We continue our study of the Asian Awakening under Dr. John Sung. This time, we have an abridgement of Rev. Timothy Tow’s impression of the man.

A note of caution – soon after John Sung, there arose many enthusiasts that sought to copy his mannerisms and style. However, such methods failed because they were man-generated rather than from God. Such charlatan movements are no different from the pseudo-revivalisms that we see in America. On the other hand, as seen in the last weekly, the Asian Awakening was from God, using a man who was wholly devoted to Christ and His Word.

If we want true revival today, it is not by mimicking every word and action of John Sung. What we must emulate is His sincere love for Christ which is rooted in the truth of the Scriptures. As we have learnt from the recent annual church camp, true revival only comes if we sincerely con-fess our sins, and turn to Christ for salvation and power to live a holy life.

“I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.” (Ps. 85:8)

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew



(An Abridgement of pp.32-36 of Asian Awakening by Timothy Tow)

How shall I best describe this man of God further? Let me recount what has indelibly been imprinted in my soul when I went to hear him in Singapore at the age of fifteen.

He was a most unusual man. Attired in a white Chinese gown with a shock of uncombed hair flapping his big forehead, his demeanour was earnest and serene before and after the sermon. Owing to much speaking, at three sermons a day lasting two hours each, his voice was hoarse, but rich with earnestness and appeal. Like Billy Sunday, he would move freely on the pulpit, sometimes springing surprises on his hearers. For example, in a sermon on the Feeding of the Five Thousand, he produced out of nowhere a French loaf. As he spoke on the Bread of Life he would peel it off piece by piece and throw the pieces into a sea of open mouths. This was one way he drew the attention of the hearers.

The breakthrough in his ministry came at Nanchang, China where he spoke in William E. Schubert’s Church. As he realised what the Chinese Church needed was a thorough repentance and new birth, he fearlessly lashed out on the sins of the people, naming them one by one. On the other hand, as seen in the last weekly, the Asian Awakening was from God, using a man who was wholly devoted to Christ and His Word. From a miniature Chinese coffin he pulled out slips of paper naming every sin from A to Z. His remedy was none other than the precious blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit to cause them to be born anew. On our part we must humble ourselves before Him and confess to Him our sins. In the process of confession, led by the doctor himself without any counsellor’s crutch, many, including myself, wept bitterly for our sins. We knew, and were sure our sins were forgiven. When we were thus gloriously saved, praises and prayer went up spontaneously from our hearts and lips aloud, and with one accord, as in the days of the Acts of the Apostles. The deep joy in our conversion experience is reflected in Spurgeon’s Autobiography: “When my burden rolled down from off my back it was a very real pardon. And when that day I said ‘Jesus is mine’, it was a real possession of Christ to me. And when I went up to the sanctuary in that early dawn of youthful piety, every song was really a psalm…”

Hitherto, the Church was so dead that very few owned Bibles. Once born again, there was the desire for the sincere milk of the Word. I, who owned no Bible before, bought three Bibles for myself – an English Bible, a Chinese Bible and a bilingual New Testament. The Bible Society’s stock of Chinese and English Bibles was sold out in a week. New stocks had to be rushed from Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.

John Sung was ever confident of a big catch of souls every time he preached. He preached for decision, which was helped by his moving appeal to receive Christ openly. After we were delivered, we were challenged to join the Preaching Bands, covenanting with God to go out at least once a week, most appropriately on the Lord’s Day afternoon, to witness for Christ. The Preaching Bands truly became the hands and feet of the Church. Many souls were brought into the kingdom through a new wave of witnessing. Soon after my Mother’s death, not a few old ladies in the Church would testify how they were brought to Christ in the days of the John Sung Revival by her witnessing. After the Singapore Pentecost, every church registered a signal increase in baptisms.

Edward Band, in “The History of the English Presbyterian Mission, 1847 — 1947”, reports on John Sung as follows: “In 1935 the Chinese evangelist, John Sung, paid visits to Singapore. The result was a real revival of spiritual life and a new desire for Bible study. Many of the ordinary Church members engaged actively in voluntary evangelistic work, organising themselves in small groups which went out to preach the Gospel. Attendance at Church service increased to such an extent that several congregations were faced with the necessity of erecting larger Church buildings. This evangelistic work brought new additions to the Church’s membership. The number of adult baptisms in 1936 were 160, as compared with 38, 72 and 58 for the preceding years… (These figures refer to the Chinese Presbyterian Church of 19 congregations whose total baptised adult membership in 1936 was 1,362).

Apart from the lay preachers, John Sung appealed for full-time consecrators. There were eighty-five old and young who gave their lives to the Lord, and I was one of them. These were urged to enter some Bible College for training.1 While the Preaching Bands were nurtured by monthly meetings, we full-time consecrators were strengthened by meeting a second time in the month.

Many who had problems and restitutions to make met with the doctor once a day after the morning sermon. At such counselling sessions conducted by the doctor himself, feuding elders and deacons made up with each other. Sums of money stolen before were returned to the Lord. Mr. Gan, a man with three wives, repented together with them. He settled with his second and third wives to live apart, providing for their needs.
1 Anyone seeking to enter the full-time ministry of the Word (including those seeking to be missionaries) should first engage themselves in a whole-hearted study of the Scriptures in college. How will one be able to minister to the souls of men if one does not know God’s Word deeply and accurately? The souls of men are at stake. True missions involve the pure preaching of the gospel and instruction in the whole counsel of God. Save the soul, then the body.