiming to be the best preacher. That was my only goal in SOT. I wouldn’t be able to preach in Mandarin if I was in an English team. I wanted to request for a change but I felt that I needed to stay.”
When it was finally time for the SOT preaching test, YK had to decide between preaching in Mandarin, or in English, a task that proved to be very hard. On the first day, he prepared two sermons, one in English and one in Mandarin.
“My first evaluator was Leila Tan. I suddenly found the faith and I decided to preach in English. I felt that there was a God moment when I was preaching that sermon and a lot of my teammates said they were blessed. I was nominated to be the best preacher because of that sermon.”
Just when YK thought his dream was going to come true, he discovered that he was not chosen as the best preacher. “I was super, super sad. I had never been so disappointed before. I was so down for the whole week. At that time I really felt that God was not faithful,” he admitted.
But after a week, God spoke to YK. “He said, ‘I don’t want you to be preaching for the top preacher award, I want you to preach for Me.’ I was shocked, but that incident made me realized why God gave me Psalm 51:10. I need to serve Him with a clean heart. Since then, God has opened doors for me. My Filipino classmate invited me to the Philippines to preach after SOT. After that, I also started an English-speaking cell group in an international school.”
As he obeyed God, his faith started to increase. “I became bolder in praying for people to receive miracles. After I returned to my church from SOT, miracles started to happen. We have never experienced things like people manifesting in the past. We would pray but nothing would happen (laughs). The very first time a girl started to manifest, everyone was shocked. Since then, the services begin to change, and everything changed.”
YK also started teaching his members to play drums and started a worship band. “I taught them how to worship, about the spirit of excellence—basically everything Brother Poh (Teo Poh Heng, CHC’s worship leader) said, I repeated to them. I taught them all he taught us in SOT.”
BUILDING THE CONNECTION
Even though YK graduated from SOT, he didn’t manage to build a connection with CHC right away. He went back to Malacca for his final year of university and was very busy building his church. “I tried to come to CHC for service and cell group meeting every three months but I feel like there was no connection. It was very hard going so I kind of gave up.”
After about 10 months, YK started to feel that he needed a mentor. “In my mind, CHC was too far and the pastors are too busy—I felt it wouldn’t work.”
YK went knocking on the doors of many big churches wanting to join their network, but things did not happen. In 2018, TOG was organizing a conference and YK needed to invite a guest speaker. “Someone suggested asking Pastor Bobby to come. I was thinking, ‘He’s too busy, he won’t come.’ But I texted his secretary, Yvonne, and she actually said okay, he can come and preach.”
A month after Pastor Bobby preached in TOG’s conference, YK received a call in the morning. He had gone back to sleep after a morning prayer meeting. “I saw the name on the screen: ‘CHC Pastor Bobby’. In my sleepy state, I was thinking, ‘Who is that?’”
In that conversation, Pastor Bobby told YK that he felt a burden for Malaysia after the conference and wanted to help. YK met with Pastor Bobby and the first thing he talked about was to go back to the basics: Bible studies, how to be a Christian and remain a Christian. “I was so amazed, that was exactly what my church needed. It was like I found Jesus. When I brought it back to my church, it seemed to be so simple. So I said, ‘Yes Pastor, please help me and my church. Please send the mission team to give Bible study.”
And that was how TOG became a part of The Harvest Network. Joining THN also broadened TOG’s reach to pastors in other Chinese speaking communities.
“The best part of it is to have met Pastor Garrick Li (senior pastor of Christ Harvest Church in Banqiao, Taiwan) in person. I’ve been following him on Instagram for a while and I find that his church has what I want for my church. Honestly, CHC is too big for me to relate to. It’s in my dream and vision to be like CHC one day, but it’s still very far-fetched now,” YK said candidly.
“Pastor Garrick’s church is a few hundred strong, but their passion for Christ is what I want for my church. I’m also very inspired by the way he treats others and the way he preaches—that is also my dream.”
Pastor Garrick inspires YK to build a Chinese Church that can relate to today’s youths. “People often think that the Chinese-speaking churches must be more traditional and ‘old-school’. But I think the Chinese church can be very cool and very passionate.”