After 15 years…

mortons HKThis photo was taken with my wife at Morton’s Steakhouse during our trip to Hong Kong in this January.

I had made it one of the highlights of our trip to dine at this swanky american restaurant to celebrate my wife’s birthday as it was also at Morton’s Singapore that I had proposed to her on her then birthday.

Between God and I, Morton’s bears a significant role in my walk with God. It is a place where I hold precious memories and lessons that He taught me and made me the person I am today.

I’ve not told this story of mine…..

When I’d decided to wholeheartedly follow Christ in 2000, a lot of changes took place swiftly towards burning the bridges to my past life. One of them was my job.

Back then, I was a club DJ and had my own small business supplying manpower for pubs and clubs. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but it provided me a decent living. And as a school dropped out and an ex-convict, it definitely boosted my self-worth and ego that I was “somewhere” and “made it”.

The other perks of this job was it fitted well with my then lifestyle of music, booze, drugs and sex, So you can imagine how tightly I would be holding on to this identity. It was everything I knew and it gave me everything I enjoyed then.

But Christ saved me and spoilt the devil’s party…..

Not too long after, I was confronted with the inevitable. I knew I had to quit DJ-ing. The lifestyle and the environment was no longer appealing as it was before. And I recalled how I was having this casual and candid conversation with God…

God: I would like you to quit your job.
Me: Really? But this is the only skills I have and its my ‘ricebowl’ leh… How?
God: Trust me.
Me: Hmmmm…
God: *silence*
Me: Ok la… since You say so, I will do it!

Back then, there wasn’t much choice for me when I browsed the recruitment classifieds. Being a dropped out with no qualifications but just a secondary school studies, I could only look at the odd jobs section which mainly featured jobs for F&B or hospitality.

One day while browsing, a particular ad caught my attention with an inner prompting by the Holy Spirit to call the number. The job offered was as a server (or waiter).

I called and an interview was arranged for the next day. I just went with an open mind and heart and at the end, I got the job! However, I did not accept it right away and requested to reply the next day.

I can recall how I was both in awe and in shock! In awe in how God was moving and in shock because I was trying to accept the implications of such a change.

I struggled in making a decision cos…..

In the eyes of the world I was making a move backward. It obviously looks like a downgrade from where I was at that time.

“How would my friends think of me?”

“What would they say about it?”

“How was I going to explain this radical move?”

But I decided to follow through in obeying God. Hence, I chose by faith, to accept the job.

I reckoned it was more important for me to be bothered more by what God thought of me; what He would say about me and be more concern over His approval rather than man’s approval. And I saw in the spirit that this was a promotion in His kingdom.

After accepting my new job, I gave away my entire music collection and DJ stuff that could have easily been worth in the thousands. I felt like Peter and Andrew who gave up their nets to follow Jesus.

I was now going to be a “fisher of men”…..

My time serving as a server at Morton’s for more than a year was one of the best moments with God as that’s where I discovered my passion- serving others and making a difference.

God used this job to shape my servitude as His disciple which has laid a foundation for me where I’m now able to build on and carry with me wherever He plants me and in all I do.

More importantly, choosing to obey and follow Him allowed me to discover WHO I AM in Christ towards building my security in my identity as His child rather than in what I do for a living.

Amazingly, I later also discovered that this job in Morton’s was God’s arrangement in advance to provide for me when God led me to bible seminary.

As the enrollment was a full time stint, my work allowed me to switch to a part time employment when I requested for it!

Today after 15 years…..

I can look back at how that first step of obedience has led me to: a life of His abundance and goodness.

Now, if I need to browse for a job, I’m no longer confined to one section of classifieds. And He has graciously given me upward mobility to be His ambassador and influencer in the marketplace.

Now, I know God doesn’t lie as I have no lack and He has been my Provider at every stage of my life. Even providing the finances for me to further my studies and to eventually graduate with a bachelor degree. And also provided the means to be His ‘tent-maker’ while in Vietnam.

Now, I’m paired with a wonderful person I call my wife whom God has entrusted me to lead and love. If you told me I would be married back then, I would have laugh it off as I saw myself unworthy or unfit for such an enormous commitment. But God thought otherwise and I believed Him.

Now, because of experiencing how great and good God is from these past 15 years, I am expecting more from Him in the years ahead!

So to those reading this, never undermine the possibilities of how your simple obedience to God can take you to. Trust Him because God loves you and is faithful!

My Read of the Month:

Title: The Church in the Workplace: How God’s People Can Transform Society
Author: C. Peter Wagner
Published: 2006
Genre: Church leadership/ Discipleship
Ratings: 3.7 out of 5 stars

There’s no denying that there is a nationwide sweeping movement of the Holy Spirit raising up His people in the marketplace in advancing His kingdom in this 21st century.

In Singapore, it seems most of us in the Body are just beginning to acknowledge and understand what God is doing through this movement.

Because for the longest time, believers were mostly taught and encouraged to rise up in their churches and in the process gave lower priority to secular work over church work. This has eroded God’s influence in the marketplace.

In this book, Peter does an excellent job in addressing this self-imploding crisis. He presents the two forms of churches- the nuclear church and the extended church and their different characteristics with their rule books. This truly helps to understand both camps and how to marry the two forms in forging a formidable force in bring heaven on earth.

What I found particular insightful was Peter highlighting the lack of spiritual governance in the marketplace from Mondays to Saturdays or the 9 to 5 window. And unlike the marketplace or extended church, the (nuclear) church has established its spiritual governance. This can be observed by how people would ‘naturally’ behave to a set of ‘Christian’ conducts or culture in the church.

Therefore, it is for this reason that God is raising up marketplace apostles and pastors to lead and govern His sheep in the marketplace towards discipling a nation. But for this to truly take place, we need to understand that Christian ministry is not confined to the nuclear church. And our secular work is equally sacred and significant.

The only fault that a reader may find with Peter might be his take on the current state of the nuclear church which might come across as a tat harsh. However though his views on nuclear churches (in general) may be negative, but I find that he isn’t far off from his analysis.

So depending on how you look at it or receive it, this book is an awesome reference book for church growth. And for Christians in Singapore, we can be encouraged that he mentions Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) and City Harvest Church (CHC) as role model churches that have moved the Church into the marketplace.

Who should read it: All Christians, especially pastors and ministry leaders.

My Doodling:

I chanced upon this site- Called to Business which I believe would be useful for those of us who aspire to shine in the marketplace. Their purpose is to equip ‘Christian Business Leaders’ to be effective in the marketplace. May it bless you as we strive to be His vision carriers among the ‘lost’.

Vision and Purpose in the Marketplace

Being in the marketplace, I’ve observed one prevailing breakdown among organisations that hinders true sustainable growth or success- the lack of vision and purpose.

Having a vision and purpose

In the marketplace, growth or success is generally defined in terms of power, position, recognition, material possessions and wealth.

However, if we truly put things in the right (godly) perspective, all these are merely short-term achievements or temporal.

Though I do not play down their pragmatic importance of survival in the marketplace, but there’s more to life than just surviving.

That’s why I believe a vision and purpose (ideally God-inspired) is of fundamental importance in differentiating an organisation from the rest.

More importantly, having a vision and purpose will expand an organisation’s definition of growth or success to significance; from making money to making difference.

Therefore, when rightly prioritised, these (power, recognition, material possessions and wealth) are, should be and will be the “by-products” of a compelling vision and purpose.

Transforming the marketplace

Albeit most organisations may have their “vision and purpose or mission statement” proudly emblazoned on walls or on their websites, but in reality they’re at most serving as decorative or cosmetic measures.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

Proverbs 29:18

At present, there is a pressing need for leadership in organisations to have depth and foresight in their vision and purpose. Especially during this slowdown of the economy, this poses as good opportunity to reflect, re-visit or even re-align focus and priorities.

As leadership determines the rise or fall of an organisation, so leaders have to be clear about their vision and purpose as that would determine the business sustainability.

Leaders have to communicate it constantly and consistently. And not just communicating with nice superficial words, but also with action through their exemplenary leadership.

As an employee, besides earning an income, I believe people are looking for more meaning and purpose in their work. This is most natural and expected as we spend the most time of our days at work.

But unfortunately, the reality remains for bottom-line pressure for profitability taking precedence over meaning and purpose in the marketplace.

As a result, it also remains a challenge for us to either choose to conform to this pressure or to be strong and choose to transform the marketplace towards true sustainable growth that makes a difference.

The Divide Between the Church and the Marketplace

In my humble opinion, I think many churches in this present age function with a dualism that divides life and ministry into sacred and secular compartments.

Because of this, many of us followers of Christ unknowingly or knowingly grow up adopting a “only work in church and church-related ministries are spiritual” attitude.

This also forms a perception that   church-related ministries  or activities are of greater interest or importance to God when compared to secular activities.

The great divide

If we seriously take a quick glance across churches, we will find that majority are spending most of their time and money in equipping members to do church ministries.

Not that there’s anything wrong in doing so, but I think we have sincerely overlooked the fact that most of us followers of Christ are actually spending most of our time outside the church.

But the real pressing need is for us believers to be equipped for the marketplace.

Jesus in the marketplace

Re-visiting and studying  the life of Jesus Christ and His ministry while He was on earth should help us understand the essence of Christianity.

When we follow Jesus, we have a higher chance of  living out the faith out and walking in His will as originally designed for our relationship with God.

Statistics show that out of 132 public appearances made by Jesus, 122 of them were in the marketplace. Out of the 52 parables He had told, 45 had a marketplace context. Out of the 33-plus years He lived, most of His adult life was a carpenter.

He demonstrated for us a living faith that bridged the so-called spiritual and secular seamlessly.

Christians in the marketplace

I think it is clear that it is not enough to equip the clergy for the church. We need to equip all of God’s people for all of life. We need to equip Christians for the marketplace.

In this context, marketplace refers to anywhere outside the four walls of the church. And that’s the place where our faith needs to be lived out as everyday, that’s where we need to cope with the opportunies and temptations in our workplace and in our home.

Hence, if we are spending most of our time living only in the so-called spiritual world, what earthly use will we have to His cause?

Our work in the office or at home is as much God’s work as evangelism and praying for the sick.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31

If we desire to see the universal Church fully embracing and living out God’s original mandate for humankind to manage His creation, then churches need to teach, model, pray and provide relational support towards a balanced theology towards of life and work.

Re-thinking Our Economic Expectations

Recent news have been filled with retrenchments, retrenchments and more retrenchments.

It’s quite disturbing to read how companies have heartlessly ‘axed’ their employees who they deem as excessive expenditure in order to ride through the slowdown.

Judging from the recent comments by NTUC’s Labour Chief, Mr Lim Swee Say who conveniently also happens to be a Minister for the Prime Minister’s Office, it’s clear that we should expect no one to owe us a job or pay check; not even from our government.

I’m not sure about you, but seeing of these unfolding each day has triggered me to seriously think about my career path

Everything increases except our pay

It is not uncommon for us to bemoan how daily expenses for our standard living have rocketed, but the truth cannot be said of our monthly income.

From a globalised marketplace standpoint where Singapore is competing with low-cost labour countries like India and China (without even mentioning our regional neighbours), I think the harsh truth is that by increasing our income level any higher would erode Singapore’s competitive prowess and business appeal.

This is the reality that we’ll need to firstly come to terms and accept. We need to renounce the ‘crutch mentality’ and make best out of what we have.

If we really do have any sort of increment regardless of the economic situation, we should learn to be more grateful.

Nonetheless, salaries do differ exponentially across the gamut of industries available and the type of job we are in. So this might not apply to you if you are in a niche industry like the Oil & Gas or Civil Service working as a Minister.

The way out is…

After managing your expectations with our reality and you find that you are a person that is easily satisfied with whatever you have and have no qualms in having others determining your worth and job security, then you can choose not to take any action.

However, if you desire to earn more and do not want a ‘glass ceiling’ to your income level, then some practical actions might need to be taken in order to get to that ideal position.

From my opinion, I think there two routes we can consider in ‘escaping’ from the system. One of it is to start our own business and the other is to switch to politics and join PAP sales where much of our salary is dependent on sales commission.

I think both these routes are career paths that reward us fairly according ly to our efforts invested and performance delivered.

Maybe some of us can take the opportunity of the approaching year-end by taking a ‘stock check’ to re-evaluate our careers.

We can seize the opportunities that are there for the taking in this situation by planning ahead how we can take our career to the next level in the coming New Year.