Sunday, 6 August 2017

What happened to the Crossover Project?

After the appeal to the CA this week, I kept wondering, where is the crossover project now? 

If it was what God had unmistakably told Kong Hee and Sun Ho in the late 1990s, then why didn't Sun Ho, or the church, obey God's calling to carry on with it notwithstanding the legal saga, the conviction and the appeal?

Now I know that Kong Hee and the other leaders are serving time in prison, and that is a major blow to the crossover project. But, if God has chosen Sun Ho to fulfill this cultural mandate, shouldn't she continue the work faithfully, diligently and single-mindedly to bring it to pass? Shouldn't she strive, or sacrifice herself (as she once admitted), to be a superstar of world renown in order to bring all to the saving knowledge of Christ? 

Before I go further, here's a backdrop to its origin, the birth of the crossover project (the source of this is from a rather detailed article by Yong Yung Shin in the City News entitled "City Harvest Church: 10 Years of The Crossover Project")

It started in 1999. On a speaking engagement in Taiwan, Kong Hee found out that the local churches did not have a youth ministry.

This was where Kong Hee said the Holy Spirit spoke to him. “Kong, I want you to bring a revival to Taiwan, and I will use this revival to touch the entire Chinese-speaking world.”

The following year, Kong Hee returned to Taiwan, this time he brought Sun Ho with him. However, during those few days, Taipei was being hit by a powerful typhoon, and many young people came to the church and was particularly drawn to Sun Ho leading in praise and worship.

One observer recounted that "they loved her colored hair, her pop culture look, and they loved the pop songs she sang in between the worship songs."

That struck the couple. It dawned on them that they could use pop music to reach out to the unchurched youth and plant the seed of the gospel in their hearts.

This was quite unprecedented, that is, to minister to the non-believers through secular entertainment platform. It was also highly experimental and ambitious as an evangelistic tool. But the goal sounded reasonable and workable to Kong Hee and Sun Ho.

Still, caution dictated that they ought to seek spiritual confirmation from an external source on this unconventional vision. Mind you, they did not get one or two or three confirmations, they actually got four.

Unsurprisingly, all of them came in good time to anchor the couple's spirit on the "rightness" of their vision.

The first one came at the heels of 911, when the twin towers were attacked. The couple were in the city ministering to a friend who was the verge of suicide.

At that moment, God spoke to Kong Hee:  “From today, the world has changed. I brought you here to watch history unfolding. Go back to Asia and bring the Gospel to your generation—the young people and the urban professionals.”

The second confirmation came on a fortuitous prayer walk near an electronics shop in the busy street of Kowloon. The couple stopped at the shop and watched the tv screens showing a secular rock concert with thousand of young fan dancing and swaying to the heavy-metal music.

This was where Kong recalled the divine appointment: “God spoke very, very clearly to our hearts. ‘Sun, you will do better than this. I will send you to sing before millions of people and you will lead them to Jesus Christ.’”

The third confirmation was when Sun Ho was offered a full professional contract from a managing director of an international recording label.

To Kong Hee, the three confirmations were all secular in nature. He thus needed a scriptural confirmation and it came in as their much-sought-after fourth confirmation.

It was in the form of a verse in Mark 4:35 given to them by their spiritual mentors, in particular, Phil Pringle: “Let us cross over to the other side."

That closed the scriptural gap for the couple and was also the beginning of her husband's downfall.

It is pertinent to note that the context of that verse is about how Jesus calmed the storm. Unfortunately, as the 7-year legal saga reveals, the pastoral couple had led the church straight into the centre of the storm, and despite their fervent prayers, the storm was not calmed for them. And what's worse is that the leadership eventually sank into troubled waters.

So, the question is, were they "crossing over" on a boat led not by Jesus, but men?

Well, if it is not obvious to the church by now, let me just put it on record here: The crossover project may have started with the best of intentions, but it was fundamentally flawed from the start. 

It was flawed because Sun Ho is the crossover, and crossover is Sun Ho. You can't have one without the other. 

The crossover was essentially synonymous with Sun Ho, that is, to make her well known in the unchurched world so that through her, others would come to know God.

I have to admit that this is strangely a usurpative, if not a humanistic, form of evangelism that is based upon making popular the personality of one individual, by whatever the means necessary and whatever funds required, in order to use the force of that one personality to spread the good news to the world at large.

And her husband, having full control and domination of CHC's funds, which were given from the richest to the poorest section of the church, spared no effort, time and money on this wildly controversial evangelistic pet project for the sake and love of his wife. That had blinded him completely.

According to Justice Chan, he wrote that Kong Hee and his team "treated CHC's funds as their private piggyback which they could draw on as and when they deemed fit."

So, if there is a biblical phrase most apt to describe this unusual form of evangelism at its early, preparatory stage, it would have to be the inversion of John 3:30: "He must decrease; I must increase" or "He must become less; I must become greater."

In the currency of the crossover, it is to make my wife 'increase", as He decreases - or at least it has to be so at the start of the crossover project anyway. Here's why...

You see, the first harvest of the crossover project will therefore not be the conversion of many in the lost world, but it will have to be the celebration of only one in the secular world. Sun Ho has to be well known first right?

Sun Ho therefore must increase first, because that was the plan all along. As it is through her, that is, her superstar status and international fame, that she advance to the second phrase of the crossover, that is, to draw all to the object of her worship.  

I guess evangelism will then piggy bag ride on her borrowed fame to touch lives on a massive concert-like scale at a later phase.

Alas, the perils of such individualistic devotion (or mass delusion) is that the church is putting all her eggs into one fallible basket in the hope that when she becomes famous, rich and influential worldwide, she would then touch more lives with the good news. It thus boils down to the exaltation of one on the pretense of the conversion of many.

In my view, such evangelism is shallow, void of credibility and dangerous, not just because it seeks to elevate one in an attempt to convert many, but because it assumes that the conversion of many after the first altar call experience in a concert-like setting would be more effective, enduring and authentic than conventional evangelism starting with good old fashion praise and worship and ending with a good exposition of the word. 

Alas, Jesus did it without the worldly pomposity, and he consciously gave all glory to his Heavenly Father instantly. He neither sought the Romans' help to acquire property or patronage to enlarge his estate nor spare no effort to promote himself for alleged evangelistic purpose.

But then, I've digressed. Let me return to the flaws of the crossover project.

Even worse, it assumes that Sun Ho, the presumptive "author and finisher" of their faith, would remain infallible in all her words, deeds and actions both on stage and off.

Unlike Jesus, for whom the believers know as a fact had lived a righteous and exemplary life, ending it on earth with the ultimate love sacrifice, who can then ensure that Sun Ho will not fall, misstep and depart from what is right after he gets the world's attention, and if she does, what would happen to the vicarious faith of her followers who follow the savior she proclaims largely because they were drawn, convinced and converted by virtue of her fame and influence? 

This is the risk of putting all your eggs in one basket.

As such, this is the main reason why all megachurch pastors are at risk of fallng into the cult-of-personality trap not so much by overt covetousness, but by inverting John 3:30 through the inevitable marketing of their brand, writings and sermons online and off-line. Their visibility is no guarantee of His visibility.

Unlike secular superstars who are successful by design, and want to keep it that way by hording the whole limelight, megachurch pastors risks unknowingly taking the same self-edifying pathway, but are nevertheless conflicted by the risk of misattribution, where on the one hand, they seek to deflect the adoration of the masses, and on the other hand, they are the one and only reason the masses come every week to hear, see, admire and emulate.

This is the danger of the crossover project, and that is why it is fundamentally flawed from the start regardless of how good one's intention is.

And this danger is further compounded when a CHC member declared this recently: “If there is a Crossover launched tomorrow, 15,000 of our congregation will still support it."

Unfortunately, I believe him, and the largely similar mindset the critical mass of diehards that he is a part of. 

I therefore fear that the crossover has become self-defining and self-referential. In other words, the message (that is, the good news) is no longer the message, but the medium, or the crossover, has become the message.

And the medium is none other than Sun Ho herself. She is the message, and if the crossover were successful, she would have been the one the masses will come to see, and the main reason why they want to walk down the aisle to say the sinner's prayer - notwithstanding some genuine conversion of course.

In other words, Sun Ho would indeed increase in every conceivable way, and everything else would decrease, in particular, the object of her worship. Cheerz.

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