my full-time calling
25th September 2009
RE: THE FULL TIME CALLING TO YOUTH MINISTRY
80 years on earth as an end to itself may appear to be a relatively long time. However, through the lenses of eternity, our lifespan on this planet is but a mere flicker of light. And like vapour, we will breathe our last before we know it and embark on our forever with our Creator; we were born naked with nothing and likewise, we will die naked with nothing. I look forward to meeting God and receiving His stamp of approval on how I have chosen to live, be and do in this lifetime – and it would only be a success story if I have achieved what He has ordained for me to accomplish.
My desire to serve God in a full time capacity was born when I began to serve God more than a decade ago. Everyone harbours ambitions of being astronauts, policemen, scientists, teachers and whatever childhood innocence and ideals would allow them to dream of being. I, however, have always dreamt of being a youth pastor. Knowing myself and my family background, I would probably be operating a temple while being in and out of police custody if I had chosen to remain in my old life. God has been good to me and I give Him full glory for how He has redeemed me from being yellow Chinese trash to a useful individual in society but more specifically tuned for building His kingdom. Answering the call to serve God full time is not a noble thing to do – it is a privilege; we need God so much more than He needs us.
I will always remember that I made the most significant decisions in the days of my youth – decisions that would either make or break my future. I have become who I am today because men and women of God have chosen to invest into my life and to celebrate victories with me, watch me crash into walls of despair as well as to witness my spiritual growth and my maturation from a boy to a man. I have failed countless times and have hurt numerous people along the way and it is only by God’s grace that I have been given second, third and fourth chances to try again. I would never have made it this far and I would never possess my gifts and talents today without the grace of God in my life.
I will always remember how these remarkable people have chosen to believe in my potential and what God could do through me – they have stepped out of their comfort zone to help me to develop and fulfill my God-given potential. For this, I will always be grateful to them for they journeyed with me through crucial periods in my life. Because of this, I am convicted that young men and women can be guided to make godly decisions in their lives and impact their generation for God’s glory – when they have an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ and when someone chooses to believe in and walk with them. With all my heart, I believe that the greatest gift that one could ever give to a young person is the gift of belief.
The prompting to enter full time ministry emerged when I ended my 3-year stint with the Singapore Armed Forces in July 2007. I was on the verge of stepping into full time ministry until an opportunity to work in Shanghai was presented before me – it was there that I gained experience in the secular arena and grew exponentially in my competencies and capacities. God granted me favour with men and His grace enabled me to excel in my work. I was slightly puzzled when my Shanghai stint was brought to an abrupt end but as I trusted the Lord when I left Singapore for Shanghai, I continued to trust the Lord when He brought me back home after almost 2 years. However, all this time in Shanghai, whenever I experienced a career high or low, or whenever life was good, bad or ugly, the full time calling was consistently playing at the back of my mind and I was constantly reminded of it. You could never run away from your calling.
I have always been synonymous with passion and I have always endeavoured to be an inspiration in my sphere of influence and beyond. Being a change agent, a catalyst and a fire-starter are roles that often fill me with pride and satisfaction. I have been involved with and served in practically every ministry and in every role over the last 12 years. My message is this – I have been born and bred in R-AGE and now the time has come for me to return the investments made in me. It would be a joy and delight to impact and influence 14-year-old Joeys to give their lives to God and to live for Him. I consider it a privilege and an honour to walk with young people to empower them to redeem their generation for eternity. I firmly believe that pastoring young people would give me great gratification and I would be able to give God great glory.
But beyond all the doing, I have a deep desire to grow in my being. I pine to leave behind a legacy of prayer as priority, a passionate pursuit of knowing God and a genuine heart for the generation after me. And I believe that the highest form of ministry is when you start to minister from who you are and not what you do. But most of all, I believe God is good, He is in control and He will bring things to pass according to His time and methods.
God works in mysterious ways but I believe that He is not a mysterious God. He desires to know us even though He already knows us better than we know ourselves and He desires more to be known by us. I never once dared to verbalise the deeper stirring and conversations with God in my heart of hearts because I felt that my faith was inadequate. Yet without faith, it is impossible to please God. I have always looked toward my own capabilities to carve out a sound future and quality of life for my family and I but I forget that God is Jehovah Jireh and I am just Joey Asher Tan. I often question God, “Why do you give me so many life-changing dreams and history-making aspirations and when at the end of the day You challenge me to surrender it back to You?”
How could you ever spend enough time in prayer? All our efforts put into knowing God through reading the Word or through prayer or through fasting or through any other methods would be indefinitely inadequate. We could fast for 40 years and still it would not be enough to know an infinite God who is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. Over the last 2 months, and particularly in the last couple of weeks, I have prayed harder and longer than I ever had in my life and yet I am struggling. I still do not have all the answers to my doubts and questions – precisely why this will be a step of faith for me into the unknown. All I can do is to open my eyes and ears and to take it day by day.
As a recipient of good mentoring, I have always treasured and taken on board the advice that I have received over the years from family members and close friends who have guided and guarded me. I have also discussed this matter at length with three men whom I highly regard and have had the privilege of walking closely with during this searching period – my youth pastor (Ronald Yow), my mentor (Peter Lim), as well as a respected Christian leader (Peter Chao). Together with the counsel that I have received from my relatives as well as from my mother, sister and girlfriend, I was able to understand and appreciate the various challenges and rewards, as well as to gain an all-rounded perspective of full time ministry. It was through their encouragement and affirmation that I was reminded and convicted of my gifting, passion and inclination to work with young people; and it was through their blessing and support that I found additional courage for full time ministry.
I trust God completely and I know that He goes before me. By faith, I know that there is nothing too hard for the Lord. I am confident that God will not shortchange me but instead will bless me exceedingly and abundantly. He will never leave me nor forsake me. He is my helper and hence I need not fear, for to fear is to withhold. And I believe that the time has come for me to let go of myself and to hold on to Him.
I believe that if I desire to walk in God’s will for my life, He alone will equip me to do His will so that He will get all the glory. I will attempt to trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. I will attempt to acknowledge Him in all my ways and He will make my paths straight. By faith, I am excited to commence on the next phase of my life in full time ministry, but I am more excited to play a small part of God’s big plans for me. And I believe that when the time comes, I will receive my reward in full and what has been promised to me because I have made every attempt to endure and to do the will of God, by the grace of God.
May God use me for His glory alone. Grace to you. Amen.
Joey Asher Tan
“Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing;
I am absolutely nothing without Christ.”