Full Gospel Church Johor Bahru had its humble beginnings in a small shop along Jalan Ibrahim in downtown Johor Bahru. Chin Lin Dispensary and Optical Shop was the venue for a weekly Bible study and prayer group, faithfully hosted by Mr. Cheng Kai Ho on a weekly basis.
A Christian himself, he saw the need to share the Good News to the people around him. He drove his group of fellow Christians to Singapore to attend the morning service at a Church there every Sunday and meet up at night to break bread.
It was 15th May 1955 when the humble gathering in a shop became a Church. Mr. Cheng rented the second level of a shop along Jalan Ah Fook for the sole purpose of hosting Bible studies and prayer meetings there. As a small group of five men came together to pray, the Church was born on that fateful day without fanfare nor ceremony. Only a signboard hung at the entrance to the Church that simply stated “Come hear the Good News” in Mandarin.
In 1963, the Church experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit much like how the disciples of Jesus experienced recorded in the book of Acts. There was a great outpouring of the blessings of the Holy Spirit, as the Church began to pray in tongues and experienced many gifts.The church became the first charismatic Church in Johor Bahru and was renamed as Church of Johor Bahru.
No one from the early days of the Church had the foresight or knew even an inkling of God’s plan for them, but they were able to attest to a startling prophesy. As the faithful few gathered one day for yet another weekly service, just like the many others that preceded it, they had no idea what was in store for them that day. As the people were enjoying their worship session, a man came up to the floor they were in, and with a loud voice proclaimed, “This Church shall be the biggest in Johor Bahru!” Everyone was stunned by his incredulous prophecy.
The unexpected man was Richard Martin, the pastor of Calvary Charismatic Centre held at the nearby Tropical Inn. While he walking pass the shop he received the word of God and decided to dispense it right there and then, leaving the speechless congregation as abruptly as his arrival, as he disappeared into the busyness of the streets below. No one knew who the man was then, and neither could they fathom the meaning of those words uttered loudly just seconds ago. But it heralded the many miracles that came to pass.
The fledging Church grew in size albeit slowly as men and women started to join the Church. Young children who came with their parents in 1950s were now teenagers in the late 1960s. Amongst them were John Khoo, Albert Cheng, Khoo Lay King, and new members like Shirley Yap, George Ong and Michael Khoo, who soon became rising talents who caught Mr. Cheng’s burning vision to bring the Good News to the people.
The Church at that time was already bustling with activity. There were Bible studies and prayer meetings on Wednesdays, a youth service on Fridays, and the usual Sunday services when everyone came together to worship the Lord. The services were simple, with only a maraca, a tambourine and a leg-pedaled organ to provide some music. There was no worship leader. The congregation just called out particular hymns to sing as inspired. The congregation by 1969 swelled to a number of 40.
A small rented second floor of a shop was bound to be insufficient for the growing church to be held in. Coupled with the lack of a formal lease agreement, the Church had to look for a place to call home. A single storey house in Taman Melodies was purchased at a cost of RM66,000 as a future home for the Church, of which was to be demolished and rebuilt into a two-storey Church building. But a land the size of 4500 square feet would still be too small for a growing congregation of 60 in the 1970s. The quest to look for a permanent place for the Church continued.
The Church applied and was approved as a registered society in Malaysia in 7th September 1981, bearing the name Full Gospel Church Johor Bahru. The Church was growing even bigger and the present location at The Melodies House was still too small to hold her.
On the 25th October 1981, the Church moved to a three-level shop at the corner of Jalan Perang in Taman Pelangi. The house in Taman Melodies was not forgotten, as it was soon converted into a kindergarten operated by the Church. The house continued to serve as the premise of the Melodies Children’s Hour on Saturday when more than 100 children came to worship and learn more about God.
The increasing number of teenagers joining the Church prompted the creation of the Teenagers’ Fellowship Ministry in 1980, and served to be the training grounds where future talents were nurtured.However, the three-level shop in Taman Pelangi could not contain the Church as she grew.
On New Year’s Day of 1985, the Church moved to a hall on the 4th level of the Lien Hoe Complex in Taman Sentosa.The Church experienced a new phase of spiritual revival and excitement. There was an urgent call to preach the gospel. There were prayer meetings at dawn, overnight prayer meetings, Bible study seminars, praise and worship festivals, revival meetings and healing rallies as well. The total number of members of the Church rose to 300.
The existing Home Fellowship ministry also gave way to the retooled Care Groups ministry to revitalise the growth of cell groups of the Church. A separate English service was created in 1991 to accommodate the increasing number of members who could only understand English.But alas, the Church had to be on the move again when the landlord at Lien Hoe Complex did not renew the lease to the Church.
Once again Full Gospel Church Johor Bahru had no home. The Church had no choice but rent the indoor badminton court at Majodi Centre at Taman Plentong to hold her Sunday services.
The church also rented the upper level of a shop in Taman Johor Jaya for her English services and purchased three lots of shops along Jalan Bakawali in Johor Jaya to house the Church office with the top floors as the location for the Teenagers’ Fellowship, Powerkids Church and the English Service later.
Yet, the search for a permanent place to build the Church continued throughout these nomadic times. That parcel of land was finally found in Taman Johor Jaya. It was measured a spacious 16.58 acres, but the township was hugely underdeveloped. It sat in a low-lying rubber plantation that was being overwhelmed by secondary forest and undergrowth. A river ran through a great part of the land.
On the day of the visit by the ‘scouts’ of some adventurous male Church members, there was a strange familiar feeling among them. They felt that they were like the twelve spies who were sent by Moses to spy on the land of Canaan during Israel’s wander across the wilderness! On the day of the visit, they saw a honeycomb and a river running with milky water. The ‘scouts’ realised that this parcel of land was their land of milk and honey!
There were questions of whether the land was feasible for the Church to be on. What use can there be for a church right smack in the middle of a jungle? But yet the congregation, inspired by their desire for their Church to settle down, forged ahead to claim the land as their own. In the subsequent auction, Full Gospel Church Johor Bahru outbid a local estate developer by RM5,000 on 15th September 1987. The price of the land was RM405,000.
The Church came together to raise the money. The people gave all they could afford, even old notes, coins, gold items, watches and cheques. With nothing short of a miracle, the sum was paid in full by a congregation of less than 400! The land was subsequently approved by the government to be converted into a religious land in 24th October 1990.
The Church submitted her proposed building plan on 16th May 1991. The plan to build a building to house the Church was on track!Such a feat was tremendous for a Church without a land to call her own. But such joy was short-lived as Full Gospel Church Johor Bahru soon reached rough waters. Mr. Cheng Kai Ho, the beloved founder of Full Gospel Church Johor Bahru, passed away on 13th February 1996 after a brief period of sickness. The Church mourned for the loss of their faithful leader.
The wait for the approval of the building plan by the government was excruciating. The grant finally came on 26 February 1994, but it was for a much smaller building than proposed in the building plan. The leaders, in trepidation, had to decide either to accept the mandated plan or to appeal. The leaders prayed earnestly and decided to submit an appeal on 27th May 1994. They could only pray and wait.
On the 27th February 1996, a letter came from the government. The leaders opened the letter quietly and slowly with contradictory feelings of nervousness and anticipation. Only whoops of joy could be heard in the Church office in Jalan Bakawali that day when the letter was read out, as it stated the approval for a much larger Church building of 15,000 square feet! Tears of thanksgiving flowed freely on the faces of those who waited for close to five years for this day of triumph.
The ground-breaking ceremony was held on 6th June 1996, with the whole Church witness to the tangible providence of God. By then in 1996, the surrounding forest had turned into vast estates of houses. The extraordinary plans of God convinced those who earlier thought that the Church might only get to reach out to indigenous wildlife that His thoughts are definitely higher than ours.
But soon after, there were oppositions from certain quarters pouring in against the construction of the Church there. The Church once again hit another wall again. Helpless against the sudden turn of events, the Church got down on her knees to pray. And waited in worry for an official demand to stop work.But none came. The opposition soon ceased and the busy construction site continued to be heard for more than a year.
Voices of the opposition were not the only concern of the Church. The construction of a building required materials, manpower and expertise. Such things required a lot of money. It was estimated that a huge budget of RM6,000,000 will be needed. What a huge sum! By God’s grace, through a fellow member, Janet Chan, the Church managed to convince Public Bank to grant a loan and an overdraft facility amounting to RM2,000,000 by using the land as collateral.How was the Church going to come up with a remaining sum of RM4,000,000 to build the building? Pure faith and hard work.
It was the passion of the Church, inherited from Mr. Cheng Kai Ho, which inspired the Church to give like never before. The congregation, young and old, handed in their piggy banks, items of gold, cash withdrawn from their fixed deposit accounts, entire salaries of jobs and odd-ended jobs alike, and even IOUs written in faith to pay a certain sum monthly. One even sold his house and gave the net proceeds to the Building Fund.Soh Lian Kiat, a civil engineer, resigned from his position in the Singapore government to become the overseer of the construction of the Church after completing his project of building the Second Terminal at Changi Airport in Singapore. Without missing a beat when asked about his decision, Lian Kiat said, “In my lifetime, this will be my one and only chance to build the house of God. How can I miss it?” The people fasted and prayed. Obstacles after obstacles were overcome with the congregation stepped in to help. The pastors became construction managers, interior designers and landscaping designers. The teenagers eagerly helped to move the new chairs into the new Church.
Finally, the Church was completed and the Certificate of Fitness was issued by the government on the 13th February 1998 to approve the use of the building.At long last, after spending 43 years in the wilderness drifting from one place to another, Full Gospel Church has a home of her own. Full Gospel Church Johor Bahru thus had her first worship service on the 8th March 1998 at Jalan Anggerik. With hearts filled with deep gratitude and eyes brimming with joyful tears, the Church dedicated the new house of worship to God.
To date, the Church has grown from 5 men to 2500 members, and from the second level of of a shop in Jalan Ah Fook less than a 1,000 square feet to a Church building of 15,000 square feet.All loans from the Bank and from the members of the congregation were paid off by 2000 and 2004 respectively, a testament of the faithfulness of the Lord.
The Church now has 19 services, more than 50 cell groups, at least 1500 volunteers serving in more than 20 ministries. 8 new churches have been planted all over Malaysia to serve their local congregation. A great number of mission trips have been made to a multitude of countries to share the Good News, from Borneo, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, China, and even inland with the indigenous Malaysians in their villages. All serving the Lord with one united vision: to share the Good News.
Full Gospel Church has actively participated in numerous events for the community and provided invaluable service to both members and people from all walks of life. There is a play group for parents with young children to spend time together. There is a school for children with special needs. There is group that reaches out to families which had recently lost a parent.
Has the trek ended for Full Gospel Church Johor Bahru?No. It has only just begun.