The continuing saga of the two giant mega churches – CHC and NCC, continues, with CHC buying into Suntec in a 310 million deal, at the very heart of the NCC HQ. The two churches epitomized the two different pillars of Christianity – concerning Law and Grace with strong supporters on both sides. Both have engaged in thinly disguised sermons against each other including the sermons on Antinomianism by Pastor Kong Hee. They are currently ranked 1 and 2, in the mega church ranking in Singapore terms of attendance and revenue. When all was seemingly lost with CHC new building either ending back in Jurong, or at Stadium, and NCC gaining their prized One North centre, the Empire strikes back to the very heart and “city” centre of Singapore, thus fulfilling its namesake of “City” Harvest.
Both churches are strikingly similar in their Prosperity Theology. In the “D-Day” sermon at CHC last Sunday 07 March 2010, in the building fund drive of 17.3 million for the next 4 months, the most pertinent statement by Pastor Kong Hee was that if you believe God for salvation in future eternity, surely we can believe that God can prosper us now, on this Earth. Ie if God doesn’t prosper us on Earth, how do we expect Him to prosper us in Heaven. If God can prosper the likes of the Patriarch Abraham, and King David, why can’t God prosper me? For many a church doing business is like the money changers at the temple of God, and time will tell whether the temptation and god of money, glory and power can be crucified.
Is our Christianity to be gauged by our prosperity? If it is thus, then the Catholic Church would be far ahead. They once owned two thirds of Europe. If CHC is to continue to make a difference in the lives of people, it should also be mindful to continue to be a church without walls not only in the great amount of good works done, but how we treat people.
Treating people justly and with equality
We seldom reflect on the 3 billion is living below what the UN called moderate poverty of less than USD $2 a day. It is hard to hear their cries of inequality or put ourselves in their predicament. The solution is also not simple. The root cause of poverty is often self inflicted as a nation due to cruel dictatorship, coups, corruption, racial violence, religious strife, and wars exasperated by natural causes such as draught and diseases. The root cause is how we treat people. Without a Christianity which addresses issues of justice and equality, the cycle of poverty will continue.
In the midst of the poverty, Christianity finds its greatest growth in Africa. However, nothing appears to have changed very much in Nigeria, where corrupt leaders are still taking billions away. Such countries are also extremely anti-gay, and are using Christianity to justify their stance. The Christian Post SG article “Ministry Helps Church responds compassionately to Homosexuals” on 08 March 2010, proudly proclaims Exodus and their anti-gay “love won out” ministries. However, their “love won out” talks in Uganda has triggered laws to execute gays fueled by the same rhetoric we see in the likes of Rony Tan and Derek Hong.
Without emphasizing basic human rights and respect for the dignity of others as demonstrated by Jesus, our love can be self centered on our own needs, prosperity, and sexuality. We can’t see gays past their sexual orientation, as humanity instead of narrowly defining gays as “homosexuals” when we do not keep addressing straight people likewise. How we treat the gay community reflects whether we are treating people justly and with equality.
Treating people consistently and fairly
We often honor those who would benefit us, and you would seldom see the Pastors taking photo with a gay couple but instead with the rich, the politicians, and the influential. We love ourselves and our own innate straight sexuality and condemn others “as a lifestyle not intended by God”. Whilst we are so eager to condemn gays just on account of their same sex orientation, and blame gays for family breakdown, there were no gay ducklings hiding behind the scenes when it was revealed on 07 March 2010 that Jack Neo had a female mistress, a Wendy Chong, all along for the last two years whilst he was a Christian. And, it appears, there may be more. The couple had been married for 27 years.
The movie director, Jack Neo, has attended City Harvest Church since 2007, and even directed a movie “Love Matters” with a Christian theme. Love he said came through relationship where we appreciate each other. “On how he keeps his marital relationship alive, he simply said, Mutual understanding that ’s all” he said in Christian Post SG. On stage at City Harvest a few years back, Pastor Kong commented on how loving and family minded Jack Neo was. It seems that “Love matters” only if you were straight. We hear no cries of “adultery” or righteous indignation from the CHC Pastors. In an annoying backdrop to the week when the CHC purchase was to make the headlines, we see the now famous remarks:-
"aren't men all like that, and its no big deal", Irene Ng, Wife of Jack Neo
"[Irene Ng] did not care who Jack was involved with as she was content that she loved him"
“I had sex with Jack Neo twice a week ONLY”, Wendy Chong
Making a difference in Christ is found not in assigning our sins to others, to be put on the poor gay lamb to be sacrificed but to live in authentic lives, authentic to God and being self aware of our own humanity. God doesn’t really see how good we treat the rich and famous, but how we treat those who are despised by the rest of the community. We have to honor those that are least honored.
Let's see who will make a difference first in the Gay community and openly welcome Gay people on equal and just terms, City Harvest or New Creation? I suspect perhaps it will be CHC as Pastor Kong and Sun come to know more Gay people in Hollywood. Sometimes, the humanity of others breaks away our prejudice and walls in our hearts to look at people as how God sees them. It may never happen as making a difference sometimes cost too much to do the right thing by God's amazing grace.
Making a difference (City Harvest Song)
Won't You Lord take a look at our hands
Everything we have Use it for Your plans
Won't You Lord take a look at our hearts
Mold it refine it as You set us apart
We want to run to the altar and catch the fire
To stand in the gap Between the living and the dead
Give us a heart of compassion For a world without vision
We will make a difference Bringing hope to our land
We will answer the call To build this church without walls
Let Your glory be shown Bring salvation to the lost
To the lost...