Interview with Juleen Shaw by Goh Eck Kheng
Called to inspire Christians to shine and share their testimonies through a faith website.
Juleen is the managing editor of Salt&Light, a website which unites Christians in spirit and purpose to live out their faith, to serve and lead, to influence and impact. It has, since its launch in 2018, over 2.5 million unique visitors and over 6.5 million page views.
Juleen attends the 11.15 service and serves as one of its service managers. She also sits on the Alpha@CCMC committee.
L+F: How did you get involved in Salt&Light?
Two-and-a-half years ago, I was approached to launch Salt&Light as its managing editor.
While I saw the necessity of the Gospel and testimonies going out to a digital generation (which includes all of us who use platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp), I did not seriously consider the offer. Digital news was not my natural habitat — I had always been a print journalist at SPH and MediaCorp.
But God seemed to think otherwise. About 12 hours before I was to give my answer, I told God: “God, You know I would not take on this role unless You want me to. If You really want me here, will you show me clearly?”
I thought no more about it. But that very night, I opened up my Disciple study manual to do my homework for the upcoming class. Guess what the theme for the week was? WORK.
The theme verse was 2 Thessalonians 3. I realised I had been telling myself that I was already serving in church a little, working on freelance projects a little, attending Bible classes a little. It was “enough”. I had only just left my teaching position at NTU and thought I’d take a break.
But God chastised me through this Bible passage: Don’t be idle! I did not make you to just take on a little. You can do more! God was right. I was only giving Him a little; not my all, not my best. There’s no concept of retirement in God’s economy! (Just ask Moses and Noah.) The next day, I called the CEO and said: “Okay. I’m in.”
L+F: Where did you start?
In the beginning, we were at our Genesis 1:1 — formless and void. There was no team (except me), no content, no website, not even a name. I thought I could take my time to learn about the technology and the church ecosystem, contact newsmakers, build my team, then launch the website when I was ready.
But 2 weeks after I joined, my CEO, Edric Sng, said: “We’re launching in 8 weeks at a pastors summit attended by 800 senior pastors.” I couldn’t believe it. I felt the weight of responsibility to readers, churches, our Board of Directors. I remember sitting on my bed (I had no office yet) crying out to the Lord: I can’t do it! I’m the wrong person! I must have heard You wrongly!
But because His call had been so clear, I stuck it out. It was only when we launched on 8 January 2018 that I saw His plan: At the end of Day 1, we had 30,000 readers, by the end of Day 3 there were 58,000 readers. The numbers and speed of growth were like nothing I’d ever seen. I finally stopped fighting God and said: “Okay, God, I guess You knew what You were doing.”
We launched with 20 stories, without knowing where more stories would come from. By God’s grace, from the day we launched till now, we have not stopped publishing new stories every single day. It was like seeing the miracle of five loaves and two fishes multiplying.
L+F: Can you tell me about your organisation and team? We currently have five writers — ex-journalists, editors and producers from The Straits Times, Today and CNA. Like our readers, we hail from different churches.
Our CEO, Edric Sng, used to run the digital desk at Today and CNA. He is also the deputy senior pastor at Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church. We take counsel from a Board of Directors which includes Lucas Chow, who worships at Wesley Methodist, and Pastor Benny Ho, senior pastor of Faith Community Church in Perth.
The Salt&Light team and contributors celebrating CNY pre-Covid: (L-R) Tan Huey Ying, Karen Tan, Edric Sng, Gracia Lee, Geraldine Tan, Emilyn Tan, Juleen Shaw, Jane Lee.
Salt&Light, together with our sister website Thir.st, comes under the umbrella of Thirst Collective.
Thirst Collective is not affiliated to any one church, but is the vision of a group of pastors and marketplace leaders who saw the need to equip and encourage believers to live out their faith in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world.
We see ourselves as a gathering place for Christians to unite in spirit and purpose to serve and lead, to influence and impact, to find meaning in the mundane, to wrestle with doubt and despair in faith, and find amazing grace for the journey ahead.
To that end, we partner mainstream churches and para organisations to deliver the message that Christianity is more than a religion. It is a deep, personal and transformative relationship with God and with each other.
L+F: How do you run and how are you different from a secular newsroom?
Salt&Light runs like a newsroom, publishing new stories daily, coming together for editorial meetings and postmortems. Like any newsroom, we are pretty much on alert 24/7 — when news breaks it’s all systems go and our phones start buzzing whether it’s 12 pm or 12 am.
I remember early on in Salt&Light, the one night I decided to leave my laptop in the office, was the night Billy Graham died. We had to scramble to call up pastors for their response and publish the news within an hour. From that time on, my laptop has not left my side!
Our criteria is that every story needs to encourage, equip and edify the body of believers and glorify God.
We also set out to be hyper-local, as there are many excellent faith websites existing, but the foreign ones don’t address, say, how an NS boy deals with the negative influences of camp life, or what to do if your boss insists that you practise fengshui, or how a PSLE parent copes with the pressure.
Interestingly, even though we have a local voice, we receive emails from all over the world — UK, US, Australia, China, Mexico, India, Malaysia, Philippines, etc. I guess disciples the world over have the same struggles.
Some of our editorial core values are what you would find in any newsroom, for instance, “we strive for excellence in every image, video and article”.
But we also have editorial core values that are faith-based: “Everything published must agree with Scripture”.
There are also “internal” core values aimed at honouring God: “A God of perfect order deserves the utmost professionalism” and “We work on our personal walk, so that our output will follow”.
The Salt&Light on a Zoom editorial meeting during Circuit Breaker: (clockwise from top left) Tan Huey Ying, Gracia Lee, Gemma Koh, Christine Leow. Now working from home, the team, including Juleen, shares daily personal reflections and weekly team devotions. They find it a real blessing to journey with each other authentically.
As a team, we commit our work to God at the start of every work day, praying for our interviewees, for sensitivity to God’s prompting, and that His Word will not return void.
I can’t tell you how important this is — God has been our guide at every step. He has “downloaded” stories to us which went on to clock over 200,000 readers within 12 hours, jamming the server. And He has also stopped us from running potential stories that appeared credible but were later proven otherwise.
L+F: Which stories have been significant?
The favourite part of our job is hearing the God stories of people from all walks of life and realising that God is everywhere and seeks everyone.
One day we are interviewing an illiterate ex-offender, the next day a CEO from Cambridge. One day a mother who lost her only son in a tragic accident, the next day a missionary who willingly answered God’s call to a war-torn country. One day a migrant worker, the next day a glamorous celebrity.
At our editorial meeting, a writer shared about her interview with an abandoned and abused child who was so damaged that he committed murder at 16. God met him in an isolation cell in prison.
When we hear all these stories, and how God in His mercy and grace redeems, saves and heals, replacing condemnation with abundant life, we feel privileged every day to tell of His wondrous works (Psalm 145:4-5).
And the God who performs miracles, gives visions and speaks clearly to those who seek His counsel? He is not confined to the pages of the Old Testament. He still does today.
L+F: Which story was most meaningful to you personally?
There have been many, but one is a young woman who gave up her comfortable life in Singapore to be a missionary in war-torn Afghanistan because God put in her heart a burden for the people who have not heard the Gospel. She is God’s “light” in a very dark place.
Another is a marketplace leader who is not just a CEO to the staff in his secular workplace, but also a “pastor” to them, openly seeking God’s will for the company and for his staff. He is “salt of the earth”, preserving God’s statutes in a rough world.
Both people moved me with their commitment to God’s call, no matter what it took, and their complete dependence on Him and acceptance of His will. God never fails us when we put our trust in Him.