Christian Economic Forum is Not Yet Another TED-lite Self-Help Hype-Fest
When the invitation to attend the Christian Economic Forum (CEF) flashed across my computer screen, I was conflicted. How many TED-like business symposiums had I attended in the last three years? What if it is just a repeat experience of “Christian businessmen” gatherings with keynote speakers that mixed self-help suggestions with scriptures? I have walked away from a vast majority of those without finding resonance and had a bad case of “conference-fatigue.”
However, I remember an article by Jerry Bowyer about his experience at CEF 2013 and researched a bit more. CEF was founded in 2011 as a Christian alternative to US Federal Reserve Annual Meeting and World Economic Forum in Davos. CEF had its foundation built on
“the elevation of God’s economic principles as the only real answer to the world’s economic issues”
and brings together marketplace leaders, scholars, policy makers, and innovators who are committed to the advancement of God’s economic principles in various spheres of influence. 2015 is the 5th annual CEF gathering and the first time outside of the USA. Singapore was selected strategically because 2015 is also the 50th anniversary of the formation of this island-nation. These two factors convinced me to take a leap of faith and register.
Mr. Chuck Bentley, CEO of the Crown Financial Ministries, conceived the CEF idea and is the host of this event. My heart immediately knew CEF would be a different kind of experience when Chuck uttered these words in the opening address: “We all come to CEF to give, not to get.” CEF 2015 attendees are a mixture of enterprise owners, leaders from diverse backgrounds like manufacturing, real estate, finance, media, education, technology and agriculture. We took Chuck’s words to heart. There was a vigorous exchange of ideas in panel discussions (four per day) as well as meaningful connections made in small group collaboration and prayer time.
Best practices of solutions were shared on business and social issues as well as perspectives on macroeconomic outlook and the impact of national and regional economic policies. There was also amazing and emotional moments of personal testimonies of God’s love, grace and forgiveness in the midst of suffering from overwhelming systematic oppression and physical brutality. Even in non-program times, CEF attendees were engaged in deeper conversations. One delegate who owns a Brazilian tea company even brought a customized blend as a gift. Always, these interactions took place in the context of the kingdom of God and what God was doing in these spheres of influence.
There were unique experiences of “familiar strangers”; many of participants were meeting for the first time but we were surprised to find ourselves vibrating on the same frequency. In various dialogs over coffee or meals, phrases such as “I was just thinking about that also” or “this is exactly what I was wondering” could often be heard. While English was the primary meeting medium among the international collection of delegates, we were also using God’s economic principles as another common group language to truly understand what is happening in the world or in a given business. It was the foundation of our interaction, relationships, communities and CEF’s idea-advancing platform.
CEF was the “missing link” in my walk as a Christian business professional. A place that goes beyond networking, aggregate asset, net worth, and annual revenue of the company. It is a fellowship of kindred spirits with a passionate desire to actively model and practice the Biblical truth of economic development and bring solutions, influence and light into whatever we are assigned. Thank you, Chuck and the CEF team, for bring this experience to Asia. While I may be “conference-fatigued,” I found resonance in the unique CEF experience.