Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Arise and Build (1)

In my earlier post, I have explained, using arguments based on logic, why it is necessary for New Creation Church to have a bigger place for Sunday worship services and why it is necessary and beneficial to do it via a commercial complex. I deliberately did not quote any scripture at all because non-Christians would not understand.

After the "NCC raised $19 million report" was published,
it was well within my expectation that non-christians made unkind and mean-spirited comments about NCC's building project (a sample of which can be found here). Their comments were expected because they are unbelievers who do not understand Christ's love for us and our love for Christ, and why we, NCC members, are willing to give our own money to build something in which we do not have a personal stake.

However, I am saddened that even fellow Christians have jumped on the bandwagon and criticized NCC for misusing funds, and church members for being gullible enough to be conned by NCC's erroneous preaching, and some have also quoted scripture to back up their arguments. I wonder how non-Christians view this display of disunity within the body of Christ. One major reason why I wrote that article as well as this post is to enable fellow Christians to appreciate why NCC is building One-North and hope that they will agree in faith with us that Christ will be glorified through this.

Today, I intend to talk about NCC's building project using scripture too ...
One gentleman on asiaone forum quoted Matt 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17 and Luke 19:45-46 which record the incident of Jesus driving out the merchants doing buisness within the temple to support his view that "mixing church premises and commercial interest is a no go."

I also agree with him that commercial activity should not be conducted within the church premises but I think he missed the point that NCC is not building a church but rather a commercial complex with a retail and entertainment zone (which is owned by joint venture partner, CapitaLand) and a civic and cultural zone (owned by NCC's commercial arm, Rock Productions). NCC is merely renting an auditorium within a commercial complex for Sunday worship services, much like what it is presently doing at Suntec City except that NCC does not own Suntec City.

I have stated in my earlier article the practical reasons for NCC building a commercial complex instead of a dedicated church building but
some Christians have argued that the church should not engage in commercial activities. However, I feel that NCC is actually being a good steward of its funds by investing wisely instead of just parking its funds in fixed deposits like what traditional churches do.

Consider the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-27.
14"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.19"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.'

21"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

22"The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.'

23"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

24"Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'

26"His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

Take note of v15 - the master gave seed money of different amounts according to each servant's ability. Have you wondered why certain churches are called to handle large sums of money while others are not? Is it a coincidence that the servant who hid the money instead of investing it was given only ONE talent?

Take note of v16 - the servant with the five talents went AT ONCE and put his money to work. The servant worked fast; he did not hesitate, he did not delay, second guessing his master or worrying about what the other servants think or do. He invested the money wisely, letting the money work for him. He definitely did not park the money in a bank (v27).

In a 17/9/2007 Straits Times interview, Deacon Matthew Kang revealed how NCC's investment in Marine Cove (through Rock Productions) has generated good returns for the church. I append the excerpt below:

One of its shrewdest was the 2001 purchase of Marine Cove at East Coast Park for $10 million, $4 million below its valuation price, after the previous owner had to sell off assets to pay creditors.

Mr Kang, who readily quotes from the Bible to illustrate the virtues of investing, said: ‘Marine Cove was a great investment. It came with ready, popular tenants such as McDonald’s and the place is always crowded. Even the carpark is making money.’

Profit from Marine Cove came up to $425,388 in the last financial year.

$425,388 represents a 4.25% annual return on a $10 million investment, almost 5 times better than the 12-month fixed deposit rate of 0.89%.

Take note of v21 - the master said to the servant who invested the five talents wisely, "Come and share your master's happiness!"
The master is happy! The master is happy because the servant has been faithful with a few things, and therefore he is going to put him in charge of many things. In 2001, NCC was faithful with an investment of $10 million and now God is going to let NCC make an investment of about $500 million (budgeted)!

Take note of v26 and v27 - the master rebuked the servant as wicked and lazy, and he actually said that
putting the money with bankers is a last resort, just slightly better than doing nothing with it. v27 also implies that merely putting the money with bankers is essentially a lazy option. It actually takes much time spent seeking God and much hard work to invest wisely the money God has given the church.

What will churches do with their money if this lazy option of fixed deposits is no longer viable? Horrors of horrors, what if they have to PAY INTEREST to the bankers for taking their money?

The picture above shows an article on page 2-3 of the Mar 15 Sunday Times saying that low interest rates will be around for quite some time and some experts warned of the possibility of savers having to pay interest to the bankers for the service of holding their cash.

Any suggestions from those Christians who insist it is wrong for the church to engage in commercial activities on how to be a good and faithful servant of God and generate a good return for the church's funds?

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