Worship Sunday 2016

Worship, even at its most subliminal, is at the core of Christian discipleship and the purpose of the church. It must be because worship is about giving God utmost priority.

Tozer once said:

Worship of the loving God is man’s whole reason for existence. That is why we are born and that is why we are born again from above. That is why we were created and that is why we have been recreated. That is why there was a genesis at the beginning, and that is why there is a re-genesis, called regeneration.

That is also why there is a church. The Christian church exists to worship God first of all. Everything else must come second or third or fourth or fifth.

I am really blessed to be a part of a church that believes not only in expressing worship, but also bringing it to the forefront of our overt consciousness.

Over the last month, Faith Community Church devoted three entire weeks to the teaching and application of the theology of worship. I had the honour of preaching the first message in the series, The Priests We Were Destined to Be. Pastor Dave Wong then preached the second message on The Power of a Praising Heart.

The series culminated in Worship Sunday, which took place last Sunday – an entire church service devoted to worship.

We decided to run the service as four movements, each beginning with a monologue by a worship leader exemplifying a particular theme of worship. And, rather than just singing for one and a half hours, each movement featured its own unique posture and praise expression.

Here is how the service played out.

Introduction

Scripture reading: Psalm 97:1-10

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Dance item performed by banner team:  “I Exalt Thee” (E-F-G)

What was significant about the dance item was that it was a prophetic symbol of God’s restoration of the family altar, as three generations of a family, led by the grandmother, danced together in worship.

Movement 1: Worship celebrates with exuberant praise

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Monologue by Dave

Endless Praise (A)

Alive (C)

Movement 2: Worship is magnified by His grace

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Monologue by Lydia

Broken Vessels (G)

O Praise the Name (Anastasis) (A)

Holy Communion

Exhortation by Ps Jon Quay

Song Item: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (D) with contemporary dance by Stephanie Khoo

The eucharist

Movement 3: Worship calls us to intimacy

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Monologue by Sunray

Sinking Deep (D)

Scripture readings ministering God’s love

I Lay Me Down (A) Kneeling in worship

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Offering

Christ is Enough (A) with dance

Movement 4: Worship exalts a sovereign God

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Monologue by Lester

No Other Name (E) Corporate prayer for the nations

Spontaneous prophetic word and response

Hosanna (E-F-G-A)

Benediction by Pastor Benny Ho

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Pastor Benny reminded us from James 1:26,27 that after the service ends and we leave the building, true worship is lived out by our having a controlled tongue, a caring heart and a consecrated life.

It was a remarkable Sunday, one which I think many of us will remember for a long time to come; a Sunday which has really lifted the watermark of worship in the church; where the ceiling has now become the floor of the next level.

I am so grateful to serve with the amazing team of musicians who facilitated the service, the dancers, stage designers, lighting and AV team.

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Back row: Addie Choon (MD/bass), Joash Ang (electric guitar), Caleb Leong (drums), Ps Dave Wong (worship leader/acoustic guitar), Tae Kim (vocals), Ansen Soon (sound), Sam Ng (keyboard), me (worship leader)

Front row: Sunray Zheng (worship leader), Luke Tan (electric guitar), Delany See (keyboard), Lydia Ling (worship leader)

Here is the text of my monologue “Worship Exalts a Sovereign God”

Even as we have leaned in
And intimately encountered a God of love, grace and mercy,
We experience a simultaneous outward compulsion
To take this love, grace and mercy
To the ends of the earth.

As the eyes of the prophet Isaiah saw the Lord
Seated on the throne
His heart was gripped by the question:
“Who would go for Us?”

True worship emanates from a heart surrendered to God
But resonates, beats in rhythm with
His intense desire and longing that none should perish.

We encounter His love in worship gathered,
We carry His grace and presence in worship scattered;
We are transformed in worship gathered,
We transform our world in worship scattered;
We are discipled in worship gathered,
We disciple nations in worship scattered.

The Psalmist says
God’s love is meteoric
His loyalty astronomic
His purpose titanic
His verdicts oceanic
Yet in His largeness
Nothing gets lost
No one gets lost

In this world so tumultuous
Full of fear, hatred, violence, killing and death
We have a God who is still sitting on the throne
Who reigns over all things
Who has been given the name over all names

Fire still goes before Him
Mountains melt like wax at the sound of His voice
The haughtiest of hearts are humbled by His greatness
Kings cast their crowns at the sight of His majesty and splendour

Our God is still on the throne!

And one day
The kingdoms of this world
Will become the kingdom of our Lord and King
And He will reign forever and ever!

Let’s together in worship exalt our sovereign God,
Lift up your eyes church
He is our King of Kings and our Lord of Lords!

Here is the recording of the service in three parts.

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Part 3

May you be inspired to take your personal worship to the next level!

Photo credits: Joseph Siew

The Beginning of Our Church’s Songwriting Journey

I have been part of Faith Community Church for about three and a half years now. Over its 20-or-so-year history, the church has grown from about 80 people to over a thousand in strength. Our worship team now has nearly 50 members. For a church of that size, I have always wondered why we weren’t singing songs that were written by our own congregation.

When I first joined the leadership of the worship ministry, I thought it would be cool if we could, one day, hold a “New Song Cafe”, an evening where members of the ministry could sit around in a cafe setting, whilst those of us with a songwriting gift would begin to explore and exhibit those gifts by performing their new songs in a non-threatening, safe environment. To my mind, that was one way we could get the ball rolling in writing home-grown songs for our congregation.

This was important for at least two reasons:

  • Our congregation consisted primarily of migrants who grew up in another church, often from a different Christian tradition, and almost invariably with their own song vocabulary and worship expression. Having songs birthed out of our own congregation would wipe away the preference divide and give an indigenous voice to our congregation. (One way we have tried to address this challenge was to institute a 30-song repertoire.)
  • We have awesome sermons in our church. Like really awesome, biblically-grounded and inspiring preaching. Home grown songs would capture the spirit of these messages and document the vision and journey of our congregation and calcify these in our personal and collective memory.

So, even though I had shared the idea of a songwriting cafe in our team meetings and to specific individuals, it seemed like there was simply no impetus for it. For a while, it seemed like a pipe dream and an impenetrable barrier.

And then, a fault line began to appear. Just before his appointment as worship pastor in July 2015, Dave Wong wrote a song which was featured in a Sony youtube advertisement about long-distance relationships. Dave and his girlfriend Cheryl performed the song and it now has over 550,000 views. I wrote about this in an earlier post.

At that time, I again said quite publicly to our team that our ministry was on the cusp of something significant because our worship-pastor-to-be had broken through the gates so that we too could follow.

Not long after, Dave taught songwriting during a team night and got us all into groups to write songs together, with a view to our performing them to the rest of the ministry.

The day finally came last Tuesday, 27 October 2015.

I mark the date specifically, because I believe that, years from now, we will look back at this moment as a watershed. A moment when that glass ceiling which seemed to hold us back from writing our own songs was broken through. The moment when the Spirit of God began that creative trickle that would ultimately became a deluge of new songs birthed from our congregation, which may perhaps overflow to bless and resource other churches in our region as well.

Here’s what we did.

To attach especial significance to the moment, we decided not to just have the songs performed in our usual team night setting. Instead, we booked out a local hipster cafe, Sprolo, owned by a couple of music directors of a large church down the road. In fact, the idea that their cafe space would be used for worship was something they already saw very early on when they started the cafe.

We made sure that there was plenty of good food.

We then invited four “guest” judges: our Senior Pastor Benny Ho, our youth pastor Jon Quay, our university pastor Amos Ngoi, and our former worship director Lisa Palm.

And then, we told our team that the judges, along with Dave, would listen to each new song that was presented and at the end of the night, decide on one song that would be the “winner”. The winning song would then be worked on by our music directors and worship leaders, including building in arrangements and instrumentation, and then taught to our team during a jam session. After that, the song would be introduced to our congregation and sung during a Sunday service.

The excitement level, when added to the the idea of running the night at a cafe, reached unprecedented heights. People started to invite their friends to come and see, and before we knew it, the whole cafe was packed. And the energy in the room was electrifying.

On the night itself, as teams came up to perform their songs, applause followed, not just as trite encouragement, but as a resonating statement of belief that we could do this. A couple of individuals even performed their own solo compositions.

And at the end of the night, when the winning song was announced, the applause continued for what seemed like an eternity, signifying that we had arrived at a “yes” moment. A convergence. What was prophesied had become reality. And a new journey had begun for our church.

Here are a few photos of the night:

We had some awesome food. Thanks to Ephraim and his team for helping us put up a heap of delicious finger food!

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Here is Dave telling us about how the night was going to be run:
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A packed room. We’ve never had so many people at our team night before!
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Matt, Mark, Diana and Nat performing their song.

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Lydia and Ritchell performing Lydia’s song, “Beautiful God”:
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An all girl’s team (Amanda, Su-Ern, Jane and Genevieve) performing their song:
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An appropriate way to finish the evening with our former Worship Director Lisa Palm exhorting the team through the song “Potter’s Hand”:
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I’ll continue to update our readers on our song-writing journey over the next few months.

The goal is that we would run the New Song Cafe every six months or so and open up it to others within our congregation and other ministries to share their songs. Other people in the congregation would be able to come and enjoy a relaxing evening of coffee and live music. Even our unchurched friends would be able to attend.

And once we’ve got enough of our songs out there, we would then record a live worship album.

We’ve started on an exciting trajectory. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do through us!

I want to quickly thank our amazing and hardworking leadership team for putting the evening together: Dave, Ansen, Addie, Caleb, Ephraim and Sunray. And also to Darren and Gabes of Sprolo and Nations Church for standing with us in the journey.

The best is yet to come!

How Worship Leaders Should Respond to Compliments

In Faith Community Church, Pastor Benny has initiated our mentoring phase as part of our 2-year DNA campaign. Quite amazingly, there is a strong mentoring buzz now in our church with heaps of people getting connected into mentoring relationships.

Yesterday, I had the honour of launching our worship leadership mentoring group with worship leaders from Kinetic, Vibe, Young Working Adults and the Adult Zones in our church, the idea being that we would meet regularly and talk about all things related to worship leading.

It was actually really refreshing, despite a busy weekend, to be able to sit down in an informal setting with like-minded people just to talk about something we were all passionate about!

As we began our first session together, one of the key messages I wanted to get across was the importance of maintaining a heart of worship – that beyond talent, skills and outcomes, we have a responsibility of keeping the right posture of heart in a ministry that is often fraught with danger and hubris.

Tim Hughes once warned:

As worship leaders, are we getting too preoccupied with the sounds and songs we are creating? Is there a danger that we look first and foremost at gifting and talents, and forget the key thing: the heart?

John Wimber said:

The difficulty will not be so much in the writing of new and great music; the test will be in the godliness of those who deliver it.

One of the issues we talked about was how worship leaders should respond to compliments. Quite often, after you have finished leading worship, a well-meaning congregant might come up to you and say: “I loved your worship leading today”. Or “I just want you to know how nice your voice sounded”.

I don’t think we should over-spiritualise it. Imagine if you’ve just grilled a perfectly succulent steak. You are told ‘wow, you cooked that just right. You are really good at cooking steak’ and you respond with ‘no, I did nothing at all. I just stood at the barbie and the Lord moved through my arms and my tongs and compelled me to turn the hunk of meat just at the right time’. In any other context, if someone complimented you, your natural response would be to say “thank you”. So why not respond in the same way? After all, you did spend all that time putting in the effort to make your voice sound better, or to make sure the set flowed well, or to make sure your team played in unity.

One way of holding the tension is to accept the compliment for what you have control over, i.e. improvements in your vocal quality, the cohesion and drive of your team, the depth of preparation etc. In other words, by all means, accept the compliment for the fruit of your effort. But whether people encountered God and the resultant effect of His presence, well, that only happens by His Spirit, because true worship is by the Spirit. That aspect, we can’t take any credit for. God alone gets all the credit for the fruit of worship!

Bill Johnson actually provides an interesting spin on this. He says (in Experience the Impossible at p 179):

Humility is Kingdom; pride is at the root of everything evil. But the pursuit of greatness is not necessarily evil. In fact, it seems that those who spent time with Jesus had latent desires awakened in them regarding their own significance. As a result Jesus never rebuked His disciples for their desire for greatness. He simply redefined it by pointing to a child.

First Peter 5:6 says “therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.” Here we see the tension between humility and a desire for greatness. Johnson says that whilst being under the hand of God might seem like a frightening picture, God’s hand is actually one of a loving Father – a hand of covering and protection. And that’s exactly what we need as worship leaders (or any leader in the church for that matter!) – covering and protection as we pursue a place of greater influence in God.

We usually have no problem with accepting the need to be humble. Johnson says:

What is difficult for us to handle is God’s response to our humility: ‘that He may exalt you’. What do we do with that? Many of us squirm or say things to undermine the honour given to us. Yet if we do not know how to receive honour correctly, we will have no crown to throw at His feet.

A culture of honour is an important element in the community life of every church. We need to understand how to receive honour to allow such a culture to be propagated. It requires us to be quietly confident about the skills, planning and hard work that we have put into our service, and yet humbly dependent on God for the things that only He can do. And then, like Paul, be able to count all our accolades – the significance in our greatness and influence – rubbish for the sake of knowing Christ more. Then we will truly be able to hold that tension; to walk the paradoxical line of humbled exaltation.

Set List: Faith Community Church (19 January 2014)

I’m excited as we prepare for our team’s first worship session for 2014.

It’s always good to start the year on a positive note.

Recently, Ps Benny shared in his “Back to the Future” message about how the Hebrew conception of time can be denoted by the word picture of a rower. The rower faces backwards as he rows, so that in a sense, he is always facing the past as he moves forward. I love that illustration because it is like our walk with God. We often can’t see what’s ahead, but we can rest on the certainty that, just as we see His fingerprints of faithfulness over our past, He is certain to be faithful in our future.

So as we begin the year, I wanted to focus the congregation on a God who is able to fulfil His every promise for our lives.

Second Corinthians 1:20 says this:

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

So this week, I want the church to make some faith-filled declarations.

No matter what sort of year 2013 may have been, I believe that, as it says in Isaiah 61, 2014 will be a year of God’s favour. He will bestow a crown of beauty in place of ashes; the oil of joy instead of mourning; a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair so that we may display His splendour!

So here are the songs for this week:

//  Trading My Sorrows (A)
//  God is Able (B)
//  Never Once (B)
//  You Deserve the Glory (B-C)

Here is the Israel Houghton version of “Trading My Sorrows” which we are going to try!

I can’t wait for this Sunday!

If Our Walk With God Was a Song

Today, we have a guest post from my good friend, Darren Woon. Darren is the guitar leader at South City Church. We have had the privilege of serving together in our previous church and even though we are now in different churches, we still minister together in city-wide events when we get the opportunity to escape from the rigours of local church commitments. I have a strong respect and admiration for Darren’s passion for God’s presence and his ability to “push the envelope” and challenge the status quo. 

Darren’s post below was actually first written in 2004. I came across it again recently and asked him if I could republish it. 

The context for my wanting to publish this post was because of Pastor Benny’s first sermon of the year at Faith Community Church. Pastor Benny shared from Jeremiah 29:11. One of the points he made was that when God said that He knew the plans He had for us, the word “plans” in the Hebrew is “khashav”, which means to “count” or “reckon”. The word picture it evoked was of a composer. 

According to Pastor Benny, our lives are never played out in just one note. Rather, the different notes go up and down – individually, they may not make sense, but in totality, they form a beautiful melody. So God’s plans are never set in concrete, but they are flexible to take into account our own decisions and volition. But yet, He is able to manoeuvre around the choices we make to produce a beautiful composition. And that reminded me of Darren’s post, written all those years ago. So here it is below. Hope you guys enjoy it!

If our walk with God is a song, I don’t think it will be like a symphony orchestra, where the parts to be played are fixed and completely predictable. Neither will it be like a wild and uncontrolled jam session, where the musicians play whatever they want, oblivious to what the others are doing.

I believe that a close relationship with the Lord is in between these two extremes – it is more like improvisation in a jazz tune. There is a theme, but at the same time, it is unpredictable.  Musicians rely on tight (and wordless) communication and they play it by ear, complementing each other.  An action of one musician calls for the others to react to it, to build on it, making it more beautiful than what that single musician did on his own.  There are no strict rules and no pre-defined direction, just an ability to play from the heart, flow with the others and to “feel” what to do next.

This is similar to what God has called us to.  He wants to have a relationship with us, not a dictatorship. He gives us the opportunity to be actively involved in the “song” of our life. There may be times where the will of God may not have a definite or specific direction. I’ve lost count of the times when I’ve sought God’s will, only to feel that He’s not going to say anything. I always thought that I just had to try harder and wait longer. That may be the case sometimes, but I’m starting to understand that God often leaves the choice to us. He does not keep silent in order to frustrate us but instead, He is giving us the chance to take the wheel.

To take this “jazz band” illustration a step further, picture this: We are the bassist and God is the trumpeter, the lead instrument in this case. We play the bass notes and outline the basic chord. Then God steps in and plays the melody. The notes He plays not only create a stunning melody, but also add the final nuances to the chord, defining it completely.

In this illustration, each chord represents a phase of our life. God enters in and makes it meaningful and complete. The problem arises when it is time for a “chord change” – when we are faced with a decision in life. With so many choices and unknown outcomes, this can be very pressurising.

I believe that God guides us to give Him the right “chords changes” (representing our decisions) for Him to work with, to support the melody that He has in mind for our lives. Sometimes, He leaves it to us to decide what chord to change to next and then improvises over it. It is up to us to “read” Him on the fly make a decision. However, there is really no such thing as a wrong chord (or decision) as He is more than capable of accommodating any chord change beautifully, even if it involves altering the melody here and there. That is what music (and life) is all about. There is no chord or decision that we can throw at Him that will make him say “Oh, that’s wrong. You’re so messed up because I just can’t work with that”.

But this is not to say that we can live recklessly. Our decisions will have an effect on our lives. But out of His love and grace, God will find a way to make the outcomes of our decisions beautiful. He is by no means limited to “playing the same notes” in our life. He is infinitely creative and innovative – He created creativity. Many times He will prompt us to make our own decisions but even if we fail miserably, He will always be there to make it work out beautifully.

I think of our Lord as the ultimate lead musician. As I’m fumbling with the chords, He is turning each seemingly wrong chord into a very right one. As I’m making decisions in my life, He is causing every one of them to result in splendour. In life, some choices may be better than others. But with God’s grace, there is really no such thing as a wrong decision.

2013 in Review: A Year of Open Doors

I can’t believe we’ve come to the end of another year.

In preparation for the new year, which I am calling the “Year of His Presence”, Ling and I have spent most of the last couple of days trying to remodel and reimagine our study room. The piano (not that I play it) and guitar will still be there, but we are setting a nice comfy chair right in the middle of the room where we can meet with God, read the Bible, pray and worship. It will be a space much like in the story Pastor Benny shared of the guy whose life changed as he met with God on his special rocking chair and in line with what Ken Lee recently preached about “making room for God’s presence”.

But even as we prepare for the coming year, it is always good to reflect back on the year that was.

The theme for this year was from Isaiah 22:22:

I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

What a wonderful promise for those who praise, because praise is the key to the open door. And it has indeed been a year of open doors and unceasing fruitfulness.

In January of this year, I had the privilege of going to East Timor on a short-term mission trip. Our church had been making a concerted and consistent effort to plant an indigenous church in the village of Kamalalera. It was the first time I had been on a third world mission and we were able to minister to a group of believers there. At this point in time, FCC is already on a program of training indigenous leaders towards planting a “church proper”.

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I also had an awesome holiday in Bali straight after the mission trip with some of my cell group who had come along on missions.

In February, I started a Certificate in Creative Ministries course at Metroworship Academy, the first course of its type in Perth. It was great connecting with other worship leaders in our city studying the course and being inspired by some amazing teaching.

In March, I had the privilege of leading worship as we inaugurated the House of Prayer for Everyone WA. I also had an awesome holiday with Ling in Melbourne as we celebrated her birthday. Needless to say, I came back with some excess weight.

In April, I began having talks with Ps Benny about taking up leadership in the worship ministry at FCC. It was a scary thought since I didn’t really want to have much involvement in local church leadership, but it turned out to be a highlight for the year!

In May, I had the honour of leading a worship segment at Global Day of Prayer. I also had an amazing time at our Young Working Adults Camp, and I’m pretty sure that during the camp, we discovered a new worship leader in our church 🙂

In June, I did my first ever “paid gig”! I was invited to lead worship at a Deborah Company conference and I served with an amazing team of musos from FCC and (then) Influencers City Church.

In July, our amazing worship director Lisa Palm started a new church plant, Kingsway Christian Church and Dave Wong took up the worship directorship. I had the honour of being his Assistant Worship Director. For a young person, Dave has shown a maturity beyond his years. He is fearless, full of conviction and passion and wise in his decision-making. I have been so blessed to work with Dave and our amazing leadership team. Thanks Dave, Yvette, Kimmy, EP, Lukey, Joe Wee and Addie for making it such a joy to help lead this ministry.

In August, Darren and I organised our first ever Warehouse Session. (I realised I never got the chance to blog on it!) The idea was we would just gather a group of worshippers, position ourselves in a circle, and just worship off our instruments. For many of us who serve in our respective worship ministries, it’s sometimes difficult to just tune out of the technicalities. In part, our faithfully presiding over our musicianship is part of the worship offering we give to God on Sundays. But we thought it’d be pretty special if, every now and then, we could just gather and worship without a secondary audience, without anyone to pastor, without worrying about a congregation.

So we hired a rehearsal studio and did just that. With musos from South City Church, FCC, Kingsway Christian Church and The Big Table, we just went for it for a solid couple of hours. It was a time of refreshing in God’s presence.

Here are some pics courtesy of the awesome drummer Clement Ch’ng!

Warehouse Session 1 Warehouse Session 3 Warehouse Session 4 Warehouse Session 5 Warehouse Session 6 Warehouse Session 7

In September, Dave, Lisa and I had the privilege of leading worship at a conference called “Festival of Light”. We met some amazing musos from other churches too who served with us on the team.

In October, I got to sing for Ray Badham from Hillsong. It was freakin’ awesome.

In November, I got to lead worship at FCC with my good friend Ps Yoy Alberastine. Ps Yoy used to lead worship at FCC before itinerating, but he’s come back into the worship team and we finally co-led together in our common home church!

In December, I graduated from Metroworship Academy! And my brother and sister-in-law had their first child (my niece, Emily). Sadly however, my sister moved to Korea to pursue a career in English teaching. Whilst I’ll miss her, I’m proud of the fact that she has taken the bold step to live and work in another country.

I thank God for another amazing year, for an awesome wife, great cell group, best ministry team ever, fantastic band and an amazing home church. Can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store!

 

 

Set List: Faith Community Church (17 November 2013)

I’m really excited as Fantastic Team 3 prepares to lead worship this Sunday at Faith Community Church. Every time our team is on, there is a real sense of excitement, as if it were all playing together for the first time. And I think that’s the way it should be! So often, our service to God can become dutiful, as if we were just going through the motions. I am grateful for all the members of the team who practise hard and approach serving with enthusiasm!

This week, Ps Benny is continuing his series on Spiritual Warfare.

As I was preparing for this week’s worship, I sensed God speak through 2 Corinthians 2:14:

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.”
We often see this passage as saying that “God leads us in triumph”. But I think “triumphal procession” is more correct. God doesn’t lead us into triumph because He has already brought us victory through the cross. Rather, he leads us into a triumphal procession – an act of recognising and celebrating His victory!
In Roman times, the victorious Roman army would parade through the city with the captive enemy in train. In Colossians 2:15, Paul says that “having disarmed the powers and authorities, [God] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Not only has God won the victory, but the captive enemy is made a public spectacle. Imagine that! This is what happens every time we praise God and testify of His goodness in our lives. When God brings healing, He also makes a mockery of disease. When He brings provision, He makes a spectacle of financial lack. When God brings salvation, He makes a statement against sin and death!
One more thought: in those days, when the winning general rides in procession, his family rides with him. That is a picture of us – the church! We did nothing to win the victory. Jesus did it all on the cross. But as His family, His brothers and sisters and co-heirs, we partake in the victory which we did not earn or achieve! What an amazing blessing!
So here are the songs for this Sunday.
//  Nothing is Impossible (A)
//  In Jesus’ Name (E)
//  10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) (G)
//  Anchor (D)
“In Jesus’ Name” is a new song from Darlene Zschech’s album Revealing Jesus.  Here’s the youtube video so if you are worshipping with us this Sunday, you can learn the song beforehand.
Finally, I’m also super-excited that this Sunday I’ll be leading worship with Ps Yoy. We’ve been waiting for this moment for well over a year! We’ve led worship together in other events, but this is the first time we are doing it together in our home church! It’s going to be an awesome time in God’s presence.

Set List: Faith Community Church (15 September 2013)

It’s actually been a long time since I last posted on this blog. In part, it has been due to the busy-ness of my new role as Assistant Worship Director of Faith Community Church. It has meant spending more time with people and less time in terms of my personal pursuits, such as writing.

I used to say (quite tongue-in-cheek) that I would never consider taking on any pastoral function because I didn’t like people much. In a sense, nothing can quite disappoint you like people. But on the other hand, nothing is more rewarding than seeing people come alongside each other, supporting one another, loving one another and changing for the better. In the last couple of months, I have grown in utmost admiration for my worship director who has unending capacity; my band music director who is one of the most humble and kind people I know; and the amazing members of Band 3 who always work really hard to bring excellence to their worship whenever they are rostered on. I have even had a young guy from youth ministry ask me to mentor him in all things worship. So I am really enjoying this aspect of my journey even though it has taken up more of my time than I might have at first been willing to spare.

The reward of working with people was all the more apparent this week.

As usual, I was really excited to lead today’s worship with Fantastic Team 3. Unfortunately, we couldn’t rehearse on Saturday so we had to come early to church at 6.30 am to set up, sound check and run through the set. I had sent out some instructions during the week for the team to prepare, but then on Friday night, I came down with a bad fever. Like, really bad.

I got worried about whether I would still be able to lead. I tried sleeping it off, but that night, I had chills all night and was aching all over. Saturday came around and I started pumping myself full of antibiotics. I still wasn’t sure if I would make it for Sunday but I was reluctant to get someone to replace me since I was so excited to serve with my band this week. So with some prayer and meds, I felt a lot better by Saturday afternoon and I was determined to keep going.

For a sick person, waking up at 5.15 am on a Sunday morning is no mean feat. I dragged myself trance-like out of bed, had something to eat, took some more meds, took a shower and drove off to church. I felt a bit light-headed, thinking maybe it was a mistake after all trying to lead worship in my condition.

But when I got to the church car park, our sound guy enthusiastically ran to my car and asked me for the keys to the auditorium to open up the place. Normally, I would have to do that. But I was really touched by his servanthood. Everyone looked so excited, I didn’t want to let them down.

By the time we started rehearsing the first song, which I thought was quite tricky (it being a new song after all), my spirit had lifted. These guys had practised hard during the week and everything came together on the first go. From that point on, I could just feel my team ministering the love of God to me. It was a great experience that just flowed through right into the service!

The theme for this week’s worship came from Isaiah 54:10:

Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you

Our chairperson Amos Ngoi opened the service reading from 1 Corinthians 13: that God’s love never fails! As we sang, I just felt the Lord ministering His love to His people. When we got to “Joy of My Desire”, Pastor Benny came up to release a word from Ps 46, that there was a “river of life which made glad the city of God” and that God was our refuge and fortress.

Even though I often try to, when preparing for worship, separate my own needs from the needs of the congregation, today, I really felt God ministering to me during the worship time, that even despite how I was feeling, His love for me never fails.

Here is the list:

// One Thing Remains (A)

// Nothing is Impossible (A)

// Above All (A)

// Joy of My Desire (A)

// Forever Reign (bridge and chorus only) (A)

Here’s One Thing Remains by Bethel Church:

Have a blessed week!

Consumer-Driven Worship

Last Sunday, Pastor Benny Ho finished up his last message on the book of Jonah as our church began to move into a season of outreach using the Alpha Course.

It was a clarion warning to any church: we can encamp around the blessings of God and the affairs of the church in complete neglect of a lost and dying world. And that was Jonah’s problem. In Jonah 2, whilst in the body of the whale, the prophet cried twice: “I will look again toward your holy temple” (v4) and “my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple” (v 6). Whilst he loved the temple, he was absolutely indignant about preaching to the Ninevites.

In the same way, the church can be consumeristic. We want to listen to the best sermons, listen to (and occasionally sing!) to great music, enjoy a climate-regulated auditorium with comfortable seating and drink good coffee. And we when we don’t get what we want, we complain. Like Jonah complained. As if we have every right to do so.

Worship is especially prone to consumerist leanings more so than most other Christian practices. We put on skilled musicians who wear cool hipster clothes, pretty lighting, colourful moving visuals and sexy dancers (appropriately and modestly covered of course); we stick it all on an elevated platform and make it a focal point. We dim the lights on the congregation, as if they were the audience in a play who had paid good money (their tithe) to get the good seats.

A friend of mine, Kelwin Wong, recently brought this review of a well-known worship album to my attention:

I’ve purchased every [one of this church’s] album since the very beginning and I’m getting very disappointed nowadays. The production work on this album is really bad and the album is sooooo slow…. Everyone buys it because of the hype and label, but are clearly disappointed with the result. Just around the church office this morning those who have the album have made the same comments as I have. Someone better do something better at [at this church] FAST or they will begin to lose their crowd.

I find this sort of “review” and evaluation quite disconcerting (pardon the pun) but it evidences an increasingly consumerist mindset to worship that has been going on for years.

So why do we still do the “production”? Because we understand that as worship ministers, we need to create an atmosphere that is conducive to the people’s engaging with God. But the line is crossed when people stop worshipping just because the production is not to their liking. Or because they don’t like the songs.

As worship ministers then, we need to continually educate our people on why we worship. We need to teach them that worship is not, and cannot be, about us. We need to teach them that worship has absolutely nothing to do with individual preferences and all to so with God’s surpassing worth.

In fact, we need to teach them that worship is “anti-preference”. That is why the author of Hebrews exhorts us to bring a “sacrifice of praise”. If it remains within the realm of our preference, it is likely no sacrifice at all.

Jonah grappled with self-centredness, even after he saw God perform the miracle of saving an entire city. In response, God destroyed the shady vine Jonah was taking cover under and then gave Jonah a talking-to about the big picture. In effect, God said to him in chapter 4: “you are concerned about this vine, but what about the 120,000 souls who are lost?”

It kind of puts things into perspective.

Global Day of Prayer

Pastor Benny preached an awesome message at Faith Community Church today from Nehemiah 8 on 3 Signs of Revival: a return to the assembling of God’s people, a restoration of the Word of God and the rediscovery of the Feast of Tabernacles. He talked about how in Joel 2, the prophet foresaw a day when the former rain and the latter rain will converge and bring about an unprecedented harvest. We are already in that day!

Global Day of Prayer

And then, this afternoon, I had the privilege of leading a short worship session at Global Day of Prayer, hosted by Zion Praise Harvest. It was an amazing time as various marketplace and missions ministries, churches and prayer networks gathered together to pray for our city and nation on this Pentecost Sunday. In these days of the latter rain, may God bring about the greatest harvest this world has ever seen!