This week, Venusa Tinyi, one of our MCS students, reviews Dennis W. Bakke,
Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job (PVG, 2005).
This book is borne out of Bakke’s experience as a co-founder and CEO of a multi-national energy company (Applied Energy Services, AES for short) which he served faithfully for 21 years, and is therefore most likely to benefit decision makers in companies. But the wisdom contained in this book is sure to benefit anyone who is trying to understand the philosophy of work or is trying to make workplace fun and meaningful. Christians who work in the marketplace will certainly experience a sense of calling and thereby a sense of fulfilment as Bakke unwinds his stories and his beliefs as a Christian in this book. Bakke proudly notes how his ‘Joy at Work’ philosophy has even had a transforming impact in the domestic lives of his employees as well – employees in Pakistan began to treat their wives differently, assuming them to be thoughtful, creative, trustworthy and capable of making decisions, as has been the practice in the AES life.
One of the most fundamental beliefs that underlies Bakke’s work is that each person is unique and endowed with special talent(s), is capable of making decisions, and is able to bring out the best of their talents in a free and ‘fun’ working environment. In such a workplace, a person also enjoys a sense of fulfilment in life. Bakke laments that though discrimination against labour by management is more subtle today than it was during the Industrial Revolution, this demeaning and destructive tendency persists even today. Bosses still tend to exercise undue control and life in the workplace. They tend to treat employees like some kind of machine. This is evident in the in the which in which job descriptions go into great detail and seem to include no element of flexibility. To Bakke, even the term ‘human resources’ has a dehumanizing connotation as it places people on the same level as financial resources, fuel resources, natural resources, and so on. He writes, ‘One of the most difficult lessons I have had to learn is that leadership is not about managing people. People are not resources or assets to be managed. Nor is leadership about analyzing issues and making big decisions.’ Bakke feels that the single most debilitating and demoralizing factor in the workplace today is the lack of freedom. He makes an interesting ironic remark that ‘in Western democracies, people are free almost everywhere except at work.’ ‘Remember, joy comes from freedom,’ he keeps reminding the reader. He stresses that joy at work starts with individual initiative and individual control. And accordingly he argues that the key to good organizational leadership ‘to create an environment that allows these qualities to flourish.’
In a separate chapter Bakke sets out a Christian perspective on work or vocation. He reasons that work was a major reason for our creation. It is an important act of worship through which we can honour our Creator. His own conviction is that God Himself is a worker: creation came about as a result of his work. Next, he created mankind in his own image partly but crucially ‘to manage the Earth and all the animals, plants, and other resources it contained.’ So instead of prioritizing the church work alone, he argues that the same emphasis should be given to both the Great Commission in Matthew and the stewardship mission of Genesis.
Some may find Bakke’s biblical interpretations quite provocative. For instance, in his enthusiasm to edify and to highlight the importance of one’s vocational calling, he writes, ‘Jesus, for example, appeared to put His work ahead of family.’ But we should note that Christian calling more than anything else is to belong to Christ and, only derivatively, to work for Him in our respective vocations. Thus his view that ‘work is the major reason for our creation’ ought to be taken with some pinch of salt.
There are important moral lessons to be learnt from this book, however. In this post-modern time when values and principles are being so much questioned, Bakke dares to wear them through thick and thin. When modern management talks about strategies to achieve success in business, he shows that values and principles are irreplaceable. Through his difficult experiences, he reminds us that there are things beyond human control in any organizational life and therefore we need to be humble and be prepared to face trials and failures in our works. His life account is indeed a wonderful example of integrating faith and work. He brings out a very important point that our churches have to give a serious thought to the very concept of ‘stewardship’ as it relates to talents, work, life and creation in general. This cannot be attained by spiritualizing and prioritizing church work but by looking at the whole of creation of God as the Bible urges us to us. This is one of the best books on bridging the clergy-laity divide or, to put the matter more provocatively, on the ‘liberation of the laity.’
Our Recent Graduates ...
Mr Ng Boon Thian (Grad Dip CS 2007 cum laude; MCS 2008)
Boon Thian worked in the fund management industry for 20 years before leaving it to found his own business, which he has since sold. He worships at Wesley Methodist Church and will be involved with the Prisons and Missions ministries. His life verse is taken from Deut. 10:12: ‘What does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.’
Mr Siew Kim Siang (Grad Dip CS 2002; MCS 2008)
Kim Siang worships at Mt Carmel BP Church, serving as an Elder since 1997. He is also the Secretary of BGST Council. He plans to use his theological training to teach and, God-willing, preach (in Mandarin) to the PRC blue-collared workers at his church (an outreach ministry). His life verse is 2 Tim. 1:12: ‘For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.’
NEW ENROLMENTS ... we welcome the following students to BGST
Graduate Diploma in Christian Studies
Mr Choo Wei Kuan worships at Zion Presbyterian Church and is actively involved in the Sunday school, Youth Fellowship, Children’s Bible Class, Evangelism and Community service. He is a Software Developer and a graduate of the National University of Singapore and Stanford University in the U.S.
Mr Ryann Tan Pei Yuan is a member of Church of Singapore (Bukit
Timah) and his ministry experience includes leading cell group and other Christian activities outside the church. He is a graduate of the University of South Australia.
CHAPEL UPDATE... This week, one of our MTh students, Mr Immanuel Moses
Kanagala, will be speaking on 6 Aug. We will have Mr Victor Xu, an MDiv student, to speak next week.
It’s that time of the year again for our Sports and Family Day. If you had enjoyed it last year, you will have even more fun this time round, because we are taking you places-in fact, 2 places to be exact.
Date : Saturday, August 30
Time : 11:00am - 5:00pm
Places : Singapore Vision Farm and
Qian Hu Fish Farm
Cost : $4 per person (for lunch).
Learn about FAITH gardening and tilapia rearing. Enter a Fish Spa (choose your masseurs-tiny fishes or big ones). Kids, you may want to feed tortoises or catch some fish for your aquarium. And these are just the appetizer and the dessert that we are preparing for you. Wait till you see the main course!
Getting there :Take a shuttle bus from Choa Chu Kang Bus Interchange (Berth 5) to Qian Hu Fish Farm. From Qian
Hu, it’s a short 5 minute walk to Singapore Vision Farm, where we will be assembling. Bus leave ½ hourly, from 8.30 am onwards.
* To RSVP or drop email to Kok Wee at admin office (acad-supp@