On City Harvest Church’s 24th anniversary, City News, together with City Radio, conducts a special tell-all interview with senior pastor Kong Hee.
Bernard Loh: Today, in the hot seat, I’m going to ask you 24 questions on our 24th Anniversary. I’ve to warn you, the first few questions are very hot, very, very hot. The first question, Pastor, are you ready? The first question is…
1. Rice or noodles?
2. Who is your favorite Avenger?
3. Favorite movie of all time? Why?
Batman Begins. I think there is a part where young Bruce Wayne (says), “I’m not going to do this, I can’t.” And Alfred says, “Remember your father. You are the son of the house; you are part of the Wayne manor” or something like that. I just wept. ”
4. What is your favorite worship song of all time?
“I Exalt Thee.”
5. What is Sun’s favorite worship song of all time?
I don’t know, maybe “I Worship You,
Almighty God, There Is None Like You.”
6. Do you remember when this picture was taken? (Bernard shows Kong a photo) I think (the year) this picture (was taken) must be 1989, at a Bible seminar or youth revival meeting. [see picture above]
7. How many people were there at City Harvest Church’s first service? How many cell group leaders were there when you first started CHC?
139 (people in the first service). Cell group leaders, I don’t know, six? Seven? Eight?
8. What was the most challenging thing for you when you first started the church?
Parents calling up my home. Because they were wondering why their kids were joining this brand new church led by such a young pastor. At that time I was not married and living with my parents! So, can you imagine parents calling up my parents?
9. What was the first Bible Study you gave about? To whom?
I think (it was) Pastor Yong (Te-Chong). It was Foundation Truth from Hebrews 6:1-2 in 1984.
10. When was the first time CHC encountered the police?
1989, it was at East Coast beach. We were having water baptism and some people thought I was going to drown the kids. Police came with their riot car and we had to explain to them that this was a water baptism service.
11. What can you tell us about your first disciples, Pastor Yong and Pastor (Choong Tsih) Ming that no one knows?
Pastor Yong is a great cook, (an) amazing cook. Pastor Ming loved to wear shorts.
He was already 16, 17, and he still wore those shorts.
12. What did your parents or siblings say to you when you went into full time ministry?
My Dad said “Why? Are you sure? Why?” He said, “You can serve God in your spare time, as a volunteer. Why do you want to be a full-time pastor?” Of course, today he is very happy I’m a pastor.
13. Tell us about street witnessing. Were you good at it?
I started street witnessing when I was 16 or 17 years old. You know what? I didn’t enjoy it, but it was good for building courage. Street witnessing can be very scary. I have done door-to-door witnessing and I have (had) doors slam in my face. I have given tracts to people and right in front of me, they crumpled it and threw it down. I have (had) people cursing at me. You must remember, 20 to 30 years ago, the Christian population in Singapore was very small.
14. Can you describe the five newly ordained reverends, each with one word?
Pastor Bobby Chaw: Missions
Pastor Eileen Toh: Children
Pastor Kenneth Sim: Missions
Pastor Audrey Ng: Pastoral
Pastor Joseph Ang: Caring
15. The following five questions are from the five newly ordained pastors. Firstly, from Pastor Bobby: “During dedication service, some of your disciples came from abroad. How did you begin your discipleship journey with them?”
I took an interest in their lives. I really wanted them to succeed in the visions and dreams God had given to them. One thing led to another, we built a friendship and a relationship and they look to me as an elder brother, a mentor, a coach. Over a period of time I became their pastor. I have an open channel to them and they have an open channel to me. I’m here for them.
16. Pastor Eileen: “You never fail to amaze me with your strength and capacity to keep on keeping on. How do you do it?”
Actually, I’m quite a laidback, unambitious, passive person. I am only energetic because of the fire of God burning in me. It gives me the enthusiasm and the motivation. Because I can tell you, on my day off when I’m not doing ministry, I am a couch potato. I’m very quiet, I’m not a sanguine person (nor a) party animal. I’m a recluse. (It is) the fire of God, the passion for God, the visions and dreams that (has) kept me burning on and never burning out.
17. Pastor Kenneth: “What have you had to wrestle with God over?”
To keep obeying Him in the ministry and (my) calling, and to keep fulfilling the calling He has for me. I think sometimes the calling of God has a great price tag. Firstly, I don’t know if I’m up to the challenge. Number two, I don’t know if I have the mental and emotional capacity to handle the cost of the price you have to pay to fulfill the calling. The thing I constantly wrestle with is, “God, You sure You got the right person to do it?”
18. Pastor Audrey: “What is the most memorable time, (one) you treasure, while serving God?”
For me, the most memorable time is to sense the presence of God when I’m preaching or when I’m standing among the people worshiping. The anointing of God gives you a “high” that nobody and nothing in the world can give you. So to me, every time I feel the anointing, it makes the ministry memorable.
19. Pastor Joseph: “What is your biggest joy in ministry?”
The biggest joy for me is to see my disciples, the church members enjoying their ministry and their walk with God. When I see all the disciples pastoring, growing successful churches—it’s such a joy. To see all the newly ordained pastors and for them to come to a place where they are respected and admired all around Asia—it’s just tremendous joy for me. For me to see any member or attendee coming and saying, “Pastor, I’m healed of this. Pastor, I got my job. Pastor, God came through for me.” I think it’s a joy of every pastor. A pastor is a father, so when you see your children successful, that’s my joy.
20. Can you tell me about your ordination process? When, where and by whom were you ordained?
John 15 in the Bible says it’s Jesus Christ who really ordains. It says, “I have ordained that you should go forth and bear fruit and your fruit should remain.” The ordination ceremony is just to confirm the call of God on your life on a public forum. In some churches they have an ordination committee. They will survey the people, do a background check: What is your respectability level? Have you come to a place where you are proven in your ministry? Do you live a life that is worthy of your ordination? Is there an evident anointing, presence and power of God in your life?
At CHC, ordination is to me is a big deal. That is why in a church our size, we don’t have a lot of reverends. I’ve got to ensure that you have the respect of all the staff, all the congregation, and their colleagues outside of CHC. Most of all, I’ve got to know that the hand of God is upon your life. When all those checkboxes are ticked, I’d say it’s time for you to be ordained. Normally for me, my preference is you don’t get ordained too young, too soon.
When I first started the church, I just called myself Pastor Kong. We had a covering church called Bethany Christian Center, an Assembly of God church. The pastor of the church, Rev. Dr. Anthony Phua, he was very kind: he ordained me and provided the covering while we applied to the Registry of Societies for our license. When I was ordained by him and he gave me the title “Reverend,” (but) nobody called me reverend, everybody called me Pastor Kong. Because I was young, I was an unknown entity. Even when I went around the city and met with different pastors, they called me “Brother Kong” or “Pastor Kong” because to them, especially those in the mainstream churches, “Reverend” is a title of great respect.
I really felt I became a reverend when my former pastor, Rev. Canon James Wong called me “Reverend”; and he didn’t do that until the mid-90s, probably about eight, nine years after we started the church.
When my pastor, whom I grew up under, calls me a reverend, that day was my ordination service. Because ordination is
not a certificate, it is an acceptance; you are accepted as a person of maturity.
21. CHC is 24 this year. What is the most important thing you’ve learned this past 24 years?
I really learned that the church is a wonderful spiritual family and I learned that Jesus loves the church and Jesus is really the head of the church. Everything we have seen—the revival, the growth—is not the work of humans. It’s not my work, it’s not Sun’s work, it’s the work of Jesus Christ. He is looking to work through us, so that we can be His vessel through which His presence, His power, His anointing and His grace can flow. And you just want to be the right person, at the right place, at the right time where you can give Him the chance to use you. Really, it’s His church. I look back, and I feel that my contribution here is one percent and 99 percent is really the Holy Spirit, it’s really Jesus Christ.
22. From before the (ongoing court) case to now, our church has become smaller, how do you feel about that?
Of course, I’m sad. I’m sad because at one time these people were part of my flock, and as a shepherd, I want to be able to say to Jesus Christ, “Everyone You’ve entrusted to me, I have lost none.” But at the same time I know that I’m the under-shepherd, Jesus is the Chief Shepherd. Jesus knows what He is doing, I am just a steward, I’m just a manager of what He has given to me. I feel, of course a sense that people have left, I want to bless them and I want to pray that every one of them will be settled in a church where they are comfortable with and they are growing in Christ.
But at the same time I know all things work together for good. It’s also a time when God is pruning us—it’s a pruning process. It’s a time where God is streamlining us for those that are really called to the City Harvest vision; those with the City Harvest DNA.
I’m not saying that those that have left are not flowing with God, but not all of us are called to be travelling partners on the same path. We can be friends, we can be acquaintances, but there are some that are meant to be yoked together and to serve God together for the rest of our lives. So, in that sense I’m glad too, that although our church is a third smaller, I think everybody can sense our prayer is stronger, our worship is more fervent and more intense. It’s purer.
I think God is preparing us for the next phase of our ministry, the next 24 years, the next quarter of a decade is going to be so amazing. I think by the time we celebrate our golden anniversary as a church, we’re going to look back and say, “Thank God He has done this.”
23. In the next 24 years, what do you see yourself doing?
I see myself still pastoring our church. I see myself, together with Sun, still leading the people and taking our church to a greater level. I see our ministry impacting the whole of Asia. I see City Harvest churches in every country of Asia and in every continent. I have no doubt whatsoever that we will be on every media platform and the Gospel will be preached. I believe God, through this ministry, will lead millions upon millions of people to Christ. So we are in for a very exciting ride. It is not going to be easy, but I believe God is enlarging us, stretching our capacity, preparing us for the next phase. I’m excited that the next 24 years, I’m going to give my best and I think after that I can retire.
24. On this 24th anniversary, what do you want to say to the church?
I want to thank the church for standing with me and Sun the last 24 years. It’s not been a easy journey because we are visionaries, we are pioneers and, unfortunately, when you are at the cutting edge, at the forefront, as pioneers, you break a lot of mindsets, you do things that have never been done before.
I want to thank the church for standing with me through thick and thin. Sometimes I feel so bad that I have to put you in the spot where you have to shoulder certain level of criticism, humiliation, and you’ve got to bear the shame on my account. I always feel bad about that.
But I want to say this: Church, what an honor it is to serve together. At this time, in this generation, when God is doing so much around the world, God has chosen CHC to be an important piece of the jigsaw (puzzle), to play a significant part to bring in the end time harvest and I’m just glad that we can do this together.
I count it a privilege to be able to do this with you.