City Harvest Investigated - Good stewardship?

More than 6 months ago, I had an opportunity to request help from a City Harvester to support another church who was on the verge of closing down. The amount was small compared to what he tithed monthly to CHC. The issue raised was being good stewards of money which of course is pertinent. However, so much justification was demanded for a donation of $200 when the need is so great, yet often we give very freely to CHC big amounts when they had very large surpluses and reserves and asked no questions. The main problem with CHC is that there is accountability in only one direction, upwards as the Church Members are encouraged to tithe and to donate to the building fund. What was absent was a greater accountability downwards from the Senior Pastor to be transparent of where the funds had been used and for proper governance, avoidance of conflict of interest, and maximization of the effective use of funds.

When the news of CHC was being investigated by COC/CAD, a sense of shock and disbelief prevailed. Soon this was replaced by a realization that I had also given much previously to CHC, and all the assurance of transparency, integrity, and accountability may be a lie. Was I like thousands conned? Surely the COC/CAD was wrong when they said that the 17 individuals were investigated on the context of companies linked to CHC. However, CHC never mentioned any “related companies” in its web site disclosures nor from the pulpit.

As my mind flashes over the many times questions were asked on finances, the same answers were given that there is a public financial statement which has been audited. After all, didn’t the COC gave CHC a clean bill of health not more than 3 years ago. What happened?

a) The audit of the financial statements were to check for compliance to accounting practices and not proper financial governance.

b) As reported in the press, “The governance review essentially looks at the organization's corporate governance with the objective of assessing and helping the charities to improve the way they are run.” It was not an inquiry to find fraud.

c) The financial statements in the CHC website were general, with no detailed disclosure. The statements seem to fulfill the minimum requirements of COC rather than go beyond for a full Annual Report disclosure if CHC was indeed fully transparent. There was no listing of "linked companies", and many of the expenditures had very large sums yet vague in their meaning.

We often take the Pastor’s word for granted, that we had never checked the financial statements carefully with the assumption of utmost integrity. But for the more discerning, the following expenditure would be difficult to explain:-


Jul-2007 -Oct 2008


Nov-2008 -Oct 2009



Audio and Lighting Ministry



Spending 1.1 million per year on their audio and lighting systems is significant as this is recurring yearly. A good system would cost one million to setup, but the yearly recurring cost would be minimal. Spending the same large capital expenditure yearly makes little sense.

Church Television Ministry



Whilst the initial outlay cost for the video recording cameras and video editing devices would be substantial, the recurring cost for maintenance and asset replacement would be small. Again, as the ministry is run by church members, where does the recurring expenditure go to?

Other Operating & Administration Expenses



An extra expenditure called “Other Operating & Administration Expenses” of 18 million dollars for a period of two years was not broken down further. This would be hard to justify since all the other big ticket items have already been considered such as rental expenses and cost of employees.

Rental Expenses



Why CHC would need to invest 310 million in Suntec, when the rental expenses for the two years only accounted for 3.7 million. Ie the amount of 310 million upfront represents rental of 160 years.

City Harvest had pushed strongly into the Market Place evangelism, with ruling over the business world being their objective. Buying part of Suntec may represent control of the mountain of business represented by Suntec. The rules on the religious mountain may not apply to the business world, and vice versa as the church becomes more like a corporation when it seeks aggressively to enter into this world. Yet, CHC was using funds obtained tax free in the religious mountain for use in the business mountain when it would have been otherwise taxed. It is having best of both worlds that finally may result in a conflict of interest.

The outlook does not look too good with previous cases such as TT Durai and Ming Yi getting substantial fines and jail terms after investigation. However, for CHC, much larger sums appear to be involved and the number of people so many more. As the case unravels who knows what would be revealed when they dig up the dust and possibly even unrelated matters. The torture would be great to the emotions as weekly revelations come out of the role and involvement of each of the 17 being investigated and how the linked companies had benefited. Their private lives would also be revealed (related to the case or otherwise) and no man is entirely clean. Ming Yi, a humble monk, for example was found to own expensive cars, property, horses etc. There may be little credibility left after the show case cat walk taking months if not the whole year. Although they are “innocent until proven guilty”, the track record of cases being found innocent was rather remote. What else would they find?

(Mat 21:12 NKJV) Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.

(Mat 21:13 NKJV) And He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'"

The times when I was at CHC in Hollywood Theatre Payar Lebar 10 years ago seems so far away. There were no fancy lighting/audio/ TV production/ Internet broadcast. Pastor Kong was not driving an expensive car and was said live humbly. Alas, the Business world and the religious world may never mix not that we can't serve two masters but because the House of God should be focussing on our worship and praise towards God, and the leaders should lead us towards God rather than leveraging on religion for promises financial success and prosperity.

It is my prayer and hope that CHC will be cleared so that we could return to a life of simple faith and not be so into wealth and glory for we can't bring our paper cars, houses, and money to heaven can't we, and this is just a short stopover to eternity with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. God certaintly wants to bless us financially, but more than that, it is our character, our heart, and our worship that counts. Do we still believe in God when we have little? It may be easier to believe in God when we have much, but we may have gone so far down the road, to loose our very souls.

Twelve months ago during the height of the Aware Crisis when the Anglican Christian Right said that we were going down the slope of immorality, they may be correct, not the sexual immorality caused by gays, but the business, power, wealth and glory within the church itself. Perhaps when we concentrate on the dust spec in the eyes of others, rarely would we be able to see the big log of wood in our own eyes. This maybe the sin that must be addressed, for when the eye is bad, surely we can't see much and there will be deep darkness in the body.

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