To be Christlike is to have the character profile of Jesus, which is essentially loving God with all your heart, and your neighbour as yourself. Last weekend, Pastor Kong Hee expounded on the topic of “loving thy neighbour”.
Over the weekend of July 24 and 25, City Harvest Church’s senior pastor Kong Hee expanded on the practical ways of living out the Kingdom of God in this world. Spending time in silence and solitude with God, speaking face to face with Him helps the believer to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit and be more Christlike. Out of the overflow of this divine fellowship, the believer will love and serve God and his neighbour.
So who is our neighbour, asked Pastor Kong? He explained that the term “neighbour” in the Gospel does not only refer to the people who live near by, but it also speaks of the poor and needy, the broken and wounded. These are the people Jesus cares deeply about.
UNDERSTANDING GOD’S HEART
God’s heart for the poor is evident in the ministry of Jesus (Luke 4:18) He cares for the working class, the poor, the illiterate, the sick, the sinners, women, widows, foreigners, the marginalised and most of all, the children.
“The Kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom. You go up by going down,” Pastor Kong described. “The measure of success in the Kingdom of God is not how famous, wealthy or powerful you are, but by how we treat others who have no earthly power and influence.”
He brought the church to Mark 8:22 to 10:52, where Jesus revealed what discipleship entailed. Jesus started and ended this portion by healing the sick, and within these chapters, He talked about what it meant to follow Him. Sadly, the disciples were too busy with their own agendas to see how Jesus loved and cared for the poor and needy.
“Personal salvation must translate into helping the poor and needy,” declared Pastor Kong. “When we are changed by the rule of God, and the kingdom of God comes within us. When the King is ruling, we must have the same compassion that He has.”
He added, “Greatness in the Kingdom is not measured by possessions, power and prestige, but by how we serve others. Especially the marginalised, the outcasts, specifically, the little children.”
The Gospel of Mark featured children who were sick and in need. The children who came to Jesus were not healthy and happy, Pastor Kong noted, but they were sick and in need of a touch from the Miracle Worker. These children included Jairus’ daughter whom Jesus raised from the dead and the demon-possessed boy with epilepsy.
Pastor Kong recalled his early days of ministry when he and Sun would encounter many desperate parents with gravely ill children at evangelistic rallies. The pastors developed a desire for the Holy Spirit to work miracles in the name of Jesus to heal the sick.
He said, “The disciples were arguing over who was the greatest among them. So, Jesus was telling them that the call of discipleship is more than just following a Miracle Worker. It is also about taking up the cross.”
5 COMMON RESPONSES OF THE CHURCH TO THE POOR & NEEDY
The pastor highlighted the common responses of most Christians and churches when it comes to serving the poor and needy. The first is apathy towards the poor and needy. Christians often take John 8:12—”the poor you always have with you”—out of context and give the excuse that and that there is no end to helping them.
The second response is that they expect the government to fulfil the role of helping the poor and needy. However, he reminded the church that God has put this responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the Church.
The third is that many consider ministry to the poor and needy to be of marginal importance—optional at best, or a distraction at worse.
The fourth response is that a ministry to the poor and needy is only for those inclined, gifted or anointed in this area and not a church’s central mission. “But Jesus is saying it is!” countered Pastor Kong. “All of us are empowered by the Spirit to share the love of God to the poor.”
The final response is that caring for the poor and needy is not seen as a mark of a disciple. However, Pastor Kong emphasised that it is actually “front and centre of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
Addressing the intentions of the heart, Pastor Kong reminded the church that they cannot help others on their own terms. “We don’t help the poor because of our own selfish reasons. We help because we love God and we know he loves us, and his love overflows in our hearts for others,” he preached.
CHURCH WITHOUT WALLS
Pastor Kong showed the church a video that re-introduced them to Church Without Walls, an initiative that began 26 years ago in 1996. In those days, CHC was housed at Hollywood Theatre along Tanjong Katong Road. The love of God overflowed in the hearts of the members, and answering the call of God to take the church beyond the four walls of their building, they ministered to the poor and needy, applying the Luke 10 principle taught by Jesus: first, bless the lost and encourage them; second, fellowship with them, visit them and befriend them; next, meet their needs and pray for them; and finally, preach the kingdom of God and if their hearts open, share the love of Jesus to them.
By 2008, the church was helping more than 15,000 people. Today, many they have helped are no longer poor, but successful, with families of their own.
“We started small, but year by year, God allowed us to minister to more of the poor and needy. The more we reached out to them, the more the Holy Spirit came upon us,” the pastor explained. “The more we blessed the poor and needy, the more God blessed us. This is the whole purpose of being blessed by God: so that we can be a blessing.”
Next, the church watched several recorded interviews Pastor Kong conducted with the heads of the Church Without Walls.
The first was with Pastor Eileen, who was involved in the early days of Church Without Walls. “I remembered you and Sun shared a vision about going out to the highways and byways to love God and love people fervently,” she said. “With that fire, we went with our team, without much skills, knowledge or experience. We just wanted to reach out to the poor and the needy.”
Pastor Eileen and her team discovered that in Ghim Moh, where poorer families lived in one-room flats, children in loved playing basketball, so they gathered to befriend and play basketball with them every Friday. Over in Ang Mo Kio, when the team realised that children there needed help with their studies, they set up tuition groups to meet the needs of the people. The team also reached out to the residents around Haig Road and Geylang, which were near the church. Pastor Eileen recounted even befriending and helping a mamasan with her children.
Things have not changed that much the last 25 years. Pastor Eileen shared two recent encounters she had with families living in one-room flats in Singapore, including a single mother of five whose ex-husband was in and out of jail, and a teenager of transnational parents who had never been to school.
“Helping the poor and needy is never outdated,” said Pastor Eileen. “When you encounter people with needs, you will be filled with compassion, and then you will meet their needs.”
The church watched a video testimony from Chiong Xiao Ting, one of the beneficiaries living in Haig Road in the ’90s. At the age of 11, she was living with her uncle as her mother was terminally ill with cancer. It was the most difficult time of her life, but her days were brightened by the support and love of the children’s church teachers who regularly visited her. “One year later, my mom passed away. The teachers were there for me, encouraging and supporting me,” she remembered. Xiao Ting excelled at school and as she grew up, became a youth cell leader in CHC. Today, she works for CHC as a Chinese translator and is happily married and the proud mother of two girls.
“I often wonder where I would be if Children’s Church did not reach out to me during my difficult season and transition; if Pastor Eileen and the teachers didn’t go the extra mile for me then,” Xiao Ting said. “I was so broken, and I came from a very broken family. But God found me, He rescued me, and He turned my life around. And He gave me my own beautiful family. When I look back at how far I’ve come, I know that it can only be God working through His people. I am eternally grateful.”
REVIVING CHURCH WITHOUT WALLS
Pastor Kong rallied the church to gradually revive the work of Church Without Walls and help the needy, beginning with disadvantaged children and the elderly.
Together with Lynn Tan, a pastor from Harvest Kidz and Maria Tok, the pastor that oversees Dialect Service, Pastor Kong went through two five-month plans that individuals and cell groups can get involved in to serve the children and elderly. These two programmes aim to reach 185 children and 380 elderly persons.
“These are just two out of the many groups of people we hope to reach out to, and we know that the Holy Spirit is moving in all our hearts, and He is going to lead us,” Pastor Kong said in closing. “Jesus says that when we feed the hungry, and quench the thirsty, and clothe the naked, and care for the sick and do home visitations to the lonely, we are doing it as unto the Lord.”
If you wish to be part of Church Without Walls in CHC’s outreach to the needy, please contact your cell group leader. If you are not part of a cell group yet, please email firstname.lastname@example.org