On 1 March, City Harvest Church held its first Marketplace Dinner in eight years. Pastors Kong Hee and Sun brought fresh vision to a new generation of believers in the marketplace.
It was a night that ushered in a new era for those in the marketplace: business owners, corporate leaders and workers. It has been eight years since the Marketplace Ministry last held a dinner like this: 90 tables filled Halls 603 and 604, while buffet stations peppered the auditorium, drawing snaking queues to partake of salads, hot dishes and desserts.
But more important than the feeding of stomachs, was the feeding of the soul. After a time of praise and worship, two business owners shared their testimonies of how God came into their businesses and their lives at a time of crisis.
THE GOODNESS OF GOD
James Pang and his family came to church in 2019, and he is today serving in CityWorship as a drummer. He launched My Drum School in 2009 and in 2019, he wanted to expand and grow the business and took out a $200,000 loan. However, 2020 turned out to be the most challenging year of his business, thanks to Covid. Overnight, students could not come to his schools as tuition and enrichment centres were the first places to be affected by safe distancing measures.
With 48 staff members to support, and the loan to pay off, James found himself shaking and crying on his bed in fear and worry. But instead of giving up, he called on his staff and his cell group to pray for ideas to survive this crisis, and his team came up with a new online curriculum in a matter of days. They informed their 800 students that they were taking all lessons online, and by the grace of God, managed to retain 75 percent of their students.
Two weeks after lessons went online, Singapore entered the Circuit Breaker. As all their staff were trained for Zoom lessons, their livelihoods were preserved, and James was even able to give his staff a year-end bonus that year! Throughout the Covid years, My Drum School even conducted three virtual recitals, which attracted 200 Zoom participants. By 2022, James had paid off all his loans. Today, he has a staff of 50 people, and last year he was able to bring them all on a trip to Vietnam.
Another entrepreneur in CHC, Don Tan, told of his rollercoaster journey with God in the driver’s seat. Don has been in CHC for 13 years. In 2013, he co-founded digital marketing company Visibiliti, experiencing rapid growth in seven years. But in 2019, God called him out from the company he had spent all his time and energy building. Don admitted he was tempted to ignore God and enjoy the financial stability his company offered. However, he chose to obey, and sold off all his shares to his partner that year.
In 2020 he took out a loan to started an online business but Covid happened, and he lost all his savings and found himself in debt. Fear, anxiety, shame and disappointment filled his heart. At the same time, he and his wife Vivien had embarked on IVF in the hope of having a baby, but finding themselves in such financial difficulties led Vivien to suggest giving up on the procedure. That was the lowest point for Don, knowing his “mistake” would cost them parenthood.
But God intervened. In a Zoom prayer meeting, Don and Vivien received a word that was supernaturally accurate for their situation. The minister told the couple that God wanted to restore everything to them, and to not give up on their dream of having children. Before long, Don had an opportunity to enter into a joint venture with a digital marketing company, and within one year, all his debts were cleared.
In 2021, Don started iFoundries, a full service digital marketing company, and this year it is on track to hit a seven-figure turnover. God kept His word: Don and Vivien are the proud parents of Minora, following their first IVF procedure.
A MESSAGE FOR KINGS AND QUEENS
Pastor Kong and Sun took to the stage to greet the 883 marketplace Christians present. “I am filled with so much joy,” said the pastor. “To meet a whole new generation of business people.”
Sun added, “My heart is full… I get to meet new, old, good friends. The Bible says it is good for brothers and sisters to dwell in unity.”
Pastor Kong shared the Marketplace Committee had been rebuilt for this new season, and it comprises Pastor Bobby Chaw, Pastor Wu Yuzhuang, Eric Soo, Victor Wong and Pauline Kong—a lean, committed team that will be leading the charge to strengthen church members in the marketplace.
Pastor went on to preach a message titled “Kings And Priests”, based on a sermon that Charles Nieman of Abundant Living Faith Center had preached at CHC in its earlier years. Revelations 5:10 says Jesus has made us kings and priests to God the Father. Kings and priests work together in divine partnership, said the pastor, naming Moses and Aaron as an example, a king and a priest working together, needing one another.
Pastor Kong pointed out that believers live life on two levels. In one’s personal life, one is both a king and a priest: as a king, one fights battles for his family, and as a priest he prays for his family. In his corporate church life, a believer is either a king or a priest.
“It is critical to know which one you are,” said Pastor Kong. “Once you are settled in your calling, you can grow and excel.” He went on to give examples of Christians who were called to be a king, but who were told they were not fulfilling their calling unless they were in full time ministry. However, their growth remained stunted until they finally functioned in their calling and thrived in the marketplace. The vice versa is also true.
“Whether you are a king of a priests, neither is a lesser call,” emphasised the pastor. “Both are challenges and filled with fallen people. What is important is that you are placed where He wants you to be. When you are out of your calling, you won’t be blessed and you may end up hurting people.”
Pastor Kong gave the example of King Saul, who was called to be the first king, but he wanted to function as priest also. In 1 Sam 13, Saul had waited seven days for the prophet Samuel, but he grew impatient and decided to offer up the burnt offering himself. Samuel finally arrived and said “What have you done?” Saul had failed to keep God’s command.
“A king mustn’t try to function as a priest,” said the senior pastor, underscoring his point with David’s attempt to bring the Ark back to Jerusalem on wheels (2 Sam 6). Uzzah was struck dead when he touched the Ark to prevent it from tipping over. David realised his mistake was trying to do the job of the priest—the Ark was only to be carried on the shoulders of the Levites.
“Why can’t you just switch roles?” Pastor Kong spoke what must have been on some minds.
“The calling to be CEO is different from the calling to be a pastor,” he explained. “The anointing is not the same. The value is also very different. In the marketplace, the bottom line is how much profit you make. For church, the bottom line is souls.”
He acknowledged that there were a rare few that had the calling to be both king and priest. Paul was one such example: he was a tentmaker and an evangelist. David and Solomon were kings that functioned powerfully as prophets. He said that he and Sun too were tentmakers at one time, running a series of clothing stores before shutting them down after seven years.
“But it was very hard to focus,” said Pastor Kong. “You can’t grow a business if you don’t give it time, energy and focus. Sun and I were more interested in church and in winning the lost.” Similarly, one must give 100 percent of one’s time and energy to make one’s ministry succeed.
Quoting Proverbs 29:18, which reads “Without vision, the people perish”, the pastor explained that “the primary responsibility of priests is to provide vision.” The priest has to provide good teaching and guidance, revelation from the Bible, and to inspire the king. “Vision has tremendous pulling power,” he added.
Going to 1 Kings 18:41, Pastor Kong showed that Elijah saw a vision, and he started praying. “The priest’s job is to pray,” he noted. Elijah made his servant go up seven times to check the sky and when he saw a small cloud, his master sent him to tell Ahab to prepare for rain. “Ahab believed the prophet,” the pastor emphasised. “He was smart enough to listen to Elijah.”
On the other hand, the king’s job is threefold: to protect, provide and plunder. He must protect his people from harm, provide for them, especially those who struggle, and plunder and subdue the wicked, that is, right wrongs and fight injustices.
“These are all your responsibilities,” Pastor Kong addressed the room. “Protect the vision of God for CHC. Safeguard the vision, don’t allow it to die. Provide for the vision—Christianity has been around for 2000 years, yet there are many who have not heard the name of Jesus. God has given CHC a great vision, we have seen six waves of revival, but if you can’t prosper this house, it cannot progress. God has chosen to work through His kings to bring the provision.”
Plunder is, as the late Reinhard Bonnke urged the church, to plunder hell to populate heaven, that is, to win souls. Reaching the marketplace is not easy, Pastor Kong noted, “but you meet them daily, you are all captains of industries. Every day you spend more time with people in the marketplace than you do in church.”
The pastor declared that he cannot teach church members how to make their first million, but he can show them what is in the Word, and teach them to be sensitive to the Word. “My job is to help you grow in the Spirit,” he said, “But you must do your part. In this marketplace ministry, we are in a divine partnership.”
CATCHING THE VISION, DOING GREAT THINGS FOR GOD
Pastor Kong then invited the attendees to fill up a vision card available on every table. The cards were collected and Pastor Bobby prayed over the cards, declaring every vision to come to pass. Pastor Kong prayed for divine favour from God to surround every king and queen in the room.
“Kings should not be shy about wanting to do great things for God, to earn lots so that you can provide for your company, your family, and for the vision of the house of God,” said the senior pastor. “And kings are excited to share the gospel.”
Sun released a prophetic word for those who were experiencing hurt, who doubted God’s goodness and faithfulness. “Tell God your disappointments, don’t put up a façade,” she urged. “You are safe in this house, this is your home, you can run back to people who will cover you.”
Pastor Kong led the people in a faith declaration to end the night. “We are kings and priests for the glory of God!” he said.
“Tonight’s marketplace dinner was a testament and reminder of the faithfulness of God working in our lives,” said Eunice Ong, 41, a data compliance officer and her husband Adriel Lim, 43 who is in sales and marketing. “As we caught up with friends we had not seen for years and chatted with our co-labourers in Christ, it was clear that God is so good to us!”
Joshua Kartono, a financial advisory director in his 40s, was blessed by the evening, particularly by the fact that the vision cards would be prayed for by the pastors and intercessors. “For all of us who are called to be a leader, the role of a king is to excel our calling in the marketplace,” he said. “So I know I am called to be a king. I pray I will be so anointed and used by the Lord to protect the vision given to our church, to provide for the vision for my business and team, and to plunder the kingdom of darkness. I pray I will be a life changer to the people I meet and a good servant leader in my field.”
For Adalia Tan, 37, who works in a bank in a CSR function, this was the first time she had attended a marketplace gathering. She came to the meeting because “I wanted to hear from Pastor Kong about our role and place in the marketplace and the vision for working adults like myself,” she said. “It was also something I wanted to know, being a cell group leader over adult.”
Like Joshua, Adalia’s takeaway was the three P’s, “To protect, provide and plunder in our role as kings in the marketplace. Over the last few years, I have witnessed how God protected the livelihoods of members in the marketplace and seen promotion and increments happen in the lives of members even in the midst of the pandemic. So, I have seen how God protects the vision of the church and provides through the members for the work of the ministry.”
“In my heart, I feel that we could do more ‘plundering’,” she adds. “As we go about our daily lives at work, there are legacies that we can leave behind and impact we can create through our jobs. But more than that, at the dinner, I felt faith arise that we can believe God for opportunities to be a testimony and be light in the marketplace to share the gospel! As kings, we are the bridge or connection to the marketplace, and the ‘provider’ for the house of God, contributing financially, sharing best practices etc to support the church.”