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The Story of Kingdomcity

Thirteen years ago, Mark Varughese moved across the world from Australia to Malaysia to plant Kingdomcity. Today, the church has expanded its presence across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, and has more than 30,000 believers in its community.

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Mark Varughese is the senior leader of Kingdomcity, a church based across eleven countries with more than 30,000 regular attendees. He has a heart for people of diverse backgrounds but is most passionate about using the local church to show the magnificence of God’s Word and the impact His Word can have on all people. The married father-of-two is unquestionably committed to Christ, and is continually driven by his mission to “connect, equip and empower people to bring the reality of God to their world”.  Read about how Pastor Mark got started in ministry and married his wife Jemima in part one of his story here.  

Despite the success of Kingdomcity over the past few years, Mark Varughese confesses when looking back that it wasn’t really his sermons that connected with people during his first year in Kuala Lumpur.

That’s not to say that his sermons were not appreciated. He simply found that it was more of his story that seemed to intrigue. No matter the theme of his sermon, everyone was more interested to know why he quit a lucrative job as a lawyer to work full-time in ministry and why he chose to leave Australia to move to Malaysia.

“The increasing momentum wasn’t the result of organised programmes, but the aggregate of multiple acts of faith that rubbed off on the soil of our church in Malaysia.”  – Mark Varughese

Upon reflection, he found that the two decisions he made in obedience to God fueled a similar response in the people. Church members started leaving stable jobs to embark on businesses; others postponed a regular course of study to go to Bible college; people stepped out in faith to pray for the sick on the streets; and many brought friends and family to a relationship with Jesus with newfound courage. One lady in particular took a risk entering the political arena without any prior experience and has since risen to a position of great influence in Malaysia, while a gentleman gave up his job and rose to a prominent role supervising a project for the King of Malaysia.

Sunday service at Sunway University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – one of the key places where Kingdomcity started, 2006.

 

An Impractical Trust

Mark continued to be sensitive to invitations from the Lord when it came to leading the church. After two and a half years in Malaysia, he received an invitation to return to Perth. However, it was clear that the Lord had not yet called him to leave Malaysia.  

“I had no grid for this,” Mark admits. It was a strange opportunity, back in 2008 when multi-site churches were not yet common. He and Jemima earnestly sought the Lord to discern whether this was His leading or not. Mark had recently turned down invitations to expand to two more locations, one in Singapore and the other other in East Malaysia, thinking that his responsibility leading the current community in Kuala Lumpur (KL) was enough.

But this third invitation came through his trusted friend and former pastor Neil Smith, offering leadership of his home church. Noticing a trend, Mark and Jemima decided to seek the Lord and ask Him what He was telling them through all this.

They felt a strong sense to accept the offer, despite the impractical arrangement. Jemima was pregnant with their first child at the time and everyone wondered how both churches, of about 300 members each, could fund and support a frequently travelling pastor.

Armed with only a clear “Yes” from the Lord, Mark and Jemima stepped out of the boat. Thankfully, they were surrounded by a group of leaders who were ‘crazy enough’ to join them in this adventure. They all had their doubts, but still chose to hold hands through this trek together into the unknown.

The years from 2009 to 2013 were fraught with challenges and temptations to side with reason and agree with their critics. Twelve cities later, Mark reflects, “One of the reasons I value the team we have had over the 12 years in all cities, is that they have for the most part lived with ambiguity and unanswered questions on the journey of Kingdomcity. Not because I was withholding the answers, but because I didn’t know them yet. While that sounds like irresponsible leadership, the presence of peace which transcended my comprehension was the basis of my trust.”

Triggering the Supernatural

One of the challenges that Mark had to first tackle was bridging the gap between the leaders in both churches. He describes it in jest as seemingly trying to sustain having “two wives”. They “tested the buy-in” by inviting leaders from Perth to go on a 3-day event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at their own expense.

At the start of weekly Kingdomcity services in the then “New Kingdomcity Hub” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, January 2010.

 

To his great delight, 180 out of the 200 leaders signed up for it, and they had an unprecedented time connecting and building relationships with the leaders in the KL church. They also announced the launch of Kingdomcity Cambodia, which was met with cheers and excitement.

“[The gathering] was the catalyst that triggered a radical acceleration in Kingdomcity,” Mark believes. “Something happened in that October gathering of leaders that went beyond just the atmosphere of those meetings. It triggered something supernatural.”

Since then, Kingdomcity continues to gather all its leaders from the various locations in biannual meetings.  The meetings continually grow, as Kingdomcity now has churches in 16 cities in 11 countries, with more than 30,000 members.  

Faith is An Invitation

What Kingdomcity is doing is a glimpse of God’s kingdom on the earth. But Mark confesses that at the time the name “Kingdomcity” was impressed upon their hearts, they did not fully comprehend the extent of the mandate and the declaration tied to it.

“We are still growing into our name,” he says. “But I remind the church, that every time you say ‘Kingdomcity,’ you are not describing a brand or a label, but you are prophesying the mandate every believer carries—‘to bring His Kingdom to our city.’”  

Mark had no original intention of attaching the city name, as it is now – Kingdomcity Perth. But he now feels it makes perfect sense: Kingdomcity Perth is mandated to bring the kingdom of God to the city of Perth, just as Kingdomcity London is doing the same to the city of London, and Kingdomcity Singapore to Singapore.

“What’s ‘crazy risk’ to a stranger is a ‘God adventure’ to a son. Faith is absolutely relational.” – Mark Varughese

“It stirs my faith that we will leave a mark in every city that we are in,” Mark says. “And more significantly, every life will leave a mark in the world that they are placed in.”

Now in their 13th year as a church, Mark celebrates the fact that God is the one building His church. “The joy of seeing lives changed will never get old.”

It is refreshing to hear Mark describe faith and see it demonstrated in the Kingdomcity story – “Faith is not just an intangible quality, but is an invitation to know God!”