Why should the church be clear about its doctrine? What if a member does not subscribe to CHC’s doctrine but wants to remain in the church? What stand should the church take when it comes to “hot button” issues involving society, missions, marketplace and campus ministry? Pastor Kong dived into these questions at last weekend’s service.
It was a rare sight to see five pastors in the senior leadership on stage during a weekend service. In City Harvest Church’s weekend service on Mar 13 and 14, Senior Pastor Kong Hee was joined by his wife, Sun, executive pastors, Aries Zulkarnain and Bobby Chaw, as well as Pastor Wu Yuzhuang for a Coffee with Kong Weekend Edition.
The senior leaders had just come back from a spiritual retreat in which they took time to fellowship, worship, pray, study the Word of God, and dialogue about these topics.
“It was very exciting because there was a moment when it felt like God was presenting the blueprint of City Harvest over the next few years,” Sun revealed. “That’s why we organised this Coffee With Kong Weekend Edition because we want the church to hear what we heard during the spiritual retreat.”
THREE THINGS EVERY CHURCH SHOULD FOCUS ON
What attracted people to Jesus was one of the questions that came up during the retreat. Jesus was a man of tremendous truth, great power and love. Reading Ephesians 4:13, Pastor Kong preached that the aim of every Christian should be growing “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”.
According to the late theologian and author, J I Packer, every church needs to focus on doctrine, experience and practice. “If our church becomes unbalanced in this, we are not going to grow up to be like Jesus,” the pastor warned. The pastor’s job is to ensure that the members are fed with sound doctrine that will help them live out the experience of their faith.
Pastor Kong added that it is the responsibility of a Christian to grow in knowledge, spirituality and ethics. Knowledge is the study of God—theology, while spirituality is how a Christian lives his life with God every single day. “Spirituality is our responsibility and it is being informed by our knowledge. The more you know, the more spiritual you are,” he said. Ethics is being able to differentiate right from wrong according to the Bible and not according to what culture dictates.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SOUND DOCTRINE
Pastor Aries raised the question of why it is important for believers to have doctrinal knowledge and spirituality in order to navigate wisely when it comes to ethical issues—especially in this era of relativism and post-modernism.
Pastor Kong explained, “Before you can even be spiritual, your doctrine needs to be sound.” Doctrine, the pastor defined, is the set of beliefs and instructions based on a person’s best understanding of the Scripture. Every church and denomination has its own understanding of the Bible, formulated by a team of key pastors and theologians. This constitutes spiritual convictions.
“Our doctrine determines our DNA, our distinctive,” Pastor Kong said before spelling out the importance of sound doctrine.
Firstly, the doctrine teaches a Christian how to think about God and salvation. How does God save? To what extent are Christians saved? How should a believer lead his life after salvation?
Secondly, the doctrine shapes one’s values and priorities. The church’s doctrines influence the pastors’ sermons, how the church operates, as well as its role in society.
Thirdly, doctrine unites the congregation. Beyond natural affinity, Jesus prayed in John 17 that truth and the reality of God would unite His church. In Acts 2:42, the early church was united under the apostle’s doctrine and that caused them to be very effective in sharing the gospel.
CITY HARVEST IS A PROTESTANT, EVANGELICAL, PENTECOSTAL CHURCH
Pastor Bobby next asked Pastor Kong what he meant when he classified CHC as a Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal church. Pastor Kong proceeded to explain.
A protestant is one who believes in the five solas: sola scriptura which in Latin means “by Scripture alone”, sola fide meaning “by faith alone”, sola gratia meaning “by grace alone”, solus Christus which means “by Christ alone” and soli Deo gloria meaning “glory to God alone”.
Evangelical Christians have four distinctives. Firstly, they are loyalty to the Bible and believe it is inspired by the Holy Spirit and infallible. Secondly, they believe in the penal substitution that took place on the Cross. Thirdly, they are born-again; and finally, they believe in community engagement.
Pentecostal Christians have seven distinctives. They believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of this baptism. They also believe that miracles still happen today, and that worship deepens their love for God, intensifies their joy, heightens their awareness for God’s protection and enhances their anticipation for God’s blessings. Pentecostal Christians also believe in evangelism and missions. They embrace Arminianism, predestination, and the belief that atonement is unlimited. To Pentecostals, God is sovereign, He is love and He gives His believers free will—faith before salvation. Lastly, Pentecostal Christians believe in the second coming of Christ.
“Clarity is the foundation of purpose,” Pastor Kong said, explaining why he needs to be clear on CHC’s set of beliefs. If Christians are not clear about their beliefs, it would be hard for them to understand the purpose of life.
Pastor Kong also touched on liberal theology, which is the opposite of evangelical theology. Theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, who was the father of liberal theology, came up with a system of modern liberal theology that has five distinctive: the Bible is not infallible; it is not meant to be read literally; there are no supernatural miracles today, there was no virgin birth and no resurrection. Liberal theology also subscribes to a social gospel that dictates that salvation is about doing good works and that is more important than loving God.
Joseph Fletcher was a priest who wrote the book titled Situation Ethics, which teaches that in every situation, the most important thing is love. “Fletcher wrote that as long as your action is done in love, that’s the most moral action, even if it breaks any commandments in the Bible,” Pastor Kong explained. “But God is love, so only God can rightly define what love is—as fallen man, we cannot define true love. And God defined it in the Bible; that love is the fulfilment of the law.”
Fletcher eventually lost his faith and became an atheist. “That is the danger of liberal theology,” warned Pastor Kong.
ON DIFFERING DOCTRINES AND MAINTAINING UNITY IN THE CHURCH
Pastor Aries posed a question on how to deal with differing doctrines among fellow believers. Pastor Kong shared that even among his mentors, there are differing doctrines, “We’re all Christians and we serve the same God. Even though they may have differing doctrines, when they come to our church to minister, they don’t sow discord or confusion. They respect us and respect the vision of this house.”
Pastor Zhuang posed a question on how should CHC members who are more inclined to a different doctrine from the church deal with having differing beliefs while maintaining unity in the church.
“I want you to know that we appreciate everyone who is here and I don’t want you to leave our church. I want you to stay,” Pastor Kong appealed. However, pointing to Deuteronomy 29:29, he explained that the church has a responsibility to pass down the truths that God has revealed to them, from generation to generation.
He also urged the church not to be easily swayed by different doctrines. With all the information on the Internet, it is understandable to be confused with what’s out there. Pastor Kong maintained that while it is good to be open-minded about societal issues when it comes to truths that are plain and clear in the Bible, a Christian needs to settle in his heart what he believes in.
ON HOT BUTTON ISSUES
Sun brought up a question on addressing social issues and engaging culture–why does it seem like the church does not want to talk about hot button issues?
“I hear you, but I think before we address all these sorts of issues, we must be very clear about what the Bible says concerning all these things: marriage, divorce, life, and death,” Pastor Kong explained. “And the Bible tells us to be slow to speak. Because if we are not clear or sure, and we just join in the choruses, chances are, you’ll be part of the cancel culture.”
He went on to explain that the church needs to do two things before it can deal with social issues: to grow stronger in the Word of God, and to understand the calling of the church.
“Our calling is to win the lost and make disciples, one soul at a time. We want to focus on that,” he said. Instead of dealing with the issues in public, the church’s leadership has been discussing these issues in small group settings. “Not only is it more intimate,” the pastor explained, “we can discuss it in depth and detail, and we are able to be clear about it.”
At the end of the service, Pastor Kong and Sun went through the plans they have for the church this year. “I sense another wave of revival coming. I have to get us ready for this: your knowledge, the doctrine of spirituality. We need to be discipled and trained, and we need to be spiritually strong.”
Plans for leadership training with the pastors and pastoral supervisors are in the pipeline. From April onwards, Pastor Kong will be doing marketplace discipleship. The leadership will also be training the youths to helm a youth service next year.
Sun spoke about the plans for families as well as the singles in the church. Marriage mentors are being trained to walk with newly-married couples as well as couples who need help. The pastors are also writing a curriculum for “Faith at Home” to enable and empower parents to walk the journey of parenthood.
City Harvest Community Services Association, the community service arm of CHC, also has more plans to engage the church to reach the community this year.
“We are not going to go back to the way we used to do things in the past. We want 90 percent of it to be from God. Let it be God’s effort,” said Pastor Kong in closing. “So don’t be in a hurry, don’t be impatient. Just wait, watch and pray, and get ready for the glory of God to come.”