Since City Harvest Church’s senior pastor Kong Hee began sharing about his personal practice of “silence and solitude”, he conducted a number of retreats with church staff and Bible study sessions with various leadership groups in the church. Some members have caught the vision and followed suit. They share their experiences with City News.
City Harvest Church began 2021 with three goals set by its senior pastor Kong Hee. He urged them to be intentional in cultivating Christlikeness, in loving others selflessly, and to be a disciple in the marketplace. As he embarked on the series on the Kingdom of God, Pastor Kong taught the church the importance of developing their spiritual life in order to experience God and His Kingdom fully.
“Spirituality can only be developed in the silence and solitude of God’s presence,” he preached in a sermon on the weekend of May 22 and 23. Emphasising the need for Christians to seek God in solitude, he warned them against being too busy for God.
“Because we’re so addicted to being busy, eventually our spiritual tank becomes empty,” he warned. “When that happens, we have even less energy to meet with God, or to desire spiritual transformation in the presence of God.”
Like seeds sown on good ground, certain church members caught the vision and embarked on their own journey of retreating into God’s presence. Through it, many were refreshed and found renewed joy in their spirit. As CHC Board member Cindy Lee puts it, “I find I am coming before the Lord more frequently than before, and spending time in silence and solitude seeking God and reflecting about things in the past.”
SILENCING THE NOISE IN HIS HEAD
CHC member Philip Joe hails from Mumbai, India. Pastor Kong’s messages on silence and solitude came as a word in season for him.
“By design, I’m a person who refuels when I am alone,” he shares. “However, working from home for the past year, with two preschool kids and the distractions of social media and over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Netflix and Disney+, drew me away from carving out time for myself and the pursuit of God’s presence.”
At the same time, Philip, a business manager, was facing worries and anxieties about his future. “I realised that I was chasing only earthly goals. Emotionally, I felt spent and drained as well. I would go to sleep thinking about work and wake up with those thoughts too,” he recalls.
He had been joking with his wife about going to a hotel alone to get some peace when he heard Pastor Kong’s sermon on silence and solitude. He decided to go on a solo staycation for three days and two nights.
“My wife was just amazing,” he says. “She supported my idea as she knew I needed the reset.”
Philip made a list of three things he wanted to do on the staycation: the first was to spend time with God and allow Him to reset his heart. The second was to take time to write down a list of his fears and worries, and to lay them down in God’s presence. The final was to make sure he does not go onto social media or streaming platforms.
“I thought that I would be able to switch off the noise in my head quickly and have a good time of silence and solitude from the start of checking into the hotel,” Philip shares. “But it took nearly 24 hours for the noise in my head to settle down and for me to reach a place of peace and connecting with God.”
After he checked in, his mind was racing with thoughts and soon, he found himself reinstalling Disney+ to watch an Avengers movie.
“But at that moment, I became keenly aware that social media and movie platforms were not refuelling me,” he said. “They were just distracting me from my worries and anxieties,” he discovered.
He spent that evening listing down his fears and worries and praying over them. The next day he re-watched Pastor Kong’s sermons on the Kingdom of God. “I re-watched parts two, three and four at a stretch, and they really spoke to me. God started to deal with my heart and mind, and I felt that the noise in my head going away.”
One sentence in those sermons resonated with Philip: “Pastor Kong asked, ‘Can you trust God with your future, with your family’s future?’ When I heard that, I cried a lot, repented a lot, prayed over my list a lot,” he says.
In the weeks following his staycation, Philip’s wife constantly noticed that he had become more loving towards her. “It wasn’t something I was intentional about; it seems to be a natural result of the time I spent in silence and solitude.”
A RENEWAL OF THE MIND
Since May, Pastor Kong has been conducting Bible study sessions via Zoom with different groups of members, including overseas pastors from The Harvest Network, heads of departments in CHC, CHC’s board members as well as marketplace leaders.
Lead steward with an airline, Raymond Than was one of the participants in the Bible study session for marketplace leaders.
“During the Bible study, Pastor Kong taught group leadership lessons from the life of Gideon. Gideon delivered the Israelites from the Midianites with just 300 men, but he was, at best, a flawed leader who committed many sins and errors during his lifetime. At the end of his life, the Israelites went back into idolatry. A leader can do mighty exploits for God and still have no real inner life with God,” Raymond recalls, adding that that was why, at the end of that session, he decided to embark on a season of silence and solitude to strengthen his inner life with God.
“Spending time with God in silence and solitude is not a one-time event; it should be a lifestyle,” he points out. “Whenever we get too busy, distracted or disconnected from God, we should draw away and spend time with God. I feel it’s very much like our daily quiet time.”
Since he first came to church, Raymond has been taught to guard his daily quiet time with God. “If Satan manages to disconnect us from God, he would have succeeded that day. If this continues over time, we will begin to be out of alignment with God’s will,” he explains.
Raymond starts his quiet time by praying in tongues and worshipping for 10 minutes to align himself with the Holy Spirit. “I have many needs to pray for, but I’ve learnt a lesson in the past from Pastor Phil Pringle to come to God with no agenda. God knows and cares about those needs more than I do. Armed with this knowledge, I can trust God with my needs and just focus on being present with God.”
In his recent time of prayer, God spoke to Raymond about faithfulness. “One definition of faithfulness in the Bible that we often miss out is that faithfulness also means multiplication. In the Parable of the Talents, we see that we will be fruitful and multiply when we are faithful. It has definitely changed my perspective about faithfulness, that to be a ‘good and faithful servant’, I should also bear fruit in life and multiply my gifts and talents,” he says.
BEING INTENTIONAL IN SEEKING GOD
Amos Ang and Rayvin Hsu are CHC staffers who serve alongside Pastor Kong in the online Bible study sessions. Amos leads worship while Rayvin handles the visual communications. The two have been inspired, not just by the message, but by Pastor Kong’s example of a lifestyle of silence and solitude.
“I’m very inspired by him,” Amos reveals. “If Pastor, being a super busy person, can exercise silence and solitude, I don’t see why we can’t. I think it’s simply a case of whether we want to or not.”
The worship leader recalls an incident after the first Bible study session. “After the Bible study, I felt encouraged to do seek God for myself in silence and solitude. I’m staying near Henderson Wave, so I went up there to the park in the middle of the night, just to spend time with God,” he recounts.
“I had a great time,” he adds. “I remember the presence of God was so strong and He asked me to lie down on the bridge. I said, ‘What?’ There were other people present—youngsters playing and goofing around—but I was there in the presence of God and He said, ‘Lie down’. So I did, and I felt the rest of God come over me. Lying there, I wept because the presence of God was so strong. I encountered Him that day.”
Before this encounter with God, Amos had been in a season of feeling that his devotion time was getting stagnant. There was a moment he felt far away from the Lord. “You know how scary that was? I didn’t know what to say, I wasn’t hearing anything from Him, I couldn’t feel anything,” he reveals.
Shortly after, his zone pastor, Edmund Tay introduced the worship song “Make Room”, by Community Music, to him. The words of the song touched Amos deeply and he began to ask God how he could make room for Him. God reminded him of the time where he had to make room for his sister-in-law’s family—Amos had housed their family of six in his three-room flat. He had to move furniture around and build new storage to accommodate them.
“I realised that when we make room for God, many things, such as watching Netflix or checking our phones become unimportant” he says. “Making room requires us to move things away.”
God also told him, “‘You’ve got to build a new lifestyle, Amos. You need to build a new habit to make room for Me.’”
From that revelation, Amos rebuilt his devotion to God. He fasted from gaming for a week and started coming to God with no agenda, simply to spend time with Him. “If God is precious and special to me, then I would want to spend time with Him.”
It might feel awkward in the beginning, but “I became so addicted to the presence of God,” he says.
Amos has felt a shift in his spirit. “Before that, I was feeling so tired. I just wanted to sleep, and everything felt so gloomy. After I learnt to put aside non-important things and just focus on God, it really brought light to everything (I do) and there is joy,” he reveals. “I guess it’s probably because when we spend time with God, He never fails to meet with us. We naturally get fuelled up in our spirit.”
For Rayvin, the Bible study sessions taught him that he needs to be intentional in carving out time to be alone with God, without any distraction.
“I’ve been putting aside my gadgets before my bedtime to reflect on my day and ask God if there’s an area I’ve failed to be more Christlike,” he shares.
He recalls waking up in the middle of the night once and hearing a word from God: Mark 8:36: ‘For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?’”
“Pastor Kong has been sharing that we need to pay attention to the spirit within us, and I know that God wants me to protect my spiritual life,” he shared.
SEEKING THE PRESENCE AND CHARACTER OF GOD
When Connie Yong first heard about silence and solitude, she had no idea what she was expected to practise it. “All I knew was: I love Jesus, I want to be like Him, I had to be alone and be silent,” she muses.
The program development manager in CHC’s Harvest Kidz admits that she found it hard when she first tried to retreat into silence and solitude. “It was difficult to ‘empty’ myself, especially my mind, which was constantly restless and swamped with things I had to do,” she shares. “I had many things to tell God and I would rather pray aloud, pray in tongues, sing, listen to worship songs than stay silent.”
What moved her was her hunger for God and her desire to encounter Him. She went around looking for a “right spot” to be lost in His presence without distraction but to no avail. She and her husband Nic also bought an XXL print Bible to read, instead of using their electronic devices to read Scripture.
Eventually, she turned to a book, Invitation To Solitude And Silence, by Ruth Haley Barton. “I settled in my bedroom and went through the book, a chapter a day,” she says. “Some days, I wept as I released my tiredness and burdens to God. Once, He led me as a sheep into His pasture. Another time, I exchanged my ragged clothes for the full armour of God.”
Another revelation Connie received was about the love of God. “There was this time I became unusually quiet and contemplative, preferring to be alone. God spoke to me through 1 Corinthians 13:1-2, ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing’,” she says.
“It dawned upon me that it is a conscious decision to be a disciple of Christ and to stay in the love of God towards people around me,” Connie explains. “I’m in this to be more like Jesus—the presence and character of Christ is the treasure I seek.”
Seeking God in silence and solitude “didn’t make me an instant saint; in fact, more ugliness surfaced, and it made me realise that I need to keep in step with God and stay soaked in the Spirit at all times,” she says.
DEVELOPING SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE BIT BY BIT
“When Pastor Kong preached about the importance of silence and solitude in a believer’s life, it was very close to my heart because around two years ago I felt the Lord prompted me to go deeper in my relationship with Him,” shares Vincent Ong, a Board Member of CHC. “I have since been stepping up my personal devotion with the Lord and I must say it has been a very interesting and rewarding journey so far.”
Vincent runs a public relations and creative agency with his wife Eileen. They have two children, 7 and 13. “Silence and solitude can be a theoretical truth which seems hard to achieve in real life when we are faced with urgent deadlines, the demands of others and all sorts of distractions in our present-day lifestyle,” he admits.
He used to feel guilty about spending time on his work and his family instead of praying. But a revelation from God set him free. “One of the personal breakthroughs I had was through this early revelation God gave me—that the work we do is worship unto the Lord,” he says.
He learned to co-labour with the Holy Spirit in his job and became more aware of His presence and leading. “With that, I felt the Holy Spirit began to guide me into ‘wrapping’ the daily intervals of silence and solitude within my day-to-day agenda. For example, I pray in my car while driving my kids to school early in the morning. I also set in my digital calendar daily ‘Selah moments’ in the afternoon and evening so that I can break away from the crowd to pray and seek God, even if it’s for 10 or 15 minutes. This has helped me to keep my affection and awareness towards God throughout the entire day, which I think is key in keeping an intimate walk with Him in the midst of the hustle and bustle,” he shares.
Vincent also believes in building spiritual momentum over time in his pursuit of silence and solitude. “As I began to break my devotional hours into bite-size timings, the Holy Spirit started to teach me how to grow in silence and solitude to go deeper in Him. The Lord began to make space for me to spend more time with Him alone,” he reveals.
“I learnt that sometimes we can exercise spiritual discipline to stay in the Lord, but to sustain it as a daily lifestyle over a long time, we need to learn to cultivate our desire and longing for God’s presence. We have to come to a place where we come to God not just because we need Him and His benefits, but we want Him and His presence.”
Having experienced God’s presence and received revelations from Him, Vincent finds that the place of solitude with God is an oasis where he can regain peace, assurance of His love and a time to foster his faith in God again in the midst of his busy schedule.
FINDING GOD IN NATURE
Lim Jer Blinn is CHC’s Human Resource Manager. The mother of three young boys finds it a challenge to find time to practise silence and solitude with God. “Ever since the lockdown happened in April 2020, I have been walking and running more regularly at Bedok Reservoir. I used to listen to podcasts and audiobooks as I walked or ran,” she recounts. “However, after Pastor Kong started preaching about silence and solitude, I started to walk without listening to music, podcasts or audiobooks.”
A verse that Jer Blinn holds close to her heart is Psalm 37:4a, “Delight yourself also in the Lord…” “I yearned to be sensitive to God and just take pleasure and delight to be in His presence. For me, being close to nature draws me closer to Him. As I spend time with God in my walks, I deliberately separate myself from my responsibilities and burdens. Sometimes I read and meditate on verses in Psalms as I walk. Sometimes I pray and intercede. But I would always remind myself to also take time to just come before Him to enjoy Him,” she shares.
Drawing close to God has naturally caused Jer Blinn to become more and more like Christ. “Patience is one of the fruits I know I have to develop in my life. I always find it difficult, especially when handling my kids. It was hard for me to control my anger in my own strength,” she admits.
“However, after I started seeking God in solitude, I noticed that I am able to control my temper much better and I feel less inclined to anger. Thank you, Jesus!”
While it is still hard for Jer Blinn to find time to be alone, she looks forward to developing this new spiritual habit. “I pray that the Lord continues to transform my mind and change my heart every day.”