The weekend after City Harvest Church’s senior pastor Kong Hee receives notice of the Commissioner of Charities’ intention to remove him and seven others from their positions in the church, Kong teaches congregation to love God wholeheartedly in the midst of trials.
“When the people have prayed, the place where the people were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak the Word of God with great boldness. And the multitudes of those who believe were of one heart, one soul, and neither did anyone said that anything that they possess was his own.”
This was the verse Aries Zulkarnain, the executive pastor of City Harvest Church, quoted as he prayed for the unity of the church during worship. And such was the atmosphere in the church’s first worship service, on Apr 13, after the Commissioner of Charities announced his intention to proceed with the removal of eight leaders from their positions in the church. The service was filled with the spirit of unity as the members gathered to worship God.
Support for the church leaders did not end with its congregation. Last weekend, Phil Pringle, advisory pastor of CHC, had brought a video with encouragements from pastors around the world. The video was replayed this week, providing timely encouragement to the congregation.
Two couples took the stage to share their testimonies of how the leaders of the church have helped them through difficult times. Roy Lim and his wife Chiam Ling Siang shared how their lives and marriage were turned around through the support of their leaders.
One instance was when Ho counseled them when they were going through difficult times in their relationship. Ho, having gone through depression herself, was also a constant support to Chiam when she faced depression and suicidal thoughts.
“Sun encouraged me that no matter how much the devil may drive me towards suicide, I must decide that I will never ever do it,” Chiam recalled. “I found strength and hope in God because of Sun’s words, knowing that she was sharing as a person who has walked through depression and understood what it meant and had overcome.”
After Lim and Chiam got married, they had difficulty trying to conceive–the constant prayers of the church leaders gave them hope. “Pastor Ming prophesied over us that God will give us the desire of our hearts,” shared Chiam. Roy’s secret desire was always to have a pair of twins and true to the word in December that year we were pregnant with a pair of twin girls.”
Lim also shared how God healed his mother in law in one of the Christmas services after Sun prayed for her. She had received Christ and is now attending CHC’s Chinese Church.
Then there are those who have worked with the leaders of CHC who know their hearts. Ed Ong shared his experience of being personal assistant to Kong Hee, senior pastor of CHC, how Kong lived (and continues to live) his life on a schedule that is others-centered, how on mission, he would spend every waking moment tending to the needs and hurts of those he visits—even during meal times he would be counselling and praying with other pastors.
Ong also saw how dedicated Ho was to her craft as a singer. The car ride from home to office was a time where Ho would be warming her voice even on a normal weekday where she did not need to lead worship. “I believe it is her dedication and hard work that caused God to use her to crossover to Taiwan and United States,” he commented.
Ong suffered a serious case of dengue haemorrhagic fever in November 2010, a few months after the case broke, and was admitted to Intensive Care Unit. Even though Kong and Sun were overseas at that time, their support was still tangible. Ong’s wife, Teo Hsin Yi recalled, “Sun called and pray with me on the phone and I still remember she prayed that what the devil meant for evil, God will turn around for good. That prayer became a comfort to me. Even when they were going through a tough crisis, they were there for us.”
Teo went on to share how Kong went to the hospital at 6am one morning to visit them before rushing off for a mission trip. John Lam, their cell group leader, even offered to let them use his credit card to pay the hospital bill.
Ong, who is a member of the church’s Drama Ministry most recently saw Ho helping out at Easter drama rehearsals near midnight. Sharon Tan, one of the six involved in the court case, was with Ho—she had been helping with the drama costumes.
“These are the kind of people we have. When they are going through the toughest time of their life, they show up to help. When they are going through the toughest time of their life, each one stands strong, still an example of the life and ministry of Jesus, showing us how to live a life of faith, hope and love. These are the individuals we can trust to continue to hold office in City Harvest,” Ong said in conclusion.
“Therefore, Hsin Yi and I will be submitting our letter of representation to COC to express our opinion of how we cannot agree to COC’s decision to remove our leaders from their office.”
As they ended their testimonies, the congregation stood in agreement to his call to support the church leaders. Many also waved specially-made banners to show their support to the church and their leaders.
Visibly touched by the testimonies, Kong took the stage.
“I bring you both good and bad news,” he said referring to the fact that COC has at this moment taken the view that there is insufficient evidence against Ho and hence she has not been notified of her removal. The COC will proceed with the removal proceedings of eight other leaders in the church.
“I am currently preparing representations in response to his actions,” said Kong. “This process will take some time and I hope that all of you will continue to keep our families and the eight of us in your prayers. And yes, I do maintain my integrity.”
Starting with the testimony of a woman who despaired at the immoral conduct of her daughter, Kong preached a message on grace that produces total surrender to God. The woman testified of how when she changed the way she saw her daughter as a child of God, visualizing her daughter having a righteous life, God turned the situation around for her.
“The Kingdom of God is built on the positive,” Kong said. “Even when our situations look bleak and dark, our faith will attract God’s light.” The proof of this is, even in the midst of the trial, City Harvest Church saw 5,889 people receiving salvation on its Christmas and Easter services in the last five months.
The sermons that Kong has been preaching since the start of the year have focused on the love, grace and righteousness Christians have in Christ. But Kong emphasized that did not mean that he had stopped believing in repentance.
“We must have balance (between grace and repentance),” Kong reminded the congregation. Reading from Jude 3-4, he said that in one generation after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, the Gospel of grace was distorted into something terrible and immoral. Many had diluted the grace of God to accommodate their lifestyle.
“God loves us, forgives us, gives us His righteousness in the hope that we will be wholehearted in our commitment to Jesus, and that we will live in a real love relationship with Him, fully submitted to His Word and lordship,” Kong emphasized.
He went on to explain that humans exist on three planes—the body, soul and spirit—and how salvation and grace relates differently to each part of the being.
1. Justification relates to our Legal Position (the spirit)
Reading from Ephesians 2:8, which says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith”, Kong taught that when Christians first believe in Jesus, they receive the fullness of grace into their spirit.
Justification thus deals with the penalty of sin. “The moment we put our trust in Jesus Christ, we will never be penalized for our sins ever again.”
When Christians believe in Jesus, they receive the gift of Righteousness. In their Legal Position, they cannot ask for more grace. In their living condition, however, grace is still working daily so that Christians can become more like Jesus.
James 4:6 says, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” This grace is given for Christians to be changed and renewed in their mind and emotion to live out a pure and holy life.
Sanctification, therefore, deals with the power of sin. Apostle Paul had a thorn in the flesh, he said in 2 Corinthians 8:10 that he “pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Kong taught that Paul needed more grace from God in the midst of a painful, stressful situation—Paul needed “more grace” from Jesus. Similarly, for Christians to be better people, and to be able to trust God more, they need to find strength in the midst of weakness.
3. Glorification relates to our Eternal Exaltation (the body)
1 John 3:2 says that one day when Christians see Jesus face-to-face, they shall be like Him and there is no more dwelling in sinful flesh.
Glorification, therefore, deals with the presence of sin. This happens in the future at the resurrection of the dead, at the second coming of Christ.
“Right now, we need God’s transforming grace for our daily living and we need to learn from the best teacher on grace: Jesus Christ,” Kong said.
Jesus taught in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:6 that “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
“If we love God, we should press in to God for a greater release of righteousness–hunger for righteousness positions us to receive more of the outworking of righteousness, the way we relate to others,” Kong said. “Some people are not hungry for righteousness, they want to know how far they can go before their action is considered sin.”
The gospel of grace should not be focused on the bare minimum; it must lead Christians to a wholehearted surrender to Jesus Christ.
“In the next six months we must be bold, no matter what condemnation we hear, we must know that we have the righteousness for God,” Kong urged the congregation. “And we must have total surrender to Christ, loving Him wholeheartedly. Let’s keep our composure, stay together in love and unity, praying the prayer of faith.”
In closing, Kong prayed for the church, that God will give grace as the people humble themselves before Him. “Tonight I just prayed for the special grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, to come upon this church, come upon my flock, my congregation. Lord, we pray You help us to stay faithful to You, help us to stay in love with You, to stay loving one another. That we are patient in tribulation, that Lord we are always praying, always rejoicing, for the joy of the Lord will be our strength.
“We say when we are weak, we are strong. we say when we are poor we shall be rich, we say we can do things through Christ who strengthen us.”
Church Members Take Up COC’s Invitation To Submit Representations
Last Tuesday, April 9, 2013, the Commissioner of Charities notified eight of the nine suspended members of City Harvest Church—six of whom are involved in an upcoming trial starting May 15—that he intends to remove them from their office(s) and employment following their suspension since June 2012.
These eight are Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, Teo Meng How, John Lam, Chew Eng Han, Sharon Tan, Serina Wee and Jacqueline Tan. Sun Ho, wife of Kong, who has also been under suspension, was not served the notice of intended removal.
In December 2012, the COC had written to the nine to ask them to voluntarily consent to the extension of their suspension till six months after the conclusion of the criminal proceedings. Eight out of the nine agreed to give voluntary consent.
The COC wrote again to the eight to ask them to confirm their consent a second time. Five out of the eight complied.
The COC then issued his notice of his intention to remove the eight based on grounds that only five had confirmed their consent the second time round.
The eight have up to May 13, 2013 to make their representation to the COC to reconsider removal.
The COC has also invited the public to make representation for four of the eight: Kong, Tan, Lam and Teo.
On top of that, the COC has also offered to make available his 227-page inquiry report into CHC, to “any person with specific information that can affect the findings in the Annex…he should write in to the COC, providing his full reasons for the request.”
Those wishing to write representations for Kong, Tan, Lam and Teo must email the COC at email@example.com or send their representation by post to Office of the Commissioner of Charities, 140 Hill Street, #02-00, Old Hill Street Police Station, Singapore 179369.
All representations must be signed off with the writer’s full name, NRIC number and contact details.
The deadline for submission is May 13, 2013.
City News understands that a number of City Harvest Church members have already submitted their representations to the COC, and have copied the Prime Minister, the Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, the Straits Times Forum, and the church.