Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thoughts on the City Harvest Church verdict

Believing no matter what? From CHC FB
OCT 21, 2015 — After almost three years in court, the City Harvest Church (CHC) trial finally came to a conclusion today, with all six leaders found guilty of their charges. It is far from a definite end, however, as there is possibility of appeals and the sentencing has not been met out yet.

Across my Facebook, reactions have been mixed. Even before the verdict, numerous friends of mine have expressed support for the CHC leaders, seeing the trial as a test. That the devil was out to persecute them. In the eyes of these friends, never once was the possibility that the leaders might be wrong ever occurred to them. To them, the leaders were flawless, righteous. It was the evil world against them.

On the other side of the fence, you have those who for the life of them, could not understand how the CHC supporters think. Can't they see beyond what's preached to them in church? Are they so blindly devoted to the church that they refuse to see anything else? I, sadly, belong to the second group.

However, I don't think continuing to belittle or mock CHC supporters would help so I'm not going to do that. Most of the CHC supporters I see have the best intentions, it's the way the church is organised and managed is what I have issues with.

CHC is a successful organisation, no doubt about that. But like most megachurches, I feel that it has become so big until it stops functioning as a church any longer. Or at least the type of church that I can identify with. To me, there's this fine line in being a church and a megachurch. And when you cross it, everything changes.

You may ask, what's with megachurches that I have issues with?

Maybe it's the glamourous and glittering stage that pastors preach on. Maybe it was the whole carnival atmosphere that every service thrives on. It could be the way the church is run, with all the bureaucracy and layers of administration, which makes it no difference than running a company. Or perhaps the way megachurches try to sell you merchandises related to the church itself. Books written by the pastor, albums by the church band or souvenirs in the forms of cups, notebooks and pens.

Maybe it's the way pastors are treated with a celebrity status, where the people are going to church because of the pastor and not the message. I don't know. I must first admit that there are not many megachurches that I can compare with, but for those I see, accumulation of wealth becomes very prevalent after a church grows large enough. It could be for the good of the church, but when a church decides to build a stadium or even shopping complex to either assert its status or finance itself, I can't help but  feel that the church's focus may have been distracted away from what truly matters.

But that's my issue with megachurches. As for the narrative that the CHC is putting out, I find it worrying how the entire verdict was couched as a test for the leaders, that they are undergoing this as servants of God. Perhaps the best example was how one Phil Pringle put it, saying that the jobs of believers "is to stand with each other when we are facing trouble. At the end of the day, it’s easy to stand for Jesus, but it’s more challenging to stand for one of his servants when they are facing difficulty."

It's like saying that when you murder someone in the name of God, everyone is required to stand with you as believers, without worrying whether you're wrong or not. Obedience to our leaders is one thing, but obedience to the point of blindly worshipping them is another.

Between all the bible verses that CHC is putting out, perhaps the one that they're missing out is from 1 Timothy 5:19-21 — "Do not accept an accusation against an elder unless it can be confirmed by two or three witnesses. Those guilty of sin must be rebuked before all, as a warning to the rest. Before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, I solemnly charge you to carry out these commands without prejudice or favoritism of any kind."

Christian leaders are not above the laws of the bible and scrutiny, especially those in higher positions, more so in one where there are hundreds of thousands of people. If a Christian leader demands unquestioning obedience from you and misusing his position as the basis of authority, then he is no longer a Christian leader, but rather a cult leader.

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