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As Rev. Miak has promised last week, we are going to be sharing today about our major project for the church in 2012 – our Church Centre Building Project. When we began preparing for this journey last year, I asked God a question, “How much do You think we should be targeting to raise?” An important question I felt, because if you don’t know how much you need, you won’t know what you can buy right or how long it’s going to take you to raise that money. The Holy Spirit laid something on my heart that I still remember today: “You are asking the wrong question”. The right question you should be asking is, “What kind of church am I calling you to build?”
There has been some bad external press going on in the media for some time about the extravagance and the size of church building projects these days in Singapore. And there is generally a negative sentiment towards buying property or a church building.
So right at the beginning before we get going today, I want to remind all of us that Jesus loves the church! 2000 years ago Jesus said – I have come to build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Jesus came for the church and died for her.
Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
The church is squarely on the heart of God. Jesus Christ loved the church so much, as we see here in the picture of a bridegroom, that He would die for her.
So the church is squarely on the heart and mind of Jesus.
So I wondered, what did Jesus actually have in mind? What does the church that we are called to build look like? There are so many different kinds and expressions of churches out there, which is the most accurate or better expression? Is there a “right” model of the church? Does it look like this?
A church that integrates into a shopping mall in at One-North? A church in the heart of the city with beautiful architecture and grounds and when you enter it fills you with awe and reverence? Is it an industrial building in the middle of the red light district? Is it even a building? What about a home church or online churches?
Again, I felt the Holy Spirit say, you are asking the wrong question, I was looking at the hardware, the expression, instead of the “heart”ware.
So today, I would first like to look at what actually the “church” is by looking at the purpose of the church that Jesus talks about and a look at the early church in the New Testament.
Let’s start first by defining what a church is. Looking back at the forming of the early church after Christ ascended and left the disciples behind, to the development of the early church in the NT, a good definition that I have found is this –
The Church is “a community of Christ-followers empowered by the Holy Spirit to participate in the Great Commission”.
So let’s first quickly pull it apart the elements an look at each part.
1. The Church is a COMMUNITY.
It starts with God. The very nature of God is a community – the Triune God – God the Father, Son, Holy Spirit. But beyond that, God has revealed God as a personal God that can be known through relationship. God first reveals the name “YHWH” (Yahweh) when God told Moses, “I am who I am”, indicating that God’s very nature will become evident through God’s actions.
This nature that God wants to relate to us was first revealed as God who spoke these words to Moses on Mt Sinai where the 10 commandments were given.
Exo 20:1-3 ‘I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of Egypt, where you lived as slaves. You shall have no other gods to rival me
And then Deut 6:4-5, we see our call to relate to God: “Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one: and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
But beyond just God being a community, as well as creating us to come into community with God, we are created for community through relationships – God said that man was not created to be alone.
During Jesus’ ministry, the first thing He does is to gather the 12 disciples together to form a community. So church is not something you go to; it is not the building. It’s something you are a part of. Church is a community that you are connected to. And the measure of a great church is not the number of people that go there but the quality of relationships that takes place within its community.
Paul in 1 Thess 1:2-3 writes:
“We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul says here in this passage: I hear your love is growing more and more; not I hear you have crossed the 200 mark. So it’s about the quality of relationships, not the quantity of people.
How many people here are fans of Lord of the Rings? In the first book of the Lord of the Rings, we are introduced to the “Fellowship of the Ring”. It is a beautiful picture, very similar to a picture of the same diversity in the church. We see very different people from different backgrounds and races, come together on a mission, with the same purpose, serving one another. And when these great relationships forms, there emerges identity and ownership, and becomes a fellowship, a community.
In FCC, we have a little tagline which we show every week before the service. We call this “Welcome Home”. Welcome Home, to your community. A place where there are authentic relationships. A place where we feel safe. A place where we can find hope. A place where we can depend on one another. A place where we do life together. A place where we all have a place and role to play.
But at the same time, we also have learnt that the church exists for those outside it. We also need to look at who is our primary community. Many different churches reach out to people in different geographical, sociographical, psychographical, theological spheres, and we see that similarly when the disciples went out, Jesus called them to be His witnesses first in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then to the ends of the Earth.
There was a primary community, and then as they grew and developed, they spread to their neighbours which had some similarity to them.
So who is our primary community? It would be our friends and family, it would be those who share some similarities to who we are – our experiences, our networks, our cultures, our backgrounds. And that amalgamates here. And that needs to define the expression of church.
We have been focused on the community so far. But what makes a church different from let’s say a country club or a team on a mission like in the Lord of the Rings?
2. A church is a community of CHRIST-FOLLOWERS.
So it’s not just about hanging out, having friendships, they are developing a life style that reflects what Jesus is like.
Church is a place where we grow together to follow Christ. That’s also why church exists: to create a space that we can grow together to be more like Jesus.
Christians by its very defition means followers of Christ. And so being like Jesus is for every body – not just the select few.
And so I would like to offer that in fact spiritual maturity does not mean knowing a lot of scripture (although it helps), or how long you have been in church, but instead it is the degree to which we are able to follow Jesus in our lives.
The first twelve disciples are followers of Jesus. They learnt from what Jesus was teaching and doing and put into practice, and then learnt some more and did some more.
Some aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry included:
And if we can classify, this, we see four ways that this ministry is expressed:
And if we look on to the practices of the early New Testament church in Acts 2, we see these same four areas of ministries in operation. They were engaging in various spiritual practices, in fellowship, praying, listening to the Word, involved in community action, meeting needs, loving people, serving, giving – all activities that train those in the community and position them to be more like Jesus.
As a church, the kind of church we are called to build is one that creates space where we can train Christ-followers, and then as a place where we can enable them to minister to others. That is the second element that must frame the kind of church we are called to build.
3. A church is a community of Christ-followers EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The third important element that we need to pay attention to as we look at the kind of church we are called to build is a church that is “empowered by the Holy Spirit”.
Jesus didn’t start his ministry until He received the Holy Spirit. And actually if you really think about it, the book which follows Acts of the Apostles is not really correct, it’s more like the Acts of the holy spirit working through the apostles.
When Jesus appeared after His resurrection to the disciples, He taught them one final truth:
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The disciples were going to be witnesses. But they were not going to do it without help; they were going to get power from on high.
And something happened to those useless disciples after they were filled with the Holy Spirit. These disciples who had fought over who was going to be first in heaven, who scattered when Jesus was captured, who kept messing up and getting it wrong. After encountering the resurrected Christ in Jerusalem and their subsequent filling of the Holy Spirit, it lit the flame for the disciples to live the rest of their lives to proclaim the risen Jesus, to establish the early church and to die for the gospel. In fact of the twelve disciples, history went on to record that eleven of the twelve had their lives ended for the sake of the gospel, and only one – John, died of old age while exiled on the island of Patmos.
How do you live a life empowered by the Holy Spirit?
2 Cor 13:14 – The Benediction
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
The word fellowship here comes from the Greek word “koinonia”, which means an intimate partnership.
Jesus said when He goes, He will send the Holy Spirit to us. And that same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is now living in you and me.
The kind of church we need to build is a church that allows that relationship with God, that intimate partnership to develop and flourish. We do this when we create opportunity and space to gather to worship and pray, and we allow the spirit of God to move as we minister to one another.
4. A church is a community of Christ-followers empowered by the Holy Spirit TO PARTICIPATE IN THE GREAT COMMISSION.
God’s mission is to partner with us and participate in reaching our world. A commission is a co + mission.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
The church exists because of the Great Commission. We’re here today in this Church and we know Christ because someone that came before us obeyed the Great Commission. In fact, we can come here every Sunday and worship in this very place because a community obeyed the Great Commission.
All churches need to be built on the Great Commission. But we’ve been living it like the Great Opinion, or the Great Suggestion. We marry a church model and flirt with the Great Commission.
The Great Commission is all about making disciples, not converts. And making disciples simply means equipping ourselves, being a witness by following Jesus, serving others through our lives and ministry, and then inviting others to do the same.
One of my favourite passages of scripture is:
Eph 1:22-23 (Message)
At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.
Last year as a church we looked at what the Kingdom of God looks like. How the values of this Kingdom were different from the Kingdom of the World. And we learnt that this Kingdom is really a Kin-dom – it is about relationships first. This Kingdom is about a new way of operating that was opposite from the World – give first and it will be given instead of thinking about what’s in it for me and that if you want to find life you got to give yours away.
So the church is a community of Christ-followers empowered by the Holy Spirit to participate in the Great Commission.
And now that we understand this, we know what kind of church we are called to build. So there really isn’t a normative or right kind of church building or expression of church – it should be driven by why the church exists. And it is critical for us to understand the purpose, the context, the time in the life of that particular community, and then find the right expression of church. There is no one right form of church, but there is a right expression for a given community at that moment in their journey.
And today we have reached a new milestone in the 9 year journey of this community. We have had quite a journey moving from place to place, renting different spaces – we started in the living room of a HDB flat in Zion Road with a squat toilet, and we have moved through a member’s residence, to an art gallery, to a bar, to an attic above a bar, to a disused arcade centre between two cinemas showing pornographic movies before moving here where we have spent the last 5 years.
In a while we will be presenting to you our plans to develop our own building project. I have just shared with you the kind of church we are called to build because I want you to understand first the context of why the project and the expression of the project has developed in such a manner – the context, the community, the co-mission defines the development of this expression.
We worked through various proposals and prayed through this as a Council since last year and we believe that this year is the right season for us to prepare ourselves to be able to move into our own property in the future.
The full details of this proposal will be fleshed out after lunch where you will have a chance to also ask your questions and collect the feedback but let me give you first the brief details.
Our building project will consist of two-phase building project to develop the Free Community Centre. Phase 1 will be a 1-year building project in which we are planning to raise S$475,000 this year to purchase our first property, by this time next year, when the lease expires on this place. Phase 2 will be an approximately 5-year building project in which we are planning to raise an additional S$850,000 and sell the first property to purchase a second property.
There are three main reasons why we have adopted the approach of a two-phase building project –
Let me give you more details now about each phase of the project. Phase 1 will involve us raising funds to purchase a property very similar to what we have now, a single floor in an industrial building near an MRT station on the fringe of the city. And we are targeting to purchase by this time in 2013. The purchase price will be about $1 million. This will include a $350,000 downpayment + $25,000 for duties + $100,000 for renovation – a total of $475,000. We will then take a bank loan for the rest of the amount for next year and the amount we are paying in rent today will go towards paying down the loan until we sell the property.
This immediately allows us to get a bit more space and take the learnings we have from the last 9 years to maximize the utilization of the space. We are targeting for the new space to be approximately 20% bigger than our current space, with a similar amount of seating for the main sanctuary and additional room to cater for the various cell groups, support groups and different meetings that utilize the church today. Here is a draft concept of what it could look like that has been designed by Zihao.
Our plan is move into this property when the lease ends here in our current building in April next year and to make this new place our home for approximately five-years while we prepare for Phase 2 of our building fund to take us towards eventually having our own building – not just any building, but a Community Centre in Singapore that will be a place that will allow us to effectively create a safe space for our members and also to minister to our primary community, including other LGBT ministries, social organizations such as Oogachaga, Spaces, HIV/AIDS ministries, Pelangi Pride Centre, advocacy groups, counseling and drop-ins services, social interest groups, support groups, and even potentially a café or gallery. It is also planned that approximately half the space will be leasable to other groups for them to utilize the shared resources, making it not just a sanctuary, but a church that facilitates the support of our primary ministry; our Jerusalem. And today it gives me great pleasure to show you a concept of what this could look like.
So two phases and two more moves for us. First Phase 1 where we will be for about 5 years or however long it takes for us to get to Phase 2. And today we need to raise $475,000 in 1 year. Is it possible? It sounds like we need a big miracle with the size of this congregation. How will we do it? I’d like to share with you that the miracle is already in progress.
The first thing we are going to do next year is to transfer $300,000 of our reseves that we have to a separate account for the building project. We have already been raising funds internally through our members and over 9 years have built a reserve of $350,000. The rest of this money will be moved to our general fund to provide an operating buffer so we do not repeat what happened previously when we did not have an operating buffer and had to take money out of our reserves whenever we hit an operating deficit.
So we have raised already $300,000 of the $475,000 that we need and our target over the next one year is to raise $175,000. For a small congregation like ours with an average of 100 over people here each weekend, that translates into $1750 per person. For some that may seem possible, but for others, it is a huge sum of money. We will not be raising any money today, but instead we will be giving everyone three weeks to consider your giving, to pray about how you are going to participate in this building project. The miracle will only happen when every person here participates in this project together and to stretch our faith if we are going to see this happen.
It is going to mean that all of us are going to have to sacrifice. The amounts are going to end up different, but we will all be sacrificing equally. And I believe if we all stretch our faith, the miracle will happen. To encourage you, many of you know that I have moved to Hong Kong for work but this for me, this is my home church that I have been a part of the last 9 years. When I moved to Hong Kong, I sold my car in Singapore. I have been considering buying a car in Hong Kong but have decided that because of this building project, I will hold off buying the car for 1 year and save the additional $10,000 that it would cost me to run a small car in HK more than taking public transport and put that money instead into the building project. You may be thinking $10,000. That’s a lot of money! Why would I do it? I want to share with you my testimony of a building project that I previously participated in to encourage you in my previous church.
It was 1999 and I had not started work for long and was drawing $2000 a month as a salary. I was also coaching some secondary schools and junior colleges part time in ten-pin bowling. When I was younger, I used to bowl competitively, but wasn’t very good at it and never won any major competitions. I had since limited myself to coaching to earn some extra income and to be still connected to the sport. It was the season of the building project in my previous church then, just like it is here today, and I was asking God how much I should contribute to the building fund. I felt God lay on my heart the amount of $4000, twice my monthly salary. I asked God, how am I going to raise that money? That is two-months salary that I had less than a year to raise! I felt God tell me to trust God and let God take control. And so I pledged that I would raise and contribute $4000 to that year’s building fund.
Not long after I had made the pledge, it was time for one of the most major of bowling competitions for the year – the Singapore Open. I had competed in the tournament before but never had any success and wasn’t planning to compete in it. That year, I felt God say to me to participate in the tournament. I thought it would be a waste of money, time and energy. After all, I never had any success before. But I decided to take God at God’s Word, and participated in the tournament. It was the hardest tournament to qualify for, but thank God after many attempts, I managed to qualify for the finals for my division. And through the finals, I was battling exhaustion and all I could do was to keep praying and focus on what I was doing. At the end of the finals, I found out that I had tied for first place and had to go into a sudden death match with another popular local bowler that was very hungry to win and full of energy. I was almost completely empty and just kept praying to finish the tournament. The other competitor messed up and I went on to win the match, and got the first prize! And guess what the amount was? Exactly $4000! I was able to complete my building fund in a single offering not too long after I made the commitment! It was truly a miracle considering I had never won such a big tournament before!
But there is an even more miraculous part to this story. You see, the nature of these competitions is that once you win one of these major local competitions, you are banned from competing in that division in any competition for 2 years. And for the next 2 years, I only bowled socially and stopped competing altogether. I participated in the building funds every year after that and 3 years later in 2002, when I asked God the amount to contribute for the building fund, I felt God lay on my heart the amount of $4000. It was just at the end of the Asian Financial Crisis and I was really struggling with making ends meet but about that time, I was reminded that my 2-year ban had been completed and I could compete again in the Singapore Open. And this time I was even more doubtful because I had not competed in a single tournamanent in the last 2 years because of the ban and had not been bowling much at all. I felt God tell me, to just go and trust God to do the rest. And so I did.
This time round, I surprised everyone including myself by qualifying easily. During the finals, I did the same thing – focus on my own game and keep praying through each shot I was going to make. The competition was very tough – with this time international bowlers joining the competition. After I had thrown my last shot, my friends came up to congratulate me that I had won the tournament again and they couldn’t believe it and neither could I. One time, people can say that was just lucky. Twice in a row, and everyone who knew me knew that it was not me at work, but it was a miracle. And the prize money? You guessed it – $4000!
Through this, I’ve learnt that everything I have is not mine, I am just a steward or manager of all the resources that come from God. And as a manager, I am able to work out how much I can give and how much I can use to build God’s kingdom. I have realized that God gives me the favour and the increase so I can be a greater blessing for Him, a more trustworthy steward. And like I have shared in my testimony, I have never ever been shortchanged. I have seen so much favour on my life: when I tried running my life my way, I ended up a bankrupt. When I did it God’s way, I realized that I had everything I already need and much more, and I was never in lack to meet the needs around me.
Today for you as a part of this church, will you be willing to build the church that God has called us to build – a community of Christ-followers empowered by the Holy Spirit to participate in the Great Commission?
Today we have all benefitted from the ministry of those who have come before us. We are sitting in the seats today enjoying this service because someone before us said yes, I will be faithful to the call of God here. In order to move into this building, we had to raise $100,000 to renovate this place 5 years ago and we witnessed the miracle when we did it in a single offering. Today, we cannot move to the next phase on our own, we need everyone here to participate. And I pray that as God has already blessed you with everything you have, and with the expectation of everything that God is going to do in your life and through this place, I pray that God will speak to you over the next three weeks for you to know how you will be participating in this opportunity to build Christ’s church and that God will give you creative ideas and ways to be able to meet that need.
I really believe that we are all blessed to be a blessing. If you are looking for a breakthrough or a miracle in your life, be first the hands and feet of a miracle. Bible does not say – where your heart is there your treasure will be also. It says where your treasure is, there your heart will be also – your heart will catch up to where you sow in. If you want to see a revival in your spiritual life, if you want to see God move in your life, here’s a great opportunity for you to participate in a miracle that is already underway.
You know, the feeding of the 5000 only happened when the boy first brought his five loaves and two fish forward to Jesus. We are here because in the last building fund, we raised $100,000 in a single offering so we can move here, and we had fewer members then! I believe that if we all join our hearts together, we will be able to raise the $175k we need to get the Phase 1 underway.
In three weeks time we will have start making our commitments for the project through the month of March. You will be given pledge forms in the coming weeks and we will collect the pledges which represent your commitment, your five loaves and two fish to make this miracle happen.
As we have presented in last week’s budget, we are keeping the operating expenses for the year flat so you don’t need to stretch your tithes this year. But this year, we will come together to commit to build the church that Jesus has called us to and has already seen in eternity. Are you ready? Because truly eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, nor mind imagine what God has prepared for those who love Him!