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.
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:
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).
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.
The new face of FGBMF Singapore
Full Gospel Business Gatekeepers Singapore: this is the new name of what was once the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship Singapore ( FGBMF Spore). They were celebrating their 40th anniversary together with the launch of a book titled: UNFOLDING HIS STORY. The dinner celebration on 2nd September was well attended at Fullerton Hotel with most receptionist and volunteers manning the tables under 40 and most people attending the event over 50 years of age. On the stage that night the old and young represented the future of this middle-aged organization injected with a new zip in its movements. This partnership of young and old, hand in hand, is the new face of a miraculous but God-supervised transformation (or as businessmen would term re-invention) of the mid-lifer that was FGBMF Spore. From dry bones to mighty army
The FGBMF Spore was at one point dehydrated and lacking vitality, if not moribund and breathing its last breath: words I dared not use if the organization was still like that today. It was like an organization that had lost its way. They had done their God-given mission so well that the churches they touched were so strong they did not need the organization’s help any more. Their heydays were in the 1970s and 1980s. They were the bearer of the transformative experience called the baptism in the Holy Spirit. As people touched by the Lord returned to bless and strengthen their own churches, the role of FGBMF Spore became like the remains of a charcoal pit, covered with glorious ash, but needing some stoking for the fire to be reset. They needed a new purpose and that was found in the outworking of the theology of the kingdom of God in the world, the marketplace. Once a valley of dry bones, it’s now an inter-generational army infused with a clear mission and strategy. Thus they have changed their name to Full Gospel Business Gatekeepers Singapore to reflect the new mission. Some FGBMF national organizations in other countries are coming to Singapore to catch this fire too.
Unfolding His Story: new book
The highlight of the celebration was the launch of an interesting book titled UNFOLDING HIS STORY, written by a father and son team, Georgie and Galven Lee. It is the story of the charismatic movement in Singapore with a special eye on the contribution of the Anglican Church and FGBMF Singapore. Even though the writing team directly involved was father and son, it was a pleasure to see the whole Lee family, including the mother and daughter, involved in the production of this book.
I remember being interviewed by Galven Lee, one of the authors. He was then a NUS history research student with a voice recorder and notebook. I shared with him what I knew of our story in the meta-narrative of the charismatic revival of the 1970s. It had to do with many students of many schools being filled with the Spirit. Our little story started with the Holy Spirit pouring out his power upon a group of students behind the science labs of the lowly Dunearn Tech Secondary School, along Bukit Timah Road. What began as students speaking in tongues behind the science labs became a crying revival and finally became the church, World Revival Prayer Fellowship. This not insignificant event was mentioned in the book.
At my table, I sat beside Rev Michael Teh, the vicar of Chapel of the Holy Spirit, an Anglican church that was planted as a result of the spiritual renewal among the Anglicans in the 1970s. We had a nice chat and could connect easily. He is the pastor of the church which originally started in the Lee family’s home. The fellowship was good and so was the food and service but later during the meal I had cold Coca Cola spilled over me. I left for the restroom to clean up and on the way back to my table there was the apologetic head waiter and the waitress apologizing profusely and offering free dry cleaning service. Wished they offered me a free night’s stay at the hotel with breakfast. Good thing I was wearing a Mandarin collar long sleeve not a jacket. It was a long but enjoyable night.
May the Lord continue to bless the FGB Gatekeepers. I have nothing but good things to say about them now and what they have to offer to churches. If you wish to learn more about how they train people to make disciples in the marketplace you may want to read this blogpost I wrote earlier about one of their programs.
THINE IS THE GLORY, THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE.
We landed at dawn and began with a one day tour of Istanbul. It was a wet, windy and cold day. However we toured the main tourist sites and still managed to squeeze in an hour of shopping at the grand bazaar in the late evening. We visited the ancient ruins of the cities where the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation once existed. They are all in modern day Turkey. Then we crossed over to Greece by bus and visited holy sites, ancient ruins and museums in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth. From Athens, we flew and transited at Istanbul, and flew back home.
We stayed at eight hotels in ten days. That should say something. It meant living off our suitcase. It meant early morning calls that mercifully became sane morning calls in Greece. It also meant being on the road on average about 2 hours between sites. We all expected it as this was a familiarization tour and they were trying to give us a sampling of as many different religious sites as possible within the limited time-frame. This survey would then help us to choose from a wide range what we think is suitable for ourselves if we want to lead a tour from our church in future.
Personal highlights of the tour
The fellowship was wonderful. There were 39 participants in all – mostly pastors from different denominations and background. There were Methodists, Baptists, Assemblies of God, Independents, Brethren, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Vietnamese Alliance. As there were about 25 meals we had together I got to hear many inspiring stories of pastors, and how they were called and what their churches were about. A few of these pastors had successful careers. But they heard the call and became pastors in mid-career changes.
Naturally the pastors were deployed to give devotions at the major sites. It was edifying to hear God’s messages to the seven churches in Revelation come alive with probing relevance and power across the centuries. I was blessed. For me it was like a personal invitation from the Spirit to look more deeply at the book of Revelations and consider preaching it through in the church. The book lit up like a burning bush.
This subsidized tour was well organized and packed. The tour guides that were handpicked for us were very good in terms of their expertise, people skills and humor. The Bible Society of Singapore and the Omega Tours and Travel did a thoughtful job of planning all these and selecting the local tour companies to partner with. We had our meals at restaurants and most breakfasts and dinners were in above average hotels. Not sure about the cuisine, but I preferred the Turkish meals to the ones in Greece for the greater variety. There were salads in every meal and I never ate so much vegetable in any ten days of my life till now.
If I were to plan a pilgrimage/study tour for the church I would concentrate on Turkey. I would do the Istanbul bit, fly to Tarsus, get lost in the Cappadocia caves, do the seven churches circuit, and have a day cruise to the island of Patmos (part of Greece). Such a pilgrimage/study tour would focus on the book of Revelations and the relevance of its message to us. I feel the Revelations tour can be impactful. And add some restful elements like staying to linger an extra day in a city, and having some fun shopping or hot air ballooning. Adding Greece in would be too much. Have a separate pilgrimage for Greece, probably with a missional slant.
My favourite sites: the ancient Ephesus site, and Parmukkale“cotton castle” in Turkey; and the Meteora in Greece.
I attended Kingdom Invasion from 19-21 March at the Singapore Expo, but mainly the morning and the afternoon sessions. The keynote speaker was Bill Johnson and we missed him the last time round but it was good to have him take more sessions this time. He was full of interesting insights into God’s ways and some of his one-liners stay with you like henna dye. Two of his powerful messages were the ones on culture of honor and the one of the role our desires and faith play in God’s sovereign plan. The basic thesis of the first is that the church needs to recover the key of honor in different aspects of relationships so that what God has gifted and graced the person who we honor may be released to us. Jesus was not honored in Nazareth and thus they were deprived of what He could have done for them. The central truth of the second is that our desires and faith have a way of bringing forward what God may have planned for the future. Jesus said to Mary his mother, My hour has not come (to perform miracles). However due to her persistent faith, that hour seemed to have been brought forward in the miracle of changing water to wine. Thus imagine if the church had the desire and faith to bring forward the promises of the future kingdom to the here and now – bringing the promises of heaven to earth – what kind of glory would the church display to the waiting world. What an inspiring, expansive vision.
James Goll was another proposition altogether. More prophetic and inspirational he spoke, sang and shared some of his encounters with angels and dreams and taught people how to intercede as a privilege, out of the intimacy that the Father offers us.
And as ever the inimitable Heidi Baker facilitate a soaking in the presence of God. We think we need more cognitive content but God knows we ministers need more time allowing the Spirit to fill us and to be inspired by her abandon to the Spirit.
This years prayer summit was held on January 6-9 at the Equatorial Hotel in Malacca. The theme was Jubilee. There were about 500 pastors and leaders from Singapore in attendance. The speaker was Peter Tsukahira and his theme was the kingdom of God and the marketplace.
The prayer summit this year was Word rich. I suppose there were pastors who attended because of the guest speaker – they wanted to hear his teachings. He is of Japanese origin, speaks with an American accent, and has an Israeli passport. He is married to a Messianic Jewess and both of them lead a ministry and Messianic community in Haifa. In fact the last thing we did during our holy land trip was to visit and support his ministry. I saw pastors who never attended the pastors’ summit attend this summit giving attention to all the teaching sessions. Peter Tsukahira did not disappoint. He spoke about the formation of Israel, and its relation to the return of Christ, the gospel of the kingdom of God and how these give the framework for the marketplace ministry. I was blessed by the teaching it stirred me to return to my favorite writer on the kingdom of God, G. E. Ladd, a professor from Fuller Theological Seminary. Read an excerpt of his concept of the kingdom HEREfor an example of his concise writing and clear thinking and grasp of a difficult subject with many different interpretations.
This year they also re-introduced pastors Lawrence Chua and Guna to do the stand-up comic thingy. They are two members of the team steering the Love Singapore churches. They are pastors with hearts for community service and have led their churches to be models for such a ministry in the heartlands. They have somehow discovered a chemistry between them for stand up comedy. They brought the house of God down with laughter. Humor is serious business. You need a gift to get pastors in a sober “prayer summit” to laugh shamelessly. So used are pastors to being serious about eternal and earthly issues. Kudos to Lawrence and Guna for their gift of getting all the stressed-up pastors laughing. However, they would do well to expand their range of subjects. They seem too constrained to introducing the chairman and the speaker or the organizing church in humorous ways. They can evolve into a stand-alone act that can help pastors and leaders laugh at themselves and alter some perspectives of church ministry and relations.
The pastors’ summit is one of the best places to keep in touch with acquaintances and other pastors. I met two of my cousin’s daughters: cousins once removed. One morning I had breakfast with Lindy Chee and Dara Chee. Lindy worked with YWAM for many years. Now she is in training and facilitating. Dara Chee is a trained social worker who was in Vietnam for a few years with the Anglicans, and now a residential manager for Highpoint Dayspring, a residential treatment center for abused women and teens. It was encouraging to see young people with a passion for Christ’s kingdom to be realized on earth as in heaven.
This year I roomed with priest Vincent Hoon from True Light Anglican Church. We met years ago when we were randomly put together to share a room in a similar conference. We gelled and this was the second time we roomed again. Vincent drove us all to Malacca -me and pastor Kenny Fan from Woodlands Evangelical Free Church and pastor Thomas my colleague. They were such pleasant company the road trip seemed shorter. On the way back we stopped by Yong Peng, and later, at a Gelang Petah seafood restaurant popular with golfers. Ahhh…Malaysian food.
Care Community Church camp at Pulai Springs, Johor
Pulai Springs, Johor is a good resort for church camps. We arrived there from Singapore within two hours or less. We had ice breakers and orientation and settled into our rooms. The haze however spoiled what would otherwise have been an ideal place for relaxation, seminars and meditation. The food was excellent and the rooms were above average. So was the service.
The Care Community Church is a warm and loving family church. Their welcome quickly put us at ease with them. Meals were pleasant as we got to know different members of the church. As they responded to us warmly, we in turn enjoyed a growing rapport with them. When I am relaxed and feel at home with an audience, I find I can preach and teach more effectively. I found the church to be friendly, unique, and blessed with many talented and faithful people. You could tell they have been cared for and loved.
Pastor Amos Yap has been their pastor for more than a decade. I got to know his family better: Juliet, his wife who gives tuition with a twist – counseling and guidance! and his son and daughter. They are a lovely family and all are serving the Lord. The theme was about personal renewal and rebuilding the church. I dealt with the common symptoms of an unhealthy spirituality.
Pulai Springs, Johor is a lovely hotel with good service and food. I adapted some ideas I got from Peter Scazzero’s “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” and filtered them through my experience, and shared 8 symptoms with them over two nights. Detecting some of these symptoms will help people unlock some of the hindrances to the Christ life in them. I also did two morning workshops on the spiritual disciplines of the “Examen” and “Lectio Divina” – fancy Latin names for a review of the day and devotional reading. Short explanations and 25 minutes of actual prayer, followed by 20 minutes of group sharing and prayer. I kept the practices brief and manageable so that the young people can enjoy a taste of these spiritual practices. These are disciplines that will position them to receive and experience more of God’s grace and love on a regular basis. On the last night we had a wonderful ministry time praying for the sick, prophesying and blessing people in the name of the Lord. The presence of the Lord was among us.
There was more hunger and faith among them than I had assumed from the first session. In the final morning session, I encouraged them to rebuild the church together, doing a bare bones expository message of Haggai’s second prophecy.
Euclid Tan was my room mate, a young man who had been in Bill Johnson’s school of the supernatural in the US. He was a great help. He gave me input on the messages, helping me to angle it to young people and contributing stories as well as trimming off unnecessary fats. May the Lord raise a new generation of ministers who will excel in faith, hope and love.
Pardon my rambling all over the place. This is a symptom that I need to slow down, slow down.