(Photo: REUTERS/Edgar Su)
Some of Singapore's biggest megachurches are seeking to expand their ministry on a global scale and engage the U.S. faith community, amid allegations of prosperity gospel teachings and misuse of church funds.
"We want to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth," said Pastor Bobby Chaw, the missions director of City Harvest Church, Reuters reported.
"Whatever method that can most effectively convey the message to our generation, we will do it," added Chaw, who is also the vice chairman of City Harvest's management board.
City Harvest, which along with its affiliates is said to have a membership of more than 30,000 people, is one of Singapore's large thriving megachurches, though its founding pastor, Kong Hee, is facing prosecution for conspiring with five others in misusing $41 million in church funds to help promote the career of his pop-star wife, Ho Yeow Sun.
The megachurch has reached out to people in China, Taiwan and the United States through such outreaches as pop concerts by Sun Ho, and has helped set up 49 affiliate churches in Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and India.
Other Singapore churches, such as New Creation and its founding pastor, Joseph Prince, have also toured the U.S., selling out arenas and even speaking at America's largest church, Joel Osteen's Lakewood in Texas.
Critics, such as Dr. Paul Choo, founding pastor at Gospel Light Christian Church, have spoken out against Hong's ministry, however, warning followers that the organization is a scam.
"This is NOT Christianity. This is NOT the gospel. This is a SCAM. PERIOD! Using the name of God is a financial scam," Choo said in a 2012 speech.
"We're not here to win popularity. We're here to tell the truth. If you go to church to be popular, you're in the wrong place. We came here because there's truth. Truth will set us free."
Chaw has rejected accusations that churches like City Harvest are "wealth-obsessed," but maintained that "prosperity is a byproduct of obeying God's commandments."
Terence Chong, a researcher at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, noted that a growing number of Singaporeans do indeed find a connection between faith and personal well-being.
"That's quite attractive to many socially mobile Singaporeans who, in going up the class strata, do look for some moral bearings," Chong suggested.