Thursday, July 14, 2011

Daniel Koh's full response to the Straits Times's report on teenage preachers

The Strait Times published a report titled 'Young, trendy--and a 'preacher'' on 11 July 2011, written by Yen Feng, Religion and Culture Reporter of the Straits Times Singapore. (A [edited?] reprinted version can be read at Jakarta Globe website.)

The main feature in the report is Elijah Ng, a teenage preacher from City Harvest Church, who "has a personal hairstylist" and wears designer branded clothes.

Daniel Koh, a lecturer at Trinity Theological College, has written a response to the report at the Straits Times Forum, wondering if the media is going only for the sensational. However his question is deleted completely.

This is the published version (ST Forum: Shepherd teen preachers carefully, dated 13 July 2011, http://www.straitstimes.com/STForum/OnlineStory/STIStory_689841.html [accessed 13 July 2011]):

IT IS natural for religious groups to encourage young and capable members to consider joining the religious orders ('Young, trendy - and a 'preacher''; Monday). This will ensure continuity and is a healthy form of leadership renewal.

However, while Elijah Ng may be oratorically gifted and dressed like a celebrity, as a secondary school student he is still in his formative years. He still has much to learn and should be guided with care. He should also be encouraged to pursue appropriate theological studies at the right time, in preparation for pastoral work if the church sees potential in him.

Daniel Koh Kah Soon

While the original version is this (with permission from Daniel to post it on this blog):

Dear Editor,

Monday's Straits Times carried a number of articles about young Singaporeans becoming priests, pastors and Quran reader. It is natural for religious groups like any farsighted institution to encourage young and capable members to consider joining the religious orders. This will ensure continuity. It is a healthy form of leadership renewal.

I am particularly attracted to the report about Elijah Ng, a teenager who is "Not a preacher, but people treat him like one." (ST July 11).

While he may be oratorically gifted, and he may be expensively dressed up like a celebrity, as a secondary school student, he is still in his formative years. There is still much to be learned for this young lad. He should be guided with care and prayer, and encouraged to pursue appropriate theological studies at the right time, in preparation for pastoral work if the church sees the potential in him to be one.

Instead of featuring Elijah, who is not typical of what is happening in the churches in Singapore, I wonder why the Straits Times reporters did not consider the many other young pastors who are now working as pastors in various churches, some of whom would have inspiring stories to share about why they have left their well-paid jobs, to become ordinary pastors of churches which shun razzmatazz religiosity and celebrity culture, and which are definitely not part of the glamourised "mega-church" league.

Daniel Koh Kah Soon

3 comments:

SHWong said...

Hey man, why are only those who left "well paid jobs" inspiring?

Sze Zeng said...

Good question, SHWong. I also don't know, but may be that is highlighted because it is in contrast with Elijah Ng's glittering lifestyle.

reasonable said...

I guess Daniel mentioned that those who left "well paid jobs" to become ordinary pastors are inspiring because of the perceived sacrifices these people made, since to most, having well-paid jobs is something they would want to cling on to.

Of course, sometimes it is not so much of sacrifices but rather exchanging one form of pleasure for another form of pleasure, especially when one, having experienced the pleasures associated with well-paid jobs, starts to crave for what they deemed to be higher pleasures such as reputation, spiritual-joy, etc.