The first Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI) was meeting birthed in 1952 on the second floor of Clifton’s Cafeteria, located at Broadway and Seventh in downtown Los Angeles, USA. Together with Demos and his wife, Rose, and the speaker, Oral Roberts, were 18 other men. From that humble beginning, the fellowship quickly expanded across the United States and not long after, was transformed into a global movement that saw chapters established in every continent around the world.
The expansion to countries beyond the United States began in earnest in the 1960s. In 1966 the Seattle chapter initiated airlifts to Asia that spanned over a decade. Led by Enoch Christofferson, the Seattle chapter was instrumental in bringing the fellowship to Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The early beginnings of the fellowship in Singapore largely had its roots at Elim Church in the late 1950s and early 1960s. According to AOG pastor, Rev. Fred Seaward, it was Rev R.P. (Russell) Rothgeb, the pioneer of Revival Centre Church in Singapore, who introduced a visiting leader from FGBMFI USA, believed to be Dr Irvine J Harrison who was then the Executive Secretary of FGBMFI in the United States, to leading businessmen at Elim Church. Arising from that meeting, the fellowship’s ministry began to take shape in Singapore.
However, the fellowship in its present incarnation came about later. Following a Spiritual Renewal Seminar in 1974, moves were initiated to establish it as an interdenominational fellowship and have it registered formally. A pro-tem committee was formed. FGBMFI Singapore submitted its formal registration to the Singapore Registrar of Societies in August 1975 and received its charter from Demos Shakarian on September 23, 1975. The founding committee members on registration were Chua Boon Yew, Goh Ewe Keng, Khoo Oon Theam, Robert Lee, Loke Mun Seng and Chan Kim Chye. The Charismatic movement then was a unique move of the Holy Spirit that brought particularly Christians outside the Pentecostal tradition – which existed in Singapore since the 1920s – to a Pentecostal form and experience of worship. This revival is widely believed to have its genesis in a series of supernatural events beginning in 1972 which altered the development of Christianity in Singapore.
That year, a group of students at the Anglo Chinese School came to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues. This subsequently spread to students at St Andrew’s School. In December that year, Bishop Chiu Ban It of the Anglican Church also received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues in his hotel room while attending a World Council of Churches Assembly in Bangkok. Another Anglican pastor, Canon James Wong, had a similar experience in January 1973 at his home. These events plus similar ones experienced by many other church leaders and pastors subsequently set alight a conflagration that has come to be known as the Charismatic revival in Singapore. Bishop Chiu Ban It who was then Bishop of the Singapore Anglican Diocese and his successor in 1982, Bishop Moses Tay together with Canon James Wong provided much of the initial leadership in this major revival, especially in the Anglican Church.
The Anglican clerical leadership’s involvement in the renewal lent much creditability to the movement, particularly at its early stages when concerns over Charismatic experiences were expressed by conservative evangelical segments of the Christian community.
The revival saw many nominal believers revived when they experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit or witnessed healing miracles, and signs and wonders. It was a phenomenal outpouring of the Holy Spirit never seen in Singapore and brought thousands into the faith. The revival had such a major impact on the nation that it attracted the attention of the authorities who watched with concern its impact on religious harmony. Subsequent statistics from the government affirmed the rise in the percentage of Christian believers among Singapore’s population. The fellowship’s influence was pervasive across the Christian community in Singapore, drawing support from the clergy and leaders of many of the major denominations, such as Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Brethren, Assembly of God and Independent churches. Some of them also served as advisers to the fellowship. They included Bishop Chiu Ban It (Anglican), Bishop Moses Tay (Anglican) Canon James Wong (Anglican), Rev Fred Seaward (AOG), Rev Oh Beng Khee (AOG), Goh Ewe Kheng (Independent), Tan Boon Chiang (Methodist) and Dr. Khoo Oon Teik (Methodist). Bishop Moses Tay, Canon James Wong, and Goh Ewe Kheng still serve as advisers till today.
The executive leadership of the fellowship, however, was always in the hands of marketplace leaders and professionals. Besides having served as advisers, Chua Boon Yew, a well-known businessman, Dr. Khoo Oon Teik, a medical specialist, and Judge (Retired) Tan Boon Chiang who was then the President of the Industrial Arbitration Court also served on various committees of the fellowship. Apart from Khoo Oon Theam, a senior management consultant, past Presidents of the fellowship included Col.(Retired) Dr. Jimmy How, then head of the Singapore Navy medical unit, Edwin Choo, an architect, George Tay, a senior insurance executive then, Daren Tay, a senior executive then, Tan Buang Kher, a senior executive, and Benny Ong, a financial planning consultant. Daren Tay is still serving the fellowship today as an adviser. The fellowship hosted its first National Convention in conjunction with the first FGBMFI Asian Convention at the Singapore Conference Hall from May 31st to June 5th 1982. Chaired by Khoo Oon Theam and directed by Canon James Wong, it was held concurrently with the Gospel Rally which took place at the National Stadium. Demos Shakarian was the keynote speaker at the convention which was attended by over a thousand delegates from all over Asia.
The Gospel Rally which was jointly organized by FGBMFI Singapore together with churches in Singapore saw nightly attendance ranging from 35,000 to 40,000 with more than 150 churches participating. Well known Korean evangelist, Paul Cho Yonggi, spoke at the rally. The Gospel Rally was chaired by Dr. Khoo Oon Teik and co-chaired by Goh Ewe Kheng. In 1980, Khoo Oon Theam saw the vision of battleships sailing out of Singapore into the countries in the region. Subsequently, Khoo Oon Theam who was then FGBMFI Singapore President led airlifts, reaching out to 13 nations in Asia. These led to the eventual establishment and expansion of FGBMFI work in Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam.
The First FGBMFI Asian Convention in 1982 led to the formation of the FGBMFI Asian Council. Khoo Oon Theam was elected by the Asian leaders and appointed by Demos Shakarian as the President for Asia and International Vice President of FGBMFI. The Asian Council, presided by Khoo Oon Theam appointed Narciso Padilla of the Philippines as Vice President, Dr. Peter Abraham Tong of Malaysia as Secretary and Dr. Lucas Halim from Indonesia as Council Member. Subsequent years saw the involvement of Hugo Chan from Hong Kong and Tony Tseng from Taiwan in the council. These men helped led the explosive growth of FGBMFI work in many of the Asian countries. The rapid growth of the fellowship’s ministry around the world led Demos Shakarian to state at the thirtieth annual FGBMFI World Convention in Anaheim, California, in July 1982, “If I were to choose one word to characterize this unique difference, it would be international.” The increasing stature and influence of FGBMFI globally necessitated new international strategies and a new structure for the organization. Preliminary meetings were held with the international directors from January 24-29, 1983, culminating in a series of international strategy sessions which was held from April 17-21, 1983.
Khoo Oon Theam, who then had his own consulting firm in Singapore, was tasked by Demos Shakarian to facilitate the meetings. Khoo Oon Theam formed a task force comprising two representatives from each continent. This group was responsible for coming up with the FGBMFI vision and mission statements, goals, strategies and structure for the international organization.
It also developed the training modules for use internationally called ALTS (Advanced Leadership Training Modules). The FGBMFI also began having executive leadership training seminars globally, beginning in January 1984. In 1993, following the demise of Demos Shakarian, his son, Richard Shakarian, took over leadership at the International Headquarters and made decisions unacceptable to many of the directors and chapters globally. FGBMFI Singapore in 1994 together with those in other Asian nations including Malaysia, Hong Kong, India, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan decided to sever their links with the International Headquarters as did many others around the world.
FGBMFI chapters in a number of Asian countries which left the International Headquarters then decided to form the FGBMF-BMF Asian Council, operating on the principle of the council at Jerusalem. Some of these fellowships adopted the name of Business Men’s Fellowship (BMF) which was the name used by those chapters in the USA and around the world which dissociated themselves from the leadership of Richard Shakarian. The FGBMF-BMF Asian Council which is still operating today serves as an informal fellowship of national bodies with no headquarters governing individual nation’s activities. A committee comprising representatives of member countries was set up to coordinate regional activities. In the 1990s, membership, and activities of FGBMFI Singapore began to decline as many of its leaders and members began to shift their focus to church growth. By 2002, this identity crisis escalated with dwindling membership and attendance at its meetings. The fellowship’s existence and relevance were brought into question. Activities of the fellowship came to almost a standstill.
Then, in 2003, Khoo Oon Theam received a prophetic call of God to re-dig the old wells (Genesis 26:18, 22). He said: “When God instructed me to re-dig the old wells, He directed me not to go back to the old ways of running FGB. He said that era is over; this is going to be a new work, a quick work and an anointed work! He reminded me of His mandate: Go and make disciples of all nations because the kingdoms of the world have become My Kingdom. I will send you forth as my Kingdom citizens and ambassadors to the nations because you have asked Me for the nations for your inheritance, and yes I will build My Church which is my body in every nation not separated by denominations but united through a Kingdom heart set, mindset and skill set. It is not to be a marketplace church or fellowship but My Church (My entire body) in the marketplace, city and nation! It was clear to me that no one church or marketplace ministry can transform the nations. This means, we begin with our identity with our Father…..born again to see and enter His Kingdom and as children of His Kingdom we know that all authority, power and glory comes from His Kingdom. We, His gatekeepers are sent out to establish His kingdom in all the gates of the kingdoms of this world so that the gates of hell will not prevail.” Khoo Oon Theam took on the leadership of FGBMFI Singapore again to re-build the fellowship based on this prophetic call. He challenged some of the ‘old wells’ to return to the leadership. Among them were Georgie Lee, Cyril Seah, and Tan Kah Ho. They were former board members of the fellowship in the earlier years. The revitalised fellowship was able to quickly regain strength and saw membership restored from a low of 79 members in 2003 to 201 by 2004. With the fresh vigor, it was able to host the 22nd Asian Convention in August 2004 with Ed Silvoso as the keynote speaker. Among the major changes was the admission of women as gatekeepers from end 2008 onwards with the establishment of woman gates in recognition of the importance of women in the nation. The constitution was subsequently amended to include woman gatekeepers. Prior to that, women were invited to attend FGB meeting as ‘Friends of FGBMFI’ and not as gatekeepers.
The fellowship’s name was also initially changed to FGBMF(S) to ensure its separate identity as an independent body and avoid confusion with the name used by the original International Headquarters with which it had no association. It was subsequently, changed again at the end of 2010, to Full Gospel Business Singapore or FGB in short to reflect the inclusion of women into the fellowship. A new logo was adopted. In addition to calling ourselves FGB Singapore, the name, ‘Gatekeepers Singapore’ was also adopted by the Board and members as an additional nomenclature as it energizes members to prevail over the gates. In 2010, with the adoption of the additional nomenclature, ‘Gatekeepers Singapore’, FGB decided to call its chapters, ‘Gates’ and members, ‘Gatekeepers’. This change was inspired by Biblical references which regard gates as of strategic importance to a city and nation. Gates are also where major decisions and judgments are made.
During the Charismatic era of the 1970s and 1980s, Gatekeepers Singapore’s emphasis was on the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. However, following the prophetic call and in obedience to the Great Commission, FGB began to shift its focus to discipling with particular emphasis on the gospel of the Kingdom besides salvation, baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. FGB’s discipling process dealt with issues relating to life, living and livelihood. Gatekeepers were challenged on the secular-sacred divide and were exhorted to regard their work as their worship, their career as their calling, their posting as their parish and their position as their pulpit. Equipping sessions were focused on revelation, impartation and activation.
A Transformed Fellowship
With the renewed vibrancy and a fresh vision, membership rose back to over 300 gatekeepers including women as at end September 2012. FGB conferences were also well received. The Glory School with Patricia King, held from 28th March to 30th March 2011 at the Bethesda Cathedral, saw over 800 participants.
The FGBMF-BMF Asian Council, under the chairmanship of Khoo Oon Theam, also saw increasing interest from many nations in the Asia Pacific region. In 2012, Australia, Vietnam and the Philippines were admitted as members. Member nations of the Council as at the 19th August 2012 Council meeting are Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Australia. Nine other countries from Asia and Europe attended the Council meeting as observers.
New work is being birthed in nations.