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Awaken your heart to the sound of the generation

by Jonathan Cho | 8 November 2017, 6:23 PM

Something I often hear Alarice say when she shares her story, is that she never knew she could sing. She never thought she could lead the people of God into worship. Well, let me tell you: This girl can sing.

You might already know Alarice Hong as the unofficial face of Awaken Generation, the woman behind the worship mentorship school that sprung up almost out of nowhere in 2015. Today, they’ve had almost 190 students from over 45 different Churches come through the doors for training, shaping and mentoring.

I remember when I joined AG last year and my cohort attended our very first Convergence – a monthly gathering of all the different AG streams – where Alarice led us in worship. As I’d never heard her sing live, I was immediately struck by the power of her voice and the authority she carried when she declared her praises to God.

And that’s the spirit of AG itself, really – our gifts are nothing without the anointing that flows from a heart that’s connected to Heaven.

Sure, she’s got a quality voice, but it was as if Alarice carried a song inside her. I was listening to a song birthed from the overflow of her deep relationship with God. If you were there, you’d know the song was coming out of that wellspring.

When Alarice sings, you can hear her heart for Jesus and the nations. And it’s this heart she carries into AG’s curriculum and how the school – and its students – serves the body of Christ.

Alarice, a self-professed “rojak” Singaporean, spent most of her life growing up in seven different countries before relocating to Singapore in 2010. Her husband Calvin, who pioneered AG with her, is no different – he spent almost 20 years in New Zealand before moving to Singapore sometime in 2011 in response to God’s call on his life.

Despite their personal background, or what might seem as “loose ties” to the country in the eyes of man, it is abundantly clear that Alarice and Calvin have opened their hearts to God and the nation of Singapore, to carry His heart for His people and to serve Him in this place.

In fact, Alarice once shared this in an interview with Selah: “Ever since I was a little girl, the Lord had tied my heart to this nation; I remember listening to a few National Day songs and weeping.”

And at her tender age, she’d already started on her music journey in Australia, where her dad was based for work, having been talent-spotted by her teacher in school. Little did she know, but her voice and her unexplainable heart for a country she’d never stayed in would one day be divinely woven together.

It’s hard to imagine how a natural performer like Alarice could ever feel insecure or uncertain about her talents. Even before AG, she was already professionally writing and recording music as a singer-songwriter.

Yet, I learnt through our friendship over the years that she’s had her own journey in learning how to take ownership of her God-given gifts and wield them for His Kingdom purposes.

The struggle with self-consciousness and doubt, uncertainties and fears, the desire for affirmation and the joy of being championed by a godly community are just some aspects of her story of stepping into her destiny as a worship leader and musician. It is certainly one that many on the same path can identify with.

Alarice would tell you herself that she would not be who or where she is today had it not been for the precious individuals in her life who were faithful to identify and call out her gifts.

People seldom take active steps to affirm those who have a God-given gift for something, because they do it so well that one assumes they already knew they were gifted at it and didn’t need to be told again. Serving in ministry, I’ve often been left to wonder if I completed my assignment excellently or not, because there was simply no response – positive or otherwise – from the people I was serving with.

But Alarice and the AG team are different, they don’t make those kind of assumptions with the people they meet. It is both their culture of honour – a huge thing in AG – as well as Alarice’s heart to affirm and champion others.

One of my favourite memories in our songwriting class was when each of us presented the original songs we had written for a mid-year assignment. Though it took time, Alarice and Ian (our other songwriting mentor) made an intentional effort at the end of each presentation, to affirm every individual and pray over each of us.

I recall one moment in particular where Alarice stopped one of the students after his presentation and said: “Doesn’t he have a great voice, guys? You have a great voice. Now, say it, ‘I have a great voice!’

Alarice, Calvin, and the AG team never meet and mentor people for the sake of it. They’ve always been after something bigger than themselves. Thus it is not uncommon to hear words like “nations” or “generations” in their conversations.

The desire to disciple one generation for the sake of another yet unborn (Psalm 102:18) is so essential to the call of the school, that their syllabus includes a teaching titled “Thinking Generationally”. The heart and vision of this team is great, because they have caught of glimpse of the greatness of God’s own heart.

As John Piper puts it: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.”

Apart from the obvious work of running a school that cultivates a generation of true worshippers, Alarice and Calvin have also been intentional to involve AG in mission work throughout the year, fulfilling the missional call to disciple nations into becoming worshippers.

The couple believes that each nation carries an inimitable sound of worship – a heart cry unique to each people group – and they have set their hearts on unlocking every nation’s unique offering of praise to their King.

Your name, and Your renown, O God, is the desire of our hearts.” (Isa 26:8)

AG desires to empower the children of God in the ministry of worship so that true worshippers may better execute His will wherever He plants them. In this season, God has stirred them to steward their skills and resources towards unlocking the sound of worship in the heart of this nation.

From the simple prayer of: “God, we will disciple an entire generation in this nation with You – for You – if that is what is on Your heart for us”, God has worked through AG to touch so many lives.

It is all God. The hallelujahs raised by AG have indeed been multiplied by a simple act of laying down their five loaves and two fishes (John 6:1-14). By their example, I am compelled to look beyond myself, and allow God to use my life for His greater purposes.

AG are my family, because they truly live as children of God and the Kingdom. And in worship with them – I am constantly reminded that I must do the same.

AG’s latest single, “Hallelujah (For the Broken)”


Awaken Generation 2018 Applications are now open. Early bird applications close November 19, 2017. All applications close December 17, 2017. Their streams include: Vocals, Keys/Guitar, Bass, Songwriting and Dance.

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Where in the world are our young missionaries?

by Joey Lam | 21 February 2018, 10:12 PM

It’s becoming somewhat of a perennial question: How can we engage and mobilise millennials for missions, both within the Church and across cultures?

Here’s something my cell member said in one of our discussions about the millennial generation that stayed with me.

‘The highest dropout rate from church happens between the ages 17 to 19. It is the age of enlightenment for young adults. They have a new-found freedom. They realise they can do something else with their time rather than go to church.

“The church leadership keeps thinking that there is something wrong with the programmes they are running. They think their transitional initiatives aren’t good enough, or it’s just the ‘A’ Levels.

“But I have seen those who went to church through the ‘A’ Level period ultimately leave the church; and those who disappeared during the ‘A’ levels come back to church after their exams.

“So it isn’t exams, it isn’t transitions, it isn’t programmes.

“It is about the authenticity of our faith.”

I sat there chewing on his words.

I replied, “But I am heartened that the discourse within the Church body is happening. And the answers are starting to get passed around.”

I said that because I’ve seen with my own two eyes how the Holy Spirit has already started a unity movement across the larger Church in Singapore. He has been blowing us out of our silos, causing individual parts of the body of Christ to interact and work together.

During the GoForth Millennial Influencers Gathering on February 1, 2018, we had four individuals from diverse backgrounds come together to exchange and make sense of the “puzzle pieces” of insight they’d received over the years. I believe their revelations are more valuable than their titles.

In the words of panelist Claire Carter, a young lady who’s been organising mission trips to countries such as India before she was even 20: “The antidote to short-lived excitement is to get us millennials acquainted with the person of God, the exciting character of God, and His heart for His people.

“If we make missions about programmes, we will only see the power of the programmes – instead of the power of God.

“Missions are exciting because God is exciting. Young people need to see that the greatest thing they can be a part of is God’s exciting redemptive mission.”

Claire Carter, the youngest panelist and representative for her generation.

Jason Chua of Burning Hearts House of Prayer, the next youngest on the panel, had this to add: “The way we are raising leaders today is to run good programmes.

“But there is a lack of leaders today who have been raised to first know God and to seek Him. To cultivate a life with God that goes beyond just a Sunday or Saturday affair and is instead, a daily living. And the younger ones need someone older who can model that for them.

You can only reproduce who you are, and you can only reproduce something that you have.

“Because you can only reproduce who you are, and you can only reproduce something that you have. If we as their leaders don’t have that lifestyle, there is no way we can tell a young person to do it. They will never be convinced. They have to experience it with the people who are leading them.

“If we can model that, then young people will catch on the spirit of living that life. You don’t have to try to convince them or make them do missions.

“We need to create a greenhouse that emphasises values rather than methodology.”

Jason Chua of Burning Hearts House of Prayer shares his convictions.

He continued, “You want to engage millennials, you want to challenge them – but you should never lower the bar for them.

“One of the problems in churches today is that there is so much fear that the next generation is going to run away, so we lower the bar. That is dangerous.

“We have to model our faith to them, show them our faith is real. That the cause of missions is worthwhile.

“That is when they will give 10 years, 20 years or even their whole lives to missions.”

David Tan, director of Wycliffe Bible Translators (Singapore), shared a similar heart for young adults. “The key to engaging millennials is to build strong relationships with them. Then you will never have to tell them to “Go!” – instead you can say, “Let’s go!”.

David Tan, a seasoned missionary with a heart for millennials.

“It’s easier to go when there people are coming with me. We are all in this together. When you have a group of friends – the body of Christ – going with you, it’s not just easier – it’s more exciting.

Instead of telling young people to “Go!”, you should say, “Let’s go!”.

Dr Goh Wei Leong, co-founder of Healthserve and Singaporean of the Year 2018, had simple advice as well: “Sometimes the simple things are important, like coffee. Think coffee, conversations, Christ. I think with that, we build relationships first. Then we get the values in.”

Dr Goh Wei Leong, Singaporean of the Year with a simple love for coffee, conversations and Christ.

During the tea break, I went up to Jason Chua to appreciate him for his sharing. He simply replied, with a nod towards David and Dr Goh: “These are the real heroes.” I knew he was also referring to all who have walked the missions journey ahead of us younger ones.

Besides actively caring for migrant workers in Singapore through his work at Healthserve, Dr Goh also serves on the global team of advisers for Operation Mobilisation. He has been deeply involved in integral missions for years.

David Tan’s decade-long work in the mission field has included translating the Bible into a language that over 1 million people speak. And, by the way, he also has a PhD in Mathematics.

Observing this, it’s plain to see that what the Church can and must do with regards to missions in this day and age isn’t really mobilising just the younger ones – but the whole body of Christ, young and old. Everyone has valuable things to bring to the table.

After all, in Biblical terms, everyone alive during the same time was considered to be part of the same generation. And if we can figure out how to tap on the strengths of the two ends of this generation and bring them together, we will then be able to move forward powerfully.

It is not so much about not pouring new wine into old wineskins. It is about offering both old and new wine from the same cellar.


If you are interested, there will be another GoForth Millennial Influencers Gathering on March 1, 2018, at Bartley Christian Church’s café corner. Sign up here.

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Billy Graham dead at 99

by | 21 February 2018, 9:29 PM

Billy Graham – probably the most well-known and influential evangelist of the past century – has died at the age of 99, according to various news sources.

He died at his home in North Carolina, according to a family spokesman.

Estimates suggest he preached to hundreds of millions of people in his lifetime, including tens of thousands at Singapore’s old National Stadium in a multi-day rally in 1978.

Graham, known as “America’s Pastor”, was a familiar face on TV and a much-loved voice on radio broadcasts in America. He was also honoured for his part in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, alongside Rev Martin Luther King Jr.

/ edric@thir.st

Edric has spent a lifetime in mainstream and digital newsrooms, and has the waistline to prove it. He is a lapsed divemaster, a father to four and husband to one. Could use more sleep.

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Are you a part-time Christian?

by | 21 February 2018, 4:17 PM

I’m in the middle of a life transition, and the one question I keep getting is, “Are you going into full-time mission work?”

Well yes, I’m committing a fairly big portion of my life to YWAM. And I know what people mean when they ask me that, but still … What is full-time mission work exactly?

When we talk about full-time mission work, are we just referring to giants of the faith like missionaries, pastors and church workers?

I wonder, if there’s such a thing called full-time mission work, does that mean that there is part-time mission work? Part-time mission work must be for part-time Christians who only serve in ministry once a week, like cell group leaders – or that sweet old lady who plays the piano for the benediction on Sundays!

Just to be clear, I was trying my hand at satire back there.

But this is serious: Many of us have restricted our relationship with God to a weekly affair on Sundays, when He wants the other days too. Indeed, He wants your entire life! God is far too large to be reduced to a time-slot in a schedule that revolves around you – He wants your whole life to revolve around Him.

So this is the truth about our walk with God and our service to Him: Whether you’re holding a microphone or a mop – God wants to make your work count for the Kingdom.

Lay aside all your titles: You are first and foremost a child of God. So it is not the duty of “giants of faith” to preach the gospel. Every Christian must carry the mandate of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15).

We are all charged with the responsibility of evangelism. Ours is the missional life wherever we are.

Does that mean that we have to be constantly talking about Jesus with our colleagues?

Well, the simple answer is no. We must, however, be constantly communicating who Jesus is. And to be clear: That’s something everyone can and should do.

How? One way is by having a spirit of excellence. Martin Luther once said, “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”

So one way to shine our light as Christians (Matthew 5:16) is to produce fantastic work – so that others will see and glorify God in heaven. But there mustn’t be a speck of self-glorification, it’s all about Him.

Good Christian work isn’t about slapping a “Jesus” sticker onto the product. Good Christian work is going the extra mile, not cutting corners, working excellently – excellence which reflects the God you serve.


Another way is to imitate Christ (Matthew 5:48) wherever we are. To that end, there are many questions we could ask ourselves.

  • How can I show compassion to my sister?
  • How can I show mercy to my brother?
  • How can I show grace to the new intern?
  • How can I show humility to my boss?

These are a just a few questions to get your ball rolling. But they must be asked every day in our constant walk with God.

If I am the best Christian in Church on Sunday, but a wife-beater on Monday night – I’m a part-time Christian. If I’m a penitent sinner in my men’s group on Wednesday night, but see no issue in ogling girls on the train home – I’m a part-time Christian.

The last thing I want for you, after reading this article, is to walk away feeling condemned. What I desire is for you to go full-time. Yes, be a full-time Christian!

From the big things like your career, to the smaller things like what you’ll eat for dinner – involve God! Do it all unto His glory. He cares. The question is if we really believe that.

In Abraham’s time, whenever the Israelites presented a sacrifice to God, the animals sacrificed had to be perfect – no blemishes whatsoever. So when we present ourselves as living sacrifices to God in worship (Romans 12:1), we must strive for godly perfection in every area of our lives as we align ourselves to Him.

You are a missionary wherever God puts you. If God means everything to you, He will be in everything you do. Go and be a full-time Christian.

/ roytay@thir.st

Roy has a peculiar appreciation for subtle wordplay, an inexplorable passion for competitive sports, and an insatiable hunger for delicious food.

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Article list

Awaken your heart to the sound of the generation

Where in the world are our young missionaries?

Billy Graham dead at 99

Are you a part-time Christian?

Greater Love: Opening My Heart To Adoption

Greater Love: The One That Got Away