When charges against Brother Yun was raised, NECF had to weigh his tainted reputution against the comments from reputable world evangelical leaders. The supportive comments, plus the time NECF staff spent with him travelling on the road while he was in Malaysia recently, helped NECF with its assessment of his character.
One of NECF Malaysia’s main objectives is to equip local churches for renewal and revival. To help fulfil this objective, NECF often organises seminars and conferences that meet the needs for the season of the Church. As a national body with strong international affiliation, NECF often has access to a wide network of international speakers, including renown, sought-after figures that a local church may find difficult to engage.
There have also been many occasions when foreign ministers, who are new to the Malaysian Church and trying to establish their ministries here, approach NECF for speaking engagement opportunities. How does NECF select its speakers, bearing in mind that its membership cuts across denominations with varied inclination?
NECF Secretary-General Rev. Wong Kim Kong shares some of the general guidelines NECF uses when considering foreign speakers.
Firstly, he/she must be an evangelical who is well known as a credible minister within the international evangelical circle.
Secondly, he/she must possess a unique and significant ministry. This means that the ministry has a focussed vision, and has contributed to the spiritual growth of its desired group.
Thirdly, he/she is not unreasonable in his/her requirements of the host. Examples of unreasonable demands are exorbitant fees or honorariums, first -class air passages, or six-star hotel accommodation.
What happens when the potential speaker is a controversial figure or whose reputation is riddled with rumours?
“Firstly, we will ascertain whether the rumours have any basis, bearing in mind that in our contemporary context, e-mails and other forms of media have been abused by unscrupulous people out to cause mischief and malign others,” Rev. Wong pointed out.
“Character assassination can be due to many reasons, such as differences in personality, doctrines and ministries; ministry rivalry; envy; or just plain mischief.
We Christians are as prone to these carnal temptations as anyone else, so it’s important to consider whether there’s any of these going on between the accusers and the accused,” he cautioned.
The information or accusations against the person concerned must be verified with various sources here and abroad, and not just one source, to ensure a fair hearing. “We will also weigh the general consensus here and abroad towards the person. For example in the case of Brother Yun (of The Heavenly Man), he is highly regarded by David Pawson and Dennis Balcombe, both who are respected evangelical leaders worldwide.
“Furthermore, his story in The Heavenly Man was written by Paul Hattaway, a renowned evangelical missionary who has a good reputation as a thorough and balanced researcher,” Rev. Wong explained. (For more of the Brother Yun controversy, see Berita NECF January-February 2005.)
Rev. Wong added that further examination would be conducted on the person’s doctrine and his/her organisation’s and personal financial accountability.
He revealed that NECF had once turned down a foreign minister’s offer to speak here because he rejected the Trinity doctrine. The US minister had authored several books and one of them was circulating well in Malaysia.
“We were considering organising a seminar for him to speak until we heard that he rejected the Trinity doctrine. After checking with several credible sources, we found the rumour to be true, that he only baptised in the name of Jesus, Jesus and Jesus. We decided to drop the seminar,” Rev. Wong said.
Another incident involved a pastors fellowship which asked NECF to support a conference they were planning for a certain foreign speaker, who claimed to pastor a congregation of 3,000 in the US. “We discerned falsehood and upon checking, found that he was a fraud. The conference was called off,” he added.
Then there was the case involving another pastors fellowship which had invited a renowned US TV evangelist to speak at their evangelistic and healing meetings. The meetings were finally cancelled because the speaker wanted one night’s offerings to be given to him, besides other requirements.
“There are dubious characters around, people with impure motives for personal monetary gains or self-promotion, so we need to be careful,” Rev. Wong cautioned.
But allowances should be given to foreign ministers who hold different theological leanings or interpretations that are not crucial to our fundamental beliefs. Take for example the rapture theories. Some ministers subscribe to the pre-tribulation interpretation, some push for post-tribulation while others take the middle road.
“We’ve had speakers shoving down the pre-tribulation theory with such passion at our conferences that it peeved those participants who were post- and mid-tribbers. That does not mean we endorse the speakers’ beliefs. But we allow this because it is within our perimeter. It is tolerable. It is not crucial to our doctrine of salvation,” explained Rev. Wong.
“In the end, don’t be taken in by people who come in with all sorts of claims. If in doubt and you sense something amiss, check with reputable sources here and abroad. But do allow for differences that are not critical to our fundamental doctrines,” he concluded.