Stephen Lee is an entrepreneur, engineer, and businessman who thought he was the least likely candidate for a calling as great as pastoring Saddleback Hong Kong. Fortunately, God knew Stephen’s capabilities better than he did and orchestrated his life in such a way that he needed only to take a leap by faith.
[Learn more about location and times here!]
Raised in a village in Hong Kong, Stephen attended school but had a deeper focus on gymnastics and Kung Fu than his studies. Up until high school, he knew nothing about Christianity — he had never heard of, nor read the Bible. “I even spelled Jesus wrong. That is how little I knew of Christianity,” Stephen recalls.
It was in high school that Stephen noticed how happy some of his friends were. He prodded them to know why they had such noticeable joy. The friends invited him to a Christian fellowship service where strong believers warmly welcomed him. “I had never shaken hands with so many people before!” says Stephen. There, Stephen’s life and focus dramatically changed. He faced two choices: turn right toward Christianity, or turn left toward gymnastic gangs. Both offered love. “Don’t think that gangsters speak not of love; they speak of love more than Christians do,” says Stephen. Church was different, however, because the people extended real kindness that touched him deeply and filled a void in his heart. Stephen chose the church.
Since entrepreneurship is Stephen’s strength, it rapidly took shape into a prison ministry. “I define my shape and passion in the ministry I did with prisoners and their families,” says Stephen. At age 20, Stephen visited his first prison. Now 28 years later, he is still actively involved in ministering to the incarcerated. Stephen has the unique ability to communicate with extreme groups - the highly powerful business and political leaders as well as the powerless prisoners. His kind smile and genuine nature allow people to easily trust and respect him. The prison ministry strengthened Stephen’s faith as he saw God work in the lives of others. He achieved the position of Chairman of Prison Fellowship for Hong Kong and served on the International Board of Directors, continually ministering to the powerless.
In 2005, Stephen glanced at an advertisement for the Peter Drucker Academy, a non-profit, management education company that had a legal charity in China — something that was extremely rare. Intrigued, Stephen contacted the organization, and within a month he dropped his own company to become CEO of Peter Drucker Academy and manager of the charity foundation. Peter Drucker Academy was the first private company registered in China as a charity organization, and Stephen’s position as CEO enabled him to travel into Beijing and form vital relationships with government officials. Together, Peter Drucker Academy and the government of China formed a 25-year contract allowing them to do charity work exclusively in China.
In 2006, Stephen heard that Pastor Rick Warren was coming to Hong Kong. Pastor Rick was surrounded by people who constantly demanded his attention, but that didn’t deter Stephen. “I’m an entrepreneur, so I’m tricky,” remarks Stephen, “I was determined to spend time with Pastor Rick who I had heard so much about at Peter Drucker. I ambushed his breakfast at the hotel and sat next to him just so that I could speak to him.” The two connected immediately because of their shared love of Pastor Rick’s mentor, Peter Drucker.
The connection between the two continued over the next several years as Stephen attended various conferences and visited Saddleback Church to learn more about his calling. Stephen intended to refocus his life, and Pastor Rick shared how he could do that. Pastor Rick explained that the disciples had to drop their nets to follow Jesus; perhaps Stephen needed to do that too. Pastor Rick shared his heart for the PEACE plan, and asked if Hong Kong was a strategic city for a church plant. Stephen strongly affirmed that it was.
For the next several months Stephen learned about the 12 Cities Initiative and offered to help host PEACE teams that came to Hong Kong. “Every single team that came was consistently God-loving and passionate. They all had exactly the same heart and that moved me,” Stephen recalled. “God was calling me to something, I just didn’t know what.”
Soon Stephen received an email from Pastor Rick asking if he would pastor Saddleback Hong Kong. Feelings of incompetence arose in Stephen causing him to doubt his ability. Simultaneously, God’s voice grew louder and louder in his ears. God reiterated the message that Stephen needed to drop his net and carry his entrepreneurship and passion on the road to follow Jesus.
Stephen began to trust the call to ministry and agreed to step out in faith to pastor Saddleback Hong Kong. God, in His knowing grace, offered Stephen one last sign of reassurance. As Stephen cleaned out his office he stumbled upon an old scroll an artist had given him years prior in Beijing. He opened it and faced four blaring symbols of truth. The words Purpose Driven Life appeared right before his eyes, revealing that God was preparing Stephen for his purpose long before he knew about Saddleback Church or Rick Warren.
Saddleback Hong Kong is a strategic church because of the connection it has with China. Stephen’s years at Peter Drucker taught him many of the same principles and values that Saddleback Church has. Stephen inserts, “Ordinary people make a difference. Ordinary people do extraordinary things. It comes from Peter Drucker. I am able to agree to this in such short time and with only a month of training because I know Peter Drucker in-depth. Saddleback Church and Rick Warren stand for the same.”
Saddleback Hong Kong opened its doors October 6, and they had over 800 visitors. Continue to pray Saddleback Hong Kong can reach the people with a unity to be a globally minded Church. Stephen, his wife, and their three children are incredibly passionate about this adventure with Saddleback and cannot wait to see what God will do in their part of the world.
If you live near Hong Kong visit or in the comming weeks. Learn more about location and times here!