Friday, June 11, 2010

The Right Right Hand Man

For the record, yesterday's post was inspired by my Holy Spirit-led (which many of you probably don't think so) imagination of what happened during the episode of King David's affair with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). It is not the story of Pastor Kong Hee, well, not particularly.

If you saw shades of Pastor Kong Hee in the story, you are right, he is in the story. Let me ask you though, did you see Pastor Kong Hee in the story through Holy Spirit-opened eyes or through eyes coloured by your prejudice against me, thinking that I am on a personal vendetta against Pastor Kong Hee?

Did your Holy Spirit-opened eyes also see that Pastor Joseph Prince was there, so was Pastor Rony Tan, as well as Pastor Lawrence Khong, Pastor Joel Osteen ... in fact, all the church leaders of the world were also there.

The true story of King David, known as a man after God's heart but as we can see in 2 Samuel 11, even he also fell into sin and committed adultery with Bathsheba which eventually led to his murder of her husband, Uriah, contains lessons applicable for the church today.  It is timely now to examine church governance in view of the spotlight on City Harvest Church in particular because of the CAD probe into its financial affairs, and on churches and charities in general.  New Creation Church was covered in the local newspapers recently after it published its business links on its website which is indicative of public interest in the governance of churches, especially megachurches with funds amounting to millions.

In today's post, I want to talk specifically about church leadership.  The general public may lump churches together with charitable organisations in general but I must stress that a church is NOT a charitable organisation although it does engage in charitable activities. A church is a religious organisation but classified as a charity in Singapore because it is required by law to be registered as a charity.

A key difference between a charity and a church is that unlike a normal charity, a church does not solicit funds from the general public, its funds are sourced from only its members through tithes and offerings. Another key difference, and to me the most important difference is that the leader of a church, unlike the CEO of a charitable organisation, does not possess only the legal authority to lead the church but also enjoys the spiritual and moral authority vested in him by the church. Therein lies the danger which is perfectly illustrated in the story of King David, that is, a leader can be so powerful because of the spiritual and moral authority vested in him that there is no one to pull him back when he is on the verge of going astray.

Let's take for example, Pastor Rony Tan (some of you guys were probably thinking that I'm going to bash Pastor Kong Hee now ;-)) who put up a video of himself saying things offensive to the Buddhist faith on his church's website.  It was obviously not a wise thing to do but it seems that there was no one around in his church who could or should have stopped him from making that mistake.

Looking at the story of King David, we can see that there were people in the palace who knew about his adultery but no one could stop him. Obviously not, since they were all small fry and had no influence over King David whatsoever. Moreover, the followers believe in and want to believe their King, just as church members today believe in and want to believe their leader.  However, judging from the comments of a vocal section of CHC members on facebook and other online forums, there is the danger of some members believing in and wanting to believe in their leader without question, to the extent that their leader can do wrong and thus not bothering to examine evidence of possible wrongdoing.

Who could have stopped the King then? I guess the only one who could stop King David from making that fatal mistake is Jonathan, his covenant friend but he had already died long ago. The next best person to do the job has got to be the King's right hand man, Joab.

Joab did do the "job" alright, the conspiracy to murder job that is. Joab is not a naive man; he is the commander of the King's army and right in the power centre of the kingdom of Israel. I'm sure he had informants all over the palace to spy for him and tell him all that was going on in the palace while he was out of the palace fighting a war.  Joab should have known something was amiss when King David asked him specifically to send Uriah home. When he received the King's kill order directly from Uriah's hand, instead of cautioning King David about his order, he carried it out without question thereby contributing to King David's sin.

This true story shows that a leader needs the right right hand man to help him out. A right hand man who is strong in the Lord, a right hand man who loves the leader, and whom the leader respects. A right hand man who is strong enough to stand up to him and bring him back from the brink of disaster.  Our Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew had such a man during his days as Prime Minister of Singapore - the late Dr Goh Keng Swee.

Does New Creation Church have such a man? I hope so, I believe so. I know our pastors in New Creation Church highly honour Pastor Prince, and rightly so but I hope that they do not honour him to the extent that they think he is infallible, that he can do no wrong.  Personally, I hope I'm wrong, but I feel that our younger pastors may not be strong enough to stand up to Pastor Prince. However, I do believe that at least one man can be that right right hand man in NCC, and that man is Pastor Henry.

The way Pastor Henry continued to serve the church after he had to hand over the Chinese Ministry to Pastor Mark has greatly impressed me, and I believe him to be a humble and strong leader. Pastor Henry and Pastor Prince go a long way back, and I believe they love each other just as David and Jonathan did. Pastor Prince also respects Pastor Henry (he still addresses Pastor Henry as Pastor), and hence I believe Pastor Henry can be and is that right right hand man for Pastor Prince.

I hope all churches have that right right hand man to support the leader. While the CAD investigation is regrettable, I hope churches will take this as a wake-up call to remind every member that no person, however great he may seem, is infallible.

In yesterday's New Paper report on New Creation Church's business links (see pic below), the reporter interviewed Assoc Prof Victor Yeo Chuan Seng of the Nanyang Business School who advised that "You should always have an open and questioning mind and not accept everything that an individual says at face value without satisfying yourself that what is said is true."  The church will do well to follow that advice.


Cheat Grace said...

I hope my Senior Pastor also reads this.

Joshen said...

I read somewhere that the problem with having an open mind is that poeple start coming along and keep trying to put stuff in it..

many times, the ones telling you to have an open mind are the very ones trying to put stuff in...

so... how open is open enough? or too much?


Daughter Of Sarah said...

Love the article. Joshen, bible says be as gentle as doves but as wise as a serpent... I blv that is how open ur mind must be... Open enough to discern and receive from the HS on a personal level. Some ppl blindly ask others to discern for them or trust leaders to do so on their behalf, but we have the HS Who teaches us ALL things. We must discern and be open to HS's prompting on a personal level or we can get carried away by the prob of "the cult of personalities", where, as Stan pointed out, people accept wholesale one guy's claims.

Stan clearly isn't trying to say anything negative about church leaders, but reminding us that discernment is key, people are imperfect, and leaders are human and thus, fallible. :)

Thanks Stan for sharing. Loved it. Read t out to Ian. :))

Stanley Wong said...

Glad you liked the post, Geri :-)