I am a Christian and I’ve attended City Harvest Church for two periods in my life for a total of 2 to 2.5 years.
I initially attended it with my folks. We enjoyed the sermon and the clear teachings of the pastor and his fellow leaders. But things went downhill one Sunday morning when a leader took to the stage to plug Ho Yeow Sun’s new album. The horrifying thing was how he chirpily used hard sell tactics to move the units.
We were asked to buy more than one copy and pass them to our friends. If one were to buy 6 copies or some absurd number, that would entitle one to a free poster or t-shirt (something along those lines). What was most upsetting at that time, was the fact that he was using the pulpit to push the sales of the pastor’s wife who was more interested in cutting pop albums than say attending church service. The posters from her new album were also plastered along the entrance and lobby of the building. There were no images of Jesus. No, instead, this singer’s face, the pastor’s wife, was all over the building. If that does not trigger alarm bells in the average church-goer, what will? That was the last week we attended CHC.
Kong Hee and Sun Ho – A celebrity culture
This leads me to ask this very important question. Who is worthy to be worshipped? Jesus? Or a man and his wife? Unfortunately, this question has not been addressed.
Twitter has been a flurry with ultra-supportive tweets from young members (and some older ones), proclaiming their undying loyalty for their pastor and his wife. Some say that they believe in the duo, know their hearts, believe in their cause and have already declared them innocent and faultless.
The Christian community, Christian leaders (within and outside of the church) and church members themselves should have questioned the culture of CHC – where the pastor and his wife have Fan Pages on Facebook, where their supporters, fans, devotees, express their undying love and support for the duo and what they do.
Any pastor, any leader of a church should know that this is not the right type of church culture and it should NOT be encouraged. This should NOT be advocated. Never mind what the pastor has done and his successes. No pastor should have a Facebook fan page. I find that absurd.
Didn’t the bible say that we should have no idols? And that we are to have only one God? Why do the church members till this day pledge their undying support for their pastor and his wife when clearly their loyalty and devotion should be channeled to serving God? Why are they fighting fire with fire? Why are they risking life and limb to support a man and his wife? Why are they not declaring their love for God instead? How has this man and his wife managed to mesmerise these youths to the point of delirious and blind support, such that Reverends from other churches have pinpointed the matter of blind support as an issue, a problem and yet these kids, CHC cell group leaders, etc, continue to obsessively tweet their love for the man and his wife?
I can have respect for a leader. I can praise him for his work, but ultimately all glory goes to God. I don’t see why I should dedicate myself to acting like his rabid fan for his good sermons and his community service. Instead, it would be way wiser to ask God for similar blessings and encourage everyone to learn from the areas in his life which he has excelled in being a good testimony for God but not necessarily put him on a pedestal that all begin to forget that he is only human.
If anything, men can fall, men are imperfect and only God is perfect. This is commonsensical, logical and of course biblical. So why the 100% Faith in a Man? CHC members should ask themselves why they feel so much love for Kong Hee and his wife. What is the source of this love? Does it come from a healthy place? CHC members must realise that Kong Hee, his wife and their team are mere mortals, mere men, and can fall. If they love their leaders, they should be bold, correct, rebuke if necessary.
The bible talks about how we are wise if we allow ourselves to BE CORRECTED (It’s so upsetting to hear that the church is standing by them in the recent statement they released – do they stand by misappropriation, corruption, white collar crime, does the church stand for dishonesty and siphoning of members’ contributions? Does the church not realise that the leaders could have made mistakes, could have possibly fallen?). They should be discerning and wise. A thinking individual who exercises the intellect that God has given him, is a wise man who is an asset to those around him.
Correction is not judgment, as the Bible says that we should correct, rebuke and be bold to those who are sinning. It is to be done in an act of caring for them in the hope that they will believe. That way we could contribute to the saving of a soul. If we don’t, we could be responsible for suppressing the truth which could mean eternal death instead of eternal life for that person. “James 5:20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
Jesus and the Apostles were very bold and rebuked and condemned evil. They even openly rebuked people in the church for doing evil, in order to strengthen the church. Rebuking a sinner, exposing corruption, correcting someone in love or disciplining ones children is not judging wrongfully. If so, Jesus and the Apostles who were our example to follow would have been in error. Source: truechristianity.com
To be an asset to any setting and situation we are in – we need to think critically. Decide when to accept, reject, ask, comply, argue, refuse, suggest and stand up for and against the actions of our fellow human beings. This applies to any context. Question your leaders. Your teacher, your boss at work, your colleagues, your most esteemed mentor, your gang leader, politicians, your prime minister, the United Nations panel, whoever they are, their ideas and actions are imperfect. No one but God is perfect. Full stop. With great power comes great responsibility – inserting this here for the young CHC members who might understand a quote from Spiderman. It is our job to make sure our leaders can do THEIR jobs well, efficiently, ethically.
The leaders of CHC may or may not be proven guilty. Nonetheless, they have crossed the lines of morality and ethics as church leaders, beacons of example, role models to their young congregation in the following ways:
1) Pressurising their members – students, youths especially – to purchase Sun Ho’s albums. These students get their allowance from their parents, most have yet to work a day in their lives. Why does CHC’s leaders find it reasonable and acceptable for their members’ parents to fork over money for Sun Ho’s music ambitions?
I’m sure a good portion of the money went to doing real charity work. But what about the portion that didn’t? Are we to close an eye to the siphoning of monies? God expects us to be good stewards of our money. This means that when we give, we must know where it will end up. So the hastag “mytrustisnotbreached” on Twitter just speaks of how misinformed their young members and leaders are, and how willing they are to continue to be duped if necessary. Members have tweeted that despite all of this, they would continue to give and give more.
The issue we non-members and Christians from other churches, have is why they would willingly contribute to the music career of their pastor and his wife. Why they would stamp their approval on doctoring books, creative accounting, falsifying documents and dealing only in cash to throw auditors and the authorities of their scent? Does it mean to say that your wholehearted support and love Kong Hee, his wife and their team stands for corruption, cooking the books and deception/dishonesty? Do you mean to say that your leaders couldn’t have handled the matter better? Could they not have been clearer about their intention with certain portions of the money given? Could they not have avoided selling her CDs during service? Could they not have pressured your young members to buy her CDs? Could your leaders not have given external bodies like the COC even a fragment of a chance to penalise them in any way? They are now facing 36 charges. CHC members, this is a wake up call. God does not allow this to happen for no reason. God does not stand for deception, vanity, consumerism and materialism.
2) Surely, your parents would not let you walk out of your house in skimpy, skin hugging attire. Christian parents, perhaps even more so. What about a church leader, a pastor who preaches from the bible? Is the body not a temple of God? Accepting your wife’s wishes – to dance, gyrate and parade in front of the world as a Geisha (a Japanese hostess trained to entertain men with conversation, dance, and song), an angry girlfriend cohabiting with her boyfriend and creating music for clubbers to gyrate and rub up against in each other in clubs across the States – not putting your foot down, and promoting her music, her work, her lifestyle to young impressionable minds at CHC is just a BIG NO-NO. IT IS COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. Christians should not compromise in such a manner. I find it so sad that these young CHC members, some whom I know personally, do not see how their pastor and his wife are so very weak and so very wrong in this manner. Other pastors, other church leaders, the Christian community, the secular community have disapproved of this. Yet only CHC stands by their pastor’s “choices” and his wife’s lifestyle.
Materialism and Consumerism
Just a question – when should religious leaders say no to love gifts? Do you need that expensive high end tablet or can you just make do with the phone you own now? Do you NEED that? Do you need to stay in the most expensive housing project in Singapore when there are clearly better ways to spend your money? If you are truly doing God’s work, I really don’t think you’d find it wise to spend your money on an excessively expensive and overpriced car or condominium. Kong Hee is no king in the eyes of God. He is his servant. Yes, servants of God should be blessed. But we should always spend wisely and seek His counsel pertaining to such matters.Solomon for instance, used his riches to build God’s temple.As Christians, we should try our hardest to avoid chasing the things of the world. The 5Cs apply to Singaporeans, but surely, as a church leader with such a “following” more judicious spending of his church money, his own monies, whatever finances he has access to, is only sound and morally and ethically right.
The second time I joined the church was for a shorter period. I joined a cell group and soon learned that 4 out of 5 of the leaders did not care for me. They cared for God yes. They were fervent in that manner yes. But unfortunately, they were not encouraged by their higher-ups to care in a way that mattered to the youth who were under them.
1) We were pressured into socialising after church. To go back to study, was discouraged. “Hang around and spend time, socialise with members of God” they would say. Apparently attending service is not enough and forcing a young member (group pressure) to socialise despite having a Chinese exam the next day, is godly.
2) You must attend service at least once a week – if not BE WARNED. Once, I decided to skip the morning service and not attend it with the cell group and to watch the online broadcast. My parents had given me their approval as a kid, to skip the service, rest and recuperate for the busy week ahead and spend time with God on my own. One of the cell leader’s assistant called me to berate me in a very harsh manner. I needed to go she said, attend the afternoon service, she would go with me for it, she said. She was clearly overriding my parents’ authority and making me FEAR her as a 15-year-old. Where do these cell-leaders get their gumption from? Who taught them to be such repressive, indoctrinated, uncaring, unfeeling, superficial and overbearing leaders? GOD IS LOVE. GOD DOES NOT INDUCE FEAR. GOD IS MERCIFUL. CHC members, if you are reading this and if you are guilty of this, stop this nonsense right now. Pray about it and let God lead you in your leadership of the youths under you. I’m pointing this out because thousands have been bullied, pressured, many have backslided because of the errant ways of your young leaders and the lack of wisdom by those over your young leaders. This needs to stop. This is the Church of God. Not the Church of Kong Hee and not the Church of Your Human Ways.
3) We were pressured into buying a church organiser for about $26-$29 if I remember correctly. All members of the cellgroup made a purchase, members were taught to frown upon others who did not make that purchase. I saved really hard for 3 weeks to get that kind of money with my paltry allowance. There was no other way for me to get my hands on that kind of money. I was a student in the midst of a busy school year, my parents are not rich, I’ve no older sibling and “godly” church members were forcing me to pay for a diary I would not use. I would pay $1 for a diary as a student – a simple notebook. But this church was forcing me to hand over several tens for a silly book that wasn’t even the bible. In the end, I got my money back and returned the diary. That was the last I saw of those horrible, horrible people, who treated me as just a statistic to boost their cell group size.
City Harvest Church started out with the vision to plant God’s word in the heart of non-believers. CHC represents Christianity on a mega-scale. Its leaders need to do its utmost to maintain the leadership/management’s integrity. Its leaders need to set forth directives for its young leaders to exercise caution, love and grace with their members. Its leaders need to make stands – stand up against materialism, consumerism, fetishism, vanity, worldly pursuits and blind support for mere men. The CHC body needs to better represent itself – as it represents the Christian community, not only in Singapore, but all over the world. It also needs to re-invent itself and restore its image for the church itself has done A LOT OF GOOD. It needs to create a good image for itself, for its members and for God.
CHC should release a statement along the lines of this – to show the world and most importantly, what its young members should believe in.
1) CHC stands for good, honest accounting.
2) CHC stands for biblical principles.
3) CHC supports its leadership and would love for its members to pray for them through this difficult period. That said, it no way condones any dishonesty whatsoever and aims to be judicious in spending members’ contributions and is looking for ways to improve the system.
4) CHC will continue to do God’s work according to the Word.
I personally believe that CHC should end this Celebrity Culture thing that it has been going on with Kong Hee, Sun Ho and its other leaders. Everyone is equal in the eyes of God. I really hope that the existing CHC leadership can be better examples and better leaders to its young congregation. Please tell them to stop blindly supporting Kong Hee and his wife on Twitter, Facebook and in their personal lives. Men are imperfect, accept that. Only God is perfect. No one is persecuting God. The lifestyles of Kong Hee, his wife and the leadership are being judged. And why not? They are imperfect. Let them be judged by the courts. Let the law take its due course. Detractors and supporters must realise that Kong Hee, Sun Ho and the team are IMPERFECT.
NO ONE IS PERSECUTING GOD or Godly lifestyles. Let’s get that straight.
*The above was first posted as a comment on The Temasek Times. The writer wishes to remain anonymous.