Friday, June 25, 2010

I Am, Therefore I Do

I read blogpastor's latest post, provocatively titled "Marrying Joseph Prince With Kong Hee" in which Pastor Kenny aka blogpastor suggested that marrying the strengths of Pastor Prince who "is great at preaching the indicatives" with Pastor Kong Hee who "on the other hand is great at preaching the imperatives" in regular pastoral preaching and teaching "will grow Christians who are steadfast and  joyful  in witness and service".

While this may sound like a good idea in theory, I believe this approach will give rise to confusion in reality.  This is because if you listen carefully to what they preach, you will realize that Pastor Prince's and Pastor Kong Hee's preaching are absolute opposites.  In essence, Pastor Prince preaches "I am, therefore I do" while Pastor Kong Hee preaches "I do, therefore I am".

We, human beings, are by nature "human doings" i.e. we tend to validate our own existence by what we do, and Pastor Kong Hee's preaching and teaching reinforces that natural mentality.  I have heard Pastor Kong Hee preach in one sermon about how the value of a person increases by the things he did, and he cited the example of how one of his staff increased her value by pursuing higher education, upgrading from polytechnic to university level and left the church to work for a large MNC. He also mentioned about how his value as a speaker has increased from S$50 an hour when he first started (if I remember correctly, he said it was a motivational talk at a local modeling agency) to at least US$5,000 for speaking at overseas conferences now.

In essence, Pastor Kong Hee preaches to the natural man in us, that the value of a Christian is in what he does i.e. "I do, therefore I am".  Hence, it is no surprise that Pastor Kong defines CHC's DNA as "loving God wholeheartedly, and loving people fervently", and therefore Pastor Kong Hee preaches "The only way to become a successful Christian in the marketplace is to build your life on spiritual disciplines. Reading the Bible, prayer, fasting, praise and worship and thanksgiving, solitude, confession, repentance, forgiveness and going to church—these are the spiritual undergirding support of one’s upward mobility", and "If we’re not careful in maintaining our spiritual disciplines, we will start to compromise on our faith. Instead of us influencing the world, we in turn become vulnerable and get influenced by the world".

In contrast, Pastor Prince stresses that we are a new creation in Christ, and our value lies in our identity in Christ, for we are perfect in the eyes of God because we are in Christ.  Hence, Pastor Prince has mentioned many times that he is not preaching to the first Adam in us but last Adam i.e. Christ, and therefore, week after week, we hear Pastor Prince expounding from the scriptures, both the Old and New Testament, things concerning Christ, and we hear Pastor Prince always preaching about the finished work of  Christ on the Cross and our value lies not in what we do but what Christ has done.

As a result of absorbing deep into my Spirit the knowledge of who I am in Christ, the desire to love God wholeheartedly and love people fervently grows in my heart. Yet, I am always conscious that my value lies not in how much I love God but in how much God loves me. When I help people, I do not feel proud about it because I know that my value lies not in how much I love people but in how much God loves me.

Pastor Kong Hee talks about maintaining spiritual disciplines in order not to compromise on our faith but this teaching will inevitably end up in failure because it depends on our own limited strength.  Moreover, whatever "spiritual disciplines" we maintain have no value in the eyes of God, they are like "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). We will not compromise on our faith when we focus on Christ, on Christ being our righteousness, on Christ being our wisdom, on Christ being our peace, on Christ and Christ alone.

That is what Pastor Prince does - focusing our attention on Christ, not on what we must do - but when he does that, I realize who I Am, and Therefore I Do.



NCC's Daily Devotional for today

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What Is The Message Of The Cross?

Yesterday, Pastor Kong Hee wrote a note on his blog, entitled "Reflections". In the note, Pastor Kong wrote:
What is the City Harvest DNA? In essence, it is the message of the Cross — “loving God wholeheartedly and loving people fervently” (Matt. 22:37-40) — while simultaneously crossing over and engaging the culture of our societies so that the message can be communicated in a fashion that is both relevant and attractive to the generation of our times (Matt. 5:14-16).
At first look, there seems nothing wrong with Pastor Kong's declaration but as I pondered over it, the Holy Spirit prompted me to think about this - what is "the message of the Cross"? Is it really "loving God wholeheartedly and loving people fervently"?

Yes, I agree we should love God and love people but that is not the message of the Cross. I'm no theologian but I believe the focus of the Cross is not us but Christ. The Cross is not about what we should do but what Christ has done. The message of the Cross is not about us "loving God wholeheartedly" but rather about God loving us wholeheartedly - for God SO loved us that He GAVE His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life, for God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:16-17).

Many religions teach that we should love God and love people but none of them speak of a God who loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die on our behalf - God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8)- this IS the message of the Cross!

Yes, I agree we should love God and love people but we should not put the cart before the horse - We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? (1 John 3:16-17)

Yes, I agree we should love God and love people but we should always remember that our love is the fruit of His love for us.  We should not glory in our love for God and people, for our love fluctuates. Instead, we should glory in God's love for us, for His love never fluctuates; nothing good you do can make God love you more and nothing bad you do can make God love you less.

Simon Peter gloried in his love for Jesus but in the end, he denied Jesus three times (John 13:37-38). John gloried in the Lord's love for him and in the end, Jesus chose him, at the foot of the Cross, to serve His mother, Mary (John 19:26-27). Have you received the right message?

(Pastor Prince's free podcast: "Boast Of The Lord's Love For You, Not Your Love For Him")

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Understanding Pastor Mark

Overnight, Pastor Mark has now become famous (or infamous) in Singapore but I'm sure many outside NCC (and those who just joined NCC) don't know his background and thus are likely to misunderstand his intentions in preaching his sermon. Please allow me to put Pastor Mark's sermon in perspective.

Pastor Mark was a staunch follower of Taoist beliefs and practices for years, and after he has become a Christian, the Holy Spirit opened his eyes to view those practices he followed with a different perspective from before. Pastor Mark was just sharing his personal experience through his new perspective with the congregation, and when he cracked those politically incorrect jokes, he was also laughing at himself.

Pastor Mark usually preaches in Mandarin and Hokkien in the Chinese ministry. He has only preached a few times in the English service, when appointed by the senior pastor to do so, and I remembered Ps Prince once saying that he wanted Pastor Mark to share his personal experience with us because of his background in idol worship which many of us in Singapore share, whether we were formerly idol worshipers too or come from a idol-worshiping family.

Pastor Mark's English sermon is actually a repeat of what he shared with his Chinese ministry congregation. He talks about his idol-worship days with his Chinese ministry congregation because there are many old folks in the congregation who have switched from decades of idol-worship to worshiping God. Pastor Mark takes pains to explain to them how worshiping God is different from the way they worshiped idols, and in the process also showed them the inconsistencies of their previous practices. I have heard Pastor Mark tell his Chinese ministry congregation many times "你们要了解" ie. "You all must understand". He wants them to understand the significance of what they are doing in the Christian faith, eg. prayer, tithing, offering, the Holy Communion, and not just blindly follow, otherwise they are just continuing their idol-worshiping ways but in a Christian setting.

It must be noted that something politically incorrect does not mean that it is incorrect. Most, if not all religions claim to be THE true way and by extension, all others are not. Therefore, while it is ok for a person to proclaim his religion is THE true way, it is politically incorrect for him to show that other religions are not.

I am not saying that it is ok for Pastor Mark to say things offensive to other religions because especially in multi-racial, multi-religious Singapore, we have to be sensitive to the feelings of others in order to maintain racial and religious harmony. However, I must confess that it did not cross my mind at that time that those jokes were offensive to other religions because I was not thinking about other religions while sitting in a church service, I was filtering what the pastor said only from a Christian point of view.

Most if not all of our pastors' preaching on Sundays in NCC is about Christ and his finished work. Ps Mark's sermon is a unique case because of his concern for the older folks in his Chinese ministry congregation. NCC and Pastor Mark have sincerely apologized and I'm sure all of us will learn from this lesson to be more politically savvy and not be so naive about the things we say here in multi-racial, multi-religious Singapore.

THE Christian pastor whose mocking remarks about Taoism were posted online last week issued a personal apology yesterday after calls from the Taoist Federation for him to show more contrition.
Last night, New Creation Church pastor Mark Ng, 48, issued a statement to The Straits Times for what he described as a 'serious indiscretion'.
He said: 'In my zeal to explain the various aspects of Chinese culture and traditions in the context of teachings in the Bible, I failed to observe the basic tenet of Christianity, which is founded on love for one and all.
'I have been reprimanded and counselled by my church leaders and would like to give everyone my full assurance that this will not happen again.
'I humbly appeal to those whom I've offended to forgive me for this serious indiscretion.'
His remarks came after Taoist Federation chairman Tan Thiam Lye said that an apology posted on the New Creation church's website on Mr Ng's behalf on Sunday was not good enough.

17 June - Straits Times Breaking News:

'Now we are friends.'

New Creation pastor Mark Ng (left) hugging Taoist Federation chairman Tan Thiam Lye yesterday. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG


NOTHING beats a good hug when it comes to making up.
Taoist Federation chairman Tan Thiam Lye and New Creation pastor Mark Ng demonstrated this when Mr Ng showed up at the federation to apologise yesterday.
'With this, everything is yi bi gou xiao,' said Mr Tan, meaning Mr Ng's personal visit had wiped the slate clean between the two parties.
'It's good that we had a chance to talk face-to-face. Now we are friends.'
Mr Ng said: 'A wrong is a wrong. I have to take responsibility.'
The one-hour, private meeting held yesterday afternoon at the federation office in Bedok was initiated by New Creation. The request came after Mr Tan said on Tuesday that Mr Ng could do more to express contrition over remarks he made in 2008 that belittled Taoist beliefs.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Creation Church Faces Up To The Inconvenient Truth

A 10-minute video of excerpts of an English sermon by New Creation Church's Pastor Mark which was posted on Youtube by someone (not NCC) has upset many people in Singapore. I did not and am now unable to watch that video as Youtube has removed that video upon NCC's request but the Straits Times reported that the video "mocks Taoist beliefs" and in it, Pastor Mark "can be heard joking with the congregation about Chinese rituals; in one instance, he compared praying to Taoist deities to 'seeking protection from secret society gangsters'."

The Ministry of Home Affairs said that "'We are aware of the case. ISD has looked into it and taken up the matter with the New Creation Church.'" New Creation Church has placed an apology on its website (I reproduce it here for your convenience):

Response To Recent Circulation Of Audio Clips Of A Sermon Preached By Pastor Mark Ng In August 2008

New Creation Church (NCC) would like to express our deepest apologies to any person who may have been offended by the remarks made by Pastor Mark Ng during a sermon delivered in August 2008. Pastor Mark has explained to us that his intention was to highlight what he viewed as some inconsistencies in the local Chinese practices, and not meant to cause disrespect to any race or religion.
Following the widely covered media reports in February 2010 of another incident not related to NCC, we initiated an internal review of all past and ongoing sermons. In the course of this review, we realised that Pastor Mark had in this sermon, inadvertently spoken in a manner that could be regarded as slighting these practices.
Arising from this review, we immediately stopped the circulation and sale of this and several other sermons that were deemed insensitive. We also strongly emphasised to all our pastors that sermons of this nature are not acceptable and should not be repeated.
We recognise our responsibility in this major oversight in allowing this sermon not only to be preached, but also, as a usual practice, to be made available as a resource for sale. It is unfortunate that while we have endeavoured in every way to stop the circulation of this sermon, its recent appearance on the Internet continues to possibly cause offence when it was never Pastor Mark’s intention to do so. We assure the public that NCC has no part in the current surfacing of this sermon.
Pastor Mark offers his unreserved and unmitigated apology to the public for his insensitive comments and for failing to observe the basic tenet of Christianity, which is founded on love for one and all. He humbly appeals to those whom he has offended to forgive him of this serious indiscretion.
NCC takes this opportunity to affirm our commitment to the public that we place a high premium on the value of both racial and religious harmony in our multi-faceted society. This is evidenced by our years of consistent support for the many nation-wide programmes on racial and religious harmony.

New Creation Church Council
13 June 2010

I am glad that NCC was prompt to apologize and heartened that it was straightforward and did not engage in linguistic gymnastics to try to save face.  I am also glad that NCC was proactive in initiating its own review following "the widely covered media reports in February 2010 of another incident not related to NCC" (i.e. the Rony Tan incident).

It should be stressed that, unlike the Rony Tan incident,  NCC did NOT put up that video on the internet. However, some might say that Pastor Mark and NCC should not have preached that kind of sermon in the first place.  While I have not watched that particular Youtube video, I have heard Pastor Mark preach live on several occasions, and he had talked about certain aspects of Taoist practices drawing from his own personal experience as one who had followed the Taoist faith for many years.  To put his sermon in perspective, Pastor Mark was not out to demean other faiths but to "highlight what he viewed as some inconsistencies in the local Chinese practices" from his present Christian perspective to fellow Christians in a regular Sunday service.

I admit that through the course of sharing his experience, Pastor Mark's jokes may be construed as being disrespectful to other faiths but here, I must also confess that I also laughed at Pastor Mark's jokes and the fact that the jokes might cause offence to other faiths did not cross my mind.  I was sitting in a church service and naturally never had thoughts for other faiths in my mind.

I wonder how many Christians (or for that matter, anyone with his own religious beliefs) also behave the same way I do, that is, we are mindful of religious sensitivities in a public setting in multi-religious Singapore but let our guard down in our own cosy church/religious environment. This incident is a good wake-up call to us Christians (as well as believers of other faiths) to be sensitive at ALL times in order to maintain racial and religious harmony in Singapore.

Shalom.

(The Today paper also reported on this: http://www.todayonline.com/Hotnews/EDC100615-0000107/New-Creation-Church-pastor-apologises)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Facing Up To The Inconvenient Truth

Before I start on  my post, let me stress that I am NOT attacking Pastor Kong Hee, so please give me a chance and read on to see what my concern is about.

Last Saturday, 12 June, the Straits Times published a page 3 story with the headline, "City Harvest founder now accused of plagiarism" and reported that two co-authors of the Leadership Bible, Professor Sid Buzzell and Dr Kenneth Boa, confirmed that Pastor Kong had NOT asked them for permission to use their materials.

The managing director of the publishing company (also a CHC member) which published Pastor Kong's book told the reporter that "at the time of publication, both himself and Mr Kong were aware that certain portions of the content were not original" and the uproar was due to a "lack of citation".


Friday, June 11, 2010

The Right Right Hand Man

For the record, yesterday's post was inspired by my Holy Spirit-led (which many of you probably don't think so) imagination of what happened during the episode of King David's affair with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). It is not the story of Pastor Kong Hee, well, not particularly.

If you saw shades of Pastor Kong Hee in the story, you are right, he is in the story. Let me ask you though, did you see Pastor Kong Hee in the story through Holy Spirit-opened eyes or through eyes coloured by your prejudice against me, thinking that I am on a personal vendetta against Pastor Kong Hee?

Did your Holy Spirit-opened eyes also see that Pastor Joseph Prince was there, so was Pastor Rony Tan, as well as Pastor Lawrence Khong, Pastor Joel Osteen ... in fact, all the church leaders of the world were also there.

The true story of King David, known as a man after God's heart but as we can see in 2 Samuel 11, even he also fell into sin and committed adultery with Bathsheba which eventually led to his murder of her husband, Uriah, contains lessons applicable for the church today.  It is timely now to examine church governance in view of the spotlight on City Harvest Church in particular because of the CAD probe into its financial affairs, and on churches and charities in general.  New Creation Church was covered in the local newspapers recently after it published its business links on its website which is indicative of public interest in the governance of churches, especially megachurches with funds amounting to millions.

In today's post, I want to talk specifically about church leadership.  The general public may lump churches together with charitable organisations in general but I must stress that a church is NOT a charitable organisation although it does engage in charitable activities. A church is a religious organisation but classified as a charity in Singapore because it is required by law to be registered as a charity.

A key difference between a charity and a church is that unlike a normal charity, a church does not solicit funds from the general public, its funds are sourced from only its members through tithes and offerings. Another key difference, and to me the most important difference is that the leader of a church, unlike the CEO of a charitable organisation, does not possess only the legal authority to lead the church but also enjoys the spiritual and moral authority vested in him by the church. Therein lies the danger which is perfectly illustrated in the story of King David, that is, a leader can be so powerful because of the spiritual and moral authority vested in him that there is no one to pull him back when he is on the verge of going astray.

Let's take for example, Pastor Rony Tan (some of you guys were probably thinking that I'm going to bash Pastor Kong Hee now ;-)) who put up a video of himself saying things offensive to the Buddhist faith on his church's website.  It was obviously not a wise thing to do but it seems that there was no one around in his church who could or should have stopped him from making that mistake.

Looking at the story of King David, we can see that there were people in the palace who knew about his adultery but no one could stop him. Obviously not, since they were all small fry and had no influence over King David whatsoever. Moreover, the followers believe in and want to believe their King, just as church members today believe in and want to believe their leader.  However, judging from the comments of a vocal section of CHC members on facebook and other online forums, there is the danger of some members believing in and wanting to believe in their leader without question, to the extent that their leader can do wrong and thus not bothering to examine evidence of possible wrongdoing.

Who could have stopped the King then? I guess the only one who could stop King David from making that fatal mistake is Jonathan, his covenant friend but he had already died long ago. The next best person to do the job has got to be the King's right hand man, Joab.

Joab did do the "job" alright, the conspiracy to murder job that is. Joab is not a naive man; he is the commander of the King's army and right in the power centre of the kingdom of Israel. I'm sure he had informants all over the palace to spy for him and tell him all that was going on in the palace while he was out of the palace fighting a war.  Joab should have known something was amiss when King David asked him specifically to send Uriah home. When he received the King's kill order directly from Uriah's hand, instead of cautioning King David about his order, he carried it out without question thereby contributing to King David's sin.

This true story shows that a leader needs the right right hand man to help him out. A right hand man who is strong in the Lord, a right hand man who loves the leader, and whom the leader respects. A right hand man who is strong enough to stand up to him and bring him back from the brink of disaster.  Our Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew had such a man during his days as Prime Minister of Singapore - the late Dr Goh Keng Swee.

Does New Creation Church have such a man? I hope so, I believe so. I know our pastors in New Creation Church highly honour Pastor Prince, and rightly so but I hope that they do not honour him to the extent that they think he is infallible, that he can do no wrong.  Personally, I hope I'm wrong, but I feel that our younger pastors may not be strong enough to stand up to Pastor Prince. However, I do believe that at least one man can be that right right hand man in NCC, and that man is Pastor Henry.

The way Pastor Henry continued to serve the church after he had to hand over the Chinese Ministry to Pastor Mark has greatly impressed me, and I believe him to be a humble and strong leader. Pastor Henry and Pastor Prince go a long way back, and I believe they love each other just as David and Jonathan did. Pastor Prince also respects Pastor Henry (he still addresses Pastor Henry as Pastor), and hence I believe Pastor Henry can be and is that right right hand man for Pastor Prince.

I hope all churches have that right right hand man to support the leader. While the CAD investigation is regrettable, I hope churches will take this as a wake-up call to remind every member that no person, however great he may seem, is infallible.

In yesterday's New Paper report on New Creation Church's business links (see pic below), the reporter interviewed Assoc Prof Victor Yeo Chuan Seng of the Nanyang Business School who advised that "You should always have an open and questioning mind and not accept everything that an individual says at face value without satisfying yourself that what is said is true."  The church will do well to follow that advice.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Overheard Along The Corridors Of The King's Palace

"Pssst ... I just heard from a reliable source that the King slept with a married woman."
"Are you sure? This is a serious allegation, you know ... everyone knows that the King is a man of honour."
"Of course I'm sure. My cousin was one of the messengers who personally brought the woman into the King's private chambers."
"But that doesn't mean that the King slept with her, right? Did you see it with your own eyes?"
"Use you brain, use your brain! Why else would the King invite a woman into his private chambers? To drink tea and chit chat?"
"Shhhh ... not so loud! You're gonna get both of us killed if any of the King's loyal supporters hear this!"

-------------------------------------------------------------------

"Pssst ... It's confirmed, the King did sleep with that woman!"
"This is a serious allegation, you know ... everyone knows that the King is a man of honour. Are you sure? How do you know?"
"Of course I'm sure. My cousin told me that the woman sent word to the King that she is pregnant."
"How can you be sure it's the King's baby? Maybe she just simply wanted to share her joy with the King? "
"Use your brain, use your brain! Why else would she tell the King if it is not his baby? Think about it, her husband is out of the country fighting a war and she was with the King in his private chambers a few weeks ago, whose baby can it be if not the King's?"
"Shhhh ... not so loud! You're gonna get both of us killed if any of the King's loyal supporters hear this!"

----------------------------------------------------------------

"Pssst ... Have you heard? That woman's husband just got summoned back from the battlefront by the King."
"So? What's the big deal?"
"Can't you see? The King is trying to cover up his affair with the woman. The King is bringing back the woman's husband so that he would sleep with his wife and make him think that he is the father of the baby when it is born."
"This is a serious allegation, you know ... everyone knows that the King is a man of honour. Maybe the King is just simply rewarding the man with home leave in recognition of his bravery in battle?"
"Use your brain, use your brain! Why else would the King, of all people, bring that woman's husband back if not to cover up his adultery? You think the timing of all these things is just coincidence?"
"Shhhh ... not so loud! You're gonna get both of us killed if any of the King's loyal supporters hear this!"

-------------------------------------------------------------

"Pssst ... I tell you, that woman's husband is in deep trouble!"
"Why?"
"He didn't go back to his home and sleep. Instead, he slept with all the King's servants at the door of the King's house."
"So what is the problem?"
"Use your brain, use your brain! Can't you see? This means that the man did not sleep with his wife and when her tummy grows bigger in the coming months, everybody will know that it is the King's baby!"
"But why should the man be in deep trouble?"
"The King is gonna kill the man and take the woman to be his wife. That way, when the woman gives birth, the child will be legitimate, and the King won't be accused of adultery."
"This is a serious allegation, you know ... everyone knows that the King is a man of honour, he won't do such a thing."
"You just watch and see."

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Pssst ... Have you heard? That woman's husband died. The King is marrying that woman any day now."
"Ya, I heard he died in battle. See, I told you, the King is a man of honour, he didn't kill that man."
"Use your brain, use your brain! Think about the timing. The man fought for so many months in the battlefield and didn't die but he died shortly after the King summoned him back."
"It is all coincidence. Why must you think that King had something to do with his death? Everyone knows that the King is a man of honour, he won't do such a thing."
"Are you sure? My cousin saw the King hand the man a letter to pass to the commander. I bet the letter instructed the commander to set the man up to die in battle."
"I am getting tired of your conspiracy theory. If you think that the King is doing such a dishonourable thing, why don't you report it?"
"To whom? He is the King! All his mighty men love him! Who is gonna listen to a small fry like me? Who is gonna believe that their beloved King is not such a man of honour after all?"

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Extending Grace

Looking at the comments of fellow embracers of the grace gospel on the KH plagiarism issue, I am now confused about the term "extending grace". What does it mean and how do we "extend grace" in this context?

Many of the comments give me the impression that I should keep quiet about the plagiarism issue already since KH is now "assisting" in the CAD's investigations.  A dear sister-in-grace wrote on her blog:

This, to me, is how we should react to the recent City Harvest Church situation. If we claim to believe in the gospel of grace, then it is time to walk the grace walk, not let our own emotions and our old man have a ball of a time talking about the negative stuff. Yes, the plagiarism discussion was before the recent investigations, but since CHC-ers are already facing a tough time, we should be kind, not push them to the edge with unkindness and ungracious, impatient words. I will readily admit that I do not agree with Kong Hee’s teachings of the Word of God, but I also acknowledge we are one in the body of Christ. By being quick to point out brothers’ and sisters’ mistakes or problems or issues, we might end up stumbling others instead of encouraging them out of the situation. Let us listen to the call of the LORD’s Word to be gracious for now. There are many edifying things we can say, many encouragements we can give. The CHC-ers are going through a trying time and some may even have a crisis of faith… so let us point them to Jesus first and foremost right now, and give those we know from CHC the support they need. There is a time and season to discuss different things. Now is not the time to push on the plagiarism issues when they are struggling with other issues. 

I guess the general consensus is that events have overtaken themselves, and the plagiarism issue is now relatively unimportant compared to the CAD investigations ... why fuss over a sore when you are possibly having a tumour? Does it matter that the sore continues to fester if you don't deal with it?

Does it matter if plagiarized articles continue to be published even after a so-called apology was made? No, wait, it's not a if, it did happen on 4 June but it seems that after I blogged about it, the plagiarized article was removed from the website, and no new articles have appeared since (the most recent article is dated 31 May).

Aiyah ... what's the big deal? After all, more serious charges are at hand. Has anyone considered that, maybe, just maybe, the sore is a symptom of a more serious illness? Anyway, this is going to be my last words on the plagiarism issue ... I shall extend grace, and keep quiet about the inconvenient truth.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Creation Church's Business Entities

New Creation Church's Deacon Jack Ho addressed the congregation on Sunday, 6 June 2010 regarding each of the five business entities owned by NCC (watch the video here).

I reproduce below a special announcement regarding its business entities by New Creation Church on its website :

In light of the recent media reports on police investigations into individuals and companies related to City Harvest Church, we would like to provide clarity to our members regarding New Creation Church’s (NCC) business entities and how they are run. We trust that our reiteration of these pertinent facts will give assurance and peace of heart to our members that our practices are transparent and aboveboard.

  1. Daystar Child Development Centre
  2. BrightStar Child Development Centre Pte Ltd
  3. Rock Productions Pte Ltd
  4. Rock Gifts & Book Centre
  5. Omega Tours & Travel Pte Ltd 

1. Daystar Child Development Centre

Daystar Child Development Centre (Daystar) is a Voluntary Welfare Organisation (VWO) under NCC. It was started as an initiative to help the community in the areas of childcare and early childhood education. It has two branches: Daystar Holland opened in 1996 at Holland Avenue, and Daystar Jurong in 2004 at Jurong West Street 61.

As a VWO, Daystar has no shareholders or directors. The two centres are run by management committees whose members do not receive any remuneration.

Management Committee — Daystar Holland
  1. Pastor Jeannie Yeo
  2. Pastor Joshua Lee
  3. Deacon Jack Ho
Management Committee — Daystar Jurong
  1. Pastor Jeannie Yeo
  2. Deacon Jack Ho
  3. Deacon Matthew Kang

 

2. BrightStar Child Development Centre Pte Ltd

BrightStar Child Development Centre Pte Ltd (BrightStar) was incorporated in 2004 to provide childcare services in Suntec City Mall. BrightStar has an added advantage as its facilities can also be used on Sundays as part of the nursery care services that our children’s ministry provides for our members. The company’s shares are held in trust for NCC by four registered shareholders. None of the shareholders and directors are paid any salary, bonus, fee or dividend.

Registered Shareholders
No. Name of Registered Shareholder No. of Shares
(held in trust for NCC)
1 Pastor Jeannie Yeo
Deed of Nomineeship dated 26 October 2005
Deed of Declaration of Trust dated 15 June 2008
10
2 Pastor Joshua Lee
Deed of Nomineeship dated 26 October 2005
Deed of Declaration of Trust dated 15 June 2008
283,330
3 Deacon Matthew Kang
Deed of Nomineeship dated 26 October 2005
Deed of Declaration of Trust dated 15 June 2008
283,330
4 Deacon Koh Ching Hong
Deed Of Appointment and Declaration of Trust dated 23 May 2010
(supplemental to the Deed of Nomineeship dated 26 October 2005
and the Deed of Declaration of Trust dated 15 June 2008)
283,330
Total no. of Shares850,000

Directors
  1. Pastor Jeannie Yeo
  2. Deacon Matthew Kang
  3. Deacon Jack Ho

 

3. Rock Productions Pte Ltd

Rock Productions Pte Ltd (Rock Productions) was established in 1998 at Suntec City Mall as a venue provider. Rock Auditorium is available for secular bookings throughout the week but is reserved for NCC as its anchor tenant on Sundays. It has a capacity of 1,400 seats.

Prior to the establishment of Rock Auditorium, NCC used to move from hotel to hotel for its church services. In addition to providing the church with stability, the use of Rock Auditorium provided significant logistical benefits as we were able to do away with the weekly setting up, tearing down and storage of technical and operational equipment.

Marine Cove was a venture birthed from NCC’s continued search for a venue bigger than Rock Auditorium as we continued to grow in attendance. In 2001, the centre’s previous owners obtained an in-principle approval from the National Parks Board to build an auditorium at its premises along the East Coast Parkway. The property had approximately 10 years’ lease remaining, out of the tenure of 30 years then.

After doing due diligence on the property, NCC obtained an option to purchase the centre with a clause that allowed us to back out of the deal if proper building approvals from all necessary authorities were not obtained. The Urban Redevelopment Authority subsequently rejected our application because the zone was designated for food and recreational purposes under its master plan. We then informed the previous owners that we would not be exercising the option to purchase.

The owners, being highly motivated, persuaded us to consider purchasing the centre as an investment. After extensive negotiations, NCC made an offer to purchase the centre at S$10m, which was eventually accepted by the owners. The final price was S$4m below the initially agreed-upon purchase and valuation price of S$14m.

Marine Cove has since proven to be profitable and a source of financial blessing to the church. Our lease will expire in March 2011 if no extension is granted by the Singapore Land Authority.

Our new meeting venue at one-north, which will include a 5,000-seat auditorium, has been addressed extensively when the project was first launched in 2007. The details of this endeavour are available at Rock Productions’ website at www.rockproductions.com.

Rock Productions’ shares are held in trust for NCC by four registered shareholders. None of the shareholders and directors are paid any salary, bonus, fee or dividend.

Registered Shareholders
No. Name of Registered Shareholder No. of Shares
(held in trust for NCC)
1 Pastor Jeannie Yeo
Deed Of Appointment and Declaration of Trust dated 6 June 2002
1
2
3
4
Pastor Joshua Lee
Deacon Matthew Kang
Deacon Koh Ching Hong

Deed Of Appointment and Declaration of Trust dated 23 May 2010
(supplemental to the Deeds of Declaration of Trust dated 6 June 2002,
26 October 2007 and 25 June 2009)
137,999,999
(jointly held)
Total no. of Shares138,000,000

Directors
  1. Pastor Jeannie Yeo
  2. Pastor Joshua Lee
  3. Deacon Matthew Kang
  4. Deacon Yong Chee Ram

 

4. Rock Gifts & Book Centre

Rock Gifts & Book Centre (RGBC) was established in 1998 at Suntec City Mall at the landlord’s request to have a retail frontage for Rock Auditorium, in line with other shops operating in the mall. RGBC retails Christian books, music, sermon resources and gifts. It is a business wholly-owned by Rock Productions.

 

5. Omega Tours & Travel Pte Ltd

Omega Tours & Travel Pte Ltd (Omega Tours) was established in 2004 as a travel agency wholly-owned by Rock Productions. Out of our love for Israel, NCC organises tours for our members to visit the land of the Bible. After years of booking tours via external travel agencies, a decision was made to start a travel agency of our own. This allowed us to charge our members cheaper rates, as well as to direct any profits generated back to the church through Rock Productions.

The shares of Omega Tours are held by Rock Productions. None of the directors are paid any salary, bonus, fee or dividend.

Directors
  1. Pastor Jeannie Yeo
  2. Deacon Matthew Kang
  3. Deacon Jack Ho
  4. Trevor Fong 

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Benefit Of Doubt

After my series of posts on Pastor Kong Hee's alleged plagiarism and his recent "apology" were published, I have received feedback from quite a few people that I should be gracious and give Pastor Kong Hee the benefit of doubt. Some have also said something to the effect that I shouldn't kick a man when he's down.

Let me say that it is unfair to say that I'm kicking Pastor Kong Hee when's he down because I wrote my articles BEFORE he was "invited" for an interview with the CAD. I was and still am dealing with only the issue of alleged plagiarism.

As for giving the man the benefit of doubt, let me ask this: Why should there be even any doubt left after Pastor Kong Hee's explanation cum apology if it was indeed truthful and unambiguous? One commenter on my post, 'Pastor Kong Hee Explains His "Oversight"', said:
"Everyone of us can fall into wrong doings, including plagiarism, judging, probe, cheating, etc. Many great men of God in the bible ever committed the wrong doings too (I write this not as an excuse at all). It can happen because of ignorance, carelessness, other factors, etc. The most important thing is that we should always have a spirit of repentance and humility to change to be a better man of God. While other people fall, let's pray that they can realize it, repent, then get up again and continue to grow up in truth."
Yes, I agree with the commenter that "everyone of us can fall into wrong doings", and that "we should always have a spirit of repentance and humility to change" but in this case, I don't see that spirit of repentance and humility to change in the explanation cum apology. Instead, what I see is a poor attempt to whitewash the wrongdoing of plagiarism into an apparently honest mistake or "oversight".

Pastor Kong Hee's explanation should have removed any trace of doubt that it is not plagiarism but an honest mistake of omission, yet it raised even more doubts due to gaping loopholes in the explanation:

1.   I read a TODAY report (title "Before He Was Reverend Kong Hee") yesterday, and one of the CHC cell group leaders who was interviewed, Mr Kelvin Chew, said about Pastor Kong Hee:
"He's a perfectionist. Working with him is not at all easy. You have to work even harder because he's so sharp. A slight mistake and he'll be upset, and that's how he moulds most of us to be sharper." (emphasis in bold mine)

 The report also mentioned about "the church's anniversary celebration at the Singapore Indoor Stadium a few years ago, when the sound crew could not get things right and the backup vocalists could not hit the right tone. The crew had to rehearse "again and again", with the session ending close to midnight."

His cell group leader, Mr Chew described Pastor Kong Hee as a "perfectionist", therefore it is hard to believe that a perfectionist like him makes a basic mistake like omitting to credit his sources even if the devotionals were originally meant for "internal circulation". Ok, maybe you want to give him the benefit of doubt on this one. Let's take a look at loophole number 2 then.


2.  Pastor Kong and his publisher said that he had received permission from the other authors to reproduce their articles and his publisher said that after investigation, they discovered there were about ten such articles.

Let me ask: Why did the publisher not know that there were articles in the publication which were written by other authors BEFORE the hardcopy was published? Didn't Pastor Kong mention to his publisher about those articles since the hardcopy is meant for external circulation? Ok, maybe you want to give Pastor Kong the benefit of doubt on this one too, that it is really the perfectionist, Pastor Kong's oversight in not telling his publisher. Let's take a look at loophole number 3 then.


3.  Pastor Kong Hee said in his explanation that since they were informed in March about their "oversight", they have been, I quote, "in the process of properly crediting, to the best of our efforts, the original sources of the entries in question on the website edition of Daily Devotion", unquote.

Let me ask: How much effort does it take to credit the ten articles which they have identified? Now, if Pastor Kong had received permission for the reproduction of the other authors' articles BEFORE the publication of the hardcopies of the Daily Devotional, what kind of best efforts is needed to identify those articles and "properly credit" the relevant sources? It should be quite easy to do so since Pastor Kong should have those correspondences which confirm the other authors' approvals on record, properly referenced and filed.

However, even though they have started the process of crediting since March, the Daily Devotionals published on Pastor Kong's website dated 20 May and 4 June (see my previous post) still contained materials from other authors which were not credited.  Those articles were subsequently removed from the website after Cheat Grace highlighted them. Do you want to give Pastor Kong the benefit of doubt on this one too?


You must be wondering why I am still harping on this alleged plagiarism issue.  My point has always been and is this: Plagiarism raises questions about a person's integrity and should raise a red flag in our assessment of that person's character. Another red flag should be raised when the explanation that it was an honest mistake and that no plagiarism occurred is not convincing and full of contradictions. 

Some commenters have said that we should not be quick to judge others but didn't Jesus also said that we should "be wise as serpents and harmless as doves"? (Matt 10:16) We should be alert to clues which may save us from being led astray or taken advantage of by others.

When in doubt, should we just meekly give the benefit of doubt? I don't think we should give the benefit of doubt as a matter of course but rather the prudent thing to do is to verify and verify and verify. If it is not possible to verify, or there is no response to your queries, or there is any doubt even after verification, then can you choose whether to give the benefit of doubt.

12 June Update:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"To The Best Of Our Efforts"

In my May 31 post, I analyzed Pastor Kong Hee's "apology" in detail, and if you recall, I highlighted a caveat in his "apology":

"we have been in the process of properly crediting, to the best of our efforts, the original sources of the entries in question on the website edition of Daily Devotion"
- Do you see the subtlety of a caveat added there? No? Let me show you: "to the best of our efforts". Do you know what this mean? It means that should Cheat Grace later unveil any further evidences of plagiarism, you should cut them some slack as they are trying their best to properly credit the original sources and may have inadvertantly missed out on that particular article.  Do you know what this also means? That they are not even sure of the actual extent of the plagiarism and are having difficulty digging all of them out. Their 20 May article is a case in point.

True to form, Cheat Grace, in a comment on Terence Lee's post yesterday said "The first two paragraphs of today's KH devotion "No Substitute for God" is almost word-for-word copied from a Rick Warren 1999 article "Accept No Subtitutes"".

I checked out both articles and reproduce them below:


12 June Update:


 

Friday, June 4, 2010

Front Page News

You guys must be thinking I'm gonna talk about Pastor Kong Hee again ... Not!

I'm talking about my own senior pastor, Pastor Joseph Prince, who appears on the front cover of the June issue of Charisma magazine, a leading Christian publication in the United States, with more than 600,000 readers.

"In this issue, Charisma magazine explores the phenomenal growth Joseph's international broadcast ministry has experienced since its inception in 2007, delving as well into the essence of Joseph's message – the gospel of grace wrapped up in the perfect, finished work of our glorious Savior, Jesus Christ – which he began preaching radically almost 13 years ago. "

You can join an online contest to receive one of 150 free copies to be given away.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pastor Kong Hee's Publisher Explains It's "Oversight"

The following report was published in yesterday's Shin Min Daily as part of the reporting on the news regarding CAD's probe into the financial affairs of CHC:

 城市丰收教会在今年首五个月,就有两起事件引起关注。

■2010年5月
康希新书被指抄袭

康希被指在新书里抄袭一名美国著名作家的作品,在网上引起争议。
网民Cheat Grace在博客上指出,康希牧师的一本新书《灵命更心第2本》(Renewing Your Spiritual Life)中,第99页的内容和美国著名传教士尼尔·安德森(Neil Anderson)的文章有很多相似之处。
该网民说,新书有许多段落与安德森的作品一模一样。他也声称,他怀疑康希是在抄袭,并说他不是第一次这么做。
负责出版此书的出版社总经理说,经调查后发现,这本书的350篇文章中,有约10篇的确与其他作家的文章有相似之处。但他说,康希都是在原作者的批准下,才引述他们的作品,不是抄袭。
他指出,他们的疏忽在于引用时没给予明确信息,让读者知道哪些部分是引用其他作家的。
 (source: http://news.omy.sg/News/Local%2BNews/Story/OMYStory201006010411-156278/3.html)
 (emphasis in red mine)

For those who have trouble understanding Chinese, the article says that anonymous blogger, Cheat Grace highlighted in his blog that the contents of page 99 of KH's new book, "Renewing Your Spiritual Life Vol.2", contains many similarities with an article by a famous American preacher, Neil Anderson, and Cheat Grace suspects that KH plagiarized and that it is not the first time he has done so.

The publisher of the book said that after investigation, they discovered that out of the 350 articles in the book, there were about 10 articles which contained similarities with other authors. However, the publisher asserted that KH had used their materials with the permission of the original authors, and therefore it is not a case of plagiarism. He also said that their oversight is in not clearly letting readers know which articles were written by other authors and reproduced with their permission.


Again, I may appear cynical here but the publisher's "explanation" is full of loopholes:

1. The publisher said "经调查后发现", ie. "he discovered after investigation" which means he DIDN'T KNOW AT FIRST that some of the articles were in fact works by other authors! He only discovered this AFTER investigating, and he investigated only AFTER allegations of plagiarism surfaced.

2. The publisher said KH received permission from the original authors to use those articles, yet he DIDN'T KNOW about those permissions BEFORE publishing the book! Didn't KH tell him about those articles? In fact, he DIDN'T KNOW about those permissions even AFTER publishing the book! He only found out AFTER INVESTIGATION due to Cheat Grace's allegation of plagiarism by KH!

3. BEFORE the book was put on sale, didn't KH scan through a copy and realize that there wasn't any acknowledgment made to the other authors? Ya, ya ... he's a busy man, I know but isn't the publication of a book meant to inspire Christians important enough for him to pay some proper attention?


I guess many people probably feel that the alleged plagiarism issue is no big deal now compared to the CAD probe into CHC's financial affairs.  But think a little bit deeper, it is often the little things that give us a clue to the bigger things.

12 June Update: (Take note of the different story which the publisher told the Straits Times)