Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Essential Church (Part 2)

Firstly i would like to thank the people for the comments. Yes I agree with some of the observations. It is true to say that in the previous Hope movement under PN and Dr. Kriengsak. There was only one role that is to become a church planter and go out to fulfill the 1 million churches by 2015 vision. When this whole thing blew up, i began to question the reasons for such a mind blowing goal whatever it was more for God or for PN and Dr.J's own personal ambition. But in my 17 years, i have seen enough friends leave Hope movement because they were burnt out or disappointed. The worst thing in the previous Hope movement, people stopped becoming friends but treat each other like colleagues. If you are serving in the team, then you get all the adoration and so-called friendships but if you are tired or down and out, you will be left at the side and suddenly you realise your so-called friends just have no time for you.

I must admit Hope have some good points, and the reason i stayed because I have never let its issues affect me. To highlight another essentials which i have always believed.

3. Allow your people to be who God wants them to be.

- I agree that PN and the previous seems only to believe that we should be Church planters and missionaries and be in the pastoral capacity. But the truth of the principle that applies in the church context should also apply on an individual basis.
- Meaning to say not everyone is a Pastor or called to be in the pastoral ministry. Some are called to the marketplace as a businessmen and entrpreneur, some are called to do social work, some find joy in spreading the gospel through music.
- We have the 5 fold ministry but if you notice, our church have never been able to raise up the 5-fold only mainly, teachers and pastors.

What i think we should keep

1. I believe shepherding system is a good system but maybe do with some modification
2. Teach the essentials - QT, Character change, Sharing the gospel.

But beyond that allow our people to explore their calling. never force people to do things. Keep Christian life simple. All God wants is to grow in him - spend time in QT, Share the Gospel and change our life and be a good testimony.

In my walk in Hope one of the worst thing i ever heard a non-christian say to me is that they did not want to become christian because they saw how we serve - they actually asked me when I become a christian does it mean i have to attend all this meetings and I do not want to become christian and be so busy and so tired like so and so...... actually in Hope many times we end being the Martha instead of Mary ... we work and work till the point we sometimes even miss God.

.... to be continued.


Watcher said...

Hi Eagle Eye,

Thanks for your comments. I fully agree with you on the point that we should allow ppl to become what God intend them the be. Back when I was in Hope, in the few months of my rededication to Christ, I was quickly roped into core team and the role of being a follow-upper, supposedly to be future shepherd, as one of my ex-Unit leader use to say to me and a few others. That was why I was, at the early stage of my Hope life, inculcated with the idea that to be in Hope you must be in pastoral leadership.Actually the apostle Paul had warned that new-believers should not go into leadership too quickly.Back in those early days, very much like how eagle eye described, I was already facing this level of committment even though I was not yet a CL or UL.I thought being committed in ministry was all that counts in Christian life. But I faced quarrels with leaders and got burnt. I never really recovered.It got worse in university and I backslided again. It was through the godly brothers who exhibited the love of Christ to me in action and in truth that brought me back to Christ again. I started to re-learn many of the old values i was taught.One of these godly brothers taught me the importance of bible reading and prayer,to challenge faulty assumptions,to dispel false notions with the truth of scripture.Another godly brother taught me similar things about QT, and loved me for who I am. At a time I was living in darkness, he helped me in my studies, taught me about the grace and love of GOd, which he lived it out, admonished me to think about the true essense of serving, to persevere on finish well even though I may not have started well, etc. Then, as I turned back from my backsliding, my hunger for the word of God started to increase.I studied and read the various teachings from other christian denominations.Through the university courses,i started to be more critical and analytical in my thinking.Slowly,i began to realise the diversity in the body of Christ as shown in the denominations and scripture.I begun to question many of the assumptions I was taught in my time in Hope and I found these assumptions and teachings wanting.I began to see Christianity in a very different light.It was for me a movement from works-righteousness to embracing the liberating grace of God.

Watcher said...

Which brings me to the next point.Back in the local Hope church I use to come from, i notice that many of those in leadership are poorly trained in essential biblical doctrines.Please do not get me wrong.I am not advocating a knowledge-only christian faith.I believe strongly in a changed life and continuous growth, which would demonstrate clearly that the person is truly regenerated.But we need to be grounded in correct teachings, guarding it with the help of the Holy Spirit, to help us in our growth. Eagle Eye rightly pointed out that we need to have character change. This takes time, and we cannot rush people to change. We also need to seriously train our leaders to be well-versed in essential bible teachings.To reiterate, leaders of course must have godly character and servanthood spirit.However, they are responsible for caring for the flock, which also includes faithfully teaching from the Scriptures accurately.In short, leaders must be ppl who can correctly handle the word of truth.

Lastly,the vision to build biblical ppl to plant strong and biblical churches all over the world is one aspect of sharing the gospel.OVerseas missions is part of this sharing of the gospel. However, some may never go church planting, but share the gospel in their work place.Their work place will be their mission field.As Hope is a movement that seeks to multiply itself through church planting, this means more caregroups, which means more CLs, ULs, and so on. Which I believe is the reason for the high-emphasis on developing leaders and the primacy of pastoral leadership in Hope. This drive for continuous growth is commendable.However, this type of growth mentality tends to ignore the fact that there are other callings in the church and the importance in the diversity of gifts.It has also led to the exaltation of pastoral leadership and the false notion that all should strive for pastoral leadership. One such example is following PN's direction to pursue leadership, as stated by eagle eye. To conclude, it is clear that Hope movement for a long time was trying to fulfil a biblical vision that was sadly tainted with extra-biblical and man-centered goals.

Hopefully, as encouraged by Eagle Eye, we will all become what God has intended for us to be. We must not be a clone.


Anonymous said...

You know, if we take a look at our pastors. I can safely say that many are not theologically trained in the scriptures by any RECOGNIZED bible institution.

Not that I am advocating that all pastors must be qualified like how the world measures credibility. But this offers a glimpse on the depth of knowledge our pastors may have in expounding the word of God.

Don't you think it is "scary"? Would you feel safe learning and following what they are teaching about your marriage, finances, career and etc...?

Only things I used to hear them teach is about serving, serving and serving; rising up, rising up, church plant church plant.

Nothing wrong in these. But the bible is more than these and our christian life is more than these too.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Watcher, most (but not all) Hope leaders are poorly trained in essential biblical doctrines. Many are given the title of "Pastor" simply because they are married to one.

In one case, the "Pastor" could not teach or preach well at all. They said many things that sound good but have no biblical scripture to back it up. Amazingly, the person continue to be "Pastor" till this day.

Orel said...

I just want to touch briefly and make one non-exhaustive observation on "burnout".

Back in 1994 or 1995 Dr Pedro C Moreno from the Rutherford Institute was a guest speaker at an IPC in Bangkok (yes -it was called the "International Pastors Conference" then).

In contrast to DJ's "generally energetic" style, Pedro communicated a more relaxed, relational and laid back perspective of Christianity. Many seated around me applied his principles to the letter and dozed off while he was teaching which was unfortunate!

In retrospect it has become clear that Pedro's teaching brought some much needed balance (and a valuable different perspective) to the Hope way of doing things. After all, on the seventh day the Lord rested.

Some people whom I know were always ill during conferences. I had an equally unimpressive 70-80% illness strike rate and returned from many conferences absolutely spent and exhausted.

Out of curiosity, I googled today for recent information and pictures of Pedro. Pleased to say he appears youthful, healthy and well and has compiled a most impressive CV.

If longevity in ministry is the key, I wonder if any of his teaching materials have survived in the vaults from the mid-1990s!!

I've been rather light hearted in this post but I hope the content blesses you heaps.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

I would like to make a comment on the shepherding system at Hope. I believe that it needs to be radically changed from its present form. Again, let me say that shepherding is carried out in different forms and degrees in Hope churches. I would say that the Hope churches in the western world are less controlling and the ones in the east are more controlling and of course in Bangkok, it is most controlling.

I believe that this principle of shepherding or discipleship is taken from 2 Tim. 2:2 and also from the example of Jesus and his disciples. The idea is to train, teach our disciples and pass onto to them our knowledge about the bible and also to help them change for the better ie. character change according to the scriptures and also to guide them to be in God's will for their lives.

These intentions are very good as it will mean helping somebody to be a better Christian. However, there are many dangers associated with shepherding/discipleship the Hope way.

1. The shepherd needs to be matured and equipped to be able to disciple someone else. In many cases in Hope, this is not the case. Relatively young Christians have taken on the role of shepherd. How do they guide? What do they teach? Do they know scripture well enough to be able to teach the counsels of God and to guide somebody in the will of God? Even young Christians have been sent to pioneer churches where they have had to take on the role of shepherd over the whole pioneering team.

2. The shepherd needs to be able to distinguish between their own will and God's will. Many times, shepherds impose on their sheep their own will and try to get them to do things that they themselves prefer. This leads to control and worse manipulation. This definitely happens in Hope where sheep have to ask their shepherd for permission to do something.

3. The shepherd needs to realise that their role is not to run the sheeps life but rather to be a mentor or somebody to stand alongside the sheep - not to command the sheep or to punish them when they do something wrong. It is a gentle and loving role that accepts the sheep for who they are and able to persevere with the sheep and give gentle rebuke when they do something that is not according to scripture. This is similar to what the Holy Spirit does in the life of the Christian. He is there to comfort ie. to be alongside and to encourage. Many times we see in Hope this notion that the shepherd is the master over the sheep and they have absolute control over the sheep so much so that sheep need to constantly consult their shepherd. Again control!

The above are just 3 reasons why shepherding can be a dangerous thing. This is why Maranatha movement dismantled when the group realised what they had done in terms of controlling a sheeps' life. Here is a link about Maranatha http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maranatha_Campus_Ministries
If you read through it, it does remind one of Hope in some areas.

This is why the shepherding system must be changed radically in Hope. I believe that a lot of the one-on-one functions must be done away with and changed more to a group style. Also the authority of the shepherd must be lessened. In most churches, teaching is done in classroom styles. There is no shepherding but there may be mentoring. Things like rebuking, punishing, rewarding must be discarded as this leads to fear of the shepherd or trying to please the shepherd. It is giving the shepherd too much power and control over another person's life. Even God who is perfect does not operate that way. As for us imperfect human beings, too much power leads to abuse as can be seen from PN and DJ.

I hope these thoughts are helpful.

Anonymous said...

Hi Eagle_Eye,

This is a comment about V&P. I believe there is a lesson in there about assimilation. If you really want to be honest, there are a lot of ethical issues this would raise. Hope has taught and taken this principle to the extreme. It has lead Hope people to think that they can:

1. Assimilate Christians from other churches because after all, ours is a better movement and they are not doing anything in their own church anyway. This is basically sheep stealing.

2. Brainwash other Christians because basically the way assimilation is taught is that we can and should make them think and act like us so that we can fulfill the great commission together.

I believe the whole idea from Kriengsak is to make many other little Kriengsaks so that no one can give any problem and all will have the same goals and vision. This is all very well but the means does not justify the end especially the way it has been done in the past.

I believe this lesson should not be taught if it still is.

Anonymous said...

Another comment I would like to make is regarding the speed at which things are done. Kriengsak (DJ) loves to do things very quickly. He multitasks to the extreme and hardly sleeps and hence all his disciples try to emulate him.

However, very few people can be like him but this trait of quick, quick, quick has been passed down throughout the movement. I remember Kriengsak used to ridicule some segments of HGI (those churches from the west) for being too slow and taking too many "barbeques".

There is a saying less haste, more speed. I think everyone would agree with me that there were a lot of churches planted in haste that has caused massive amounts of problems for Hope further down the line. The reason why almost everyone was thrown out to plant churches was because of the 1,000,000 churches vision by 2015. This is an impossible task as everyone would realise by now unless God does something so supernatural.

This goal has also caused leaders to be raised up too quickly and hence the problems compounded. This has lead to immature leaders or to sheep stealing as Kriengsak used to say that if other matured Christians can be assimilated into the movement, this would save a lot of time and put those Christians to better use than what they are doing in their own churches. The Hope international churches were mostly started this way.

Hope should learn to slow down and give people and ideas time to nurutre and grow.

Anonymous said...

HIM should also start an international bible school geared towards church planting that is fully accredited. I believe they are big enough to do so now (esp. Hope Singapore) so that smaller churches which do not have the resources can use this to help them plant churches as well.

I believe there are enough comments on this blog regarding inadequate understanding of Christian doctrines etc.

The bible school should offer various courses and degrees. The topics covered should include Christian doctrine, hermeneutics (interpretation of scripture), homiletics (preaching especially the expositional type), old and new testament survey, counselling, church administration, cross culture and any other courses that will help the church planter.

I do agree with the V&P regarding every local church having a bible school but this can only be achieved once the church reaches a certain size. Bible school is resouce intensive so an international one is there to help all the HIM churches.

Watcher said...

Hi Anonymous,

You've made a very interesting comment regarding differences int the degree and form of shepherding in Hope Churches from the West to Bangkok. Culturally, the West is more democratic and individualistic while the East is more communitarian and subserviant to authorities. This is just a generalisation. There could be exceptions. Both cultures have their strengths and weaknesses. We can learn from both cultures. Perhaps that will provide some clues as to why Hope churches in the West are less controlling while that in the East is more controlling.

I recommend this reading:


It is written by a christian missionary to Thailand and specifically in the article he used the example of Dr Kriengsak and Hope Church to explain the nature of church hierarchy. It briefly describes how Dr Kriengsak's church model and discipleship style is based on a patron-client model deeply influenced by thai culture and certain buddhist beliefs. This article was written more than a decade ago but the writer already identified certain teachings in Hope (in the context of Thai culture) that is not in line with the Scripture, long before the unfortunate episodes of what happened recently in the Hope movement, particulary the Thai church. The writer discusses how certain teachings of Kr Kriengsak and his application (such as the highly hierarchical structure and rigid discipling style and the meaning of anointing) are against the Bible's clear teaching of the equality of all believers, the teaching that God can use all believers to speak to one another (and not top-down-only as ussually witnessed in Hope) and the teaching that to be 'anointed' in the New Testamentsense is to be filled with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (not some special priviledged assigned only to those top in the leadership). The article also gives guidance on the ways to improve the situation of Thai churches at large.

In another book written by a pastor. It is titled "Healing Spiritual Abuse: How to break free from Bad Church Experience". He mentions that the notion of "spiritual covering" is a false doctrine developed by many leaders today to create an ecclesiastical hierarchies with them at the top.The church structure is carried out in a top-down fashion like a chain of command in which each member is suppose to submit to those who are above them who would be their "covering", like submitting to Christ. To quote from the author, he wrties, "Not only is there little or no biblical basis for the idea of cerving, but it flies in the face of numerous broad-based, biblical teachings to the contrary: the egalitarian nature of church fellowship (Mt 23:8-12), the fraternal nature of church discipline (Mt 18) and the parity among members of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:14-26)."

Hopefully these two sources would be helpful in providing inputs for improvements.


Watcher said...

Hi all,

The reason I quoted from two full-time ministers (one of whom is a pastor) is also to dispel the notion that those who are against the shepherding system are not leaders and are just rebellious. These two documents are written by leaders. So they could provide a leaders perspective on this whole issue. I know some would quote Heb 13:17 about submitting to the leaders authority. I have no qualms about that. But I like to point out that in the preceding verses, the author of Hebrews reminded us to remember the leaders who spoke the word of God to us and recall their way of life (Heb 7).Apparently, the author is not telling us to submit to someone just because he or she is a leader. We submit to them because they have properly taught the scriptural truths (as pointed out by Anonymous when he mentioned 2 Tim 2:2), lived a godly lives (1 Tim 3:1-7 and 4:15-16), and who truly are servants who do not lord it over others(1 Peter 5:2-3). In fact, Heb 13:9 which comes after Heb 13:7 and verse 17, warns us not to be taken in by false doctrines. Thus we cannot just blindly follow any teaching without examining if they agree with Scripture. In particular, the submission to our leaders Heb 13:17, as some biblical scholars have put it, arises becauses the leader has managged to persuade and convince those they are watching to follow their teaching and way of life. Such persuasion and convincing can only come if the leaders faithfully preached the word of God and live it out so that their followers can follow their godly examples. Leadership is not an automatic right, It comes as leaders live it out with responsbility.


Watcher said...

Hi all,

Eagle eye and Anonymous is right to point out that we need leaders and shepherds who can guide us in our christian walk and teach us bible doctrines effectively so that our christian life is based on truth. This is clearly commanded by Scripture (Heb 13:7-8, Heb 13:17, 2 Tim 2:2, 1 Tim 4:15-16, 1 Peter 5:2-3).

Indeed, we need counsel in our lives, particularly from mature believers.Of course, anyone amongst the believers can alo speak truth to us.We need to be accountable to others, but it need not be just one person. It can be a few christians whom you have close fellowship with. One possible starting point is your cell group or it could also be from outside cell group. As anonymous also pointed out, we may also consider doing away with the one-on-one system. I consider it as artificially imposed, assuming that it will work out well. Close friendships are built from trust and openess and wiilingness of one person to be accountable to the other. The moment it is imposed from top down, the shepherd may end up controlling (knowingly or unknowingly) his sheep, i.e., my sheep must behave or live this, or think this way. His sheep, on the other hand, without the level of trust, dares not share for fear that he might look bad in front of his shepherd, or that the sheep is fearful that whatever he share might be used against him. As a result, this artificially imposed one-on-one system would likely to encounter deep seated mistrust and the burden of hierarchy. In the end, sheeps just become clones of the shepherds, even though both of them are meant to be unique. Compare this style of shepherding to that which builds first from trust, that to be accountable to one another is based on trust, and not artificially imposed from outside (for other leaders determine who your shepherd is), and then submit yourself to a spiritual mentor or mentors (could be your cell leader or some other mature christians) whom you can share openly and fellowship closely. This may take time and ivolves risk. It is not clear cut like that practiced in Hope but I hope it will be a useful model. It may not be applicable to every one but i hope it provides an alternative.


Watcher said...

Hi all,

The reason why I talked about the method of shepherding in Hope and the doctrinal credibility and lives of the leaders is because I find these two issues are really important that needs to be addressed, in addition to Eagle Eyes and other peoples suggestion. It is these issues that have hit me the hardest all these years. As I told my ex-shepherd (whom I talked about earlier) after he alerted me to this website by eagle eye due to happenings the Thai churches of Hope, that certain fundamentals of the original Hope teachings have led to the tragic events that have happened. I am not stumbled by those events or the failings of the leaders, for one simple reason: my faith is not dependent on the leadership or persons whom ppl tend to "hero-worship". My faith is dependent on God, Christ and His truth in the Scripture, confirmed by the witness of the Holy Spirit. One root cause of all that has happened in Hope so far is the sin of lusting for power. Leaders have weaknesses, I also have my weaknesses. We are all in the process of growing. I am not asking for full perfection here. Sanctification is a continous process and it will be only complete when we are raised up in glory to be with Jesus for eternity that is to come.

Some may say, that I wasting my time, that I should "move on", that what matters most is to pray for our leaders, and serve God effectively, that i should not meddle in Hope affairs since I am no longer in Hope, and let God handle the rest. There are some elements of truth in them. But they must not be used as an excuse to sweep things under the carpet and whitewash things. Like ex-member, Orel and other unknown writers in this blog, we care enough to speak up in the hope what've experienced will not be a waste, that lessons could be learned. Those who do not understand their history will be bound to repeat it. That is the last thing I want to see happening.


Anonymous said...

Hope is basically this: church done via multi-marketing style. Recruit, recruit, recruit, followup, caregroup, meetings, listen to only the leader's teachings and keep doing it over and over again. The ones who make the most disciples get the most attention and the person at the top get's all the rewards. Plant a church and you're automatically given the title of "Pastor". They never give you money to support a church plant, but they always expect the daughter church to pay a separate tithe to the "mother church".

The details in your blog now explain a lot of things to me. Thank you for revealing the truth.