I just came back from spending some time (21st to 24th March, 2011) with an awesome Church – Fahkram Church in Bangkok, Thailand. I first went there 23rd to 29th October 2010 with an Indian evangelist who was doing some crusades in the North of Thailand with the Church. I didn’t know anything about Fahkram Church or what to expect. I only knew the evangelist and wanted to follow him. In the end, I got to know the Church people well and made some very good friends there! I returned recently to speak with some good friends about some business opportunities.
Fahkram Church is such an amazing church community that I want to share more about them here and encourage those who visit Bangkok to visit the Church. If you’re in Bangkok, you can do so because they have services every night – at least from Monday to Saturday! On Sundays, the people are at the Church from the early morning till about mid-afternoon. The services I attended during my recent trip there started at 9pm and ended around 10:30pm! Here’s a picture of worship at 10pm on 22nd march 2011:
This is possible because probably about half or more of the Church (total number of probably 100+ people) actually live within the Church compound! And even many of those that don’t live within the Church compound live nearby (many moved from far away to live near the Church) and attend the nightly services every day.
Right now (today) the church is “on tour” in Chang Rai, the north of Thailand. They traveled about 10 hours to get to Chang Rai on Monday. Going “on tour” is when the whole Church (or most of them) travel to another location together for a few days – something like a mission trip within their country. They do this a few times a year. They go with their mini-trucks that carry the stage, musical and sound equipment, etc. Last October, we went for about 4 days to the town/village of Phayao on the mountains in the north of Thailand. The drive took us around 12 hours and we went in a mini-truck like this (one of about 40 mini-trucks owned by Fahkram Church members):
What does the Church do “on tour”? Last October, the following day after we arrived at Phayao, the church people unloaded the trucks and put the stage up in a school field:
During the day, Pastor Chairat (Fahkram Church’s pastor and visionary) preached and shared with other pastors who came to hear him.
The nights were evangelistic events where there would be musical and Thai-dancing performances (see below), worship and a message. The Church people pitched tents at night on the school field to sleep in them.
As I reflect upon this really unique Church, I think three things make this Church very special:
1) Community: I already mentioned that about 50 people or so live within the Church’s compound. And they have services every night. When they are not working, these people would be hanging around the Church and having fellowship with each other. They come together to pray at noon. And when they are not doing anything, you’ll see a lot of them just sitting around reading their Bibles (wow – what a culture!):
There’s actually a church member who cooks for the people every day – the members pay her for their meals. Here are some of them eating lunch together:
Going on tour is a big event and so they also spend time preparing for it during their free time. For example, the ladies would be practicing their dancing and some of them would be sewing and preparing the costumes. The guys would be preparing their music.
2) Prosperity: Probably the most distinctive message of Pastor Chairat and Fahkram Church is that God wants to bless His people. They believe God takes care of His children and wants to bless them in all ways – including financially. I believe they have a very similar view of God’s desire to bless His children and prosper them as say New Creation Church. Pastor Chairat’s wife and some members of Fahkram Church actually visited New Creation Church about 4 years ago and they have mentioned appreciation for his messages.
I’ve written a bit about prosperity on this blog. I believe in God’s desire to prosper His children. I believe in prosperity with a purpose and the fact that we’re blessed to be a blessing. Yet I also think that many in the Word of Faith movement and many “prosperity” advocates have given these truths a very bad name because of their excesses – Kenneth Hagin himself would agree with this – read The Midas Touch. In my opinion, Andrew Wommack is probably the best representative of this movement. He’s someone who’s lived in the same house for over 20 years and believes that prosperity is about how much of a blessing you are to others. I also think Pastor Joseph Prince and New Creation is more towards the moderate spectrum of this movement as compared to the typical prosperity preacher you see on TV.
But going back to Fahkram Church, I think what the Church has done is worthy of a deeper study. Many people say that teachings on prosperity is an invention of the rich Western world and it won’t work in the developing world. That’s why it’s interesting to see what Fahkram Church has achieved. The pastor preaches a message of hope, joy and prosperity. The God preached is not that of a strict father who is quick to punish his children the moment they get out of line. It’s not a message that glories in suffering as though being a Christian is all about suffering and sorrow or being poor. Rather, he preaches that God will bless and take care of His children. And believe it or not, many members have prospered under his ministry. I’ve heard how people have gone from debt to prospering richly and how those selling the food on motorcycles earn more than those outside of the Church who are doing similar things. Somehow, God’s favour is upon the Church and its members.
The pastor himself lives out his message. He helps his members to start their own businesses. For example, he’s made about 50 of these shops on motorcycles for his members to sell food (e.g. Pancakes) on the streets:
Many people who did not have a job before now do. Most of the people who live in the Church (who are not studying) go around selling food and other things like the above. They earn (profits) probably at least 20,000 Baht a month (about S$1,000). And they’ve prospered so much that about 40 members own one of those mini-trucks that cost about S$25,000 – they pay by installments over many years. One of the main reasons they buy those mini-trucks is to go “on tour” with the Church as those trucks are able to transport all their big equipment.
Pastor Chairat himself earns probably between S$5,000 and S$12,500 a month. This is possible because many of the members now have a job and are prospering themselves and thus can give to the Church. He’s not afraid to reveal his salary because he wants other Christians to know that God can and desires to bless them and he wants the world to know that God blesses His children. He doesn’t believe in being dependent on foreigners for money – his church is self-sufficient.
Because of all this, he and his church have been persecuted a lot, yet many churches have also been won over by his message and what is going on in his church.
However, he uses the money for the expenses of going “on tour” and for the Church. He’s definitely not prospering at the expense of his members or living “above” them in terms of the lifestyle of his family – they all live in the Church premises too.
3) Worship – Fahkram Church has one of the best worship bands I’ve ever heard. They are quite famous throughout Bangkok and Thailand for their music and performance/dancing. Their pastor has composed some famous Thai worship songs and they sing a lot of Hillsong – in both English and Thai:
Yet beyond the performance aspect of worship, there’s a real spirit of worship, freedom, joy and dancing during their worship. The pastor himself is a musician and plays the electric guitar and normally leads worship. The rest of the musicians are guys with an average age of probably around 25 years old.
Visiting Fahkram Church
If any of you visits Bangkok (they are actually located just outside Bangkok), do drop by Fahkram Church for a visit! Not many people speak English well there. But normally there would be at least two good English speakers at the Church every night. Let me know in advance and I’ll try and put you in touch with them.
I know many of them do desire to improve their English. They would even welcome people who would want to stay at their Church and perhaps teach them English. If anyone (especially Singaporean youth) are keen to visit them for a few months for the experience and to teach English to their members (and also to unbelievers, reaching out to them through free English classes), this could be arranged. Just drop me an email.
PS: I hope I have all the information above correct. This is based on talking to my friends there. However, a friend of mine is going to write a bit about the history of this Church and when she does this I’ll have it posted up!