City Harvest Church Singapore under investigation

In a surprising turn of events to the news of City Harvest Church (CHC) taking part ownership of Suntec, the biggest mega church in Singapore of 33,000 is again in the spot light after the Commissioner of Charities (COC) and the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) announced 31 May 2010 that CHC was under investigation and 17 people had been called up to assist the Police. No charges had been laid and the National Council of Churches Singapore seems supportive of CHC since they were not yet found guilty. CHC was not just a lone mega church but had 47 other affiliated entities/churches/organization around Asia giving it substantial influence. 29 are under direct supervision of CHC, with another 18 under Harvest School of Ministry led by Rev. George Ong. The investigations would likely take a long time.

In response to the probe, many CHC supporters claimed that it was just another “audit” of a big organization, but the events appear like a “raid” of sorts:-

a) The massive simultaneous move onto the churches offices and the 17 individuals at the same time,

b) The timing of 6.30am in the morning before the start of business, and when all are asleep making it difficult for a planned reaction to hide any evidences

c) The large resources, planning and clinical execution must be surely motivated by substantial evidence indicating a serious misuse of church funds,

d) The removal of 400 boxes (according to Chinese daily’s) of records and computers from the offices/homes.

e) The date of the encounter on Monday morning immediately after a very big international conference hosted by CHC, also ensuring that the key players had not left Singapore.

f) The call up for long sessions of interviews of a large cohort of 17 individuals/members including the senior pastor.

In reflecting whether they deserved such scrutiny, I am reminded of a sermon (a decade ago) by Pastor Kong Hee in a men only gathering where the focus was very much on homosexuality. Pastor Kong was seen determined to weed out gay men from his congregation, and during the service you can see group of guys leaving the service after being told indirectly that gays had no part in the life of CHC and were being counseled to “change”. Many gay Christians were probably so shamed that they never went back to CHC nor any other church. He had interrogated the weakest in his church, and had expelled them. There is justice in God’s law after all.

CHC has not been without criticism ever since their new 48 million church building at Jurong was found to have expensive titanium cladding, the sexually charged MTV videos by the Senior Pastor’s wife Sun, and the audacious 310 million foray to become part owners of Suntec. Pastor Kong’s international ministry/ speaking engagements/ tape selling would also had brought him substantial income allowing him to live a good life, and to own a few boutique stores in Ion Orchard.

The news however comes as a great sadness to many who grew up with City Harvest who had seen and were part of its growth. It was a great church, had many good people and did a fantastic work to bring many thousands of “harvests” boasting of the high percentage of first time converts especially amongst teenagers many who are now working adults. For the last 10 years, it had been determined not to stay only in the mountain of religion, but to conquer other mountains such as Education, entertainment, media, Business and Government. Well known foreign support and influence from speakers such as C. Peter Wagner, and Rev Ed Siloso gave impetus to such “market place evangelism” movement or more correctly the “New Apostolic Reformation” which has permeated much of Christianity in Singapore and Australia. Such attempt to go well beyond the religious mountain to all the secular spaces in multi-racial/multi-religious Singapore may have led to concerns since one cannot have too many tigers on a single dot.

(Neh 13:4 NKJV) Now before this, Eliashib the priest, having authority over the storerooms of the house of our God, was allied with Tobiah.
(Neh 13:5 NKJV) And he had prepared for him a large room, where previously they had stored the grain offerings, the frankincense, the articles, the tithes of grain, the new wine and oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and singers and gatekeepers, and the offerings for the priests.
(Neh 13:10 NKJV) I also realized that the portions for the Levites had not been given them; for each of the Levites and the singers who did the work had gone back to his field.

It is with irony, that Kong’s Hee Daily devotion dated 01 June 2010, reads “Rebuke The Devourer” which talks about Eliashib the priest colluding with Tobiah (Neh. 13:4,5). Pastor Kong spins it as an issue of tithing but it was much more about Eliashib misusing the funds meant for the Priests, Levites, singers and gatekeepers. The funds were instead given to Tobiah, and those who desperately need it ie the entire tribe of the Levites got nothing. The offerings were given to the temple but ended up in the wrong hands. It was not an issue of tithing. It was a matter of corporate responsibility and governance.

The Old Testament idea of tithing was also very different from the modern day concept because it not only supports the functioning of the temple or churches but it was like a tax to pay:-

a) Tribe of Levites – who worked for the nation ie as their public servants, (Num 18:21)
b) Charity – to the poor, orphan and widows (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)
c) Coming together Celebration/feasts to praise God (Deuteronomy 14:22-26)

Therefore, the temple priests would not have the opportunity to live in luxury because there would not be much left over. Just enough like the manna from heaven.

That said, whatever funds that has been given to CHC whether used correctly or misused is solely the responsibility of the Pastors. We are to have the right attitude of giving as unto the Lord, and God will bless us. The new saga now at CHC will trouble many for a few months, yet we should stay firm in prayer and support for CHC for they are like you and me, subject to sin and temptation, trusting that God’s grace and mercy will see us through.

Locations of visitors to this page