Singapore's megachurches move to export lucrative religion
By Laura Philomin
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - "God is here, God is here," croons Singapore church official Sun Ho as she struts across a neon-lit stage and thousands of people in the congregation pump their hands and sing along.
Kong Hee, the church's founding pastor and Sun Ho's husband, then takes the stage. In keeping with the electrifying mood, he invites his followers to speak "in tongues" and a pulsing murmur echoes through the auditorium of 8,000 people.
During the service, ushers hand out envelopes for donations, which consume at least a tenth of the salaries of most church members, going to fund different ministries, mission trips and special events.
Welcome to one of Asia's most profitable churches: Singapore's City Harvest.
With a "prosperity gospel" that blends the spiritual and the material, City Harvest and other Pentecostal megachurches in the wealthy Asian city-state have perfected a popular and lucrative model.
Now they are working to export it to the world and turn Singapore into a hub for evangelical Christianity.
"We want to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth," said Pastor Bobby Chaw, City Harvest's missions director.
Evangelizing missions by City Harvest, including pop concerts by Sun Ho in China, Taiwan and the United States, have helped it gather followers across Asia and set up 49 affiliate churches in Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and India. Continued...