In his commencement message to the Class of 2023 of the School Of Theology, Pastor Kong Hee encouraged the graduating students and the congregation to build their lives around four important elements—faith, the Word of God, the Holy Spirit and godly counsel.
City Harvest Church’s School of Theology held its graduation service for the 27th cohort on the weekend of 19 and 20 Aug. This year also marks the first time SOT is partnering with Vanguard University in the US, one of the oldest Pentecostal institutions in the world.
The service kicked off with a time of praise and worship in English and Mandarin led by the SOT song leaders and musicians of various nationalities, including India and the Philippines.
EXPERIENCING GOD AT SOT
Klessis Lee, a procurement executive at CHC and City News’ SOT 2023 correspondent, took the stage to share her experience of Bible School. At SOT, she learned to pray in tongues for an hour every morning, and she found her confidence in her role as a cell group leader grow. Since then, she no longer feels inadequate or anxious when she ministers to her members, and she has regained her joy of serving God.
Juggling SOT, ministry, family and work was tough for Klessis, but she drew strength from the anointed worship and prayer sessions in school every day. She shared also about the things her team experienced when they went on a mission trip. The experiences in SOT have strengthened her spiritual walk and given her a new perspective on her faith and walking with God.
Luanzon Kate Pauline Malig from the Philippines delivered a seven-minute sermon on living an overcoming life in the Holy Spirit. She shared two things that happen when the Holy Spirit comes. Firstly, He brings the power to overcome fear. All throughout her life, Kate struggled with the fear of public speaking, but God challenged her to start an online Bible study with three young people. She asked the Holy Spirit to help her overcome her anxieties. Her standing on the stage as a student preacher was testament to the power of the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, the Holy Spirit brings new beginnings. Kate shared that she slipped into depression a few years ago. One day, dragged herself to a weekend service at CHC. The Holy Spirit came upon her and delivered her from the torment of depression that day. She ended her sermon by encouraging the church to make room for the Holy Spirit. “There are no limits, no boundaries and no end to what the Holy Spirit can do through you,” she preached.
On Sunday, Tommy Tiong, the drummer in this year’s SOT band, took the stage to share the testimony of his time at SOT. Prior to his enrolment, Tommy had just begun serving full-time in his home church, CHC Kuching in Malaysia. He had felt stuck in his ministry and started doubting his calling. He came to SOT with the desire to receive a spiritual breakthrough.
The six months at Bible school tangibly elevated his spiritual life. From feeling bored during prayer, he now feels empowered during times of prayer when he experiences the living word of God. He also told the church that he experienced a heightening of his sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and receiving assurance from God over his calling as a full-time minister.
Besides growing close to God, he also discovered that he grew in his capacity to meet the needs of those around him, interceding frequently for his fellow SOT schoolmates. Tommy holds the verse Romans 8:37 close, that he is more than a conqueror. Now he feels more confident and equipped to serve God with his strengths.
Student preacher, James Liew, also from CHC Kuching, Malaysia delivered a seven-minute sermon in Mandarin. After introducing himself, he directed the congregation towards Genesis 1:1-3, God’s own introduction. From it, he unpacked three things about God.
First, God is light. James described a fellow SOT graduate who had fallen into the wrong company at a young age and dabbled in many vices. This led him to be imprisoned eight times over 13 years. However, by God’s grace, during a drug rehabilitation programme, he came to know God and God’s presence in his life enabled him to leave his life of vice, and now he leads his life with zeal in serving God.
Secondly, the Word of God is powerful. James shared about a teammate who became pregnant during SOT. On the morning of their preaching test, she received a call from the hospital with the news that her child may have Down’s Syndrome. That day, her SOT classmates prayed for her. Coincidentally, that day’s lecture was on healing and as each student began to preach and confess the healing power of God, the student prayed and confessed over her child. A sense of divine peace came over her. Two weeks later, she received news that her child was at low risk for any chromosomal aberrations.
Thirdly, the Spirit of God is moving. Since young, James has been easily beset with worries. He was always afraid that he would not be able to excel academically and hence, entered the workforce once he completed secondary school. Upon enrolling into SOT, he faced similar worries to the point of being plagued by nightmares. However, during the course of SOT, James learned to lift his burdens to God and rely on the Holy Spirit. He managed to complete all his assignments and tests and received good results. He shared that he has plans to take up the Associate of Arts Degree in Theology offered by SOT after graduation. In conclusion, he reminded his fellow SOT graduates that graduating is merely the start of their ministry with greater exploits for the Lord to be done.
4 THINGS TO HOLD ON TO AFTER GRADUATION
Pastor Kong, the senior pastor of CHC, then took the pulpit. He shared that since the inception of SOT 29 years ago, he and his wife had a vision for the Bible school to simulate an environment of revival. Pastor Kong himself went to Bible school 40 years ago, and that became the springboard that launched him into ministry, missionary work, church planting and the founding of CHC.
He shared that his hope was for all the SOT graduates to remember to live by four things that would ready them for an adventure with God.
1. Choose to live by faith
Without trust, it is hard for one to build a relationship with God. A Christian’s faith in God determines how far he goes on the adventure with God.
Pastor Kong told the story of the watch industry. The Swiss had been the industry leader for a long time. In 1965, they controlled 65 percent of the watch market. Yet, within a few years, the Japanese had managed to overtake them.
The invention of the quartz watch led to a paradigm shift in the market. Although it had been invented by the Swiss themselves, the Swiss watchmakers found the decision to pivot from their traditional watchmaking techniques too risky. Hence, they did not even patent this invention. In 1968, Texas Instruments from America and Seiko from Japan bought the patent for the quartz watch. The rest is history.
Pastor Kong shared that in one’s faith journey, there will be times one is required to take a leap of faith. However, he can be comforted that when he does his best to trust God, no mistake is final, no failure is fatal.
2. Choose to live by the Word of God
Pastor Kong shared that he has been reading the Bible for almost 50 years, yet he feels that he is merely scratching the surface. He encouraged the graduates not to build a doctrine on just one or two verses of the Bible, but to live by the whole counsel of God’s Word.
The Bible is a book of love that introduces the concept of Agape. It teaches man how to love—not just God, but our fellow man. It is also about holiness and righteous living since morality can only be defined by the most Holy God. Lastly, it is about power, so that believers may understand the authority that has been accorded to them.
3. Choose to live by the Holy Spirit
To be in Christ is to be in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus was. Without the Holy Spirit, Christianity is dry and traditional, and Christians cannot experience God fully. Divine encounters abound when believers are attune to the Holy Spirit.
Pastor Kong shared that Pastor Brian Shah from the Philippines was suffering from hyperacidity in the stomach for months, experiencing severe cramps and unbearable pain for months. During his visit to CHC last month, the worship ushered in the palpable presence of the Holy Spirit. Pastor Brian heard God whisper into his heart that his condition would be healed. That very day, the pain started to subside and within three days, he was completely healed!
4. Choose to live by Godly counsel
As Proverbs 11:14 teaches, God created believers to need other believers—not just for socialising but for wise counsel. Just as King David had appointed godly men such as Nathan to give him sound advice, similarly, Pastor Kong recounted the many mentors and advisors he had been blessed with. When he was a young man on fire for God, it was these godly leaders that gave him opportunities and mentorship that allowed him to gain perspective even in difficult decisions, through no-holds-barred conversations. Such counsel not only challenged him but also were there to carry him when he slipped.
In closing his sermon, Pastor Kong prophesied that the SOT graduates on the stage would sow hundreds of churches and lives would be saved from their ministries. He prayed for their lives to be abundant with divine encounters from God.
Following that was an award presentation, and a special segment with the SOT song leaders leading the church in the Bible school anthem “In Christ Alone”. This year, the tradition opened with a moving violin rendition of the chorus of the song by graduating student Jeri Goh. At the end of the song, the Class of 2023 tossed their mortarboards up in the air in celebration.
At the end of the service, the whole church celebrated Pastor Kong’s birthday—he turns 59 next Wednesday (23 August).
SOT AWARD WINNERS
Courage Award: Lee Kyung Ae
Best Academic Performance Award: Liora Siau
Minister Of The Year Award: Bill Yap
Best SOT Team Award: Team 6
Best Overall Performance Award: Liew Chuang Yong