Announcing the Perth Global Day of Worship Team

Well, we are now only weeks away from the Global Day of Worship on 12.12.12 and I’m glad to say that we’ve secured a great venue for GDW Perth and an awesome worship team of worship leaders, musicians and singers from different churches in the city.

The venue: Lifestreams Christian Church, Corner Murray Street and McNabb Loop, Como.

Time:  Wednesday, 7 pm on 12 December 2012. Be there by 6.45 pm as we get ready to stream our worship around the wolrd on the GDW website.

And now, the team:

// Worship leaders: Me, Yoy Alberastine (Faith Community Church), Celesti Weck (Beachway CCC), Stephanie Truscott (Mt Zion Aussie Indigenous Church), Daryl Tan (Firstlight Church), Derwin Bong (Influencers Church)

// Vocals: Yvonne Mohan (Metrochurch), Joanne Deluis (Full Gospel Assembly)

// Music Director and Bass; Gabriel Tan (SouthCity Church)

// Guitars: Simon Munyard (Metrochurch), Daryl Tan

// Keyboard: Vinny Tan (The Big Table)

// Drums: Clement Ch’ng (Full Gospel Assembly)

// Intercessory Support: Shaw Cheong, Ps Judy Low, Wendy Yapp

Looking forward to worshipping together with you!

Global Day of Worship: 12.12.12

I’m really excited to be part of Global Day of Worship 2012 on 12 December 2012.

Imagine this: at 7 pm on 12 December 2012 in every time zone, Christians will gather in unity to worship for an hour or more. Globally, this means that as the earth rotates, we will move from one group of worshippers to another in the next timezone so that essentially, for 24 hours, a continuum of worship will be happening across cultures, denominations and church backgrounds.

As we worship together around the globe, we are making a statement that the church is united around the famous name of Jesus. But beyond that, we are also inviting the rule and reign of Jesus onto this earth and into every sphere of society.

We are already getting a team of awesome musicians and worshippers together for this amazing event.

Spread the word! More details to come soon.

If you are interested in participating, please email me on lesterong@iinet.net.au.

Worship in the Heart of the Perth Cultural Precinct – Part 2

Last week, I posted on an idea I had about doing a worship event right in the middle of the Perth Cultural Precinct.

I have lots of crazy ideas, but sometimes I wonder whether many of these are actually from God. So, as I prayed through this idea, I started articulating it with some fellow worshippers in our city, just to see whether it resonated with them.  Surprisingly (or maybe I shouldn’t be surprised?), they all got excited about the idea.

Yesterday, I attended a conference on “Israel and the Nations” presented by David Davis and Peter Tsukahira from Kehilat haCarmel in Israel.  I was really impressed by how God was fulfilling biblical prophecy in our lifetime as it pertains to Israel and the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

One of the things that really struck me was how pedestrian our concept of spiritual warfare can be compared to our Israeli brethren who are daily in the literal line of fire.  As David Davis was teaching, he said that one of the keys to advancing in spiritual warfare was public worship.

And it made me think about how worshipping publicly in the middle of Perth’s cultural precinct might not only be a display of God’s glory in our city, but might also somehow be a means to advancing God’s kingdom.

One of the things that is becoming more clear to me is that when we do this worship event, it will be just that: worship and nothing else.  Yes, we will be musically excellent, but we won’t worry about impressive riffs and intros.  We won’t worry about choosing “seeker friendly” songs.  We will be focussed solely on exalting the name of Jesus publicly in our city.  And as we do, we wait with expectation that God might answer with the fire of His presence and turn the hearts of the lost to Him.

 

Worship in the Heart of the Perth Cultural Precinct?

Yesterday afternoon, we were walking home from the Perth CBD after doing a bit of shopping and we happened to walk through the Perth Cultural Precinct.

They were playing Olympic highlights on the big screen outside the State Library. The setting actually reminded me of an amphitheatre. An amphitheatre for worship!

And then the thought came to me. What if we could gather the church together for an afternoon of passionate, heartfelt worship right in the heart of the city’s cultural precinct? And in the line of sight of everybody?

The worship team (which would consist of musicians and singers from different churches) would stand right under the screen. The people would gather in front of the screen and up around on the steps.

We could put the words up on the big screen with other video images.

We could have dancers and flaggers.

And I wondered how much it would cost to hire a sound system and some crowd barriers and to get public liability insurance.

Recently, I finished reading Steven Furtick’s book Sun Stand Still, which is all about activating audacious faith. I wonder whether this could be my own “sun stand still” prayer?

Do you think it’s possible? And maybe it’s even better if it’s impossible so that if it does happen, we’ll know that God orchestrated it. What do you think about this idea? Is it worth pursuing?

A Brief Reflection on the Kong Hee Saga – Part 2

Today, I want to reflect on some issues which the Kong Hee saga raises as it pertains to the broader church. I want to look at it from two perspectives: first, as a lawyer who practises in quite a bit of charity and non-profit law; second, as a worship leader who believes 100% in the church and its call to impact and influence society.

From these two perspectives, I want to raise some questions, but not necessarily answer them.

Much of the Kong Hee saga has to do with two things: corporate governance and accountability on the one hand and the “Crossing Over” project on the other.

Let me preface my remarks with this: I am not intending to cast any judgment on what is going on in City Harvest Church. As I have said in my previous post, what is now very apparent is that one part of the body of Christ is hurting. We, as brothers and sisters in Christ, ought to uphold City Harvest and its leadership in prayer. If anything, this whole episode is a call for Christians to trust in God’s grace and His unshakeable desire to glorify His name.

What the recent events might do is throw up some questions about how we do church. Not so much about how City Harvest does church, mind you, but how the body of Christ in general, particularly those in the charismatic movement, does church. So I won’t be commenting so much about City Harvest, but using it as a launchpad for broader ideas.

My first thought then is about church governance and structure. One of the key provisions we draft pretty carefully in a church’s constitution (essentially the church’s rule book) is the “objects” clause. This is a lengthy statement usually at the beginning of the constitution that sets out what the organisation exists for. Most churches will include something quite religious, such as “to glorify God”, “to proclaim the gospel to the nations” etc. Very broad, churchy provisions. As a lawyer, I usually let the church include its churchy provisions, but then I try to couch it in some legalese as well, such as “to advance the Christian religion in the city of Perth”, “to teach spiritual principles to its adherents”, “to rent and construct buildings for the purposes of meeting”.

The second thing I am often asked to deal with is the issue of control: in other words, who gets to administer the day to day management of the church; who gets to make the big ticket decisions etc. I have seen some constitutions where the church runs as a “theocracy”, i.e. where the power is vested in a very small number of individuals, usually the senior pastor. This is based on what I call the “Moses Model” – one guy who goes up the mountain to receive from God and returns to ground level to mediate between God and His people.

Inevitably, the church begins to look very much like a corporation, where the day to day running is vested in a Board of a few powerful individuals.

This then flows down into the culture of the church itself. Instead of being a community and family, where the buzz words might be “share”, “care”, “concern”, “help”, “love” and “prayer”, our buzz words become “vision”, “direction”, “programs”, “surveys” and “protocol”.

Don’t get me wrong: I think some of the biggest churches around have achieved their numbers and in turn their social impact because they have embraced the corporate culture, but tempered still with some sense of family-ness. But I wonder how far a cry this must have been from the church that was described in the book of Acts (which is really one of the only biblical templates we have of what the church should look like).

Frank Viola said this in his book Pagan Christianity:

The practices of the first-century church were the natural and spontaneous expression of the divine life that indwelt the early Christians. And those practices were solidly grounded in the timeless principles and teachings of the New Testament. By contrast, a great number of the practices in many contemporary churches are in conflict with those biblical principles and teachings. When we dig deeper, we are compelled to ask: Where did the practices of the contemporary church come from? The answer is disturbing: Most of them were borrowed from pagan culture.

In fact, what is an apparent trait of the Acts church was that it was organic and “flat”, i.e. it did not have a strict hierarchical top-down structure; rather decisions were made by consensus (as per the phrase “it seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit”). In other words, every one could hear God for themselves, but together they heard God (for want of a better word) corporately.

One of the advantages we have of the corporate church today is that we are able to raise so much more money, deploy a great deal more of resources and so to impact society on a greater scale. As an example, my brother told me that when he visited City Harvest the day after the Boxing Day Tsunami, the church had already deployed food, clothing and a team of doctors and nurses. They were probably able to act as quickly, if not more quickly, than government. That is really commendable.

But can we make the same degree of impact using a flat-structured, organic model? The book of Acts suggests that we can. After all, within a very short period of time, the organic first century church had already filled all of Jerusalem with Christ’s teachings, and it wouldn’t take long before Paul had now where else to preach in all of Asia.

Maybe it’s time for the church to return to being a real community again, one that organically lived out the call of Christ, generously sharing all they had with one another, and yet preaching boldly with the fire of the Holy Spirit accompanied by confirmatory miracles.

Perhaps where control is vested in the masses rather than the few, we are likely to have more transparency and accountability. And responsibility then lies with everyone, rather than the executives at the top if anything goes wrong. And by the same token, when things go awesomely right, we will know that it is not because of a wonderful leader that has got us there, but the efforts of everyone empowered by the Holy Spirit. There will be less emphasis on personalities, and more on the person of the Holy Spirit!

Now, onto my next thought.

As I mentioned earlier, the objects of the church are typically drafted quite broadly. I don’t think this is an accident. This is actually because the mission of the church is to impact society with the gospel at every level.

This brings me then to the phenomenon of “cross over”. We shouldn’t be surprised that a church like City Harvest has attempted to “cross over” on a grand scale. In fact, whether you agree with their methods, they should be applauded for their faith in taking such a big risk. We should be expecting them to take bigger risks and push boundaries.

“Crossing over” is really a modern restatement of the classic missionary enterprise. Churches have throughout history sent people into unreached people groups to evangelise, plant churches and ultimately with the goal of transforming those communities. What the “Crossing Over” project is is exactly that: a modern missionary sent into an unreached people group in the hope of reaching them through relevant means.

As a worship leader, I have always thought it’d be great if our worship music could reach more people. But I am also quite aware that (from my experience), the “if you build it, they will come” mentality doesn’t always achieve this end. I have dreamt of worshippers and the unreached standing together in large stadiums in awe of the presence and the glory of God. I have dreamt of how the unsaved run to the altar in repentance having encountered a God who exposes the very depths of their hearts. I have imagined what it must be like for healings and miracles to occur right in the middle of those meetings. But I dream from a psyche of a person who is very much in the church. Kong Hee and Sun Ho were able to dream beyond the church and take their message to the unreached through secular media.

Is that a breach of a church’s objects? On one view, possibly not. In fact, the church is fulfilling the very object drafted into its constitution: to bring the gospel to the unreached. And that is likely to be an object which a lawyer would happily include as well.

But I can see where the lines can get fuzzy. I can see where something might look so commercial that it ceases to be charitable. We wouldn’t complain if the church held prayer meetings in the market place, or tried to run cafes, or went about feeding the poor in our communities. We wouldn’t complain if the church sold worship CDs and earned royalties on them (in fact, we happily buy them). But it seems people would complain if a church sold non-worship CDs to a secular audience. That line isn’t as easy to discern as we might think.

So those are just some thoughts I had. I am not sure what the answer is, but I think at least the Kong Hee and City Harvest saga might start getting us to think more about how faithful we are to God’s blueprint for the church.

Worship: Treasuring God Above All Else

Here is a great definition of worship I recently came across whilst reading John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad.  Piper says (at 231):

Worship is not a gathering.  It is not essentially a song service or sitting under preaching.  Worship is not essentially any form of outward act.  Worship is essentially an inner stirring of the heart to treasure God above all the treasures of the world –

a valuing of God above all else that is valuable

a loving of God above all else that is lovely

a savouring of God above all else that is sweet

an admiring of God above all else that is admirable

a fearing of God above all else that is fearful

a respecting of God above all else that is respectable

a prizing of God above all else that is precious.

In other words, worship is right affections in the heart toward God, rooted in right thoughts in the head about God, becoming visible in right actions of the body reflecting God.

Wow, no wonder Paul says in Romans 11:36 that “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things!”

If Only All Rehearsals Were Like Today’s

I have just come back from an amazing rehearsal with the Converge Asian Worship band at the Hen House rehearsal studios.

It was an interesting evening. As I was collecting the six pizzas for the band, Darren had gotten to the studio early and sent me a picture of the studio. Apparently, one of the walls was painted with a fairly confronting mural of a topless female angel. I wasn’t really sure how the team would feel about it, so I was stressing out a bit.

To my relief, we all laughed it off and thought it was a pretty funny situation, almost slighty ironic. But for the protection of the wider church, I don’t think I’ll post a picture of the room. Here is a “safer” picture of Darren, Yvonne and Ling on the “clean” side of the room.

And here’s another shot taken at the end of the rehearsal of the whole team, courtesy of Darren Woon (from Lto R: Darren Woon, me, Jun Wee, Gabriel Tan, Addie Choon, Derwin Bong, Yoy Alberastine, Yvonne Mohan, Ling Chua, Clement Ch’ng), and also taken from the “clean” side of the room.

I did come with plenty of faith however, to the extent that I thought that maybe, just maybe, as we were worshipping, the mural might supernaturally melt and all the other bands in the surrounding studios would come and see. They would be amazed and say “what God is this who dissolves unholy murals?” and we would then lead them to Christ.

Okay, so that didn’t eventuate, but every now and then, as we were deep in worship, I would just peek out of the corner of my eyes just to see whether perhaps some of the paint might start to come off.

Anyway, after we had eaten some pizza and introduced ourselves to each other, I told the band that it was great to work with anointed worship musicians whom I have admired and for whom I have the highest esteem. In fact, when I looked at the band, I realised that I had worked with most of the musos and singers before and I had longed to work with them again – so today was the opportunity!

I then wondered what it would be like if Converge wasn’t what we were working towards? What if, like Pentecost, it was the birth of something? What if it was the beginning of more times of worship together across churches, at a grassroots level? What if it sparked a movement of passionate worshippers and psalmists joining together across the city?

With that thought, we started running through the 15 songs on our songlist.

One of the songs which Derwin had chosen was “One Thirst” by Jeremy Riddle (good choice, Derwin!). When I first heard that song earlier last week, something had clicked and I somehow knew that that song would capture the heart of what we were trying to do.

Most of the band were pretty unfamiliar with that song, however. As we listened to it on my iPhone, Pastor Yoy said that we should approach it more pensively and prayerfully, almost in an “IHOP” style. What he said rightly set the tone for that song.

As Derwin began to lead that song, the music started to take on a life of its own and the various worship leaders began to sing over the top of the song. We must have gone for about half an hour of the most amazing worship I’ve experienced for a long time. It was like we were soaking up the presence of God and God’s weighty glory somehow descended. Alas though, no melting mural. Instead, we just experienced wave after wave of God’s presence as intercession and prophetic singing flowed.

In times like these, you are just too scared to do anything because you don’t want to be the one responsible for ruining the move of God. That was how real the presence of God felt. I understand more why the “fear of God” is associated with His presence.

And Yoy began to pray that there would be a convergence of psalmists, priests and prophets in this city.

And I prayed that as the church stood in visible unity, there would be a breakthrough atmosphere in our city that would affect our society and transform its values. That all our churches would experience the intensity of God’s presence that we experienced just then.

I don’t think we really wanted to stop.

And I wondered if it would be like this on the actual day itself. I wondered whether our worship would keep flowing like a mighty torrent that can’t be stopped. Whether God would break free from our programs. Whether the whole day would just be seamless. Whether the other bands that came on the day would simply fold into this one. Whether worship would just start and never end. Whether Pentecost would really come like it did at Azusa Street and change the face of the church and the city all at once.

If only all rehearsals were like this one. If only all worship services were like this one! I can feel the mountains tremble, the singers roar. I can sense the time of jubilee coming, when all the streams flow as one river, when the brokenness and fragmentation of the church are washed away, and young and old will turn to Jesus. Tonight didn’t feel like just another rehearsal. It was a prayerful prying open of the windows of heaven over our city.

Five Years of Total Awesomeness

Five years today, I married the love of my life and my best friend.

It’s been an incredible journey so far.

It all started on 5 May 2007 (well, at least our marriage did; our relationship started well before that) at the Fremantle Town Hall. We wanted a wedding where worshipping God was the focus. So we deliberately chose not to have any messages or exhortation – it would be just worship.

This is what we put in our wedding program:

A Note about Worship

The starting point for living is worship. Harold Best observes that “worship is at once about who we are, about who or what our god is and about how we choose to live.” At any given time, everyone everywhere is worshipping someone or something. Ling and I have chosen to dedicate our lives to worshipping Jesus Christ. So, today’s service is so much more than being about us; it is first and foremost about glorifying God who brought our lives together.

One of the most significant ways in which Christians have been called to express our worship is through praising God in song. Early on in our Christian walks, Ling and I have felt the calling in our lives to minister in music. So today’s ceremony is very much an extension of that but moreover, an extension of who we are. It is therefore our privilege to be able to lead you in an extended time of singing.

We appreciate that many of our guests today are not Christians. We make no apologies for how we have chosen to conduct this service because we wanted it to be about God. However, we do invite you to participate. The songs we sing may be unfamiliar to you, and it might feel strange for you to sing, but I want to encourage you to ‘let loose’ and give it a go. If anything else, allow the words and meaning of the songs to minister to you.

For those of you who are Christians, we encourage you to bring your best offering of praise to God. We would like nothing better than to join with you in giving glory to the God of all blessings.

Finally, we would like to thank the wonderful team of musicians and singers who have volunteered their time and energies in making this possible. They are anointed servants of God and we are privileged to be able to call them co-labourers and friends.

We assembled an awesome team of great friends and anointed worshippers and Ling and I had the privilege of leading our wedding guests into worship. It really was a dream team: on vocals we had me, Ling, Joanna, Yvonne, Juls (who also played violin) and Stephanie Truscott. Elayne and Mabes took the keys. Darren and Edmund on guitars. Boon on bass. And Clem on drums. Derek did the AV.

I still enjoy reliving the day. But every time I ask my friends over to watch our wedding DVD, Ling tells me off. So here are some shots from the day.

Here is the set list:

// Opening Prayer – Shaw Cheong

// Oh Happy Day – led by Stephanie Truscott

// Everyday with You, Lord (Sweeter)

// Friend of God

// Scripture Reading: Psalm 16 – Louis Ong

// Joy of My Desire – with Yvonne Mohan on lead vocals and Julien Lim on violin

// How Great Thou Art

// When I Think About the Lord

Of course, that day was just the starting point of an incredible journey over five years.

I have had various mentors and inspirations in my life, but none compares to Ling. She sees me at my best, my worst and my most mundane. She encourages me to pursue everything that God has in store for me and sacrifices so that we can both live out God’s calling to the full. She pulls me back when I get too far ahead of myself; she gives me the look when I’m being stupid and compromising my witness; she asks if I’ve done my devotion. She inspires me to press forward by her own faith in God. And she makes me smile often, and quite regularly does silly things to make me laugh – and laugh hard! She is the funniest person I know. Apart from the Holy Spirit, she is the most inspirational worship leader of all – because of her, I am living out all that ministry that is worship, not just on-stage, but also off-stage.

So happy fifth anniversary Biggles! Love ya lots. We will break open our fifth anniversary wine later! May there be many more bottles of anniversary wine to come!

Defining Worship Part 2

Today, I want to finish up what I started a month ago when I introduced Harold Best’s definition of worship in my post Defining Worship. In that post, I extracted Best’s definition, being that worship is “the continuous outpouring of all that I am, all that I do, and all that I can ever become to God”.

Here I want to unpack that a bit further.

First, the concept of continuousness. Best says in Unceasing Worship (p 18):

Worship does not stop and start, despite our notions to the contrary. Once we place emphasis on specific times, places and methods, we misunderstand worship’s biblical meaning. Worship may ebb and flow, may take on various appearances and may be unconscious or conscious, intense and ecstatic or quiet and commonplace, but it is continuous.

I want to pause here and consider the idea of “unconscious worship”. Most worship leaders will implore you during worship times on Sunday to “give your full attention to God”. This is a question of intensity and focus. But what happens when you go to work on Monday and have to think really hard about how to solve a client’s problem, or to draw up a design or to write up a complex formula? In my experience (and I’m being honest here), I don’t often think about God. When I am drafting a legal contract, I am don’t sing “Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee…” whilst I am typing “Subject to the payment of rent, the Landlord leases the Premises to the Tenant” etc. I think my head will explode! And my secretary will think I’m nuts!

But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped worshipping because as I have said elsewhere on this blog, your work is also worship.

So worship changes intensity, it ebbs and flows, but it never stops. It’s continuous. I like the idea of “unconscious” worship!

Next, is the concept of outpouring.

Outpouring implies a direction. You pour into or towards something. Overflowing is different to outpouring. Overflowing happens in every direction. When you fill up a bucket to its brim, it overflows everywhere. But pouring out has a sense of intention.

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day who said that if you look at how adherents of other religions worship, you can take away all the external trappings (like clothing style or music) and it wouldn’t look too different to what Christians do on a Sunday. This is true. The difference (and the key one) is one of direction, because as I have said before, everyone is worshipping something or put another way, nobody does not worship. The basis of that difference is being to able to answer the question why the Christian God is deserving of our outpouring more than any other God. That’s too big a question for me to deal with in this post, but hopefully one day I will be able to give a strong cogent answer to my friend (I suspect I may actually not give her a concrete answer, but we will probably ask a series of questions and come up with the answer together!).

Of “outpouring”, Best says this (p 19):

It implies lavishness and generosity: when I pour something, I give it up; I let it go. Dripping is not outpouring; there is space between the drops. But in pouring, the flow is organically and consistently itself. In spite of a mixed simile, pouring is seamless.

The lavishness and generosity of outpouring is illustrated in the Gospel story of Mary and the alabaster box (which I have looked at elsewhere on this blog). But here, I like Best’s comment about “giving up” and “letting go” the most. Worship is about surrender. When you worship, you are really surrendering your whole life to God, or as Paul puts it in Romans 12:1, offering your whole life as a living sacrifice.

The thing with pouring, or with sacrifice (for that matter) is that once the act is done, it is irretrievably done. You can’t take it back. You have either poured it out, or you have been consumed by fire. There’s no going back to the way things were. How we continue in that process is by the grace of God, knowing that God never lets us out of His hands once we commit our lives to Him.

Lastly, worship cannot be self-contained, as Best says, “even when it barely dribbles out”. In the story of Mary, the Gospel writers say that the whole house was filled with the fragrance of Mary’s worship. In this sense, worship and witness are really one comprehensive reality.

Okay, now enough of the big, complicated ideas.

Let me reduce this into somewhat more simple terms: Worship is like being married to someone. If you haven’t tried it, you should give it a go! The fact of marriage means that you give priority to your wife. Sometimes this is conscious, sometimes not. Your daily routine reflects that priority. You always come home to her; you have time for her (even though you have a lot of other things on your plate) and you share your whole life with her.

Sometimes, you give fuller effect to that priority. For example, you would like to watch the cricket (actually this is a bad example because I abhor watching the cricket!) but you decide to spend some quality time sipping tea with her and chatting about your day. You might call this “quiet time” (I know, I couldn’t help chucking in a religious term). Still more intensely, there will be times when you pay especial honour to her, and everything you do is about her: you write her a card saying how beautiful she is, what a great person she is, you buy her dinner, you give her flowers.

But yet, there will be times when you don’t pay her enough attention. You do things that make her upset. You’re inconsiderate. You put your own desires above hers. (Okay, I am talking about myself, but using the “you” pronoun gives me a sense of solidarity with the rest of you). That doesn’t mean that I stop being married.

And that, my friends, is very much like our worship.  It makes me wonder whether this is why the New Testament church is often described as the bride of Christ.

At the end of the day, worship is relational. When we enter into relationship with God, we have changed the direction of our worship from ourselves, from other gods and things which seek mastery over us, and we are now directing our worship towards God. It doesn’t always feel like we are worshipping, or that God is at the centre of it all, or that God is even close to us, but that’s okay. At the end of the day, we’re coming home again.

Asian Worship

A few years ago, my then drummer Samson Tan said to me “it’s about time the church started singing Asian worship songs”. I had previously listened to albums by City Harvest Church and New Creation Church, but never really taken to them. But since Sam suggested it, I thought I’d indulge him and we started introducing the song “God of My Forever” (by CHC) to the band and then to the church.

It has since become one of my favourite songs.

Songs that have come out of the church in Singapore bear a different quality to mainstream worship music.

On the one hand, the lyrical style is a bit less developed. For example, the lyrical content of many of New Creation’s songs tends to be reflective of the preaching of the church so that at times, in an attempt fit some of Joseph Prince’s great phrases – which sound great spoken – the lyrics appear really clumsy (like one of the songs that has the rather unpoetic words “irrevocably saved” in it).

But there are two important distinctives of the Singaporean worship song. First, the melodic quality. Whereas a lot of mainstream worship has embraced grunge and hip-hop, driven by rhythm and atmospherics, the songs of New Creation and City Harvest hearken back to the old days when worship songs had soaring melodies which sounded great even when with a simple accompaniment. In other words, the songs stand on their own without the need for much musical embellishment The same can’t necessarily be said of some of the newer songs from Hillsongs.

The other distinctive is the engagement of “spirit”. I can’t really adequately describe this quality, but there is a spirit-driven spontaneous element within a lot of the Asian songs that goes beyond a mere performance of the song.

In days to come, as the poetry and lyricism become more refined, I believe that Asian worship will truly rival some of the mainstream offerings in the worship market.

Until then, here are three of my favourites:

God of My Forever

Come Holy Spirit

I See Grace

Come Holy Spirit was in fact significant for me because in 2007, we ministered to a church in Sapporo and realised that this song was being sung in Japan. For us, it was a much needed prophetic invocation of the power of the Spirit on the worship in Japan, to move beyond sung truth towards spirit and experience.

I hope you guys enjoy these!