Joseph Prince founder of non-profit JP ministries
Joseph Prince founder of non-profit JP ministries

This may be hard for people to receive.

Why can’t a pastor earn millions of dollars?

If a Christian layperson is allowed to earn millions of dollars, why can’t his pastor? Is there one standard for Christians and another for pastors? Don’t we all follow the same Lord? We haven’t even got rid of the clergy-laity divide, and the sacred-secular divide shows itself.

Anyway the online articles have not furnished evidence that he really earned $500,000 annually and has net worth of $5 million. In fact the article was not backed by adequate or updated data. Quoting an online post that is sensational and is trying to get more hits, is not a good way to look for facts but this is what today’s online journalism gives us.

In fact the New Creation Church leadership council has reiterated what most Singaporean Christians already know. Joseph Prince has stopped receiving a salary from the church since 2009.

What is to stop a rich attendee from donating $100,000 dollars to Joseph Prince on any given day?

Why can’t Prince benefit from the royalties of his preaching and writing?

Who is to say he has not generously and secretly been giving large sums of money to the poor?

There are pastors who are bi-vocational and very rich.

There are pastors who inherited vast sums.

Or pastors whose wives bring home the millions?

What if a pastor bought a few Apple stocks decades ago and is now a very rich man?

Why do these pastors seem more acceptable than the pastor who earned them by preaching or writing?

By the way, Billy Graham is not a pastor. And neither is Benny Hinn. They are evangelists.

Maybe now more parents will encourage their children to be a megachurch pastor – adding this profession to the list of common ones.

What is your opinion?

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Good news for thousands at New Creation Church(NCC)

Whenever I have no idea of what is good to eat at any hawker center, I follow the Singaporean rule of thumb: look for the queues. Where there is a queue, the food is probably good. It has to be good if people are willing to wait patiently for it. Though it is possible the cook is slow or the system of delivery is bad, the likelihood is that the food is tasty.

So when New Creation Church became the only church where you had to queue to get a seat, the surmise is that the “food” is good. Of course we can be skeptical or cynical and say: its bad organizing or its a image projection or whatever. However, at the crux of it, you’ll have to admit: the queuing thing which went on for close to a decade without waning says something. The “food” has lots of satisfied customers. People, including pastors, may say otherwise. However the thousands of satisfied customers rub their stomachs and say, Jia pa pa (Eat full full).

(image from Stanley Facebook)

Now it seems the thousands of New Creation attenders have good news: they don’t have to queue anymore. They can book their seats online using their ez-link card number. Now this is a wonderful creative solution, one that meets a real need (even though people are actually willing to queue and wait). The pic above is what a booking slip looks like. So this is the true gospel for NCC members: no more queuing. I am happy for them. However if they are late, their passes will expire and the empty seats will be released for others and this is fair and encourages punctuality and responsibility. Technology and moving to the new facility at Star Vista has made this possible. Their first service will be on the 23rd of December 2012.

Instead of queuing just click.

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Form and function in education and worship

NTU new buildingWhen form fits function

Last week Channel News Asia reported a bold architectural design for its new Learning Hub. It made me think about form and function in education and worship. The design had tutorial rooms that looked circular and were stacked up into towers. The design was stunning and eye-catching. More importantly it’s form was aligned to its function beautifully. “The seven-storey learning hub will house 55 new-generation classrooms of the future, designed to support new pedagogies by promoting more interactive small group teaching and active learning,” is how Professor Kam explained the design. The building suited the pedagogies that maximized learning. I liked it immediately. It was Winston Churchill who said, ‘We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.” These NTU buildings will create a sense of community, like a family or clan gathered around a fire or a meal inside a circular shaped African hut or Mongolian yurt. The context of informality, collaboration and interaction will create a productive learning HDB church buildingenvironment.

When form and function diverge

The church building too should be an apt expression of its theology, worship, community and context. We have all kinds of church buildings in Singapore. The early church buildings in Singapore were forms imported from the west that gave token consideration to the Singaporean context, mainly its weather. Case in point is the oldest church building in Singapore: the Armenian Church consecrated in 1836. Most of the buildings in the 70s onward were pragmatic, space-maximizing utilitarian buildings built in the suburbs or in the HDB sites in the new housing estates. As land is scarce and expensive, maximizing usable space for various activities took priority over aesthetics. However I must say that the Catholics have done more justice in terms of constructing church buildings that aptly express their ideas of theology, worship, community and context much more than the Protestant churches. An example of this is St Mary of the Angels at Bukit Batok East, so beautiful it even won an architectural award.

starvista1The mega-churches impact form and function

The church scene today resembles the income gap we see in most developing countries. With the rise of the mega-churches like City Harvest Church and New Creation Church we are seeing astronomical amounts being spent on facilities of spectacular scale and impact and mixed usage. This is partly due to the limits placed on the size of buildings that can be constructed on the HDB sites made available for bidding. They would be grossly inadequate for their regular meeting attendances of over 20,000.
When God’s people realize they are God’s real building

On the other, hand there are hundreds of churches, gatherings of God’s faithful in sizes of 50 to 300 members who meet in purchased or rented premises in unglamorous industrial buildings, commercial buildings, private schools, houses, cinemas, hotels and other such buildings. These are churches who have a sharper realization that the church is not a beautiful or spacious or practical building that houses God’s people, but a gathered people and community that houses God. They know they themselves are the dwelling place of God. It is in living out this revelation that we see form and function finally in embrace in the living entity called church.

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Reactions to New Creation Church record $21 million fund raising

Joy Fang of My Paper reported today that New Creation Church collected $21 million in less than 24 hours!

In fewer than 24 hours last Sunday, members of the megachurch donated an impressive $21.1 million towards its multimillion-dollar building fund over four services held at Suntec City and Golden Village Marina. The sum breaks the church’s record of over $18.8 million raised last February, and $18 million raised in April 2008. In comparison, last year’s President’s Challenge raised a total of about $10 million for 37 beneficiaries. When “My Paper” broke the news last year that the church raised about $19 million in a day with about 21,300 people in attendance – what the church said was a “new record attendance and collection done during a worldwide recession” – it caused an uproar among netizens in online forums. This year, a record number of over 22,000 people attended the special service last Sunday,
called Miracle Seed Sunday. Church members donated money to help fund the construction of the Integrated Hub complex. Located at Vista Xchange at one-north in Buona Vista, the civic and cultural complex will house a 5,000-seat auditorium when it is completed in 2012. It is being co-developed by Rock Productions, the commercial- development arm of New Creation Church, andmall developer CapitaMalls Asia. New Creation Church will be the auditorium’s anchor tenant and hire the venue for its services on Sundays. With this new amount, the total sum raised so far by the church for the project stands at about $259 million, or more than half the $500 million needed.

There will be a wide range of responses from different people. Blogpastor imagines some:

Governance regulators: “Let’s keep a close eye on them!”

Politicians: “How can we get our party members to donate that much in such a short time?”

Finance/Marketeers: “It must be an investment scam!”

Organizers of President’s Challenge: “How can we harness religion for fund-raising?”

Christian idealists: “Why don’t they do the same for the poor?”

Secularist: “Churches should be taxed!”

Other megachurches: “Will we be able to match that?”

Small churches: “Can we have the crumbs that fall off the table of plenty?”

Parachurch organizations: “With that money, we can send 21,000 workers into the harvest fields”.

Fundamentalist: “20,000 deceived by prosperity doctrine in less than 24 hours!”

Roman Catholics: “How come our folks do not give as much?”

Gambler who lost $26 million at the casino recently: ” If only…….”

Unsaved dad: “I told you the church is filthy rich. Stop giving your salary to them!”

Arsenal fan: “We could get Shay Given with that amount!”

Blogpastor: “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord.”

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Megachurches: authorities curbing the giants’ growth?

bed too short for giant

Grey area

Religious usage of facilities approved for commercial use was a grey area. The previous guidelines were not clear. Can a church use a cinema hall? Or a hall in an office complex, hotel, industrial building or conference centre? No one knew. If no one complained, the authorities would let things be. The public concerns over recent megachurch plans have prompted the authorities to set guidelines. They have drawn a line in the sand. On the whole the clarity is to be welcomed, but it may affect the giants of the land: the highly visible megachurches.

New guidelines affect megachurches

One new guideline is: “Each religious organisation is limited to use up to 10,000 sqm in any commercial space at any one time”.  10,000 sqm is huge for a small or midsized church but likely a squeeze for megachurches wanting to expand further without increasing the number of worship services on offer. Doing an amateur calculation, if seating 1 person needs only 1 sqm, at least 10,000 should be able to have seating space. With seating for 5,000, the church will still have space leftover for other things like aisles, the  children’s church, reception area and other things. At least 3 churches will be taking out their calculators and talking with their architects.

Another guideline that puts a lid on growth is that it can only be used twice in the week. Saturday and Sunday services are what most megachurches in commercial facilities have presently. In other countries, some churches hold services almost every night because the weekend services have been already been maximized to meet the burgeoning congregation. This won’t be possible for the megachurches using commercial space.

Questionable motives?

It is doubtful that the authorities are trying to curb the growth of megachurches since the guidelines are quite generous. They say no religious group is being targetted but it was likely that the rise of the megachurches and their recent publicity raised issues that just demanded clarification. Whatever the case may be, churches are too resilient to be limited by physical space or guidelines. Especially with today’s technological advances.

Here is part of the guidelines but read the full online article in the

The guidelines, set by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and Urban Redevelopment Authority, allow some flexibility for the limited use of commercial premises for religious purposes, while ensuring that the main use of the building is not compromised.

‘Though religious activities are generally not allowed in commercial buildings, URA is prepared to exercise some flexibility and allow commercial premises to be used in a limited, non-exclusive way by religious groups,’ said joint news statement on Tuesday.

Some of the new rules set limits on how often regilious groups can use commercial spaces for their activities, and a cap for the space they can take up for religious activities in any commercial building at any one time.

For example, the maximum space within a commercial development that can be considered for religious use cannot exceed a total gross floor area of 20,000 sqm or 20 per cent of the total area of the development, which is lower.

Each religious organisation is limited to use up to 10,000 sqm in any commercial space at any one time.

The premises also cannot be owned by or exclusively leased to religious organisations.

Owners of convention centres must ensure that the reglious use does not compromise the staging for events during weekend, added the statement.

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