SINGAPORE - As City Harvest Church's congregation grew, the role of its founder Kong Hee turned from that of a "shepherd" to a "rancher", he told the court on Monday.
The senior pastor, who faces three counts of criminal breach of trust, was taking the stand for the first time in a long-running trial, over the alleged misuse of $50 million of church funds.
The mood in court was calm as Kong answered questions posed by his lawyer, Mr Edwin Tong.
Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, was not present.
He began by describing his evolving role in the megachurch over the years. Kong said that he was on a first-name basis with all members when it was established in 1992, but after 2001, his focus shifted away from day to day management as he led work trips overseas, among other things.
Kong added that an "overwhelming majority" of the congregation supported the Crossover Project, the church's mission to reach out to non-churchgoers through pop music. It was fronted by Ms Ho, who performs under the stage name Sun Ho.
Kong said many had joined the church because of the project.
He also described Mr Foong Daw Ching, then managing partner of the church's auditor Baker Tilly TFW, as a "dear friend" he had worked closely with from the 1980s. Mr Foong, also known as "Brother Foong", had "full visibility" and mentored him to be a "better steward" of his personal finances.
Prosecution had tried to show how several defendants - five of Kong's deputies are also accused - went to Bro Foong for advice, instead of the church's lead auditor at the time.