By Adeline Lum, Christianity Malaysia
The New Covenant Church (tNCC) celebrated its 4th anniversary with over 700 growing church members.
After a great time of worship, chairman of the celebration Vincent Yap kicked started the event with vivacious gymnast Georgia, followed by a choir performance by the Chinese Church, dance performances by the Tamil Church and the ‘Little Angels’, and finally, a picture memorabilia of the members in tNCC.
Pr Peter Sze, founder of tNCC, shared about the DNA of tNCC, which is living in one community as one body in Christ.
Visiting Kyoto’s Arashiyama bamboo forest, Pr Peter was inspired to research on bamboos. For the first four years, a Chinese bamboo tree has no visible growth until the fifth year, whereby it will grow at an astounding rate to their maximum height within a few months! In fact, bamboo trees are one of the fastest growing plants in the world.
How is the church like the bamboo tree? Like the bamboo that did not show visible changes or growth in the first few years, tNCC is building its roots into Jesus Christ so that it can build a strong foundation.
Worship team of tNCC
Gymnast Georgia Wong with chairman Vincent Yap
Pr Peter believed that the center of the church should be based on our individual relationship with Jesus Christ, instead of a mere assembly of people. He also believed in the fluidity of tNCC within a dynamic structure. Comparing tNCC to an organism instead of an organization, Pr Peter believed that the church should be relationship-based—welcoming and accepting all people without judgment—instead of the performance-based and selective culture of a corporate organization.
Also, like how an organism has ‘living’ structures, there are pockets of structure within the church that allowed room for revision and adaptability. And such has been the practice of tNCC, whose extension of grace invites its members to respond by grace as well. Since its inception in 2009, tNCC has never hired any full-time staff but all ministries were started and committed by a group of voluntary individuals.
Not only that, Pr Peter also shared a unique view about leadership, whereby it is a function, not a position. Leadership is a function we exercise in leading people towards a goal or purpose whether it is a home group or a ministry within the church. “Let things happen and today, so many people make things happen,” said Pr Peter.
Above all, Pr Peter states that a church is a community. Because God is plural in persons (Gen 1:26), He is by nature in community as well. And because men are made in His image, we are designed to be interconnected and interdependent. “God created in us some empty spots so other people can fill them up for us,” said Pr Peter. Besides other people, God invites us to be part of His community.
Choir by the Chinese Church
The congregation of tNCC gathering from the English, Chinese, and Tamil ministries
Hence, to find fulfillment and meaning in life, we must accurately reflect the image of God, which is community-like in nature. Only then, we can find our purpose in life. “It is not one super star, but the whole community in caring and loving one another, they will see the full glory of God and they want to be part of it,” said Pr Peter.
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34)
God is building a community (1 Peter 2:4-5)! When we come to Christ, we are transformed from being lifeless stones into living stones. And like a living organism, when we are alive in Christ, we will grow in His Grace in the spiritual house or church He has prepared for us.
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to Godthrough Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)
Besides that, God has also made us into holy priests in the new covenant. In the old covenant, only the Levite tribe can serve the temple at appointed seasons. But in the new covenant, we are called into holy priesthood at all times and at all places!
How did we become priests? Because Jesus Christ is our great High Priest (Heb 4:14-16), we became priests through Jesus as well. What does a priest do? In Latin, priest is called as pontifex, which also means building a bridge. Like how Jesus built a bridge between men and God, we become bridges as well in welcoming men into God’s Kingdom. And through Jesus Christ, our spiritual sacrifices become acceptable to our Father (1 Pet 2:5)
How do we know if a church is in a community of faith? Pr Peter shared five marks of community according to the book of Acts (Acts 2:42-47):
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)
The believers in Acts devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. What did Apostle Paul teach? He only preached on Christ and Christ crucified (1 Cor 2:2), which is the emphasis of tNCC as well. The believers also fellowship with one another, breaking bread, and pray.
Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. (Acts 2:43)
Like the believers in verse 43, the church in community is also filled with awe with God’s continual great work in the body of Christ. When we are full in God’s presence, we overflow with thanksgiving and gratitude.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. (Acts 2:44)
In verse 44, all the believers were together sharing and caring with one another. Pr Peter is thankful that the church did not need to organize programs to encourage people to come together because people would assemble out of love for each other.
…praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)
Also, the great thing about being in community is that we not only can praise God together, we also enjoy the favor of all people! Not only that, God would also add to the church people who are being saved. Nevertheless, Pr Peter shared that the goal of the church is not to simply increase the number of church members but to build a healthy church. This is because growth for the sake of growth without a healthy condition of the church is an ideology of cancer.
“If the church is secure in the foundation of Jesus Christ and draws only from Jesus, it will definitely grow as an organism. We don’t need to force-feed them to grow. So many people testify, as I rest in Jesus and trust Him, He blesses them,” said Peter.
The bamboo forest is a good example of a community-like healthy church. Having interlocking and interconnecting roots that run parallel underground, the bamboo trees hold each other up. Likewise, the church also grows like a bamboo forest.
“We hold one another up. Our roots hold one another up. We grow deep and wide. That is the regular, ongoing focus, mission, and passion of our church. That’s what church is all about, that’s what community is all about. There’s no giant tree growing up but all of us are bamboo trees, growing into our maximum potential,” said Pr Peter.
Ultimately, only the Lord can build the church and give it growth. People come to Christ not because of programs but by building and extending bridges of grace to them.
“Because we are building our lives on Jesus Christ, the future is glorious for us! We are destined for greatness and glory on earth. More glorious days are coming! More people becoming prosperous! More people made whole in church,” said Pr Peter to a congregation who responded with a loud ‘Amen.’ Indeed, Jesus is our chief cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6-8)!
The 4th anniversary of tNCC celebration was continued in the evening at Pr Peter Sze’s house with the baptism. Albeit the rain, everyone was visibly enjoying the fellowship, delicious food, and live worship! A church that enjoys the grace of Jesus Christ, tNCC wishes to extend this grace to everyone.
Baptism in the swimming pool
COMMENTARY BY WRITER:
tNCC is a church built on Jesus Christ, the personification of Grace in the cross. With an encouraging, flexible, and warm atmosphere, it is no wonder the congregation is growing dynamically in numbers as well. Not to mention, it also has an upbeat young adult fellowship meeting every Wednesday. A church that is opened to voluntary leadership and fresh ways in doing things according to the Holy Spirit, tNCC exudes acceptance of every person in love.