’Tis the season for church camps here in Singapore. Which means a migratory pattern akin to that of the wildebeests in Africa or the bisons in North America. Well, perhaps we’re not quite like the thundering hordes that cross the Serengeti or the Great Plains, but we do cross the Causeway to Malaysia in droves every June.
The fringe benefits of accompanying my beloved when he speaks at said church camps are that I continue to glean biblical truths during his teaching sessions, and I make new friends who enrich my life immensely. Today is the first day of the second of three camps (1-2-3, ha!) that my dear man is doing this June. Over dinner, we were joined by a staff member of the church and fell into conversation. What he shared with us about how he came to faith blew my mind.
In the days when he was a Vice-Principal of a technical institute, he was approached by the Youth Guidance (YG) Ministry team from Singapore Youth for Christ (SYFC) about running programmes for at-risk preteens and teenagers. After reading through their informational notes, he thought that, potentially, some good outcomes could result from the programmes. But, being a non-believer, and his institution being a secular, government-run one, he insisted that the YG team not engage in any evangelistic activities.
He was impressed that they agreed to his terms and still wanted to help the students. What’s more, “they did even better than many other groups” in terms of the quality of their activities and the sincerity and professionalism of their team members. He saw the positive influence they had on his students’ lives. And the YG leaders stuck by their promise not to openly evangelise. Which got him to thinking about what would motivate a group of people to help others, just…well…because, period. And they did it with excellence and a great attitude.
Some years down the line, he decided to act on his curiosity and, together with his wife and two daughters, visited a nearby church. A couple of decades later, he’s still attending that church, is on staff, and now heads the Missions Department. All because a group of youth leaders heeded Paul’s words to the Colossians:
Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically [literally, “do it from the soul”], as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23,24 HCSB)
Our friends from the Theology of Work Project frame it well when they say:
Paul wants good work to spring out of a good heart. He wants people to work well because it is the right thing to do. Implicit here is an affirmation of the value of labor in God’s sight. Because God created us to exercise dominion over his creation, he is pleased when we fulfill that by pursuing excellence in our jobs.
I have seen so many Christians diminished in their own eyes because they felt that they were not spiritual enough. They did not think they had a place in any of the areas of ministry in church on Sundays. Yet they did their best from Monday to Friday “exercising dominion” and excellence in their areas of responsibility in God’s economy, as homemakers, Board Directors, engineers, road sweepers, farmers, doctors, and more. Were they any less spiritual?
By seeing our work in the light of God’s work, we can see God’s hand in our everyday tasks…work can be an expression of worship or communion with God. It should not be confused with or replace our corporate worship, but it is an everyday offering of our whole selves, bodies and minds to God. [Robert Banks & R. Paul Stevens, eds. The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity. Singapore: Graceworks, 2011, 1139.]
Soo Inn and I have been railing against the sacred-secular divide for a long time. We firmly believe that if we call God our Lord, then He should be the Lord of every part of our lives. Not just our Sunday lives, but our Monday-to-Friday lives too. And this in no way detracts from our mandate to make disciples of all nations. In fact, when we flesh out the Gospel in our daily interactions with colleagues, friends and family, we give the on-looking world a glimpse of who our Lord is — a faithful God who has the highest standards of excellence and integrity, who sacrificially cares for all, including the lowest and the least. A tough act to follow, to be sure. But we do what we can, when we can, like the YG team did.
Why was I so touched by our new friend’s story? Somewhere in the mists of time, a bunch of secondary school friends would spend an afternoon once a week at a fellowship meeting in a house within walking distance of their school. Their formative Christian experience was shaped by the input of a team from YFC. I was a part of that giggling gaggle of girls. Growing up in a non-believing family and studying in a public school, my engagement with Christians was minimal. But those afternoons spent having fun with friends left an indelible mark that turned me Christ-ward. I don’t even remember any hardsell of the Gospel, but I do remember a bunch of people who seemingly had no other agenda than to bless us with fun, food and Christian fellowship.
SYFC planted the seed, key people in my life watered, and God gave the growth.
Photo Credits: Singapore Youth for Christ website