Summary of Events leading to Kong Hee's arrest
1. Rumours of financial impropriety concerning City Harvest Church (CHC) and its pastor(s) have been around for years. Some say as far back as 10 years ago.
1a. In 2003, businessman and church member, Roland Poon Swee Kay, wrote to the media claiming that City Harvest Church funds were used for Ho Yeow Sun’s publicity and promotional campaign. Poon later apologized in all major newspapers and retracted his allegation. Kong Hee said that not a single cent of the church funds was used to buy or promote Sun’s albums. (See "Roland Poon's allegation in 2003" below)
2. The first public uproar about the church arose in March 2010, when the church tried to buy a $310 million stake in a commercial entity known as Suntec Convention Centre for its new church. Worse, it had to hide the details in a non-disclosure agreement, when as a public charity and society, it has a duty of openness and accountability to its members.
3. This series of actions, sparked a complaint by a member of the church to the Commissioner of Charities, asking why the church had submitted its members to future liabilities, without the members’ permission. This was because the church had not raised the full sum of $310 million at that point in time (only $65 million was raised).
4. The Senior Pastor and the church was questioned about this by the Commissioner of Charities, but the public were not informed of the details.
5. Shortly after, on 31st May 2010, the Senior Pastor’s home and office, together with 16 other associates of the church, were raided by the Singapore Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) upon the request of the Commissioner of Charities (COC). They were all hauled in for questioning.
6. The COC and CAD issued a joint statement that the Senior Pastor and his associates were being investigated for:
6.1 Misuse of church funds
6.2 Falsification of documents
6.3 Criminal breach of trust
7. The pastor’s wife was then asked to return from LA for questioning by the CAD. At this time, the financial probe had increased to 20 or more people including the Pastor’s wife, as well as the deputy senior pastor of the church.
8. The church itself and the Senior Pastor and his wife, then sought legal representation from senior counsels in Singapore.
9. Shortly after this, the Senior Pastor was accused of plagiarising the works of American authors and this was featured in the local newspapers. Plagiarism is a crime in Singapore. But the authors decided not to press charges on the pastor, as long as he did not continue to use their works.
10. News of the Senior Pastor’s wife's extravagant lifestyle in LA hit Singapore. Her luxuries included an approximately USD20,000 a month rental in the posh Hollywood Hills mansion, 2 cars, maids/butler, personal entourage of dancers and choreographers, frequent travel, expensive clothes and makeovers, jewelleries, etc.
11. The Senior Pastor and his deputy were asked to step down as heads of the church and replaced by 2 executive pastors.
12. An independent auditing team was appointed to review the governance of the church as well as its internal controls.
Pastor Kong Hee was finally arrested on 26th June 2012 and charged in court with 4 of his cohorts for various offences.
How much did Kong Hee and Ho Yeow Sun take from an average church member, who Kong Hee urged to give until his/her heart breaks, according to God's commandment? They siphoned off at least S$23 million in 3 years ($7.7 million a year).
Taking the figure of 33,000 church members, each church member would have contributed $700 towards the couple (33,000 x 700 = 23.1 million). Taking the figure of 23,000 attendees, each attendee would have contributed $1000.
A fraction of this money went towards the glory of the couple's $9.3 million Sentosa Cove penthouse and a Hollywood Hills luxury home (in May 2010) for Ho costing S$28,000 a month in rent, and a commensurate lifestyle (see "From $127k HDB flat to $9.3m Sentosa Cove penthouse" at the end of this post).
Tan Ye Peng, Chew Eng Han and Tan Shao Yuen Sharon appear to have stolen another S$26.6 million. A total of S$50 million has therefore been stolen.
The sum of $50 million means $1500 from each of the 33,000 church members, or $2200 from each of the 23,000 attendees.
The City Harvest Church quintet's greed and audacity (or faith in divine protection in their criminal activities) are astounding, especially so considering that the NKF (National Kidney Foundation) Singapore scandal (July 2005) and the trial and conviction (June 2007) of its former CEO T.T. Durai were still a vivid and potent warning to all Singapore charities in Dec 2007 when the theft of $23 million began.
For comparison, NKF's civil lawsuit against T.T. Durai and four others seeks to recover $12 million which includes amounts misappropriated through excessive salaries, benefits, failed or fake contracts, and legal costs. Therefore T.T. Durai is known to have stolen from, or unnecessarily cost, NKF $12 million (source). This is 24% of the $50 million stolen from City Harvest Church.
Mr Aries Zulkarnain, the executive pastor and a founding member of the church since its start 23 years ago, says that the church stands with the members involved.
"The people currently in the news are our pastors and trusted staff and leaders who have always put God and CHC first. As a church we stand with them and I believe fully in their integrity. Pastor Kong is still our Senior Pastor"
Mr Zulkarnain says that COC has confirmed that Mr Kong Hee, the senior pastor, and Mr Tan Ye Peng, the deputy senior pastor will continue to preach at the church. (source)
So, the current CHC leadership is vesting its financial and spiritual credibility fully in Kong Hee and his gang of five. If the court of justice and the court of public opinion eventually convict the gang of five, the hitherto untainted reputation of the current CHC leadership, and the church that Zulkarnain officially speaks for, will go down the drain. (If Zulkarnian endorses unreservedly financial shenanigans and criminal breach of trust in the name of God, then should we not conclude that he will perpetrate the same himself?) I seriously doubt the wisdom of his move.
Has Kong Hee become an infallible prophet of God (the first such, for all previous prophets were human and fallible) in the eyes of his flock?
In addition, Zulkarnain's following statement: "It has been suggested that the church has been cheated of $50 million. This is not accurate. The $24 million, which went to investment bonds, was returned to the church in full, with interest. We didn't lose the $24 million, nor did we lose another $26.6m as alleged. The church did not lose any funds in the relevant transactions, and no personal profit was gained by the individuals concerned" may have interfered with the judicial process, infringed the sub judice (under judgment) rule and be in contempt of court, according to some lawyers.
Any of the following activities could be considered contempt of court in the UK:
* mounting an organized campaign to influence proceedings
- * anticipating the course of a trial or predicting the outcome
* publishing information obtained from confidential court documents
* making payments to witnesses
* filming or recording within court buildings
* reporting on the defendant's previous convictions (source)
(However, the UK has trial by jury, whereas Singapore does not. What might unduly influence a potential or actual juror, hence interfering with the judicial process, should presumably not unduly influence a judge.)
The Attorney-General's Chambers said that criminal charges were before the court and that neither the prosecution nor any other party should comment on issues which will be subject to adjudication.
"Generally, in law, the offence of criminal breach of trust of monies is established once there is misappropriation of the monies with the requisite intent, regardless of whether there have or have not been subsequent attempts at restitution by the accused," said the police.
Death of a Halo: a former CHC member speaks (here)
The last 16 months of my life, by Roland Wong, who left CHC in March 2011, after 16 years in the church, over CHC's financial opacity (source1, source2)
*Why did the CHC buy million of $ of unquoted bonds from Xtron, a company that has been losing money since it was formed?
- 1. Because Kong Hee and Sun are the owners of Xtron
- 2. Because KH likes to help the poor
- 3. Because Kong Hee has strong faith that Xtron one day will flourish
- 1. Yes
- 2. No
- 3. Probably – definitely true for Xtron. Xtron accompanies Kong Hee and Sun on all their trips, funded by CHC.
- 1. It went to the licensor
- 2. It went to Sun Ho and Xtron
- 3. It went to charity
# Not true. CHC increased its share in Suntec in July 2012.
- 1. Yes
- 2. No – CHC’ers have unconditional trust in their leader.
- 3. Worst case – CHC goes broke – so better keep on giving.
(use of Building Fund)
*Why did my Snr Pastor pay $46.3 million to the Licensor for simply finding a new place of worship for CHC? Why was the Snr Pastor so generous to give Licensor such a big amount when the Suntec church will not be ready by March 2011 and the usage is non-exclusive and without a tenancy agreement?
- 1. Because he is co-owner of the licensor
- 2. Because he likes to give freely
- 3. Because it is just petty cash
- 1. Because, with the giving and all. he did not expect any financially savvy people amongst his flock
- 2. “Co-owner” – “minority shareholder”: it’s all the same isn’t it?
- 3. Because Kong Hee has the right to change his mind
- 1. Because he did not know
- 2. Because he does not care
- 3. All of the above
- 1. URA restrictions can be bypassed
- 2. There is enough money to move in-and out every Sunday
- 3. CHC presence will de-motivate and scare off exhibitioners
- 1. Because Kong Hee is indirectly involved in Suntec Reit
- 2. Because Kong Hee does not care
- 3. Because Kong Hee believes God will support
- 1. Yes
- 2. Yes
- 3. Yes
# ed. My answer is Yes. Kong Hee, Kevin Dyson and Phil Pringle (Dyson and Pringle are on the CHC Advisory Committee set up in Sep 2010 to improve CHC's
- 1. Yes
- 2. No
- 3. Does it matter how the money eventually lands in Kong Hee’s pockets?
*Is it true that when Sun Ho was offered the contract of USD5 million by Tonos Entertainment in 2005, Tonos Entertainment had already closed down in 1st Sep 2003? So what contract was Sun Ho on, when she went to America?
- 1. It was all funded by Ed Hardy clothes
- 2. It was all funded by Sun herself
- 3. It was all funded by the Lord
- 1. Yes
- 2. No
- 3. What’s the difference between 0,3% and 0.6% of total S'porean population? or 0.001% of all Christians? Still very very small
|Average December CHC service attendance 1989-2010 (source)|
|Average Nov/Dec overall CHC Movement|
service attendance 1989-2010 (source)
(answers are now clear)
- 1. Because they suspected abuse of funds
- 2. Because PAP does not like CHC
- 3. It was the Devil’s doing
- 1. Because they enjoy talking to Sun
- 2. Because they have nothing better to do
- 3. Because they suspect foul play
- 1. Because of conflict of interest
- 2. He did not have to – It was his choice
- 3. Because God told him to take a back-seat
- Raffles Institution: 1977-1980
- Raffles Junior College: 1981-1982
- Graduated from National University of Singapore,
Bachelor of Science (Computer & Information Sciences):
- Raffles Institution
- Raffles Junior College
- Graduated From National University Of Singapore, Bachelor Of Science (Computer Information Sciences)
- Hansei University [a Pentecostal University in South Korea], (honorary) Doctorate in Business Administration
- New Covenant International Theological Seminary* (USA):
Master of Divinity: 1989-1991
- New Covenant International Theological Seminary* (USA):
Doctor of Theology: 1993-1995
Bethany Christian Centre (Singapore): 6 Jan 1991
- City Harvest Church: 1989
- City Harvest Bible Training Center: 1994
- Harvest Times (quarterly magazine): 1999
- City Harvest Education Centre: 2002
O’ School: 2006
- Harvest School of Ministry: 2001
Malaysian Harvest Christian Fellowship: 2003
- President, City Harvest Church, Singapore: 1992 - 2010
- Chairman, Festival of Praise, Singapore: 1997-2001, 2005- ?
- President, Word of Life, Singapore: Since 1997
- Board of Reference, Transform World, Indonesia: Since 2005
- Committee Member, National Council of Churches, Singapore: 1999-2004
- Board of Advisor, Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International, Singapore: 1996-2000
|Tan Ye Peng (陈一平), 39, deputy senior pastor (source)|
|Lam Leng Hung (林令恒), 44 (source)|
|Sharon Tan Shao Yuen ( 陈少媛 ), 36 (source)|
|(From left) Chew Eng Han, Tan Ye Peng, Sharon Tan Shao Yuen and Lam Leng Hung|
|City Harvest Church's network (source)|
|City Harvest Church's network (source)|
|Serina Wee Gek Yin (r, 黄玉音), 35, ex-CHC finance director, |
was charged on July 25, 2012 (source1. source2)
City Harvest Church (a non-denominational megachurch in Singapore claiming a congregation of 33,000 and an average of 23,256 attendees in the month of December 2010) founding pastor Kong Hee (康希) was arrested together with four others from his ministry on 26 June 2012. Mr Kong, deputy Pastor Tan Ye Peng, and three other leaders from their church were picked up from their homes early this morning.
The police said that the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) has conducted a thorough investigation and will be charging Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, Lam Leng Hung, Chew Eng Han and Tan Shao Yuen Sharon for Conspiracy to commit Criminal Breach of Trust as an Agent under section 409 read with section 109 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.
Tan Ye Peng, Chew Eng Han and Tan Shao Yuen Sharon will also be charged for Conspiracy to commit Falsification of Accounts under section 477A of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.
All five will be charged in court for the offences on June 27, 2012.
In a statement today, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Teo Chee Hean said: "I would like to stress that the charges filed by CAD are against five individuals from the City Harvest Church (CHC) regarding the use of Church funds. They are not filed against CHC itself. The CHC is free to continue its church services and activities.
"CAD carries out investigations when it receives information that a criminal offence may have been committed. CAD had previously investigated the National Kidney Foundation and Ren Ci.
"As the matter is now before the courts, we should let the law take its course and avoid speculation or making pre-judgements that may unnecessarily stir up emotions."
June 27, 2012 (source)
Five senior members of City Harvest Church (CHC), including its founder Kong Hee, were charged in court on Wednesday with misappropriating church funds.
The prosecution is levelling three charges against the five -- involving over S$50 million in total.
This is more than the S$23 million earlier announced by the Commissioner of Charities.
The first charge centres on purported bond investments made by the church in two companies, Xtron Productions and PT The First National Glassware.
These bond investments, which the prosecution said are "sham transactions", were allegedly devised to conceal the diversion of some S$24 million from the church's Building Fund to fund Ho Yeow Sun's music career. Ho is Kong Hee's wife.
Four people are liable for the first charge -- Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, Lam Leng Hung and Chew Eng Han.
The second charge relates to a series of transactions that some of the accused had created to clear the purported bond investments off the church's accounts.
They allegedly misappropriated a further S$26.6 million from the church's funds.
The money was said to have circulated through a complicated series of transactions to create the false appearance that the purported sham bond investments had been redeemed.
For these charges, which have been termed as "round-tripping", three people are liable -- Tan Ye Peng, Chew Eng Han and Tan Shao Yuen Sharon.
The third charge relates to the falsification of church's accounts to cover their tracks.
Tan Ye Peng, Chew Eng Han and Tan Shao Yuen Sharon were alleged to have doctored the church's books to give the false appearance that the bond investments had been redeemed.
In all, pastor and church founder Kong Hee faces three charges; senior pastor Tan Ye Peng faces 10 charges; finance manager Tan Shao Yuen Sharon faces seven charges; senior member Chew Eng Han faces 10 charges; and former secretary of the church's management board Lam Leng Hung faces three charges.
All five church members stood solemnly together in the dock when the charges were read to them on Wednesday.
The five have each posted bail of S$500,000 and have had their passports impounded.
Earlier in the morning, a media scrum broke out when Kong Hee and his wife, local songstress Sun Ho, arrived outside the Subordinate Courts.
Supporters belonging to City Harvest Church were also gathered outside the court. Some were there as early as 7.30am and their numbers swelled to over a hundred within an hour.
ps. On 25 July 2012, Serina Wee Gek Yin (黄玉音), 35, CHC's ex-finance director, was charged with six counts of criminal breach of trust and four of falsification of accounts. (source)
Yahoo!News, 27 June 2012 (here)
Commissioner of Charities suspends governing board members, trustees, employees, agents and Executive members under the Charities Act
The Commissioner of Charities (COC) instituted an Inquiry into the City Harvest Church (the Charity) on 31 May 2010 under the Charities Act. Concurrently, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) commenced investigations into financial transactions involving several individuals and companies, related or connected to the Charity. Both the COC and CAD have since concluded its Inquiry and investigations, respectively. Separately and independently from CAD, COC has decided to take action under the Charities Act.
COC’s Inquiry revealed misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the Charity, particularly in relation to the funds that were in the Building Fund which had been raised and earmarked for specific purposes. Financial irregularities of at least $23 million from the Charity’s funds have been discovered. These funds were used with the purported intention to finance Ho Yeow Sun (Kong Hee's wife)’s secular music career to connect with people. There was a concerted effort to conceal this movement of funds from its stakeholders. Refer to Annex for the details of the misconduct and mismanagement.
The COC is concerned about the misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the Charity. Under the Charities Act and with the consent of the Attorney-General, the COC has suspended the following persons from the exercise of their office or employment as governing board members, officers, agents or employees of the Charity with immediate effect:
- Kong Hee1 (Member of the Charity’s Board and Executive Member);
- Lam Leng Hung2 (Chairman of the Charity’s Board, Trustee, Agent and Executive Member);
- Tan Ye Peng3 (Vice-Chairman of the Charity’s Board, Trustee, Employee, Agent and Executive Member);
- Tan Shao Yuen Sharon (Employee and Executive Member);
- Chew Eng Han (Agent and Executive Member);
- Ho Yeow Sun (Agent and Executive Member);
- Kelvin Teo Meng How (Agent, Employee and Executive Member); and
- Tan Su Pheng Jacqueline (Employee and Executive Member).
The COC will also consider taking further courses of action under the Charities Act against these individuals in order to protect the charitable property of the Charity. This may include the removal of these persons from their office as trustee, governing board members, officers, agents or employees of the Charity.
For so long as these persons are suspended, they will be prohibited from taking part or being involved in managing the Charity, representing the Charity on any matters, or attending any of the Charity’s Annual General Meetings, Extraordinary General Meetings and Board meetings.
The normal services of the Charity can continue as usual.
ISSUED BY THE OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF CHARITIES
Based on the Charity’s financial statements for the financial year ended 31 October 2009, the Charity’s income amounted to about $72 million whilst expenses amounted to about $48 million. Its net assets are estimated at $103 million.
In early 2010, the COC received complaints alleging the misuse of the Charity’s funds and informed the CAD, when it assessed that some of these financial transactions may need to be investigated by the CAD.
On 31 May 2010, the COC and the CAD commenced investigations into financial transactions involving several individuals and companies, related to or connected to the Charity. Separately, the COC has decided to take action under the Charities Act.
In 2002, the Charity’s founders, Kong Hee and Ho Yeow Sun (“Sun Ho”), embarked on a “Crossover Project” [“the Project”], with the purported intention to use Sun Ho’s secular music to connect with people and reach out to non-Christians.
In 2003, an individual [Roland Poon Swee Kay] alleged in the media that the Charity was funding Sun Ho’s music career. This attracted public attention. This individual eventually issued a public apology and retracted his allegations. During that period, the Charity had faced media scrutiny over the allegations. Subsequently, the Charity issued press statements and made several representations to its members to state that they had not funded Sun Ho’s music career. (see "Roland Poon's allegation in 2003" below)
Despite the representations made by the Charity and unknown to the Executive Members, the Charity’s funds were used to fund the Project. Over a period of 3 years (2007 to 2010), at least $23 million was used. However, during this period of time, the Executive members were not told of the actual purpose of the use of these funds.
(B) Use of the Charity’s Funds to Fund the Project
Between December 2007 and May 2010, the Charity’s funds were used to finance the Project under the guise of donations to its affiliated church in Kuala Lumpur, known as the City Harvest Church Kuala Lumpur [“CHCKL”]. The funds were then transmitted by CHCKL to support the Project in the United States. During this period, at least $2.1 million was transferred from the Charity to CHCKL to fund the Project. The Inquiry revealed that Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, Kelvin Teo Meng How, Tan Shao Yuen Sharon and Serina Wee Gek Yin were aware of the true purpose of the donations to CHCKL.
In addition, donations and tithes to the Charity were transferred into a private fund known as the Multi-Purpose Account [“MPA”], administered by Serina Wee Gek Yin (the Charity’s ex-Finance Manager and Executive member) and Tan Su Pheng Jacqueline (former Personal Assistant to Kong Hee, current contract staff and Executive member of the Charity). Monies in this account were used to fund the Project. For the period April 2007 to March 2010, the funds were used for purported expenditures of Kong Hee and Sun Ho, amounting to approximately $600,000 and $3 million respectively. Selected donors were asked to transfer their contributions originally meant for the Charity’s “Arise and Build” campaign to the MPA. Some members ceased or reduced their regular tithes to the Charity after they contributed funds to the MPA. Apart from this small group of members, the existence of the MPA was not made known to the Charity’s members. There was even an attempt to conceal the existence of this Account by closing the joint bank account and dealing only in cash transactions, which was kept in a safe at the Charity.
In or around April 2009, a plan was conceptualised by Tan Ye Peng, Chew Eng Han, Serina Wee Gek Yin and Tan Shao Yuen Sharon to transfer monies amounting to $600,000 donated by Wahju Hanafi to the Charity’s Building Fund via a “refund” of Building Fund donations into the MPA to meet some funding needs of the Project, which included US$100,000 to finance a media team from Singapore to publicise and write about Sun Ho’s music career in the United States. Inquiry revealed that the Charity had drafted letters from Wahju Hanafi and one other person indicating that their donations to the Charity were intended for specific Pastors and employees of the Charity as love gifts. It was then arranged for these said Pastors and employees to receive the “refund” as love gifts and immediately thereafter to deposit these love gifts into the MPA. The Inquiry further revealed evidence which strongly suggests that the “refund” letters were backdated, i.e. the letters were dated close to or on the date of the donations and one of the letters was dated before the date of the donations.
(C) Schemes to Avoid Disclosure on Related Party Transactions
Between 2006 and 2008, Kong Hee’s company sold over $3 million worth of merchandise to the Charity. The Inquiry also revealed that Kong Hee did not disclose his interests in these related party transactions in the Charity’s financial statements. In 2008, Kong Hee “refunded” royalties to the Charity amounting to approximately $770,000 from the sale of his merchandise to the Charity from 2006 to 2008. The return of these royalties was ostensibly motivated by concerns that the Charity’s auditors would require Kong Hee’s royalties to be disclosed as related party transactions. The amount “refunded” by Kong Hee was concealed as “sales discount” given to the Charity. Subsequently, the purported refunds were reimbursed to Kong Hee from the MPA and from CHCKL. Kong Hee’s “refund” of royalties to the Charity was therefore cosmetic and he was instead never “out of pocket”. The Inquiry revealed that the individuals who were aware of the above avoidance in disclosure were Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, Kelvin Teo Meng How, Tan Shao Yuen Sharon, Serina Wee Gek Yin and Tan Su Pheng Jacqueline.
(D) Governance and Control Issues
Evidence suggested that certain members of the Charity’s Board have been less than prudent in the discharge of their duties toward the Charity and its members. For example, the appointment of Investment Manager, Chew Eng Han’s investment company, was not properly tabled and discussed by the Charity’s Board.
The Inquiry further revealed that when Chew Eng Han suffered financial difficulties, the Charity refunded donations amounting to about $338,000 to him in two separate tranches, i.e. $240,000 and $98,000. However, in respect of the $98,000, the Charity’s Board only gave approval for the refund of donations to Chew Eng Han 9 months after the refunds were made.
The poor corporate governance in the Charity contributed, at least in part, to the fact that the Charity was able to maintain the above-mentioned activities for the past 3 years.
Roland Poon's allegation in 2003
Rev Kong said, “We always try to be as transparent as we can in all our activities. Our accounts are audited yearly by a public accounting firm.”
|Roland Poon Swee Kay's public apology|
14-step quick guide to being a rich man in the name of God
Kong Hei Fatt Choy (恭喜發財, Wishing you wealth), a popular greeting during Chinese New Year
An Analysis into the wealth of City Harvest Church
Although I am aware that City Harvest is one of the richest churches in Singapore, I am still shocked that it is rich enough to pay SGD310 million for a stake in Suntec City. Nevertheless, an entity which is able to amass such wealth is certainly worth studying. I was determined to understand the secrets to the church's wealth.
I apologize upfront if the points raised give offense to loyal followers of City Harvest Church. Please regard this article as a business analysis of the factors that contribute to the wealth of City Harvest Church, not as an insinuation that the Church got rich through questionable means. The fact is that CHC is very rich and it is a fascinating academic exercise to examine its sources of wealth. Just treat it as a business case study. I have tried my best to stick to the facts. Please correct me if there are factual mistakes. However, if there are differences in opinions, please disagree with courtesy.
1. Clever packaging of Sunday services
The income of a church is dependent on the tithes collected (10% of income from church-members). Therefore, the earning power of a church is highly dependent on its ability to retain its existing church members and attract new ones. The larger the church membership, the greater its earnings.
I watched a sample of CHC weekend service on its website. Compared to the boring Sunday classes I attended as a kid, CHC church service was most refreshing (Watch "The 10 Laws Of The Harvest"). The beginning part resembles a rock concert with good singing and enthusiastic audience. It is an entertaining way to enjoy your Sunday mornings. Going to church becomes a weekly event to look forward to rather than a chore to attend to.
With church services so well packaged for its customers, its customer retention rate and new customer acquisition figures should look good.
2. Extra revenue in the form of advertisements, sales of CDs
This church is unlike the other churches I know. It generates extra revenue through advertisements during its Sunday service (watch the videos). It sells audio CDs on its website. There is an online shopping cart for convenience to those who want to buy online.
3. Efficient collection of tithes
Church-members can pay their tithe online via credit card, eNets or even Giro!! Once members started donating using Giro, the earnings quality of the church improves. Donation collected via Giro tend to be more stable.
With a globalised economy, people travel round the world a lot and may miss Sunday services. In the past, the churches will lose income when these members fail to turn up to pay their tithe. Now, with online payment, they can continue collecting the tithe even when the church-member is working overseas for an extended period of time. With Giro, the church can continue collecting tithes for a few more months even when the member leaves the church as people have a habit of forgetting what they pay on Giro.
4. 30-fold, 60-fold, 100-fold returns on your church donations
This is where the genius of CHC lies and the secret to its superior earning power. In fact, I have yet to encounter any public-listed company on SGX, HKSE, NYSE, Nasdaq that demonstrates better potential.
The pastor preaches that God will give 30-fold, 60-fold, 100-fold returns on your tithe. But, you have to be generous in your donations first so that you will receive in harvest proportions. I guess that is the origin of the name City Harvest. Please watch the video "The 10 Laws Of The Harvest" yourself in its entirety and interpret for yourself.
It is a message that cleverly uses an astute understanding of human nature to maximize profits. If I were a CHC member, I will be tempted to increase my tithe as much as possible. Not mincing my words, I am doing it out of pure greed. I do not think I will be alone. It is perfectly fine if members of CHC strongly disagree and thinks that I am not representative for most of them. After all, I can only speak for myself.
5. Quality of customers
With the 100-fold return message, the kind of church members attracted will be most conducive to profit-making. Money-minded people will be attracted to the church. These money-minded people tend to be ambitious and have a great desire to make lots of money. Millionaire minds have a higher chance to become rich. Hence, the quality of customers that CHC attracts are of the highest quality. The richer the church-member, the higher is the church's tithe per member.
Customer quality will be enhanced through the passage of time due to survivor bias. Suppose out of this pool of Millionaire-Mind Christians, 50% become satisfactorily rich and the remaining 50% still unsatisfactorily middle-class. The 50% who got rich will donate even more because they think their source of wealth comes from their donations. It is most unlikely they will cut back on their tithes because they will be afraid God will punish them by cutting back the returns. If they are not afraid, the church will be there to warn them not to do so. The remaining 50% who did not get rich will be disillusioned and probably leave the church. The loss is of little significance to the church. These people are not rich and their tithes will not amount to much.
Many Christians will be disgusted with the concept of using tithes to get rich. These people will probably leave the church after attending a few Sunday services. Again, the loss is of little significance to CHC. These people will not be highly profitable to the church even if they are rich because they are not going to tithe as much as the others who believe their tithes is the way to wealth.
To the credit of the Pastor, I think he has devised a wonderful process of filtering out non-profitable customers and sucking in the lucrative ones. There is only so much physical space that a church can have to service its church-members. To maximize profits, the church has to ensure that each unit of space is used for servicing lucrative customers.
6. Kill off competition
CHC has tremendous economic moat [i.e. a business' ability to maintain competitive advantages over its competitors in order to protect its long-term profits and market share from competing firms] that kills off competition. In the video "The 10 Laws of The Harvest", the Pastor cited Law #5 "Your Seed must be planted in Good Ground" which is an effective weapon in killing off his competition - the smaller churches. Many Christians feel that they ought to donate to the needy, smaller churches rather than rich mega-churches like CHC. The Pastor's argument is that you do not get good returns like 100-fold in the small churches. You have to donate to mega-churches to maximize returns on your tithe because they have a track record (rich church members). In other words, the seed is not planted in good ground when you donate to the small churches. In his own words, "I don't always give to the neediest but to the ground that will give the greatest yield". To illustrate his point, he used an analogy on weak banks and strong banks. You do not deposit your money in a weak bank because it desperately needs fresh funds to survive. You deposit your money in a strong bank which invests your money wisely and yields good returns.
The church has an iron-grip on its members who believe its message. As illustrated previously, its customer base is of the highest quality. This is its track record. Existing church-members will definitely not move to another smaller, needier church with poorer track record. It has a very strong economic moat as it is very hard for its competitors to get its customers to switch over.
7. Providing a place where the rich can network
As the Pastor said, his church provides a good ground on which you can grow your riches. Rightly so, indeed. For property agents or insurance agents trying to hit their sales quota, City Harvest Church will be an ideal place to hunt for lucrative clients. This church concentrates several rich and money-minded people into a single location. The church offers a unique advantage to sell things. In a religious setting, people tend less to be on their guard and can be more easily persuaded to part with their money.
Businessmen also like to network in places where there are rich and powerful people who will come in handy in future. The Pastor has done a good job in gathering such people in his church and it makes good sense to make use of this advantage by joining the church.
The rich will attract more rich and the gathering moss snowballs to provide an ever-rising pool of donation to the church.
8. Preach what people like to hear.
As a teenager, I was discouraged when I read Bible verses like Matthew 19:23-24 "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." and Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
It seems like if I become rich, I will be condemned to hell.
In the video "Rich God? Poor God?", the Pastor preaches that it is absolutely ok to be rich. Some prophets of God were very rich. (Abraham, David, Solomon)
There is nothing more musical to a money-minded person than to hear that God is on your side in your pursuit of money. The church-members who are more money-minded will love this and donate even more.
9. God pays for the returns, not the church.
The church collects the money, but God pays for the returns. The church does not need to pay a single cent for the 30-fold, 60-fold, 100-fold returns on the donations.This is as good as you do the work for me, but not only do I not pay you, I shall also collect your salary. You toil and sweat, but I shall eat your bread. God must surely be a miracle worker and people will pay handsomely for his service. I cannot think of a more advantageous economic position to be in to be able to collect money rendered by a miracle worker.
10. Social pressure to conform in church settings and ease of influence
If everyone around you donates, it is hard not to. When everyone else makes sacrifice, the one who does not will look like an outcast. There is tremendous pressure to conform in such a herd setting.
11. Tremendous future earning power
Take a look at the congregation and you will notice the large number of young people. The income growth of young people is the fastest in the population. In the Pastor's words, "You may be poor today, but you will not be poor all your life". That is a long-term business plan in cultivating its customers.
Therefore, if CHC can be viewed as a growth stock, its prospects are very bright as its young customers will accelerate its earnings.
12. Stable earnings in times of depression
Besides being a growth stock, CHC can also be viewed as a defensive and safe stock. People pray hardest when they fall in hard times. Strangely, some people have an urge to tithe when they are in financial troubles.
In fact, in the video (The 10 Laws Of The Harvest), a couple came on stage. They talked about the dire straits they were in when they started out. Things change when God challenged them to GIVE themselves out of poverty (exact words from the speaker). Despite not having any money, they still pledged $250 to the building fund. In his own words again, "we often emptied our savings to give to the House of God knowing that this will be the answer to our financial problems". Hence, not only will the church earnings be stable in times of depression, it may even grow.
13. Using Prosperity as a theme to appeal to customers
The Pastor preaches Prosperity Gospel which resolves around money. His business genius lies in choosing this theme for his church. Money has universal appeal. Everyone worships money regardless of race, culture, age, gender, sexual orientation. In one fell swoop, he has enlarged his market to cover the entire world. It is much easier to convert people to your belief by dangling money and promising great prosperity. After all, who does not love money?
By enlarging his potential market catchment with a greater chance of increasing membership, more donations will flow in.
14. Tax benefits as church is registered as a charity
This creates a huge, unfair advantage compared to all other businesses. This is what landed CHC in controversy. Enough has been said. If City Harvest Church is listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange, I will certainly buy it. It will be one stock that I am confident of hitting a return of 30-fold, 60-fold, 100-fold returns.
People tend not to question critically when it comes to religion. A charming smooth talker can easily sway minds with his interpretation of the Bible. In the final analysis, Faith is about simply believing. You cannot approach it scientifically because there is no way to test religious theories using the scientific method. We will only know the real truth when judgment day comes.
The danger is that there is no accountability on the part of the preacher on whether his teachings are true or not. Even he himself cannot be sure that his interpretations is 100% correct. Given human nature, the interpretations will tend to be self-serving. In fact, it is not only dangerous to the students but to the teacher as well. People will believe their own lies if it yields tempting benefits. That was how Wall Street drank its own Kool-Aid.
While I respect the Pastor for his business savvy, I cannot agree with his interpretations of the Bible. I pray for good health, peace and harmony for my family. Money-minded as I am, I am not comfortable with commercializing my relationship with God by asking for money. The Christian God that I know from my own reading of the Bible is not 财神爷 (God of Wealth). Of course, if God wants to drop money from heaven on me, I will be more than happy to embrace it.
CHC has 47 affiliate "Harvest" churches in 2010. CHC has direct supervision over 29 of them, while 18 come under the oversight of Harvest School of Ministry led by Rev. George Ong.
Affiliate Harvest Churches (source):
|1.||Heart of God Church (Singapore)||15.||The Bethel Missions Church (India)|
|2.||Shekinah Harvest Church (Singapore)||16.||Indonesia Harvest Church (Indonesia)|
|3.||Church of Singapore, Harvest (Singapore)||17.||GPdI Lippo Cikarang (Indonesia)|
|4.||City Harvest Church Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)||18.||GPdI Elohim Sidoarjo (Indonesia)|
|5.||City Harvest Christian Fellowship, Sibu (Malaysia)||19.||GPdI Karmel (Indonesia)|
|6.||Rhema Church, Sitiawan (Malaysia)||20.||Taipei New Life Church (Taiwan)|
|7.||City Harvest Church, Penang (Malaysia)||21.||Taipei Hsin Tien Covenant Church (Taiwan)|
|8.||City Harvest Christian Fellowship, Kuching (Malaysia)||22.||Tainan Rhema Christian Church (Taiwan)|
|9.||Harvest Christian Fellowship, Johor Bahru (Malaysia)||23.||Pingtung Peace Church (Taiwan)|
|10.||Harvest Christian Fellowship, Muar (Malaysia)||24.||Grace Harvest Church (Taiwan)|
|11.||Ipoh Harvest Church (Malaysia)||25.||Passion 99 Harvest Church (Taiwan)|
|12.||Taiping Harvest Church (Malaysia)||26.||Da Di Harvest Church (Taiwan)|
|13.||Kampar Harvest Church (Malaysia)||27.||Taipei New City Church (Taiwan)|
|14.||Kuala Lumpur Harvest Church (Malaysia)||28.||City Harvest Church Sydney (Australia)|
From $127k HDB flat to $9.3m Sentosa Cove penthouse
How did the Kongs get from a $127,000 HDB flat to a $9.3 million Sentosa Cove penthouse?
Pastor Kong Hee and his family started with a five-room HDB flat in Tampines, which they bought for $127,000.
They later sold it for $420,000, The New Paper reported in 2010.
The flooring was marble, with a carpeted family area and a walk-in wardrobe which showed off the fashionista side of Ms Ho.
It was done up in a mix of American classic and contemporary styles.
In 2010, they sold this apartment and moved into The Suites at Central on Devonshire. It was reportedly sold to them for $2.6 million.
There was also a $28,000-a-month Hollywood Hills estate which Ms Ho rented while pursuing her career as a singer in the United States.
Today, the Kongs live in a luxury Sentosa Cove penthouse which cost $9.3 million, according to The New Paper.
The 487 sq m apartment is more than four times bigger than their Tampines flat and has an ocean view.