Week 5 Chronicles: Classics Sunday

Week 5 Chronicles is an occasional series on experiments in worship format whenever there is a fifth Sunday in a month.

Psalm 145:4 says:

One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.

I have been leading worship for over 20 years. In that time, I have seen the landscape of church worship shift significantly.

I was blessed that, in my early years,  I studied under an established older worship leader who used a lot of songs from the 1970s and 1980s as well as some of the more contemporary songs of his era. It meant that I was collecting a song vocabulary that extended well into the generation before mine.

There are many reasons why I love the old songs. I believe it’s not just because I grew up with them and that they have somehow been locked into a sacred chamber of my memory. It’s because the songs were written with a strong congregational focus; with simple, predictable melodies and hooks and uncomplicated, repetitive lyrics.

But times have moved on. We can’t keep doing the old stuff. We don’t want to live in an old, worn-out culture. We want to be on the cutting edge of what God is doing today. We can definitely learn from, and honour, the old, but we must live in the new. Old wineskins cannot contain the new wine.

So that’s why last Sunday, we did a “classics” set – a set of enduring songs from the last 20 to 30 years of the praise and worship movement; songs that most of us who have been in the church for a long time would have grown up with; songs that have shaped the worship landscape and paved the way for what God is doing today.

It was also a way for us educate the younger generation to help them understand where they came from and the sacrifices the older generation have made so that we can worship the way we do today.

What constitutes a “classic” of course is difficult to define.

In the end, we left it to our worship pastor to craft the song list. Even though Ps Dave Wong is only 26 years old, he practically grew up in Faith Community Church and so was completely immersed in the songs of the church over the last 20 years. If anyone had authority to speak to the “classics”, it was him.

The song list was:

  • Jesus You are So Good (F) – Jamie Harvill
  • God is Good All The Time (F) – Paul Overstreet and Don Moen
  • For All You’ve Done (F) – Reuben Morgan
  • When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (F-G) – Isaac Watts
  • I Give You My Heart (G) – Reuben Morgan
  • Majesty (G) – Jack Hayford
  • He is Exalted (G) – Twila Paris

There were many, many songs that missed the cut, perhaps paving the way for another Classics Sunday next year.

Here is a recording of the session: 

We were blessed with an amazing team, which included a guest appearance from our old friend Luke Tan on electric guitar.

The team was:

Worship leaders/Vocals: Dave Wong, Susan Cai, Sunray Zheng, Lydia Ling, me
Music Director/Bass: Addie Choon
Drums: Caleb Leong
Electric Guitars: Luke Tan, Joash Ang
Acoustic Guitar: Dave Wong
Keyboards: Samuel Ng, Su-Ern Lee
Cello: Tiffany Foo
Sound: Samuel Oh and Liimei Lim

There was quite an intense moment during “I Give You My Heart” as we recalled how, over the years, many of us would have rushed to the altar to that song. Much of the church was on their knees. And we experienced a beautiful time of consecration.

After the worship time, Dr Dan Mo gave a stirring message on “Catalysts of Revival”. When he gave the altar call, half the church stood up and flooded the altar. In my five years at Faith Community Church, I have not seen anything quite like it. Many cried hot tears as we committed ourselves to be world changers and history makers.

It was a significant Sunday.

We have reached back into history to give us an impetus for the future. May revival fire fall once again!

(Photo credit: Shane Wee)

Podcast: Never Before, Never Again

In the last couple of weeks at Faith Community Church, there has been a strong revival atmosphere.

It started on 16 July 2017 when Rev Bill Wilson of Metro World Child preached at our church on the subject “What Do You See?” Many were challenged to become what Rev Wilson calls “100 degree” Christians – to get to that point in our faith where everything changes.

Stories started coming from members of the congregation who were deeply impacted. I heard of one person who made a life-changing ministry decision. Another person was burdened to start a ministry to bring wheelchairs to a third-world country (and within a week, he managed to source some from charities). And all of this from an encounter with God in a one-and-a-half hour church service.

I have always believed that “just one word from God” would be enough to change a person or a situation entirely. However, I don’t think I’ve really seen it hit so close to home until now.

Throughout the different zones of our church, a prayerful hunger had been fomenting for some time. Even in our worship ministry, after three years of solidly building on our technical skills so we could faithfully steward our giftings, our worship pastor Dave Wong completely changed tack at the beginning of this year with a challenge to the team to hunger after God’s presence.

As a result, our worship services started to take on an entirely different complexion.

Last week, 23 July 2017, I had the honour of preaching at church as we began our “Revival” series.

The key plank of my message was from Josiah 23:25:

Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with the Law of Moses.

If we are going to see revival in our generation, we must also be the generation to turn to God desperately, as if everything depended on it.

Despite all that had been done in the past 20 years of the history of our church, may there never be a generation like ours who would turn to God like we did. And never again, will there be a generation like this one.

I really sense that we are in an extraordinary season now in our church. Conditions are ripe for God’s Spirit to move like we’ve never seen.

Our cry is like that of Habakkuk, “Lord, we have heard of your fame; we stand in awe of Your wonderful deeds. Renew them in our day; in our time make them known!” Amen.

You can listen to the recording here: 

Photo Credit: Faith Community Church

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!

Why the Church Needs to Embrace Change

People often ask me: wouldn’t world missions and evangelism be so much easier if Jesus would just show up in person like He did two thousand years ago? He would walk around, do miracles, perform signs and wonders and preach the Word. And wouldn’t His effectiveness be multiplied given that He can now access technology that He didn’t have all those years ago, like the internet and podcasts and Twitter?

I actually think the answer is “no”. If someone showed up in the flesh proclaiming themselves to be God incarnate, your cynicism would likely dismiss them outright. You would say “God wouldn’t look like that”. You would have a certain expectation of His appearance or His status.

It’s just like the Lakeland Outpouring. When I first saw footage of it, I thought: “God can’t be in this. Look at the preacher. He looks like a bikie. And is he punching some old guy in the gut when he should be praying for the guy’s healing?” And we think, “maybe it’s just all hype. Everyone is caught up in the hysteria of it all, but it’s not a real revival.”

In fact, didn’t Jesus face a similar type of opposition when He appeared on earth? The religious establishment had for a long time believed that (in their interpretation of Scripture) Jesus would come as a political figure to free the Jewish nation from Roman rule. They did not expect that a King could be born in a manger, let alone grow up as a carpenter. And then to die on the cross? No way! Jesus could not possibly have been the prophesied Messiah.

And yet (for those us who are born again), we realise that in hindsight, the religious establishment had got it all wrong.

I am reading my signed copy of Frank Viola’s Revise Us Again, a brilliant little thesis on why we need to revise the “Christian script” from which we live.

Here is a pivotal point that Viola makes: “The Lord Jesus Christ will end up coming to us in a way that makes it easy for us to reject Him.”

And Viola says:

We all wish to cling to the Lord that we know now. We all wish to hold on to the Christ that has been revealed to ustoday. But mark my words: He will come to us in a way that we do not expect – through people who we’re prone to ignore and inclined to write off.

Perhaps they don’t talk our religious language. Perhaps they aren’t theologically sophisticated. Perhaps they don’t use our vocabulary. Perhaps they don’t share our jargon or parrot our religious idioms.

And so we cling fast to the Lord that we recognise – receiving only those who talk our language, use our jargon, and employ our catchphrases – and all along we end up turning the Lord Jesus Christ away….

What then does our Lord do when we fail to receive Him when He comes to us in an unexpected way? He moves on. And the revelation we have of Hm ceases to grow.

We see through a glass dimly. No one has a monopoly on revelation. And revelation is just that: it is fleeing, momentary and time-bound. Once it is recorded, set in script and written about, by definition, it soon ceases to be a revelation. In due course, that revelation fades, just like the glory began to fade from Moses’ face.

Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians 3:13 that we should not be like Moses, “who put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away”.

So we need to learn to embrace others and the revelation of Christ given to those who are outside our circle. It takes the whole body of Christ (the entire church) to fully represent Christ on this earth. We cannot continue to ignore other parts of the body because they are different. We need them precisely because they are different and fulfill the functions which our part of the body cannot fulfill. True unity embraces our diversity.

And we need to keep in step with the Spirit, not camping around the wonderful theologies and methods of yesteryear, although they were good, but to pursue fresh revelation, fresh insights. That is all part of growing as a church, realising that what we have seen so far is only a part revelation, and that there is more to come. If we fail to embrace change, we will cease to grow; we will stagnate.

Jesus was a revolutionary and we need to capture that revolutionary spirit to advance His kingdom here on earth. We need to embrace change; lest Jesus comes in a way we don’t expect and He passes us by.

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.