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.

 

 

Zion Full Gospel Church: convenient city church with unusual origin and congregational mix

ZFGC: like a ship for rescue of the lost in the city

Unusual mix and origin

wooden crossThe building looked like a ship that is cruising on calm waters at Hoot Kiam Road. In the worship hall there were Africans, Australians, and Americans peppered among the locals in the 100 or so people who attended the 11am Sunday service. This mix is not unusual as surrounding the church’s location were scores of condominiums, private apartments and shop houses. Even expatriates need a church, and it must be the Lord that drew them. Zion Full Gospel Church is about 300 strong and they have an unusual Finnish origin. Sisters Nilja Nikkanen and Aira Kolkka were missionaries who left China after the communist takeover in the 1950’s and were led to preach the gospel in Singapore, playing the guitar and singing Mandarin songs in the Street. Out of this grew the first among several churches started by the Finnish mission.

cosy, warm and welcoming

praising the Lord

Alfred Yeo and Assemblies of God

Rev Alfred Yeo had invited me to preach in the service and I was happy to accept as I had often noticed the church as I drove past the main road and wondered about it.  Confident and friendly, Alfred is one of the more forward thinking AssembliesKenny and Rev Alfred Yeo of God pastors who moved early into ministry to social needs , something generally put on the backburner in most AG churches. He was an executive director in the AG when this church asked for the fellowship’s assistance and he was released to be their interim pastor. This later developed into a permanent appointment.

A few firsts

ZFGC was the first church to house its worship in a shopping center. Way before it became popular with the megachurches in Suntec City, Zion held its worship services in Queensway Shopping Center, and later made it the base for their coffeehouse ministry, another first.

praise and worship band

Silence and prayer please

The worship leader chose songs that were in line with the message even though he did not know what I was speaking on. That encouraged me in my preaching and I believe my prayer for the service that the Lord be revealed clearly, and loved more dearly was answered. The altar call I gave was a call for them to spend five minutes in prayer and silence where they were seated. Many services need more time of prayer and quiet. We tend to fill every minute, ever second, with sound and voice and noise. We do not make space for stillness and prayer and listening to the Lord. We squirm or look around listlessly after 2 minutes of silence. Thankfully the congregation was able to pray and experience His presence in the stillness and quiet as from the pulpit I could see people deep in prayer or visibly and emotionally touched by the Lord.

Tennis friends and lunch

Later I had a nice chat with Ruth and Ron, friends I used to play tennis with, but unfortunately we could not lunch together, so my wife and I went to Great World City’s food court, a five minutes stroll away. Convenient.

Centre of New Life: insightful Pentecostal pulpit

Two churches in one building

It was an interesting concept. Two churches sharing one building is not new. It had been tried in the Clementi Bible Center, shared by the Bible Church and the Mt Carmel Bible Presbyterian Church; and in Yishun Christian Church, shared between an Anglican and a Lutheran church. This was of a different model: like a semi-detached house where each church had their own separate living space. No bargaining nor quibbling over prime time or space. The Center of New Life, and Victory Family Center shares a building on a HDB church site in Jurong West opposite the National Technological University, across the highway. It made sense to share, what with exhorbitant bids for church sites despite their limited 30 years lease. More churches should find a partner to do something similar.

praise and worship by Pastor Navin

This visit to Center of New Life was prompted by wanting to visit the church some of my trekking friends attend. Linda Teo, Eric and Christine Ng, Jeffrey, and quite a few others are members there. They used to worship at Orchard Hotel but two years ago they jointly developed this present site with Victory Family Center. While retaining the city centre’s Sunday worship services, now in River View Hotel, the bulk of the church moved west to its present site.

Pastor Terence Ong

Insightful preacher

The unique feature of the worship service was the preaching. This is an Assemblies of God church. Pastor Terence Ong, a good looking tall young man in his 30’s, preached from the book of Acts. It was the commencement of a series and in conjunction with the preaching on Sundays, the church was urged to read and reflect on the book of Acts during the week. What was interesting was that the sermon I heard was an intelligent man’s message. This was not the typical Pentecostal message with the emphasis on inspiration, loud passion, moving people to action, and probing the conscience.  This was a message that gave insights and perspectives that were creative and progressive. It enlightened and gave you food for serious thought. This was a message for the educated, the professional, the thinking Christian.

The pastor began connecting with the crowd by making some humorous remarks about the elections. Smart move as  everyone was thinking of that anyway. Then he went into the text  to explain the  concept of the kingdom of God, and how it related to politics and power. This was not the traditional Pentecostal interpretive framework: he moved beyond that. Was I seeing one of a new generation of Pentecostal young preachers who were widely read, and have ventured beyond the traditional and hackneyed? (I did wish he mentioned something about mothers though – after all one of those who waited with the 120 was the mother of Jesus – and it was ‘traditionally’ Mother’s Day!).

With friends

The service started at 11am and ended at 12.45pm. Mingling among the members, I chatted with Jason Jin and Sam, both of whom were from World Revival Prayer Fellowship a long time ago. Went for lunch with the trekking group at Lam’s Noodles at TradeHub 21 in supremely humid and hot conditions. It was nice to just attend church: carefree, relaxed, and be open to receive.