#273 Is City Harvest Church a social enterprise, financial institution or place of worship?

I had to read and re-read to make sure I had not misread City Harvest Church (CHC) offering loans to needy church members; that some churches gave loans to pastors to pay mortgages on their homes; and instances of offering loans between sister churches — from the afternoon edition of Today!

Sacrilegious! How could money given to tithes and the sacrifices of worshippers be honored for such purposes? Is this not making a mockery of the church as a place where individuals can find solace and to meet with God?

Gone are the days when the church actually help the poor and needy.

In the past, bursaries were awarded to those needy for education and individual members who own companies gave a tenth of earnings in support of the church — a classic example was ‘Tithes Dental’ that was located in Middle Road owned by Elder Goh Ewe Kheng. (Naturally his children could not understand their father’s benevolence toward Christian pastors and missionaries and needs of the church.)

I believe the mainstream church denominations like the Presbyterian still offers bursaries to the needy members’ children for education.

Is helping the poor means treating the old folks and needy to a meal or ferry those elderly to church weekly? Are members of CHC satisfied that the church offers such services?

The Christian Bible has clear understanding on members making loans and never loans offered from the institutional church or temple.

Exodus 22:25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.”

Psalm 15:1,5 The psalmist asks in verse 1 — “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? The psalmist outlines standards throughout the remaining psalm and this is one…

      “…who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. (v.5)”

Exodus 23:8 “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.”

Leviticus 25:35-37 “If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you (v.35). Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God so that your countryman may continue to live among you (v.36). You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit (v.37).

These guidelines were given to God’s chosen people, i.e. the Israelites. Lest there be misunderstanding, the Israel referred to in the Bible is NOT about the nation Israel today.

Today, God’s chosen people are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

#272 transparency at the new creation church

News received that the New Creation Church pastor Derek Prince has volunteered his services. This indeed is noble on the pastor’s part.

According to its church goers, New Creation pioneer leader and deacon Jack Ho said it was a “good time to let members understand more about these businesses”.

This would help them “answer with more certainty” if they were asked about the companies, which are fully—owned by the church

MediaCorp understands he spent about 30 minutes listing the five companies, among them BrightStar Child Development Centre, Omega Tours and Travel and Rock Productions

He also told members that Senior Pastor Joseph Prince is now a volunteer at the church and has not received any salary since late last year.

Since 2004, Mr Prince, one of the church’s founders, had asked New Creation to stop paying him but council members rejected the request until last year. [http://news.xin.msn.com/en/singapore/article.aspx?cp-documentid=4132757]

Should a church own business companies? If the church did, is she required to pay corporate tax annually?

Can a house of prayer or a church dapple in making money? In the gospels, Jesus lashed out at businesses conducted in the church premises.

What is the meaning of tithing for a christian?

Can charitable organisations set up business companies to ensure there was sufficient funds to enable the organisations to carry on whatever they stood for?

If so, can this come under the umbrella of charitable organisations? Should the public continue to give?

What is charity? What does raising money for a charitable organisation mean?

#267 church needs

I do hear this during worship service: we need leaders or volunteers for such-and-such. Why are the clergymen crying out? Why are slips of paper given out to members to fill out areas they can serve?

 When the members filled that out, are they approached? Or, has the church minister become mini-god to decide who can serve?

 If this was the case, why the hypocrisy of handing out slips of paper for members to fill out areas they can serve?

 It appears church ministers recycle members who they had appointed as leaders. They seem not to know new ones to fill that need!???!

 Mind you, there are many groups in the church for the clergyman to tap on — men’s or women’s groups, retirees, adults, youth, bible study or small groups and many others…

 Accordingly, the church minister is called to serve and shepherd the flock of his congregation. If there were dire need among the members, is this not a reflection on his ministry — that he has failed to shepherd his believers to maturity!

 Has the church become an enterprise or corporation that she has to continually hire staff-workers for certain tasks in order that the church can run smoothly? With the economic downturn, will the church have the funds to hire?

 In the past, the church minister has to shoulder lots of task himself with help of his members by delegation. At the time, the church minister was given a stipend. Today, church ministers are well-paid. In fact many are paid at market-rate according to academic qualifications!

 From time-to-time I hear preacher chiding (to him, exhortation) from the pulpit – those attending worship Sunday after Sunday and not participating in church activities are considered pew-warmers.

 Remember, the preacher (and church staff) are called and hired to mature believers. Has he not insulted himself by making such remark? Has he failed in his ministry to inspire members to serve?

 Or, is the spiritual life of the minister and his team still on the milk-level even when they were trained in bible or theological schools!

 My question: has the church minister approached a member for the task he requires? Does he know his members by name? Or, as the excuse goes: “Oh there are too many for one of him to get to know the members?” If that was so, has he the right to scold from the pulpit?

 Often there was allegation or reminder that on judgment day, God will separate the goats from the sheep – hoping this guilt will stir members to involvement.

 Inevitably the preacher puts himself above the congregation that he belongs to the sheep category – that God will pat him on his back and say, “well done my boy, you were called to serve” – is this how that will pan out on that day? I shudder at the thought!

 Glad the God of the Bible is the God of love where He demonstrated His love while we were yet sinners Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected – God experienced that death to save us!

 Is the church minister able to preach, teach and inspire members to capture the magnitude of that love and power of God in Jesus and, in gratitude to return that to God?

#266 “seduced into idolatry”

I lift this portion quoting from blog, Without Wax by Pete — http://withoutwax.tv/2010/02/16/seduced-into-idolatry/:

John Ortberg recently wrote a fantastic article for Christianity Today where he ended with the following questions.  He labeled the series of questions the “Idol Quotient Test.” While this is geared toward people in ministry I think you can easily adapt each question to your current situation.

—Where does my sense of security come from—from God or from how my church is doing?

—After a worship service, do I find myself grateful that God is God and feeling joyful that I get to live in his care?   Or, if I’m honest, are my emotions dictated more by how many bodies were in the room?

—Do I spend more time thinking about God, or thinking about how to make my church/ministry do better?

—How do I feel when the prospect for more prizes in the church tournament—recognition, praise, reputation, applause—get taken away from me?

—Does my sense of identity flow more out of my relationship with God or out of my performance at church?

—How much do I sacrifice to know God better versus how much do I sacrifice for my church to work better?

What a good check and reminder on WHO the clergy and leaders of the church or Christians profess to believe!

#254 has the church lost pride in celebration?

For a believer to take the step of confirmation in the church is a solemn affair. This warrants celebration on the part of the clergy and congregation.

Yesterday (25th October, 2009) at St Andrews’ Cathedral at 5pm service was dedicated to confirmation of about 52 believers to the church. It was a special time for celebration. Sadly the service was poorly conducted by those involved.

There was need for printed sheets of hymns and songs as part of the service but some worshippers did not have the printed sheets. Without the words of the hymn or song, a worshipper’s mind and heart was disrupted. This spoiled the mood of the service for the worshippers. (Unfortunately this happened every time when there was a special service conducted.)

[Mind you there were many LCD screens installed hanging overhead in the church building but no one considered using that to flash the words of  hymns or songs?]

The choir sang poorly. Instead of helping the congregation to sing the hymns or songs, most of the time they were behind in timing and turned the beautiful hymn into funeral timing!

During the Holy Communion, the choir’s rendition was appalling. Many choir members do not know their music, much less the meaning of the lyrics sang! Where was the commitment or dedication? Many sang with their natural voice. If this was the case, disband the choir. Let the organist or musician lead the singing instead.

If there was need, get a special group of singers to present meaningful and memorable rendition for the occasion.

Yesteryears when fewer members were able to take up learning of musical instruments, this could be excused. Today, choir members pride themselves able to sing when they had not gone for vocal training.

Where is the fear of the Lord? If the clergymen do not care about administration of worship, then who is able to reform? Preachers are found crying foul from the pulpit that members lack in spiritual growth and involvement, how could members improve given this tardy and sloppy way of conducting the worship service week after week and where sermons are reduced to rantings and ramblings and on occasion, it was clear that the sermon was ill-prepared?

Interestingly, many were found criticising the public for poor administration but when it comes to church matters, Christians become sheepish. Why?

Has the church become obsolete? Have the clergymen and leaders and those involved in affairs of the church become complacent and sloppy?

We make our houses beautiful homes to live in but the church…????

#253 sunday preaching on shattered dream

Last Sunday at St Andrews Cathedral 5pm service, the preacher asked, “What is the opposite of trust?” “I hope you will not answer ‘distrust’.” Was he condescending? Was he treating his congregation like his Sunday School kids?

Guess his answer? “Fear.” He was quite smug about his answer!

It’s a wonder why Christians do not fear God! Fear in this context has negative connotation. Often the word ‘fear’ used with God implies ‘reverence’.  If the opposite of trust is fear then, Christians rightly can question God and disbelieve all that written in the Bible. (I’m sure he will argue and excuse his way out on this.)

The preacher could have used ‘afraid of tomorrow; disquiet; anxiety; and so on…’ 

I went away wondering…what is the role of the pastor? His role is to bury, to marry, to visit the sick and to baptise. Does this mean he hasn’t the time to pray through when he was preparing his sermons?

Yesteryears, a pastor was able to take care of one congregation. Today a pastor has many paid helpers and there are more pastors to the number of congregations at St Andrews Cathedral.

There is the constant complaint that pastors have a lot to do. Does this mean he can be excused for his ill-chosen words? Can he be excused for his wooly sermons? He is called to preach God’s Word — a sermon at Sunday service is a fresh reminder for the congregation to lean on God throughout the week. Can the congregation members recall that he preached throughout the week?

He claimed he had shattered dreams but… The truth is shattered dream is relative in understanding as the intensity of one’s shattered dream differs from another…

Was he able to say he went through the same experiences that Job in the Old Testament went through? He made no direction to Job’s predicament at all.

What was he taught in homiletics during his theological or bible school days?

#236 church pastor paid 500K per year?

Fancy that..I read that New Creation Church pays her leaders — pastor, Joseph Prince — an annual sum of 500K and 2 others for sums of 100K each for work done in the church!

Mind you, when the pastor marries a couple in church, he gets an angpaw; at funeral wakes he is given an offering or gift; as a matter of fact for any occasion, even speaking engagements — a pastor receives extras! On top of that, he is given housing allowances, children’s education and transport allowance. Wow! Half a million dollars of pocket money! Does the pastor have to pay income tax for that he receives? All those gifts he receives — are these accounted for or these go into his own pocket?

Furthermore, the New Creation has to pay the venue used for Sunday services at Suntec City and other overhead costs. Where does this money come from?

I believe the money comes from the sacrificial giving of believers. Do believers know how much their pastor and some staff-workers are paid?

I thought the church ministers receive a stipend!

Is this what the Lord Jesus Christ taught His people to tithe — 10% of the monthly income — for the salaries of the pastor and senior church staff-workers or administrator or accountant?

This is sacrilegious! Is there judgment of God on this at the end of world? Can these ‘servants of God’ be at peace with God?

In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, God gave word on sin offering in chapter 4…

The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in the Lord’s command —

If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring…(v.3)

If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden though the community is unaware of the matter, they are guilty (v.13)…when some become aware of the sin they committed…

When a leader sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the commands of the Lord his God, he is guilty (v.22)…

If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s command, he is guilty (v.27)…

Is the church pastor not aware this portion of scriptures? Or these are not applicable today?