In this final report on the recently concluded Global Pentecostal Summit at City Harvest Church, we recap the recount the last of the presentations which span the power of prayer to the engagement of Gen Z, along with the Roundtable session where delegates reflected on what was learned and what lies ahead.
The Global Pentecostal Summit (GPS) which began on the Friday of 3 November witnessed a momentum building up over the four days of its duration, a work that all parties recognised as a move of the Holy Spirit alone.
On the first night, following Kong Hee’s presentation of his paper “Singapore: The Antioch of Asia?”, the speakers were invited to lay hands on those responding to the altar call. Kong, the senior pastor of City Harvest Church, had clearly set out in his paper a model for Pentecostalism as the key to Singapore becoming the “Antioch of Asia” by overcoming two key challenges: the fostering of racial and religious harmony and the building up of strong Pentecostal theology. That evening of impartation left an indelible mark on not just the congregation but on the speakers themselves.
Day 2 was bookended by two messages on things that touch the heart of God. At the morning devotion, Dr Brian Stiller issued a clear and powerful call for Christians to pursue unity instead of the status quo of church against church. “The beauty of unity is that it reflects Who we love and serve,” he reminded the attendees. At the church service that evening, Prof Doug Petersen took the church through stories about children in the Gospel of Mark, interspersing them with his personal call to take a local work in El Salvador, ChildHope (previously Latin America Child Care) and replicate it across Latin America and beyond. “I realised I had no change of imitating Jesus without the power of the Holy Spirit,” he told the church. “My life was important because I made a difference in the life of a child. When I touch the life of a child, I touch the heart of my Heavenly Father.”
Day 3 was Sunday, a Sabbath for the speakers and attendees. Prof Byron Klaus encapsulated his observations about CHC in one sentence: “Excellence offered to the Lord in the power of the Spirit.” He preached a sermon on the man by the pool of Bethesda who had no hope left after 38 years, until Jesus came in and broke the bondage of his mind and set him free. “It is the same Jesus who is doing the transforming work [today]. That is the guarantee of Pentecost,” declared Prof Byron.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF “VOICES LOUD AND CLEAR”
The morning of the final day (Monday, 6 Nov) opened with a thought-provoking devotional session led by Paul Bendor-Samuel, the executive director of the Oxford Centre for Missions in the UK.
“‘Voices Loud and Clear’—what does this mean? We’re trying to make sense of what God is doing,” Dr Bendor-Samuel said, voicing out what was on every attendee’s mind. He drew parallels between the present gathering at Suntec and the 120 in the Upper Room (Acts 2) who were unsure of who they were. They weren’t Christians yet, the speaker pointed out, but existed in a liminal space, about to enter into the next place. Like the 120, Christians also live in liminal spaces today in this VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) world.
Dr Bendor-Samuel declared that the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2) is about to be fulfilled and that the Spirit of God is coming on all God’s people. “When the Spirit comes, all are invited,” he said. What happened in Babel was ethnocentricism—pride in a wrongful way, and God scattered the people with different tongues. But God is now reversing Babel, he added. Tongues honours oneness.
He concluded that God is calling the global church to take diversity seriously. Why the GPS was taking place was that God wants to see all nations come to Him. “We have a church history that reflects a theology developed by America and Europe, shaped by culture and particularity,” Dr Bendor-Samuel pointed out, adding that it was now time to take seriously the diversity of cultures that God has given the world and to give all these diverse cultures a voice that rings loud and clear.
PRESENTATIONS ON PRAYER, THE VOICE OF TRUTH IN A PLURALISTIC WORLD, AND SPIRIT-EMPOWERED CHRISTIANITY AND AGENCY FOR CHILDREN AT RISK
Dr Lee Younghoon, senior pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea led the GPS attendees in “K-prayer” before he began his presentation: shouting “Jesus” three times, the gathering prayed in tongues, creating an atmosphere of prayerfulness.
Dr Lee presented his paper on “The Role of Prayer and its Centrality in Sustaining the Effectiveness of Global Christianity”. “Prayer is the key to our ministry—many people know its importance, but don’t practise it,” Dr Lee observed. “We must restore our prayer life. We must dedicate ourselves to prayer.” Drawing from YFGC’s rich history, Dr Lee chronicled how its founder Dr Yonggi Cho started the church with just five members of his family, which included his mother-in-law. Dr Cho dedicated his life to prayer—the church was constantly in prayer: early morning prayer meetings, overnight prayer meetings, monthly cell group prayer meetings. The church grew and today, has more than 800,000 members.
Dr Lee raised two key points: the first is repentance, without which prayer cannot be effective. The second is the importance of giving Jesus the glory. “Megachurch pastors sometimes make their own kingdoms,” he said plainly. “We we pray we must give all glory to Jesus, repent of our selfishness and then glorify Jesus Christ. He is the centre of our ministry.”
In answer to a questions about how to spark prayer, Dr Lee told the room that the gathering of the saints is the key. “Jesus said, ‘Where two or three gather, there I will be in the midst of them.'” He added that YFGC and other churches in Korea have experiencing a revival among the youth since Covid. “They searched for spiritual blessing through SNS!” he marveled (SNS stands for social networking services). “The young generation found the answer in the gospel. [When Covid ended] they rushed to church to receive spiritual blessing!”
Dr Ivan Satyavrata, the Chairman of the World Vision International Board presented his paper
“The Voice of Truth in the Christian Encounter with World Religions”. Noting that the church is viewed, by the Majority World, with suspicion as a vestige of “Western influence”, Dr Satyavrata raised the challenge of Pluralism, which says that no one faith is the only truth—a direct contradiction to the centrality of Christ. “But the Gospel is not invented by Christians,” he pointed out. “God desires the salvation of every people and culture. We have to share the gospel—boldly but gently.”
He highlighted the “Fulfilment Approach” Jesus took when He came to fulfil the Judaic law. Likewise, Paul’s compelling argument in Acts 17:23 where he referred to the “unknown god”in Areopagus—his fulfilment approach pointed the Greeks to God. Dr Satyavrata encouraged the attendees with the reminder that Pentecostals are at the forefront of missions, equipped with Spirit-empowered engagement of cultures and societies that have yet to know Christ.
“Spirit-empowered Global Christianity: The Pathway to Agency for Children at Risk” was the title of Dr Mary Mahon‘s paper. “A change needs to be made on the inside,” said the executive director of ChildHope in Costa Rica Dr Mahon, emphasising the role of children as agents. “The self has capacity to overcome negative aspects of culture. Children are naturally spiritual so we need to connect them with the Holy Spirit; they have powerlessness but the Holy Spirit gives them power.”
She shared testimony after testimony of young children in the ChildHope programme who have been empowered by the Holy Spirit in a time of crisis. One particular account was of a second-grader called Coraima who looked after her sister with special needs. She had gone home on day to find her father and his friends drunk and recognised that they wanted to molest her. So she took her sister and prayed, and Jesus hid them both from the men. “We must trust the Spirit to move in their lives,” said Dr Mahon.
During the Q&A session, Dr Mahon explained that how she and her staff are able to keep going in her ministry is to keep their relationship with the Lord, and to make an “oxen yoke” with the children. “A lot of time the kids feel that they are just kids, so journey with them together,” she urged. She also emphasised the importance of not exploiting children. “Ministries can try to force the baptism of the Holy Spirit,” she noted. “You just need to awaken it in their hearts. Don’t tell them how to be baptised in the Spirit. Trust the children. Trust the Spirit.”
The afternoon closed with a roundtable session where every speaker and respondent shared their personal learnings from the GPS: what fruitful conversation they had, what topic they wanted to know more about and what topic challenged them to strengthen their commitment.
Many felt they were personally touched by the Holy Spirit during the Summit. Dr Frank Macchia particularly appreciated the opportunity to pray for the congregation. He said, “I have never felt closer to the heart of Christ and the Holy Spirit. If I can communicate the love of God with that kind of passion then I would really accomplish something.”
Rev Jennifer Hargestam shared that the Holy Spirit was challenging her to reimagine the approach to her work with UPGs. “Dr Macchia said all people groups will be represented in heaven, and Doug Petersen said children are the group of people we can reach because we decide to.”
Several, like Rev Karl Hargestam and Dr Mary Mahon were challenged to know more about the Antioch church and to go deep into what the Holy Spirit is doing, while Dr Eva Wong noted that the Summit reveal a strong commitment for in-depth theology among Pentecostals.
Dr Kim-Kwong Chan, notably not a Pentecostal, remarked that what was taking place was “the unfolding of the next chapter of Christianity. The early church in Acts didn’t need any validation from the authorities, they grew from below. I hope that in the days to come, the Pentecostals will not monopolise the Holy Spirit!”
While all agreed this was the beginning of something significant, it remains to be seen how the Holy Spirit will lead the church. “I ask you to commit yourself to pray,” said Prof Byron. “We have to get this right. It’s not about creating another event.”
THE FUTURE OF FAITH
The ultimate session of the GPS took place at CHC’s main auditorium and was open to all members of the church and visitors. The presenter of the final paper was Dr Antipas Harris, founder and president of the Urban Renewal Center in Virginia, USA, a non-profit committed to social transformation through research and empowerment, particularly of youth.
He opened with 1 Chronicles 12:32, which speaks of the sons of Issachar as those who had understanding of the times and knew what Israel ought to do. Christians need to be like these men, who possess two gifts, said Dr Harris: a discerning heart, and strategic thinking.
He presented eye-opening research on Gen Z and faith in his paper, “Global Christianity and Gen Z”. Gen Z is the generation of people born between 1996 and 2012. “Four crucial concerns impact Gen Z and its relation to faith: the spiritual, technological, social-psychological and personal and communal,” he stated.
“Our young people are experiencing spiritual warfare,” said Dr Harris, sharing about young persons demonised by pain and death. “There is a demon called ‘Pain’ and a demon called ‘Death’. Until we take control of the spirit realm, we can’t take control of the physical.”
He also explained that technology is where Gen Z lives. Unlike other generation before it, technology is not merely a tool to Gen Zers. This has direct impact on this generation’s social psychological well-being. Dr Harris related a case where a young girl took her own life after turning 12—she had posted her obituary on Instagram. She had been bullied online but her parents had no physical proof. “Social media is their native land,” he emphasised.
Gen Z also face social and communal concerns. “There is also a sexual revolution. They are choosing their sexuality,” Dr Harris noted.
What is required, he said, is revisionist faith. What this looks like including normalising advanced tech as part of congregational life; developing communities of meaning, and—for the rest of the generations as well—committing to diligent prayer.
Dr Harris’ paper concluded the Summit on a forward-looking note. Pastor Kong Hee, senior pastor of CHC, took to the stage to invite all those taking up or intending to begin theological studies to come forward for an impartation from the scholars and speakers.
HEARTS & MINDS TRANSFORMED
The Summit drew Christians from all over Asia and within Singapore. Nehemiah Koa, senior pastor and founder of Immanuel Community Church in Singapore, came to GPS seeking to be refreshed and to be empowered for greater things. He shared his takeaways from the four days: “[My] Church and I have to intentionally ask for the empowering of the Spirit, for signs and wonders and to grow in the Word,” he said. “I learned that it’s still possible for me to hold Christ close to heart and to witness boldly for Him by telling stories of what He has done in my life. I just need to do it with respect and love, seeking always to build bridges and not walls. I’m inspired to present Jesus more accurately and let the Spirit make Jesus so irresistible to others.”
Senior pastor of Grace Community Church in Jogjakarta, Indonesia, Mibsam Rehuil Manu said of the many conference he had attended recently, GPS was the best one. “I came because I want to see what God is doing in the church, especially in CHC,” he said. “I loved the Summit very much—it combined three keys: knowledge, strong doctrines and experience. It gave us insight into what we can do in our local church. The thing that God put into my heart during this Summit is to do things not just within the church but outside its walls. The testimony of Pastor Elizabeth Pescadero reaching out to the mountain people inspired me to thinking of what our church can do.”
Pastor Yoseph Situmeang from Gekari Hope Church in Indonesia came to the Summit upon the encouragement of Pastor Kong—he is enrolling in Vanguard University next year. He was impacted by the concept of theology and experience driving the Pentecostal movement forward.
“I agree with what many of the scholars said: theology in the context of the local church is rare. Theology is the R&D and the church is like the ‘factory’. Without the research, the industry cannot go forward. This is why I think this summit is very good.” His hope is that Indonesian church leaders present can bring their GPS experience back to their church and one day, the churches in Indonesia will understand the importance of theology.
Pastor Yoseph also shared that he had lost his second son to sickness some years back. When he heard Prof Byron’s sermon on how the sick man by the pool of Bethesda was trapped in his own mind for 38 years, he felt God speaking to him. “During that service, I felt that I had to take up my bed and walk. Humanly speaking, of course you still have sadness, but I was so blessed by his message. On the whole I felt God really wanted to restore me. I cried almost every day of the Summit. I’ve have not just been enriched in knowledge but my life has been transformed.”
Additional reporting by Dawn Seow, Sandra Tan and Kezia Yee