Like a tsunami, the front page news hit us pastors without warning. It was least expected. Just a few years back the Commissioner of Charities gave the biggest church in town a clean bill of health in its extensive governance review. Now the Commercial Affairs Department is investigating an alleged misuse of church funds. This is serious. When something like this goes on the front page, normally the authorities would have some substance to their probe. These are difficult times for City Harvest Church (CHC) and Rev Kong Hee, and we need to stand and pray with them.
Kicked in the teeth
Many people are kicking CHC in the teeth online. Sarcasm, contempt and cynicism are the online menu of the day. This is not the way of Christ. Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty”. Though I have never been much of an admirer of CHC, and have been ambivalent about its growth, I do respect its pastors. This blog post is not baptized in bile.
For me the question that begs an answer is, “Why is this happening?”
Media with hidden agenda?
When the Straits Times published the news on the front page, it made me wonder, “Why was this in the front page, relegating to the bottom, the story of the national table tennis team that just made history by beating China and becoming world champions?” The media has been overenthusiastic in the last decade in putting religious leaders in an unflattering light. This has made me suspect the media has a hidden agenda. However, it was most likely that dollars and cents, and therefore what interested readers, that drove the media. When the news broke out on the internet, a flood of both critical and supportive remarks overworked the comment boxes of this story. It gave the media early notice of what readers were interested in. And they gave the readers what they wanted – on the front page.
Pastors and churches at fault?
An obvious reason for all the bad press we have had is simply that we pastors and churches have been at fault. Even though our intentions are all good and pure and noble, the working out of these purposes and plans, would require attention to governance issues, to sensitivity to other religions. However, we usually do not accord a high priority to these in our Bible school training nor in our practice of the ministry. So if we have erred here then it is best the churches and Bible schools work on making the necessary changes.
Thorn in the flesh?
Why is all this happening? Some see this as a spiritual attack on a growing church, a church on the cutting edge. The cynical will call this a cop-out explanation, an excuse from taking responsibility, and blaming it on the devil. From a spiritual perspective though, this could also be viewed as a thorn in the flesh so that God’s servants in CHC can stay ever-dependent on His grace. The apostle Paul had a humbling experience himself and talked about it:
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10)