Last Sunday, the first year undergraduates of Trinity Theological College visited City Harvest Church (CHC) as part of the Field Education program. After the service, there was a dialog session with the church's leadership to understand more about the church's operation, missions, challenges, etc.
Ps. Kong Hee preached in that morning. That was probably the fourth or fifth time I heard him preaching. The first time was in 2002 when I attended a conference at Kuala Lumpur, where he was one of the invited speakers. When I came to Singapore, CHC was one of the first church that I visited. So there was not much surprises or unfamiliarities to be encountered.
Before the sermon, there was a presentation of the works that CHC is currently doing overseas in India and Sri Lanka. One of their project is to build a school in a rural area to educate the children. We are told that these works are part of CHC's carrying out the 'Cultural Mandate'. In the middle of the presentation, Ps. Kong asked the congregation to say to those sitting besides us, "Knowledge is power." So I turned to my neighbor waiting to hear the Foucaultian aphorism. My neighbor said it. Then I replied, "Christ is power."
Ps. Kong preached on the meaning of each of the five smooth stones that David picked to fight the Goliath. They were the stone of 'past', 'prayer', 'passion', 'persistent', and one more which I have forgotten. The sermon reminds me of exegetical method applied by the Alexandrian school in the first few centuries.
After the service, we were invited to one of the conference room for a dialog session. The host was Rev. Wu Yu Zhuang (a.k.a Goh Yock Tuan, Mark). He welcomed us as students from, "Trinity Bible Seminary."
One classmate curiously asked Rev. Wu what is his own thoughts of Ps. Kong?
Rev. Wu replied, "To me, Ps. Kong is an apostle."
"What!? Do you mean an apostle like those who have seen Christ?" sought the classmate.
"I do not want to go into a theological discussion over this, but Ps. Kong's work as a missionary and pastor is like an apostle," answered Rev. Wu.
Then another classmate inquired how does CHC ordains someone to the pastorate. Rev. Wu explained that there are two different levels in the pastorate. One is a 'pastor' and the other higher level is a 'reverend'. Those who are ordained to the pastorate will be given a 'pastor license'.
Following the question,"Then what are the requirements for someone to be ordained in CHC?"
"Theological education is not compulsory for ordination. Ordination is based on the evaluation of the person's performance in the church's work and his/her spiritual life. We emphasize on 'relationship'," Rev. Wu clarified.
"Who carry out the evaluation?"
"Ps. Kong and the church's board," affirmed Rev. Wu. (Earlier on, Rev. Wu also remarked that the church's board consists of those who are also the disciples of Ps. Kong.).
When my turn came, I asked, "Since the distinctiveness of CHC is to be relevant to culture, and Ps. Kong said that the church is committed to the 'Cultural Mandate', what then is CHC's understanding of the 'Cultural Mandate'? And how does the church measure 'relevance'? Is it by the church's attendance alone, for eg. the more people who attend the church, that means the church is being culturally relevant?"
Rev. Wu replied that CHC is being relevant to culture by the casual clothes the pastors wear, the persona style they adopt, the contemporary worship songs CHC uses for church's service.
I have no doubt that the pastors and church workers wear nice clothes. Yet those are not street casuals. More like pop culture sort of celebrity attires. So to put it simply, CHC takes that being relevant to the pop culture (a.k.a MTV culture) is by make-ups and dress-ups.
At least I was glad to hear that CHC acknowledges and recognizes Trinity Theological College's credential as a theological educational institution.