Faith

“The danger of familiarity is losing intimacy”: Isaac Ong at X3 Creative Conference

by Joanne Kwok // November 4, 2019, 4:42 pm

X3 Conference

All photos courtesy of X3 Creative Conference

“I once had a girl come into a service where I was preaching with her bolster,” Isaac Ong shared at the X3 Creative Conference last Saturday, to a burst of laughter from across the room. “She said it was just more comfortable that way.”

The 31-year-old leader of the FOPx youth movement stared at the audience with eyes wide open for effect. To him, that’s what familiarity could look like after years of being a Christian and going to church, or just familiarity with a person.

“But what familiarity can sometimes breed is indifference,” he continued. “We think that church is four songs, a word, and an altar call – so we key that in, week after week, and wonder why we don’t feel God.

“We think we know the drill. But that’s not how God moves!”

God has a personality and a character, Ong explained. He is doing a new thing all the time, but if we don’t spend time close to Him and hearing from His heart, we lapse into a dangerous familiarity – thinking we know it all already.

“The Lord is not looking for familiarity,” he said. “He is looking for intimacy.” And the place of intimacy is our secret space with Him, where we catch His dreams and fire for His mission.

“The Lord is not about encounters. The Lord is about relationships.”

And in this secret place, as we grow closer to Him, we don’t become more indifferent or less excited – we actually come closer to the heart of the Gospel, which is to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). This is deep intimacy, no longer consumer Christianity.

“Young people think we know all things and how to do all things. And we live from encounter to encounter – leaving one place if we don’t encounter Him to go to another church or another conference.

“But have we built our relationship with Him off good encounters, without really knowing Him?

“The Lord is not about encounters. The Lord is about relationships.”

In our familiarity with church programmes and conference highs, we cannot neglect the heart of God, Ong urged, referencing Revelation 3:20. “God is standing at the door knocking, and here we are getting excited, singing and writing songs about that feeling, that encounter – but do we even let Him in?

“Do we just like that encounter of Him showing up, calling out to us from outside that door, but not love who He is enough to open the door?”

He wants to come in and dine with us, he added. He wants intimacy and communion. Come closer.

“Do we just like that encounter of Him showing up, but not love who He is enough to open the door?”

“Over-familiarity with our faith can look like ‘I have to do this because it’s what we do, because everyone else is doing it’ – familiarity might cause us to sit back, but intimacy in a relationship keeps things fresh, keeps things passionate, keeps us going and sitting at the edge of our seats.

“Intimacy with God is what will cause us to desire to go where He’s going, to obey and honour Him, to carry the dreams of His heart.”

It’s not noble to have a dream, Ong said solemnly to the crowd of creatives. Anyone can have a dream – but how many of us are willing to carry the dream of God’s heart?

That dream is found when we take the time to sit with Him faithfully in the secret place. “The Lord is calling us to stir and provoke the stagnant water of our hearts,” he concluded. “That you might come and seek intimacy with the Lord because He is worthy and we want to come find Him.”

FOPx Worship Night 2019: Celebrating in the heart of the city

“So guard your hearts, guard your intimacy with Christ. If you dare ask God what is the dream on His heart, He will show you.

“We are blessed to bless others, loved to love others. The endpoint is not me receiving something, that is just the starting point for me to go.”


Isaac serves the community with his social company Colours Global, is the youth director of Emmanuel AOG, and was a finalist on both Channel 5‘s The Final 1 and The Voice (SG/MY). He often speaks in various church circles and leads the FOPx worship team. The 2019 FOPx GO conference will be held on November 21-23, 2019 at Bethesda Cathedral. For more information or to register, visit their website.

THINK + TALK

  1. How would you rate your intimacy with God versus your familiarity with Him?
  2. What are some barricades that prevent you from fully opening your heart to Him?
  3. Do you have a secret place with God? What does it look like?
  4. How can we make consistent time for the secret place?
About the author

Joanne Kwok

Joanne is a bundle of creative energy commonly heard before she is seen. She believes in the triune power of good conversation, brilliant writing and bold ideas. She also likes milo.