- Friday, August 31, 2007

Emerge 2007

Note: Uber long cheong-hei long-winded and long-farted and rather emo post. Don't read if you lost your guts.

I told some that I will write a review about it, but I guess I won't do a review. This first visit to City Harvest's Emerge has brought certain stuffs to my attention.

I have to admit that I was very critical when I entered the hall, and observed the way City Harvest run their events, how the emcees spoke, what words they use, and et cetera et cetera. And suddenly a question, old and often asked, arose: why are people flocking to City Harvest? I have known many loving that place because firstly, they have many friends there; secondly, they have good music and good technical setting; thirdly, a cool pastor (and when they said this, they gave an impression that any other pastor were dull and uninteresting); fourth, it's a mega-church; finally, interesting conveying of the Word of God. Look, not that I am against the church (I am not), it's just I think that City Harvest has been very strategic in attracting youths to the church. It seems, to me, that no more it is the gospel and the passion and love for God that brings people to church, but the technological advancement, the awesome band with effects and absolutely good vocalists, the huge aura of church pillars and soothing color, the ability of the pastor to dress 'youth-like' and speak in the youth dialect and yada yada fada lada gada hada nada watever la da!

In my small church, it is really difficult to trying to get the yout motivated because they have this mindset: church is boring, and whatever done is church is boring boring and boring. (Which is why I am taking Mass Comm, so I get to change mindsets) And coming to such a large church and seeing one of my friend, who used to be one of the most trustable person in my life and shattered that pillar of trust instantaneously by leaving me all alone to serve, happily mingling with the others. Call me jealous or else, I just can't help but come to a conclusion: big churches survive, and small churches are f***ing boring because they are compared miserably.

Large churches have everything. You name it, and they have it. Good lighting system, excellent sound system and sound engineers, brilliant musicians and vocalists, confident and stable financial means, long lists of pastoral and businessmen contacts... And most of all, what people talk about the most, friends they call 'cool'.

Small churches lack many. My church has only three musicians who are only amateurs without training and professional guidance (two drummers and one pianist - me), and our sound system is average (and sometimes when the mixer-man is not around, nobody has the knowledge and ability to do the mixing), constant financial struggle, contacts of pastoral contacts... even the capacity to do things and manpower are limited too. And because of such limitation that exist in many small-time churches, they are often looked down upon and considered 'boring' and 'uninteresting'.

Church is no longer a place people seek comfort and refuge, a place people come solely to worship, a place people come to honor God; but a place of comparison of both performance and technological advancement, a place of condemnation and struggles, a place of life and death, a place of betraying and backstabbing. Those from small-time churches might be able to identify with what I am saying.

My lecturer from Principles of Advertising said, "Speak about the name of a place and people will immediately associate it with a certain social pattern and idea. Simple, mention Damansara Heights and people will immediately think of 'rich people's avenue' or 'highly educated peeps'." And when somebody says, "Oh, I'm from CHC" or "Oh, I'm from Calvary" or "Oh, I'm from GT", an immediate idea pops into mind - 'mega church', 'large church with good stuffs', or 'exciting place'.

Today's conversation with one of my course mates...
Person: You from which church?
Jon: Philadelphia Church, Puchong.
Person: Where is that? Never heard before.
Jon: Puchong.
Person: Oh. I'm from CHC.
Jon: Oh.
(Person walks away.)

Why is church a big deal today? If God said that we should serve in one voice, one spirit, one blah... then why do church denominate themselves and separate themselves from smaller churches if they're bigger? Maybe I am wrong, but when people say "CHC is the most happening church is Malaysia (or KL)" does it mean that God is not working anywhere and other churches are satanic and not God-related, weak and lethargic? Where is the oneness? If CHC or GT or Calvary is so large with all the necessary equipments and manpower, why don't they start stretching their wings by GOING (not inviting them to come) to smaller churches and minister to them, helping them in areas they're weak at? If these churches are so mission-minded, and sending missionaries OUT of Malaysia is such a big deal, why not start helping smaller churches that are mid-suffocating?

After some thought and words with my beloved father, every other questions and dissatisfactions seemed to quiet and calm down. And only one final question arose: When the music and excitement fades, how many will still stand for Jesus? Who can say for sure that he/she will stand for Christ until the end? The Bible has said clearly that many will fall and only a chosen generation will enter heaven. Many Christians will backslide, renounce Jesus as their Lord and follow the devil. And where would I stand?

Despite this, I was quite disheartened at the response of my ex-church friend and friend whom I used to trust and look up to a lot. He was quite a figure of friendship. Was. But not, for now. I was walking behind him because I had to depend on him for transport. And two other of his friends were trailing behind.

Friend A: Hey, Kenneth*, is this your friend? (pointing at me)
Friend B: Yeah. Why don't you want to introduce him to us?
Jon: (quiet)
Kenneth: Err.. He is not my friend. He's my ex-church mate.
Friend A: (silence)
Friend B: (silence)
[* name has been changed]

And he didn't even bother telling them my name. I was quite amazed at how CHC groomed their ushers. With arrogance. That was the best word. I mean, shouldn't ushers be humble, accepting? Not that I was blown apart and totally saddened by this, I was just typically amazed at the distance he has covered throughout his three year stay at CHC. Great attitude, friend! Good for Pastor Kevin.

Perhaps God has something for me to learn. Perhaps God is speaking to me. Undeniably, I have to admit that the worship at Emerge was good not because the band was loud and some of the musicians played wrong notes (though I doubt any could hear that), and the music mixing was quite O-kay, but I tell you, it was the Malay song that touched my heart. And I just realized this: I am so far away from what God wants me to be.

I have to climb nearer,
I have to strive,
I have to stop trying but start desiring,
The destiny I was meant to hold and catch
Because without that, without God,
There'd be nothing else to hold on to
And life would be nothing but life's brief candle
And a silent melody never meant to be heard.
Blown apart, blow away, tear out
The life within me
I want to catch that fire and resurrect my broken heart.

My two cents, not condemnation.


~BeCkY~ said...

Hey, it's really alright if you belong to a small, unknown church. I belong to a small church too and people ask me which church I am from, I usually very proudly said, "New Life Restoration Centre, Cheras" even though they have no idea where it is.

Like you have told me last time, belongs to a small church have more opportunity to grow. It's saddening me when those members of the huge church can't really recognize each other. It's too big! Again, I am not trying to condemn them. Everything sure will have pros and cons one la.

Music, lights, atmosphere are undeniable play a major factor to catch those wandering youths but GOD is not looking at all that right, I am sure you agree. He is looking right into our heart.

Don't worry, all the churches, to the Almighty, is the same.

the bummer said...

Hello, I worship at GTPJ and I know where are you getting at. As we are called to be salt and light in the marketplace it seems that these days we are being salted and lighted by professionalism and technology. Not to say that they are bad or wat but it seems to be that way these days. Its great to have highly advance gadgets and techno-savvy church advertisements but what we are more concern is that churches these days are no longer a sanctuary where we come with our brokenness to seek God. Ppl are so attracted to the worldly stuffs in everything we do in church. As you've pointed out, will we continue to serve our Father when the music begins to fade? Will we remain strong when we face persecution? Will we continue to trust and have faith when we know that our trust and faith will lead us to trials and sufferings. Christians in Malaysia are still living comfortably, that is why unlike countries like China, we are yet to experience a sounding revival in our country. Anyway, great post!