Do I believe in City Harvest Church leaders & Pastor Kong?
City Harvest Church has gone through a stormy 2½ years, since the news of its being investigated for alleged mismanagement of church funds broke in 31st May 2010. Much has been said and maligned of the church and its key leaders, in the wake of this saga, and it has become an opportune time for detractors to slam the church and its leaders during this crisis period.
As a very long time member of this church, let me give my take on the Church’s key leaders and what I have observed of them in the last 20 years. (And let me state I am not a staff of CHC, nor was I ever one.)
City Harvest Church has always been a modern, cutting-edge, progressive, responsible, and relevant church that moves with the times. Not that it was ever a perfect church, but it is one that sees itself as never having arrived, and is in need to constantly strive to become better than it was or is at present. The remarkable thing about this church is that it is a very giving church, one that gives back to society, as shown in its large scale outreach programs and humanitarian works in Singapore and throughout the world, as much as it gives a lot back to its members with its other outreach and care programs, and also by teaching and empowering them how to become better people, better leaders, and better citizens of the world.
In its impact to society, it has possibly the largest outreach program to the intellectually disabled people (its JAMS outreach) in Singapore that touches more than 400 such people each week, and many are ‘Down Syndrome’ children.
The church reaches out very regularly to delinquent kids and youths at risks, drug addicts, prisoners, the marginalized such as the homosexuals, and even AIDS victims.
The Church even organized its first ever large scale job fair for its members and the public during the worst economic period in 2008, to spur job creation for those who needed employment – then quite a feat for a local church to initiate a job fair of that scale.
CHC was the first mission team to send a humanitarian team to rescue the wounded in Aceh when the deadly 2004 Tsunami hit the Indian Ocean and its region on Dec 26th that year, even ahead of the international rescue teams such as the Red Cross or Mercy Relief.
It was once again one of the first to send teams for rescue missions at the Sichuan Earthquake, and even as far as the Haiti Earthquake.
Nobody external asks City Harvest Church to do all of the above. City Harvest has always taken the initiative to give back to its members and the society through its public spirited work in and outside Singapore, wherever the need may be.
The initiative of it all has always been emanating from its senior leadership, led by Pastor Kong, his wife Sun Ho, and Pastor Tan Ye Peng. The Church’s Crossover Project which epitomizes the Cultural Mandate message is a key mission thrust of its international outreach to bring humanitarian assistance and the key message of love, hope, and better live transformation to those who has a need and a hurt.
Many people have watched these few church leaders named above from a distance and had little clue about who they are really like. They make judgment of them based a lot on hearsay but with very little insight. Many criticizers and scoffers online, in Facebook, in blogs, and news forums, are just naysayers who love to jump into the bandwagon of gossip and slander.
For someone who has been around a long time and know them not just from a distance but personally and in regular contact with them, I know probably more about them than an average member.
Let me bring this closer to home. Let me first talk about Pastor Kong Hee.
Will the real Pastor Kong please stand up?
Pastor Kong’s integrity as a person is hard to beat. That does not mean he is perfect or he never makes any mistake. He would be first to admit he has lots of mistakes in life, probably too many to count. But in his most conscious self, I can vouch this man always set a high standard for himself so that he could be beyond reproach as much as possible.
One example – you can tell a man if he is given to greed by the little things. There is a Christian saying which comes from the Bible, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)
When Kong Hee was a younger pastor, he started off with not much money and his then new church was small and very poor, with its office in an old run-down, rat-infested shophouse down at McKenzie Road. So poor was the church that its carpet even looks old, and the church office was cramped. In those days, Microsoft was not king yet and WordPerfect was the king of computer document writing. Piracy of computer software was common and rampant and being a poor church, one of the easiest ways to save the church money would be to use pirated software in all its church computer systems. There were some people who advised the church and Pastor Kong to do so. Pastor Kong, then a younger man, was so adamant in keeping his integrity that he would be sternly instructing all his staff to never ever bring counterfeit or pirated software to the church. So strong and strict was his ethics on this that it became a reputation. Such was the result of legacy culture of trust and integrity in Church office built over the years. Pastor Kong would rather be poor than to save his church thousands of dollars (at that time it was big money!) by taking on pirated computer software, and nobody would have known it had he done it anyway! But he chose not to. You might think this is a small thing? But not by God’s observation, ‘cause it was the foundation for his work ethics in years to come.
Another example – this I found out for myself only few months ago by chance. I was having a dinner with someone who is working for the church. At that time the saga of Pastor Kong and his leaders being charged by the Prosecution has just happened.
Over dinner, this humble and soft-spoken church worker said this, “You know, people said Pastor Kong has integrity issue to face, but it’s honestly very hard for me to believe. Because I tell you what, I have seen how when people go to his house, sometimes these well-meaning people who are there to visit him tell him they have movies to lend Pastor Kong to watch (as Pastor Kong has not much time to watch nice movies and it’s not easy for him to go to a public cinema to watch as you can imagine..) as they had it downloaded fresh from the Internet, and just wanted to ‘bless’ him with latest nice movies to enjoy. Pastor Kong would kind of’ freaked out and quickly tell them please don’t bring any such movie into his house, as he knows he is a servant of God and would not want to run afoul of the law.” Pastor Kong was reputed to be one who only watches ‘original movies’. This church worker ended saying in his Singlish style, “Even a counterfeit movie he also did not want to be near it, this is how strict he is with himself when comes to integrity matters.., so it is hard for me to believe he would steal church money for his own benefit.”
On hearing this, it gave me even a greater reason to respect Pastor Kong.
Some people think Pastor Kong has tons of money stashed some way in some safe haven, even the Prosecution thinks so, but unfortunately they have nothing to prove of this sort to-date.
Pastor Tan, Chew Eng Han, John Lam, Serina Wee, and Sharon Tan – who are they really?
Pastor Tan is a simple man of simple tastes in life. He lives a simple life. He is one who knows how to abase and abound in life, whether in much or in lack, he is one simple man who doesn’t get moved very much by the pleasures of life. For people who really know him, Pastor Tan is a man though very moved by God’s Word, as evident throughout the Church. This man is totally down-to-earth and un-showy, one who has one core purpose in life i.e. to serve God and to serve mankind and teaching the Word of God. I have known him for years, and he never says no to a man or woman in need of his help or prayer when it’s in his capacity to help. He is the architect of the Church’s many new initiatives e.g. the Crossover project, the Church Building, City Care, and the City News. He is a humble man who would faithfully serve the Man of God and the House of God, like Elisha would to Elijah. This man is so willing to serve God and people that he is willing to do it for free without a salary (and he has done so for several months when COC unjustly froze his and few others’ salaries!) I have known this Pastor Tan for almost 17 years, even before he was an ordained ‘Pastor’. I know this man is one who is pure hearted and does not seek selfish gains.
Chew Eng Han has been a man who is of unusual faith. Some people mistake him for being too bold a person to undertake too many faith projects for the church. It is precisely he has such faith that not many men could do what he could do. I have known Chew Eng Han for more than a decade. This man is one selfless man who would lay down his life for the love of the Church and people. Even under severe stress of the current trial to come, he still regularly goes to humanitarian mission trips, and constantly goes about praying for people in need, in distress, and in need of physical healing, putting put others first above himself. He is one real servant of a man. Do not be deceived by his ‘poker face’ exterior, behind that little expression he shows, he is actually a very faith-filled, faithful, and compassionate man. Only detractors and gossipers who knew little about him slammed him that hard, simply because he is the chief guy who does investments for the Church. How wrong many of these detractors are! (I’ll talk about the Church investments in my next article.). Just because some people feel they have the right to know every investment of the church does not mean they are right about their reasons and all the accusations against Eng Han and the Church for their investment choices made. In fact, all the investments of the church has been approved constitutionally under the Church Constitution (and many of those investments he has done for the Church in years past have brought good gain) and seriously there is very little basis for these detractors to cry foul about. (We will deal with this later)
John Lam is one of the pioneers of City Harvest Church; one whom I can say is dependable in good times or in bad times. He is a very level headed and calm man, one who loves God and Church a lot, a lot. John is man who is very loyal, and one who stays true and loyal to good old friendships. As a financial accountant for almost all his professional life, he has always kept integrity close to his heart. John is one guy you can be sure is very unassuming, and carries no air about him. He is not one who seeks attention, but all he does is to do his part for God, for his family, and for his career faithfully and excellently. That’s why John has been regarded as an elder of the Church for all these years. I have known John for more than a decade.
Serina Wee & Sharon Tan – if I may describe them together ‘coz they are two timid yet strong ladies! (I’ll explain that in s second). I have known both ladies as church friends for a decade. Both Serina and Sharon are old time members of the Church. All they ever wanted to do is to serve God in this House. My spouse who knows both of them more than I do has this to say about Serina, “Serina is so timid a person by nature like a mouse, that do you think she ever will even dare do such a thing as to do fraud for someone’s personal gain? Impossible! She wouldn’t even dare.”
As for Sharon, I have seen her in financial crisis before and she had always been faithful in the little things, and never wavered in money matters. Today she is that graceful woman who has stood the test of faithfulness in handling church accounts despite all the sagas surrounding the church and her. To Sharon I say, “Well done!” You have served well and can be fully trusted.”
So what are all these detractors, hurt gossip-mongers doing? Sowing discord, spreading gossip, and poisoning young minds are all they do.
It is my prayer and hope that more who read this may be encouraged that all those who have read and heard much gossip and doubtful comments about the Church and its leaders know that more than half the truth is not even told.
I do not seek to convince all, as it is virtually impossible, even Jesus, or apostle Paul, or apostle Peter, or Mother Theresa, have their detractors and these respected figures too could not convinced all the detractors in their times. I just hope to convince those who believe and still have a pure heart.
I like what Dr. A.R. Bernard has said. “No point explaining to those who are fully committed to misunderstanding you.” There will always be those who would oppose you and misunderstand and distort you no matter what you say or write. So I do not aim to convince the toxic minds bent on hate, revenge, and self-righteousness as though they are some zealots for God.
I’ll part with a verse, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.” (Titus 1:15)
(Hopefully I would be able to write on more topics around Church investments, & who are some of the detractors and what are they really saying.)
The writer has not given his name but has identified himself as a church member for 20 years.