As City Harvest Church ponders a future without Kong Hee, comments made by Derek Dunn, one of two leaders assuming temporary leadership over the church, have broken its longstanding silence since the police probe began. If you haven’t read them yet, those comments are available here in a Business Times report.
What raised my eyebrows — and, I suspect, those of many others — was Dunn’s brushing aside of criticisms levelled at Kong Hee and his wife Ho Yeow Sun for their extravagant lifestyle as “exaggerated”:
‘Concerning the lifestyle of Rev Kong and his wife, we know them well. Rev Kong is a dedicated and motivated senior pastor of the church. He has been working hard for the past 20 over years and is a renowned and recognised personality on the speaking circuit. His wife is a successful singer,’ he said.
‘While their lifestyle reflects their own accomplishments, we do not see it as lavish or excessive.’
If I were (still) a member of City Harvest, I would be very concerned with what you’ve just read. Not lavish? Not excessive? Where does one draw the line? And what will City Harvest sell to its members next? A private jet for their very important preacher, perhaps? That’s not an implausible projection — after all, Kong Hee’s idol, Benny Hinn, has one too, you know. [As an aside, a list of pastors with their own private jets can be found here: Every single one of those guys told their followers that the private jet was an absolute necessity so that the Word of God can fly around the world, and that you, yes, you! can sow into this ministry by giving a “love gift”. See how Benny Hinn Ministries sold the “incredible ministry tool” to their “partners” here.]
Here are some questions that I’ve been wondering to myself since this scandal broke out, and in the weeks ahead, I hope investigations will unearth some of the answers to these questions:
- Kong Hee has chosen to live in Los Angeles with his wife and son in their S$28,000 a month house. Does the church pay for his weekly flights to preach in Singapore? If so, what class does he fly?
- As Derek Dunn has unwittingly admitted in his statement above, Kong Hee makes his money by being on the preaching circuit. How much is he paid each time he is invited by another church? Conversely, how much does City Harvest pay the preachers it invites to its pulpit? [This question is important because City Harvesters have time and again pointed to Kong Hee as being a "volunteer pastor". What they don't realise is that their pastor has been paid in FULL, by them -- pastors on the circuit like Kong Hee are guaranteed speaking spots (with handsome honorariums) each time they invite each other to speak at their home churches.]
- When Kong Hee is invited to preach at another church, does said church pay his speaking fee directly to his bank account, to a company bank account somewhere (I am not aware of a Kong Hee Ministries but that’s what some A-list preachers do), or to City Harvest?
- Whenever a Kong Hee book, CD, DVD or MP3 is sold — at the home church or when Kong Hee is on tour — where does the money go to? To the church or to Kong Hee? If Kong Hee gets a cut, how much is his cut?
Here are a few more questions that inquiring City Harvesters need to ask Kong Hee:
- Is it really okay to be selling the word of God for profit [II Cor 2:17] when it was given free of charge to us?
- Why should books and CDs at Attributes cost more than what it takes to produce them? Why should sermon MP3s be sold for S$5 a pop when it costs a fraction of a cent to host each MP3?
- You’ve preached so often about money, and about the woman who gave her last two mites to the temple. Why have you not preached Matthew 19:21 even once? [“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”]
- You’ve encouraged us to downgrade our apartments, to give till it hurts, so as to give to the building fund. Why then do we hear media reports of you upgrading? Why are you not selling your apartment to give to the building fund?
If you belong to a megachurch with a larger-than-life pastor on the preaching circuit OR if your church is trying to sell you an ambitious building project, you may need to be asking some of the above questions too. Don’t let anyone tell you that you should just sit down and simply trust in the leadership of the church. If the church is really doing God’s work, then it should all the more be transparent, open and above board when it comes to handling your questions about the way money is handled.
Just one day after hosting a very successful conference touting such speakers as David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the 800,000-strong Yoido Full Gospel Church (the world’s largest church), the word is out that Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church, and 16 other individuals linked to the church are now being probed by the Commercial Affairs Department for alleged misuse of funds. More information will be available very soon, but for now, take a look at these tweets coming in from City Harvesters. The one thing you’ve got to give Kong Hee is how he’s able to take 33,000 otherwise very sane and smart people and make them give their “100% trust” to him. How many of these people are going to be disappointed over the next few days as details are revealed? Kong Hee, after all, has shown himself to be just as fallible as any of us — devotionals sold to church members and entries on his blog have been found to contain word-for-word plagiarism with zero crediting of sources (so much for his PhD). But, hey, if you’re a City Harvester, all this sh*t happening is just the press stirring the pot and the work of the devil. Kong Hee and the leadership of CHC are above reproach and incapable of wrongdoing.
, City Harvest Church
, Kong Hee
This story is cross-posted on Shanghaiist.
We’ve known it for a while now — China is destined to be home to the world’s largest Christian population. And if evangelists like Luis Palau have their way, gospel rallies and healing crusades in tents, megachurches and stadiums will become a reality before you know it. This month in Hangzhou, Palau, widely touted as America’s greatest evangelist after Billy Graham, will be preaching in a massive rally that is expected to draw up to 20,000. Christian Post reports:
American evangelist Luis Palau will preach to an overflow crowd of up to 20,000 people at a megachurch in mainland China this month.
Registered church Chong Yi in the eastern city of Hangzhou will host the evangelist for the March 20 event.
Chong Yi Church is designed to seat only about 5,400 people, but senior pastor Joseph Gu said he believes they can fit 10,000 people into the various buildings on the church property, said Fred Conklin, a full-time volunteer with the Luis Palau Association who is handling the ministry’s China relations, to The Christian Post.
Pastor Gu also plans to put loud speakers with screens outdoors and fit another 10,000 on the church property, if weather permits, so that a total of up to 20,000 people can hear Palau preach.
This will not be Luis Palau’s first time in China. He has been here for years now, working hard to sweeten the ground. According to Christian Post, Palau met with China’s house church leaders as early as 2004 to seek their “advice on how to best carry out his ministry goals in China”. The house church leaders refused to accept Palau’s invitation to join him in activities with the registered churches and since then there has been little contact between Palau and underground leaders as the evangelist began to focus his energy on developing relations with the government-approved Three Self Patriotic Movement instead. It didn’t take long before Palau began preaching in state-sanctioned churches around China, all with the approval of government officials. In 2006, Palau cowrote a book entitled ‘Riverside Talks: A Friendly Dialogue Between an Atheist and a Christian’ with former spokesman for China’s State Council Information Office and atheist Zhao Qizheng. The next year, Palau is said to have preached to 8,000 people at Chong Yi church, out of which 800 “responded to Palau’s invitation to accept Jesus”.
Luis Palau’s proximity to government officials in charge of regulating religious affairs has not been without controversy. When former president George Bush visited the Gangwashi Church in Beijing in 2005, Palau was invited along. At the church service, Palau was reported to have told journalists that “some reports of religious persecution are unjustified”, much to the consternation of local house church leaders who say countless pastors and believers remain in prison today for their faith. These statements caused a huge ruckus back home in the United States and Palau eventually issued a statement expressing regret for his over-optimisim in China’s religious freedom.
While Palau’s friendly relations with the Chinese government have given him access to places where no other foreign evangelist has been, his goal, according to Christian Post, “is to be able to hold an open-air festival in China”, but each time he has raised this to government officials here, they have “politely but firmly denied his request”.
Another famed evangelist with friends in high places here is Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham (and a good friend of Palau’s). In 2008, we told you of a China Daily report quoting Franklin Graham as saying that he “hopes to do more for China” through his international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. Shortly after this, the Sichuan earthquake struck and Graham was quick to put his money where his mouth was by donating a whopping RMB2 million, or US$285,000, towards relief efforts.
For more on Christianity in China, please click here.
Tags: Billy Graham
, Franklin Graham
, Luis Palau
After amassing 15,000 views, Rony Tan’s ex-gay testimony with Cheryl Bachelor which I put up on Vimeo has now been taken down. Apparently what Rony Tan said was too hateful for even Vimeo. Here’s the email I received from them:
YOUR VIDEO HAS BEEN REMOVED
Dear Kenneth Tan:
Your video ‘What Pastor Rony Tan of Lighthouse Evangelism thinks about gays and lesbians(9337605)’ has been removed for violating the Upload Rules of Vimeo.com:
Vimeo does not allow videos that harass, incite hatred or depict excessive violence.
If you believe this was an error, please reply to this email in a civil manner with your reasoning (“I see other people do it” is not a valid reason).
I’ll be contesting Vimeo’s decision of course but in the meanwhile if anyone’s looking for the video, it is available on Youtube in nine short clips starting with this one.
, Rony Tan
Well I didn’t say so. The prophet Ezekiel did:
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” [Ezekiel 16:49]
Sometimes the Bible can speak in such clear terms and we still miss it all.
And to think I learnt this from a journalist and not a preacher.
I am learning something new everyday.
The apology note has already been taken down from its website and guess who’s speaking at Lighthouse next?
, Lighthouse Evangelism
, Rony Tan
Inspired by Blogpastor, I too want to trot out my hypothetical what-if:
Let’s just suppose some very public person — an eminent scholar, a famous actor, or a popular singer — came out to the public with details of sex abuse in a Catholic school when he was a child, and then devoted another 80 minutes to make the point that all Christians are paedophiles. Videos of the speech spread like wildfire on the internet and this ignites a firestorm of controversy in Singapore.
Would not Christians at once cry foul? Would not the ISD act at once against this person?
Or would we all be laughing it off and telling Christians to grow a thicker hide because this was obviously a mad man talking?
, Rony Tan
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So I’ve been reading page after page after page of comments on blogs, forums and bulletin boards trying to see what people are saying about Rony Tan vs Gays and everywhere I go, I see self-professed Christians taking upon themselves the divine role of apologist for Rony Tan in a massive, uncoordinated astroturfing campaign.
Many of these people will do one or more of the following:
1. Tell you “But he said nothing wrong, what” — followed by some ridiculous projectioning of Rony Tan as some kind of modern-day Elijah who’s warning people of their sin because he loves them. (Except, as I said many times before, nobody’s feeling his “love”)
2. Throw you heaps of Bible verses. Any attempt to engage these guys in a discussion that doesn’t involve the Bible is futile. Because they just will not listen to you. And because they really believe the state should run on Biblical principles (ie., anything that doesn’t fall in line with *their* interpretation of such principles should be BANNED).
3. Obsess over anal sex — how dirty, evil, unnatural or sinful it is — and I mean OBSESS.
I have something to say to all these people:
SHAME ON YOU. YOU KNOW NOT WHAT MANNER OF SPIRIT YOU ARE OF.
How, oh how, does one go about justifying, ignoring, downplaying, covering up Rony Tan’s out-of-this-world lies that gays = paedophiles = bestialists and claim to have the Spirit of God in his heart?
For those of you who say Rony Tan was well within his religious rights to say what he said, I now ask you: Rony Tan also sincerely believes that other religions are of the devil. Should he be also allowed to preach this on the grounds of religious freedom?
Religious rights cannot, should not and must not be unlimited and unfettered. If not, all hell would break loose and you would have faith leaders inciting followers to kill non-believers in the name of God — as has happened in the Middle East and in developed Western nations.
Spin it whichever way you will, but what Rony Tan said was NOT right. And if the man is not going to own up to it, then the least that his fellow-believers could do is to disavow themselves from his statements.
Pastor Rony: “I’ve said nothing wrong, you know.”
“I’ve said nothing wrong, you know” Ctd
, Lighthouse Evangelism
, Rony Tan