Years went by. High school has finished, and my university study was almost over.
Ever since I stopped attending church, I have no further exposure to Christianity. No one evangelize to me. The thoughts of Christianity never cross my mind. I maintained the same dislike of religion as before.
Then came September 1996 and the Evangelical Free Church (EFC).
Sometime during that September I, as well as my sister, was invited to attend the English service of the Evangelical Free Church (EFC) at Lindfield by aunt Sally and uncle Dennis and my cousin Ian. Taking up the invitation to go to Church turn out to be the first step in my eventual commitment to God.
Before this September, there have been few other occasions (though not many) where I have been invited to church. Until that time I have rejected all such invitations. So why did I choose to attend church that September? The precise reasons why I chose to go to church that September still elude me now. I can only speculate that partly it was because of the invitation, partly it was to keep my mum happy at that time due to some “problem” in the family, and partly it just “felt like a good time to “check the place out”. Perhaps I was also looking for a good laugh listening to the religious type talking about something that is so unbelievable!
One thing that is clear is that I never intend to stay at the church for long. In fact, I have no real intention of going back even the following week. I just want to go there once to please those inviting me and to get them off my back. But strange thing happen: I ended up going back the following week, the next week after than, continuing onto next months and next years, and I am still attending!
Although it is not clear why I keep going to church despite my original intention, but I suspect the positive feeling I get when I attend EFC has a lot to do with my decision to keep attending. It is the warmth, loving and genuine atmosphere that is so addictive and inviting. I felt so comfortable being there. I felt welcome rather than isolated. The first time I went there I was totally overwhelmed by the joy, enthusiasm, and friendliness of the people.
This positive and welcoming feeling is a stark contrast to my previous church going experience mentioned above. It is not that the church that I went to in the past is hostile or that the people there are unfriendly. As mentioned above, my dislike of Christianity and my anti-social self may have something to do with it. Anyhow, the point I wish to make is that the “feeling” that I have is very different between EFC and the old church. Perhaps, it is only now that the time is right; in the past perhaps I was simply just not ready.
Many things happen quickly from then on. These all lead towards my eventual conversion.
I stated attending the Sunday English church service on a regular basis. At that stage, the sermons still do not really sink in. I continue to listen and evaluate the sermons against my fundamental dislike of religion. The sermons are however more appealing then the ones I have heard before. The youthful pastor, Elvin Hong, contributed to this. The style is more lively, energetic, with a few occasional humors.
On the first very first day that I attended the English service, I also met Steven Yip. He came across to me to be a person who is very friendly and considerate, the sort that I felt comfortable to talk and relate to. Meeting him turned out to be quite interesting as it is through Steven that I first came to the Elijah Fellowship. Cannot recall when he first invited me to the fellowship cell group meeting; it was either during the first time we met or very soon thereafter that he invited me to the Elijah Fellowship. The Elijah Fellowship is a fellowship for young working adults of the Chinese congregation of EFC.
Thinking back it is also rather strange that I agreed to attend their cell group meeting. I have no idea why I would choose to do something like that! Anyway, attending the cell group I did. And I have been involved with the Elijah Fellowship ever since. Considering that I attended the English service, the fact that I met someone, like Steven, who invited me to the Chinese fellowship is yet another of those amazing development that strike me as perhaps more than mere coincidence.
I am not what you call an extrovert. Mixing with people has never been my strong qualities. Yet I find it comfortable fitting in with the people at the Elijah Fellowship in the sense that I felt accepted as a person. Over time new friendship developed, and I certainly had many fun and enjoyable moment.
Apart from the fun and mere friendship dimension, the exposure to Christianity have also been most helpful in furthering my understanding. Throughout these earlier stage in the fellowship, I was still searching and I had my doubts about Christianity. But the sharing and bible studies during the Cell Groups I have gained additional insights, not just about the biblical knowledge but about the Christian’s way of life, both the positives as well as the struggles faced by Christians. This latter aspect is particularly important as I get to experience and observe first hand what it means to be a Christian.
Simultaneously, on another front, I also started doing a number of introductory bible study with Adrian Wong. Adrian another very faithful Christian at the English congregation who is more than eager to evangelize about the Word of God. These studies whilst do not convince me outright and did not eliminate my doubts, but they have no doubt provided me with a good fundamental understanding of what Christianity is all about. They provide me with something to begin my thinking.
I have mentioned here a number of people whom I have encountered during this journey of mine. These are by no mean all the people thathave assisted me. There were also countless number of people at EFC who have given me numerous encouragements along the way. Directly or indirectly, these people all help.
Evangelism is inborn obligation of Christians. The motivation to spread the good news at EFC is also particularly strong. Being a non-Christian at the then smallish English service, I thus became a natural target.
Many have attempted to convert me. Notably is Adrian, as mentioned above, who have spent lots of time going through various studies with me.
Admittedly, with me being the attention of many Christians who attempted to convert me, there is some peer pressure at work. Peer pressure is not used in a derogatory manner to suggest that the force or pressure on me has been excessive. Rather, it is to describe the social force that induces me to accept the belief of the majority (ie. the Christians) just to “get them off my back”. As I am by nature very resilient to peer pressure, no one managed to persuade me to convert me at this stage. Indeed, the tendency is that the more forceful someone push me, and more I resist their view.
Anyhow, gradually my attitude changed from: “I don’t believe” to “I’ve some doubts” to “I’m interested in finding out more”. At this stage, whilst I am interested to finding out more, there are still many hurdles I need to overcome. (My hurdles are elaborated upon further below.)
I am not the sort that can decide to believe based on a simple emotional response. At this point in time (towards end of 1996), I felt that it is only fair that I look into the matter seriously before deciding whether to believe or not. To believe on blind faith alone is too naive and insufficient for me; and to reject it without investigating the matter objectively and seriously is equally unacceptable.
Either way, this is a very serious decision – more serious and significant than any other decision that I have my or perhaps ever will make. I realize then that if, for some reason, Christianity is the truth and the Christian God/ Jesus is real, then the consequence is very severe. I realize this is a very important decision: one of the biggest in my life. It thus deserve all the considerations that I can give to it.
Consequently, I have begun my journey of investigation.
Perhaps as a legacy of my legal training in university, I maintain an objective and balanced approach towards the sermons and its subject matters. In other words, I am willing to give Christianity the benefit of the doubt and is prepare to fully (to the extent possible/ practical) considers the evidence before I make up my mind concerning my belief.