I have been selling desserts at Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre for the last 6 years. Initially, my stall was situated at the first stall of a row of six stalls but I moved to another stall 2 doors away (ie. now I am at the third stall) following a dispute with my previous landlord. After I quit his stall, my ex-landlord tried to rent out his stall but was not successful. In the end, he rented it out to his sister-in-law to sell ... DESSERTS.
Now, I have a direct competitor 2 doors away and she has an advantage because of her location - customers see her stall first before mine, and many of them cannot imagine that there could be another dessert stall just 2 stalls away. Anyway, for the last 2 years, I have encountered different kinds of customers and it recently struck me that the way these customers act in relation to my competitor and me parallels the reactions of Christians to the gospel of grace:
1. My regular customers who did not realize that I have moved 2 stalls away and continued patronizing the 1st stall
Many of my regular customers did eventually discover my new location (some of them found me again only after more than 1 year even though they often eat at the hawker centre) and feedback to me that they found the taste of the 1st stall's dessert different but continued patronizing because they did not know I had moved. Now that they have re-discovered my new location, they gladly come back to buy from me because my desserts taste much better (that's what my customers said).
This is like Christians who accept old covenant preaching, not knowing that God had moved from Mount Sinai to Mount Zion. I was one of them ... until I came to New Creation Church after about 30 years in my previous AOG church, and I must say the new covenant tastes much better! (Heb 8:6)
2. Customers who turn in from the aisle and stop at the 1st stall and immediately order there
I am not referring to customers who come to the hawker centre regularly but those who happen to drop by once in a long while (I can tell because their faces look unfamiliar). Many of them don't walk around to see what other choices they have, so they just stop at the first stall they see and just order. Some of them may have done so, thinking that desserts taste the same everywhere.
I think this is true of many Christians. I was also one of them who stay on at the first church they are introduced to and don't really bother to listen to what other churches are preaching and teaching, and therefore are not able to compare differences. In fact, I used to think that all churches should be preaching more or less the same thing. How wrong I was; I stayed at my previous church for about 30 years and never ever listened to other preaching until I came to NCC and Pastor Prince showed me the scriptures in a whole new light. Suddenly, the bible became interesting and the Christian walk exciting.
3. Some regular customers who switched to the 1st stall
I have a few (thank God, only a few) previously regular customers who have switched over to the first stall. It made me realize that even though some customers (again thank God, only a few) bought from me regularly, they did not really appreciate my desserts, and they switched the moment they had a different choice.
Some Christians in NCC have switched to other churches too, and I realized that some of us may attend NCC regularly but we may not have really understood and truly embraced the gospel of grace (it is actually the gospel but I use the term gospel of grace to differentiate from the “other” gospels – Gal 1:6-9). I guess some people just simply cannot or don’t know how to appreciate grace. How sad :-(
4. Some regular customers who tried out the 1st stall and came back
I also have some regular customers who tried out the 1st stall for a short while when it first opened and later came back to me again. Usually, when they came back, they would say with a sheepish smile “Your desserts still taste better.”
Some NCC members also did leave NCC for a while to attend other churches but later came back. It seems that they have a better appreciation of the gospel of grace now and enjoy their Christian walk more.
I have heard Pastor Prince say in one of his sermons before that for some members who were born again in NCC, it is sometimes good for them to attend other churches once in a while so that they can truly appreciate the difference between grace and mixture, life and death. There’s a Chinese saying ” 身在福中不知福 ” ie. being immersed in blessing and yet not knowing or appreciating it.
(to be continued …)