Joseph Prince: Support or Detract him?
A decade ago, I left my promising career because of a calling to be an evangelist. The first logical step was to go to a bible school. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t go to a bible school, but the school of the Holy Spirit. Graduation time to enter into ministry: Unknown.)
I asked my pastor then for his advice, and something he said stuck with me all these years. I didn’t quite understand what he meant at that time, but wisdom came with years.
I cannot remember the exact words, but it’s along this line: Study the Bible on your own and grow in your understanding of Jesus first. To form a basis of understanding before going to school. In this way, you can attend classes with critical thinking and challenge teachers with the right questions. It means not blindly accepting everything the teachers teach. That’s because not everything the teachers teach will be right. Each of them interprets the bible with their own understanding and worldview.
I once was impressionable, thinking the authority must be right in everything. Now, I see the need for wisdom to know what teachings to accept and reject. The same goes for parenting advice, or any other advice and news. Wisdom to filter away false teachings and news, and bad advice.
These days with social media and a wide range of sermons on YouTube, it’s more important now than ever to have wisdom over what we listen and watch. The wisdom to glean the truth from the gems, and reject the impurities.
I listened to one teaching recently and was perturbed. In an Anglican Bishop’s sermon, he said Ps Joseph Prince of New Creation Church (“NCC”) is promoting a god of his own making, leading many Christians into idolatry. In his presentation slide, he gave a website that mainly refutes the teachings of Ps Joseph Prince. The website is by George Ong (revgeorgeong.com). Am I one of the foolish sheep?
There are detractors of Joseph Prince (“JP”). However, this bishop disturbed me because he was a guest speaker in a church helmed by the pastors of my youth. Pastors I personally know and trust, one of them was the one who gave me the advice at the beginning of this post. It’s like they endorsed this guy who is putting down another brother-in-Christ on the pulpit. Oh, probably this bishop is like George Ong who said on his website, “I do not treat Joseph Prince as a brother-in-Christ.”
In any case, God did say to love our enemies.
Also, it’s normal/common to have clashes in theology, but is it something to be brought on the pulpit? Come to think of it, I think pulpit should be a place to proclaim about Jesus and His word, not argue who’s the greatest or least among the disciples, lest we stumble those who are weaker in faith.
Joseph Prince’s Detractor
I read through the website, and George Ong seems to have devoted most of his time to study Ps Joseph Prince’s teachings and debunking them. 4,800 pages of refutation. I rather use the time to read the whole Bible twice than these pages. He even has YouTube videos to refute Ps JP.
Something doesn’t feel right in the spirit as I read through his website. I couldn’t even bring myself to sit through his actual teachings. How can I trust someone who seems to be spending more time dissecting another preacher’s sermons than studying the Bible?
George Ong points people to darkness (if he believes JP is darkness) in an attempt to ask people to leave the darkness. If the people are truly in darkness, I think it’s more effective to point them to the light to follow than push them out of the darkness. People don’t like to be told that they are wrong. So calling out their “mistakes” might not necessarily be the best way. This is the same as reaching out to another minority group (which Christians generally don’t agree with their orientation).
Few days after reading the website, my critical thinking kicks in. George Ong calls himself a reverend. Reverend of which denomination? There’s no “About Me” section on his website and so I did a quick search. I cannot find anything but a line in this promotional video list: “Rev George Ong is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God Singapore for many years.” Even this sounds dubious.
I read through the accounts of past ex-NCC members on the website, and I understand their concerns. Even before I read these accounts, I already raised eyebrows on some of the practices. So I agree with some of the points raised. No church is perfect though.
Certain points valid:
- Why JP only preaches in rich and not the poorer countries?
- I don’t like the excessive exaltation of JP in life groups, and ministry gatherings. I hear more praises about JP than Jesus from the church. Why keep talking about how good JP teachings are and not the words in the Bible, or power of Jesus?
- Note though, George Ong has a testimony section on his website that feels similar — celebrating the impact of his teachings in people’s lives instead of testimonies of Jesus in their lives.
- NCC gets cultish on a superficial level too. Other than JP this and that, I personally feel that the appearances of the inner inner circle are similar to the pastor’s style — dressing and hairstyle. Or probably they just have the same stylist.
- Why is fasting not actively encouraged by JP or in NCC? I remembered he mentioned about not believing in fasting under new covenant, or doesn’t matter if we fast. But now I see that he does fast in this article updated in May 2021.
- Why are there no bible studies organised in NCC? I believe the church should equip Jesus’s followers with the tools to study the bible on their own. To give them the tools to critically think and not blindly accept all of JP or anyone’s teachings.
The above points did shake my faith in Ps JP from time to time, but not to the extent of leaving the church. Recently, I’ve been contemplating changing church, but more for the children and other personal reasons.
Certain points invalid:
- “I heard of cancer patients in New Creation Church who denied medication and treatment and died believing they will be healed.” (Source)
- I did hear Ps Joseph Prince telling the congregation to see a doctor and take medication, along with partaking the Holy Communion.
- “Before leaders are appointed in NCC, they will have their tithing record checked before being appointed. They will have to show that they are tithing regularly to the church. Interestingly, Joseph Prince preaches grace and against law, and yet, he institutes such rigid ‘law’ to check people’s tithing record before they can be appointed to leadership.” (Source)
- Ps Joseph Prince preaches grace, but also accountability as well. In our years in NCC, we were never coerced to give money. The pastor even asked those who are not from the church not to tithe at NCC, but at their home church. Our friend from NCC once had a windfall and wanted to give to the building fund. NCC said they had enough funds and redirected him to donate the money to their external partners — ministries in third world countries.
JP’s teachings for me
It’s refreshing to hear JP’s message in the beginning. However, after a while, the message is the same, and it doesn’t feel like fresh manna. Perhaps this manna was given to him when he started his ministry, and then… well, make a guess. His books are thin in content — filled with people’s testimonies and reads like one of his Sunday sermons, carrying a similar tone/message. So I don’t really recommend his books.
Moreover, the over-positive filled message from Ps Joseph Prince did make it harder for me to deal with life disappointments. I even blame God for not granting my prayers (wishes). I had faith in God, but why am I not protected from this and blessed with that, when there are so many testimonies of Him doing so. In fact, believing so much in God (as a genie) lifted my expectations and set me up for disappointments. Instead, I needed to learn that God is good, all the time — in both good and bad times.
But there are also many good parts of his message. I know of many long time believers who grew up in church being set free by JP’s teachings. It’s like “the truth will set you free” kind of feeling. Legalism and the bondages of church practices suffocate many people of my generation. Are these “legalistic” pastors we know false prophets and not brothers in Christ? Or genuine leaders who make mistakes?
I have a friend from the baptist denomination who doesn’t believe in speaking in tongues. But I believe. Is he not a true believer? Is his pastor a false prophet? Or am I the false prophet by telling him I believe in speaking in tongues?
The Methodist Church has become the largest religious denomination in Britain to permit same-sex marriages. A vote to change the definition of marriage at the Methodist Conference on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed by 254 in favour with 46 against.BBC News
Then how about the Methodists? They have spiritual authority for many years, but now 254 of their leaders are diverging from what we know of the Bible. Or do they know something about the Bible we don’t?
That’s why it’s so important to study the Word of God ourselves for the basis to discern. To pray for wisdom to discern what’s right and wrong. And to pray for the courage to stand for what we believe in.
Am I a true Christian?
On George Ong’s website, Andrew tan (Source) said, “Rev George Ong ranks amongst the few like John MacArthur, Michael Brown, Justin Peters, Paul Washer and Steven Anderson who stood up against the numerous false preachers like Joyce Meyers, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Bill Johnson, Steven Furtick, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Jesse Duplantis, Jerry Savelle and Creflo Dollar (aptly named by his greed).”
Reading the website made me questioned myself. For a moment, George Ong made me doubt myself as a Christian. Am I even a believer for listening to all these false teachings? Have I been believing in the wrong things about God for so many years?
I am in the church of Ps JP.
I listened extensively to the online sermons of Ps Bill Johnson for a long time. He’s a false prophet?!
I was a big fan of Ravi Zacharias, and that scandal happened. He committed the sin I abhorred the most. No one called him out when he’s alive, but God revealed.
The case of Ravi leads me to believe that God in His mercy will expose the bad shepherds. It’s just a matter of when. If Ps JP is indeed a wolf in sheep’s clothing, God will reveal it in a definitive way. God will not allow a bad shepherd to lead His sheep astray. Look back in history, and you can see exposés and downfalls of pastors, regardless of how big or small the church is. Time will tell. In the meantime, anchor our trust in the Lord.
Prosper in Christ, or Be Poor?
I was listening to Ps Bill Johnson’s sermon about kingdom abundance. What he was preaching can be controversial. About money and prosperity. Prosperity gospel sounds scandalous. But money is so vital. Church buildings need maintenance. Ministries need funding. Poverty breeds crime.
Not sure why, something came to mind when I listened to that sermon, and I was prompted to write this post. Perhaps because JP has always been blasted for preaching about blessings (some people insinuated it as only prosperity blessings).
God built His temple in gold, pure gold. Where thou the gold comes from? From rags or riches? Think today, it will be considered a splurge to build a church with expensive materials, let alone gold. Why not use the money for the poor, people will say.
Anyway, no one can please everyone in terms of doctrines. It’s like the parable of “The elephant and Blind men” from the ancient Indian subcontinent. The group of blind men is akin to the group of preachers/pastors, and the elephant is like God. Each preacher speaks strongly on the different aspects of God — one is God of grace, another God of law. To one, grace is a “dirty” word. To another, “repent” is.
A group of blind men who have never come across an elephant. They touch it to learn what an elephant is like. Each blind man feels a different part of the elephant, but only one part, such as the trunk or the tusk.
They then describe the elephant based on their limited experience. Their descriptions of the elephant are different from each other. In some versions, they suspect that the other person is dishonest and they come to blows (sounds familiar here?).
The moral of the parable is that humans have a tendency to claim absolute truth based on their limited, subjective experience as they ignore other people’s limited, subjective experiences which may be equally true.Wikipedia: “The elephant and Blind men”
Shine the Light!
One good thing that came out of reading George Ong’s website is that I should focus on being the light of this world. Like Jesus is. Of course, my light is because of the light of Christ in me.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”John 8:12
So I decided to stop procrastinating and continue the recent writing project God had led me to do.
Preach the truth and shine the light. Join me, and be the light.
P.S. The above are just my thoughts, and by no means accusatory. I am easily affected by unfriendly fire from commenters. So I might delete toxic replies of anger and hatred, or those not spoken out of love and wisdom.