My wife and I were members of Jesus Life House Hong Kong from Dec 2009 to Sep 2012. During these few years, the JLH HK pastor, Richard and leaders of the church, witnessed the dating between my wife and I, baptism, serving in the JLH, church wedding, post marriage life and lastly how Richard ultimately kick out of Jesus Life House and segregated us from the brother and sisters from the church.
In 2009, my wife (my girlfriend at the time) brought me to Jesus Life House HK, because her Hillsong church from Australia recommended her to go there after moving back to Hong Kong. Very soon, my heart was touched by God and after giving my salvation, I was immediately asked to join the life group led by the pastor. Pastor P’s Life Group was very be informal, me and the boys would gather together and share what happened over the week and use 2 min to share our journaling. We never really invested a lot of time on the Blue Book because the questions in it were either yes or no questions or lacked any depth in discussing the messages from the bible.
Very soon, Pastor P decided to move back to Australia, and Richard moved to Hong Kong from Japan to pick up the JLH HK Pastor role. After Richard’s pick up, Life Groups were becoming a mandatory thing if you want to go to Jesus Life House.
About a month before my wife and I got married, my wife’s dad got very sick and stayed in the hospital for a few weeks. Everyday my wife would go to the hospital to visit her dad after work which means she missed a few Life Group. Very soon, Richard and my wife’s Life Group leader asked to meet with us and without showing any care for my wife’s father health and her situation, Richard threatened my wife that if she missed any more life groups gathering, she has to quit her life group immediately because he argued that my wife is being a bad example to other life group members. Without any choice, my wife had to go to life groups the following week, and praise the lord; her father’s health slowly got better and was discharged from the hospital.
This strict attendance practice continued after my wife and I got married. One day wife had an infection was suffering a fever at home. I told Richard if I can take a day off from life group because I want to take care of my wife, but his only response was, “is she really that sick that you cannot just leave her at home by herself for a few hours? I was shocked to hear his replied but I insisted to stay home with my wife. A while after this event, one of the group members had a fever and was coughing seriously. However, he insisted to come to Life Group and Richard immediately praised him for his attendance in front of everyone. Throughout the next hour during the Life Group, the few us gathered around a small table in a coffee shop and the life group member who had flu was coughing and sneezing continuously.
The Ultimate Kick Out
My wife and I enjoyed the brotherhood and sisterhood in Jesus Life House because a majority of them were my wife’s friends and churchmate in Hillsong. Many of them helped a lot in our wedding and some of them were even bridesmate and groomsman.
About a year after we got married, one of my groomsman/ Life Group member and his girlfriend (both went to JLH HK and my wife had known them since they were in Hillsong Australia) asked us if we are interested to go to Korea with them for vacation. We understand that it is no recommended for a dating couple to go on vacation alone, so my wife and I discussed why not we just all go together because we were planning a trip anyways. We were sure that we would have fun together.
Also about a year ago, 3 set of dating couples in JLH (1 set of couple were from Hillsong) went on a trip to Taiwan, and there was no objection from the church nor from Richard, so we thought it would be a good arrangement for us to go as a group too. (After we were kicked out of JLH, I found that actually Richard did comment about them going on the vacation without early notification, but at the end he let them go without any consequences). Throughout our planning, we were very high key about it because we wanted to make sure people know we are going as a group.
Objection voices reached us about a week before our departure after our tickets and hotels were confirmed. A leader in the church contacted the guy and said for him and his girlfriend to go on a vacation with a married couple it would make them look bad because married couple are not accountable, people will assume married couple must share the same room when they go on vacation. The leader and Richard asked the guy to either look for more people to join the vacation or he can choose to not go, or else he will be withdrawn from the worship team and his Life Group immediately.
The leader and Richard never planned talked to me about this issue until I took initiative to ask them what was happening about our vacation. At first I called the leader, he briefly told me what happened and he said for details I should talk to Richard personally, because it was his decision.
So I called Richard and asked him why we cannot go on vacation if we will separate a room for boys and a room for girls.
Richard’s immediate reply was, “Married couple is not accountable, because leaders think that it does not look good if a dating couple go on vacation with married.”
I asked Richard, what makes you think that dating couple will not be tempted to share a room and why did you let the 3 set of couple go to Taiwan alone last year?
He replied, “Oh, because they are more accountable people and they are going in a group, so it is ok for them to go, but not ok for 4 of you to go.”
I asked, what makes a group? 6 or more people.
Richard said, “In Japan when we go to retreat, we go together with 20 or more boys and girls, that makes a group and this is how we keep each other accountable.”
I told Richard, I disagreed with his statement that married couple is not as accountable as dating couple when going on vacation in a group. In fact I said married couple should be more accountable because as a married man I no longer have temptation in terms of sex (or under any constraint of the sex before marriage issue, because I am married!) In fact, I can help safe guard my church brother during the trip especially I know I will be sharing a room with him.
Richard didn’t reply; he just repeated again that married couple is not accountable and it doesn’t look good.
I was ready to tell him that you were the pastor who led our marriage ceremony, but if you say as a married couple under your witness we had no accountability, why did you even participate in our wedding? Before I could speak any further, he said he cannot talk to me anymore because for me to call a pastor and say these kind of things to him, he said I was drowning him and wasting his time. He hung up on me.
A few days following the conversation, Richard messaged me and said I should not join the next Life Group and he and a leader would like speak to me in person. We met in a cafe and he prepared a full page of bible scriptures. Richard and the leader together bombarded me with the list scriptures, mainly saying I should not disagree with the pastor and leaders of the church. They said because I was planning this vacation with my church brother, I was pulling him down at church and as a brother I should not do this to him, etc… etc… They made me feel like I was about to start a rebellion in Jesus Life House and threaten their status.
After their sharing, I said, I just cannot agree with Richard’s thinking that married couple is not as accountable dating couple.
Richard said, I am just telling you what is in the bible, if you don’t agree, I don’t think you should go to Life Group anymore.
I said, we will still visit church, because we still have many brother and sister in there.
Richard said, “I don’t suggest you and your wife to go to Jesus Life House anymore if you disagree with my view.” I can suggest other churches to you, but then I don’t think you can find one that can agree with your view.”
At the end the 4 of us did go to Korea, and after the trip, my wife and I were kicked out of Jesus Life House. My church brother did not get kicked out because he didn’t speak out to the Pastor. At the end, he was only removed from his Life Group and removed from the worship team. But after a few months, he broke up with his girlfriend and very soon he is back on stage leading worship at Jesus Life House Hong Kong.
And very soon after we got kicked out, we started to lose connection to our brother and sister. No one except 1 person asked us about what happened, and it felt like as if we had never been to Jesus Life House before. And for my wife and I, we took a year break from church, from praying, and from any Christian related activity. It was just recently when we started to visit some churches, hoping to find one that fits us.
(Title added by the editor)
(To protect the witness, “Brother TC” is a pseudonym)