Global Day Of Prayer 2006 and Unity

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I went to the Global Day Of Prayer (GDOP) 2006 meeting at the National Stadium tonight. It’s been a long time since I’ve attended one of these nationwide Christian meetings where Christians from different Churches in Singapore gather together. I recall attending many years of what used to be annual “Day To Change Our World” gatherings at the Singapore Indoor Stadium – held a day before Singapore’s National Day each August, if I recall correctly. I thoroughly enjoyed those times: being in the cozy 10,000 seater indoor stadium packed with Christians from all over Singapore, worshipping and praying for our nation…etc. Haven’t done all this for years! Tonight, I was with about 20,000-30,000 other Christians.

I love gathering with all Christians from different Churches because it reminds me we’re all Christians and united in Christ. Indeed, such times are rare – when divisions within the Church ceases for at least a moment and unity in Christ is glimpsed. How I wish there were more of these times! How I wish less of the times when pastors speak out against other pastors and churches against other churches…when power-plays within churches and between churches become so obvious…when leaders of churches preach and act as though their church is the only true church of God or their interpretation of Scripture the only valid one.

Therefore, tonight’s meeting was pretty good. Aside from the fact that not that much time was spent on prayer (I’ve learnt through my years as a Christian never to expect much prayer done when attending a prayer meeting), everything else went on well. There was a time during the service when two well-known pastors (one representing charismatic evangelicals and the other non-charismatic evangelicals) repented for how each side treated the other. Then they washed each others’ feet. I thought that was a positive moment.

I commented to a friend that I hope next year Pastor Kong Hee of City Harvest Church and Pastor Joseph Prince of New Creation Church would do exactly the same thing on stage! For those in the know, though both churches are charismatic, both also teach stuff that are in many ways poles apart from the other. New Creation is strong in the “grace” message. City Harvest, on the other hand, sometimes go the opposite extreme and has often been very critical of the teachings of New Creation. I’ve written a bit about both churches here. Such divisions make me sick. It makes me embarrassed to be called a Christian. Why can’t we all just get along? If only we were all united in our cause and purpose. Then the Church of Christ would be so much stronger…

(Ahh yes…there’s ego, there’s pride, there’s the desire for power and fame. We’re still all sinners and so, yes, it’s all understandable. I myself am no saint! But ahh…still…can’t we just all get along?…)

Anyway, in response to my comment, my friend then added the name of Timothy Tow, one of the leading Bible Presbyterians in Singapore. The Bible Presbyterian denomination is, of course, a fundamentalistic denomination – and proudly so. Many years ago, I invited him to attend with me a Far Eastern Bible College course on “Calvin’s Institutes” which was taught by Mr. Tow. What we got instead was a lot of attacks on Charismatic Christianity!

My thoughts on fundamentalism – that’s for another day. It’s saddening enough to see two of the most influential charismatic leaders in Singapore at odds with each other. Really, let’s not bring a fundamentalist into the picture…

I hope there will be more GDOPs to come. I hope more and more churches would be involved. City Harvest had their Emerge Conference and so their members didn’t go. Let’s hope in future their conference won’t clash with the GDOP but they would make an effort to be part of this great gathering. And I hope the same for New Creation. Both are huge churches and I hope they don’t become too exclusive – thinking they can just do their own thing and not need to join together with other Christians from other churches in Singapore.

I also hope more conservative Churches would get involved. I’ve noticed a difference between this year’s GDOP meeting and previous “Day To Change Our World” gatherings. There has definitely been a conscious effort to make the GDOP meeting more welcoming to non-charismatic Churches. You can tell by the fact that there were hymns sung during worship and that no pastor prayed in tongues – something that would offend many non-charismatics.

[I used to hate it when tongues was used out loud (from the pulpit and the audience) during the “Day To Change Our World” meetings. Not because I am against the use of tongues. I pray in tongues everyday. However, I know non-charismatic Christians would not be comfortable with it. And for me, that’s a good enough reason to cease using tongues in front of them. There’s no need to offend others. If we want Christians from different churches and traditions who hold to different interpretatoins of Scripture to unite, then let’s unite on the essentials. Don’t play up any non-essential doctrine to the extent of offending other Christians. There’s really no need for that.]

May God use the GDOP in future to bring more Christians together all over the world. Though I do think that the only thing that’s going to draw together extreme fundamentalistic Christians and extreme charismatics is intense persecution. Only then would we draw together in unity against the common enemy…

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