I did something that I would never have thought of doing before: checking out a City Harvest worship service. It was their Christmas service, held on Christmas Eve. Of course, the curiosity of how such a service would be like coupled with a desire to accompany someone in need finally pushed me into making that decision. Looking back, I guess it was a good experience for me personally, a learning experience that strengthened my faith and commitment to what is true worship to God.
In all fairness, the production that was put up for us: a play that depicted the story of how Christ came into the world (a little blown up and also a little offensive to me at one point cos Joseph and his buddies - more of his buddies, were drinking like mad and getting drunk). But it was indeed close to esplanade-level, testimony of the huge resources, money and humans alike, that CHC possesses. And it was indeed entertaining and touching. Many times I did quiver from the emotions that were in that play. But after all is said and done, it was just that - entertaining.
I can't say for sure whether a play on its own was doctrinal. But I do know that there is only one way of converting people to Christ, and that is through preaching:
"for after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe - 1 Cor 1:21".
In comparison to what CHC practices, my congregation is a far cry from the compelling power of bringing people to come forward. But it isn't about the speaker, nor the special effects, the music, the emotions that is the point. It is the simple, unadulterated Word of God that has the power to convict people:
"for the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even unto the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart - Heb 4:12".
People have asked me if I have ever thought of leaving the Church, or the congregation that I worship in. The Church? No. The Congregation? Perhaps. But I know that there will only be one factor that matters in this decision, which is God. Granted, where I worship is nowhere near perfect. Many times I have been exasperated about the attitudes, the enthusiasm, the zeal, the ability and commitment of many members. But they are just as I am, human, imperfect, sinners. Are they serving me? No! But they are serving God, as I do, and the master pays the wages. The diligent workers will be rewarded, just like the parable of the talents (Mt 25:14-30). My responsibility is to use my talents to the best I can, and do my best to encourage those around me to do the same. Therefore, despite all the disappointments I feel at times, only if the congregation falls into sin would I ever think of leaving Jurong.
But there are positive things to learn from CHC. I was truly impressed by the warmth and the zeal that many people had. The commitment to use their strengths, their abilities, and to truly put them into "service" to the Lord. Whether doctrinal or not, that very attitude is one that is truly commendable. It showed me what a congregation is able to achieve. The basement auditorium of CHC is perhaps 4 or 5 times larger than ours. If Jurong is able to organize herself such that it can do what CHC is able to do, I believe that we can be many many times a better worker for the Lord.
Christmas is not Christ's birthday. It never was, and never will. I'm sorry if I do not give out gifts or wish you merry christmas freely, because of that simple reason. But rest assured that the love and care that I feel for everyone is always the same. Christ only asked us to commorate His death, which was what brought salvation to this world, not His birth.
Sins can only be washed away during baptism, and the prayer of forgiveness (with repentance) by Christians (Mk 16:16). You do not build a relationship with God through the sinner's prayer, nor the prayer of someone else. It is though the Plan of Salvation.
Yes, Christianity may be not what people expect. It is difficult, and at times come between you and your desires. But the ultimate desire is to go to heaven and escape the fire of hell. Even in economic wisdom, that holds true.