City Harvest Church trials: heartbreaking and heartwarming

It is both heartbreaking and heartwarming to read about what has been dubbed the City Harvest Church trials.

A government minister had said, Its not about the church. It’s about the 6 church leaders. However, the Straits Times(ST) headlines screamed City Harvest Church trials. Not even City Harvest Church leaders’ trials. We live in a digital age and to catch eyeballs we have to have the right titles: the one that people are likely to use when they google for news. Looks like what the minister has separated, the ST have joined together, and so they will be. Anyway, in the minds of many, the trial of the church leaders is the trial of the church. Not only City Harvest Church, but all who worship under the Cross of Christ.

I find it heartbreaking because we are talking about people who went about doing good and with good intentions. These people have mothers and fathers, uncles and cousins. They have spouses and children. They are people who are faithful and loving in their relationships and inspiring to the faith of many. Though imperfect, they have found forgiveness in Jesus Christ and experienced a life transforming change in their lives that they are eager for many to experience as well. Though transformed, they are still flawed. If we had a chance to know them personally, and even to hear about how their lives are like, or how they had impacted others, we would have seen how they are like many good Christians who sit in the pews of our churches, or like the pastors who preach in our pulpits. Except for these issues that the trials will examine. How it will all pan out will be seen in this run of trials and the next run in the first quarter of 2014. How stressful all this must be for all concerned, especially the 6 leaders and their families and the City Harvest Church. Wear their skins for just a day. And don’t say I want Serina Wee’s skin.

That is why I am perturbed that the online buzz is about superficial mudslinging of Ho Yeow Sun and the $$$$ poured into catapulting her into fame for the sake of Christ and winning souls, and the sensationalizing of the looks and the style of Serina Wee. There are even salacious comments that compare the two of them. Haven’t the cyber piranhas had their fill of blood and flesh of these our sisters in Christ? Why don’t they stick to the issues that arise in the trials or think more deeply, perhaps about the church’s underlying philosophy, organizational culture, or theology (or lack of it) that fueled these issues in the first place?

It’s also very heartbreaking to read the expositions of the prosecution.

On the other hand, my heart has been warmed by some audacious show of support by a church. Surprisingly a Presbyterian church – Bethany Presbyterian Church. Now if you know about churches: the Presbyterians and the Pentecostals are as alike in relations as the Samaritans and the Jews(some would reverse the order) in Jesus’ time . They have some points of disagreements in doctrine and practice. Yet this particular church put up a huge sign that read:  “Bethany Presbyterian Church is upholding City Harvest Church, Rev Kong Hee & the leaders in prayer”. When I first heard this from one of our church’s leaders, I cried out in disbelief, Cannot be lah! But now that I have googled and seen the photo, I am amazed at this church along Upper Paya Lebar Road. When my website is fully repaired, I will be able to upload the picture. Until then please click HERE.  May this church be blessed.

Of course we Christians do not support what is illegal or wrong. The verdict has not been given out yet, and even if these 6 leaders were found to be guilty, can we not still pray for them? Wouldn’t we pray for our loved ones if they had to go to court for something they have been accused of? Those who do not know God think that when Christians pray in such circumstances, they are always praying for miraculous acquittal or a suspension of justice.  That may be so. However Jesus taught us to pray, Father, May Your name be glorified and hallowed. May Your kingdom come. May Your will be done. Amen. And this is how we too should pray throughout this trial.

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  • In 1 Cor 6, we are to be saints, seen to be pure and holy apart from the world, rather than acting like the unrighteous and putting ourselves at the standards of the world to be judged in court by the unrighteous. A high calling and standard is expected so that as the world looks in, they would see Christ.

    When we insist that we are innocent until the judge hammers down the judgement, we are bringing the entire church to the law. Why don’t we just accept wrong rather than letting the church be exposed to incriminating emails, messages, minutes, docked documents, and carefully planned transactions to legitimise shoddy intentions.

    They told us repeatedly from the pulpit to give to build God a house, a physical building. Give until it hurts to show our faith. If we don’t give enough, it was cheating God, and we were deemed not good Christians.

    The World sees us not admiring our righteousness but the scheming and plans to go under the radar of the law, audits, and the general perception. It was an attempt to be technically legitimate rather than morally truthful.

    Why the need to go to such great lengths to hide – and the endless trail of transactions showed the senseless waste of money and extravagance and untenable ventures which hitherto were denied.

    So we have the World, its practices/culture and basic laws. We have the church which should not only complies with the basic laws of the world, but in addition have a much higher expectation of love, morality, integrity and righteousness which no law could sufficiently codify. When we drag ourselves down to the level of the law, and be judged by the law, are we no better than the world?

    • Gentle Lamb, you are right in saying that the church has to express what God has already made her to be in Christ. As an organization situated in the world, the church has to keep and uphold the laws of the land and ensure good governance in its management.

      Though many have pre-judged the case, and the evidence that have surfaced seemed to demonstrate attempts “to be technically legitimate rather than morally truthful,” whether CHC has broken the law is a moot point. The verdict is not due till next year.

      Should they have admitted they were wrong? Another moot point. Its a hypothetical discussion, something Christian lawyers will be better equipped to explore than I.

  • I find it rather puzzling when Susan Ong said in reply to the Prosecutor that it was not her job as trustee to act as a check on the church management board’s decisions and to make sure these were right. If such is the case, where is the check and balance?

  • We love God and God loves us more to send Jesus Christ to die for us and He resurrected. At no point did God say sorry to Jesus! Why then do I read that the so called man of God told congregation that God says sorry to him that he the pastor has to suffer for His sake?
    Is this pride or wrong doctrine….It’s not about Love ! It’s about covering eyes with pride and self righteousness….Is this?

    • Hi Paul, you are right. At no point did the Father say “Sorry” to Jesus, as he was vicariouly bearing the punishment for the sins of the world. The way I heard it, Ps Kong Hee was not claiming that God apologized to him for having wronged him in allowing him to go through the trials. I think he felt that God was feeling for him in his pain and anguish. We sometimes say something like this when we hear of something bad that someone is going through, for example the loss of a loved one. “I’m sorry to hear about this.” There may be other valid interpretations, including CHC’s. But certainly not the way media has sensationalized it: God apologizes to Kong Hee. No pastor would say that. Only media that lusts for pageviews would concoct such a headliner on a video about a year old. Sadly, it seemed to have worked.

  • Great stuff – John Piper. This is the true gospel. Always appreciate pastors/preachers who stand up to speak out the truth which may not be what the congregation wants to hear.

  • Hi BP
    The State has charged the 6 with CBT – Criminal Breach of Trust – the 6 have denied the charges and are contesting the charges – they are now engaged in an adversarial contest – either they are guilty as charged or will be acquitted with substantial legal cost.

    Unfortunately for those charged, legal cost cannot be recovered from the state – criminal justice works on the basis of absolute trust. The prosecutor can never be sued for complete cost recovery in the event of a defense victory as the state is deemed to have the moral high ground. Like all man made standards, reality is a far cry for the idealized assumption.

    Similarly, traditionally the church and its pastors are similarly held – again, reality is nothing like the the propagated ideal.

    “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”
    ……a Latin phrase traditionally attributed to the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires (Satire VI, lines 347–8), which is literally translated as “Who will guard the guards themselves?” …….from wiki

    Hubris by those in authority causes real societal damage from homophobic comments to flawed teachings powered by greed and avarice.

    Larger the gift,more onerous the burden. Do pray for those damaged by the self justified action of those trust into leadership positions – they are also somebody’s mother, father, brother or sister. Xtains make hurtful and harsh comments at other humans, have we the right to expected any different??

    Remember poor Mr Poon……he was sued for libel and slander by Kong Hee – he sud sue for his money back if KH is convicted or better KH sud make refund if he loses!

    “…..Businessman withdraws allegations about City Harvest Church and singer Ho Yeow Sun, and church prays to forgive him over the weekend

    Posted by temasektimes on June 27, 2012”

    Should not we adhere to the very standards we espouse?

    • You are right Journeyman. The world regards the church as holding the high moral ground. This is partly due to the way the church has emphasized the moral standards in their teaching rather than the grace of God in action in the lives of weak and flawed people. If the gospel of grace had been more properly expounded the world would see that God’s people are not flawless but forgiven, not the completed work but a work in progress. The church will also see the need to have guards to guard the guards – a plurality in leadership.

      I accept that what happened with Mr Poon was sad. Perhaps an early indication of hubris? Perhaps not, as we do not have full access to the whole context. I would like to hear the pastors’ version before I reach an opinion on that.

  • Hi Andrew,

    Let’s see what Jesus Himself has to say about wealth (and other gifts from God) and how God apportions it, what we are suppose to do with it and how we can be blessed by it.

    Matthew 25:14-30

    New International Version (NIV)
    The Parable of the Bags of Gold

    14 “Again, it (kingdom of heaven) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

    19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

    21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

    22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

    23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

    24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

    26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

    28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

  • All those churches including LoveSingapore that are praying for CHC should invite Dr Paul Choo to lead them in prayer. Readers here do you agree ??

  • I agreed that it is a trial on the leaders and not a trial on the church. Comments by media users were not decent and it’s certainly defamatory or even hurting to family members. It is about the weakness of human but not the integrity of the church or even the decent Christians. It is a trial of belief and the reality of greed, fame and status. Above all these commotion, what are we going to receive out from it, I think there will be many judgements, whether it is biblical anointing or the layman understanding, it must be a painful experiences to those involved or has suffered out from it. When prayers are meant to offer blessing and reconciliation which may seem to be too shallow in context, forgiveness shall be given to all who repent if repentance is truly acknowledged in the name of mighty Jesus. I had met those under trial and they may look “relaxed” or “confident” in the eyes of others, what reside in their inner being shall only be known by they themselves. Let it remains hidden for there are no meaning to it any longer. God’s shall be the final to see it through as this episode is only a small hindrance to the coming rupture of the chosen ones.

    • Thanks for your comment.

      Like our forefather Abraham, we make that declaration of faith, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

      There is comfort in knowing that all rights and wrongs shall be revealed for what they truly are in the light of his piercing gaze on the Day of His return.

  • although the case is on-going and the verdict is not out from a legal perspective, the evidence revealed and established as facts and not disputed even by the defense has already put pst kong guilty of lying to the entire church on the pulpit. i was there, when he said bolding to the church that not a single cent from the church was used to fund pst Sun’s music career. we were told of God’s tremendous blessing upon her and how she was doing so well in the US. we boldily defended her against accusations of her lifestyle by explaining that she was doing well and her music career more than able to suport her lifestyle. we testified how God has been great and used her mightly for His kingdom works.

    now we know God needed Pst Kong to deceive all of us.
    now we know God isn’t capable of supporting the project and needed the church leaders to move money around secretly.
    now we know God isn’t capable of supporting Sun’s non-existant career in the US and needed members’ to be kept in the dark that their money is used to pay for everything from her mansion, to her entourage, her red carpet events, and even to buy airtime on radio. i remembered how we (I) cheered when pst Kong announced that Pst Sun is on #1 on the charts. now i know God needed to pay money to put her there.

    as a former member of the church who left silently, ignored by former leaders and friends, i must say i am bitter and lost.

    having endured for so long, trying hard to keep faith, the last straw came when i was scolded for praying for God’s justice to be served IF the 6 are indeed guilty. i was told that i had a lack of faith in God and that i should have prayed for God to deliver the 6 from the persecution.

    dear blogpastor, you may maintain the stand that they are innocent until profen to be guilty, but to me, that is only for the specific charges that they face.

    in my eyes, pst kong at least, is already guilty of his misconducts. i know I live on God’s grace and is not worthy to judge others, but as a person with 1st hands experience of being lied to so many times, and now seeing that he remains unrepentent and dragging the church and its members down, I am certain of what kind of person he is.

    i know i shouldnt feel this way, but having experienced how defensive my cg leader got, and how my former friends still standing by pst Kong, i really feel extremely uncomfortable.

    just yesterday, i became aware that after i left, i was labelled a back slider who lacked faith and should avoid contacting. i feel really bitter. so i, as an ordinary Christian, is not supposed to judge the high and mighty pst Kong. but on the other hand, my cg leader seems to deem fit judging the kind of person i am while judging pst Kong as innocent.

    i feel that while i still believe in God, i will lose faith soon as i cannot reconcile my experience to how Christians love should be. sorry for the bad english.

    • Hi lost&bitter,

      I happened to pass by this post and read your comment. I am very sorry to hear what you had to share. As a current CHC member, I am alongside in that what you had experienced. I am sure that if I was to be in your situation, I will do the same. Thank God for a cell leader that I had that I am still here.

      I certainly do not consider you a backslider just because you are out of our church. If you continue to hold on to the commandments of Jesus, you are still a true disciple. I hope that wherever you are right now, you are in a good fellowship 🙂

      As I myself witness the events unfold, I do at times wonder what I will do if the verdict found the leaders guilty. What kept me in the church is my cell group, and also the belief that as a Christian, I should let God do the judging. To love our neighbor as ourselves. Till the verdict is out, I’ll continue to have faith and hope that the leaders had done everything in good faith. That I feel is the least that I could do.

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