He made these far reaching comments having read the remarks of Mak Yuen Teen, associate professor from the National University of Singapore Business School after Singapore's City Harvest Church Pastor Kong Hee, Pastor Tan Ye Peng, John Lam, Chew Eng Han and Sharon Tan and two others were arrested for allegedly misusing $18m of church funds (au.christiantoday.com)
Mak Yuen Teen stated: "If you look at this organisation, you can see that the board was dominated by people who were essentially employees of the church. So, the question therefore is where is the check and balances in place.
"The board was not really independent of the management of the organisation. This case is also complex because you do have a number of individuals who are implicated in this case. So, if you have a number of individuals involved, it can make it a bit more difficult to detect and the risk becomes much higher in terms of governance."
The Christian Today / Christian Post article stated that Teo Chee Hean, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, clarified and backed up the church's statement that City Harvest itself has not been charged with any misconduct, and it is free to continue services and events.
The church's web site notes that Pastor Kong Hee is known throughout Asia as a dynamic speaker, communicating the message of faith in a very relevant and contemporary way. He has a strong vision to train 21st century leaders who would plant strong local churches everywhere in Asia, and his weekly half-hour television program 'Harvest Time' is (broadcast) many times in 107 countries through 6 television networks.
An Anointing Principle
Mark Tronson has observed over a life time in Christian Ministry that God raises up specific individuals in every nation who have vision, energy, capacity, leadership, Christ focused evangelistic passion, who raise up churches and missions from the 'skin of their teeth' as it were.
No one outside of these men and women of “such moment” can comprehend the “where-with-all” from deep within the resources of their spirits singularly led by the Holy Ghost to raise up such a ministry.
They have that well spring of divine anointing that draws to themselves those with supporting leadership skills, then followed by those who seek to be with someone whom God has so remarkably anointed for the cause of Christ.
It likewise centres on their overwhelming sense of Calling that brushes aside trouble maker challenges, almost always by those who have never tasted “gut wrenching founding a ministry capacities” that comes from deep within one's soul. Moreover, so much of the decision making is intuitive as led by the Spirit of God without reference to what is impossible. Their God is a God of the possible.
Such scenarios, says Mark Tronson, are seen across the board right around the world in the form of local churches and that of specific missions and ministries / missions.
In all such Christian work, the congregation or financial supporters give freely from their own resources to see the cause of Christ expand and as the church expands and develops its ministries, so too the income grows. It is a matter of faith.
The age old problem, says Mark Tronson, is that, if those without the vision and the heart wrenching where-with-all (as described above) get control of the money, and when they do so, sadly as evidenced time and time again, the entire ministry implodes into a module of restriction and sometimes disaster. Such persons create and cause as much drama as possible as their intent appears to prevent monies being spent in areas where faith is the determinant, not a business plan.
The governance of church monies is therefore the question at hand. Mark Tronson believes that an anointing in founding a church that becomes a mega ministry is incompatible with such over bearing governance. Herein lies the issue of balance.
Reverend Dr Gordon Moyes AC speaks of this in his radio series from his early pastoral experiences in that he would never have as his church treasurer an accountant. Faith steps and the raw statistics in accountancy are poles apart.
Obviously, the fiscal laws of the land in whatever country are adhered to, otherwise it is a green light for money mismanagement.
Mark Tronson says the courts in Singapore will make a determination in this specific case. If the prosecutors are right, recommendations will surely follow from the various bodies who are stake holders on that situation. If they are wrong, no doubt authorities will keep a keen eye on future church expenditure and inevitably, to get any compensation for making such salacious false accusations, will no doubt be difficult to say the least.
Who therefore controls church money?
In Mark Tronson's view, Christian ministry can never be governed as a profit and loss business. It has a different set of parameters. These are associated with issues of faith, vision, passion, capacity, leadership, evangelistic fever.
Church governance is finding those who will stand, as it were, with Moses and hold such visionaries' arms up so as to win the battle of faith and passion and capacity. Such helpers are greatly treasured and given by the Lord to those in leadership. Those closest ate there to impart fearless wisdom to leaders who make such financial decisions.
Mark Tronson says he finds it difficult to comprehend the illegality in Australia when the leadership of a church or mission expends their own finances in accordance with their legal framework, when the Federal Government passed the Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill (No.3) 2012 in the last week of June to counter the High Court's ruling on school chaplaincy funding.
In other words the Federal Government's executive rightly make such financial decisions - the Coalition and the Greens endorsed and voted for it - concurring with the Labor Government. This act lists 415 programs for which the Commonwealth may elect to spend money at any time. Some of these ''programs'' include ''sport and recreation'', ''domestic policy'', ''payments to international organisations'' and the ominous ''electorate and ministerial support costs and parliamentary entitlements support costs''. (www.smh.com.au)
Mark Tronson says that it always boils down to those who make the financial decisions. Christian governance inevitably includes responsible audits, a clear accounting to its members and there will be occasions where the nation's taxing authorities will engage in far reaching auditing of both the process and expenditure. He undertook such an ATO Audit in 1998 as Public Officer for the Sports and Leisure Ministry (SLM) which resulted in a clean bill of health.
Moreover Charities too are faced with a similar situation. In a recent report it was revealed that the McGrath Foundation, spent barely a tenth of the funds it raised from public and corporate donors in 2009-10 on the good works it promised. Instead, its accounts show, it banked the donations for future operations and has accumulated a $10 million piggy bank. Their executive make such financial decisions according to their own legal framework. (www.smh.com.au)
The theological issue for Christian Churches and Missions is a simply this, it all belongs to the Lord.
Missionaries who live by faith finance are ever-mindful of this and spend the little 'of whatever' given to them, with faith and are therefore rarely surprised by the divine multiplication principle.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html