May 2019 will go down church history as a significant time. Through the “Celebration of Hope” (COH) event, the Singapore Sports Hub-National Stadium was filled with people to hear the gospel of Christ, to be touched, and make decisions to accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord!
227 Churches, Christian groups, 18,000 volunteers united together to declare our shared Hope found in the Good News. We pulled out all the stops to mobilize, communicate, and equip for the largest outreach event in 40 years! Churches committed to invite, bring pre-believing loved ones and to follow-up in inviting to grow in spiritual community thereafter.
events are but catalysts for the more enduring transformation we hope to see in our land
The magnitude, time and cost1 involved may cause us to question its fruit. This is natural as we seek to be good stewards, and also because events are but catalysts for the more enduring transformation we hope to see in our land. The Billy Graham Crusade 40 years ago was a tinder for ripples of growth and change as churches, parachurches grew.
Can the same be said of the Celebration of Hope?
1. Have the lives of people changed through the Evangelistic Event? Did we reach many?
On the nights I attended, one of my relatives desired to respond and I followed him down to the area for respondees to the message. I saw hundreds of people in that foyer, listening to one-on-one sharing, reading the Bible, praying to respond to Christ! And this was only one of several areas for marshalling respondees. The statistics are 6000 people made responses – of which 2000 were first time responding to Christ through the days of the rally. What a great harvest!2
However, for the several churches I consult for, as they sifted through and called the COH respondees allocated to them, a significant number declined to come to church, or preferred to follow another friend rather than the one allocated.
For churches that received some 30 names, perhaps 4-5 would ultimately be connected to that church.3
While we may focus on only that 4-5 that got connected, I want to remind us that all 30 people made a commitment to Christ of some sort! They were touched by the hope of change and the gospel of Christ!
There are large numbers of people across the churches and the nation that made spiritual responses arising out of COH.
I believe there will come a time when God will fan into flame their experience of their COH encounter.
While we focus on the 4-5 that are connected to church, let’s remember and pray for all 30 for God to continue to touch them and minister to them in various ways.
It would be great to have a Service or Platform in church where we remember the efforts during COH, thank God for those who got connected, and pray for the numbers of those who were touched by God and responded at COH even though they may not have been redirected to our church.
Let us pray for the names of respondees in COH even though they do not end up in our own church, and partner with God to fan into flame the seed God has planted in COH, at the right time in their lives.
2. Has my church changed through the Evangelistic Event? Are churches stronger?
It is the personal evangelistic strength of our own church members that has greatest impact.
A number of church leaders shared that though the numbers of respondees dwindled as they were followed up, the ones who truly connected with the church are those who were brought by their own church members themselves. This conveys the idea that the strongest outreach impact is still via outreach of our own church members. Bishop Rennis Ponniah (Anglican Church in Singapore), through COH, championed the tagline: “personal evangelism on a mass scale”. It is the personal evangelistic strength of our own church members that has greatest impact.
In a previous article, I had encouraged churches to leverage the nation-wide COH outreach to build up the evangelistic muscle of the local church.
Through COH, we have been exposed to many valuable skills of evangelism:
- Listing regularly names of loved ones (List of 5)
- prophetic and declarative prayers over our loved ones (Prayer Altar)
- Art of building relationships
- Sharing personal testimony
- Sharing the gospel (FOUR)
- Responding to objections to faith
- Mapping a 30-day momentum plan
- Developing a Church-wide system of allocating and calling for follow-up
These are valuable skills and processes that, if our people are equipped with and apply regularly, will make the local church stronger in her evangelism muscle! By making national events “work for growing your own church”, the muscle you gain stays with your church long after the event is over!
Have you trained your people in these skills?
Will you create regular opportunities and processes via Outreach Seasons to “exercise these muscles”?
3. Has our Nation changed through the Evangelistic Event? Has there been transformation in people-groups?
I believe many would agree that COH has stirred much prayer for evangelism and for pre-believing loved ones. COH has mobilized and equipped tens of thousands in some form of evangelism skills.
We saw the Mandarin-speaking believers integrate a seeker-outreach program that stirred heart-values, worthy of a MediaCorp level presentation! It was even reported in Taiwan’s GoodTV news!4
I have never seen so many celebrity personalities declare their faith and share their testimonies on a public platform! I believe each of them is a powerful witness in the public sphere of the nation.
Very close to God’s heart, I believe, is also the joy of seeing a deeper sense of unity amongst the Indian churches “stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel”. They gathered their resources together to reach their loved ones in a united effort, many doing so for the first time!
Rev. Tony Yeo shared that he observed many churches not caring about personal denominational or church lines but working together to reach the harvest for Christ.
If the following happened…
- Pastoral leaders encourage church members to continue in prayer and utilizing the skills of outreach as a lifestyle
- Christian celebrities seek out mentors and intercessors to encourage and sustain their witness for Christ amid the pressures of the media industry
- Indian churches maintain and deepen friendships and relationships across previously traditional lines
- More churches share resources in reaching the harvest in the community together
… then our nation would have indeed seen the hope of change after COH that last!
Those days of Celebration of Hope saw a very foundational transformation in the lives of thousands of people! The potential of a changed society begins with the seeds of changed hearts during such responses to faith.
Canon J. John, the English Speaker for the Celebration of Hope rallies once shared, that in 1975, he said to Christ, “I open the door of my heart and I receive you!” After he received Christ into his life the “light came on” for him. His mother was sceptical and said to him, “You have been brain-washed!”. He replied, “Mom, my brain has been washed! If you knew what was always in my mind, you would be glad it has been washed!”
J. John was speaking of how a commitment to Christ began the process for the change of his mind, his heart and his life.
I remember a testimony where a CEO who is a believer and had been touched by God recently faced a conflict at his work. One of his managers had confronted the CEO on some of the practices in the office. While the manager had strongly mooted change, the CEO was frustrated by the complains and bluntness of his manager. The CEO said, “If I’ve not had a change of heart recently, if you had spoken to me like this a couple of months back, I would have destroyed you!” In his honest frustration, in his heart that CEO held back his instinct to strike out.
Fundamental to all positive changes in society is a changed heart. The Bible describes the potential of such an inward change of posture, attitudes, instincts and heart:
 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.
 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. (Isaiah 11:6-10)
Fundamental to all positive changes in society is a changed heart.
That “root of Jesse” is the person and the work of Christ proclaimed through the gospel, calling a response to faith and convicting one and all to make Jesus Saviour and Lord!
We may think that Singapore, being a sophisticated urban society, requires more than just traditional evangelism. One may feel that sophisticated societies instead require more NGOs, strategies to reach the marginalized, ways to lift people out of poverty, initiatives to speak into the public sphere and engage controversial issues, etc.
These are all important! However, the Bible shows us what is core foundation to these – a changed heart that is touched by the simple gospel and the love of Jesus Christ:
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthian 5:14-15)
I believe the work of the gospel for saving faith is pivotal and foundational to change in our society. We need to all work together as leaders, believers and churches to witness with the gospel of hope.
So, after COH, will hope bring lasting change?
For the church, pastoral leaders, members and spiritual families…the answer is in your hands!
Rev. Dr. Philip Huan, Principal Consultant Churchlife Resources
 Event cost estimated S$3.6 million
 Further, there were 1.2 million view of the COH Testimony Videos, and 464,880 view of the live streaming over that season.
 These are sample numbers from several churches only. Numbers may vary with different churches.
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