In the blink of an eye, we have reached the final month of 2023. In this interview, Bishop Mosa Sono explains why it is crucial for Christians to recognise the urgency of time. He also tells us about his first visit to CHC and how it impacted his ministry.
Mosa Sono is the Presiding Bishop of Grace Bible Church in Soweto, South Africa. His friendship with City Harvest Church’s senior pastor, Kong Hee started at a Church Growth International Conference many years ago. CGI was started by Dr Yonggi Cho, the founder of Yoido Full Gospel Church, to gather church leaders from different nations with the intention of promoting growth in churches all over the world.
Bishop Sono visited CHC in October this year with his wife Overseer Gege Sono. His sermon about time being the most valuable resource a person has resonated with many. He sat down with City News to talk about his sermon and his ministry back home.
You spoke about time being a precious resource. How did that revelation come to you and why did you decide to preach it in our church?
When we went through Covid-19 in our country, I noticed how it affected the rest of the world. I don’t know how it was here in Singapore, but with us, we were under a lockdown for two, almost three years. Sometimes it was full lockdown, sometimes it was partial. As a result, three years just wasted away.
No one had ever imagined that, because you plan and you say, “This is what I’m going to do next year”, and you don’t maximise the time you have, thinking that there is time still ahead. When that interruption came, I became aware of the preciousness of the moments I have now and how I should leverage the time that I have now. That really changed my perspective of time.
Did that revelation also change the way you do ministry?
In a lot of ways, because then it meant that, as much as we shouldn’t be hurried, we should be very intentional in what we do. It’s not about activities, it’s about activities that matter—Kingdom activity. In the words of Christ (Jn 9), “I must work the works of God”. We can work, but is it the work of God? And Jesus asked if it was His day. Because even if it’s the works of God, is it the right moment to do it?
I always use this example: when you’re young, you can do a lot. When you get to a certain age, there’s only so much you can do. Now imagine having a dream in your heart but not the physical ability to carry that dream. You have it in your heart, but if you try and put it into practice, your body doesn’t allow it because you’re not well.
I’ve shared this message at our church—it’s what we try to live by. It affects the way we plan the activities at our church. What are the main activities? Are they Kingdom activities?
We’re not promised tomorrow. If anything were to happen today, could we rest and say that within the limited time we had, that we maximised that time?
On that note about being young and thinking time is dispensable, how do we advise young people not to waste their time?
I would talk to them and get them to be purpose-driven, to get involved in something. Serving the church or use your time to develop yourself in your studies. Because it’s people who try to do something with the time they have, that realise how little time there is.
As a young person, I used to get homework during our short holidays at school. I’d have to do this project and I was one of those—I changed later—who would always leave it to two days before school opens. Only when I started my project did I realise that this was meant to take me two weeks to do, not two days. It’s only as you start using the time you have that you come to appreciate the shortness of time.
I’d say to young people: get involved, serve with the church, serve the ministry, give your time to something, and don’t just loiter around. It’s in them doing that that they realise the brevity of time, but they also realise the gifts and abilities they have that they can point their life to, and start serving in line with the way God has graced them.
Regarding the tyranny of time, you spoke about doing what one should do instead of rushing through life. How do we do that practically?
Somebody once said that being busy doesn’t suggest being active and effective. The question is this: “In my busyness, what is it that is essential? What is it that contributes to my life moving forward?” A busy schedule is unavoidable—that’s the world we live in. What is it that you busy yourself with? At the end of the day, when you analyse what you’ve achieved, it could be nothing. You’re just running from pillar to post in nothingness.
I think in the tyranny of time and having to chase time, once you start trying to figure out what is it that matters, you will note, in the process, that there are certain things that you’re giving time to that are not worth it. Exclude them and spend more time on things that matter and be present. Spending time with family is something that has worth. That’s how I think you deal with that issue of the tyranny of time.
Our pastors have mentioned that you came to CHC in 2010 during the Asia Conference and it made an impact on you. Can you tell us what actually happened?
We heard about the 2010 Asia Conference when we were attending the CGI Conference in Korea. They made an announcement and the topics that were going to be covered were unique and interesting, so we went. (The Asia Conference was a bi-annual conference organised by City Harvest Church that featured global Christian speakers.)
In the conference, they had different workshops. One of the workshops was about doing ministry to children with learning disabilities, children who are differently abled, who have different styles of learning. It sparked something in me. I began to think about how we can effectively reach people in our own community because in our communities, we have a lot of under-resourced, underprivileged young people. We then made a major decision as a church to effectively reach out to the young people. We asked ourselves how are we going to effectively empower young people who are disadvantaged, and who don’t have the means to further their studies. How do we as a church minister outside the borders of our church?
We had a programme called Achievers Awards, where we recognise young people who’ve had excellent results but are from under-resourced communities. These are children who were able to pass their exams despite coming from very poverty-stricken families. We structured a special service every beginning of the year, where we bring all these young people from different parts of our provinces to our church, and we recognise their achievements. We give them scholarships. We have businesspeople who came on board, and we sponsor the kids’ tertiary education.
We get the results from the Department of Education and Training; we recognise the best-performing schools and then the best-performing pupils. There are quite a lot of different categories of awards that we give out, including special categories for children with special needs—these children who come from communities were sometimes never celebrated. That Sunday service is all about them. They bring their families. We cater for them food and we treat them as royalty when they come in. I think that is one of the days when I’m the happiest myself.
These are not children from our church, so it has a great impact on them coming to know Christ and their families as well. These children also get to meet other young people. Now that we’ve done it for years, we have the alumni. Some of the young people who were previous recipients are now medical doctors or working in the field of Actuarial Sciences. They come and speak in the programme, like a keynote address.
2010 was a game-changer in many ways for us. The conference could have been talking about another issue, but that’s just how the Holy Spirit works. When you hear one thing, but the Holy Spirit makes it even bigger for your context. We started the Achievers Award in 2001 and then we ramped it up in 2010. I think it has become one of the key things that we do every year.
We have other programmes that branched off from this. One helps young people with extra studies (tuition). Members of the church volunteer their time on a Saturday morning to teach our young people English, mathematics and the sciences. That programmes is open to everybody in the community too, it’s not just for church members.
You were called into the ministry at a young age. Can you share with us the story?
I was 17 when I became a Christian, got filled in the Spirit at 18 and got the call of God into ministry. It was supernatural. I was invited to a programme of in an interdenominational youth ministry, they are called Youth Alive, and I got saved. The following year, there were some young people from the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal background, who came to reach out to school and preach. We got to know them and started having a prayer meeting during lunchtime, praying for revival in school.
As we went were praying, these young people who were from Pentecostal backgrounds, started praying in tongues. I couldn’t speak in tongues but I got very curious about it, and I sought the Lord about it. Finally, I was filled with the Holy Spirit when they prayed. It was on a Wednesday.
Wow! You remember it so clearly!
Yes, the fourth of July 1979, that’s when I got filled with the Holy Spirit. And then on that Sunday, God called me to ministry. It was an audible voice that I had—it’s quite a story. At that time, I was finishing off my studies—what we call matric (matriculation) back at home—just before university. And when God called me into ministry, it was very clear I was to go into ministry at that age.
I finished my school and from then I went straight to Bible school at 19 years old. I’ve been in the work of God since that time. The church that we’re leading now, Grace Bible Church, was handed over to me when I was 22.
In those days, Pentecostalism was there but not as widespread because the charismatic church renewal only became stronger in the mid ’80s. When I went into ministry, it was very unheard of for a young person to go into ministry and become a pastor.
I was the youngest at the Bible school, and the youngest pastor that came into ministry. When I took over the church in Soweto, it was difficult to go to the ministers’ meetings because I was the youngest—I was like one of their children. It’s also because I took over a charismatic church, which at the time, was not well received in our communities. So that was a difficult part of ministry for me.
How is God is moving in South Africa and in your church today?
Generally, there has been a move of God in our country, since the mid ’80s. We’ve planted a number of churches from scratch, if I may say. The people who are leading them were raised in the church.
In fact, the pastor in charge of the churches in Cape Town came to our church when he was 7 years old. He is in his late 30s, almost 40 now, and he’s running the whole region in Cape Town with five churches under him.
That’s the good thing now with us. We are literally seeing the second generation rising up. And we’ve been very intentional, in doing that.