Last week, I visited one of the most successful charismatic churches in Singapore - City Harvest Church. I wanted to understand the success of City Harvest Church and its founding pastor - Kong Hee, who is currently under investigation by Singapore Police for misuse of church fund.
Mobilizing the whole church to bless a Chinese national (successful businessman) who is on a mission to evangelize the Christian Faith in China.
The whole service felt like a rock concert, with a lot of young people. The whole setup was very impressive - playing inspirational music, great vocalists, great live band and good atmosphere. It is not surprising that it is a popular church.
There were moments when the pastor Kong Hee was speaking in tongues, and it caused the whole church into a frenzy where everybody started to speak in tongues. There was a group energy flowing around the church, and people were getting excited, energized and more passionate. In another words, people are getting emotional. It is the same feeling as those political rallies which I attended. I believe there is a collective energy in big congregation of people to rally, influence, brainwash people in a highly emotionally charged environment. In fact, this is the BEST way to influence people is when they are highly emotional and less rational.
The pastor and speakers are like motivational speakers - selling hope and optimism that something great will happen if you believe, accept and trust God. They featured successful people, sharing stories of ordinary folks devoting selflessly to serve their God, sharing story of born-again Christian whom was saved by God during their darkest moment in life. And one of the best selling techniques of all time: To show an example of a previous skeptics who had great success in life and pledges his life towards God and Church, and using words like "Dreams are realized". After that, a group prayer with vigor and energy filled the hall.
Pastor Kong Kee is very smart to select a verse from the Bible ("arise and build") to talk about fund raising for the church. He also shared news about highly successful people supporting the cause. I quote him "If you are building God house, you are building your own house."
Overall, I am very impressed with the church's ability to engage people. I am happy that I achieved my objective of understanding the success of this Charismatic Church. At the same time, I am quite uncomfortable with the whole approach. I guess this is not my cup of tea, and I am not convinced.