Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Singapore Church History: Contemporary Evangelicalism, Uniquely Singapore

The following year [1982 -DHC], the Full Gospel Christian Businessmen's Fellowship, in cooperation with just over 100 churches came together and sponsored a nationwide Gospel Rally. Billed as the pastor of the world's biggest church with over 200,000 members, the speaker Dr. Paul Cho Yongi-gi hailed from South Korea. By the time he arrived in June, 10,000 counsellors [sic], 1,500 ushers, and a 2,000 strong choir had been trained. For five evenings at the National Stadium, an average audience of 40,000 turned up to hear about God's word and to receive healing.

December 1985 saw another major evangelistic rally. The speaker this time was Reinhard Bonkke, well-known for his big tent evangelistic ministry in Africa. Sponsored by the Full Gospel Christian Businessmen's Fellowship, Church of Singapore and the Anglican Diocese, the campaign also received the cooperation of 68 other churches. For five nights, the meetings were held at the National Stadium. Total attendance came to 160,000. About 7,000 came forward for either salvation, rededication, healing or deliverance.

Even as the Bonkke mission was held, preparations were being made for another larger campaign. The speaker this time would be Argentinian evangelist Dr. Luis Palau. ...The sponsoring body was the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore. ... In all, 11,902 persons registered decisions, 59% being acceptance of Christ into their lives. (Sng, 296-7)

Another organization which came to the fore in the 1990s was the LoveSingapore movement. Begun in 1995, largely through the initiative of Lawrence Khong, Senior Pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church, it spelt out five strategic goals for churches:-

  1. Unite the body of believers together
  2. Serve the community
  3. Establish a prayer cell in every housing block by the year 2000
  4. Launch a seven-wave harvest in 2001
  5. Churches to adopt unreached people groups across the world

Church leaders responded positively to these goals. Over the next five years, various activities were organized. Churches were encouraged to participate in them as they were able to. At its peak, about 150 churches participated in its activities.

5 August 1995 saw thousands packing Singapore's largest indoor stadium for a concert of prayer. Appropriately called Day to Change Our World, it was premised on the belief that before revival could take place in the city, the believers themselves must be united. ...

Five months later, 90 pastors gathered at Hotel Sofitel, Johor Bahru, for a four-day Prayer Summit. They came from different church traditions. Through tears, confession and reconciliation, walls of suspicion that had kept churches apart were torn down. As they committed themselves afresh to Vision 2001, the pastors agreed to divide themselves into 26 geographical networks, covering the whole of Singapore. They would continue to cooperate and pray for one another. Pastors would exchange pulpits on Sundays and they would meet annually at the Prayer Summit. Such was the support that by the year 2000, the Summit had attracted 683 church leaders. (Sng, 333-4)

And so we have arrived at the modern times. This author can remember quite a number of the more recent events, like LoveSingapore's campaign for Vision 2001, of which as a youth I had in ignorance attended those hyped-up meetings. Speaking of which, were the goals mentioned there achieved? 2001 has come and gone, and I wonder if all the revivalistic hype has actually achieved anything.

The concept of revivalism is alive and well in Singapore, and big rallies are not uncommon. Before every National Day (August 9) ever since I was a youth (around 1997), there was a big event organized called the Festival of Praise (FOP) (and lo and behold, the event still continues on in a way). More recently, there was the Global Day of Prayer event.

We can see from the speakers that quite a few of them are not Christians. Paul (David) Yonggi Cho is a Word-faith heretic. Lawrence Khong has at best violated Scripture by usurping the title of "apostle" and promoting the unbiblical G12 principles, which are basically a reworking of the charismatic Shepherding errors. The FOP used to have Hillsongs United for their big praise concert, while other times they had other bands like Jars of Clay or Delirious. In this present culture, I wouldn't be surprised if "Jesus Culture" is embraced by many in the Singapore churches, and I personally know the names of 3 Singaporeans who went over to study at Bill Johnson's Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM), one of which is in some form of full-time ministry in a Singapore church.

What one can see therefore in Singapore in contemporary Evangelicalism is basically the large scale corrosion of biblical orthodoxy from whatever little they previously had. The Charismatic movement has become a cancer destroying the faith of many while convincing them they are still Christians. While biblical orthodoxy and vitality degenerate, the church has become bolder yet more and more deluded about its own health. Thus, when I said that Sng is triumphalistic, the actual situation of the church in Singapore bears this out. We are having rallies, boasting in our numerical growth, boasting in how God has been "so good to us" with so many conversions in Singapore, but all the while the rot within is destroying the churches, and none of the Singapore church leaders see that! My experience over the GDOP fiasco showed me Singapore church leaders like Rev. Dr. Alfred Yeo are blind. The blind leading the blind, and refusing to listen to godly rebuke. Is it any surprise that, unless God start working, I have no hope for the long-term health of the Singapore churches?

Singapore contemporary Evangelicalism is the church of Laodicea. We think we are rich, we think God is richly blessing us, we boast in our numbers, in our relative influence in society, in our big rallies, our numbers of decisions. We believe we are exceptionally blessed by God, more so than any other nation in the world. We take God's kindness in providing us good political leaders that prospered our country, and treat that as if we are suddenly the most favored nation in God's eye. We took God's mercy in rewarding our evangelism efforts, and see that as indication that we are on the right path spiritually. But we are poor and wretched. The voice of God to Singapore is the same exhortation to the church of Laodicea. Come to Jesus and admit our poverty. Repent of our manifold sins and wickedness and toleration and promotion of error!

The church in Singapore has never been strong, but the Singapore church leaders evidently think they are doing well. There is no contrition over their part in tolerating false teachings including all the nonsense brought in under the umbrella of the "Charismatic Renewal." There is no repentance for their hardness of hearts in their false ecumenism. And I know that none if any will listen, because that has been my experience. The only way they might listen is to be upstaged by a younger and emerging pastor. In other words, they will perhaps listen to results of church growth, but that's not guaranteed either.

Unlike Sng's note of triumphalism, I do not see a rosy future for the churches of Singapore, unless God works repentance in our hearts. The future of Christianity in Singapore does not look rosy, with Liberalism infecting large swaths of society. Perhaps God may use the bigoted liberals to chastise His church, or in time we will lose our lampstand and die.


Jenson Lim said...

Methinks you have been away from home for too long. Since you have your theological degree and are ordained, perhaps you could go home and serve the Lord there. He still has a people there.

PuritanReformed said...

I am not yet ordained; I am licensed.