It's been many years since I've left City Harvest Church (better known as CHC), but because of the recent incident (June 2012) on the arrest of Pastor Kong Hee and the other leaders involved in their misconduct, mismanagement of funds in the Building Fund, I decided to let out my feelings once and for all about this church.
My first visit to CHC was back in 2002, when I was a Secondary 4 student at a reputable top boys school in Singapore. I still vividly remember the first visit to the Jurong West building, at the invitation of a female friend. Before the first visit to CHC, I had not really interacted much with such an overwhelmingly charismatic church. I had grown up in a typical Singaporean Taoist background (the sort who only visited the temple once every blue moon, usually to pray for good grades or health) and the only exposure to Christianity was probably the time I grew up in a Christian kindergarten and then Catholic primary school, where we said morning prayers daily and sang songs during mass. Perhaps, I was still a young and impressionable teen, but I admit I was actually very impressed with CHC the first time I visited. Everyone was really warm, friendly and the praise/worship music was upbeat and carried a positive message, not to mention very relevant yet positive sermons - something I had grown fond of the more I attended.
I was at first, turned off by the extremely persistent efforts of the Christian brothers in the cell group who kept calling me and asking me to attend services. I was freaked out when one even came all the way from Jurong to Bedok, just to meet me at my void deck to talk to me and show 'care and concern'. Their efforts in trying to befriend and listen to my problems, soon rubbed off and I slowly opened up. Eventually after half a year, I decided to also be more receptive and open to the gospel and gave my heart to Jesus Christ.
Soon, I was very active and committing myself while studying at a top junior college in Singapore. Though, my studies were really adversely affected since I was really not that good in managing my time. I was attending cellgroups, evangelistic outreaches, singing in choir ministry and also volunteering a lot of time to fellowship with church members. I naively thought that by surrendering my life to God, that He would reward me and "multiply" the little time I had left to study. I was sincerely wanting to give my best to God, and glorify him in every way possible. But I think in the process I was also brainwashed alot in the prosperity gospel. It was only after I met my girlfriend in JC, who was from a more conservative Christian background, that I started to develop questions about what CHC stood for. I perused many books on the Christian faith and also explored more about the other denominations, and the more I talked to more Christian people from other churches...the more it struck me that I was emerging out of 'a Matrix'
I guess one of the doubts I had developed as I stayed longer in church, was the whole issue of tongues and laying of hands. The sort of Pentecostal/Charismatic and Word of Mouth doctrines that permeated all that CHC did. I tried to pray to God to help me with my unbelief, I tried talking to countless zone pastors or elders...and they tried using their typical CHC Bible Study guide answers to answer me...but deep down, I was never really satisfied with the answers they interpreted and taught me.
In addition, through all those years I was in CHC (2002 to 2009), I had been faithfully (though in retrospect also blindly) tithing and giving offerings. There was only once or twice in the 8 years that I had missed out on tithes. And in addition, while serving my National Service, I also gave almost 80% of all my salary in 2 years to the chuch. There were countless "Arise and Build" campaigns to raise funds for the church building, and we were always told that through being highly visible in the marketplace...God would use us strategically to impact the world. In retrospect, I don't know whether to regret or to be glad that I had given so much of my time and money to church. Yes, it has helped in renting the premises for services, and yes it has helped some charities...but after reading the report on how the church misused $23 million for Pastor Sun, I've grown cynical of how exactly the church uses the money of members. It's especially sad, since for most of us who were/are in CHC, the building fund is often a burden on our finances. It is given on top of the regular basic tithes, donations to church.
I was actually very sad of other issues too, like how they would re-organize cellgroups that were not growing. There was always a certain quota or target to meet every year. If your cell group does not grow to a certain target, it will be re-organized..and u'll be placed with another cellgroup where you would not know most people. I was extremely disturbed when it happened to once or twice during my stay in CHC. And to make matters worse, during my last days of my time in CHC..around 2008, 2009...there were some incidents of conversations I had with my Cell Group Leader that disturbed me. Though it was just candid conversations and talk, it revealed to me how he was so motivated and results-driven, that he forgot the intangibles of the Christian faith.
Another big issue was Benny Hin, and how our church associated with him. This man was infamous for straying from proper Christian doctrines. I saw how CHC would associated with influential people and have strategic partnerships with important leaders in Christian or secular circles, just to further the interests of its leaders or image, yet turn a blind eye to some very glaring issues (and then, try to reason and give textbook answers on why they continue doing so)
I never really fitted into the church, because I tended to question more while in CHC and I was always just given 'textbook' answers that members just regurgitated. I need a church I could really believe and commit 100%. But there were far too many doubts that plagued my experience in CHC. I must confess that I was impressed with the high level of character and commitment that many sincere believers inside embodied. And indeed, there were many good Christians inside that are faithful and impacting the Singaporean community in their own way. But CHC's system of doctrine just did not really go well with me. I finally made the toughest decision in my Christian life in 2009, when I told my CGL and then 1,2 members that I was leaving the church to find a church that I was more comfortable with.
When I left, I thought I could maintain the friendships with the members I used to meet every week for service and cell group meetings. Sadly, none of them even bothered to call me or ask me why I left. The only person I started to talk to again, was probably another member who left half a year later too.
These are just a few small thoughts about my CHC experience. I will write more when I've the time. But whoever is from CHC, or was from CHC, do feel free to comment and share with me your thoughts too. Thank You.