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THE KONG HEE AND PHIL PRINGLE CONNECTION
In April 2010, the Commission of Charities investigated Kong Hee and his church’s purchase of SunTec City Convention Center. Later in 2010, new investigations were underway which led to Kong Hee’s arrest in 2012. Alongside Kong, other church officials were arrested in relation to financial misconduct involving sums of up to S$50.6 million, a truly sad state of affairs for a Church to find itself in.
But have people considered the amount of pressure that has been put on by his spiritual mentor, Phil Pringle? Phil Pringle is the founder of the C3 Church Movement located in Oxford Falls Sydney, Australia.
Examine how Kong Hee sees Phil Pringle. Discover how Phil Pringle led Kong Hee under supposed ‘prophecies’ to purchase SunTec City Convention Center and to further his wife’s music career in the CrossOver Project.
We have gathered quotes and audio’s from Kong Hee that reveal just how much pressure he was put under to obey the prophecies of Phil Pringle. As you read and listen to Kong Hee, ask yourself these questions:
- If you were Kong Hee and believed that Phil Pringle was speaking the very words of God, (and that you must do your part to fulfill God’s Word through Pringle), how would you feel if Phil Pringle prophesied that you were to do outrageous things?
- How would you feel if you believed you were told by God to buy SunTec and support your wife’s music career in China?
- Would you not feel that you are to do everything within your power to make sure that you don’t let God down?
Faith, according to the prevalent misunderstanding of so many, is shown in the willingness to do “audacious things”. And as you will see Pringle challenged Kong Hee to do some pretty “audacious”, some would say foolish, “things”.
A “PROPHETIC” FRIENDSHIP?
To understand the nature of Kong Hee and Phil Pringle’s relationship we need to learn how they perceive each other. Towards the beginning of Kong and Pringle’s friendship, did Pringle see that Kong Hee’s City Harvest Church had great potential? Did he see the opportunity of partnering with Kong Hee?
“I came up, and everybody was so on fire, and I thought this church is going to grow like crazy, so I thought I’m going to become a part of what this is, by making myself available.” - Phil Pringle, Faithful Friend, City News, http://www.citynews.sg/2011/04/faithful-friend/, 08/04/2011. (Accessed 06/01/2012).
An unusually close “prophetic” relationship rapidly developed between the two men. It is interesting to see how Pringle views his personal prophetic authority in his relationship with Kong Hee:
“Being prophetic is part of the relationship. I probably might have said five times to Kong—really, from the early days, every time we drive past Suntec City, I would say, “You’re going to be in that building.” Not at any other building. I just sort of felt that. And here we are, moving in, into the fulfillment of a prophecy, which is kind of “Wow!”” - Phil Pringle, Faithful Friend, City News, http://www.citynews.sg/2011/04/faithful-friend/, 08/04/2011. (Accessed 06/01/2012).)
“Being prophetic is part of the relationship?” What precisely did this concept mean for the relationship between Kong and Pringle? Can we know? Does this “prophetic status” on Pringle explain why Kong Hee has such an unhealthy view of his mentor?
KONG HEE’S SPIRITUAL MENTOR
Just how close is Phil Pringle to Kong Hee? From reading his statements, it seems that Kong holds a very high view of Phil Pringle indeed. As friends, it’s nice to know that Kong Hee has a close friendship and high regard for his friend but the language is surely rather over-stated.
“So again- I couldn’t have done it without the man of God. So you have really an amazing, amazing, amazing Pastor. And anything- you know, he knows that I would do anything for him. And he would lay down his life for me as well. And so what a privilege it is to be associated with the Pringle’s.” - Kong Hee, Kuala Lumpur Conference, Session 4, August 23-26/08/2011.
It is clear that he highly admires Phil Pringle, regarding him as a ‘master’ of Christian disciplines; furthermore referring to to him humorously as a “Jedi Master”,
“I learnt bible meditation from the greatest Jedi Master of bible meditation, from Pastor Phil Pringle himself. I learnt that twenty over years ago, right here in KL [Kuala Lumpur]… And I saw the master at work.” - Kong Hee, Kuala Lumpur Conference, Session 4, August 23-26/08/2011.
Kong Hee also praises Phil Pringle as a “great pastor, mentor”. While it is a good thing for a young pastor to have an older, more experienced man as a mentor, in hindsight Kong may be said to have made a rather unwise choice. He said of Pringle:
“Well tonight, we are really blessed. We are so blessed to be under the ministry of a great pastor, mentor, that’s one of the most balanced men that I’ve known for all my life. From day one, when I first met him, Pastor Phil told me that moderation is the key… I learnt the power of spiritual discipline. I have not met another man, apart probably from Dr Cho, that’s more disciplined than Dr Phil Pringle.” - Kong Hee, Kuala Lumpur Conference, Session 4, August 23-26/08/2011.
[Edit 07/06/2012] To get a good idea how influential Phil Pringle is, Kong Hee said the following:
“You know pastor Phil Pringle, Apostle, the Bishop ( J. John calls him the bishop)- to me he is the Apostle, he’s my friend, he’s the friend of God. I’ve known Pastor Phil and Pastor Chris for eighteen years. And yet we talk about City Harvest Church.
You can’t talk about City Harvest Church without talking about C3. Or Christian City Church. You know Pastor Phil has been there for me; praying with me; encouraging me; discipling me; telling me how to do the work of the ministry; taught me how to collect an offering; how to give an altar call; how to build a church; build a team. So Pastor Phil, from the depth of my heart, for Sun and myself, we wouldn’t be where we are today without you and Pastor Chris. Let’s give Pastor Phil and Pastor Chris a big clap.” – Kong Hee, Kong Hee, Session 8: (00:24), Presence Conference 2010. 00:24
(Quick reminder: Phil Pringle never was an Apostle.)
We would go so far to say that Sun Ho and Kong Hee see Phil Pringle as a sort of infallible prophet. We were notified a few months ago something Sun Ho said to Phil Pringle last year at the Presence Conference 2012. Looking straight at Phil Pringle, Sun Ho said:
“Umm Pastor and Pastor Christine, I just want to say thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts and I know that I represent City Harvest Church. We really- words alone can never express how much- you know we’re so grateful for all that you’ve done for us. Last night, when I was sitting here listening to you pastor preaching about ‘Connect- Connecting’. And it just dawned upon me. It’s like Psalms-8. You know, it just dawned upon me: “Who am I that you would consider me? ” You know and I thought about how when the case happened twenty three months ago, you so graciously accepted to be the Advisory Pastor to City Harvest Church.” - Sun Ho, Presence Conference 2012, Night Session, 11/04/2012. [Watch here]
Kong Hee allowed his wife to speak on behalf of himself and CHC. The choice of words was highly unfortunate, to say the least, even making allowances for cultural differences in standards of politeness. The first principle in the use of Bible quotations, especially in the context of Christian meetings, is to respect the context of the quotation. In the light of this, a very simple question should be asked to Sun Ho: Who was King David WORSHIPING when he wrote Psalm 8? King David wrote,
“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:1-4 (Emphasis in bold)
Even worse in terms of sycophantic remarks is this comment from Kong,
“C’mon! Let’s give it up for the Pope and the Bishop of Australasia: Phil and Chris Pringle!” - Presence Conference 2012, Night Session, 11/04/2012. [Watch here]
Surely such a comment is inappropriate for someone who is supposed to be a Protestant minister? Even if meant in jest, it is a highly unfortunate remark, all the more so as some of Kong’s actions suggest that he regards Pringle as a prophet and at least in practice infallible.
We must ask, in light of this, does his relationship with Pringle affect how Kong Hee sees God? Going by what Kong Hee has said, it would seem that the answer is very much so.
KONG HEE’S FRUSTRATING VIEW OF GOD
In Presence Conference 2012, Kong Hee shared a personal and very frustrating view he had of God.
“And for the first time in eight months, I heard the voice. It is not the voice of a strict angry judge that only want me to perform and build a big church and nothing I do is ever good enough for Him. No. It’s not a voice of angry judge. It’s not the voice of a slave driver. That just wants to take and take and wring me dry. But it was a voice of a tender, loving, broken-hearted Father.” – Kong Hee, http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=FKVSXfjhB14#t=1071s, Presence Conference 2012, Night Service, 11/04/2012.
All in all, that is a very strange thing to say. How did Kong get the idea that God is a “strict angry judge” that wanted him “to perform and build a big church”? There is no Protestant theologian on earth who would ever say such a thing; in fact the language is disturbingly reminiscent of the folk-Catholicism Martin Luther struggled with in his early days.
Why would Kong Hee ever have believed that God thinks that whatever he does is not “ever good enough for Him”? Why would Kong Hee see God as “a slave driver”? How did he gain this false view of Jesus since it is Jesus that says, “I will build my church”?
We think his personal experiences with Phil Pringle can help answer this question.
THE PRINGLE CONNECTION
City News reported how Pringle with other pastors helped birth the CrossOver Project,
“When his respected mentors Ulk Ekman, AR Bernard and Phil Pringle gave the same verse from Mark 4:35, “Let us cross over to the other side,” Kong knew there was no more space for hesitation, and the Crossover Project was born.” - Yong Yung Shin, http://www.citynews.sg/2012/05/city-harvest-church-10-years-of-the-crossover-project/, City Harvest Church: 10 Years Of The Crossover Project, 09/05/2012. (Accessed 27/09/2012.)
To say nothing of the appalling abuse of Scripture there (the fact that Jesus told his disciples that they had to cross the Sea of Galilee is not a prophecy or a pattern for anything we must do today), we see at once how Pringle’s circle regard words from the supposedly prophetically-gifted pastor.
Years later, CityNews also reported that Kong Hee and Sun Ho were thinking of ending the CrossOver Project.
“Sun, along with her family and the church, had reached a crossroad—should they continue with the Crossover Project now that she is a mother? … For six months, the couple prayed and discussed with the pastors and senior staff and consulted with spiritual mentors from around the world.” - Yong Yung Shin, http://www.citynews.sg/2012/05/city-harvest-church-10-years-of-the-crossover-project/, City Harvest Church: 10 Years Of The Crossover Project, 09/05/2012. (Accessed 27/09/2012.)
Why did they continue? Phil Pringle privately prophesied over Sun Ho’s music career and apparently told them “God is going to open a big door for CHC in China to be a blessing to the people”.
“Finally, it was a word given by Phil Pringle to Sun privately in May 2005 that gave them clarity to their path. “He said, ‘Five more years, because God is going to open a big door for CHC in China to be a blessing to the people.’ That word gave us the courage, faith and confirmation to resume the Crossover Project,” said Kong.” - Yong Yung Shin, http://www.citynews.sg/2012/05/city-harvest-church-10-years-of-the-crossover-project/, City Harvest Church: 10 Years Of The Crossover Project, 09/05/2012. (Accessed 27/09/2012.)
Fortunately, we have audio of Kong Hee talking about this event. Listen at how resolved they were after hearing Pringle’s prophecy. Did they pray about it the next few days? Did they discuss it together as a couple? Did they test the spirit or go to God’s Word in prayer or fasting? Listen in…
“Pastor Phil and Pastor Chris, they carry a spirit of prophecy. And five years ago when my little baby was born, Dayan, and my wife and I were thinking about taking a six month break. Go to Europe. Just backpack. Take little Dayan. We’ve been planting. I mean we’ve been running the church for so long.
And then Pastor Phil came to Singapore. And four months after little Dayan was born, in one of those meetings, the Holy Spirit HIT. And how many of you know that- talking about being dangerous, when the Holy Spirit comes upon Pastor Phil, he gets dangerous. Right?
And he starts prophesying, “Sun! It’s not time for you to stop. You got to go to China.”
And at that word, you know we let go of our nets. And then- so Sun’s been on the road right now. She’s living in the LA. And true enough, China opened up. She became the music ambassador for the Olympic games. Sang at the special olympics. Sang the anthem at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. And just last week, I mean – she’s a few months away from launching her début album in America. Just let you know, her first single, last month was number one in the US, number one in the UK on the secular charts. Lets praise God for that! Hallelujah! So we got Pastor Phil to thank for that.” - Kong hee, C3 Presence Conference, Session 4, Sydney, 2010.
“Talking about being dangerous” indeed. This is the great danger of the claim to prophetic gifting; it gives a man, in practice, an infallibility far worse than that claimed by the Papacy, for the Pope has only used that supposed infallibility twice, if that, while the modern Charismatic ‘Prophets’ use theirs almost daily, laying their followers under heavy burdens to fulfil these “words from the Lord.”
Doesn’t it sound like that Pringle in the above prophecy is at least by implication presenting God as “a slave driver”, driving Kong to work until he drops? Such words of supposed prophecy might well give reason for Kong Hee to believe that God thinks that whatever he does is not “ever good enough for Him”.
THE SUNTEC SEER
Prior to this, Phil Pringle continually ‘prophesied’ as early as 1995 that over Kong Hee would own SunTec City. Kong Hee continues…
“The reason I shared that was because in 1995 when Pastor Phil Pringle came to Singapore and I was driving him around town- just bringing him back from the hotel and to the hotel. And we passed by this huge complex in the downtown area just in front of our parliament house. And it’s called SunTec City. Now it is the most iconic, monumental, convention center in the whole of South-East Asia. Pastor Phil turned to me and said, “Kong, someday you’re going to own that building”. At that time, my church was only in 1995 less than a thousand people. I said, “Pastor Phil!” I say, “God bless your heart. Thank you so much having faith in me”. I said- you know, I was thinking, “Yeah right! In my dreams!”
And every year. Every year he came back. He’d say, “Kong, you’re gonna get that building”. And he said that. And I think at one time he could see the unbelief in me. He start slapping me. You know how many of you know Pastor Phil likes to slap, right? He starts slapping me and pushing me, shoving me saying, “You gonna get that building. You gonna get…” And I just held that in my heart. I didn’t share that with anybody. My wife and I we prayed and we prayed. And then- I want you to know, two months ago, we signed- oh last month- we signed the lease. We are now co-owners of SunTec City Convention Center.
Hallelujah! Amen! We’re gonna move in. We’re gonna move in twelve months from now.
Ah- I thought I’m gonna show you a video. This is our ‘Rise and Build’ video and- Many people come to City Harvest Church and they look at our church. Look at our pulpit. Our Rise and Build. And they say, “Hey! Why is it that in Australia they kinda copy after you?”
Well actually we came here and copied everything from Christian City Church. So we have our own Rise and Build and I just thought I show you this latest installment where we anounced to our church, SunTec City Convention Center. It’s a twelve thousand seater hall. And ah- it’s amazing. And already, in one month after we signed the lease, we are already starting to earn dividends from all the profits, eh! So lets just watch the video right now.” - Kong hee, C3 Presence Conference, Session 4, Sydney, 2010.
The above audio reveals how much Kong Hee looks up to Pringle, and how this leads him to emulate Pringle; not only did Kong Hee copy Phil Pringle’s Vision Builders campaign, Kong copied his church from Pringle’s church at Oxford Falls, Sydney.
It becomes clear that Pringle seems to be a major factor in Kong Hee’s life and decision making. But was Pringle really hearing from God, or was he seeking to mould Kong Hee in his likeness? We find it hard to believe that the owning of a particular piece of real estate would be so high on God’s list of priorities, for Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, not to own expensive and prestigious convention centers Remember that Phil Pringle is huge on church growth and these prophecies seem to be leading Kong Hee to see God in a bitter light.
KONG HEE PUBLICLY BLAMES PRINGLE FOR HIS MESS?
We hear Kong Hee tell this story again, this time more daringly.
“Let me tell you a scary story. [Audience laughs] This is Scary Movie Part 4- Part 5. [Audience laughs] Nineteen-ninety-five, nineteen-ninety-five, our church was a thousand people. We just moved into a new facility, and I was driving the bishop- uh- Pastor Phil- back to the hotel. And we passed by a brand new convention center called SunTec City. And Phil Pringle turned to me (true story), and you know how he does it. He slapped me while I’m driving. Slapped me- “Hey Kong! [Audience laughs] You’re gonna take over this building! This building yours! Hallelujah!” Pat! Pat! Pat! Pat! Pat! [Audience laughs] Reeeeaaar! [Audience laughs]
And- And then fifteen years later, we got the building. And now we’re in all this mess [Pringle laughs with audience ]. So, I told Pastor Phil, “You created this mess! You’ve got to come and help us fix it”. And he’s done such a great job!” - Kong Hee, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eESwC7MEAc0, Presence Conference 2012, Night Session, 11/04/2012.
[Edit 07/06/2012] Kong Hee again blames Pringle for his mess at Presence Conference 2013.
“I’ve learnt one thing about Pastor Phil: he’s a prophet of God. He’s very dangerous when he tells you that this building is created for you or built for you or developed for you. Because in 1995, he said the same thing to me. He said, “The SunTec Convention Center is- developed for you”.
And then, I just checked a video a few years- uh, just recently, Pastor Phil. In the year 2000 I think. Or 2001. You spoke to our entire congregation. And you said, “You know what? You guys are going to SunTec Convention Center”. And so we did. And all the troubles began.
So it’s all your fault, Pastor!” - Kong Hee, C3 Global Presence Conference, Day 1, Session 1, 2013.
Our question: why is Phil Pringle getting away with “influencing” people like this? Whether Kong Hee is right or wrong in his teachings, how can Phil Pringle get away with “influencing” Kong Hee by using God to make Kong Hee and Sun Ho risk their lives merely to do something impressive? We do not doubt their devotion, but devotion to a false prophecy is not admirable, but pitiful. If these ‘pastors’ have put everything on the line to submit to the ‘word of God’ through Pringle, how many people have done likewise in Pringle’s church? It is a truly worrying thought!
No matter how you look at it, Pringle is not merely dishonouring his own name or that of his C3 Movement, he brings absolute shame to the name of Christ. Pringle knows that his ‘prophecy’ has come at a “great cost to Kong, and even to [himself]“. In fact, Pringle has flaunted the ‘fulfillment’ of this ‘prophecy’ around his own movement to make wild claims that he is truly a prophet of God with truly prophetic messages to prophesy financial increase to those committed to his church movement.
To further understand how flippant Pringle is with the idea of the prophetic office, consider this piece of double-speak:
“I get the word of the Lord for different people around the world at different times, and I try not to deliver it in too much of a way that it’s perfect and infallible. I mean, I could get it wrong. But when I feel a word, I definitely say it to people. I don’t think it’s a credit to me—it’s simply a gift that God gives to people. If you can hear it, then it’ll definitely work for you.” - Phil Pringle, Faithful Friend, City News, http://www.citynews.sg/2011/04/faithful-friend/, 08/04/2011. (Accessed 06/01/2012.)
Now this is the great danger of this teaching on private revelations; it leads to people making claims that are treated in effect as infallible, while at the same time saying “I could get it wrong” and therefore having a get-out clause; all the authority of an Old Testament Prophet, but none of the responsibility.
Here is the problem, you see; if the word is really from God, then to disobey is sin. If it is simply some idle idea of Phil Pringle, then it is probably best ignored, but how are we to tell the difference?
The argument that those who teach that such revelations are given today is that they are to be tested by the Word of God. But here is the rub. How can one test the word, “Thus says the Lord, you shall buy the SunTec City convention centre” against the Bible?
Like that old standby, “Thus says the Lord, you shall marry Daisy”, it is so personal, so specific, that it really cannot be tested on the spot. And the very use of the ‘prophetic’ formula, as opposed to, “I think it would be a good idea if…” is manipulative in itself when used to someone who admires Pringle as highly as Kong Hee clearly does. Where a word is represented as coming from God, it comes with the implication of divine authority, whatever may be done in the way of hedging it around with ifs and buts.
Let us take heed what Kong Hee said: “”You created this mess! You’ve gotta come and help us fix it”. It is distressing to see Phil Pringle get away from ruining Kong Hee and Sun Ho. If Pringle says, “I get the word of the Lord for different people around the world at different times,” who will be his next victim?