I started to believe in Jesus and became a Christian on 2 May 1992 in a denomination church. At first it was a wonderful experience. I was happy to know such a loving and caring God. My days were filled with joy. Going to church, reading the Bible and praying were things I looked forward to do.
However, as months gone by, the dark side of the church began to emerge. It seemed to me that there were 2 layers of the gospel. The first layer is about the love of God – how God loves you that he gave his only Son. Salvation is by faith not works. This layer is used as a marketing gimmick to lure in non-believers to join the church. Once they were in, they will be guided to the second layer.
The second layer of the Gospel is about rules and regulations. It is the dark side of the church usually hidden in any evangelistic events. God demands you to do things for him. He demands you to go to church, read the Bible, pray, go for missions and give him money. Consequently, the things that I used to enjoy became a chore. There was no more joy. He will make you feel guilty if you fail to fulfill the list of chores. Even if you achieve them, he will tell you it is not enough. To make matters worse, the list of chores keep increasing every time I go to church. Salvation by faith has become salvation by rules and regulations. I felt cheated.
No only that, this church had been actively promoting missions. This means church wanted its members to join mission trips and become missionaries to tell people how wonderful this God is. The pastors were experts in manipulating and making you feel guilty if you did not do what they wanted. I was never able to get involved in missions because I considered missions as nothing more than a scam – luring people in using the First Layer and after they were caught, condemn them with the Second Layer. My greatest contribution to the world was not to introduce them to this oppressive religion.
My tolerance was over and the last straw that broke the camel’s back came when the church was planning to build extensions to the existing building. The cost was a few million dollars, which the church did not have. Their solution – squeeze church members for it. At that time, every Sunday service became fund raising campaign. Every manipulative tactic was used to get the church members to cough out the money they wanted. In the opinion of the church leaders, God had already provided the money for the building. It was in the bank accounts of the members. Therefore, it was the responsibility of the church leaders to squeeze them out at all cost.
I asked myself, “Can I trust these pastors anymore?” If they were acting for God, can I respect this God? What type of God will go around asking and manipulating people for money? I left the church.
I was in the dating phase then. So I went to dates’ churches. The good news was, none of them were planning to build anything, thus no fund raising no asking for money. Other than that, the message was the same, God demands you to fulfill the list of things. No more unconditional love for “old” christians.
I did not think that my first church was an isolated case. It was very unlikely that out of all the churches in Singapore, my first church happened to be the only one led by crooks. I suspect the reason why the rest of the pastors did not ask for money was they did not have a building program. So in every sermon, I said in my heart, “Sure, you can talk very well now, but the moment you need money I am sure you will turn into crooks like the pastors in my first church.”
I had no respect for pastors and their God. I don’t need a manipulative God who is only interested in lying and asking for money. However I also dated a Christian girl. I was not prepared to make a drastic change in becoming an atheist. So, my solution was to keep up the pretense. I will just go to church, pretend to be a christian but I will not bother with the messages and I will certainly not give them a single cent.
One day, we came across an unusual church in Suntec City. It was the New Creation Church. There were long queues of people waiting to go in. I said to myself, “Are they no other churches in Singapore that these people can go to? What type of fanatics are these, willing to queue for church service?” After all, based on my observation in other churches there had many empty seats.
That was not all. The stranger part was people were queuing to buy sermon tapes! Aren’t sermons a form of torture to be tolerated? How can anyone with a functional brain spend their money to buy these toxic waste? Of course, I was assuming that the sermons in New Creation Church have the same quality as the rest of the churches I visited.
One day, my girlfriend and I decided to go there after watching a movie in a cinema beside it. I agreed to go there because it was the nearest church from the cinema and I have to keep my pretense but I had decided not to believe anything they said.
The preacher was Pastor Joshua, preaching on salvation by faith through grace. I was amazed. I had never seen anyone so committed to grace. I felt a slight respect for this pastor but I was not going to be cheated again. I suspected that it must be an “evangelistic” sermon, focusing on the first layer of the Gospel.
I was sure if I visited this church often enough, I will get to a sermon on asking for money and promoting mission.
I was wrong. After a few visits, I realised that the message never changed. It was always salvation by faith and nothing else. No manipulations, no asking for money and no missions. This was contrary to my belief all this while. At last I have decided to stay in this church. If I want to pretend to be a christian, I want to do it in a church that is the least evil. I considered the New Creation Church to be the least evil not because I detect any signs of evil there, but it had became my belief system that the word “church” and “pastor” to be inseparatable from evil.
So, we registered for membership. I receive 2 free tapes from the church “Wisdom For Today” and “Benefits Of Tithing”. I tried it out at home. I chose the “Wisdom For Today” first because at that time I considered the word “tithe” to be as vulgar as “mission”. The experience was great! I enjoyed a sermon for the first time. I played the tape over and over again. For the first time after so many years, I was filled with joy and hope. I got to know God for the first time and realize that he truly loves me and not my money. I found a pastor who is not a crook! I still have the tape today but it is spoilt due to over use.
Then I proceeded to try out the “Benefits Of Tithing”. It was another surprise. I realize that tithing is an institution God uses to prosper me. I love it. After listening to the tape, I became very eager for my next salary because I wanted to tithe. For the first time in my life I look forward to tithing.
Thereafter, I became a tape addict. Every Sunday after church, I was queuing to buy tapes and listen to them repeatedly. Later I switched to CDs as I found that the tapes were easily spoilt when I play them repeatedly. New Creation Church is the church I got married in and I have been there till 2 years ago. I do not go there now due to time constrain and the distance from my home. My present spiritual food comes from Jerry Savelle Ministries International in which I am a partner. I will keep believing that one day all my present constraints will be gone and I will bring my family there again.