City Harvest Church

City Harvest Church (Chinese: 城市丰收教会) or CHC is a non-denominational megachurch in Singapore with an average of 23,256 attendees in the month of December 2010.

Founded in 1989 by Rev. Kong Hee, the church bases its values on Charismatic and Pentecostal teachings, with doctrinal emphasis on the Great Commandment, the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate. City Harvest Church is a full member of the National Council of Churches of Singapore, Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore, and Festival of Praise Fellowship. Services are held at its church building in Jurong West and the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

CHC has affiliate churches in the region, including Indonesia, Taiwan and Australia.

Mission statement

CHC’s mission statement is "to build a church with a strong spiritual atmosphere of faith and purity, where every member is released into ministry, discipled in the Great Commandment to obey the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate set by the current cultural milieu."

Together with its Mission Statement, City Harvest Church has 17 statements of faith which form the basis of its teachings to the congregation and the foundation of its various ministries.

History

The church was founded by Kong Hee and his wife Sun Ho on 7 May 1989, and held its first service at Peace Centre. It first functioned as “Ekklesia Ministry,” a youth department under the legal covering of Bethany Christian Centre, an Assemblies of God church. On 21 December 1992, City Harvest Church was set up as a society. It was registered under the Charities Act on 16 October 1993.

In its early days, CHC had to move through different venues to accommodate its growing congregation. Past venues include the Bible House, Katong Park Hotel, World Trade Centre, DBS, Auditorium, PUB Auditorium, NTUC Auditorium, Ministry of Environment Building, National Productivity Board Auditorium, Hotel Grand Central, Orchard Hotel, and the Westin Hotel. In six years, CHC grew from 20 to 1,319 in its average monthly attendance.

On 4 June 1995, CHC leased the former Hollywood Theatre at Tanjong Katong Road and held its services there for another six years. By 2001, the church had grown to 10,310 and was conducting up to 15 services every weekend.

On 15 December 2001, the church moved to its permanent 2,300-seater venue at Jurong West Street 91. On 11 December 2005, CHC rented another worship site at Singapore Expo for its weekend English congregations.

From 2002, Kong began to teach on the Cultural Mandate and encourage the church members to excel in the marketplace. On 1 November 2005, Kong withdrew himself from the staff payroll and he now serves the church as an honorary founder/senior pastor.

Staff and committees

The church has 24 pastors and assistant pastors , with eight of them ordained as Reverends. The 165 full-time staff work from two locations: the Jurong West premises and the corporate office at Suntec City.

City Harvest Church has 15 committees overseeing all its operations: Audit Committee, Programs & Services Committee, Fund-raising Committee, Appointment & Nomination Committee, Human Resource Committee, Investment Committee, Missions Committee, Marketplace Committee, Building Committee, Men's Ministry Committee, Singles Committee, Children's Committee, Counseling & Inner Healing Committee, Christian Education Committee, Creative Ministry Committee. All committees report to the main CHC Management Board, whose office bearers are elected annually by its 720 Executive Members.

Profile of Congregations

The church has been described by the Charisma magazine as "one of the largest congregations in Asia." It had an average of 23,256 attendees in 2010. The church's highest record attendance was 57,691 during City Harvest's Christmas services in 2008.

47.3% of members in City Harvest Church are below the age of 25 years.

The church holds different weekly services in English, Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese, Indonesian. It also has weekly services for children as well as for people with special needs.

Ministries

Almost all functions of CHC's 36 internal ministries are run by church members on a volunteer basis. The church believes that “every member is a minister” with unique gifts, talents and abilities.

  • Drama Ministry All scripts and music scores used in drama productions are originally written and composed by members of the church.
  • Marketplace Ministry This is a ministry outreach to working professionals and business people, whose members meet to study God’s Word as well as to strengthen business networks.
  • Nursery Ministry Baby and toddler care is provided while parents attend the worship service.
  • The Millennial Orchestra A 40-member orchestra that performs in various church-wide conferences, including the Asia Conference 2008.
  • Ministry To The Hearing Impaired This ministry reaches out to hearing-impaired church members. Regular recreational and social activities are also organised to help them adapt better to mainstream society.
  • Strikeforce Ministry Strikeforce is part of the church’s creative ministry and its purpose is to “train people to serve God in various expressions of rhythm, movement and drumming.”

Strikeforce performed at Singapore’s National Day Parade in 2006 and 2009. The group also performed at the NDP Appreciation dinners hosted by the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Defence force, as well as the Chingay Parade.

Affiliate Organizations
School of Theology

The School of Theology (formerly known as City Harvest Bible Training Center) was started on 18 January 1994 with the purpose of training up pastors, missionaries and church workers for the establishing of local churches in Asia. It conducts a six-month, full-time program offering an Advanced Certificate of Theology. In the past 16 years Since 2009, 4,323 graduates from 32 countries have graduated from its courses.

City Harvest Community Services Association

City Harvest Community Services Association (CHCSA) currently employs 8 full-time staff and was registered with the Registry of Societies (ROS 162/97 WEL) on 16 August 1997. It received full membership with the National Council of Social Service on 7 January 2000. On 29 April 2004, CHCSA attained the ISO 9001:2000 certification. In 2009, CHCSA’s 889 volunteers provided 19,196 services to 14,227 different individuals in Singapore and made 5,107 home visitations to its clients. That same year, CHCSA received the Outstanding Community Partner Award 2009 for its partnership with Singapore’s Southwest CDC.

Culture
Cell Groups

Cell groups (CG) are a major part of the church's ministry. Divided into youth and adult cell groups, meetings are mostly led by trained lay members. As with all cell groups, they are meant to help members forge close relationships in a small setting.

Missions & Church Planting

CHC has 47 affiliate churches, with a total membership of 25,506. Apart from these affiliates, CHC also works with many other ministries in the missions field. In 2010, CHC sent out 753 members in 227 teams to 58 cities to help Christian agencies overseas.

The missions department organizes conferences and seminars throughout the year, strengthening CHC’s affiliate churches. Many of the church members are also involved in humanitarian causes, such as, disaster relief work and medical aid to countries like China, Indonesia, Taiwan, Honduras, and more recently, Haiti.

Media and Productions
Recordings and Stage Productions

Like most Charismatic churches, CHC uses contemporary music and settings for praise and worship, including a choir and a wide range of musical instruments. It also has a strong drama team for its stage productions. In 2008, CHC's music style was featured in Channel News Asia prime time program 'Get Rea!'

Broadcasting

The church has a 30-minute television broadcast program Harvest Time, which is televised on 8 Cable Television Networks and satellites. Harvest Time has a potential viewership of about 837.9 million, and is available in its original English-language or Mandarin, Korean and Japanese translations, depending on the broadcast station. In 2010, the church’s webcast of its worship services reached approximately 366,143 viewers from 104 countries, or 6,929 viewers per weekend.

Publications

The church previously published a magazine known as Harvest Times (founded in 1999), with a readership of 60,000. In 2006, a Chinese version of Harvest Times - Chinese Harvest Times was started and had a readership of 45,000. On 1 April 2009, Harvest Times magazine ceased its print edition.

In addition, City News, a Christian news broadcasting sector of the church that publishes its newspaper weekly was started in 2009 and celebrated its first-year anniversary in February 2010.

Awards

List of awards received.

  • 2002: 3rd Annual Intelligent20 Award
  • 2004: ISO 9001:2000 Certification
  • 2005 : Hitwise Award - Ranked #1 in the category: Lifestyle - Religion for most visited website
  • 2006: Hitwise Award - Ranked #1 in the category: Lifestyle - Religion for most visited website
  • 2007: Hitwise Award - Ranked #1 in the category: Lifestyle - Religion for most visited website
  • 2008-2009 Hitwise Award - Ranked Top 10 in the category: Lifestyle - Religion for most visited website
Conferences
Emerge Conference

Emerge is a youth conference organized for youths and young adults from 13 to 25 years old.

A total of 8,830 youth leaders and delegates from 16 nations attended the last Emerge Conference from 31 May to 3 June 2007. The opening night meeting was broadcast “live” on GODTV to 122 million homes in more than 200 nations and territories.

CHC also co-hosts Emerge conferences overseas with its affiliate churches in Malaysia and Taiwan.

Asia Conference

Asia Conference is a biennial conference bringing together pastors, Bible teachers, worship leaders, and Christian artists to educate, equip and empower Asian Christians. Apart from the plenary sessions, the conference also features elective workshops for the delegates.

The inaugural Asia Conference held from 19 to 23 November 2008 drew 20,356 delegates from 68 countries. Speakers included Kong Hee (Singapore), Phil Pringle (Australia), Chris Pringle (Australia), Ulf Ekman (Sweden), A. R. Bernard (USA) and Benny Hinn. The event also featured worship leaders such as Don Moen (USA), C3 Band (Australia), True Worshippers (Indonesia) and Carola Häggkvist (Sweden). The event used up three halls and 26 rooms at the Singapore Expo for the 10 plenary sessions and 53 elective workshops.

The 2010 Asia Conference was held from 26 to 30 May 2010, some 25,245 delegates coming from 70 countries representing 2,086 churches attended the free-admission conference.

Church building

The church building located at Jurong West Street 91 was completed in 2002. The entire building cost S$48 million (US$26.6 million). Occupying almost 38,000 sq ft (3,500 m2) on a 30-year leasehold land, its main hall seats up to 2,300 attendees and has two 250-seat halls.

On 15 December 2005, CHC began renting Hall 8 of Singapore Expo as an additional worship venue with a seating configuration that accommodates a maximum of 8,200 attendees.

Since 19 March 2011, CHC has moved to the Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre. The initial plan for a 12,000-seat auditorium to be built has been shelved due to a new guideline released in July 2010 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). The new plan is to seat 7,500 in compliance with the new rule that restricts the use of commercial buildings for religious purposes. Besides the auditorium, the place will also hold meeting rooms, a multi-purpose hall, theatre and concourse on the top floors. The church had earlier acquired a significant minority stake in the consortium that owns the building.

Controversies
Association with healing evangelist Benny Hinn

City Harvest Church has on a number of occasions hosted healing evangelist Benny Hinn to conduct miracle healing sessions. While some Singaporeans criticized the invitations due to Hinn's controversial reputation, the church dismissed the criticism.

S$310 million Suntec investment

On 6 March 2010, City Harvest Church announced that it has purchased a significant stake in Suntec Convention Centre and will be using its facilities for church services, the project will cost an estimated S$310 million, including shares acquisition, renovation and rental costs. Church founder Kong Hee said in a statement that the move "allows to move from a present expensive rental model to a more financially sustainable ownership model for the long term". However, some brought up the point that as a registered charity, CHC's income - expected to include profits and dividends from space rental and tenant leases in Suntec Singapore in the future - is non-taxable. Questions surfaced among the public whether religious organisations, which are registered as charities, should be allowed to go into business using what are essentially donor funds.

The Commissioner of Charities (COC) sought clarifications on the transaction. The church stated it was under a non-disclosure agreement which required the details of the transaction to remain confidential, but explained that the investment was made through a holding company that is not a charity organization and does not enjoy tax breaks; and had disclosed details of the deal to the COC as well as the Urban Redevelopment Authority upon request. The church also said that there was a "strong and unfounded allegation" floating online that the Management Board and Kong were "deliberately concealing a number of embarrassing facts from its members" with regard to the Suntec investment, saying that the allegation was "furthest from the truth", and later released a notice stating that Charities and foundations often use donor funds to invest and generate sustainable income for their intended causes.

Fund Probe

On 31 May 2010, the Office of the Commissioner of Charities and the Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police announced that 17 individuals linked to the City Harvest Church, including church founder Pastor Kong Hee and his deputy, Pastor Tan Ye Peng, were under investigation after complaints alleging the misuse of church funds. The joint press statement stressed that the investigations are neither linked nor initiated from its acquisition of a stake in the Suntec Convention Centre The police also visited the offices and homes of these individuals and brought back computers and financial records for investigations. The police were looking into some financial transactions among these individuals and related companies, involving the possible falsification of accounts and criminal breach of trust amounting to millions of dollars which dated back a number of years. The authorities said that regular church activities and services for the congregation need not be disrupted during ongoing investigations, which is expected to take several months.

The investigation followed requests by church members for the COC to review the church's constitution, which denied ordinary members the chance to attend general meetings, or be privy to its annual reports and financial statements. Some members felt that the church board had utilised the church's building fund and committed it to "future liabilities" without consulting members at its latest AGM.

Building Activity

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