The Closing of a Chapter: A Tribute to Lisa Palm

God and His Word are constant. But everything else changes. We are resistant to change because of our natural inertia. We like the tried, true and familiar.

But change is often a catalyst for growth. When God brings something to an end, He also brings about the birth of something new. When one chapter closes, a new one opens.

Today, the worship ministry of Faith Community Church (FCC) farewelled our beloved Worship Director, Lisa Palm, as Lisa and her husband, Peet, are sent out from FCC to plant a new congregation in the northern suburbs, Kingsway Christian Church. I am excited for them because of their vision and heart not only for their congregation, but for the kingdom of God in the city.

Lisa and Peet have been in FCC for about three years, and they were very much part of the reason why I ended up there as well! Not that I knew them before, but I knew that they were part of the ministry of Harvest Evangelism which was committed to the work of city transformation. I had followed the work of Ed Silvoso and Harvest Evangelism for quite a while, and was surprised to find that an offshoot of that ministry was actually now based in FCC.

I remember seeing Lisa lead worship during one of the first few times we visited FCC before making it our home. There was such a strong worship anointing on her! There was no question that I wanted to be part of such a worship ministry!

But getting to know Lisa, I would never have known (at least not from her own mouth) that I was working with a worship leader with an international ministry. Lisa was always easy-going, infectious in her laughter and low-key. She walked in grace and humility. The younger members of our team called her Momma Lisa, because she never saw her position as something to lord over others. Instead, she truly believed in the next generation and always pushed others out in front of her.

I remember once saying to Lisa that “with a ministry like yours, you should really put yourself out there more…” What I meant was that she should stamp her personality more on our church’s worship. But then I realised keeping a low profile, humbly walking with people, encouraging them to reach their potential, creating opportunities for others – that was Lisa’s ministry. A public profile was incidental and a God-ordained bonus as a result of her faithfulness in the behind-the-scenes stuff.

Many people today, including myself, will reflect on just how much we have been impacted by Lisa. It has truly been an honour to serve beside such an amazing servant of God.

But of course, today was not really a farewell at all. Now that Lisa is in a new congregation, it is another opportunity to reach across congregational boundaries and work together. I’m looking forward to serving with Lisa in different worship projects beyond our respective churches and also helping out from time to time with worship in her new congregation.

So Lisa, may this next chapter in your ministry be your best one yet. May the glory of the latter exceed the glory of the former. Your best days are ahead of you!

Thanks for believing in, and activating the seed of greatness, in so many of us, especially the younger ones at FCC. You have left some difficult shoes to fill!

Here is a video which we played in our final worship team meeting as we paid tribute to our outgoing worship director.

Special thanks to Mark Loy and Nooch for putting the video together!

What Does Unity of the Church Look Like?

I’ve had a pretty inspiring weekend.

As some of you may know, I’ve been thinking long and hard about unity, particular in relation to how worship ministers can contribute towards God’s move in uniting the church in the city. Part of this includes my crazy idea of having people from different churches form a band to lead a worship event in the Perth Cultural Centre.

Of course, I am at once both excited and freaked out by the idea.

But I think God has been speaking to me to take a serious step of faith through the encouragement of others around me.

On a small scale, the process of my discerning the will of God in this has been a blessing of unity. First Corinthians 2:16 says this:

‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.

Admittedly, I’ve always skipped over this passage because the use of the pronouns confuses me no end. But could this passage mean this: “who (individually) can discern the mind of Christ? It is only we (plural, together) who have the mind of Christ.”

So what started out as a thought (which may or may not be the will of God, tempered by my own sense of insecurity and inadequacy) is confirmed by the company of believers as the will of God.  And at a macro level (since 1 Corinthians was written to the entire church in Corinth, not just one congregation), perhaps it takes the whole church in the whole city to discern and execute the will of God for the city!

So, as I was praying about the idea of bringing worshippers together, a pastor came up to me yesterday and encouraged me.  He told me that I should pursue the dream because, in his words, “I don’t want to die wondering”.

And this morning, during a Missions Forum at Faith Community Church, a missionary friend of mine was asked what concluding thought he would give the congregation, and he said (words to the effect of) “just go and do what God has placed in your heart”.

So now, I’m feeling all the more that pursuing the dream of uniting worshippers in the city is part of God’s plan and desire. I’m more and more confident of this.

As I was talking to the pastor yesterday (who by the way has helped prototype unity in cities before), he asked me what I thought unity amongst worshippers might look like.  Here are some of the thoughts I shared with him:

  • Worship ministers being able to support and encourage one another through the challenges of leading worship ministries in our own congregations;
  • Worship ministers sharing ideas;
  • Worship ministers sharing resources and joint training (in fact, I learnt this weekend that next year, Metrochurch is about to launch its Worship Academy to train worship ministers in the city!);
  • Worship teams from large churches being sent into smaller churches to help the smaller churches lift the watermark of worship and to develop self-sufficient teams in the medium term;
  • Worshippers gathered together from different congregations together to passionately exalt the name of Jesus in public places.

My pastor friend had more ideas to, including worship leaders exchanging platforms (that made sense, seeing that pastors sometimes exchange pulpits, so why not the worship leaders?).  He told me how he had seen this happen and I wondered what it would look like for an Anglican to lead a worship service in a Charismatic church for example.

And my pastor friend told me of even more examples of what unity might look like, such as congregations helping each other to pay off debt; the church in the city planting congregations (led by students and teachers) in every school in the city; intercessors being mobilised to pray 24/7 (this is already happening in Perth!) and youth groups coming together.

In Prayer Evangelism, Ed Silvoso said:

God did not give all His gifts to one person or one congregation in the city but distributed them all over the Church. This way its members would be required to interact and be interdependent in order to be effective.

In other words, it takes the whole church in the whole city to reach the entire city!

My prayer is that you will also dream big for the city. In the ministry God has called you to, what would it look like if the congregations in your city united together for Christ’s cause? What would it look like when intercessors across congregations get together? Or worshippers? Or teachers? Or youth leaders? Or community workers? Feel free to share your thoughts here.

Worship and the Marketplace

I just got back from lunch and coffee with some of the people from my new cell group, all of whom are successful and influential in their workplace and it got me thinking.

Today at church was the first time I had heard Pastor Peet Palm preach. I understand that he works with Ed Silvoso as part of Harvest Evangelism so I was excited to find out that he is also on the pastoral team of Faith Community Church.

Today’s message was on Marketplace Ministry and it was a timely reminder of the importance of Christian, Spirit-empowered ministry in the workplace.

I have to confess that I have always been very much “church-centred” in terms of my ministry involvement. Worship ministry (like pulpit ministry) is one of those areas of service where you see direct impact within the church itself. When you talk about “church”, you think about the people gathered on Sunday to express praise to God and to encounter His presence.

But as Pastor Peet reminded us today, the concept of “church” goes far beyond what happens on a Sunday.

I was quite convicted by what Peet mentioned: how some Christians think that they just have to survive Monday to Friday and go to church on a Sunday to “empower” them to face the river of filth in the marketplace, in the hope that as we wade in that river, we don’t swallow too much of its water.

Even though I have read a lot of Ed Silvoso’s material and understood conceptually the importance of marketplace ministry, I had always entertained this personal schism: that because God has called me to worship ministry, it means that marketplace ministry for me is of secondary importance.

Peet made this stunning point: if the marketplace is the heart of a city, then to see a city transformed, its heart must also be transformed.

There certainly is a role for worship ministers to rally the church in unity. I really believe for example that just as worship has been the fracture point for the church since the Reformation, the bringing together of the church through worship is also a key to unprecedented revival.

But that is just one side of the coin. There needs to be reconciliation between the primarily church-focussed ministries and the workplace ministries to see real transformation in the city. After all, if there is a river of filth in the marketplace, there is also a countervailing river: a river of life that starts from the throne of God (worship in the church setting) that gets deeper the further it goes from the temple (see Ezekiel 47). This river brings fruitfulness: trees planted next to the river bring forth a new fruit every month and their leaves are for the healing of the nations.

In this sense then, the temple and the market are inextricably linked: transformation and life starts in the temple through worship, and ends in the marketplace through worship.

So, I feel that God is realigning my paradigms in this area. Yes, God has called me to worship ministry, but He has also put me in the workplace for a purpose, not only to be a positive influence, but also to believe that through the power of the Holy Spirit, I can be responsible for transformation in the marketplace.

Can it be done? I end with this statement which Peet made: “Nothing can stop the church from filling the city with the Word of God, except the church itself.” It is God’s will. May it be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Apostolic Worship and the Revolutionary Spirit

Last night, I was watching a Jackie Chan film called 1911 which chronicled the 1911 Chinese Revolution led by Sun Yat Sen. I have always wanted to read up on Chinese history, but the expanse of it was always too intimidating and I never really knew where to start.

1911 was a precis about the momentous events that led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and the fall of the last emperor of China. What was really interesting (processing it through my sanctified Christian mind) was how the language of the revolution was very similar to the language of Christianity. The characters talked about “reviving the spirits of the people”, the power of standing together in unity and sacrificing for the next generation.

As embarrassing as it is to admit it, after I watched the film, I did a bit more research on Wikipedia and discovered that Sun Yat Sen was baptised into the Christian faith whilst he was in Hong Kong and he pictured the revolution as similar to the picture of the salvation mission of the Christian church.

If I were to define “apostolic worship” simply, it would be this: Apostolic worship is worship that brings in the the governance of God on earth as it is in heaven. In expression, apostolic worship involves intercession, the prophetic and spiritual warfare.

Ultimately, apostolic worship is linked with spiritual revival and societal transformation. When the governance of God comes into our hearts, passions are renewed, wounds are healed, captives are freed, wholeness is restored, dreams are activated. When the governance of God comes into a city, lives are transformed, resources are released, the poor are lifted, righteousness and justice prevail.

Jesus didn’t just to come to seek and save “the lost”, but to seek and save “that which was lost“.

I was talking to a pastor who had recently arrived in Perth and he told me that he felt very strongly that revival in Australia would begin in Perth, and that it would be sparked by the Asian church because of the passion of the Asian church. Little did this pastor know that many well-known international prophets have longed prophesied that Perth would be the catalyst of revival in Australia.

Another pastor once told me that the redemptive gift of the Asian church is its strength of discipleship.

I also learnt that a pastor who is involved in prototyping transformation models under the ministry of Ed Silvoso is now working in Perth.

I get the sense that the church in Perth is on the cusp of great spiritual awakening and worship will play a vital role.

If you look throughout the history of the church, you can see a pattern of loss, beginning at the zenith of the church of the book of Acts, reaching its lowest point in the Middle Ages and now moving into a time of recovery, beginning with the Protestant reformation. Today, we are beneficiaries of the move of the Holy Spirit now known as the Charismatic Century: a move of God that has spanned over the last 100 years and is continuing in greater force than ever before.

In this pattern of loss and recovery, worship has always been a key issue. After Constantine institutionalised the Church, the concept of New Testament priesthood was lost. No longer was worship the realm of the masses, it became the vocation of the professional clergy. All throughout church history, worship has been the centre of friction and fissure, from the Eucharist, to baptism, to the use of hymns, to the introduction of folk song. In recent years, discord has stemmed from things as trivial as whether the electric guitar and drums are valid instruments for worship; to the appropriateness of dance in the church; to silly arguments about which songs people prefer to sing. Commentators refer to this latter phenomenon as the “worship wars”.

But in every disintegration, there is restoration. In recent years, we have seen the recovery of the five-fold ministry, particularly in the last decade the gift, function and office of apostle. There has been a move towards seeing entire cities being reached and transformed for Jesus. The gospel of grace is becoming firmly entrenched in our theologies.

I believe that the restoration of apostolic worship will be one of the moves of God that will signal the redemption of our societies.

Acts 15:16-18 says this:

After this, I will return

and rebuild David’s fallen tent.

Its ruins I will rebuild,

and I will restore it,

that the remnant of men may seek the Lord

and all the Gentles who bear my name,

says the Lord, who does these things

that have been known for ages.

God is rebuilding David’s tabernacle. Whereas worship has in the past been a cause to split the church, I believe that in the restoration of the Tabernacle of David, the church will once again be united around worship. And the presence of God will mark the united church in the city so powerfully that the church will become irresistible to the lost. And as apostolic worship goes forth, societal transformation will occur at every level, from the marketplace, to the government, to the media, to our education systems. God is aligning the city of Perth to walk into its great destiny as a revival catalyst for the rest of Australia.

Revolutionary writer Victor Hugo said this:

No army can withstand the power of an idea whose time has come.

The idea is the restoration of David’s tabernacle. The time has come for the church. And no army can withstand it. Revolution is on its way.

A Heart for Revival

I am writing this post from Singapore, where I am currently on holidays.

Singapore holds a special place in my heart. It was the place where I experienced two spiritual milestones that shaped in me a heart for revival.

I went on my first short term mission trip to Singapore in 1996. You might say: “Singapore is hardly a place to go for a missions trip.” But I can’t quite picture myself yet carrying a shovel with me to the toilet so I was very happy to volunteer for an urban mission. After all, there are still many unreached peoples in many large cities around the world. (My next mission trip was to Hong Kong, my third to Sapporo, so I still haven’t gone “third world” yet).

A church in Singapore, Yishun Methodist Mission (YMM), was prototyping a city-taking strategy based on principles taught by the likes of Ed Silvoso. At the time, the spiritual warfare movement pioneered by C Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs and others was beginning to gain a great deal of traction in wider charismatic circles, and the pastor of YMM was about to put some of those principles into action. About 16 of us from Perth joined the members of YMM in implementing the strategy, which was primarily based around the thought of “showing the community God’s love in a practical way, with no strings attached”.

We blessed the local community surrounding YMM with free Christmas gift-wrapping services; free washes and vacuuming for local taxis; cleaning a coffee shop (which on reflection is probably quite close to a third world experience!) and running a free community carnival.

Even though I had gone on this trip to help out with whatever was needed, I got connected to an anointed worship leader from the church and one afternoon, as everyone was letterdropping some leaflets advertising the free carnival, the worship leader asked me to stay back and prepare to lead a session of worship and intercession. I was quite nervous about doing the whole thing (I had just started leading worship in our church’s main service) but we just began worshipping together and picking some songs. Little did I know that this would birth a new ministry of intercessory (or apostolic) worship in me.

When everyone came back from the afternoon of letter dropping, we started worshipping and people began to “get into it” but I thought nothing more of it than that. Then one of the pastors on our team pointed to one of the girls and said “I believe you have a word from God”. We found out later that actually she didn’t have a word, but I think the pastor picked her because she was bowed on the floor and probably looked incredibly spiritual at that moment. She said later that she just took a step of faith and started speaking. Suddenly, God poured out his compassion on her, and through tears, she released a word about God’s heart for the lost in the community.

As most of us would have experienced, crying is seldom a solitary pursuit; when one person starts, the floodgates open. So before long, many of us were catching this compassion and praying through our tears.

Our missions program had suddenly gained divine impetus.

Ater that experience, I started reading more about the concept of city-taking and I was being challenged about whether our cities could in fact be taken for Christ.

The second milestone was in 1998 when a delegation from our church went to the International Cell Church Conference hosted by Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore.

We were incredibly blessed listening to Ed Silvoso as he shared how God transformed cities in Argentina after the church started implementing city taking principles starting with the legendary Plan Resistencia prototype.

Silvoso shared about new paradigm shifts that were elemental to city transformation, including that there is only one church in the city, consisting
of many congregations. I still consider this to be one of the keys to a city experiencing revival.

Then in the night rallies we had the privilege of listening to Argentinian revivalist Claudio Freidzon, who emphasized the need for a hunger for the Holy Spirit. At around that time, I was reading Tommy Tenney’s The God Chasers which started to spark a spiritual hunger
in me. It was amazing that, as a stadium full of people started crying out for God, the Holy Spirit moved and entire sections of people fell backwards under the power of the Spirit.

Today, I can’t say that I’m necessarily hungry for God. Sometimes it’s hard to be in a Western society where hunger for comfort comes first. I think that is something in which we all need to experience a personal breakthrough.

Recently I spoke to a pastor from Singapore who shared about how since those days, God has united his church in Singapore under the Love Singapore movement. Once when they had a church wide prayer-walk in the city, the numbers of Christians who came out of the woodwork were so startling that it got the government worried. That is the sort of revolutionary influence which the church should exert.

On Christmas day this year, we went to a combined Christmas service at New Creation Church. It was held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and here is a picture of us queueing at 9 am to get in for a 10 am start. Hundreds had already joined the crowd.

It may be Singaporean “FOMO” (i.e. “fear of missing out”, or in the local vernacular, “kiasu”) but I believe that Singaporean Christians exhibit a passionate faith seldom found in the church in Perth (or most first world communities for that matter). Just seeing the numbers gathered in one place was mind-blowing but this was only one of three or four megachurches. Practically every suburb in Singapore has a life giving church making an influence in their community.

This year, my involvement with the Commonwealth Prayer Initiative in Perth (with almost two hundred churches participating thanks to the efforts of Wendy Yapp and her team) has awakened in me the possibility of seeing revival in Perth in my generation. God is already engineering one of the preconditions: the unity of the church in the city.