SINGAPORE - On Wednesday (Nov 20), New Creation Church announced that it has acquired The Star Vista mall for $296 million "to protect the interest of the church".
While the mega church previously owned only The Star Performing Arts Centre (PAC) - a concert venue in the mall that the church also uses for its services - it will now own the entire building.
The purchase was made after the church got wind that CapitaLand, the ex-owner of the retail space, was in talks with other buyers for a potential sale of the mall.
By securing the deal through its business arm Rock Productions, New Creation hopes to pre-empt the unpredictability of The Star Vista going to another buyer, which could be less supportive of the church's use of the premises for religious ends.
Here are nine things to know about the church, the church's founder and Star Vista.
1. How New Creation was founded
Born in Singapore to a Sikh priest and Chinese mother, New Creation's founder Joseph Prince became a Christian aged 12.
He and a few friends were asked to leave a traditional church in 1983 because of their open displays of worship, which led them to start their own church, New Creation, in a four-room Housing Board flat in Holland Road that year.
The church registered with the Registrar of Societies in 1984.
Mr Prince became the church's pastor and is commonly known among followers as Pastor Prince.
2. From 150 to 31,000 followers
With his emphasis on the grace and unconditional love of God, Mr Prince then quickly acquired a following among Singaporean Christians more used to being told to work for their salvation.
Numbering just 150 people in 1990, New Creation today has more than 31,000 members, a rapid expansion that has led it to search for more and bigger venues to accommodate worshippers.
3. Going global
Mr Prince's charisma has reached a global audience too, with him authoring at least 20 books and hosting a religious television show that can be seen in more than 200 countries, including the United States, Israel, South Korea and Indonesia.
4. Founder listed as the 10th richest pastor globally?
In 2014, US-based entertainment website Richest Lifestyle published an online article that ranked Mr Prince as the 10th richest pastor in the world.
Claiming that Mr Prince had a net worth of US$5 million (S$6.4 million), it also said the senior pastor drew a salary of $550,000 a year.
New Creation has since rubbished the claims, saying that the report was "generated and circulated without proper effort being made to validate the facts".
It, however, did not provide an exact figure for the pastor's salary, clarifying only that Mr Prince had shared with the church that his net worth is "substantially lower than the US$5m that has been alleged".
The council noted too that the pastor had stopped drawing a salary from the church since 2009.
5. Other possible sources of Pastor Prince's income
While he no longer draws a salary from the church, it is widely understood that Mr Prince has other potential sources of income.
He hosts a global show, Destined to Reign, that airs daily on several major American television networks such as ABC Family. It is produced by Joseph Prince Ministries, an international non-profit organisation that is independent of New Creation and headquartered in the United States.
A 2012 tax document obtained by The Sunday Times showed that Joseph Prince Ministries had a profit of US$1.7 million that financial year, although, according to the document, none of these was given to Mr Prince, who is listed as president of the group.
Mr Prince could also have been paid on his overseas speaking tours or from the sales of his books - one of which, The Power of Right Believing, made it to No. 2 on The New York Times' bestseller list in the advice and "how to" category.
Special editions, translations, and many CDs and DVDs have also been spun off from his writings and sermons, all of which could have generated profits in royalties for the senior pastor.
6. Church raised $122m in one year
In July this year, a review by The Straits Times found that New Creation was the nation's second most successful fund-raiser, raking in $122 million in donations in 2018 alone.
Pipped only by The National University of Singapore, the mega church was one of four religious organisations that made the top 10 of the list - City Harvest Church was 7th, Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple came in eighth, and Faith Community Baptist Church tenth.
7. Other successful fund raisers
New Creation Church also made headlines earlier for its fundraising drives.
To pay for its 5,000-seat $500 million Star Performing Arts Centre, which it had won the tender to build, lease and operate in 2007, the church asked for contributions from its members.
It quickly set a record of $18 million raised in a day in April 2008, which it then superseded with $18.8 million raised in February 2009 and later $21.1 million in August 2010.
In Feb 2016, the church announced that the $500 million sum was finally fully-paid for, nearly nine years after the tender was first secured, largely from the "voluntary giving of our congregation to the church as well as to the building".
Today, its other service venues include the Marina Bay Sands Ballrooms and Cathay Cineplex Causeway Point.
It is unclear at this time how New Creation paid for The Star Vista.
8. Arts centre for worship - and pop star shows
Located in The Star Vista jointly developed by property giant CapitaLand and New Creation's business arm Rock Productions, the performing arts centre has hosted concerts by local and international artists such as Ed Sheeran.
Designed by world renowned performing arts facility design consultants Artec Consultants and Bromberg, the concert hall is also used for New Creation's church services on Sundays and one mid-week night.
9. Star Vista's tenants
By buying the rest of the mall, New Creation will also own the shopping mall component of the development, which opened in 2012.
Major tenants of the mall include Beauty in the Pot and LeNu, Canton Paradise Teahouse, RedMan by Phoon Huat, Swee Lee and Cold Storage.
New Creation has said it will maintain these areas for commercial purposes in accordance with zoning guidelines, and that it is exploring possibilities for CapitaLand to continue operating and managing the mall on its behalf.