Upon and away
They spread their care
Over your sons
Over your daughters
Gold dust on
During the revival, speaking in tongues was a common phenomena during the meetings, whether for prayer or worship services. There would be loud speaking in tongues with tears and crying. People were convicted and overwhelmed by the Spirit and speaking loudly in tongues, sometimes with interpretation, but most times without.
My understanding about tongues and its use in church gradually shifted with exposure to different churches: Anglican charismatic, Methodist charismatic, Baptist charismatic, Love Singapore meetings and even mega church Pentecostal services. This coupled with theological training on the interpretation of scriptures formed and shaped a nuanced understanding of the usage of tongues in the church. However I found it difficult to put it in words or to explain them simply. Until I came across this video in Adrian Warnock’s blog by Terry Virgo the founder of a network of 600 churches in 50 nations called Newfrontiers. They are Reformed Charismatic and Evangelical small churches. He spoke about the use of speaking in tongues in the church service, and it resonated with me.
The nurse injected penicillin, and he felt like something lifted and he stood up. A bright light beamed from his forehead to a door that opened up to a path. As he walked through a hall he saw hundreds of people screaming and crying in the shadows. It was eerie and distressing to hear voices crying in agony and suffering. It was like death filled the whole atmosphere. Next he saw bright sand and stones and entered a beautiful place. He felt extraordinarily happy and good. He said, “I want to stay here forever, I don’t want to leave.”
“Go back to where you came from”
A bright figure stood before him and said, “Go back to where you came from.” Immediately, Chuang Kwang Liang woke up in a hospital bed in Singapore and heard the nurse saying, “Good thing he didn’t die or some mother will be mourning.” It was 1967, when Liang, experienced these visits to what he called “down” and “up”. His girlfriend Margaret kept hearing him say in dialect, “Don’t go down there. It is terrible. I want to go up there.” She was as puzzled as he was about the whole experience and even wondered if he was sound. They were not Christians; they venerated their ancestors.
Trying to figure out the bright figure
He migrated to Australia and worked as an electrician with a mining company in Western Australia. For many years after his strange experience, he had been trying to figure out who was that bright figure and how to go up there. But without success. Jehovah Witnesses had knocked on his doors. A Mormon had talked to him. But they could not answer satisfactorily the questions he asked.
The Lord had pursued him
One day he accepted a brother in law’s invitation to an evangelistic rally. The moment the people worshipped, his eyes rained tears that he could not stop. He lifted his hand like he saw the rest did, and knew that this was it. The speaker was Vernon Falls and he had been invited by Full Gospel Assembly. That night he was saved and filled with the Spirit and knew he had finally met the bright figure who told him to go back to where he came from. The Lord Jesus had pursued him for over two decades. Finally in 1991, Liang gave his life to the Lord.
Meaning and purpose
Asking the FGA pastor, Mrs Ang Swee Khim, what she thought of his experience, she replied, “God loves you and showed you hell and heaven to give you a chance to choose.” Liang was so grateful and became a fiery witness for the Lord. With a fresh infilling of the Spirit, and armed with an understanding of what he had experienced, he went forth boldly to share with everyone who would listen, what he had experienced. In season and out of season, he would share and warn people, colleagues, friends, and family members not to end up down there but be sure they went up there. He now knows why Jesus sent him back to earth. Besides him, many others came to the Lord as a result of his earnest testimony.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end.
Most productive church in Singapore is Anglican
The Chapel of the Resurrection(Anglican), now pastored by Canon Daniel Tong, is definitely the most productive(or “reproductive”), and yet unrecognized, church in Singapore’s church history. It has pioneered a path that few local churches can claim to have neared. Its glory is that it is the mother of many churches, a few of them, much bigger than herself. A few have lost their Anglican roots, two of which have become large, autonomous and independent churches. COR is just short of being a church planting movement, as the churches that were birthed and matured have not gone on to birth more new churches.
This blog post is based on conversations I had with Christiana Tan(current secretary of retired Canon James Wong) and John Seet from Century Christian Fellowship. They have been with the Chapel of Resurrection when she was under Canon James Wong, when she experienced this remarkable spiritual movement and mobilization of the church members. More facts are needed to give a better picture but what I have is sufficient to give a sketch of the greatness of this Anglican church.
The womb that gave it birth
The fertile womb of this reproductive spurt of several decades was the charismatic revival of the early 1970’s. The then Bishop Chiu Ban It opened the heavy cathedral doors to the Holy Spirit and the fresh wind swept away all the cobwebs hanging from the candlesticks to the altar and the pews. Wherever the Spirit was welcome, He left behind pulsating Anglican congregations, alive in Christ and hungry to realize their full potential as the animated body of Christ. In fact, the Anglican church, was like “an exceeding great army”. The bones had come together, the flesh had clothed the skeletons, and the breath of God had just filled their lungs. They were eager for battle. For too long they have sung their songs in the prison of dead orthodoxy. The Chapel of Resurrection was birthed as two fired up Anglican house groups from Holland Village and Depot road were welded together to form a formidable weapon.
“There was a man sent by God….”
The impetus for all this came from a robust, daring, visionary priest- a man filled with the new wine of the Spirit in the 1970’s. He was convinced the new Anglican wine, a laity filled with the Spirit, needed new wineskins, so that the newfound bubbling energies and overflowing life, may have new open structures for expression and extension. For him, the answer was planting new churches. He was going to put his doctoral thesis into practice. The timing was perfect, and for such a time as this, this “sent one” was the inimitable James Wong. God had a new weapon in His hand, and the weapon of choice was a battering ram!
Mother of many
Here is a list of the Anglican churches and church plants initiated by the Chapel of the Resurrection or in partnership with other Anglican extensions:
A legacy of manifold benefits
The benefits of the legacy of this productive spurt in the Anglican denomination are many: a “can do” spirit of faith in the Anglican ethos, not existent before then, and now spilled over into missions in the region; depth and maturity of clergy and lay leadership in strong local churches built to last, over against an over-dependency on the rare and “many talents” charismatic leader; harnessing and releasing thousands of revived laity into ministry and maturity, who otherwise might have left for other more dynamic, open structures at that time, namely the Calvary Charismatic Centre; it cemented the Anglican denomination’s position of being the third largest “church” in Singapore after the Roman Catholics and the Methodists; and without doubt, the Anglicans have long had an “apostle” in its midst, with the credentials, though not the official title.
( This is no research paper, just a blog post. However it is the digital age, so do fill in the comment box with information that will enhance or increase the accuracy of what was written.)
Visit to megachurch with a blogging friend
Daniel Ong drove me in his orange Suzuki to the side road car park in front of a former theatre. It was about 8 plus in the morning. He usually parked across the main road and MRT track in the multi-storey car park but in our banter he forgot and we happened to get an empty lot nearer. Never is easy to park in Singapore churches, both mega and small.
We entered the worship hall 5 minutes early and there were many empty seats. By the time worship began, most of the seats on the ground floor were taken but not the balcony. I noticed the planets mural were all gone. Missed them. The congregation were mainly folks in the second or third part of their lives. Nice worship, singing songs more familiar to me.
There was no sermon that Sunday but instead a report by their Harvest & Souls ministry- one that reached out to the poor communities in Redhill. I was impressed with the penetration into the dialect speaking world, the practical help they gave, the people who came to Christ, the cell groups they formed ( that met in the common corridor), and the children’s clubs they started (using the void decks). In the end, I had two messages from prophetic people, one on paper from Magdelene and another from my host. I also bumped into Dr Lorna Khoo but we had no time to catch up.
I had coffee with Paul, the pastor in charge of the creative arts- the drama, dance and now the prophetic painting ministry. I was of course curious about the latter and inquired about it. They had picked it up from the Bethel Church in Redding, California, a church better known for its equipping and releasing of members to preach and heal the sick out where the people are. They are evidently very open to the winds of the Spirit and all His expressions through people, one of them being the employment of art in giving prophetic messages and in combination with words of knowledge and other gifts. Pastor Paul shared three stories of how God used paintings to revive a backslider and lead people to Christ.
Incredibly open to the winds of the Spirit
It struck me that the Church of our Savior has been incredibly open to the winds of the Spirit. It takes after its pastor Derek Hong, one of the pioneer and key Anglican priests, in the charismatic movement. He was an “early adopter” in the 70’s and his open innovative posture towards the new things God has been doing has never changed. His posture was “Dive!” or “Chiong”. He would hoist his sails and catch the wind whenever it passed, and that moved the church forward and kept it fresh. So it was no surprise to me then that while some people may have been debating about healing rooms, sozo, Bethel, and now prophetic painting, he had already gone full steam ahead with them.
Monthly COOS have someone painting prophetically on the stage as the people worshiped. I have read about emerging churches doing this but it’s probably the first and only church that does that in Singapore, with prophetic inspiration added. Probably this first in status will remain so for some years.
A few months ago COOS was associated with AWARE and the bad press from a bad press. Forget the past, and see what the Lord is doing in this new day!
On February 12, 2010, President Préval of Haiti called his nation to 3 days of fasting and prayer in place of the regular Mardi Gras celebration. Over 1 million Haitians attended this epic event. It will be interesting to see what God will do in answer to the cry of a million voices.
The men may not like to read this but it was a woman who birthed what I believe was the precursor to the contemporary megachurch. This woman’s name was Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944). After a short stint as a missionary’s wife was curtailed by her husband’s death, and a period of fruitful itinerant evangelistic preaching, she decided to base herself in Los Angeles, California. There she built an enormous church with a seating capacity of 5,300. The Angelus Temple, which was completed in 1923, became a forerunner of contemporary megachurches of today.
Drama and entertainment in the service of the gospel
She incorporated Hollywood entertainment and theatrics to attract and hold the attention of the crowds. Once she had a giant whale built on stage and she dressed up as Jonah to preach. Another time she preached to the LA Police and came on stage on a motorbike in police uniform, dismounted it, blew the whistle, and shouted:”Stop! You are breaking the law! ” That’s drama for you. According to Wikipedia, her “illustrated sermons attracted people from the entertainment industry, looking to see a “show” that rivaled what Hollywood had to offer. These famous stage productions drew people who would never have thought to enter a church, and then presented them with her interpretation of the message of salvation. McPherson believed that the Gospel was to be presented at every opportunity, and used worldly means at her disposal to present it to as many people as possible”. She preached a gospel of love and reconciliation and grace, unlike the many preaching the hell and brimstone gospel. “McPherson was famous both inside and outside of religious circles. Every city where services were held usually had civic leaders in attendance, as well as pastors representing the local churches of every denomination. She made sure that Angelus Temple was represented in local parades and entered floats into the famous Rose Parade in Pasadena”.
Multi-gifted megachurch leader with a social conscience
Her messages were accompanied with signs following: people were “slain in the Spirit”, “drunk in spirit”, healed, speaking in tongues and other supernatural phenomena. The church was filled to capacity three times each day, seven days a week.
“She was also very skillful at fundraising. Collections were taken at every meeting, usually with the admonishment of “no coins, please”. When the $1.5 million Angelus Temple opened its doors, construction was already entirely paid for through private donations.”(Wikipedia)
She started a Bible School to train pastors and missionaries and by 1944 over 4000 have graduated from its doors. She also planted many satellite churches in the pattern of the Salvation Army and they evolved into a denomination called the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
When it came to communications Aimee was way ahead of many: she wrote scores of books, 180 songs, 7 sacred operas. She also published the weekly Foursquare Crusader and a monthly magazine called “Bridal Call”. She also began broadcasting on radio in its infancy in the early ’20s. McPherson was the first woman in history to preach a radio sermon, and with the opening of Foursquare Gospel-owned KFSG (now KXOL) on and was also the first woman to be granted a broadcast license by the Federal Radio Commission.
But her life was marked by controversy: her divorces, a suspicious kidnap and an alleged adulterous relationship, and her death from sedatives. Read more about Aimee Semple MacPherson (Wikipedia).
The contemporary model of the megachurch is not a new idea: it’s almost a century-old!
And it was founded by a woman!
(This article was first published on the 28th Jan 2008.)