I think there’s a lot of miscommunication going on when people criticize New Creation Church’s teachings on law and grace – and also when the opposite occurs (i.e. when New Creation members or leaders criticize those who disagree with them). In my opinion, a lot of times both sides are just talking past one another. What I mean is that there is more common ground between the two sides (and I’m talking about matters relating to law and grace) than both sides would readily admit. I’m not saying there are no differences. There clearly are. But I think if cool heads prevailed, we’d be able to learn more from one another.
While I am from New Creation, I don’t agree with everything Pastor Prince says. I may disagree with a lot of things but I’m there because I agree that the overall emphasis of preaching and the Christian life ought to be on God’s love and grace for us, rather than on what we ought to do for Him. I believe that the indicatives of Scripture are much more important than the imperatives of Scripture. I also believe that if one of the church’s goals is to see Christians become more Christlike, the route to that is not to preach more law but to preach more grace. But I also do think some interpretations of Scripture in New Creation seem to be more forced upon the text to fit into their theological lenses of filtering everything through the lens of grace.
I love City Harvest Church (CHC) and I’ve attended there a bit since one of my best friends comes from the church. I respect the church greatly and also respect Pastor Kong Hee. It’s a really excellent church and I have to say that many times I feel more at home with the people there than at New Creation. The community there is much stronger and I love being in a strong community. I think both churches have their strengths and also their weaknesses. I’m a firm believer that God didn’t deposit truth only in one church or one tradition. The danger is for any Christian (pastor or otherwise, New Creation or City Harvest, etc.) to think he/she has got it all correct unlike other Christians. I think when we all meet Jesus, we’ll see how wrong we’ve all been in our thinking and theology – and especially in the way we treat other Christians who differ from us in doctrine. It’ll be a wonderful moment but probably also a difficult one for many of us who have been loyal and faithful to one leader or church or system of doctrine/teaching while looking down on others.
In my opinion, God has truly blessed New Creation with great revelation regarding grace, as He has blessed City Harvest with great revelation regarding engaging culture, just as He has blessed Bethel Church (Redding, California) with great revelation regarding how the normal Christian life ought to be filled with signs and wonders. All three churches have so much to teach the Christian world in the respective areas they are strong in and all of them are having an enormous impact in the Christian world.
Having said all this, I’m not a person who thinks that we should all just get along together and ignore theological differences and think everyone is right. I do believe there should be more unity and love between different Christians, but that doesn’t mean theology is unimportant. I love good theology and I love to think through theology because there’s always practical implications of theology on the Christian life. I believe in having convictions and even strong convictions on certain doctrines, but that shouldn’t affect how we treat Christians who differ from us. Our differences regarding the relatively non-essential doctrines ought not to blind us to the unity we have around the relatively essential doctrines. Doctrines like grace and signs and wonders are hugely important for me and my Christian life. However, in comparison to doctrines like justification by faith alone and the deity of Christ, they are relatively non-essential. (Arguably, our view on grace can affect our view of justification, but I won’t get into that here). While I’d strongly disagree with Christians whom I think are legalistic or who are anti-charismatic, I will never deny them the fact that they are my brothers- or sisters-in-Christ and we’re going to worship Jesus one day side-by-side.
When I talk about essential and non-essential doctrines, I’m thinking about the quote by St. Augustine which goes:
In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.
This means that Christians should unite around the most important (i.e. essential) doctrines. For less important ones (i.e. non-essentials), we should give other Christians the freedom and liberty to disagree with us. And of course, we should be loving always. So for essential doctrines, we ought not to allow compromise, but should be one (i.e. think similarly) on these doctrines. If a church preaches that Jesus is not God, we ought to speak out strongly against that. For non-essential doctrines, we can have strong convictions about them, but we really shouldn’t treat those who differ from us as if they are not Christians or lesser Christians. Our attitude should be one of allowing them to disagree with us and yet still treating them as God’s beloved children.
Of course people will disagree with me when I say doctrines like grace (in the sense that New Creation views it) or signs and wonders are non-essential. For many people, their pet doctrine cannot but be an essential doctrine worth dying for. I can’t accept that simply because I think God doesn’t accept that. God is bigger that that. It’s this dogmatic spirit that makes the fundamentalist Christians demonize every Christian who differs from them even in one iota. If every Christian acts in such a way, there will not be any visible unity whatsoever.
I may have angered some New Creation Christians above when I said that grace is not an essential doctrine. When I say that, I mean grace in the way New Creation believes it. Not many Christians believe it the same way as them, but I still believe other Christians and churches do believe in justification by faith alone. I think New Creation’s beliefs on grace are much more biblical than the beliefs of those that criticize New Creation. But I’m not about to be overly critical of other Churches and Christians who differ from New Creation to the extent that I divide the body of Christ. These churches and Christians may preach a confusing message of grace, but I still believe the Christians there are saved and that God blesses the truth in the confusion and blesses the Christians in spite of the confusing message preached. I’ve written many posts in this blog defending New Creation in a sense simply because I think attacks have been unjust. But I know that God is bigger than New Creation and the “grace churches”. And just as much as I think many so called “grace churches” can teach the body of Christ a lot about grace, a lot of other churches who are strong in other areas have much to teach these so called “grace churches”. We all need each other.
Well written; expresses nearly exactly how I feel about the whole situation. I also envision that when we’re all in heaven, we’ll all realize that we’ve all been right & wrong in some ways.
I often wonder how some Christians can be SO sure of their own particular bent of doctrines (in the ‘non-essential’ areas) as to ‘attack’ other Christians over it. Can they really be so sure that they’re right when one day they stand before Jesus Christ in heaven??
In summary, you were saying that different churches may be particularly anointed in expressing different parts of God’s Truths. It is my opinion that many Singaporeans are PARTICULARLY in need of the particular truths expressed through New Creation Church because of the ultra legalistic & ‘performance-based’ cultures/society we come from, which has so much influenced Singaporean evangelical Christians’ approach to biblical application over the years!!
My gut-feel is that New Creation (together with the other ‘grace’ churches) are nearer to the truth about Grace than their ‘opponents’, but there is also a small % of the New Creation Church’s ‘take’ on Grace that is a bit over-stretched.
But because it is on the whole nearer to the truth, I’d take their take over their opponent’s.
And also because New Creation’s ‘take’ on Grace, in a short space of time, actually had a lasting, stupendous transformative effect on my relationship with God. On the other hand, their opponents’ ‘take’ on grace, over many preceding years, only had a ho-hum effect on my relationship with God .. :-)
Totally agree with you there. Both the culture of the world (and maybe even more so in places like Singapore) and the general preaching of evangelical churches have created the need for a church like New Creation where grace is totally predominant. The number of people who have been transformed in New Creation and whose view of God has changed for the better speaks volumes.
I agree with you that the grace “doctrine” taught in NCC is “non-essential” with respect to being reconciled to God and going to heaven.
However, I believe that the grace “doctrine” is absolutely essential with respect to how we live out our salvation.
If I may draw from the analogy of the church being the bride of Christ (from my latest blog post “The Wedding”), the grace message is not essential to getting married to Christ (as evidenced by all the conversions in churches from all denominations or traditions) BUT I feel that the grace message is absolutely essential for a blissful happy marriage after the wedding.
I believe JP and NCC’s main concern is not merely getting non-Christians saved but just as importantly (if not more) is getting Christians to enjoy the Christian life the way God wants us to.
Yes, I agree with you that the grace message is very important for our relationship with God after conversion. I don’t agree totally with the way things are preached in NCC as I’ve mentioned in this post that I think few imperatives in the Bible are preached in NCC. Paul does a lot more in his epistles than is done in NCC, where hardly any imperatives are preached. As I’ve said in that post, the response to the legalistic, unbalanced and confusing preaching prevalent in so many churches today isn’t to go the opposite direction and preach only the imperatives and none of the imperatives. Rather, it’s preaching the imperatives grounded firmly in what Christ has done for us. Although, as I also mentioned, if I had to choose between the two opposite extremes, I’d choose NCC.
There is a big difference between NCC and CHC. Its very difficult to fault NCC because most of the sermon preached is very biblical and consistent.
For CHC, listen carefuly to Pastor Kong’s message and realise often the supporing verses used are not really relevant. I had this problem with CHC 15 years ago after taking down notes from the sermon. I take it as part of the package that comes with attending CHC. Just have to bear with it.
Psa91, yes, I’ve also noticed this because I have attended CHC services before. My close friend from CHC loves Pastor Prince’s preaching and listens to them all the time. I had a hard time convincing him to visit NCC and listen to Pastor Prince’s preaching, but once he did so, he recognized the great difference in preaching between the two churches.
NCC’s preaching is very focused on the Bible and is very solid. I think that’s the strength of Pastor Prince. He doesn’t get involved in too many things and knows the most important thing for a pastor is to spend time with God and get revelation from Him and then share it with the congregation. I think he has the time to do this simply because he doesn’t go around here and there doing this and that. Rather, I think he leaves the other responsibilities to other pastors, which I think is the proper way to do things. He knows his calling is to preach the revelations he receives from God.
My friend still attends CHC for other reasons. CHC is a great church too and their strengths are in other areas.
Hi, this was a post that was hidden inside me. :)
Thanks for bringing it out so succinctly.
I apologize for having plagiarized your thoughts. Must be that we both have the mind of Christ :) Glad to know I have a pastor on my side!!
I sympathize with the issue you raised. Due to my series of critical review on Joseph Prince’s book, I have received emails from concerned fellow believers who misunderstand JP.
There are a few classmates around me who simply criticize JP’s teaching without reading his book or attended NCC.
In view of that, I have decided to write a post to clarify one particular misconception on JP.
See if I represent JP correctly when you are free. I do not want to play ‘strawmen games.’
waytogo! life has never been the same indeed – i totally agree with the part you said about lives being transformed that speaks volumes.
The love of God. that’s what changes lives. period.
I’ve followed your series of posts on JP. I can’t remember everything now but I think my general impression is that while I wouldn’t agree with everything you’ve written on JP, I think you’ve been quite reasonable and fair in your posts. I look forward to any future posts you have on his theology and maybe I’ll drop some comments there.
Regarding your post, I think you do represent JP correctly regarding his stance against sin. I think he would be able to specify what are sins, although as you rightly pointed out, that is not his main concern in his preaching and ministry. Regarding his view of the ten commandments, this post was actually meant to be an introduction to a series of posts on the ten commandments. So I’ll have more to say about that soon, but I do think you represent him fairly – after all, it’s mostly quotes directly from his book.
Thank you for reading and comment. I wish that those who are intrigued by JP’s teachings would read his book to understand his theology. That would help to rid off the unnecessary differences.
I am so glad – Jesus is Grace — if I have to live by laws, I would be condemned
I am so glad – He forgives me first before I repent — He did not wait for me, to come wailing and howling Father I have sinned,but He showed His love, waiting for me from afar
Grace is what I need — not fulfilling laws, and demands
Thank God for Jesus —
I was so surprised that CHC wrote this in their Harvesttime.
a prominent megachurch pastor says, “When you come under the law by trying to keep God’s commandments in order to be blessed, it will lead to death. There will be deadness in your marriage, ministry, health, career.”
The message is clear: the Ten Commandments are unnecessary, oppressive, and maybe even downright evil.
I can’t believe that as a senior pastor he wrote this and took out of context what NCC is teaching. NCC never said that the law is evil instead they said they are holy.
This is a great post right here. My personal goal is to unite Christian churches to the message of the Gospel — the Essential. And NOT argue about the non-essentials. For me the non-essential can summed up in this statement: “Arguments about who is saved, who isn’t, who is no longer and who is saved forever –among the SAVED!” For the love of God, let us focus more on those who don’t know God and those who don’t know they need God. Our God is a God of knowledge; He doesn’t care who’s more intelligent among us. All He cares about is who loves Him with all his/her heart, soul, mind and strength. And who loves his/her neighbor as he/she loves him/herself (Mark 12:30-31). He wants people to know Jesus! We should all set this hundreds-of-years-long issue and let God explain in due time. Now let’s focus on the lost!
May Pastor Prince’s ministry reach out more souls. May Cesar Castellano’s ministry reach more souls. May Hillsong Church reach more [singing] souls. May all “Christians” focus on the reason they’re labeled such — Christ.
Let’s all infect people with Christianity!
Jospeh Prince is good ,Kong Hee is good.They are good not because of their preaching ,but because they are doing the work of Christ and have received the forgiveness from Christ ,Our adorable blessed Redeemer.Amen!
I have been listening to JP’s dvds for the past 5 days since I’ve been snowed in. Outside, the snow falls and swirls softly, like my mind as it contemplates on JP’s sermons and I flip to scriptures. I have spent hours listening, crying, and rejoicing. I know our Mighty God is healing me from past scars and it is beautiful how He works with each of us in the most intimate level. Although I am at my worst at the moment (unemployed and dealing with a difficult teenager), I have deep lasting joy and peace! I know my struggles will be conquered because God is good, He keeps His promises, and He listens to my prayers. He is good counsel, turn to Him. I will be patient as His timing is perfect. God bless!