By Ex-Ministry Member of CHC (City Harvest Church)
Why I left CHC.
I am an ex-member who had joined CHC for more than 10 years and left about 2 years ago.
This means that I have joined since Hollywood Theatre and followed them to Jurong West, Expo and eventually Suntec. Before I start, allow me to show my "credentials" from CHC.
*Water baptized by Pst Derek in East Coast Park.
*Served in at least 5 ministries during my time in church.
*Attained the Certificate of Christian Foundation for completing the full series of bible studies.
*Served in overseas missions, including those of crisis relief nature.
*Faithfully attended church services and CG (cell group) meetings every week.
*Tithed every month, gave offerings at least 2 times a week and participated in every Building Funds since I joined.
*Found my soul mate and married in church.
*Last held a MM (Ministry Member) membership. Yes, I went to the stage during one of the service to sign and pledge my commitment to the church in front of the congregation when I receive my MM card.
I was still a youth (Pre-NS) when I joined CHC. Back then, I was bullied in school so joining CHC literally changed my life. From no friends to having many friends and new "family members" (we referred CG members as our family or brothers and sisters in Christ).
From shy to become outspoken.
From feeling worthless (because of the bullying) to feeling that I can make a difference.
My first series of building fund was used to build the church in Jurong. Back then, it was a great dream to think that as a young student, I can contribute to build God a house. I swapped my favorite fast food for the hawker centers, order 1 meat and 1 veg instead of the usual 1 meat 2 veg for lunch. I walked home instead of taking the bus. Of course, asked my parents to give more allowance :.
I felt a great sense of achievement when we eventually built the Jurong church debt free!
Pst Kong was a very charismatic man. There's always many good testimonies about him from church members and leaders. Thus, he appears as very sincere and God-fearing to me. Coupled that with the many achievements like building the Jurong Church, setting up of community services and seeing how people's life and my own life had changed, it was without a doubt that I trust Pst. Kong fully and was a fervent believer of whatever he says.
Not long after moving to Jurong, Pst Kong announced that Sun will be entering the entertainment industry to reach out to "people who would never step into a church". Eventually, she cut her first Chinese album and there was great fanfare. Her posters were everywhere in church. People were carrying her CDs around in church to sell. We were encouraged to buy her CDs to support her just as we would "support a fellow brother/sister in Christ". People start boosting how they bought 10 CDs and give to friends and family members.
Back then, not buying her CD is akin to using a Nokia 3210 when everyone is owning a iPhone or Samsung smartphone, the peer pressure is there.
Then came the Roland Poon incident. Eventually we all knew that Poon spent $30000 to publish apologies in major newspapers. So? Poon was wrong and Pst. Kong is right, Praise God! Then Pst. Kong announced during service that no church fund was used and all expenses were covered by her royalties and that was further 'confirmed' by auditor Brother Foong in a video, Amen! That was basically the level of enthusiasm I felt from the church.
I did have some doubt at that point of time but if you can understand the state of mind I was in by reading what I had mentioned earlier, Pst Kong was like a hero to me and most of the members. Heroes don't lie right? And with the positive image that Sun put forth with all the positive messages in her Mandarin albums, it's hard not to believe whatever Pst is saying.
So where did it eventually go downhill for me? Probably at that time when Pst. Kong showed us a video of China Wine during service to showcase Sun's achievement in US. Everyone was like clapping and cheering (and so did I) but it was a little embarrassing to see Sun dressing, dancing provocatively and uttering inaudible, meaningless raps in service.
A 180 degrees turn from her Mandarin albums that I used to like. Pst. explained that Sun needs to sing and dance like this to appeal to the US audience. Apparently sappy love songs like her Mandarin albums were outdated in US at that time.
And I was there during the time when Pst. opening elevates members who delayed their weddings, sold their cars, downgraded their flats, emptied their bank account in order to give more for building fund. He also shared how he USED TO emptied his joint account and sold his car and drive the beat-up church van to give to God, and God blessed him back hundred-fold, for example how he now lived in a condo in Orchard Road [at that point of time], drives his favorite Audi A7 and having a church with an ever-increasing membership [I heard from leaders that Pst. has a liking for Audi]. The church, me including responded with cheers and claps and many "Amen"s.
It never really cross my mind [at that point of time] that Pst. Kong never really downgrade his car or house after that, despite Building Fund was still ongoing. Most of us would have attributed his wealth to the blessings of God [If Pst. is not wealthy then how can he preach about wealth right?].
So despite that, why did I still stay and give [to building funds, tithes] for so long?
For the friends I made in church.
For the my personal encounter with God.
For how my life was turned around.
Yes, for my blind faith in Pst. Kong and the rest of the church leaders.
Never mind the pressure to bring friends and family to church every Easter, Christmas, Anniversary .
Never mind that I hardly have much money to spare every time there's building funds.
Never mind if there's persecution from family and friends [after all, Pst. Kong always remind us that it is 'normal' for Christians to face persecutions and only good Christians go through 'trials and tribulations' because God and the Devil can't be bothered with the weak ones].
Eventually this ongoing scandal reveals way too much for me to stay in denial. Church fund was used for the Crossover. Not any ordinary fund but the BUILDING FUND, which Pst. Kong time and again assured us during services that the Building Fund is only used to cover rentals, renovation and strictly anything to do with the physical church building.
When we moved to Suntec, the first time he did was to tell us that we need to 'urgently' gather $310 million dollars within 7 years through series of Building Funds to purchase enough shares in Suntec and to pay off loans to avoid 'losses'.
However, Pst. at that time was living in a multi-million dollar penthouse in SENTOSA COVE while Sun was living in a US$20000/mth rental unit in Beverly Hills! Seriously, are you really 'urgent'? Oh, and he was still driving his luxury Audi A7, wearing his branded clothes, flying weekly [which we now know was either 1st class or business class] to US, getting $500000 a year in bonus and loyalty despite being 'officially off the church payroll'. I mean seriously, he MAY have sacrificed a lot in the earlier days when he first started the church BUT NOW he and Sun is really LIVING THE LIFE! [I currently earn less than $50000/year on monthly payroll. If I can earn 10 times as much like Pst Kong, I don't mind going "off payroll" too].
It comes to a point where I say 'enough is enough' and I left. Those who left may felt just like me initially. Lost, not sure what to do. Lose all friends you made in church over the past 10 years. 10 years, it was like a dream, and woke up to face reality.
But over the past 2 years, I have created routines to filled up the times where I should have being in CG or service. I spent more time with my family, my wife and learn to treasure the people whom had truly given their life for me. I started to save up and now have a sizable piggy bank [something that is unthinkable if I am still in church as such 'piggy bank' will be emptied in every building fund]. I started bringing my family for holidays, treat my parents more frequently, increases my monthly giving for my parents and so much more.
But I really have to thank CHC for who I am today (as im my character). However, no thanks ffor the conflicting or the deceptive ways I was encouragted to contribute to tithes, offerings and building funds. Pst. Kong said this during service. @Reaching your destination is important but HOW YOU GET THERE IS MORE IMPORTANT!