Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Is New Creation Church A Cult?

Yesterday, I had a conversation via sms with my dear friend, Kat who was upset over the question her friends asked when she invited them to visit New Creation Church: "Are you sure NCC is not a cult? Everything seems to be about only one man, Joseph Prince and his ministry, and some members even hero worship him."


Definition of "Cult"

Before I discuss further, let me show you this article at


In our modern world of the new millennium, the word "cult" has become largely overused and is now a catch-all for any group, religion or lifestyle which someone doesn't understand, or with which they happen to disagree. This is a dangerous trend, as many of the organizations labeled a cult by dissidents are truly legitimate groups. Once the taint of the term "cult" is applied to a particular group, it is often difficult to change that image to the public.

To avoid careless labeling which could be harmful to a group and its adherents, it is important to know just exactly what a cult is, and how it is defined. A cult, by modern standards, is any group that incorporates mind control to deceive, influence and govern its followers. Although most people think of cults as being religious, they can also be found in political, athletic, philosophical, racial or psychotherapeutic arenas.

The mind control, or brainwashing, exerted by cults often take the form of at least several of the following elements:
 
A totalitarian control over the lifestyle and time of its members - Many cults tend to dictate exactly what its followers should read, eat, how and with whom they should spend their time, and even what they should do in off hours. This totalitarian control is necessary for the leaders to indoctrinate the followers in everything they do, and is also an attempt to separate them from anything not associated with the cult. This is why cults often live together in groups.

A charismatic, self-appointed leader with complete authority - Cult members are taught not to question the teachings, practices, or ideas of the leader. Many cult leaders truly are charismatic people, and are able to influence people to believe them. It is common that a cult member is not told everything up front when joining the group, but that they are taught increasingly controlling ideas and teachings as they go. In the case of some of the more well-publicized cults that have come and gone, it is also common that the leader's ideas and demands evolve over time, becoming increasingly controlling and restrictive. One very clear identifying element dealing with the leader of a cult is that the leader will always focus the attention and veneration of the members upon himself or herself. At the heart of a cult usually lies a very self-centered and self-seeking person.

A focus on withholding truth from non-members - Many cults teach their followers to be completely open and truthful within the group, while at the same time they are encouraged to be secretive and evasive when questioned by people outside of the group. This is another form of mind control-instilling guilt in the members if they hold anything back within the group. The members are taught that outsiders wouldn't understand or that they would only make fun of the ideas and practices and requirements for living within the group. Only specially-commissioned members are appointed to recruit members from outside. New members are usually encouraged to keep silent or even lie, especially to their families and close friends.

The three elements listed above are very successful ways to create a group mentality, an us-against-them way of looking at things. This is essential for any cult that wants to keep its members. The more afraid of the outside world the members become, the more strongly and faithfully they will keep within the safe fold of the cult.



New Teaching False Teaching
By questioning whether NCC is a cult, Kat's friends were implying that NCC members might be a bunch of brain-washed fools blindly following and being controlled by Pastor Prince. No wonder she was upset! She was trying to share the Good News with them but they suspect her of trying to recruit new members for a cult.
If you go by the characteristics listed in the above attached article, then certainly you cannot label NCC a cult. However, nowadays people tend to use the term "cult" loosely and label churches whose teachings don't seem to be in line with the teachings of traditional churches as "cults".
I agree that we cannot simply disregard the teachings that the traditional churches have been teaching over the centuries but we need to understand that knowledge is built upon knowledge, and as new relevations break forth, they cast new light on the old and in the process show us what we hold true in the past may not be true after all.
Instead of casually dismissing these new teachings as false or cultish, those who are serious in finding out the truth need to sit down and properly listen to them firsthand from the preacher's sermons.




Armchair Critics
There are critics of NCC's teachings who have never really sat down to listen to Pastor Prince's sermons (many sermons, not just a few in order to see the consistency of the preaching). Some of them base their criticism on hearing snippets of sermons or their interactions with some NCC members or hearsay from non-NCC members. 

I suggested to one critic of NCC's teaching on tithing to listen to Pastor Prince's sermon CDs on tithing and he replied that he will never pay money for Pastor Prince's false teachings. So we have a critic concluding that NCC teachings are false although he has never heard them firsthand and doesn't want to.

There's another critic doing a "review" of Pastor Prince's book "Destined to Reign". However, this guy has already made up his mind that Pastor Prince teachings are wrong and set about doing his "chapter by chapter review" by concentrating on digging out little details that he disagrees with and highlighting them as "Caution Points". It's like he ordered a KFC meal and instead of enjoying the fried chicken, he is relishing tearing out all the bones.

Sad to say, there are many such armchair critics around. I do not mind that people disagree with NCC teachings but what I do mind is that they don't take the effort to listen before making their conclusions and shooting their mouth off.

I admire one couple who did take the effort to listen because they were worried for their son who told them he wanted to join NCC. This is their testimony published in our local newspaper, The Sunday Times:

Keep an open mind even if you live by thou-shalt-nots

I refer to the letter by Mr Winston Chin, 'I'd rather live by the thou-shalt-nots', published last Sunday. In it, he referred to a piece titled 'Church pastors like none other', published in The Sunday Times on Oct 5, which had featured the founders of two of Singapore's so-called megachurches: New Creation Church (NCC) and City Harvest Church.

I find it sad that Mr Chin felt the report had confirmed his observations and views of the two churches.

Just as it takes time and effort to get to know a person, it takes time and effort to get to know a church, its pastors and the doctrines they expound. An open mind and a non-judgmental attitude are also prerequisites.

Let me state from the outset that my husband and I are members of a traditional church. However, for the past few months, we have been visitors at NCC. We wanted to observe the services first-hand, so we could establish if the doctrines being expounded were biblical. This was because our son was keen to join NCC as a member.

We had obviously heard disturbing talk about NCC and Pastor Joseph Prince. However, we did not want to rely on hearsay. Instead, we wanted to make a fair and objective assessment.

No church or organisation is perfect - not NCC nor the church that my husband and I belong to. What mattered to us was which doctrines were being taught and who was being glorified.

We are sorry to disappoint the critics of NCC.

Over the past few months, we have not heard Pastor Prince glorify himself. His bible-based messages constantly focus on God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

In one sermon, he noted that he would have failed in his task if NCC members went away saying he was a great speaker. He considers his job done only when they say Jesus has been glorified during his sermon.


Mr Chin's letter does, however, serve a very useful purpose for the two megachurches. It warns of the perils that can surface when large, successful churches let their guard down and lose their focus.


I challenge those of you who really want to know the truth to come to NCC and listen to the sermons for yourselves for at least 3 months. Do not put any money into the offering bag being passed around at the end of the service. There will be no loss to you at all since no money is involved, just your precious time and effort. After that if you find anything wrong at all, come back here and tell us how and why, shine your light on us.



Listening to Charimastic Preacher ≠ Hero Worship
There are also critics who accuse NCC members of hero-worshipping Pastor Prince. I agree that there may be some who do that but it is unfair to generalize this to the whole congregation. Personally, I love Pastor Prince because number one, he is the shepherd whom God appointed over us and number two, because I find Pastor Prince's preaching biblical, Christ-centred and life-transforming.

Just because Pastor Prince is a charismatic speaker does not mean that those who enjoy his preaching are hero-worshipping him. Many listen to him because they want to learn from him. Hillsong Church has invited him to speak at their annual conference for the past few years and Pastor Prince has also preached at various other conferences all over the world. The conference attendees want to learn from him (not hero-worship him), and we NCC members are privileged to be able to learn from him week in week out.

As an analogy, a Chinese fund manager bid US$2.1 million in a charity auction to have a private meal with renowned investor Warren Buffett. You think this is because the fund manager hero-worships Warren Buffett? For US$2.1 million, of course not! The most compelling reason must be that he is hoping to have a "private tutorial" on how to make more money. This guy wants to learn from the best.

Now please don't twist what I am saying into Joseph Prince = Warren Buffett. No, I am saying that many come to NCC to learn from Pastor Prince because he is able to teach the bible in a brand new perspective resulting in life transformation.

You don't know what I am talking about? Of course not! You have to listen to the sermons for yourself!
(NCC services schedule)




15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Stanley,

Your presentation is well-thought out and well-said!

Frankly, these critics are mostly people who have never listened to a series of Ps' sermons and check his words against God's words. They often based their stands on hearsays.

I know... cos I was once like them.

It was when depression struck and no matter how I tried to seek help that I came to NCC.

Trust me... I went to quite a number of churches (including other "bigger, more acceptable mega-churches")... I could not find peace. In fact, the voice of condemnation went worse & worse. It was like no amount of "my effort" could save me cause everywhere I went, I kept hearing teachings that wanted me to do more so that God could help me. To the nay-sayers, I attended a few services in every one of these churches. The only temporary peace I had then was during worship.

It was only when I came to NCC and it happened to be Ps Prince teaching that day that suddenly my heart went quiet during the sermon. It was like Jesus said 'Peace' to the raging storms withnin me (Pls note: I did not equate Ps Prince to be Jesus.)

Frankly, if you ask me now, I cannot remember what sermon Ps was preaching then. But I remember that during the sermon, I was still 'judging' Ps' eyes as looking evil and having a cult-like aura (if there's ever such a phrase)! (Blame it on Ps' panda eyes under the lightings.)

All I know from that day is that I found peace, that unbelievable Peace that reign in me. My inner man know it was Jesus who was preached--- not Ps Prince.

So to those nay-sayers out there, I have only this to say: Let's not cast our pearls to the swine.

For those who seek the truth, they will eventually find it at the right time. Our Heavenly Father is good and He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Peggy

Stanley Wong said...

Hi Peggy,

My personal opinion is that NCC's critics tend to be those who are self-sufficient i.e. they are not facing any major trials in their lives, hence they are not in a position to realize that what they are receiving in their church every week are not able to help them during crunch time.

I have chatted with quite a few siblings in grace and all share a similar journey.

They were facing major crises but their traditional churches could not offer them any answers. They were at a loss and frustrated that being a Christian seemed to be of no help at all to their situation but somehow they were led to NCC and Pastor Prince's teaching changed their opinion of God, gave them hope in Christ and transformed their lives.

I have heard testimonies of marriages rekindled, finances and health restored. Personally, I still have financial debts hanging over my head but I believe my God will see me through this.

What do we gain on a personal basis when we introduce friends or even strangers to NCC's teachings? Absolutely nothing! It is just that after we have experienced the Good News for ourselves, we can't help but want to share it with others. I believe this is the reason why NCC is growing so fast; we are overflowing with so much joy and peace in Christ that we can't wait to tell everyone about the Good News.

Stephanie said...

Hi Stanley,

Well written post. :)

On your debts, stand strong faith in Lord Jesus. My sis used to talk and wrote on her credit card bills that "In the Name of Jesus, I will not have to pay you next month for in Christ, all debts are judged in Jesus!" Well, in standing in faith for 6 mths, Lord got her hubby, who previously didn't bother about giving her a cent to bless her the money to pay. That was when she was a 6 mths old Christian.

When we believe in the truth, the truth set us free, like my recent hubby deliverance case. Glory to Lord Jesus!! Amen & Amen!!!

pel said...

How sincere can a person be in teaching humility to others when he (Joseph Prince) draws a salary of more than $500,000 pa as revealed in the straits times? A leader should set the right example to others but obviously he hasn't. Whether in good times or bad times, salaries like that can never be justified for a religious leader. How can he draw such a salary when some of his church followers are finding it hard to make ends meet? I think he is just a hypocrite and a really good actor too!

Malcolm Loh said...

Hi Pel

The world's economy is based on the principle of scarcity -- one person gets something at the expense of another.

But God's economy works on the principle of abundance -- He can bless Ps Prince with a half million dollar salary and still have enough to bless His other children.

Hence, let us not begrudge our leaders but instead rejoice with those who rejoice and instead say, "Hallelujah! My turn is next!"

After all, Ps 133 tells us that blessings flow down from the head and then to the beard and then to the edges of the garment.

Hai Wei said...

Hi Stanley,

on your reply to Peggy above,

They were facing major crises but their traditional churches could not offer them any answers. They were at a loss and frustrated that being a Christian seemed to be of no help at all to their situation but somehow they were led to NCC and Pastor Prince's teaching changed their opinion of God, gave them hope in Christ and transformed their lives.

A BIG Amen to that! That's the story of my wife and I. Every word you said in this paragraph can be said of us.

Today, we live our lives every day with the knowledge that "God is SO GOOD". Now that's a transformed life.

All praise and glory be to Jesus!

Hai Wei said...

Hi Pel,

before I came to New Creation Church, I was also quite concerned about the tremendous salary that was said to have been drawn by this Joseph Prince. My thinking was that he will answer to God somehow - that's between them.

Today, I still have no idea how that amount was derived, but the important thing is that who is paying for it - is it every church member who forked out their hard-earned money, who actually intended for God's work, or was it our God, who is exceedingly abundantly rich.

If we focused on OUR sacrifice, then we demand that every cent be accounted for. If we see the reality that God pays for everything (including the money that we receive, out of which we give tithe), then we can sing Hallelujah to all His giving, which include the pastor's salary, whatever the amount.

And with that I’m not saying that any pastor can do whatever he wants with the church money. Of course there must be an accountability (especially to God). Personally, when I consider the extensiveness of ministry of the church – the 19,000 congregation, a worldwide (video telecast) ministry, not mentioning the children’s ministry, (I don’t think I even fully appreciate the extensiveness of it), I think it is a reasonable amount.

By the way, he has stopped taking a salary from the church for a while.

So, at the end of the day, it’s not just Pastor Prince - just as Jesus is rich, so am I, and every Christian brethren too! All praise and glory be to Jesus!

Concious Creator said...

at Hai Wei,
Well said, very well said and analogy about pastor Prince salary and the source and how you explain about actually it's God who is paying / blessing him thru us and why we are so calculative to ensure every hard earned cents must be accounted for.
thank you, i learnt that too from you.

reviewer said...

I've been attending NCC for more than a decade; as I am like most, a creature of habit. I would say that the pastor is very gifted in preaching, the enthusiasm would greatly help non believers or new believers to love to attend church. A lot of good preaching in the area of Grace and giving honour and praise to Jesus. The sad thing is there is very subtle manipulation in his preaching, and some bible context he totally avoids. I did not notice this after many years of looking high upon him. This is also the church goes fault as most of us just get overwhelmed by his 'performance' and preaching that he intentionally slip something in, that one can say it's very cunning to achieve his agenda. If after many long years you have been in this church and you still think all the main doctrine and teachings from him are all true and accurate, you really need to grow up.

Stanley Wong said...

Hi reviewer,

Perhaps you could quote examples,from more than a decade of listening to Pastor Prince's sermons, of Pastor Prince's " very subtle manipulation in his preaching, and some bible context he totally avoids" to allow us to see the context of your comments.

Personally, I believe that not a single pastor can claim that "ALL the main doctrine and teachings from him are ALL true and accurate". Pastor Prince himself has said on occasions that he had taught certain things years ago which he is now ashamed of but that he is growing in the Lord and the Lord shows him bible passages/teachings in a new light as he continues to grow.

I have attended NCC for the last 8 years, not out of habit but out of hunger to learn more and more about Jesus. The strange thing is, as I get fed from the Word by Pastor Prince every Sunday, at the same time, I develop an even greater appetite for more of His Word, more of Jesus and perhaps that is why I have grown up in these 8 years much more than in the 30 years I attended my previous church out of habit.

Stephanie said...

Hi reviewer,

If for the past 10years you were looking to Pastor Prince, you have lost your focus. We should not glory in man, not even Pastors.

From the start of my jouney in New Creation, Lord let me realise His Presence and His Leading. Every week I went to church to hear what my abba Father wants to tell me. I always prayed for His Wisdom and His understanding in fullness so that I could receive what He wants to tell me.

After flowing so long in the Lord, yes, at time, Prince might flow in his pride and talked about his achievements. But most of it is still from the Lord.

You decern by having joy in His Words or no joy. Many a time, when I saw Pastor Prince flowing in pride, I would pray to Jesus to remove his pride and ego, usually Lord will remove it and he back to leting Lord speaks.

If you see he has an agenda, maybe you have miss the point. I did tithe accord to what Lord leads me and Lord has been blessing me all this while.

If you get bitter bec you see nothing in your life, maybe you should see where you have fallen from Grace. Pick yourself up from there and walk back to Christ. Be dare to believe in Him and see how He could bless you.

Shalom!

Living Waters said...

ALL our needs & answers are found in The Gospel-Whatever Jesus Had done for us at the cross-it is all there!!!....Lord, help us to see The Way & The TRUTH.....to see Your LIFE manifested in us!

Rom1:16 The Gospel is The Power of GOD unto Salvation to those who believe.....in it the Righteousness of GOD is Revealed from Faith to Faith.....the just shall live by faith.

The Living Bread
- feed on NOTHING BUT The Gospel of Christ & Christ Crucified - It ios the Power of God, The Wisdom of GOD. 1Cor1:18,23-24.

Don't focus on whether the preacher is right or wrong....CARNAL minded is death....Seek Jesus & ASK HIM to unveil to you what is His Death, Burial & Resurrection is all about! How does it relate to you!!!
GOD already sent The Teacher from Heaven, to guide us into ALL (ALL,ALL) Truths!

The Holy Spirit Himself, The 3rd Godhead is already here on earth, to convict the world of sin, righteousness & judgement! HE is inside you..... ask HIM....HE is Yr HELPER...bible verses says so.... (not man!)
shalom.
it is up to each sheep, to seek after PURE Pasture....not to quarrel over preacher is good or bad....as man (with weakness & ego) can fail you at times if you do not follow the Heavenly Shepherd yrself. Period.

His Blood shed at the cross has OPENED the WAY into God's Presence. Focus What Jesus AHd Done at the cross.....The Lord confirm Thy WORDwith signs & wonders following. Shalom.

godwordistruth said...

Stanley,
Re your view: ". we need to understand that knowledge is built upon knowledge, and as new revelations break forth, they cast new light on the old and in the process show us what we hold true in the past may not be true after all. Instead of casually dismissing these new teachings as false or cultish, those who are serious in finding out the truth need to sit down and properly listen to them firsthand from the preacher's sermons."

Lets hear what Mr Charles Spurgeon has to say on this view you have stated in defense of new Prince's theology that is out of sync with biblical Christian faith: "There shall be no new God, nor new devil, nor shall we ever have a new saviour, nor a new atonement. Why then should we be attracted by the error and nonsense which everywhere plead for a hearing because they are new? To suppose the Theology can be new is to imagine that the Lord himself is of yesterday. A doctrine lately true must of necessity be false. Falsehood has no beard, but truth is hoary with age immeasurable. The old Gospel is the only Gospel. Pity is our only feeling toward those young preachers who cry: `See my new Theology!' in just the same spirit as little Mary says: `See my pretty new frock!'"
(Charles Haddon Spurgeon.)

Stanley Wong said...

Hi godwordistruth,
Pastor Prince is preaching nothing new ... he is preaching the same gospel which Paul preached.

D L Moody also preached the same gospel -
http://hischarisisenough.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/d-l-moody-preacher-of-radical-grace/

David Tay said...

Hi Stanley,

Interesting article. I used to attend New Creation Church for several years then left after cross referencing with the Bible.

Joseph Prince's teachings are mostly geared towards earthly gain, which has its place in Christian Evangelism. However, his teachings lack any emphasis on Treasures in Heaven.

In essence, Joseph Prince's teaching will be good for :
a) The new believer
b) The born again Christian
c) The Christian who was yoked by the heavy burden of legalism
d) Christians who remain Baby Christians who do not mature in the Word (focus on Self)
e) Earthly / Carnal Christians (those focused on Earthly Treasures as opposed to Treasures in Heaven)


His teaching is very weak in the areas of :
a) Contentment (e.g. 1 Timothy 6:6-7, Philippians 4:11-12)
b) Being a Slave to Christ and to Serve Others (1 Corinthians 7:22, Matthew 23:11)
c) Rejoicing in Sanctified Affliction (Romans 5:3-5, 1 Pet. 1:6-7)
d) Building Treasures in Heaven instead of on Earth (Matthew 6:20)
e) Giving Alms to the Poor ( Luke 12:33, Luke 16:19-31)


NCC, like most mega-churches, emphasize mostly on earthly treasures and focus on SELF, which, as I mentioned, has its place in bringing new believers into the fold of Christian brotherhood.

However, if one wants to mature as a true Christian, NCC may not be the place to grow because little is mentioned on Treasures in Heaven, carrying your cross and being SELFLESS towards others (based on the 2nd greatest commandment to love one another - John 13:34-35)