On Returning To In-Person Worship Services

It was pleasant to meet up with Pastor Peter Sze, to see his boyish smile and hear his cheerful voice. He is one who always bothered to arrange to meet people and friends whenever he was in town. Although he had retired, he is still the pastor of New Covenant Church, a grace-based church in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. 

Lunch was in Din Tai Fung at Suntec City and we caught up about family, church and, of course, frustrating Malaysian politics. Peter has three daughters and a son and a blessed total of eleven grandchildren. The pandemic has meant more times of family togetherness – one of several meaningful and happy outcomes. 

Church During Pandemic

The pandemic in Malaysia has affected his church just as it had affected churches in Singapore during the few periods of tightening and loosening of pandemic regulations and restrictions in the last two years. The church has had to respond quickly to the ever-changing situation. The church’s media team had to learn to pre-record services while keeping to the government restrictions. It learned to be resilient and quick to respond to changes. It had to be able to shuttle between online, on-site and hybrid models of doing worship services. 

The church conducted more meetings on zoom and when it offered mid-week online Bible studies the attendance was much better than when it was done in-person in the past. They have also found that the online presence of the church now saw visitors from other countries viewing their worship services and messages and with a few emailing letters of appreciation. 

And Now?

Now the church has a hybrid model and restrictions have been loosened. Members are returning to the services. However, like in Singapore, church members are creatures of habit. It will take some time before all the regular members and attendees turn up for the in-person services. 

My take is that two years of watching mainly online services have enslaved the people of God to the idol of convenience, and made us spectator worshippers with special multi-tasking powers and lazy bones. Without judgmental and holier-than-thou attitudes, while being sensitive to special situations of some members, we need to pray for God’s people to be freed from this digital captivity, cross the Red Sea, and return to embodied community and worship, where one can be more fully attentive to God and one another. 


As for me, the online worship had been a blessing. Having retired I felt compelled to be away from church so that the new pastor of the English congregation, Ps Alvin Lim, can freely establish the new dynamics of his leadership with members. With the church going online, I had the joy of remaining in contact with my home church, and did not need to look for other church services to attend. It has now been a year and a quarter since I retired, and I feel it is a good time to return in-person more often but keep a low profile.

Last Sunday, I found it a joy to be together with God’s people, singing, listening to the preached Word, and having lunch with members. Being able to sing, albeit with masks on, was a bonus.

What is it like for your church with the loosening of restrictions? Let us know by making a comment. It would be enlightening to know what’s happening in churches in Singapore and Malaysia.

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“Departure Points” by Tony Siew: Book Reflection

Reading “Departure Points” was a breeze and I completed the book more quickly than most. The reading overtook some other books which I had started reading a few weeks earlier. I typically read about five to ten books at a time, dipping into any of them as my whim or mood fancies. The language is informal and it was an easy and interesting read. 

I first met the author through reading his blog. Then when he was in Singapore, we had a few meals together, and he also preached in World Revival Prayer Fellowship, the church I served. In our limited meetings and from reading his blog, what impressed upon me is that he is a man of deep convictions, who works hard at teaching and preaching God’s word, and displays great love for the SIB (Sidang Injil Borneo) churches. Reading this book has given me more insights into his gifts and character. I can see how he obtained a well of wisdom in church leadership – both parochial and denominational – from his wide experience and postings in different settings and countries. 

“Departure Points” gives a quick and easy account of the life and ministry of Rev Dr Tony Siew. The settings changed quickly, from local to denominational, from Sabah to New Zealand to Singapore, from urban church to rural church, from rich city church to poor village church, and denominational seminary to established regional seminary. His ministry roles were as widely varied as his settings: pastor, writer, researcher, denominational treasurer and fundraiser, itinerant preacher to rural churches, seminary lecturer, scholar presenting papers at international conferences, and acting principal of a denominational seminary. The book’s title is clearly appropriate. 

I liked the book for its easy read and my interest in this Sabah denomination which began with Holy Spirit outpourings in the mid-1970’s, about two or three years later than the revivals that began in Singapore. It demonstrated the power of the Spirit in missions and evangelism and natural church multiplication. Till today the Spirit’s activity is still part of the DNA of the church and I do pray it stays that way for the tendency is for such DNA to fade into obscurity with the passage of time, and the equipping of seminary lecturers in seminaries that restrict the Spirit’s work.

I admire the work of the foreign missionaries from Australia (Borneo Evangelical Mission/ OMF) who successfully passed on the baton to the local pastors and leaders and left behind a model of church polity that required plurality of leadership. This has given a lot of stability (despite the slow speed of decisions and execution). The history of foreign missions is littered with missionaries that held on the power for too long and did not contextualize polity to suit the culture they had evangelized. But these Aussie missionaries did well. No doubt the Spirit was upon them to guide them.

Through Tony’s report of his story, I have a better understanding of the SIB denomination and the local churches in the city and the rural villages, and how they operated, and the challenges they faced. He is the only ethnic Chinese pastor among the scores of pastors and church leaders (from the major tribal ethnic groups) that fulfilled the many leadership roles in church and denomination. It is grace on the part of the tribal majorities and upon Tony’s ministry that he was promoted to strategic positions and appointments during his sacrificial tenure of ministry in the denomination. 

I could see that while he is multi-talented and very responsible and capable, his strong convictions, sense of responsibility and courage occasionally landed him in no man’s land and within the crosshair of his critics’ rifle scopes. He is a courageous and forthright leader, passionate as a scholar of God’s truth, and as a pastor-lover of God’s church. I cannot help but feel that a mission that suits him and will make a great contribution to SIB is some kind of wide-ranging and influential role in reformation and implementation of the training of future pastors of the SIB.

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Racism And The Church

Racism is a hot topic today all over the Western world and even in multi-racial Singapore. The backdrop of the death of George Floyd and “Black Lives Matter” in the past year, and recent local discussions about racism make this topic something all Christians should be knowledgeable about, so that we can be formed to be effective witnesses in our attitudes, conversations with people and in our online interactions.

I preached this message “RACISM AND THE CHURCH” to my home church (World Revival Prayer Fellowship) on July 2021, and decided to upload it on my BLOGPASTOR channel. It was well received by members because it was a relevant and pertinent topic on social media as well as the national newspaper. 

It is a 40 minutes full message, so if you wish to scroll to what interests you, here is a guide: 0:00 Stories of casual racism 6:48Definition of Racism 8:00 Examples of serious racism where lives were lost and the church was an accomplice 14:35 God has a multi-racial dream 16:59 We share a common ancestry 19:22 Research spun off from Human Genome Project throws light on the races 25:25 What went wrong and how it can be made right 31:44Personal action steps we can take.

I trust that this message has blessed you and you will share it with other Christians so when opportunities arise, Christians can be confident to talk about it and share about God’s multi-racial dream and His love.

If, like me, you had some experience of subtle or casual racism directed at you do share (without being vitriolic) your experiences and how you sorted out the hurts and insults in the comment box below.

POSTSCRIPT: I sent my videos to pastor friends for input, and retired pastor Seng Chor commented that mention of the creation of man in the image of God (Genesis 1:27)should shape our view of how we view people of other races: with respect and graciousness. This certainly is the foundation on which to frame our view of race equality and multi-ethnic relations. Thanks, Seng Chor.

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New Covenant Church in new premises

Pastor Peter Sze

I am so behind in my blogposts. As I cleared the photos on my phone I saw this pic of Peter Sze and myself dated 22 August 2018. The pleasant memory of that short time of fellowship came to mind. I am so glad of developments in the church he leads. New Covenant Church in Petaling Jaya is a marvellous church, one that defies logic. You will know what I mean if you read my previous posts on this unique church.

We have not been able to meet for some time because of busyness so to be able to do so was something I treasured. I cannot remember what I ate because we were more absorbed in conversation.

When I first saw him I was struck by his loss of weight. He looked trim and younger. He told me he reduced refined carbohydrates and walked a lot. This is losing weight the healthy way. I was happy for him and concerned about my gradually bulging “middle kingdom.”

  • It was great to hear about developments in the New Covenant Church:
  • They have moved to exciting new premises. See here.
  • Their school has grown in enrolment.
  • He has appointed pastors – leaders who have a track record of functioning as shepherds/leaders even before they were appointed. The appointment only affirmed what was already there.

The last time I worshipped with them is now a distant memory. If I do go KL I would like to pay them a visit. Happy the church is doing well.

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The New Covenant Church: recent developments

Observing this young church

Our 2014 church camp was held in Everly Hotel in Putrajaya. I decided to visit my favourite church in Petaling Jaya, the New Covenant Church. My friendship with the pastor, Peter Sze, was started and maintained by social media via this blog and Facebook. I have been a keen observer of this grace-based church that has taken Joseph Prince’s melody of grace and made the song uniquely theirs. It has been nothing short of amazing what God has done, and I have been observing the development of this young church since its formation. You can read the various posts I have written by doing a search on the top right hand of this blog.

Hosted warmly by the family

With Yew Juan and tallest tissue prata in PJ
With Yew Juan and tallest tissue prata in PJ

On Friday afternoon while church campers went home to Singapore a Mercedes Benz shuttled me and my wife off to the pastor’s home where we received a warm welcome from Seefen, the pastor’s wife. Pastor Peter is a managing director of a company and flew back from Singapore late in the afternoon. By around six, he and his wife had to go launch a new community group of the church. Running a company and leading a church requires bi-vocational stamina and passion. Meanwhile we were brought out for an evening meal in IPPUDO at the Bangsar Shopping Centre. Filled up with ramen and pleasant conversation with Yew Juan and Suzanna (the pastor’s daughter), we then had dessert at a kopitiam: roti tissue tower, teh tarik, and chendol – calories for tomorrow’s hike, that’s how we justified our intake.

the tncc regular hikers of Gasing Hill
the tncc regular hikers of Gasing Hill

Hiking Bukit Gasing

Pastor Peter hiking with us
Pastor Peter hiking with us

It was about seven in the morning on Saturday when we got ready and went for the morning’s hike up Bukit Gasing (literally “hill top”). The hill is located on a narrow sliver of green,  smack in between Kuala Lumpur (federal territory) and Petaling Jaya, a city of Selangor. At 160 metres tall it is the small brother of Bukit Timah Hill’s 163 metres. There was a group of hikers from the church who regularly hiked here. Many had climbed Mt Kinabalu recently and some had stories of weight loss and better health as a result of regular hiking.

We enjoyed the hike. It had interesting features like a watch tower, a suspension bridge, and various detours from the main route. One of the steeper slopes was tougher than the toughest slope in Bukit Timah Hill. It was a good workout and we adjourned for breakfast with the group while Pastor Peter had to rush off for a meeting with his leaders. He was busy but had accommodated our desire to hike. If not for us, he would probably have had opted for sleep, glorious sleep. That afternoon we talked shop over lunch and coffee at One Utama.

Recent developments in the New Covenant Church

The New Covenant Church used to have a mid-week fellowship that meets for teaching of the word and small group interaction. Now in addition to this they have developed home fellowships for the caring and belonging of community. I thought this was an important development for as the church grew to its current 600 in attendance, feeling a sense of belonging can be easily lost. These home groups that met fortnightly for fellowship are spread over more locations, making it convenient for members to attend. The increase of such groups will certainly increase body ministry and participation, develop shepherds and leaders, and give the church a greater capacity to assimilate and initiate new guests or converts into the life of grace. It will lay foundations for further growth in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

TNCC Educenter

Another interesting development I got wind of was the formation of the TNCC Educenter. The stated mission was to provide an education alternative for young people at affordable costs. They use a programme called Eduseeds. It is multimedia-based online learning combined with classroom interaction. It is done at the pace of the student. And it prepares students to sit for the Cambridge IGCSE. It is done as a community service too. Pastor Peter shared how the Lord opened the door for them to start this and provided the right contacts, champions and students.

Ian and Charmaine, the worship stalwarts
Ian and Chermaine, the worship stalwarts

On Sunday I saw the large auditorium that tNCC uses for its worship services. This was their third one and it seated 800. I preached there on the new covenant way of finishing well, and gave an invitation for sick people to be prayed for with the laying on of hands. Nowadays, I find that my doctoral research on ageing and spirituality have crept into my preaching and writings. I guess this is inevitable and I do not mind if that is relevant to the text my message is based on, which it was, as I spoke about the biblical Caleb, that senior with great faith, and how he finished well.

Christine, Aileen, and us
Christine, Aileen, and us

Catching up with Aileen and Christine
I couldn’t book a return bus ticket for Sunday and I asked Aileen, who attended our church when she lived in Singapore, for help. She invited us to stay in her home on Sunday and book a ticket on Monday morning. We had a lovely crab dinner near her place and then we visited her daughter’s new start-up café. It was in a glass house situated in a university, and we loved the coffee, lava cakes, macaroons and decor. On Monday morning, we slurped up fish porridge at a local coffee shop, and left for Singapore on First Coach at One Utama.
What an enjoyable and blessed weekend of ministry, fun and fellowship.

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