2012-06-27

Reflections from CHC Kong Hee Alleged Misuse of Funds

Be not shocked or saddened by events that a pastor could be accused of misuse of church funds but to reflect and learn from it so that such events can be prevented. It is a wake-up for the church members and board members to be clear minded and really help their pastors rather than be accomplices to their downfall.
The headline news for many newspapers and Facebook posts is the arrest of City Harvest Church's (one of Singapore mega churches) senior pastor Hong Kee and his associates for alleged misuse of church funds. It is better to get the official background and the story from the Commission of Charity(COC) in Inquiry found misconduct and mismanagement in the City Harvest Church. A story of the arrest can be found in City Harvest founder Kong Hee arrested for alleged misuse of church funds.

Firstly, the issue is not new. Way back in May 2010, the COC announced the engagement of CAD(Commercial Affairs Department) into the investigations of possible misuse of funds. It took two years of work before the formal charge and arrest were made. Since it was quiet for two years, I initially thought that the investigation did not reveal anything serious and the matters had been settled and put out of court. But the charge showed that the case was in fact very serious and complex that it had taken so long. The amount involved was relatively large, S$23M, and the alleged misconduct seemed quite complex as disclosed in the COC's statement.

Secondly, the misuse of funds, is not the first case in a church. It happened to Church type organizations all over the world and it also happened to other religious organizations even in Singapore as well. Celebrity status Pastors, Leaders, Sports Persons and Stars getting into trouble are well known. It shows that no matter how great a person can be, man is still not perfect and he succumbs to temptations. The saying that 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely' does have a lot of supportive evidences.

Even God's Anointed Man is still the Man with Weaknesses
Having it happen to the God's anointed pastor makes it more newsworthy and heart breaking for many. 'Man has weaknesses' is the polite way of saying. In religious circles, we call the weaknesses sins.

My Wise Pastor
In my younger days, I followed a Pastor who just started a church. He invited me to be on his board of elders. I told him I would support him always after all we saw him as our spiritual leader. But he told me that he wanted a board to oversee him; to give a check and balance and to keep him wise and honest. He will consult the board, us, on major decisions and purchases. The church that he started grows to be one of the mega churches in Singapore.

The Prevention, Especially for God's Anointed, is Check & Balance Accountability
The way to prevent, especially the God's anointed man or woman, is to establish a system of check and balance accountability. Why do I say 'especially for the God's anointed'? Here are the reasons:
  1. Spiritual - Target of Devil.
    Spiritual leaders are the number one target of the devils. Everyone knows the war strategy of killing the leader is better than fighting all his soldiers.  "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered" Zechariah 13:7, Matt 26:31.
     
  2. The Position of a Spiritual Leader is Extremely Powerful.
    Pastors and Elders are considered as the spiritual leaders and followers are expected to follow their pastor or elders. Obedience and faithfulness are taught as Christian virtues. Some pastors even think that since they are called and anointed by God (actually every believer has a unique calling from God and is anointed by God to fulfill his calling) , they are spokesmen of God, and they are not to be challenged since they supposedly could make no error as anointed. They preach about "touch not God's anointed or else". Pastors are given the pulpit every week to influence, or 'brain wash', the members. Even our Prime Minister does not enjoy such a privilege. The Name of God is a convenient and powerful weapon that church leaders enjoy. Because of the power and the ease of use, greater accountability and a better system of check and balance should be employed.

    Our calling and anointing is a stewardship and not an ownership. Founders and leaders of church think that they are anointed to lead and own. After all, they argue, that it was them that started and without them, the organization would not exist. It is alright if they start it as a privately owned company and not a religious society. If it is a society, then it is the society that owns it and founders are only entrusted to run the society. Every term, the leaders seek the support of their members to be their leaders and this is not automatic whatever one calling is. If it is a true calling, God will speak to both, the called and the supporters. It is not just one person. Imagine someone coming to you that said that God told her/him that she/he is to be your spouse! What should your answer be? Should not it be 'how come God did not tell me'?
       
  3. The Corrupt Sinful Nature of Man - The Temptations of 3G
    While everyone in Christ is saved by grace and given a new nature of Christ, we still live in the old man with the old body and the old mindset. There is the constant need for the new nature to be fed and to grow up that the new man may rule over our renewed mind and may present our body as a holy sacrifice as instruments for godliness. But this is a process. Our church leaders up on the stage may not be as mature or Christ-like as some members of the congregation. My wise pastor always tells me to look and focus on Jesus and not him. He said he was only a man and had weaknesses. In miracle healing, he reminded the congregation that he has no power to heal. It is Jesus, the true and living God that is doing the healing. He said he needed not to touch the sick. He needed not any laying of hand on the sick. The true God working in the counselors can pray and lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.

    But our fleshly nature is so weak. We are easily tempted by the 3G's of Gold, Glory and Girl. Recently, the heads of some Home Affairs Forces chiefs were charged with giving favors for sex. It usually comes with popularity-glory first which brings wealth and then brings in girls.
       
  4. The Devoted Fans - Protect our Leaders at All Costs
    As with any celebrity, pastors and elders included, there will be devoted fans. These fans will support their idols no matter what. They will attack anyone who they perceive is against their idols without concept of right or wrong. With such devoted fans' support, the idols will feel that they are really godlike and could do anything at their wish. They really cause the downfall of many idols.
     
  5. The Blind and Negligent Board Members
    Many board members had a confused and misunderstanding of their roles - They thought they were on the board to support their pastors or elders. Board members are actually elected by members to represent them to ensure the effective and proper operation of the society. Board members' first responsibility is to be accountable to the members that have elected them. They are to ensure proper governance and control. They are to oversee the pastors or elders rather than giving them blind support.

    Let me quote from the COC's article:"Evidence suggested that certain members of the Charity’s Board have been less than prudent in the discharge of their duties toward the Charity and its members".

    Blind and negligence board members become accomplices to the bad behavior of their pastors and elders instead of preventing such behavior! Their good intention endorses the very evil that they want to prevent.

    See 6 Really Bad Charismatic Doctrines We Should Retire for a similar presentation of the above points.
Does the Church need a New System?
The answer for the Singapore case is really no. The COC has set up many guidelines to ensure the proper running of Charities with many checks and balances. It calls for the members of the Church, or other Religious Organizations, to be educated with purpose and the guidelines and to ensure its adherence of their members, boards, pastors and elders.

For the spiritual leaders, the pastors and elders, maybe they can form an accountability group to check and balance each other. The older and more senior retired pastors and elders should be invited to sit in those accountability groups. The business leaders should be included in the group as well. Too spiritual elders like to say that the church should not run like a business organization. But the truth is that there is no such thing as spiritual or secular jobs. See Christianity Rediscovered: Secular vs Spiritual Jobs. The standards for listed companies are more stringent than the religious societies.  We cannot hide under the Name of God and be negligent in our upholding of integrity and other Biblical virtues, teachings and practices.

In The Mean Time:
This is still a trial and there is no conviction yet. We prayed for those who are involved, and their family too. It is very tough on the people and their family to be involved in any court case especially such a one that draw so much publicity. We prayed that God presides over the whole event, protects and vindicates the innocence and give grace and peace to all. We all made mistakes and give in to temptations that is why we need a savior Jesus Christ to save us and change us.

Lim Liat (C) 27 June 2012

Next: Reflections on the Reactions to Kong Hee Alleged Misue of Funds - 1

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