As City Harvest Church ponders a future without Kong Hee, comments made by Derek Dunn, one of two leaders assuming temporary leadership over the church, have broken its longstanding silence since the police probe began. If you haven’t read them yet, those comments are available here in a Business Times report.
What raised my eyebrows — and, I suspect, those of many others — was Dunn’s brushing aside of criticisms levelled at Kong Hee and his wife Ho Yeow Sun for their extravagant lifestyle as “exaggerated”:
‘Concerning the lifestyle of Rev Kong and his wife, we know them well. Rev Kong is a dedicated and motivated senior pastor of the church. He has been working hard for the past 20 over years and is a renowned and recognised personality on the speaking circuit. His wife is a successful singer,’ he said.
‘While their lifestyle reflects their own accomplishments, we do not see it as lavish or excessive.’
If I were (still) a member of City Harvest, I would be very concerned with what you’ve just read. Not lavish? Not excessive? Where does one draw the line? And what will City Harvest sell to its members next? A private jet for their very important preacher, perhaps? That’s not an implausible projection — after all, Kong Hee’s idol, Benny Hinn, has one too, you know.
As an aside, a list of pastors with their own private jets can be found here: Every single one of those guys told their followers that the private jet was an absolute necessity so that the Word of God can fly around the world, and that you, yes, you! can sow into this ministry by giving a “love gift”. See how Benny Hinn Ministries sold the “incredible ministry tool” to their “partners” here.
Here are some questions that I’ve been wondering to myself since this scandal broke out, and in the weeks ahead, I hope investigations will unearth some of the answers to these questions:
Kong Hee has chosen to live in Los Angeles with his wife and son in their S$28,000 a month house. Does the church pay for his weekly flights to preach in Singapore? If so, what class does he fly?
As Derek Dunn has unwittingly admitted in his statement above, Kong Hee makes his money by being on the preaching circuit. How much is he paid each time he is invited by another church? Conversely, how much does City Harvest pay the preachers it invites to its pulpit?
This question is important because City Harvesters have time and again pointed to Kong Hee as being a “volunteer pastor”. What they don’t realise is that their pastor has been paid in FULL, by them — pastors on the circuit like Kong Hee are guaranteed speaking spots (with handsome honorariums) each time they invite each other to speak at their home churches.
When Kong Hee is invited to preach at another church, does said church pay his speaking fee directly to his bank account, to a company bank account somewhere (I am not aware of a Kong Hee Ministries but that’s what some A-list preachers do), or to City Harvest?
Whenever a Kong Hee book, CD, DVD or MP3 is sold — at the home church or when Kong Hee is on tour — where does the money go to? To the church or to Kong Hee? If Kong Hee gets a cut, how much is his cut?
Here are a few more questions that inquiring City Harvesters need to ask Kong Hee:
Is it really okay to be selling the word of God for profit [II Cor 2:17] when it was given free of charge to us?
You’ve preached so often about money, and about the woman who gave her last two mites to the temple. Why have you not preached Matthew 19:21 even once? ["Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me."]
You’ve encouraged us to downgrade our apartments, to give till it hurts, so as to give to the building fund. Why then do we hear media reports of you upgrading? Why are you not selling your apartment to give to the building fund?
If you belong to a megachurch with a larger-than-life pastor on the preaching circuit OR if your church is trying to sell you an ambitious building project, you may need to be asking some of the above questions too.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you should just sit down and simply trust in the leadership of the church. If the church is really doing God’s work, then it should all the more be transparent, open and above board when it comes to handling your questions about the way money is handled.
This essay first appeared in Kennethism on 26 June 2010.