Lawrence Khong began performing magic as a young boy and soon discovered that he had a natural talent and passion for creating illusions. From small-scale community performances to large stage productions, Lawrence, 59, has become a world renowned illusionist.
Together with his daughter Priscilla, 30, they are Asia’s first Elite Diamond Merlin Award recipients, bestowed by the International Magicians Society in 2010.
Lawrence Khong is also the founder and senior pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC). Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, FCBC is one of Singapore’s largest churches with more than 8000 members.
As a social entrepreneur, Pastor Lawrence founded TOUCH Community Services, a not-for-profit organisation, in 1986. Together with its 150 staff and more than 1000 volunteers, TOUCH works closely with Singapore’s government to serves the most vulnerable of society.
The Khongs recently performed at Singapore’s famous Esplanade Theatre from the 15th-24th July, in the pioneering production, Vision, a powerful and heart warming story of love, family ties and values.
The show combined magic with theatre in a performance which aimed to shake up the theatrical world. Experts enlisted included a Broadway trained choreographer, an award winning script-writer and an Emmy award-nominee magic consultant, who had worked with David Copperfield.‘To be able to get these creative people to work with us, is an endorsement,’ says Khong, who founded his entertainment company, Gateway, in 2000.
‘We wanted people with vision, to see what we do from a different perspective and take up the challenge of combining magic and theatre. We see our work from a magic perspective but now we have people with a different view. We want to push boundaries,’ he told The Business Times.
In an interview with Prestige, Asia’s wealth magazine, Lawrence said, ‘I guess you can say I’m never satisfied with doing the ordinary. Today’s theatre goer expects to be thrilled with world class entertainment and nothing less.’
Lawrence believes it is essential for Christians to be represented at the top of every profession. When he returned to magic aged 50 many left his church but he wanted to pull down the walls between the sacred and secular. ‘You need to be in the environment to meet people,’ he says. ‘It is only when you work closely with people, that you get to know them and they get to know you.’
‘I have a gift for the creative arts.’ His dream is for a high budget spectacular to be performed at the world’s most recognised entertainment venues. ‘Vision is the best show we have done so far and is a big step in that direction.’
On the 9th August Singapore celebrates its 46th anniversary. Before the live broadcast of the National Day Parade on TV, Lawrence and Priscilla will entertain the nation in a one-hour, made in Hollywood television special, ‘Lawrence & Priscilla’s World of Magic.’
When he is not performing the pastor works with the LoveSingapore movement, a core of 40 churches and a wider circle of 100 other congregations, which he founded in 1995.
Following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the network raised S$630,000 within 4 weeks and sent six relief teams the first of which landed one week after the March 11th catastrophe. The ongoing mission comprises 73 members from his church and the LoveSingapore Alliance according to The Straits Times.
The informal network hosts summits and leadership forums which unite churches across denominations and meets to pray for Singapore and its leaders.
Singapore is a strictly secular nation, founded upon pluralistic principles. The country of 5 million people is at once strategically located within the ASEAN community and at the same time, highly vulnerable. The island is separated from Malaysia by a 1 km Causeway and is close to Indonesia, with 240 million people and the world’s largest population of Muslims.
In July 2010, the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority released new guidelines which restricted the religious use of commercial properties, stating that no more than 20,000m² or 20% – whichever is lower – of a complex’s gross floor area could be used for religious purposes.
The policy had a direct effect on LoveSingapore’s network of churches and FCBC which was renting space at Singapore’s Expo centre.
In a meeting with National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, a delegation of pastors explained the need for space and asked to be considered in future plans.
FCBC, which could not comply with the new regulations, moved back to two theatres it owns.
Singapore’s two largest churches, City Harvest Church and New Creation Church with more than 20,000 members each, have invested in private consortiums.
In 2010 City Harvest Church, led by Kong Hee, announced it would part own Singapore’s Suntec International Convention Centre and would raise S$300m.
New Creation Church, led by Joseph Prince, is investing in a new ‘Integrated Hub’ development combining civic, cultural, retail and entertainment space.
Census 2010 figures show that the proportion of Christians in Singapore grew from 14.6% to 18.3% in 10 years.
In absolute terms, Christian numbers could have increased by 50% considering the growth in population. Notably, one in three university graduates claim to be Christian, more than any other religion.
LoveSingapore leaders also assured Mr Mah and officials that Christians do not pose problems when their numbers grow.