Relaymedia

Chinese Church Union: 80 Years of Christian Synergy

( [email protected] ) Oct 13, 2011 10:42 AM EDT
The Chinese Church Union (Singapore) is an association of Chinese-speaking churches. Yet the established church body has not allowed linguistic differences to limit its ministry. Instead, it has brought synergy in outreach and spiritual formation among Christians at large.
Members of the 2011-2013 council of the Chinese Church Union. Photos courtesy of Chinese Church Union

The Chinese Church Union (Singapore) is an association of Chinese-speaking churches.

Yet the established church body has not allowed linguistic differences to limit its ministry.

Instead, it has brought synergy in outreach and spiritual formation among Christians at large.

In an interview ahead of the church body's 80th anniversary celebrations on Monday, Vice-President Alfred Yeo noted that historic events in Singapore Christianity could be credited to its efforts.

One of these events was the large revival and evangelistic meetings conducted by Dr. John Sung in 1935 and 1936 at the Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.

It was the church body that invited the Chinese evangelist to Singapore. The body was formed just four years before the meetings by pastors from China who had been impacted by his ministry.

In another major contribution, the church body played a crucial role in making possible the Singapore Billy Graham Crusade in 1978.

Recounting the story, the Reverend Yeo shared that Chinese pastors who were part of the church body had invited the late Mrs. Billy Graham for lunch during her visit here.

"In the meeting, we told her that we had been waiting for Dr. Billy Graham to come to Singapore for the last 15 years," said the Vice-President of the church body. "And she was surprised."

After the luncheon, Mrs. Graham visited the National Stadium, whose size surprised her. She returned and spoke with the famed evangelist about the matter.

"Early next year, it was decided Billy Graham was coming to Singapore," said the Rev. Yeo. "And so he actually came in 1978, December."

The Vice-President of the church body served as the General Secretary of the Singapore Billy Graham Crusade, Luis Palau Singapore Mission in 1985 and 1986 and as Executive Secretary of the Global Day of Prayer in 2006 and 2007.

In those roles, he influenced Chinese churches to support the events.

Other members of the Chinese Church Union also played important roles at the events. This included those of song leader and distribution of pamphlets at the Billy Graham crusade.

The church body cooperated in the establishment of the Singapore Theological Seminary, now Singapore Bible College, in 1952.

It organised regular inter-church events, many of which continue till today.

A morning prayer meeting was held on Mondays. Today, a prayer meeting is held on a monthly basis around noontime. Some 30 pastors and laypeople from different denominations attend the meeting.

An Easter sunrise service was organised for many years. It continues in the form of an Easter Praise, held on the evening before Easter. The service is attended by hundreds.

A rally focusing on spiritual succession was conducted in June during the school holidays. When the event was held at the National Theatre, it drew at least 3,000 people.

Eventually, it was discontinued and a seminar on spiritual formation took its place. The seminar, which draws up to 1,000, takes place in September during the school holidays.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the church body held a National Day thanksgiving service. The event later became a partnership between the body and the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore (EFOS). This happened through the efforts of the Rev. Yeo, who was at that time the General Secretary of the EFOS.

Women's meetings including a retreat and a day of prayer for hundreds of women were organised.

The church body also conducted outreach to senior citizens', women's and children's homes especially in December.

Today, the body faces multiple challenges in funding, manpower and continual support of its member churches.

Nonetheless, the Rev. Yeo sees a bright future in store for Chinese Christians here. Proficiency in the use of the Chinese language is improving with the emphasis on bilingualism in schools, he noted.

But pastors must adapt their teaching style and churches, their programmes to cater to the needs of young people today.

In addition, the younger generation needs to be given the opportunity to take up leadership roles in churches and even the church body.

As the Rev. Yeo put it, "the future of the Chinese Church Union lies in the hands of the young ones coming up, in how they want to lead it forward."