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.

Singapore Christian Canaan Church: a happy servant church

New media connected

“I have read his blog. Then we became friends on Facebook.” That was how Pastor Richard Wong introduced me as the guest speaker in his church. New media is changing the way the world and the church works. More often than not people may meet online before they meet physically. This has been very much my experience in the last two years. We knew each other from afar and off-line, but recently we had lunch and we hit it off and shared our lives easily.

Jenny, Kenny and pastor Richard

Servant leader

Richard is hungry for the spirituals and yet is down to earth and a good administrator. He has been pastoring the church for close to two decades and still remains hopeful and enthusiastic. He sees himself above all as a servant. This serving heart has been his hallmark since the days of his youth, and it has been imparted to the church too.

The church building near St George'sMoving along

The Singapore Christian Canaan Church had come a long way from conservatism to Third Wave openness. This year they were moving into healing. This is a church of about 200 over and they have a building and worship team I envied. The worship team comprised half Filippinos and half locals. The elder Steven attributed their improvement to the training implemented by the youth and worship pastor.

A happy churchpreaching to produce a grace encounter

About 30 of the integrated congregation are Filippinos, mostly from the professional and service industry. The rest were mainly locals from youths to adults in their 50’s. The church was a family church: warm, welcoming, hospitable and all-embracing. This is their great strength: the love, unity and happy family feel was palpable. The congregation responded easily and positively to the message I preached, “The Church of the Prodigal Son.” This is a word I have been bringing everywhere I can as I feel it is a word in season for the church.

worship band leads congregation in song

engaged in praise

art renditionArt in the church

At the entrance to the worship hall, I caught sight of a large painting the size of a large notice board. This was evidence of how adventurous this church is. The pastor told me the  painting was done by a Japanese couple, during an art rendition at the Good Friday service, as the congregation sang two songs in worship of Jesus the Lamb of God.

Josephine and Richard Wong

Missions impact

Later Richard and his wife Josephine brought us out for lunch at Sushi Teh in the City Mall. Never did I know a relatively new mall existed in Little India, other than Mustapha’s. We talked about the missions work of the church in Bangladesh, Chiangmai and Sulawesi. We talked shop and about our families. It was wonderful to know how God worked in the world. Many are the risks taken but the Lord watches over His people.

We reached home after 3pm, satisfied and glad to have the privilege of serving the Lord and this happy church.

Bukit Batok Presbyterian Church: traditional church in the heartlands

BBPCTucked along Bukit Batok Street 11 and opposite St Luke’s hospital is the one and only Presbyterian church on a HDB site won by open tender. The Presbyterians have a few churches with HDB catchment areas but these are either in schools like Presbyterian High or were built long ago, like Glory Presbyterian Church. This church, Bukit Batok Presbyterian Church, was opened in 1995. It is one of two visible churches in Bukit Batok, the other being the Roman Catholic St Mary of the Angels. It was a branch church started by Orchard Road Presbyterian Church.

Bible Study Fellowship of the west

My wife attended this church on Tuesday mornings for seven years for Bible study organized under the international BSF. Many ladies from different denominations would attend this popular BSF site and it was very generous on the part of BBPC to host them.

Two English services

The church was a 10 minutes drive from home, so we left home at 8am.  The overall attendance of the English services were a combined 250-300. The early morning service targeted the young people and those who wanted a less traditional service- praise songs and a band. On the stage was what I thought was some sacred furniture covered with heavy blue material. As the service progressed, I laughed at my ignorance, when the puppet team performed a skit aimed at children from behind the blue-dressed puppet stage. the English service

praise band

puppet skit

traditional choir

The traditional service

preaching about "Work"The 10.30am service was more formal and traditional. The uniformed choir sang an anthem and every song was interspersed with other elements like prayer, offering and scripture reading. The worshippers were mainly adults in their 40s and 50s. The text they gave me was Ephesians 6:5-9  where Paul wrote to Christian slaves about finding inner freedom in constrained circumstances. The title of my sermon was, “From Unfreedom to Freedom” and demonstrated how God wants to redeem the thorn and thistle of toil and transform it into the gift of work. Preaching two services gave the opportunity to fine-tune the sermon for the second service, and that’s why it turned out better.

Surprise, surprise

Pleasant surprises awaited us after the service. Neighbours from our apartment block greeted us with loud hellos when we stood at the door to shake hands with the members streaming out of the auditorium. In addition, two of my Swiss Cottage Secondary School classmates, Soy Tee and Sze Chuan, greeted me with warm smiles, and I was briefly introduced to their families.

Ministry to different nationalities

One of the strengths of BBPC was its offering of services in the following languages: English, Mandarin, Indonesian, and Myanmese. They had different services for different folks. They do a particularly good outreach to the Chinese nationals.

Rev James Seah, Kenny Chee, Eric Chua (ps-in-charge)

Perceptive and sharp

However, their greatest strengths probably lie with the quality of their pastors. The English service pastor, Rev Eric Chua, was trained in architecture, and then in theology. A sharp thinker and spiritually perceptive, he gives good advice, and makes insightful observations about the church at large. We served together in the exco of the Church Resource Ministry Singapore, which focuses on mentoring marketplace leaders and pastors. It was a privilege to be invited by him to take the pulpit, and I enjoyed sharing my heart with him along the way. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Humble hospitality

Rev James Seah, the other pastor brought us out for lunch in the nearby food court. We ate fish soup rice from the famous store once recommended by “Yummy King” and to top that we had durian for dessert. Wow…this pastor knows how to select D24 bitter-sweet durians. He said, “I was from Muar where I learned how to pick good durians.” My wife and I were further impressed with his servant attitude. It was the way he served us, and his warmth and friendliness. He even picked up a plastic container to clear our table of durian seeds and husks. Lord, send us more pastors from across the Causeway. Amen.