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.

Appreciation Sunday for Cell Leaders

Praying for the cell leaders
Praying for the cell leaders

Today’s Sunday Worship Service was devoted to encouraging and affirming and blessing our cell leaders for their works of faith, attitude of hope and love for God’s people. We had a meaningful, wonderful and inspiring morning. These were some of the things we did:

  • We let everyone know that we were going to appreciate the the cell leaders and reaffirm the importance of cells in spirituality.
  • The 25 minute sermon on Matthew 6:34 was a word in season for the cell leaders and members. A sermon about the purpose of cell groups is so hackneyed we decided not to do it. Ps Thomas spoke on “Living in the Present”, an exhortation to live fully in the present, and not to be stuck in the past, or to live in anxiety about the future.
  • A new member, Suling, shared with the congregation her thoughts about why the cell group was so beneficial for her growth.
  • Our youth worker Ethel Cannon-Shin shared how the new commandment of Jesus in John 13:34,35 should be the bedrock of the cell and how participation in a cell provides community.
  • We showed a video that stitched together every cell groups’ words of appreciation for their cell leaders. This was a clincher and it affirmed and energised every the cell leader.
  • We called all the cell leaders out to the front and asked all the cell members to gather around them and pray for them. Each cell leader received a gift of appreciation.
  • We had some special light refreshments: ang ku kueh, with a tortoise impressed upon the cake, to symbolise longevity. We do hope the cell leaders will be sustained by the grace of God, and the support of the cell core team, and will continue serving and leading for many years.

How does your church recognise, appreciate and celebrate the cell leaders’ contribution to church spirituality? Do use the comment box.

Cell appreciation from Tom Cannon on Vimeo.

 

A.M. Mathew has gone home to his Lord and Master

I saw a follower by the name of Timothy Mathew on the church’s Facebook account. Is this the son of A.M. Mathew the founder of World Revival Prayer Fellowship? I found that he was and so I asked about his father. A.M. Mathew had been living in Toronto, Canada for close to 40 years and was in his late eighties. I asked about them and it was sad to learn that he had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and his wife had dementia. I brought this information to the church and we prayed for him. I got them to pronounce the Aaronic blessing on A.M. Mathew which we then posted on the church Facebook account and over in Canada the son could show it to his dad. We were glad that we did that but soon after that we received news that the Lord and Master of A.M. Mathew has brought him home to glory on the 21st of September. It was a sad loss but it certainly freed him from terrible suffering of pains in his body. It was so bad that despite palliative care, he could not sleep well, wracked as he was in much pain. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away”(Rev 21:4). I informed the church of this and we prayed for the bereaved family. I adapted the death notice from the cemetery website and put this in the church bulletin:

 

A.M Mathew with his wife Saramma Mathew
A.M Mathew with his wife Saramma Mathew

Rev Arranghat Mathai Mathew (November 12, 1926 – September 21, 2015) – passed away peacefully on the morning of September 21, 2015 at his home in Mississauga, Ontario at the age of 88. Beloved husband of Mrs. Saramma Mathew and loving father to Josephine Mary (Dr. George Abraham), Rachel, Sara (Mr. James Havlik), and Timothy, and a devoted grandfather to Elizabeth (Andrew Douglas), Ruth, Benjamin, Stephen and Joshua. He will be greatly missed by his family, who cherished his kind and loving spirit and are grateful that he has gone home to glory to be with his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. A.M. Mathew leaves a memorable legacy, having founded World Revival Prayer Fellowship in Singapore in 1972, and later beginning a Canadian chapter in 1978 upon his move to the Greater Toronto Area with his family. Through Brother Mathew’s tireless efforts, his ministry eventually extended to Jamaica, Bangladesh, the Himalayan foothills of Assam in North India and Tamilnadu, Kerala State, India and the Six Nations Reserve in Ohsweken, Ontario. Brother Mathew made it his life’s mission to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it was clear to all who knew him that he was an unashamed witness for the Lord. Please remember his bereaved wife, children and grandchildren before the Lord.
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

The family at the Paya Lebar Airport leaving for Canada.
The family at the Paya Lebar Airport leaving for Canada.

I was never close to A.M. Mathew. I was probably anonymous and inconspicuous in church in the early formative years of WRPF. Reserved and shy, I did not easily socialize, and deferred and respected leaders from a distance. My personal impressions of A.M. Mathew was his bold witness for Christ, and an overriding passion to prepare the church to be that spotless Bride when Jesus comes again. To this effect he would preach doctrines Sunday after Sunday. I remember being taught regeneration, baptism, baptism in the Spirit, holiness and sanctification, the Lord’s Supper, the second coming of Christ, the church as the bride of Christ, and the book of Revelation. He gave out notes on the doctrines. I still recall his openness to the power and gifts of the Spirit, and yet knowing that his gift and forte was teaching the word, which he did with passion. Interestingly, I am currently preaching through the book of Revelations. On the Sunday I preached about 144,000 and the countless multitudes of white robed saints of Revelation 7, Zach Wong, a pioneer member from the original first eight who were baptized, came to me and remarked, Now that brother Mathew has gone home, you have taken over his role of preaching Revelation, his favourite book. I was slow to take in what he said and respond. I could only smile. Now that it has sunk in, I pray I will be able to preach it with the same passion and love for it, and to do it with interpretative skills I have learned from seminary and years of preaching. Yes, may I be able to deliver Revelation Made Simple with a similar passion and greater insights. I am sure he would want me to do it better than him.