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Monday October 23rd 2017

What lessons can we learn from City Harvest Church court trial?

The City Harvest Church (CHC) court trial thankfully finished after 3 years and 100 over days of open court trial which mesmerises the whole country.

Jail sentences will likely be part of the sentencing to be issued next month together with a massive fine. Many are looking for at least a 6-month jail sentence for most of them with the senior pastor Kong Hee getting a heavier sentence for spreadheading the whole fradulent campaign.

Surprisingly, none of the 6 convicted expressed any remorse or regret at their charges.

TT Duric was the first big-gun to receive a sentence for cheating in the heavyweight charity body NKF followed by the charity Ren Ci monk. A few other smaller charitable personnel received the knock – mostly for self-proclaimed inflated salaries and there was a welcome silence for the past few years until CHC came knocking.

CHC represents the few megachurches we have here and it will send the right signal for the rest to toe the line when it comes to collecting funds. A megachurch is one which has close to 10,000 members and probably with its own multi-million-dollar church building.

My heart is heavy with the burden that many young Christians may be waylaid by the trial and even drop out of the faith altogether.

Attendance at CHC is believed to have drop by 1/3 if not more and of course their tithes will be affected by the attendance shift. Die-hard critics of the faith now also have another bullet to shoot at Christianity with many Christians world wide observing the court trial at a distance in alarm.

Many parents understandably have also pulled out their children especially those age below 16 years old from the services once the got wind of the court charges – their rationale is if the senior pastor is charged in court for fraud something must be very wrong with the church.

What actually went wrong for a church that has everything going right for them? The church soars in attendance and at its height has at least 30,000 members in church services weekly.

I have not attended a single CHC church service before but friends who attended told me that its both vibrant and full of energy – not unlike that of the popular Hillsong in Sydney.

It has a strong vision and of course a gifted charismatic pastor in Kong Hee.

More than half of their church members are aged below 30 years old and the church represents a movement for the future.

Many friends later complained about its zealous approach to collection of tithes and the church building fund.

Millions were generated weekly and it is not easy to understand why there is fifty million dollars  floating in the church account.

It’s Crossover mission was both visionary and exciting and has aroused passion in the church for overseas mission. Yet, its approach via secular music to be introduced in America through the pastor’s wife Sun Ho has faults which ultimately brought the whole team down.

Conversion has being the hallmark of the Christian faith for many centuries and many are even willing to die for the faith while spreading it.

So Crossover was something which the church tried its level best to implement – even if it means doing something fradulent in the accounts and surprisingly most of them agree to it.

Those who are against it were bought over by the rest or put on cold turkey elsewhere – its either you are in or out and there is no middleground.

As I went through the court account I found that  not one of them realised that it was wrong to tamper with the accounts. Those who are involved also felt that as the funds would be siphoned out and eventually back to the original account, there is no loss and thus legally there will be no wrong-doing.

Maybe the sense of group think during that crucial period was so strong that everyone was sucked into pushing for Crossover to succeed – by hook or by crook.

Group think has always being history’s Achille heel for those who went against the grain amass.

Hitler managed to convince a whole nation to slaughter the 6-million Jews for self preservation and the Americans never thought that the Japanese would bomb them out at the Pearl’s Harbour.

A collective vision is a significant push factor which sometimes cloud the reasoning of the masses.

I remembered giving my entire small life saving when I was still in my twenties for Calvary charismatic’s church building fund almost three decades ago.

Weeks of emphasizing by the senior pastor managed to convince many of the church members to give sacrificially – there was nothing wrong in that if the money was used entirely for that purpose.

CHC probably made a grave fatal mistake by venturing into something which is rather controversial and daring – using the wife is also another double-blow mistake as tongues will wag even though she has a talent for leading worship in church.

The cross from Christianity to secular is a wild preposition and we saw the final end result. Millions were needed and there laid the temptation to go into worldly way in order to achieve certain desired success.

Stories of her staying in a $28000/month mansion in Beverly Hills didn’t help and the risque videos of her dancing around in skimpy outfit was the last straw for any die-hard fan.

For many Christians here, the church is still a rather traditional platform for the practising of one’s faith and any contemporary worldly alternative  is just unacceptable.

So what can we learn here?

For one,  there must be the need for church-goers to be more discerning and alarm bells must be raised if it is focusing alot of it’s church message on collecting funds/tithes.

I knew from reliable sources that CHC went very hard on tithing and those who sacrificed alot on their giving were publicly commended. People go to church to worship and receive a divine word from their pastors and tithing should be something that is between them and God.

There should be no additional  pastoral pressure to give out of a cheerful heart. If the person don’t tithe regularly, he ought to answer to God and no one.

There ought to be a limit on the amount of reserve it can keep and $50 million in the case of CHC seems awfully plenty even though it has a church building fund going on.

I also remembered in the news many years back that there is some plan by CHC to invest into commercial building and this ought to be discouraged by the government as church funds are seen as tax-free charity entitlement to be used entirely for religious church use only.

The court case against CHC is a step backward for the faith and many Christians I spoke to are discouraged by the adverse news.

However, I felt that the case is a good example for many megachurches and charismatic pastors to go back to the basic ie. provide comfort to the flock and build a stable sauctuary for the down-trodden.

Many church-goers  found solace in the Sunday services in the midst of their own personal trial and sometimes for church leaders aspiring to do God’s will, simply doing one’s best in it’s simplest form is enough.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

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3 Responses to “What lessons can we learn from City Harvest Church court trial?”

  1. andrewtungsk says:

    “The court case against CHC is a step backward for the faith and many Christians I spoke to are discouraged by the adverse news.
    However, I felt that the case is a good example for many megachurches and charismatic pastors to go back to the basic ie. provide comfort to the flock and build a stable sauctuary for the down-trodden.”Gilbert Goh
    Christians should become more and more like Jesus who transformed the lives of the little, the least and the lost and worked miracles through faith in God instead of faith in their own efforts.

  2. Raymond Wee says:

    It’s a life long journey for anyone of any religion – learn how to read and see what is from God and what is from man. After learning…..walk the path of God without fear and without desire to be loved.

    Man has been using religion to control his fellow men from the dawn of human history. Do not be a fool to let your desire for love lead you into the path of men.

  3. chu says:

    This scandal is similar to Enron Corp, Houston in 2001. In just 15 years, Enron grew from nowhere to be America’s seventh largest company. Likewise, CHC grew from 20 attendees to 10,300 in 12 years. Another 9 years later, it attendees stood at 33,000 and was one of the leading the pack of biggest five independent churches in S’pore.
    The 2 years investigation led to conviction of 6 accused of CHC executives for conspiracy and fraud. It is quite similar to 6 convicted accused of Enron officials for round-tripping and sham accounting.
    Enron’s failure represents the biggest biz bankruptcy ever while also spotlighting moral’s failings. It’s a stark reminder of the implications of being seduced by charismatic leaders, or more specifically, those who sought at the expense of their communities and their people. In the end, those misplaced morals killed the organization while it injured all of those who had gone along the ride.
    “Just as character matters in people, it matters in organizations,’’ says Justin Schultz, a corporate psychologist in Denver.
    Enron will be the morality play of the new economy. It will teach executives and the public the most important ethics lessons of this decade. Among these lessons are:
    1. You make money in the new economy in the same ways you make money in the old economy – by providing goods or services that have real value.
    2. Financial cleverness is no substitute for a good corporate strategy.
    3. The arrogance of corporate executives who claim they are the best and the brightest, “the most innovative,” and who present themselves as superstars should be a “red flag” for investors, directors and the public.
    4. Executives who are paid too much can think they are above the rules and can be tempted to cut ethical corners to retain their wealth and perquisites.

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