Woke up and saw this post on ping.sg. Firstly, I LOVE what this guy wrote. Really. I did. Now, I know why I turned my back on Christianity (as a religion). And of course what this post highlighted also helped.
Firstly, I used to go to CHC. I haven’t gone to church for some time. I haven’t read the Bible for some time. Haven’t really prayed except when some of the people I love want to say grace before a meal or when a friend is in need. So maybe I’m not the most qualified person like the gentleman who blogs here to talk about CHC and the prosperity message that everyone is so hung up about.
But damn if I’m not going to say something to defend CHC.
I love his kungfu. Really. I do. First, he says ‘… sermon was going to be the filth that is the prosperity gospel again as is the norm at City Harvest Church.’ then he says ‘… pray for Kong Hee to wake up from his delusion, repent, and start preaching God’s Word instead of the prosperity gospel.’ and then to show us what a nice guy he is ‘You are putting words into my mouth — I did not in any manner condemn Kong Hee nor judge him or the church that he leads.’
I’m being a bit hypocritical here. I have written in such a way on this blog before but this guy is the master.
What is the meaning of condemn? What is the meaning of repent? If you tell a guy he needs to repent haven’t you already judged him.
Jedi mind tricks. The force is strong in this one.
But how does this have anything to do with defending CHC. Nothing. I was digressing and I apologize.
City Harvest Church does place a strong emphasis on the prosperity message. Is it the only message? No. It isn’t. Is it the message that appears at every sermon? Well, I haven’t done a statistical analysis on the notes I have taken during the time I was a member, but I would be able to agree that it is a message that is kinda always mentioned.
Is that a bad thing?
No really. Is it a bad thing?
There are many ways to say the same thing. The first way is this.
You are a sinner. Of no fault of yours, you were born a sinner and you are condemned to this bloody terrible place called Hell. And since you are a Singaporean used to aircon, you are screwed. Cos Hell is hot. HOT. And if you have blabber problems, whahaha, you are really screwed, cos hell is condemnation with no relief. NO RELIEF. Get it? But don’t worry, cos if you repent and accept Jesus Christ as your savior, you will be saved. You won’t go to hell. You get to go to heaven! Don’t you want heaven? You can get it. But remember only JC can give it to you. Like the brother here said, work towards your salvation with ‘fear and trembling’.
Pause. You do realized that being a Christian just because I don’t really want to go to hell and I fear some big boy in the sky is almost like being a Christian just because I want to be rich.
Same Difference. Both reasons cheapens Christianity and any sort of relationship one could have with God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit.
There is the other way to say it.
Yup, let’s ignore for a moment this whole inconvenient notion that somehow we are all born sinners. Look at your life now. Are you happy with it? Don’t you wish that there was more meaning to your life. More purpose. Don’t you wish to be able to afford the cost in taking care of your elderly parents. Want to give the best to your children? Want to live life with greater fulfillment and satisfaction instead of instant gratification. Want to travel and see the world? (honestly, nothing wrong with wanting to do that. It isn’t crass or materialistic. If God really created such a beautiful world, I think he would perfectly understand the desire in us to see it) Christianity can give that to you. And so much more. God created us so that we would be able to experience life together with him (or her), share in its joys of exploring, discovery and creating, but things kinda got fucked along the way, but God is here to help us make everything right again. Do you want his help? Jesus came so that we can have life abundantly.
I know some Christians argue that the verse is talking about eternal life. But really, God just wants us to suffer in this one until we die and go to heaven and then we start enjoying from then on? I thought we were born again in this world, when we repent and accept our salvation. Babies yes. But isn’t the born again life starting here? Sure, we need to grow. Sure, we would need to suffer and be tested. But shouldn’t the good life start here. How small your God is if it can only happen when you die and go to heaven. But of course, I agree that the good life can start without being rich in all that is called materialism. But lusting after material wealth isn’t the same as wanting to be prosperous.
The great mistake when commenting on the prosperity message is assuming that it is always about having enough for your car, condo, country club blah blah blah. What arrogance! Do you actually believe when we want more, we all want ‘your more’. Some people just want to be able to study. To have that next meal. To take care of the health costs of their sick relatives. To indulge a bit. To eat nice chocolate. To give that present to a friend they really love.
The prosperity message is preached because there is an understanding that some people can’t even meet certain material needs or enjoy what a lot of us take for granted. Yes, there is nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy more. Hell, there is nothing wrong with wanting to feed a guy before telling him how he can’t live on bread alone.
But you see, no one, no one who condemns City Harvest Church and its prosperity message ever ever talks about the next thing. Yes. The next thing. You can do two things when you are rich (actually a lot of things, but for argument’s sake, I’m simplifying).
1. You can hoard it.
2. You can share it.
Sorry to disappoint you all, but CHC doesn’t advocate 1. In fact, they advocate number 2 to a fault. The leaders in the church (or at least those I know) always talk about having more so that we can be a conduit on this earth to give to others.
It is through us that we can bless others.
The prosperity message is a one-two, left-hand jab, right-hand upper cut move.
Another thing. The blogger talks about how Pastor Kong took the verses out of context. I’m no expert in bible translation, but I think the King James Version came before the English Standard Version.
Which doesn’t really mean a thing.
I just wanted to point out that we can argue all we want about what a verse means when one translation uses a different word compared to another translation and it would be pointless. At least to me. Because I mean, aren’t there other things to consider. Like the source. And how the actual word used in the source was rich in meanings and it was up to the translator’s interpretation that we get the word in the translated version.
So to imply someone is abusing a verse just because the other translated version uses a different word is a bit disingenuous.
Or course, that doesn’t mean the blogger’s argument that the verse was taken out of context is invalid.
Finally about the sermons being no different from self-improvement talks. That is false. Of course, things might have changed now and what he said has validity. Anyway, I couldn’t find the mentioned sermon on the site, so I’ll just use what I know from the past to say this.
Setting goals, achieving them, realizing our best in finances, marriage, relationships and the works is very much relevant to our Christian walk. Our Christian walk is not just about our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is important of course, if not the most important thing. It isn’t just the only thing.
Simple example albeit not a perfect analogy.
Say I love my gf. A lot. But our relationship would be a little stale don’t you think if its spent just walking on the beach, the two of us, just talking about our relationship.
But what if I bring her into other aspects of my life which is also important. Like my career. She plays a part because I try to let her understand the decisions I make. I consult her for the decisions I’m going to make. But I don’t always run back to her. She doesn’t need to be part of every single decision I make. Sometimes, I can be decisive and make some on my own. After all, I got the brains, the training, the reasoning, the knowledge and hopefully the wisdom to do so.
To say our Christian walk is one and not the other is to bring a false dichotomy. Our Christian walk is everything about our life. And how God can be part of it. But God being part of it doesn’t mean every single thing is deferred to God.
A terrible example to use. After the tsunami, a friend asked me why God didn’t do something. Why didn’t he intervene?
And I asked, why should God do anything?
God made us right? He gave us intelligence. He gave us will. He gave us understanding. He gave us the ability to make choices.
The tsunami’s damage could have been mitigated if some places had better warning systems. But no investment was made. Humans made the choice to do nothing about something they had the power to do.
So, how is a church leader teaching us practical steps in self-improvement bringing God into our lives and how is that improving our Christian walk?
Well, in one way, we are learning from a person anointed by Christ. I think there is some power in that.
Secondly, when we live our life well, it is a testament to God, especially when we acknowledge that God had a part to play. But to live it well, we need to know how. Right?
Thirdly, and I’m using what I learned about marriage from CHC here, you got to be able to do both the practical and the spiritual. From what I know, the leaders from CHC always say that in the end, God has to come into the picture.
For example, marriage is not between two people but three. Me, my spouse and God. We were taught how to bring God into the marriage. However, we were also taught practical steps in making the marriage work.
1. If I stay back after work, I will always inform my wife my whereabouts.
2. Even if there are people in the office, and I claim I’m not attracted to the female colleague, I work where the door is open, the blinds are up.
3. If I have to travel, I bring a male companion instead of a female one. If a female one needs to come, I try to bring three people along and arrange such that different sexes do not share room.
Practical steps. Why does a church need to teach this?
Because it is about accountability. And how accountability has to be part of our life. If we can’t be accountable in stuff like this, how can we be accountable to God.
Take what happens when you get into the car. You believe that God will protect you. You even prayed. But you still wear a seatbelt. It is protection. Practical protection.
You need both. To do the practical stuff and the spiritual stuff. Both has a part.
So, our relationship with God is the most important thing. And we got to work on it. But to work solely on it is a little off. We work on other aspects of our lives and always make sure that God is a part of it. So while, we may not be spending most of our time directly working on the relationship with God, by bringing him into every aspect of our lives, we are indirectly strengthening it.
Like, instead of just talking to my gf about our relationship and how it can be better and always just being only with her, both of us take up a hobby together with our friends. We both learn a skill and while not exactly working on the relationship directly, the relationship grows.
To end, listen to the above mentioned blogger’s advice.
“I shall also pray that you shall learn to discern and seek to study the Bible and learn what God teaches about the Christian life, instead of listening to the apostasy many teachers now falsely teach.”
Remember though, teachers come in all forms, and the pulpit isn’t just in a church.
A blog can be a pulpit too.