|It’s not only about City Harvest|
The “friends” that we associate with tell us a lot about what influence us. City Harvest along with many mega churches in Singapore would have been impacted by the following key personalities in the American and Australian Christian Evangelical movement from the West such as Benny Hinn, C Peter Wagner/ Ed Siloso, Brian Houston of Hillsong, Sy Rogers, whom they often invited. These are great preachers and ministers for God, but they do have certain downsides:-
a) Pastor Benny Hinn – well known for his deep revelations of the personhood of the Holy Spirit, it was also well documented that few of the healings could be certified, he lived in an extravagant lifestyles with private jets, and mansions, shopped at the best designer clothing shops at Hollywood, and very secretive about the millions he received every month. He had resisted the Senate investigations into his finance. Benny Hinn has been a regular visitor at City Harvest Church and is a divorcee.
b) C Peter Wagner / Ed Siloso – well known for their revelations that Christianity need not be confined only to the church walls on a Sunday, they had called for a New Apostolic Reformation, for Christians to influence all levels of society. It breaks down the differentiation between Religion, Business, Media, Education, Government and it is treated as one of the same – power mountains to be conquered. The resulting “Market Place” ministry blurs the demarcation between the church as a company business entity and a “charity” with tax exemption. It also gives the theological backing for entry into non Christian areas such as Aware, and criticisms of other faiths. This theology goes against the core foundation of the secular nature of Singapore, to maximize the secular space. There is no such notion of a sacred secular place in Market Place Theology.
c) Brian Houston/Hillsong – well known for their anointed praise and worship songs which have defined the current generation of Christian Music, Hillsong is a massive church/ business entity in Sydney. Their financials has been much criticized including using government funds for aboriginals to pay unrelated staff, and vote stacking of the 2007 Australian Idol. Tanya Levin in her book “People in Glass Houses: An Insider's Story of a Life In and Out of Hillsong” talks about “authoritarian church governance, lack of financial accountability, resistance to free thought, strict fundamentalist teachings and lack of compassion”. They have also been involved to support a Christian Political Party. The former Hillsong leader, Geoff Bullock, who wrote “The Power of Your Love” also talks about the authoritarian nature of the church.
d) Sy Rogers – Another regular visitor of City Harvest since the mid 90s, Sy is the founder of the anti-gay movement Choices despite being a transsexual and not a gay man. Links with and strongly promoted by anti-gay Regeneration Ministries/ Exodus International.
The above sums up the following major issues at some Christian mega churches today, the issues exemplified because of their power, wealth, influence, and following:-
a) Lack of Financial accountability - The money given to the church is not yours, but theirs. They are free to do whatever they want with it. They deserved it, it is God giving them the prosperity and the finances. The funds received through charity are therefore a blessing from God. They can use the money however they feel like it since it is their money. The emphasis is on the tithe and money you owe them rather than proper governance of the money used. There is no conflict of interest provisions since the money is theirs to use as they deem fit.
b) Mixing Religion and the Secular World - Christians should be successful and prosper in the market place, so should churches. Therefore, churches should be a lead in the “market place” and all sectors of society. This is “our cultural mandate” to win the culture of this world for God.
c) Authoritarian Church Governance - Church leaders have absolute authority since they are appointed and anointed by God and any opposition is considered the works of the Devil, and no freedom of reflection is allowed that contradicts the leadership. This is the “Pope Syndrome”. Members are hounded to give and give repeatedly using God’s name.
d) Religious Fundamentalism and hypocrisy, lacking compassion and grace – A fundamentalist view of the bible, together with a self righteousness and selective application of religious laws results in persecution of the minorities weak and vulnerable such as the Gay community. Singapore is in the lead of the Christian Right being the prime for the Anglican Global South. God is calling us to take care of justice for those who cannot fend for themselves, yet we become the very source of injustice. Worst still, we keep using the name of God to justify and rationalize our actions.
(Mark 10:19, 20 NKJV) "You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Do not defraud,' 'Honor your father and your mother.'" And he answered and said to Him, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth."
(Mat 19:21 NKJV) Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
(Mark 10:21 NKJV) Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."
Jesus gave the standard answer of the requirements of the law . "You know the commandments...". And the man answered so zealous and passionate for God replied that he has fulfilled the law, and he probably did as much as anyone could do so.
I am reminded of my very zealot and passionate friends at the City Harvest Church - they were very good people - always seeking and running after God - always busy doing things for God. Likewise, Jesus saw the very good heart and passion for God that this man had, and offered him, an opportunity to be Jesus' disciple. By asking the man to give up all, it was not asking for good works or commitment, but Jesus extended the requirements beyond the Law, unto grace - for the man to give up all for others. His religious mindset could follow the law, but could not accept grace. He could not follow Jesus, the author of grace who gave up all for an underserving world. The law was about gaining by doing, but Jesus' way was about receiving by giving up our rights.
Jesus looked at the men and loved him, because He saw that the man was half way there, for he was bowing down before Jesus, an act of worship. The man was sincere and passionate before God to do all the things that is required to have eternal life, but "to do" is very different from "to give", to give grace and mercy, to be give compassion. To give all, even though the receiving party is underserving. That is Christ.
In the last service I attended, Pastor Kong
remarked that "he was so very afraid that he would dissapoint us". What
ever the outcome of the investigation is, nobody is perfect and all have
sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. He has done such a wondeful
job in growing the church and proclaiming the Gospel to the Nations.
What we now need is to add in Grace and Compassion, and mercy, and be
focused on justice for the ill treated instead of power, wealth and
glory which will ultimately come if we do the things of God first.
In the last service I attended, Pastor Kong remarked that "he was so very afraid that he would dissapoint us". What ever the outcome of the investigation is, nobody is perfect and all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. He has done such a wondeful job in growing the church and proclaiming the Gospel to the Nations. What we now need is to add in Grace and Compassion, and mercy, and be focused on justice for the ill treated instead of power, wealth and glory which will ultimately come if we do the things of God first.