As salt of the earth, businessmen and entrepreneurs bring the message of Christ into their workplace.
By Yong Yung Shin
Guang Ming (not his real name) and his wife, Hua Hua, owners of three major fashion brands with boutiques all over China, had everything life could offer but they felt empty and devoid of purpose. They were fearful that everything they had would be taken from them some day. One day, they were invited to church, and after receiving Christ, were compelled by the Holy Spirit to bring the Kingdom of God into the marketplace.
Guang began to inculcate kingdom values into his company’s corporate culture by imparting leadership principles from Psalm 23 to his heads of department; as leaders, they are to be as shepherds to their subordinates, caring for and providing for their needs.
His company also became known for having one of the best service policies around, when he instituted a unique service philosophy—performance is not based on the number of sales a service personnel clinches, but on the number of people he or she has reached out to each month.
In 2007, he converted his boardroom into a meeting room for Sunday service. From 40 people, it has since grown to 800 members. For Guang, it’s a no-holds barred effort. On Sundays, he uses his company buses to shuttle people in from everywhere to attend the services. Out of the 1,600 staff members he has, more than 200 have received Jesus as Savior.
Guang exemplifies a different kind of missionary God is planting in the harvest fields of around the world in recent decades: the fields of commerce, government, arts, education and media, collectively known as the marketplace.
The Marketplace ministry was started at City Harvest Church with the aim of empowering members through the teaching of godly principles and values, as well as to provide community-based support to businesses and businesspeople. Through events such as luncheons and office devotions, members learn to apply Biblical work ethics and values at their workplace. This is a manifestation of the Cultural Mandate, a God-given call to CHC to bring Christ into culture, into the harvest fields of the marketplace.
“More than just living out their professional lives separately, we see businesses as a platform to share the Gospel and bring the Kingdom of God to the marketplace,” shares Goh Yock Kiang, chairman of The Marketplace ministry.
Another Chinese businessman, George (not his real name) conducts weekly prayer meetings at his company’s headquarters in China and organizes talks during which the Word of God is preached and souls are saved. Interestingly, every time such talks are held, the company would register the highest sales for the week. In fact, healings, signs and wonders are part and parcel of his ministry. Salvation aside, George is an asset to his society, channeling profits he makes from his fashion retail business into school and orphanage building projects.
Then there are those like Martin Ong, who bring the Gospel into their spheres of influence through one-to-one relationships with overseas associates and business partners. Ong, who is the group CEO of First Automobile knew that Jesus was the answer when one of his general managers in China was faced with a marriage crisis three years ago. Ong invited him to a Christmas celebration, where the manager received Christ. Today, not only has his marriage has been restored, but this manager, who oversees several hundred staff members, is now in a position to bring the Word into his sphere of influence.
By reaching out to those in the world, marketplace missionaries like Ong can indirectly impact those who would otherwise never step into a church. “Instead of bringing someone to church, we bring the church to them in the office!” he says.
“We are effective as salt and light in the marketplace when we don’t compromise our values and morals. Our lifestyle must be consistent with what we believe in,” explains Ong, who also holds weekly devotions in his Singapore-based office.
CULTIVATING A LIFE OF GIVING
Heeding the Cultural Mandate also means promoting volunteerism for web hosting company ReadySpace. Over the past 12 months, its business units have contributed S$13,000 to non-profit organization CityCare, alongside various other charity organizations.
The staff members of ReadySpace are regular volunteers at charity activities, providing hands-on participation in addition to financial support.
Fifty-six percent of the sponsorship, amounting to S$7,350, went directly to fund CityCare’s charitable programs that benefited a total of 321 children, elderly and people with disabilities from 11 different voluntary welfare organizations.
One such outing was held at Pertapis Children Home, a residential home for abused or neglected children. The volunteers went to the Home with games and handicraft materials. Using Craf Doh, a lightweight and odourless doh, the volunteers were able to interact with the children and help them create art pieces.
Says ReadySpace founder David Loke, “We are impressed and glad that with the little we gave, CityCare could do so much for the underprivileged. We are happy that we are able to touch lives.”
Young people, too, are running with this vision of bringing the love of Jesus into the world that would never otherwise hear the Gospel.
Set up by three youth, Soule Apparels is based on a simple “buy one give one” business concept—for every pair of shoes it sells, the business gives a pair to a child in need.
It was set up in 2008 by Stars of SHINE award winner 2011 Justine Lee Fu De, 21, in collaboration with two church friends, John Tay, 22 and Lim Jing Ying, 21.
Besides creating brand awareness and giving talks in school, the trio aim to encourage more young people to start projects to benefit their community. To date, Soule has given out 309 pairs of school shoes to the children from Quan Nei Xiang Sunshine Elementary School in Lincang, China.
“We believe that it isn’t just about giving shoes to the children. Our real aim is to inspire them to go to school with a right attitude. Education is the only way out of poverty. Some of the children have to travel up to 15 km to school, through mountainous terrains. By giving them school shoes, we are sending a message of hope to encourage them to keep on walking and take a step closer to their dreams,” says Lee.
A VISION FOR THE KINGDOM
Another aspect of the Cultural Mandate is to bring Biblical values into the culture and environment of the workplace, as demonstrated by Rick Quek of Corporate-i, an integrated marketing agency specializing in event management, digital marketing, creative design and corporate gifts.
“Our company’s corporate values are encapsulated in the acronym P.I.E: Professionalism, Integrity and Excellence. I believe that in demonstrating these values, we are communicating the character of God—and it is also a reflection that we are not putting to waste the talent, gifts and resources that God has put in our hands, but wisely using it to bless the marketplace,” Quek explains.
“To us, the Cultural Mandate is all about using our gifts and talents creatively and engaging the marketplace boldly, without losing our faith and value system. In the creative industry, this is especially crucial and I always encourage our team to be bold in using new methods and ideas—be it in our event planning, customization of gifts or design and digital marketing work. We believe in the potential of all our staff—Christian or non-Christian, and love and embrace all of them. In this way, I also become a vessel of God to exhibit and demonstrate His love for people. “
By the grace of God, the annual turnover of Corporate-i has been increasing each year since it started. And because the company does well, Quek is able to finance the work of God. “Using the resources and expertise we have, we are able to serve the church,” he adds.
Behind the largest optical retail chain in Singapore with more than 40 branches in Singapore and multiple branches overseas is a husband-and-wife team who built their business on the Cultural Mandate, starting from just one shop in 1997. They are Gary and Sara Khoo, the owners of Spectacle Hut.
“The Cultural Mandate has taught us to be bold, to take a step of faith and to believe in whatever we set our hearts to embark on. This, in turn, has helped us to open up and explore other business opportunities,” says Gary.
Through their business, the Khoos were able to work with schools to provide optical assistance to needy children in Singapore. Last year, they collected about 8,000 pairs of old spectacles to be donated to overseas mission work.
“We have also been privileged to be able to share with other businessmen how God helped us through our challenges, to help discouraged ones find new hope and new purpose. Often, help also means dispensing advice and providing business links to others,” he explains.
As they seek to meet the needs of others with their market expertise and resources, God has blessed their business with many successful deals of brand distributorship, the latest being Kenzo and Givenchy. Through the years, their business has expanded beyond Singapore into Malaysia, China, Japan, US and Europe.
“The Cultural Mandate has become our personal and business mandate; that our business must not be one that merely chases profit, but one that makes a true, positive difference in our community,” he declares.