Former member of City Harvest Church, Singapore’s pentecostal mega-church shares the painful experience of abuse, power, demonic influence, greed and false love.
Finally, divine justice is executed on Singapore’s once largest church before Joseph prince’s New Creation Church overtook that status. After cheating their flock of millions of dollars for a building fund which was in fact, channelled to fund the failed singing career of Sun Ho, the singer wife of founding pastor, Kong Hee (check out her awful music videos which she tried to break into the US market to ‘evangelize’ the lost through secular music: see China Wine ft Wyclef Jean, Fancy Free & Kill Bill by Sun Ho on Youtube)
I attended City Harvest Church from 1999-2002.
Kong Hee was once a man I greatly revered and respected. In almost every service, he made me and my family believed that we could be rich by sowing seed money. Out of pressure in their cell groups, we gave and gave, losing 5-6 figure dollar sums in total over the course of years. As one of the biggest donors, my mother even received a personal letter of thanks by Kong Hee himself.
As a Pentecostal, he emphasized the ‘gifts’ of the Holy Spirit, making erroneous claims that those who do not have tongues are not saved. Manifestations of holy laughter, shaking, convulsions, “slain in the spirit” and “casting of demons” were frequent. I have seen members who gave convincing testimonies of their healing on stage during healing rallies, only to reveal later that they were never really healed and still carried the pain, not realising they were momentarily ‘healed’ due to placebo effect under a suggestive state of mind during hypnotic worship in a mass crowd. I was even physically laid hands upon by Kong Hee himself as he tried to cast demons off me, so I pretended to go into a screaming frenzy as I liked the attention I got from him and among the crowd (some members also admitted to this), but I did convulsed and shook too so there was still something spiritual there.
As an Arminianist, Kong Hee taught that one could lose their salvation if they don’t read their Bible, stop going to church, stop living a holy life or just continue sinning. So for years, I responded to so many altar calls, whispered the sinner’s prayer almost all the time, tried to do all the good works possible to please God, to the point I got angry and cursed God regularly because I was never guaranteed salvation.
He invited many celebrity preachers like A.R. Bernard, Phil Pringle, John Avanzini and heavily promoted the teachings of Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth E. Hagin and Brian Houston. He taught New Age ideas and step-by-step theories in the guise of Christianity to promote false teachings.
Kong Hee’s heavy emphasis on name-it-claim-it is so saturated in his teachings that his inability to rightly divide the Scripture make him believe that Old Testament promises specific to the nation Israel are for the church today. Jesus and His finished work on the cross was diminished while having the “gifts” of the Holy Spirit and achieving the best life now on earth are magnified. According to Kong Hee, Christians can be demon-possessed so there was always this lingering fear and lack of safety of what can happen to you anytime.
His teachings on generational curses, laying of hands, and the ‘power of the spoken word’ had wrecked my family apart. My mother who hung unto Kong Hee’s every word would punish me by pronouncing bible curses on me and regularly tried to cast demons off me if I were to disagree, while I grew more rebellious, more blasphemous, more vulgar in my speech, more covetous, more lustful and more hateful that I was close to a mental breakdown as I drowned in the prosperity gospel and the word-of-faith he taught. My mother grew paranoid, more judgemental, more self-righteous, more covetous, more angry, more threatening and more abusive, till the mental state has deteriorated to madness till this day.
Because of the ‘gifts’ I practiced, I experienced frequent dreams of scary looking demons chasing after me and overpowering me while I called upon Jesus but He helped me not, neither could I cast them out “in the name of Jesus”. I have seen ‘visions’ and ‘prophecies’ too. I thought I was so spiritual that the Devil must be attacking me. Looking back, I realised that practising those ‘gifts’ actually exposed me to the demonic realm and that the devils were deceiving me so I’m not surprised that many of the members were indeed demon-possessed without knowing. Most of us were not saved anyway since the salvation message was twisted and reduced to a sinner’s prayer that was repeated every after service at altar call without any understanding what being a wretched sinner and the need for the Saviour really meant.
Kong Hee once taught in 1999, that people who are in hell cannot come out of hell becos they cannot remember the name of Jesus. He often mocked those who disagreed with him in sermons, though never naming their names. He also poked fun at those who do not lift up their hands during worship as “having arthritis”. Not only did he say that poverty is a sin, he said that everyone should be a millionaire. His ecumenical partnering with Catholics goes to show his lack of understanding of Scripture (since his sis is Catholic).
Huge numbers in attendees and money were seen as success and ‘proof’ of God’s blessings. Churches that do not practice worship concert-style, that were small in congregation or poor or did not have humour in their sermons were often ridiculed.
If you’re successful in life, you would be selected to announce your testimonies to the assembly. Achieving fame, health, wealth and success are treated as legit evidences of God’s blessings. Celebrities and the financially wealthy tend to be granted first-hand encounters with the pastor himself.
In the youth cell groups, we were pressured by our group leaders to attend church and cell group every week (they would interrogate or call if we don’t). Even to attend another church to visit their service was frowned upon.If you do, you have to make sure you attend the CHC service too, so some can end up attending 2 separate services at different places in one day. The fear of men was so great that to be rejected was like death. We were pressured to report our life activities and confess our sins to our leaders, and if we failed to donate tithes and to the building fund, we would be interrogated for ‘lack of faith’ despite many of us poor students not having the means to afford giving. If we failed to turn up for the group’s meeting, even if legit reasons are bcos we were sick, we have a friend’s birthday or family function on that day, we were accused of not putting God first. If our parents did not let us attend church, we would be pardoned as experiencing ‘persecution’.
However, in most cases, the authority of the church (including that of your cell group leaders) superseded the authority of your parents, even the authority of the Bible. Members were enticed with free gifts if they memorised verses or attended paid courses in the church. Those who did will stand among the crowd and be applauded as the ushers passed the gifts to them among the envious crowd.
Because you don’t want to offend your cell group leaders and members whom you sit with (and you had to sit with your cell group and not with your friends from other cell groups, otherwise you’ll be seen as not being ‘faithful’ to your cell group), you were automatically pressured to parrot ‘Amens’, clap and cheer together to his anecdotes in his sermons even though you do not agree with them.
Those who gave the most in seed offerings were applauded and praised. Those who don’t were treated as 2nd class. Being sad or depressed was a sign of defeat. Many of us were forced to put on a smile and pretend everything else in life was good in positive confession, else we would be ridiculed of having a “defeated, powerless life”.
Despite giving seed money and trying our hardest to have faith, when we can’t achieve those riches, healings and dreams we crave for, many members end up blaming God and being angry and paranoid (though we were afraid to admit it among ourselves lest we be exposed by others who may report us to our leaders). Gossips, back-biting, finger-pointing, favouritism, elitism, fear and sin were rampant among members.
If a new person was to come on that Sunday, you had to tell your leader in advance so that they will prepare a card with all CG members’ well wishes written on it. If you brought a new member without letting your leader know, he or she will not be happy with you as she had no gift to prepare for the newbie, hence they believe that without a gift, the newbie will not feel welcomed. (No wonder guest attendees thought we were super scary in that approach – can u imagine getting a card from ppl whom you hardly talk to and just met, who write to u well wishes as if they know you on your first meeting??)
If a guest attendee came, you cannot show sadness or pain else you are “tarnishing God’s name” by not being happy all the time. You have to express interest to talk to the newbies to make them ‘feel welcome’ even if you don’t feel like it else you are accused of not showing love.
When a guest attendee comes, give him or her notepad and a pen to make them write down the sermon. If you as a member came to service not writing the sermon down, you are accused of not taking preaching seriously. Of cos, a newbie was treated like a royal guest showered with attention and loving tenderness and greeted with smiles. Once the newbie is sucked in as a member, he or she will be trapped by stressful demands, pressured into regular attendance, money-giving, discipleship and performance, the once gentle grace no longer extended to him or her, and the the next target will be given the same treatment cycle.
If you did not lift up your hands or clap during worship, the member next to you will whisper in your ear and accuse you of not praising God. If you do not do these during worship in cell groups, the leader will rebuke you openly or privately. If you had girlfriend or boyfriend and dating at such a young age, cell group members will subtly try to separate you by giving you excuses to sit next to them than to your boyfriend or girlfriend because he/she feels more ‘comfortable’ that you sit next to them. They were not mature enough to tell u their thoughts.
Some cell group leaders in the youth groups were so young that they could not provide any solid advice or mature guidance. Once, I was having such a bad day, so of cos I naturally had a sad countenance at church. When a member saw that, she said curtly to me: “You looked so depressed!” within hearing range to everyone around that it was embarrassing. Another time, there was a member who stopped going to church. Her cell group leader followed and harassed her all the way into the taxi and even complained about her “rebellion” on the phone to one of the pastors IN FRONT of that member! When I refused to continue a talk on the phone with a very pushy and unreasonable member, she copied an SMS to me that shows her complaint to the leader about my “disobedience”.
Like a MLM organization, we were tracked on our progress based on how much money we gave and how many friends we manage to bring to service. If we don’t bring newbies in, we were interrogated and judged as not having love for the lost. If we did not wear nice enough (means ties, skirts, accepted casual wear etc. Can you imagine 15 year olds wearing corporate suits to church??), we were accused of dishonoring God. [After Sun Ho’s early rose to fame, over time, Kong Hee exchanged his fashion for more youthful, fashionable wear. After that, demands to wear a suit / tie and mature fashion were changed]
If a member wanted to switch cell groups, he or she will get disapprovals from nervous leaders who were competing among each other based on numbers of members in their groups. If a member wanted to change church, he or she will be accused of being unfaithful, even if he or she lived far away.
Sacrifice of time and money were seen as signs that a person loves God rather than signs that the individual was pressured under the fear of men.
When Sun Ho first broke into the music scene, we were coerced to buy multiple copies of her CDs, distribute to friends, buy her concert tickets and attend them to inflate the numbers to flash her “success” to the world (no matter how poor and busy we were). When she made the contradictory statement that she was not a pastor, I knew she was lying cos we ALWAYS addressed her as Pastor Sun and members have seen her preached before in the past.
When I finally questioned my cell group leaders of the church’s teachings, I was accused of lack of faith and interrogated by for my questioning. When I left, my cell group leader told the whole group that I backslided and to never contact me (told to me by another ex-member who left the church months later). True enough, members whom I thought were my friends for years avoided my calls or msgs.
Many ppl whom I have invited and who left, turned atheist or stopped seeking the Christian faith altogether as they got hurt from the abuse that is rampant in there.
All in all, it was about men’s approval, not God’s approval. I left feeling drained, depressed, unstable, hurt, lonely and scared.
After being saved and a few more years in Charismania (I was also an attendee of Joseph Prince’s New Creation Church, but that’s another story to share in another time), I came out of the charismatic movement, no longer practicing those ‘gifts’ and all those demonic dreams that haunted me for years have ceased permanently.
Right before the trial began, my spouse was approached by City Harvest to edit a video for them. Unfortunately (or fortunately) unable to accomplish in time (thank God as I protested to my spouse against doing anything for them), they stopped the service but still paid my spouse money in the guise of donation gift even though it was clearly a business transaction. I am not surprised by such fraudulent acts that finally caught the attention of the authorities.
Kong Hee, for all the money that you have cheated, for all the false teachings you promoted and for the multitudes of people you have led to hell, prison is not such a bad idea to humble you. Your idolatrous god of your imagination can’t hear your prayers, neither can he save you. While you still have breath in you, REPENT!