New Horizon Church: great hope for small churches

new horizon church

This church is a model of hope for small churches. Two small churches merged into a unified larger body and out of that union, a new fellowship emerged, aptly re-named, the New Horizon Church.

Ministry at New Horizon

I was invited to preach at their facility at Wing Fong Building, Guillemard Road. It was a mere 10 minutes drive from the church where I serve.  Euclid Tan, who spent a year in Bill Johnson’s  School of the Supernatural in Redding, accompanied me. Extra firepower! The worship hall was pleasant, and the congregation looked about 200. The worship leader led with enthusiasm, and the receptiveness of the congregation was gracious, and they warmed up as the message developed. I preached about the characteristics of God’s love. Yes, I added some ingredients to a used message. I micro-waved “God’s Love Tattoo”, and served the Word with a fresh spirit. Then we prayed for the sick and released prophetic words. The Spirit manifested himself and we were all blessed.

How the two churches merged

What happened? How did the two churches get together? I see the finger of God and the wisdom of seasoned ministers at work in the merger. The Herald Assembly of God church pastor was retiring. Out of discussions with Rev Lawrence Koo, then senior pastor of Agape Community Church, emerged the possibility of a church merger.

What followed were many meetings and a master plan that stretched to a year or more. Planned discussions by pastors and key leaders of both groups were held.  They organized a combined church camp, many joint services and church events where they got to know each other, like in dating and courtship.

They allowed a lot of internal discussions and time for each group to process the idea of a merger, to envisage what it would look like, and to imagine and live in the new feelings in the new state. Perhaps it was at the same time a necessary period to surrender preferences,  grieve and say goodbye to their respective former histories and identities. Thankfully, the decision over who would be the senior pastor was a no-brainer. The tough call was probably the name and the place of worship and the new identity and vision of the unified body.

In the end, all ended well, and they got married, and I wish I can say, and they had lots of children and lived happily ever after. I cannot so all readers are urged to lift up a prayer that this new entity will move from strength to strength;  and is able to fulfill its new destiny; and provide a beacon of hope for small churches.

Ps Lawrence Koo with meRev Lawrence Koo

I first heard of this process of merger from Rev Lawrence Koo, a veteran pastor with the Assemblies of God.  Besides being the senior pastor of Agape Community Church, he is a council member, a respected minister in his denomination, and the founding chairman of Global Leadership Summit.  Together with his wife, Nettie, during their Bible college days, they actually planted what is now a dynamic church in Seremban . Lawrence made regular trips to USA, particularly to Willow Creek Community Church. I got to know him when I joined him in one of those trips. During that trip, we also attended the Toronto Airport Church for a conference, and visited Jim Cybala’s Brooklyn Tabernacle Church. Occasionally he took my pulpit.

Tough to be small church

This promising merger will be a great hope for small churches because it’s tough to be small in Singapore. We are a well-connected tiny little red dot of an island. People are educated, exposed, sophisticated and want the best for their families. They are more consumer-oriented in their decisions than they realize. They compare; they shop; they look for what meets their needs best. The small church, like the old provision shop, finds itself marginalized by the large church “shopping mall experience”. A small church of below 30-60 finds it tough going. But if they go over 100, they struggle less financially and are more stable. Closer to 200, there is even better synergy and resources. Anything above that is a good size to be in: good for disciple making, strong community, and having sufficient resources for resilience and advancement. It’s tough to be small in Singapore but if small churches can merge like what New Horizon Church has done, there is great hope for helping small churches to move ahead in the Lord.

Help!

Perhaps larger fellowships (denominations) like the Assemblies of God have the resources and experience to make available and encourage and facilitate the merger of small churches. There are wise spiritual fathers and mothers respected by younger pastors and the many small churches. These veterans can help prod, probe, explore such mergers without trampling on the dignity or passion of small church pastors and their dedicated, battle-hardened troopers. Maybe this is apostolic work too.

There is always a new horizon when small churches dare to risk an intentional merger.

 

 

Pastor Lawrence Koo of Agape Community Church

Stalled car and stalled mind

My thoughts jumped about like monkeys in a tree. I had to tell pastor Lawrence Koo of Agape Community Church about what happened. He may have to be prepared to speak instead, as I was to be the guest speaker in his 4pm church service on Saturday. Maybe I should call for a tow truck. I should get a cab, but can I leave the car here on busy Bukit Timah Road? I could not get him, so I messaged him and hoped he read it.

My car had stalled in the middle lane near Eng Neo Avenue, but I managed to slowly guide it to the side with my hazard lights on. The stalled car was hampering traffic on lane 3.  Somehow I managed to get the car going again, with Ps Lawrence Koo with methe air-con switched off, but the car stalled again along the main road, and I managed to guide it into quiet Dunkirk Road. Hailing a cab, I dashed to  Toa Payoh where the church meets in a cozy red auditorium, that could easily pass off as a cinema.

Pastor Lawrence Koo

The singing had already begun and Pastor Lawrence was glad to see me and I was glad I was only 10 minutes late. My thoughts still wandered about while others worshiped. Lord, give me Your peace and I entrust the situation to You. Before I knew it, I was graciously introduced. Pastor Lawrence and I first met when we went together to visit Willow Creek Community’s Church conference about a decade ago. He is a widely respected Assemblies of God minister who during his Bible college days planted a church in Seremban, Malaysia which today is one of the more notable churches in that town. We have caught up on various occasions since then . He went frequently to the annual Leadership Summit hosted by Bill Hybels’ church. What a wonderful thing it was when he actually brought the Global Leadership Summit (an abridged video version of the Summit) to Singapore several years ago and chaired the executive committee for several years. He provides able and loving leadership to Agape Community Church and chairs the denomination’s Bible college, A.G.B.C. It was evident there was a strong bond of love between pastor and congregation.

beautiful auditorium

worship team

speaking of the Father's loveThe Father’s love for us

Before I knew it I was at the sleek modern pulpit and despite a slow start managed to gradually connect with the congregation that comprised mostly young families. I preached to them some fundamental truths of what the Father has done for us from gospel-rich Ephesians 1: 3-7. I talked about the Father’s love for us: how He wants to bless us; how he had chosen us, and adopted us as his children.  The message was peppered with lots of relevant illustrations and analogies and applications.

Chong’s car diagnosis

The service ended and the people were friendly and Lawrence introduced me to Chong, an expert with cars. They were very kind and drove me to my stalled car. Chong took about 25 minutes to investigate the problem thoroughly. His diagnosis: radiator problem. You can drive back but do so without air-conditioning and keep sight of the temperature gauge. As I drove off, I thank God for this kindness, and was happy to be safely home and to have the car to use on Sunday.