Rick Seaward: a man sent by God

Rick Seaward: apostle (1955-2018)

I did not have an opportunity to know Pastor Rick Seaward personally. I was surprised that his sudden death from a car accident put me in a pensive mood. When I saw the Facebook image with the 1955-2018 it hit me. He was born the same year as me. I always thought he was my senior because of his crop of white hair.

My first memory of him was when he came to our fellowship during its formative revival years and preached a passionate message on Isaiah 61. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” This turned out to be the message his life embodied, and he went home in a glorious blaze, powered by the fire in his bones.

After that speaking engagement, I never saw him again until he showed up suddenly as the founding pastor of Calvary Charismatic Center(CCC) – a pioneer of the “church in the hotel” trend. That church grew rapidly and became the first megachurch outside of the mainline denominations (according to Harford Institute for Religion Research a megachurch is defined as one that sustains an attendance of over 2,000).

CCC also became well-known for their prodigious church planting throughout the world through their Gideonite program. They were the “it” church in those days. They also had great evangelistic rallies in the former National Stadium and blessed the local church pastors with inexpensive or free church conferences.

What strikes me about Rick is his amazing gift of faith and unflagging missional fire. He poured out his whole life and put all that he is and has at God’s disposal.

His bold desire to reach people of all races and religions caught the attention of government authorities zealous to prevent religious disharmony. He was slapped on the wrist. He was later hauled up for a technically flawed, financial transaction that had more press than it warranted. Another slap on the wrist. At that time, he was criticized for not being a Singaporean, a foreigner. Today he would have been called a foreign talent.

For a period of time he left Singapore and pastored in Auckland to help stabilize another megachurch. He left the CCC in the hands of local pastors he mentored. CCC went through a decentralization process of several regions and I thought that was one of the great redemptive things that happened as a result of the troubles that CCC went through. CCC, with its name changed to Victory Family Center, is today a family of congregations that worships in seven locations.

Billy Graham has gone home to glory a few weeks ago at a ripe old age of 99. That’s a whopping 36 years longer than Rick! Two great men of God. One an evangelist. One an apostle. Two giants. It saddens me when I think of his early departure.

I am sure most of us have accepted Rick’s early departure as something of a mystery, as a part of God’s sovereign plan which we do not fully grasp or comprehend for the time being.

Has Rick finished his God-assignment? Is that why God has taken him home?

Is Rick the one seed that needs to fall into the ground, so that it will bear much much more fruit in the decades to come?

We do not really know for certain.

We do know that it pains many to see such a giant go home when much remains to be done. The church in Singapore owes this man a great debt. He is a great loss not only to his beloved family and the church he founded and led. He is a great loss to the Love Singapore movement and the church in Singapore that has received the mantle of Antioch of Asia.

Father, we do not understand, and we do not want to pretend that we do, but we trust You completely. You are too loving to do evil, too wise to do wrong, and too powerful to have lost control. We trust You and entrust all the grieving family members and church members into Your loving care and comfort. Amen.

If you have memories of him you want to share, feel free to use the comment box below.

Billy Graham: a Singapore pastor’s tribute

Gravestone of Billy Graham

So he was buried yesterday. Billy Graham went home to glory at the great old age of 99. I remembered the National Stadium in 1978. I was trained to be a counsellor. One of thousands who were instructed to walk down to the green field when Rev Graham gave his invitation to the audience to receive Christ. Hundreds streamed down to the strains of “Just As I Am”. I did not counsel anyone. Nor prayed with anyone. But I remembered the stadium was packed with people and the choir was huge.

I remembered that months before the evangelistic crusades a team had come to talk to pastors and to share their hopes and plans. It took months of hard work to galvanise the churches, train counsellors, the choir, ushers and to rally prayers for the crusades. It was my fifth year as an enthusiastic believer and I was happy to attend the training and participate in the meetings.

To me it is plain to all that Billy Graham is the greatest evangelist of the 20th Century. His messages were persuasive, powerful and impactful. I was surprised at the compactness of his preaching. It never felt lengthy or draggy and yet he never left the important things unsaid. In fact you felt his gospel was marked by simplicity, effectiveness and sincerity. He keeps the main things the main things, and kept them fundamentally orthodox, and never majored on the minors.

I salute Billy Graham for his godliness and integrity. He was a man of simple devotional habits. He read the Bible regularly and he prayed. He has no secret techniques. He loved God and kept himself faithful to His Word. He lived out what he preached: he was a man of integrity.

I like it that he lived modestly without extravagance or unseemly flaunting of wealth or fame. He did not accumulate great possessions but neither was he a pauper. He lacked nothing and was well off. He lived above any accusation of financial or sexual impropriety. No one could accuse him of taking advantage of his large and loyal following that he had built over many decades of faithful ministry, operating under a board that managed financial affairs of his world wide ministry.

He was faithful to his heavenly call to preach the gospel to all the world. He stuck to his mission. With his fame and the vast financial resources and trust that he had built it would have been easy for him to be diverted to other challenging, interesting and inspiring projects but nothing deterred him from his focus on declaring God’s good news. He will certainly hear his Master say, Well done thou good and faithful servant. Something we should all aspire and desire for our lives too: steadfast obedience to God’s call.

I have read biographies about him but wished that one day his journals could be made available. I wish to see the real man – the struggles, the ambiguity, the sorrows, the temptations, the failures. The Billy painted by his biographers shows the public man but does not contain enough to understand the real man. A fuller picture of his struggles and mistakes would make his future biographies much more enriching, nourishing and encouraging for a new generation of evangelists and spiritual leaders.

Thank you Sir, for leaving us a legacy the church could be proud of.

Holy Week: contemplative and charismatic

The theme of our Holy Week was The Gethsemane Journey. Can the Pentecostal and contemplative blend? Why not? Although  the practices of the Pentecostal and the contemplative seem to be incompatible opposites they actually enrich and deepen each other! I saw this in our experience of Holy Week 2017. I handed the planning to our young pastoral staff: Ethel, Tom and Sarah. I told them the parameters was that we share with the church different practices of prayer both contemplative and charismatic. This was what they came up with.

Monday: Lectio Divina

Tuesday: Praying the Psalms

Wednesday: Prophetic prayer

Thursday: Intercessory prayer

Each evening would begin with time for people to be still and wait on God in silence with background instrumentals played over the speakers. Then there would be brief explanations of the prayer practice we would be doing. Followed by an hour for people to actually enter into the practice of prayer. The last segment would be a partaking of Holy Communion.

The worship hall would be made conducive with dim lights, devotional  instrumental music (except of the last evening when we had a live band), and the hall would be cleared of the usual auditorium seating so people could sit anywhere on the floor or chairs along the edges.

Personally I enjoyed each and every evening of Holy Week. It was no chore. The Lord was present each night to impart different insights and experiences. The first night a Scripture portion lighted up and shifted my posture towards a ministry matter. The second night I felt I was crying out to the Lord on behalf of the sick. The third night, I composed and sent prophetic prayers and words to three friends. The last night, I had to facilitate the intercession evening. However I enjoyed the soaking session with the live worship band. Whether contemplative or charismatic practices are used the common element is the presence and power of God.

Some of the participants who attended the Holy Week wrote about their experiences in this article in our church website: Holy Week: The Gethsemane Journey.

The whole Lent and Holy Week can possibly be a seasonal “curriculum” for personal and church renewal. How does your church use this season for God’s glory? Share with the readers what your church has done.