Church of True Light: Let It Shine

My association with Church of True Light went back about twenty-five years. I first got to know them through a church camp before I guest preached in their worship services. If I remember correctly I took two other camps with them, one in the Cameron Highlands, and another in Johor. The uniqueness of their camps is that both Mandarin and English congregations used the same hotel during the camp but had different guest preachers. During mealtimes and special recreation events they were together for bonding time. It was admirable that they made efforts to be together, and that meant the English congregation had to be sensitive to the affordability of the locations as many in the Mandarin congregation were senior citizens.

With this long, pleasant association, I have a familiarity with some of the members of the church. It was good to see that many of them were still actively serving the Lord after so many years. One of them, Matthew, even became a full-time pastor in the church recently. Others led the service, or led ministries and are involved in different ministry functions. Faithfulness is hard to come by these days but you can find it in this church. 

From Vincent to Aaron

My friend Revd Vincent Hoon, retired from this church and is now serving as an auxiliary priest in St John’s- St Margaret’s, his home church. I was pleasantly surprised that the priest, Revd Aaron Cheng, who took over the English Congregation, invited me to preach at the 4.30pm Saturday service comprising mostly young people (and adults who prefer Saturday worship), and the 9am Sunday morning worship of the English congregation.

The priest was the youth pastor doing part time studies in Trinity Theological College. Groomed by Vincent, he was ordained during the pandemic and began his priesthood in an unforgettable time. In the future when people ask him, “When were you ordained?” “Oh, during the pandemic.” They would nod their heads. He is a positive, cheerful and energetic minister who connects well with his youth and the adults in the church. It warmed my heart to get an email from him and of course I was most willing to renew ties and minister there again. After all, I have had a year of rest and was more than ready to do what I love.

Preaching Adjustment

When the time came I was all ready to preach, having written out my script for the mostly young people Saturday worship. I went ahead with my well researched sermon but my experience was that I could not connect with them and drove home perturbed about it. After a nap, I went to the Lord and waited on Him, to help me understand, to see if there was any adjustment needed for the Sunday preaching assignment. I felt led to use the end-point at the introduction, and emphasize two other points, with a heavier emphasis on application and response. During prayer, I intuitively saw myself leaving the pulpit and walking closer to the audience and giving an altar call to pray in the front. On Sunday, before the service, I got permission for the altar call with the priest. Thankfully, it was the first Sunday after the government loosen the regulations for religious meetings. Altar calls to pray in the front is permissible.

Prayer Altar

In both services I talked about the 1970’s revival and how the move of God renewed the Anglican church and the valley of dry bones became an exceedingly great army of lay volunteers. I challenged them to pray for a fresh move of God. We need to forget the former things, and expect a new move, a new expression of God’s grace and power in the church. I was encouraged to see people come forward to spend five minutes praying in the front at the kneelers and on the carpeted floor. By God’s grace, I felt the message resonated with many of them. It was such a joy and privilege.

Meeting Jude

The bonus joy was meeting Jude, formerly my church member and a missionary in training with YWAM. He had later gone on staff with St Peter’s Anglican church, and then with Covenant EFC’s social arm, and finally landed in Church of True Light with his wife! They tell me that the new Vicar Barry Leong has begun to implement a plan of succession – recruiting young people and calling them out to serve on staff.  There were two other new recruits on staff: a P.K. who takes charge of the young people ministry, and Joey (a YWAM missionary in Thailand back because of the pandemic) who ministers to the children.

After the service, Aaron, Jude and I had teh tarik and roti prata at an Indian eatery directly opposite the church entrance. We talked shop for about an hour. Interestingly, one of their leaders later passed by and told us he had already paid the bill for our meals – what a picture of the grace and hospitality of this lovely faith community. The Lord be with, and bless them abundantly, so that they shine like bright stars in this darkening world.

To read my other church visits, click HERE.

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Pastoral Ministry Challenges I Faced

There are many challenges in the pastoral ministry. Like all challenges they can be overcome or lived with by grace through faith.

Inadequate Salary

Low salary was a challenge I faced in my first decade of ministry. I began with $300 a month without CPF. Living by faith was not a cliché. I lived it and I have many stories of God’s provision. A conviction grew over the decades of pastoral ministry that the right attitude towards this reality is to look to God as my Paymaster, and the church as merely one of his many instruments through which God pays me.

In the beginning, the church of 120 was financially stretched, with many being students, and having to support about four missionaries and as many local ministry staff, while at the same time pay for rental of worship space and office, and later on, loan repayments for a church property. Despite this, I remembered feeling indignant that a sales assistant’s salary was higher than mine. Thankfully, the salary improved when a committee was formed to look into the welfare of church workers and as more members joined the workforce.

Unstable Church Facilities

 Second was the challenge of facilities. Securing a space that could be used for worship and church activities was difficult. Hotels welcomed us but the rental rates were high. Proper HDB sites went through open tenders among churches and that made it impossible for small churches to make a successful bid. Industrial sites were a risk because the rules for religious use were unclear. We had to move from residential properties, to YMCA, and from hotels to hotels, until after twenty years of existence, by God’s grace and miraculous provision, the church purchased a freehold property that allowed religious use.

Expectations and Comparisons

A third challenge was the high expectations and comparisons of church leaders. I felt pressures, through overt as well as subtle remarks, about the rate of growth of our church compared with other newer faster-growing churches. That was the period of the rise of the megachurches in Singapore – Victory Family Church, F.C.B.C., Trinity Christian Centre, Church of our Saviour, Lighthouse Evangelism Church, City Harvest Church and New Creation Church. Such comparisons were always ill-advised, unwise and sinful and exerted unnecessary pressures and discouragement on pastoral staff. Thankfully, the church growth movement, like the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, has been exposed for its theological and existential emptiness and nakedness.


The fourth challenge is related to the third: consumerism. Internet informed members looked for what benefitted them and their family: for what excited, glittered, and impressed. The size of the building and the congregation, the worship and preaching experience, the excitement of the children’s program, the big-budget events, the fame, influence and accolades that the church or pastor exuded. Over the last forty years of ministry, I have seen how the traditional loyalty to denomination, gratitude to the local church that gave you birth and nurture, and the eye of God, no longer had the same weight among young people in their decision-making process about where to worship. It has become, “Will it excite, benefit and bless me? Will it be convenient? Does it have the right kind of people that I can gel with, or will potentially advance my career, or give me a higher chance of finding a suitable life partner?”

The Slow Work of God

A fifth challenge in pastoral ministry for me is that building spiritual maturity is a slow work of God. I get impatient. It’s discouraging when you put in a lot of digging, weeding, fertilizing and the growth in character and love of God is so slow. Worse, for some, regression takes place or there is no evidence of spiritual growth even after many years of active church participation. A physical project has a start point and a finish point and evidence is clear for all to see. Not so with this slow spiritual work of God. When a spurt of growth shows up suddenly it was like a rare miracle. Sometimes this lack of spiritual progress led to discouragement and frustration.

Unclear Leadership Roles

A sixth challenge was when the roles of Board and pastoral leadership were not clear or agreed by all. Who had the final say, and on which issues (programs, finances, policies, vision and strategy)? This of course had led to misunderstanding and friction. Vested interests and entrenched beliefs made it difficult to sort matters out. In addition, the government has its set of recommendations that did not agree with the biblical view of leadership as some pastors and denominations would see it.

My Lack of Inner Growth and Freedom

For me the biggest challenge was that the demands and expectations of pastoral leadership outstripped the rate of my inner growth. Even with Tung Ling Bible School, and seminary training, there were many faults, blind spots and disordered affections (idols) present in my life that were like viruses in my operating system, influencing my behaviour and decisions, and blocking me from leading, feeding and caring for the church effectively. It was in the last decade of pastoral ministry that I became more aware of the soul-care and freedom that I badly needed to in my life. It was in the spiritual desert and in silent retreats that God invited me to tread this path towards freedom. I am glad I said Yes to him. Praise the Lord.

What About You?

These were my main challenges. They were frustrating but they were interestingly the means of growth. They stretched me, tested me, exposed my weaknesses, and drove me to my knees, closer to God; they made me wiser, tougher and drew me closer to God. It was good I had no idea at the beginning of my call that it would be this challenging. The coward in me would have responded to God’s call this way, “No Master, this is not for me. I won’t be able to cope”. The good news that I have learned is that when God calls, his rhema word has packed within it the grace, poise and resources to overcome or endure all hardships and challenges we would face in the assignment he gave us. I have experienced this. We need to believe this. 

What about you? What are some of your personal challenges you face in pastoral ministry? Why not take some time to reflect and list them down, label your feelings about them, and have a coffee chat of the Lord about the list. After your chat with God, notice and reflect what you were feeling and thinking? Were there any new perspectives, Scriptures, images and emotions that moved or gently arose in your consciousness during prayer. Journal them. If you found that helpful, repeat the process. God bless you and be with you.

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Thank You, Rev Dr Yonggi Cho

“Another one?”, I said to myself. So many notable servants of God have gone home to glory these past five years. I heard news that David Yonggi Cho, the Korean founding pastor of the 800,000 members Yoido Full Gospel Church, largest megachurch in the world, and founder of Church Growth International, had died at age 85. 

Yonggi Cho in Singapore

Did you know that before K-Drama, and K-Music hit Singapore, we here hit by K-Church? I had fond memories of pastor Yonggi Cho, when he visited and preached in Singapore several times in the 1980s. If I recall correctly, the Assemblies of God brought him in to conduct a church growth conference at the Hilton Hotel. I remember attending that conference. A Korean preacher who spoke in English with an interesting accent. He preached with passion, intensity and inspiration. His messages were simple to outline and understand, peppered with inspiring personal stories from his life and pastoral ministry. He shared his victories and his failures with humility and honesty. I remember being charged up and inspired by his preaching and attended his meetings enthusiastically whenever he preached or taught in Singapore. On a few occasions he took evangelistic meetings too, one in NTUC Conference Hall, and even in the former National Stadium. You could always expect him to inspire you with faith and hope. 

His preaching legacy

Some of his key messages were on the importance of fasting and prayer and the home cell group for church growth; the fourth dimension of faith visualisation; God’s desire for us to prosper in spirit, soul and body, and the Holy Spirit as our Senior Partner. He always spoke to people’s needs with words of faith and encouragement spiced up with positive and inspiring stories. I have also read quite a few of his books.

In these pandemic months when hybrid church is prevalent, his preaching philosophy is particularly relevant for online audiences:

  1. Preach to people’s pain and needs.
  2. Keep the sermon topical and the outline simple to follow. 
  3. Give your main ideas punch with stories and illustrations.
  4. Aim to inspire faith, hope and love.
  5. Speak with conviction.

His mixed church growth legacy

Many pastors were inspired by his teachings and that has helped them to grow their churches. There is no doubt that his teachings and the example of the growth of his church have sparked the growth of many churches around the world. At the same time, it has also led to increased negative pressure on pastors because church leaders developed unrealistic expectations of rapid numerical church growth from the pastor of their churches, despite the pastors gifts being different from those of David Yonggi Cho’s. This is the downside which we do not hear about often enough. Not many pastors have the same faith, gifts and personality as him, nor do they live in the same Korean culture and economic environment as his church, but we naively believe we can do the same by simply applying the principles of church growth. With time and lack of success, many became disillusioned, frustrated and discouraged. 

Tarnished legacy

Sadly, in the later years of his life, his legacy was tarnished by a financial scandal. Christianity Today summarized it this way: “In his retirement, Cho faced his most serious scandal. He was found guilty of embezzling funds from the church and was given a three-year suspended sentence. He had directed leadership of the church to buy unlisted stocks owned by his eldest son. The value was inflated, and the church reported lost about 13 billion won, the equivalent of about US$12 million. He was also found guilty of evading taxes in the stock deal. Cho told his church that the conviction was the hardest day in his life of ministry. But he also said his conscience was clear before God, and the church allowed him to continue in part-time ministry. His supporters said Cho was really guilty of being too naive about his wayward son and argued Cho has not personally benefitted from the stock scam or his many years in ministry. He continued to preach at the church on occasion until his health deteriorated in 2020.” The dangers of being influential and powerful are evident in many stories of famous godly men, and it underlines for all servants of God the need to grow in awareness, wholeness and holiness in our interior lives and to take up the full armour of God to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Nevertheless I thank you!

I was very privileged and blessed to have seen and heard him preach in Singapore and to inspire the younger me with hope. In those days, his books have blessed me with their simplicity and power. His prayer life and partnership with the Holy Spirit were exemplary and encouraging. Thank you, Rev. Dr David Yonggi Cho. 

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Century Christian Fellowship: moving on in faith

Century Christian Fellowship

Pilgrim church

Century Christian Fellowship is a small church on the move. It is a pilgrim church. When God says, Pitch up tent, let’s move on to another leg in the journey, a new chapter in the book, we can either say, “Lord if it is possible, take this cup from me”, and stay there….or we continue with, “…. but not my will, but yours be done”, and move on in faith. This extension of Chapel of Resurrection has chosen to do the latter. In a month, they would be moving from their current premises in Simei, to be the Sunday evening English service of Church of Epiphany at Jalan Kayu, between masterstroke Punggol and conventional Sengkang. It will be a convenient  English service option for Anglicans living in either of these estates.

Pastor Peter Chang

My wife and I were early for the 9.30am Sunday service, and we caught up with what’s been happening with the church. Pastor Peter has enjoyed his over 2 years of leading the church. The Pastor Peter Chang and mecongregation has been around for about 20 years and there were a handful of faithful members who have been with them for more than a decade.

They were doing a series of messages on the book of Joshua and as it turned out the passage allotted to me was Joshua 18. It was an interesting passage pregnant with relevance to the move in front of them. Seven tribes had not yet moved in to possess the land that God had given to the descendants of Abraham. Joshua urged them to do so, and I love the King James Version of it because it shows how much the version has contributed to our use of the English language. “And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD god of your fathers hath given you?”(verse 3). Notice the word “slack” – a favorite among young people even today! Anyway, I had a good time connecting with the people and encouraging them to press on into all that God has planned for them in terms of blessings as well as calling.

Kenny preaching the Father's love

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Alternatives for churches in industrial space(CIS)

Stay calm and rest in Him

The sensible thing to do is to stay calm and take stock, and gather the faith community for  prayer, discussions and discernment. It seems like the government is hoping to address this issue by putting the onus on the landlords and developers so far. It isn’t expecting overnight changes. Churches need time to move and tenancy agreements require sensitive re-negotiations. The government is aware of this. Churches in industrial space (CIS), especially if they have not been reported in the newspapers need to stand still and look at the ramifications and discuss the possible scenarios and alternatives they have. There are legalities and ethical factors not just geographical factors to weigh.

Shelter in churches already with buildings

One of the alternatives to consider is the use of other churches in proper buildings and request to use those places temporarily or church buildingspermanently during a Sunday afternoon, evening or a Saturday evening slot, where it may be available for rent. During crisis like this, churches need to open their doors in the love of Christ for the brethren. A shelter, even for a period of time, until a firmer direction can be set by the affected church, is an act of mercy and charity. It is what being church is all about.

Organic church and in the house

Another consideration which may seem radical is to take a page from the book of Acts and be church in the household (oikos). For the first three centuries of the early church, the believers deliberately refused to model themselves after the synagogue or the pagan temples, the main religious buildings they have experience of.  There is something about the household that makes it an ideal environment for making disciples and growing the faith community (incidentally, when news broke, I was attending a master’s program that dealt partly with this, and I hope to share it in later posts). A small church of 70 would have seven homes where they could meet on Sundays and end with a potluck lunch. Of course the music will have to be Quaker style or catacombs style not house church in Chinacontemporary style. On lazy mornings neighbours can be sensitive to “noise”, even a “joyful noise”. Alternatively, for the more radical, why not Saturday afternoon or evening, or even Friday evening for “church”. This could include a once a month, or bi-monthly or quarterly combined celebration in a rented hall. You could call this the organic alternative – no pesticides, no preservatives, no artificial colouring, no trans fats or cholesterol.

Well trodden route

Of course the well trodden route is to rent the space in hotels, private schools, cinemas, association halls, and other commercial space available. These were the main places of churches before they became too expensive and drove churches to consider industrial space. This does not need much elaboration, but it is a temporary alternative until a firmer direction can be set.

Commercial space

Going for commercial space or ventures is a fifth consideration. CIS are usually small churches and are not in the financial position to cafe churchtake the route of City Harvest Church and New Creation Church with their 8-9 figure budgets. There are however smaller business enterprises that could be used on Sundays for a church gathering. This way the property is used all week, unlike most churches which lie idle most of the weekdays. At the same time, a church that starts a business enterprise for use as worship place on Sundays also provides jobs for others and contributes to the economy or help society. Limitations include a space limit, a small percentage of total development, and usage for only two of seven days a week.

Community service arm

A more sacrificial path, and similar to the commercial path in that the building is used all week, is to do community service and start a centre that ministers to society’s pain and cries. Whether it is for the elderly or the very young, the addicted or the afflicted, there are many needs that the government would be happy for the church to lend a voluntary hand and a good inflow of finances.

Partners in development

Yishun christian churchTwo other alternatives remain. One is to find several churches to partner and get all the cash and minds ready to go into a joint development of a private religious or HDB site into a multi-storey building that would cost close to 30 million dollars. This has been done before: twice  in Yishun, in Clementi, in Jurong West. Perhaps the government could have a hand in this and release HDB sites specifically for several small and medium sized churches to share a building.


The last alternative is often last of alternatives for CIS to consider but the Lord may lead them to do so. The alternative here is to merge with another church of similar or smaller or bigger membership. This of course has to be done gingerly and with much wisdom and prayer, and with a match maker too, maybe a “social development unit” can be set up by Love Singapore, or EFOS or some other body, to professionally help such mergers or even acquisitions happen. Or the small churches should form a network, association, or co-operative to help each other. Such are the times where we will get to see the gift of apostleship manifest. Organizers and mobilizers we have many, but when the crunch comes, the spiritual fathers of the church will surface.

Pilgrims on a journey

The bottom line is that all faith communities pilgrims on a journey like our forefather Abraham. Steps have to be taken by faith with uncertainty as our shadow and Jesus as our constant companion. We face trials and difficulties but we are resilient and hopeful because our destination is sure, though not our route. The Lord God goes before us and causes all things to work for the greater glory of God. All that is temporal will in the end be shaken, but what is eternal and will be left standing is the unshakeable kingdom of God.

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