Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Health & Wealth Assembly

By Thomas Lee Seng Hock

(Thomas Lee has been a journalist and editor for more than 30 years (X-Echo, x-Star, x-NST, x-MM, x-Sun, x-Edge, x-mysinchew.com) He did his undergraduate theological studies in Singapore and Australia, and obtained his Master in Ministry from the Malaysia Bible Seminary. Currently an Independent Socio-Political Analyst and Bible teacher in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. Contact: tomlee48@gmail.com)

In a place called Bolehland, there is a church called the Health & Wealth Assembly (HWA), pastored by the Rev Kaputt Ked ("kaputt" means "useless" in German, while "ked" means "a wingless fly that parasitises sheep") or Pastor KK as he is generally known.

Pastor KK started out in church work the moment he graduated with a Diploma in Taboology from the Babble College of Motivation. He had no choice but to go to the college when he finished secondary school education as he was not qualified for university studies or even teacher-training. Church work was not his initiate choice as he had ambition to become a lawyer or accountant, but he didn't make the grade at the SPM examination. Since he did not do well in the SPM, he decided to take up church work, convincing himself and others that it was God who called him to the "ministry". So he enrolled at the Babble College of Motivation, whose principal and lecturers all obtained their so-called advanced degrees from the same denominational seminary in the West, whose academic standard is suspect and its degrees of doubtful value.

Since his graduation over 25 years ago, Pastor KK had pastored several churches. He became pastor of HWA about 10 years ago and had single-handedly built up the church from a mere 30-member church to become a mid-range mega church of nearly 500 worshippers. Most of the members, however, are not converts won through evangelistic efforts but recruited from unhappy members of other churches. One of the carrots Pastor KK tantalizes before the members from the other churches, especially the rich businessmen, is to offer them positions of leadership.

The HWA has recently moved from a rented shophouse to its new church complex which has, among other facilities, a swimming pool. Pastor KK hopes that the swimming pool and the other facilities would attract members from other churches to his church, especially those who are rich and can give him and the church big fat love gifts.

Pastor KK keeps his congregation happy by his polished diplomatic people-pleasing public relations efforts. He smiles all the time and is a smooth-talker, especially among the rich and powerful in his church. He preaches sermons that do not touch on moral ethics or sin, but emphasize on the "feel good" factor. His favorites are "God will bless you with riches", "Name it (prosperity) and claim it in God's name", "God loves you and will bless you abundantly with riches", and "Give, and you will receive hundred-folds in return".

Pastor KK also likes to invite his friends who are fellow prosperity preachers to preach in his church, sharing their so-called success stories. One of them kept coming to share what he said was a miraculous escape from a huge fire. He claims that God saved him from death, but does not reveal that scores of others, many of them non-Christians, also escaped with minor injuries. The gullible congregation laps up the dramatic story as gospel truth by the obviously excellent speaker with is religious motivational sales pitch.

Pastor KK also invites tycoons who know nothing about doctrines and have shallow understanding of biblical knowledge to preach in his church, hoping that these tycoons will donate generously to his church coffer and also perhaps give him big fat love gifts. He couldn't bother about the harm such ersatz speakers do on his congregation, so long as they give big donations and give big love gifts.

The HWA members do not question or challenge what their pastor does, generally because most of them are biblically and doctrinally illiterate. They do know know why they believe what they believe, and only accept everything that the pastor says as the truth and nothing but the truth. This is because since its establishment there has been no organized Bible studies in the church most of the time, and cell group meetings are generally gossip sessions led by spiritually incompetent and untrained "leaders". Even those who are appointed Elders are not selected based on the qualifications specify in the Pastoral Epistle or elected by the membership, but on the basis of their wealth and their friendship with the pastor. When approached for guidance over a conflict, the Elders will say they do not want to get involved. The worst thing is that they are biblically and doctrinally deficient, making them the spiritually blind leading the spiritually sightless.

Pastor KK is certainly very satisfied with such a condition among his leaders and church members, because biblically and theologically illiterate church leaders and gullible members will not be able to challenge him on his teaching (if any), preaching, and church organizational and administrative practices. In the kingdom of the spiritually blind, the one who can bluff the best with a bit of Bible knowledge, and twists theological truth to his  personal advantage and benefits is the king. And Pastor KK is such a person.

As he looks back at his younger days, Pastor KK gives thanks to God that he had entered the "ministry" and never have it so good, being his own boss with flexible hours, having a big fat pay with a luxury car thrown in, getting lots of extra income via love gifts without having to declare and pay income tax, and he and his family members need not pay for church functions like dinners, church camps and overseas mission trips.

Pastor KK, however, recalls with horror one period in his church when a spiritual revival nearly happened, when he allowed one theologically trained, spiritually matured and articulate person to conduct a series of Bible studies in his church.

It was certainly lucky for him that the trouble-maker opted not to continue with teaching after getting strong hints from him to stop. Pastor KK heaved a sigh of relief after the fellow left the church. He has certainly learned his lesson not to allow any doctrinally sound, theologically educated, and spiritually matured person to teach and preach in his church.

Such a person may ignite a spiritual revival and ecclesiastical revolution in his church. He has cold sweat each time he thinks of the near-miss when he allowed that Back-to-the-Bible proponent to conduct Bible studies for his church leaders and members.

But that trouble-shooter has stimulated a spiritual appetite among his congregation for biblically-sound spiritual food. Pastor KK knows that having solid Bible-based series in his church would result in his church leaders and members becoming spiritually wise and will start to question his character, conduct, and charade. But he needs to meet the demand for Bible studies in the church. So he seeks the help of his spiritual godfather, a Western missionary, to conduct a series of prosperity motivational lessons, masquerading as Bible studies. Pastor KK knows that the words "Western" and "missionary" will invoke an impression of awe and reverential respect among his gullible congregation, especially those still having the colonial mentality that "the West is best", a spiritual terminal disease in many churches in Bolehland. But Pastor KK knows that his Western missionary won't hurt his own position in the church, but will enhance his tight grip on their souls.

Everyone in the congregation is happy that Pastor KK is organizing regular "Bible studies" for them, with Mr Western Missionary teaching them..

Things have returned to normal at the HWA -- Pastor KK is happy, the church leaders are happy, the church members are happy.
Their happiness will last until the roll is called and they found their names missing.


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