FGB MDM School: Making Disciples in the Marketplace

53 delegates from 6 countries
53 delegates from 6 countries
Praying for "Papa" Khoo
Praying for "Papa" Khoo

The FGB Making Disciples in Marketplace School

My daughter and I took a taxi and arrived at Changi Cove for a 2pm registration on a Saturday. I have been hearing about kingdom and the marketplace. During a recent Israel holy land tour we dropped by Mt Carmel and visited Peter Tsukahira’s ministry centre. He talked about the kingdom. The next year in 2013, Peter was the main plenary speaker at the Love Singapore Prayer Summit and he enlarged on the same theme. At the same summit, I met Georgie Lee who shared passionately about FGB Gatekeepers and their training camp. In 2014, Benny Ho called together a roundtable for pastors and marketplace leaders to have a dialogue. I met Georgie again and he invited me to attend a Making Disciples in the Marketplace (MDM) School. After some prayer I decided to attend it from 7-10 March 2015.

An evening for foreign delegates to see the city skyline
An evening for foreign delegates to see the city skyline

There were 53 participants from six countries including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, and Indonesia. My daughter and I were so tired we both took an afternoon nap, and woke up late for the first session. What a way to start. The sessions were back to back and intense. There were fifteen sessions in all: five sessions every day: two in the morning; two in the afternoon; and one at night. We were well fed with good food and tea breaks before and after every session. Here are some takeaways from the 3 day school.

Blogpastor’s five key takeaways

Firstly the truth that there are many teachers and not many spiritual fathers, and fathers are what we need above teachers, systems, strategies and methodology. The key difference and distinguishing mark of the father is love, love, love. The spiritual father loves authentically. Teachers do not. Many excel in explaining or expositing, few love well, love fully and truly. I felt weird when they kept calling Khoo Oon Theam “Papa”. With time, I saw that they were affectionate in their relationship with him. They had received a lot of love from him. They naturally called him Papa Khoo. The Catholics got it right. Their priests are called Fathers not Reverends. Fathering is an excellent image of Christian leadership. I saw that in Khoo Oon Theam. Of course I don’t know him well enough, but I could see a genuine mutual affection amongst the FGB team and him. The bottom-line is love after all. Elder John of the Bible knew it. Eagle saints know it. So does “Papa” Khoo.

Secondly, the vision of discipling must go beyond the individual, as in most models, but must embrace transformation of comprehensive aspects of society. It is a vision that goes beyond one nation to globally reach all people groups.

Speakers praying and imparting to delegates
Speakers praying and imparting to delegates

Thirdly, I learned that most Christians fly below the radar’s detection range. They live moral lives, and try to do their work well, keeping their heads down, be inconspicuous and stay out of trouble, rather than choose to seek change so that God’s name is glorified. They would not upset the peace nor confront injustice nor wrong. MDM School advocates and empowers God’s people to activate God’s salt and light in the workplace. It gives them a sense of purpose in what would occupy a large chunk of their lives in terms of effort and hours: the workplace. Suddenly the gospel is seen to be highly relevant and not compartmentalized conveniently in some weekend activity. The school has a structure and process that works for FGB Gatekeepers and they have assembled quite an experienced and influential group of committed leaders or “elders” from the marketplace.  It is for us pastors to re-shape it for the local church.

Fourthly, I believe this vision has revitalized the Full Gospel Businessman (FGB) of yesteryear. The FGB played a pivotal role in spreading the charismatic experience and message in the 1980’s and 1990’s. This role of seeding the denominations and churches had resulted in the leaven leavening the whole lump except for a few exceptions like the Bible Presbyterians, the Presbyterians and the Chinese and Malayalam churches. Then with the churches renewed the FGB seem to have gone into a season of hibernation, a dark night of the soul if you would like. The good news is they have come our purified and deepened in vision and this is sparking interest among FGBs in other countries. They have seen a fire in the East and it has thawed their hearts and they are travelling long distances to catch the fire for their own people.

With Galven who did a definitive history of the charismatic movement
With Galven who did a definitive history of the charismatic movement

Fifthly, I liked it that they were serious about inter-generational impartation and mentoring.  There was deliberate and intentional discipling and coaching of younger leaders. A few of them in their thirties led part of the sessions with their mentors who are in their sixties. It’s wonderful to behold. Seeing parents and their young adult son working together in the ministry is heart-warming. An example was to see Georgie and Evelyn Lee, who are leaders in the movement, with their son Galven, who was there to facilitate. Galven was researching the charismatic movement of the 70’s in Singapore. I first met him when he was doing research for his studies in NUS.  He interviewed me as a witness to the revival in Dunearn Technical Secondary School. Out of that revival, World Revival Prayer Fellowship was born. He obtained a first class honours student conferred jointly by NUS and the National University of Australia. His thesis traces the history of the charismatic movement in Singapore. At last we have a rigorously researched piece that withstood academic standards of the highest order.

As a student of educational methodology and curriculum, I do see that some tweaks are needed but even as it is the MDM School can impart enthusiasm, the spirit, the dynamism of the vision. Catch the heart of the vision which is actually a spirit of fathering and apostolic initiative. Seek to contextualize it for your church or workplace situation, for it has to be contextualized.

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Benny Ho’s roundtable discussion about marketplace

Benny Ho’s  marketplace initiative

It was with curiosity that I entered the corporate penthouse of Orchard Parksuites. I was not curious about the building behind Wisma Atria, which I never knew existed, but about the meeting which was dubbed: Roundtable Discussion on Marketplace. Apparently Arrows Ministry, founded by Pastor Benny Ho, had earlier organized a marketplace retreat to hear the heart of marketplace people. This built on that and was a conversation between “pulpit ministers and marketplace ministers” facilitated with the help of Pastor Derek Hong, retired pastor of Church of our Saviour. I was invited to eavesdrop on the “conversation”. There were over 40 people present, half were pulpit ministers and half were marketplace ministers.

Pastor Derek Hong on pastors and the marketplace

After the preamble and roundtable introductions, Pastor Derek Hong spoke something pastors need to hear. He shared his journey which shifted from being a pastor focused on growing Church of our Saviour in numbers to a pastor seeking to equip God’s people to be effective in being salt and light in the marketplace. He grimaced about how he used to use people for church growth instead of powering them up to light up the marketplace. This shift resulted in him receiving reports of greater impact for Christ at all levels and spheres of the marketplace. People were saved in the workplace and though they did not end up in COOS, they were in the kingdom of God and that satisfies if you are kingdom-minded. The workplaces too were impacted by ethical applications of the gospel by ordinary people of God. What he shared really resonated at different levels. I do not know if that spoke to many pastors but it certainly spoke to my situation.

What marketplace leaders wanted to say to pastors

The conversation was interesting thus far, but it got more sensitive when Benny asked the marketplace ministers this question, “If you had a chance to tell pastors what they can do for marketplace people what would you say to them?” I wore my bulletproof vest and braced myself. Let me summarize what some of them shot said :

  • Christians are not acting ethically and living out their faith and are stumbling blocks to pre-believers coming to Christ. There needs to be better formation of Christians by the churches.
  • The clergy-laity divide still exists, sometimes in subtle forms, and need to be bridged. The sacred-secular divide need to be broken down.
  • Most church members spend most of their working life in the marketplace while most pastors spend their time in the church and their respective views of life do not match, and this is reflected in the sermons preached, and the ministry focus, and demands of members’ commitment to church activities.
  • Perhaps the fault lies with the seminaries and the way they equip the pastors.
  • Pastors should harness the opportunities of mobilizing members to be witnesses in the marketplace. Part of that witness is simply doing their job well so they have credibility when they talk about Christ. The potential is too great to ignore. Instead of church based outreach activities develop workplace based outreach and prayer with a kingdom mentality.
  • 80% of people feel they have not heard any teaching on the theology of work (Barna).
  • Do not demand so much involvement in church ministries and activities that they cannot even do their workplace jobs well.
  • We need the equipping and support of pastors for effective workplace witness.

These were all good pointers but I must admit to holding my breath at times as we pulpit ministers listened to all the frustrations of serious marketplace people. There are so many expectations to meet as a pastor, and this is another one added to the list. Of course most of us have an awareness of these issues, but many of us are already panting on a treadmill running at the speed of 12 and it would take some skill and great conviction to get off and do something different without a fracture.

What pastors wanted  to say to marketplace leaders

Then it was the turn of pastors to have a chance to say what they would like the marketplace people to know and to do. We did not have much to say actually. Was an apology to the marketplace people needed? Were we too diplomatic? Were we too afraid or ignorant to say anything? Did we want to show we were above giving tit for tat? So we had a little bit of meandering here and there. However, Pastor Benny did share something worth looking at. Many members are in one of several levels in terms of being salt and light in the workplace. The levels are Struggling – Surviving – Stabilizing – Succeeding – Significance. An estimate would put most in the first three mentioned levels but need to move to the last two levels. My take is all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and we need the gospel again and again in all our churches.

I did not take many photos of people because nowadays I am not sure about the Personal Data Protection Act and maybe I was too lazy to ask permission and take photos. I did take some shots of the nice though hazy views from the penthouse and of the exquisite 7 course meal we were blessed with. These cannot complain about their photos being uploaded on the internet.

Nice view from corporate suite of Orchard Parksuites
Nice view from corporate suite of Orchard Parksuites
Nice food - one of 7 courses
Parcel of flounder and chive - one of 7 courses
Poached Chinese pear wiht lily bulb
Poached Chinese pear with lily bulb

Christian veterans of marketplace

I met two Christian veterans of the marketplace. Both of them know my eldest brother Colin. One was David Chan. He was my brother’s classmate at St Andrews pre-university class, and fellow members at St Hilda’s Anglican Church. He worked for many years at senior executive level but had done theology at Regent College and is now a…take a deep breath….Chaplain in Far East Organization. I have heard of armies, football teams and hospitals with chaplains, but this is the first time a famous large corporation in Singapore has appointed a chaplain. I should not be surprised as its owner is a Christian who seems quite committed to applying his influence in the marketplace. He said his most common question is, “What do you do?” I wondered too but I could guess what kind of people would approach him with what kind of problems and it proved to be correct. “What kind of work week?” He works a few days a week. My next question was, “Do you need an assistant?” Haha.

The other Christian veteran I met was Georgie Lee, another St Andrew’s School alumni. This is the second time I have met him. Early in January, I sat beside him at one of the lunches at the Love Singapore Summit. He shared with me what he was doing as Vice President of Full Gospel Businessmen, and I was impressed that this organization, like an ember taken out of the ashes of its past glory and fanned to flame, has come up with a practical nuts and bolts plan to help marketplace people execute the more conceptual vision of mobilizing the church to influence the seven gates of arts and entertainment; business, science and technology; communications and media, divine institutions; education and school; family and home; government and leadership.

As an aside, Galven Lee his son is a first class honours history graduate who once interviewed me about the lesser known school revival of the early 1970s that was formed into World Revival Prayer Fellowship, the church I have been serving these past 34 years. He was doing his thesis about the charismatic revival in Singapore. I think it is a great contribution to Singapore’s church history, done as it was by someone schooled in research methods and under rigorous supervision.

To top it all, I had a wonderful time of talking shop with Pastor Richard Wong from Canaan Christian Church and Pastor William Lee of New Life Christian Church. It is always a blessed fellowship to journey together with spiritual friends.

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