CHC’s Indonesian Service was blessed by a recent visit from Pastor Bambang Jonan of GBI Rumah Persembahan. He shared a message on the importance of serving the poor.
On 10 March, City Harvest Church’s Indonesian Service was privileged to welcome Bambang Jonan, senior pastor of GBI Rumah Persembahan, Indonesia. In his sermon, he emphasised the significance of “diaconal ministry”, that is, the ministry to the poor.
In 1993, Pastor Bambang received a divine call to start a church in Medan with 119 members. His congregation comprised largely trishaw riders and public transport drivers. Since then, the church has grown exponentially over the years, and he now supervises 202 churches.
Throughout the 30-year journey of that church, God blessed them with many provisions, including the opportunity to establish Flow Music School which trains and sends musicians as missionaries— “musicianaries”—into the world. Additionally, the church runs Bible Theological School that awards up to doctorate degrees, and produces 100 to 150 graduates annually. Aside from education, the church operates a foundation that manages eight clinics and one hospital in the Indonesian island of Nias, serving approximately 5,000 patients every month.
During his sermon at the Indonesian Service, Pastor Bambang recalled that at the beginning of his ministry, when his congregation mostly consisted of individuals from a lower socio-economic background, he received a clear message from God to “find more of the poor people.” He was surprised by this message as he thought that a financially struggling church should attract more affluent members. Nevertheless, he obeyed.
In those days, he would walk along Thamrin Road in Medan, where he encountered homeless people known as “box men” because they erected cardboard boxes to sleep in at night after going to work during the day.
REVELATION OF MINISTERING TO THE POOR
After a couple of years of ministering to the poor, Pastor Bambang received a scripture from Deuteronomy 15:1 (NIV) which reads, “At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts.” In addition, God promised in Deuteronomy 15:10 (NIV) that “Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” These verses immediately became a revelation to his congregation.
After reading Deuteronomy 15:1-10, the pastor came to understand that debt often led to poverty. He responded to the word with action. Seven years ago, he had given his driver a loan to buy a house. After receiving the divine revelation, he decided to forgive the remaining amount of debt. This act of debt cancellation triggered a movement within the church, and many businesspeople in his congregation followed suit and cancelled the debts of their less-privileged borrowers.
The church continued to care for the poor and God’s light shone upon them just as it is written in Isaiah 58:8, “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.” Signs and wonders occurred during their weekly services—people were healed and delivered miraculously, even without the pastor laying hands upon them. People started to hear about the works God was doing in the church, and the church began to grow.
The church in Medan started to adopt the teachings of Isaiah 58:10, “and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” This approach is rooted in the idea of loving your neighbour as yourself and giving generously and intentionally, rather than offering leftovers or low-quality items. To implement this principle, the church matched the budget for its church works to the budget for its staff salaries.
Pastor Bambang also taught the congregation that when they give in accordance with the teachings of Scripture, God promised in Isaiah 58:11 that He would always guide them, satisfy their needs—even in a dry and barren land—and strengthen them. They would be like a well-watered garden and God would be their constant source of water, even during a drought. In difficult circumstances, people would come to them seeking good things and that would provide an opportunity for them to testify that all blessings are from God.
Through their faithful giving to the poor, the church in Medan witnessed the fulfilment of Isaiah 60:1-3. They were able to continue planting churches and they experienced an increase in the number of souls saved, even amidst the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
MINISTRY TO THE POOR AND DIVINE HEALING
Pastor Bambang used the story of Dorcas being resurrected from the dead (Acts 9) as an example to illustrate the importance of having a heart for the poor and caring for them. Psalm 41:1-3 promises that God would show mercy during a believer’s moment of weakness when they have a heart for the poor.
The pastor shared his personal testimony. A fire broke out in the church’s office at Medan Plaza in 2015, destroying 40 percent of the church’s building fund that had been kept in six vaults. The church was in the midst of erecting its new building, and it still had 80 billion Rupiah (SGD$7 million) to pay off when the fire happened. The pastor had no idea how to pay off the rest of the cost to finish the building. God, however, showed His mercy and provided for the church. Within 10 months, the 6,000-seater church building was completed debt-free.
As he concluded his message, Pastor Bambang recounted how Issachar was compared to a strong donkey in Genesis 49:14-15, because he had to carry the burden of the land. In Deuteronomy 33: 19, Moses prophesied of Issachar: “They shall call the peoples to the mountain; There they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness; for they shall partake of the abundance of the seas and of treasures hidden in the sand.”
He encouraged the church to take up the responsibility of serving the city in which it is located, as the prosperity of the city is linked to the prosperity of the church. A church that is willing to carry the load of its city, taking care of the disadvantaged and impoverished, will become a church that draws people from all nations and reaps a harvest of souls for God’s Kingdom.
The congregation of CHC’s Indonesian Service was tremendously blessed by Pastor Bambang’s sermon. It served as a reminder of God’s desire for His church to continually show care and love towards the less fortunate, loving them as they would love themselves.
Contributed by Marina Oktavia Dewi