Goh Ewe Kheng: servant leader

GOH EWE KHENGThe session of the Pastors’ Conference organized by Tung Ling had ended. Pastors and leaders stood up to stretch, look for the restroom, or just stand around and chat. A grey haired man went about with a carton of packet drinks to serve the pastors. He dressed simply and looked ordinary, though he was a very wealthy businessman and notable church leader. He was a great influence in the local and wider church and in the marketplace. He was one of many pioneers who unknowingly could be modelling a bi-vocational church and marketplace leadership that will increasingly needed in the decades ahead. He is Goh Ewe Kheng, one of my favourite sermon illustrations of humble and faithful servanthood. So when I read an article about him by Edmond Chua in the Christian Post, I just had to link it. He wrote:

Elder Goh Ewe Kheng is the quintessential minister in the marketplace. He started church ministries, preached, co-founded a denomination and participated in the governance and activities of over 30 committees, all while running a business. The passion of the 87-year-old Founding Elder of the 7,640-member Church of Singapore passion to serve God began at an early age.

Continue reading about the personal and family life of this inspiring marketplace and church leader HERE.

Charismatic renewal turns 50!

Rev Dennis BennettI read Dennis Bennett’s bestseller, “Nine O’Clock in the Morning” in the late 1970’s and enjoyed the story of the Episcopalian priest and how he encountered the Holy Spirit’s power in his conservative parish and got thrown out. He was one of the few men of faith instrumental in spreading the message of the baptism of the Holy Spirit to the mainline denominations, giving impetus to the growth of the charismatic renewal.

The beginning of the charismatic movement is thus appropriately and meaningfully dated as 3rd April 1960, the date when this Episcopalian(Anglican) priest announced to his church that he had experienced a “personal Pentecost” and spoke in other tongues. It took courage to do that, and as a result he lost his job, and the message spread beyond one congregation. His story even got into the newspapers, Newsweek and Times magazine. The charismatic renewal went across America, and around the globe:

Charismatic renewal has since swept the globe, though Pentecostal scholars say its growth has slowed in the U.S. “The movement began to wane in America by the mid-1990s, but it continued to grow all over the world tremendously, especially Africa, Asia and South America,” said Pentecostal historian Vinson Synan, dean emeritus of the Regent University School of Divinity. “Today there are 640 million Pentecostals and charismatics. It’s still the fastest-growing part of Christianity.”

Stanley M. Burgess, a professor of Christian history at Regent University and editor of The Encyclopedia of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity, says one-third of the world’s 2 billion Christians are charismatic or Pentecostal. “The greatest explosion is now occurring in China,” Burgess said. “It’s a combination of Pentecostal and charismatic. Within 10 years, we expect that China will be the most Christian nation on Earth, and that’s just stunning.”

Richest Singapore churches

The following data of churches with annual income of over $10 million comes from the internet but was first communicated by the Commissioner of Charities (Sep 2008). I have always wondered which were the richest churches in Singapore. Now we can all have a peek and know, in order of funds collected, who they are:

NUMBER 1: NEW CREATION CHURCH

one northLocation: Worships at the Rock Auditorium in Suntec City Mall.

History: Founded in 1984 by a small group of young believers who wanted an independent, non-denominational church. From 25 members, the congregation has grown to 16,000 now.

Led by: Senior Pastor Joseph Prince, a Singaporean in his 40s.

Income: $42.8 million for its financial year ended this March.

Income source: Tithes and offerings, sales of goods, income from interest

Business arm: Rock Productions has invested about $280 million in a tie-up with property giant CapitaLand to develop a $660 million lifestyle hub in Buona Vista. In 2001, Rock Productions bought Marine Cove, a cluster of food and beverage outlets in East Coast Park, for about $10 million.

NUMBER 2: CITY HARVEST CHURCH

chcLocation: Holds worship services at S’pore Expo and Jurong West Street 91.

History: Founded in 1989 by Reverend Kong Hee.

Led by: Reverend Kong, 43, is married to pop singer Ho Yeow Sun.

Congregation size: About 23,000

Income: $30.9 million last year.

Income source: Tithes and offerings from church members.

NUMBER 3: FAITH COMMUNITY BAPTIST CHURCH

fcbcLocation: Holds its services at the Singapore Expo and Marine Parade Central.

History: Founded in 1986 by Pastor Lawrence Khong.

Led by: Senior Pastor Khong, who was awarded the Public Service medal at the National Day Awards in 1998.

Member strength: Close to 10,000.

Income: $27 million last year.

Income source: Tithes and offerings.

NUMBER 4: TRINITY CHRISTIAN CENTER

trinityLocation: Adam Road and Paya Lebar Road.

History: Founded by American missionaries Reverend Glen Stafford and his wife in 1969 with 10 people.

The church now has a congregation of about 5,500.

Led by: Reverend Dominic Yeo, 46, who chairs the centre’s eight-member board.

Income: $14.2 million last year.

Income source: Tithes and offerings by congregation.

Some observations

As I look in a cursory manner at these figures all kinds of observations and questions come to mind. Firstly, where are the Roman Catholic churches? Which is the richest church in Singapore? It has to be the Roman Catholics when it comes to assets. The properties, especially the land they own is estimated to be worth S$18 billion. Just think of the churches you know, and the location of the property and you will believe they are together worth billions.

Secondly, New Creation Church raised more funds than City Harvest Church even though the latter is bigger by 7,000 in attendance. My surmise is that this is probably due to the fact that NCC is now in the midst of a mega building project, and God’s people are willing to give to a specific desirable purpose. They have many businessmen and I think they are tired of queueing up! However, news of an impending fund-raising for a new church facility in the central south of Singapore will mean CHC will be raising the hundfreds of millions, in the next quarter.

Thirdly, what happened to the Methodist Churches -also reputed to be rich? The Wesley Methodist is much vaunted to be the dwelling place of the rich and famous. Their giving should pass the $10 million annual income category but it was not so. Some say Barker Road Methodist Church has overtaken Wesley in this respect, but I think they have more luminaries than treasury.

Fourthly, the image of the “working class” Pentecostal has been broken, by the inclusion into this category, of the highly organized Trinity Christian Centre, an Assemblies of God church, an attractive magnet for the Pentecostal who has surpassed his parent’s roots in the working class. One other reason is also they are still rasing funds for the new church campus in Paya Lebar.

Its been a year and a half since the report was published and I do not think things have changed much.