7 April 2013 by Timothy Tai CM –
Shawn Kong is the kind of guy that every Asian parent wants their children to be like (and the kind of person that every Asian child dreads being compared to). He was an outstanding and model student throughout secondary school and a few months after leaving his hometown of Kuching to study in KL, he was voted the President of the Student Council at college. No one was surprised at all when he went on to graduate with a First Class Honours degree in Accounting & Finance from the University of London and got his first job with the consulting arm of one of the Big 4 accounting firms.
One and a half years into his job, things were going very well for him and he was about to be promoted when he made a ‘crazy’ career move: he tendered his resignation letter so he could pursue a one year bible course in Manila.
Although Shawn didn’t grow up in a Christian family, he came to know Jesus through some high school friends and his faith really grew and matured during his university days when he attended Eaglepoint Church. He began to understand what it meant to be saved and to be discipled and it was then that he made a decision in his heart to follow Christ no matter what.
When his peers found out about his decision to quit his job, many of them questioned the wisdom of it as he was just starting out his career. Even his own boss tried to stop him and get him to change his mind by saying:
“Why don’t you earn more money first and next time when you’re rich, you can serve God and give to charity?”
However Shawn’s mind was made up as he had been sensing a hunger to know God deeply and he desired to be equipped for the works of ministry. So despite his boss’ advice, he left for Manila with the blessings and support of his pastors and leaders. After completing the one year course, he returned to KL to work full time in the campus and young adult ministry.
Another year and a half later, he felt that God was leading him to be a bi-vocational pastor (i.e. to have a job in the marketplace and serve as a full-time pastor at the same time) so he emailed his former boss who offered him a job and wanted him to start immediately! But here’s the most incredible part: His former boss didn’t offer him the previous position that he held prior to his resignation. Instead, Shawn was given a position which was 3 levels higher than before!
He remarked, “When I calculated back the years it would have taken me to reach this position if I had stayed on (working in the company), it will take me an additional 9 months. Which means, in corporate progression sense, I have actually saved 9 months even though I have gone to my training for 1 year and work full time in my church for another 1.5 years. That’s amazing for me. I felt God is telling me that when we choose to obey and serve Him, He will never shortchange us!”
Today, Shawn is the pastor of Eaglepoint Church Damansara which he led a church planting team to start in 2006. He has also moved on from his job at the Big 4 accounting firm and now works at a multi-national financial institution as a senior client portfolio manager. God’s favor continues to be with him and he performed so well at his new company that he won the “Rookie of the Year” award in his first year. Glory to God!
In addition to being a pastor and having a full-time job, Pastor Shawn is married to an amazing wife and is blessed with two young children. He loves spending time with his family and watching movies with friends. He is also a loyal Arsenal fan who enjoys playing futsal and reading good books. When I asked him if he had any advice for others about how to juggle work, ministry and family life, he replied:
“That’s exactly what many people think they need to do: juggle. However, this mindset tends to segregate and compartmentalize our life into different segments i.e. work, family, ministry, God, personal etc. It’s only a matter of time before a person will be exhausted from the feeling of being pulled in all directions. I tend to see it more holistically – as one. That my life is centered upon Christ and that I live to please Him and live for His purpose. It is from that centrality that I live out my life as a Christian, as a husband, as a father, as a pastor, as an employee etc. Once someone discovers their calling and purpose, the rest is a matter of practical out-working of our daily life, routines and demands. Knowing your purpose will then simplify your life. You will learn to say ‘yes’ to what brings you towards your purpose, and ‘no’ to what distracts you away from it.”
I also asked him how Christians could become more effective ministers in the marketplace and he said that two things need to take place:
“Firstly, we must do our best to be excellent in what we do in our work place (Colossians 3:23). It’s hard to be an effective minister if our performance at work is the poorest. Be excellent in our quality of work, in relating to the people around us and in our attitude.
Secondly, we must also know the scripture and discern what God wants us to do. So that we can be equipped in and out of season to minister, to encourage, to bring hope, to pray, to lead, to share the message etc. We need these 2 aspects to work hand-in-hand. Many times, we find Christians who are strong in one aspect but not that strong in the other.”
Pastor Shawn also stressed the need for Christians in the marketplace to guard themselves against becoming too caught up with their careers and losing their passion for God.
“Too often we hear of fervent Christians but as they enter into the working world, their zeal diminishes over time. Some are overwhelmed with work pressures, the demands of living in a fast-paced city, some are drawn away by pleasures and attractions (or distractions) of life. Or we hear people say, ‘Let me focus on my career first’ when we should be taking God’s promise in Matthew 6:33 on seeking His kingdom first and all shall be added unto us.
As I’m still in this journey, my humble opinion is that we must first and foremost be fully surrendered to God and His kingdom purpose – know that our career is only a sub-set of our entire calling in life. Secondly, as we progress in our careers and life, we should also progress in our spiritual zeal and effectiveness to be a minister. Taking constant pit-stops to evaluate is always good. And be open to God to change our path in life. Sometimes He does the unexpected. Another key factor is having someone in your life (your pastor or your small group leader or your spouse etc) to speak into our lives and giving them permission to guide us back on the right path when they think we have ‘lost it’.”
If there’s one thing that’s evident when I look at Pastor Shawn’s life, it’s this: when we put God’s kingdom before our own interests, He really will take care of everything else in our lives. And He will definitely never shortchange us.
Note: Timothy grew up in Kuching and worked in KL before jumping off the corporate ladder in 2006. He moved to New York City where he served at an inner-city kids ministry for almost 6 years. He has since returned to KL and has just married his Irish fiancee Sarah.
Dear Viewers in Christ, if you find this article edifying to you, please share with your friends or loved ones by using the social media plugs (Share, Email to this article). The Lord will surely bless you as you bless others. May the Lord’s peace and love be with you. Amen.