I wonder, what is a God moment? I guess it is different for different people. You may have a “God moment” convicting you to walk down that aisle in tears to accept Jesus. Or you may have a “God moment” when you hear a still small voice telling you that the woman sitting beside you is going to be your wife. Still others may have a “God moment” when they feel an affirmation from within that their interpretation of the scripture is the right one.
God moments come in many forms and I believe they are seldom in an audible voice. At times, it could be voices in your head nudging you to sign up for a mission, give half of what you have to the church, or resign from your daytime job to enter full time ministry. These are spontaneous moments that don't prepare you at all. They come like a sudden flash in the sky and sweep you off your feet to do or say things that are uncharacteristic of you.
God moment often changes you, inspires you, guides you, counsels you, encourages you, wakes you up, or renews you afresh. They are a jolt from heaven to transform the trajectory of your life from one of routine and schedule to one that is unprecedented and unplanned. So, here comes my point.
In September this year, during one of the hearings of the City Harvest Church (CHC) appeal, a pioneer member, Teo Hsin Yi, “blogged about how one of the lawyers defending the accused, had a ‘God moment”.
Teo was there, seated, and in rapt attention when Tan Ye Peng’s lawyer (Mr Sreenivasan) told the Justices that he had visited CHC after taking up the case in order to understand the church better. He wanted to know how it was run, how the church conducted itself, what was in the mind of the members, and how they ticked on a typical service. And this is what was reported in Teo’s blog about Mr. Sreenivasan’s opening statement:-
“She explained how Mr Sreenivasan appealed to the judges to take a step back to understand that the way the church thinks and makes decisions may seem rather illogical to those outside the church – but that it did not mean that they are wrong. “He cited an example of how, when he saw his mother performing Hindu rites, his educated mind did not agree, yet the fact remained that she was not wrong in what she believed and did.” Mr Sreenivasan therefore urged the Court to not to use a secular yardstick to measure religious intent and actions.”
Well, I don’t know whether Mr Sreenivasan personally felt at that time that he was experiencing a God moment, but it was definitely a God moment for Teo.
She gushed: “My heart was moved. Here was a man who did not share the same faith as us, yet he spoke with such genuine understanding.” As the Court session ended, it reported that “Teo wished that those from the outside would make an attempt to walk in the CHC members’ skin and, “perhaps, see that in the light of eternity, the Crossover was never a loss but a gain.””
Now, to be honest, Kong Hee and Sun Ho have been busy evangelizing to thousands across Asia, in particular Malaysia, and even in Japan. Their efforts are tireless, and notwithstanding the legal entanglement and all, this pastoral couple is relentless in their focus, attention and ambition. And seen in that light, maybe Teo has a point to say that “in the light of eternity, the Crossover was never a loss but a gain.”
…or maybe not?
Well, I am not here to judge about that, that is, whether it is a total gain, a net gain or even a net loss. Neither am I able to discern a God moment there. Maybe only time will tell. Like what LKY once said, and I paraphrase, that history will either vindicate or vilify him. Either ways, the die is cast, the deeds are done, and the words dispatched, and indeed, only time will be the final arbiter of what is right or wrong, what is black or white, and what is net gain or loss.
Here is an extension of my thought about historical vindication with passing time. Some historians are saying that Genghis Khan had unified China and the Central Asia tribes, and he is the greatest military strategist of all time. Modern civilization therefore owes him a debt. There is even a book published that credits him for bringing about religious flourish, tolerance and diversity under his brutal rule. It is also believed that some of the Khan rulers (who married Christian wives) may be Christians (of the Nestorian kind).
Yet, this is also the same man, the great conqueror of East Asia that is, who is believed to have uttered these words: “The greatest happiness is to scatter your enemy, to drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who love him shrouded in tears, and to gather into your bosom his wives and daughters.”
So, good luck trying to figure out the net gain and loss from the ripple effect of the Mongol rulership from then till the modern era. The scoreboard and verdict are still out there I guess. And it really depends on who’s asking and who’s answering right?
If you fast forward to the recent Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, you will note that Donald Trump fronted it with this caption: “The President of the Disunited States of America.” Again, we will never know whether the era of Trump will be one of net gain or loss. And on this, I pray that time will be kind to us.
Now, going back to the Crossover project, what can I say about its long term effect? Is Teo right about the bountiful harvest that awaits? Are the pastoral couple the new name in evangelism? Have we misunderstood God? While some net gain is patently obvious like the seeds sown by martyrs who lived and died with their integrity intact, honor unblemished and sacrifice rewarded, others are less straightforward like the life and continuing times of Kong Hee and Sun Ho.
No doubt, their ministry has seen thousands of lives transformed for the glory of God, with testimonies after testimonies of gratitude, love and devotion.
But there are also others, many of them, who are disillusioned, discouraged and lost. Since the legal saga in 2012, thousands have left the church and no one can tell for sure where they went – that is, have they gone to New Creation Church or other mainstream churches? Have they backslided? Have they become atheists? Have they converted to another religion? Or are they still bitter and angry from the experience? If Chew Eng Han is anything to go by, I guess the scoreboard and verdict are still out there?
After all is said and done, and in the light of eternity, there is only one thing that each believer can be sure about, and that is his/her accountability to God. And this is personal and intimately so. Each of us is accountable. We are accountable for our gift, our talent, our words, our actions, our thoughts, our plans, and our execution. Lay persons and church leaders alike are all accountable. And I believe no matter how (positionally) justified we are in Christ, the sanctifying works of the Spirit that endures in our lifetime till our last breath will make sure that we are ready to give an account of the things we have done or not done, said or not said. And this is not legalism mind you, it's about personal responsibility.
So, whether it was a God moment or not, a gain or loss, Teo can't escape the conclusion that her pastors stand before the searchlight of God to give an account of the gift, talent and funds entrusted to them under their charge and responsibility. Some may stand behind Kong Hee and Sun and say that they have nothing to hide, everything they have done is above board, and their conscience is clear.
But others may beg to defer, and still others would find the couple’s obstinate fight for their innocence wholly incredulous.
Nevertheless, I would end here with Kong Hee’s own words. He once preached that “we must have a balance (between grace and repentance).” He quoted Jude 3 and 4 and said to the effect that “one generation after the death (of Christ), the Gospel of grace was distorted into something terrible and immoral. Some may have diluted the grace of God to accommodate their lifestyle.”
I guess we are all guilty of taking God’s grace for granted, misinterpreting it to suit our lifestyle at any one point in our life. It is really a matter of degree here (on the abuse of grace) even for the sincerest of believers. That is why Kong Hee’s call for a balance between grace and repentance ministered to me. And regardless of the result of the appeal, I hope this needful balance similarly ministers to him too, that is, the need to reflect deeply on the tumultuous trial and verdict, and what Judge See had said about the leadership of City Harvest Church (especially Kong Hee’s “personal dominance and deep insecurity” and the mythical ring of Gyges). Cheerz.