img_18231I was surprised to see my church making headlines last Monday, March 10th, in the local tabloid, My Paper.

19 million in the kitty in less than 24 hours.

That was in reference to funds collected on the Sunday of 15th February for our building project at One-North. In the midst of so much bad news about the economy in recent months, that was certainly good news, or so we thought. I had wanted to write about it the week following the update by the church leadership. I thought it would be an encouragement to all, especially believers, that people can be joyful and willing givers in times of deep recession. However, I chickened out for fear that my church would be misunderstood and criticized by people who will not understand. I am usually weary of too much publicity about my church because I know of man’s tendency to criticize things that are counter-culture, especially when it comes to money and religion. And I was right. Critical, mean-spirited, judgmental response did come. Sigh……

It all started a few Sundays ago. Our church collected close to 19 million in one Sunday for its church building fund. The intention for the collection was announced to us only two weeks before. When the day came, we gladly opened our checkbooks, emptied out the ATM machines in the Suntec vicinity, and arrived in droves in response to what God had placed in our heart. We recorded our highest attendance that Sunday. Over 80% of the congregation gave. It goes to show that people came with the express purpose to give. We were in this whole-heartedly and with our eyes opened. There was no coercion or pressure from our pastor or the leadership in any way. The only thing that came close to giving this a little push was a couple of excellent, heart enlarging, soul liberating, poverty-mindedness dispelling and biblically supported sermons on God’s provision and His way of rising above a famine. (Gosh, that was a mouthful!). Pastor was addressing the current economic crisis; lifting the people’s spirit and vision to a place where the crisis cannot touch. One-North was mentioned a couple of times in those sermons but it was not the focus. If people wanted to call that coercion, pressure, or even fund-raising, so be it. As far as NCC-ers are concerned, it was a great opportunity and privilege to give. So fired up was I, and I believe many others too, that I made it my goal this year, to free up more money in order to support God’s work. I am not just talking about One -North here. I am talking about funding the work of fighting poverty, slavery, disaster relief and missions. I have started making a list of Christ-centered ministries that cater to these needs which I can support on a more regular basis. So you see, it did not produce a bunch of people who were just hyped up about a building, it produced people whose heart are into giving. If that offends people, so be it.

We were told that giving towards One-North might not be the call for everybody and we should each hear God for ourselves and give according to what God has directed in our heart. There was no guilt-inducing tone in the sermons and no threats of God’s wrath and curses if we fail to give. For heaven’s sakes, we are a church that preaches grace! Threats and guilt-trips are not our way of doing things. Pastor whole-heartedly believes that if One-North is really of God, then God himself will convince the people’s heart to give. We were not there just to support our pastor and his 280-million-dollar vision, we were there to sow into God’s kingdom through a building project that we believe not only makes practical logistic and sound financial sense but also one that will see many souls saved and lives changed. You can find some of these testimonies hereOne-North is a commercial building. It is not fair to draw judgments by comparing it to a church building. I could go on and on but I won’t. I don’t expect people outside NCC to understand our position. For those who are genuinely interested to understand the rational behind this mega-project, may I direct you to this blog instead. I have personally read it and am fully in agreement with the response to every point raised.

I heard this story while watching Charlie Wilson’s War a few days ago. It’s the story of a Zen master who observes the people of his village celebrating a young boy’s new horse as a wonderful gift. “We’ll see,” the Zen master says. When the boy falls off the horse and breaks a leg, everyone says the horse is a curse. “We’ll see,” says the master. Then war breaks out, the boy cannot be conscripted because of his injury, and everyone now says the horse was a fortunate gift. “We’ll see,” the master says again.

Is One-North really God’s directive for NCC? Maybe or maybe not. All we know is that, right now, we believe it is God’s word for us.



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