Singapore's Born-Again Christians Thrive

April 9, 2009

Author: Philip Lim

Source: AFP;_ylt=AhGUXVdFE1fOFytnFoYXUD47Xs8F

Believers gather at the New Creation Church every Sunday for upbeat services conducted in ultra-modern surroundings that are helping make Christianity the religion of choice for Singaporeans.

The venue, a plush 1,200-seat auditorium equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual systems, is on the third floor of an upmarket shopping mall in the city-state's business district.

"Say not what you can do for God, but what God has done for you," preacher Lawrence Lim told a rapturous congregation during a recent service which opened with rousing hymns played by a seven-piece Christian rock band.

"Amen," the churchgoers replied in unison.

Singapore, a predominantly ethnic-Chinese Buddhist society of 4.6 million, has seen a boom in recent years in born-again Christian movements, which experts said people perceive as modern institutions reflecting their personal aspirations.

While Taoism and Buddhism are the traditional belief systems in Singapore, most people adopt them as a matter of birthright, rather than choosing to follow them as spiritual life codes.

"Those who have converted (to Christianity) were probably not very entrenched in their original faith," said Mathew Mathews, a sociologist at the National University of Singapore.

"People want to move out from traditional concepts of religion to a more 'classy' image with things which mirror our popular culture and are congruent to their own works and expectations," he said.

New converts are encouraged to bring in more recruits, helping boost the number of Christians in Singapore.

According to a 2000 census of Singapore's 3.6 million native inhabitants, Christians accounted for 15 percent of the population aged 15 years and older, up from 10 percent in 1980.

Buddhists and Taoists accounted for 51 percent in 2000, Muslims 15 percent and Hindus four percent. The rest belonged to other religions or were atheist.

Singapore might be in the midst of its most severe recession in history but Christian churches led by charismatic ministers seem to be weathering the storm well.