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JAT in a nutshell.

Famous people call it bio and computer programmes call it read-me; I decided against being witty, so off goes “I am not but I know I AM” (it’s the title of LG’s book anyway) and in comes “about JAT” – no frills, no nonsense, no smart-alec terms – just a simple (and severely over-elaborated) self-introduction. I enjoyed writing this – partly because I’m writing about myself (I’m shameless, but honest! Hmm… Shamelessly honest or honestly shameless?), but also because I enjoy writing – it was a creative exercise that I thoroughly reveled in. Normally I’d say to you, “Enjoy!”, but for this one, I’d tell myself – “Enjoyed!” This “about JAT” is now a mainstay on my blog – you can find it amongst the links on top. (You can’t judge me on my blog – I’ve already done that!)

***

I am Joey Asher Tan, a 26-year-old Youth Minister with Grace Assembly of God Church, Singapore, since 15th October 2009.

I gave my life to my Saviour, Jesus Christ, on 28th November 1995, and started to pursue Him as my bullseye in life on 4th June 1997.

I was baptised as “Asher” on 23rd December 2005, and this Hebrew name represents, “Blessed, joyful and happy”, which is a befitting self-description.

I am a Bible-believing Christian who desires to know God more by working excellently and learning earnestly through a balanced lifestyle, for the glory of God.

***

I love God, His Word and His young people; I seek to provoke thoughts, challenge perspectives and pen indelibility through my kaleidoscope of experiences.

I attempt to write daily because I want to capture the sheer plethora of thoughts that flood my mind; I consider it an achievement if I expand on one everyday.

I hope you feel my heart-on-sleeve passion, in-your-face authenticity and how I believe that the greatest gift you could ever give to young people, is to believe in them.

***

I answered God’s call by heading into full-time ministry with my church, which is probably the craziest, but best thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I wake up every morning and thank God for allowing me to work in my dream job; I serve with “R-AGE” – it was there, as a 14-year-old, that my life changed.

I am in the business of Redeeming A Generation for Eternity and I pastor around 100 young people in the Grace AG (Bukit Batok) youth community.

I turn 21 every 21st October and I’m getting younger by the day because I hang out with the most awesome bunch of young people in the world.

***

I graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic with a Diploma in Mass Communication, where I discovered my communication aptitude for writing and orating.

I credit my decade in Anglo-Chinese School for a rudimentary education in confidence; it is stillwhere I’d school my kids, after all, for the best is yet to be.

I am a commissioned officer and a tank platoon commander by training; I was with the Singapore Armed Forces for three years as an Army Regular.

I headed the Marketing Division of Global Beverages Asia and Wine Mall during a fruitful two-year stint in Shanghai, China, where my worldview formed.

I am currently pursuing my Bachelor of Communication with Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and I cannot wait to begin my theological education.

***

I trust that I am an authentic leader, a passionate speaker and a mentor who believes in young people; God engraved this three-fold ministry on my heart.

I am a grateful son and proud brother in a remarkable family that is spilling over with God’s grace, goodness, mercy and favour; I couldn’t ask for more.

I am confident I will be the world’s best father to my children and the best husband my wife could ever dream of; I’ve been blessed, so I shall bless.

I consider myself immensely privileged to be able to say “I love you” to a girlfriend who is a constant reminder of God’s grace to me; I can’t wait to marry her.

***

I started serving in church when I was 15 years old, when God told me that I’d be a worship leader; God anoints those whom He calls – ministry began there.

I know I am built for the stage; I enjoy song-writing, performing and revel in taking the lead vocals – I delight in expressing myself and thrive in the limelight.

I have childhood dreams like everyone, so one day I will study in Fuller Seminary, speak to a million people, travel around the world, meet my heroes, John Piper and Eric Cantona (plus Uzumaki Naruto in my sleep!), and maybe even have a street named after me.

I aspire to be a published author, sought-after speaker and recorded artiste (and of course, life-changer and history-maker) before I depart this earthly body.

***

If I could only say one thing to you, I would look you eyeball-to-eyeball, and say…

“Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing; I am absolutely nothing without Christ.”

imparting a passion to the next generation.

I think it’s fair to say that I’m not just a passionate individual but also a person with many passions. And something that I’m exceptionately passionate about is the Word of God. This keenness was originally infused into my spiritual bloodstream by JH, when I was much younger; I saw the fire in his eyes whenever we discussed about the Word of God or when we pursued truth. I also have to thank Him for introducing me to JP, who is undoubtedly one of my greatest influences in this area, even though I’ve not met him yet. It was JH’s gift – Pierced by the Word – that got me into JP’s solid teaching.

And it’s not surprising, a decade on, that I discuss the Word of God with the same fire in my eyes. One of the most satisfying things in life has to be reading familiar scripture and to have the Holy Spirit breathing into you new perspectives. I revel in those kinda revelations – don’t you? And so I find myself asking myself, “What then have I done to impart this passion through my lifestyle and how can I continue to perpetuate that?” I scrutinised my actions and I am inclined to believe that I have done my part.

  • I am a keen student and an even keener teacher of the Word. I enjoy preparing lessons and thrive in teaching them – it rejuvenates me when I exercise my gift.
  • I prepare sermons with excellence and will never preach something I do not understand fully; the last thing I want to do is to undermine or shortchange the pulpit.
  • I memorise scripture in my own time and I encourage everyone within my sphere of influence to do likewise.
  • I attempt to give scripture-based advice whenever I have the opportunity to dispense counsel, instead of just depending on my wisdom and experience.
  • I base my ministry objectives and vision on the Word of God; the daily themes of PIERCE were lifted from Hebrews 4:12 and the three primary roles of my GII Shepherds were derived from John 21:15-17.
  • I invest money into purchasing knowledge and fill my mind with the right things, instead of overspending on things that have little eternal value.
  • I make time to attend additional teaching seminars and conferences instead of just depending on the Sunday pulpit for my Word input and whenever possible, I will encourage my leaders to sign up and go together with me.
  • I have progressively added audio sermons into my iPod and listen to sound preaching (pun intended) more than I listen to music. In fact, I’ve done this so much there’s nothing but sermons and teachings in my 8GB MP3 player.
  • I subscribe to snail-mailers and online feeds and whenever there is new material, I’ll feast my mind on them so that I am able to generate new thoughts.
  • I am actually more enthusiastic to shop in bookshops (or online book stores) than in shopping centres or departmental stores.
  • I attempt to pray scripturally so that my prayers are theologically accurate and always be aligned to/with God’s divine will.
  • Lastly, I try to spend some time each day to meditate on at least one portion of scripture (but I could really do with some improvement here!).

But why do I tell you all this? To boast? (Oh heaven forbid me from that!) I am deliberately detailed in proving my passion for the Word because it has been a journey for me and I wish to encourage you to ask God to expand your capacity to love His Word. You see, I was never so into it right from the beginning. I certainly did not expect myself to end up at this point and I most certainly do not expect myself to stagnate here too – it’s one reason why I am massively looking forward to my theological education in 2012. I concur with what EC said at last year’s IDMC, that while theological credentials are beneficial, theological competence is essential.

But this is the hardest of them all for it is a daily death of self-denial and an utter dependence on the Spirit to enable me to do so – while I make a sincere and genuine attempt to put into practice what I have learnt, more often than not, I fail at achieving this and for that I am the chief of sinners despite all the “accomplishments” listed above. They’re really just merely accomplishments and nothing else. I will never be able to attain godliness (and holiness) by my own doing; I’m constantly a long-shot away from being Christlike and how I long to fare better in this arena. The Word of God repeatedly reveals my carnal nature and humbles me greatly for it exposes my sin and shortcomings. I don’t know about you (actually I do, I’m just writing rhetorically), but no matter how much I profess to love the Word, the most crucial thing is that I live (and do) the Word. In fact, the more I love the Word, the more I discover my sinful desires and the more I realise my need for the grace of God, the counsel of the Spirit and the redemption of Jesus Christ to see me through each moment.

Amazing grace,
how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.

All right, I have no idea how I ended up there but I guess what I really want to say is that, if I could only choose one passion to impart to the next generation, it would be the passion to pursue the Word of God. I pray that it becomes your primary passion too, especially if you are an influential leader in youth ministry.

in retrospect, i was killing myself.

I attended BH’s Staying Emotionally Healthy seminar tonight and I was delighted to see many of my youth leaders present. I actually had something to share today but I’d save it for tomorrow. Nonetheless, I’d like to apologise for my three-day hiatus – the longest recess since my decision to blog daily. I do foresee that it may not be my last lull though. (By the way, this evening’s seminar, tonight’s and tomorrow’s entry, even though they are remotely linked, are actually mutually exclusive entries.) Let me explain.

A number of you know that I have been struggling with insomnia. I’m tremendously grateful for those who’ve shown concern by asking me about my well-being, reminding me to sleep early or just silently interceding for me in the background – thank you and praise the Lord, I am getting better. Bed times are earlier and now uninterrupted. (:

If you look to the right in the About Me write-up, you’d know that “I write daily because I want to capture the sheer plethora of thoughts that flood my mind and I consider it a therapeutic achievement if I can expand on one everyday”. After some reflection, I actually think that that is actually one culprit of my inability to sleep. You see, I usually write around 10-11pm and publish at the stroke of midnight. But after writing, I’d struggle to fall asleep because I will be developing another plethora of thoughts to what I just published. If doctors advise against exercise just before bedtime because the release of endorphins prevents one from quick slumber, then I believe that writing, being a cathartic process for me, releases mental endorphins and hence, impedes my shut-eye.

And because I’ve been so religious in wanting to keep up with my self-imposed habit (and aspiration of writing daily) in a bid to relieve my mind, I’ve neglected my own physical health in the process. It’s ironic really, because this blog was created with the intention of helping me to hasten my sleep by giving me a platform to purge my thoughts and thereby lighten my mental load. Yes, to a certain extent, I think this condition was self-inflicted, albeit unknowingly and unintentionally. Well then, wisdom demands that it is time to review the desired result of this blog in light of attaining a better physical condition.

I still aspire to write as often as I can (because I absolutely enjoy it!) but I will no longer neglect my bodily condition for the sake of attending to my cerebral condition. The challenge for me then, is to strike a fine balance between these two equally-important arenas of my life. Hence, I believe that there will be necessary lapses in posts being published but I will have to learn to be comfortable with that; it’s my pseudo-OCD (or my secret melancholy) kicking in that prevents this (surprisingly) beneficial writing lapse. On hindsight, present-assessment and forward-thinking, I believe that being able to publish one post every two to three days for the next ten years is far better than being able to publish one post daily for just one year. In other words, very simply put, I need to moderate; I cannot be too radical or extreme in my quest for achievements.

Oh Lord, there are so many things You’ve put in my heart and mind to accomplish. Please expand my capacity and extend Your grace to me so that I will be able to complete it before this season of my life is over. More importantly, heighten my sensitivity to Your Spirit so that I will learn discern what’s mine, what’s Yours and that all of mine are actually Yours. Please grant me the serenity the accept what I will not accomplish. May You empower me to pray John 3:27 daily. I love You, Lord. Amen.

life lessons learnt from a game of musical chairs.

There’s nothing more rewarding than to see people know Christ. Since I’ve entered full-time ministry, my opportunities to interact with non-Christians have been greatly diminished. I’ve always seen myself as an evangelist because of how I came to know Christ and what He has done in my life, so I am thankful for the opportunities presented to me in iJourney – where I’m able to get to know youths who do not yet know Him, and therein lies the challenge to introduce Him to them.

KK conducted an activity for the students in today’s session and he asked if I had wanted to share anything at the end of his debrief. I declined initially, but when the Holy Spirit started to deposit lessons into my heart, I took it up; I’m always quite impressed by how quick the Spirit can impress lessons into me.

These are my observations from a modified version of musical chairs, where the participants’ difficulty of movement was introduced by tying a person’s arm to his or her leg with a short string to simulate aging:

In life, there are three facts; we will all:

  1. Get old – the most certain thing about life is death.
  2. Face new challenges – for that comes with age and changing environments.
  3. Experience suffering – in various intensities and variety.

And so there are three things we can do:

  1. Do not complain – for it doesn’t change our situation, solve our problem or make us feel any better about what we are going through.
  2. Help one another – assistance is always appreciated and it increases efficiency and reduces frustration. A word of encouragement goes a long way, even if it’s just a word. Learn to look out for each other.
  3. Walk together – competition is good, but it could be venomous. Everyone gets there safely when we walk at an agreed pace, without anyone lagging behind, speeding up or overtaking; don’t leave anyone behind.

I think that when students eventually leave the world of academia and enter what’s commonly known as the “real” world (as if life as students is an illusion) they will be thrown challenges from all directions simply because of how unnecessarily cruel meeting the world’s expectations can get. So instead of fight each other, why don’t we get on the same side, join hands and do battle together? I’m idealistic, but I’m not wrong.

is your advice any good at all?

There’s a difference between good and godly advice. Everyone is able to offer their two-cents’ worth but not everyone makes sense. Therefore, it is important to surround yourself with counsellors who are able to expand your perspectives as well as to offer you solutions (or at least show you the possible consequences of any decision made). We should be cautious in selecting who we hang out with for it usually determines who we become eventually – surround yourself with cynics and you may just become one.

The way of the fool always seem right to him – they will hardly admit that they are wrong; don’t spend too much energy trying to convince them otherwise, but learn to just pray for them and commit them to the Lord. When I see how the advice that I dispense fall on deaf ears, it gives me an idea of how foolish I was when I was younger, and how I have refused and rejected advice. If you want to counsel others, it is important that you are rooted in the Word of God. Wisdom is knowing how to apply biblical principles to everyday situations. Hence, wise counsel and sound advice always comes from the Word.

It is also important that you are a Spirit-filled individual if you want to offer advice to others. I always tell my leaders to pray (silently) in the Spirit (in their hearts) when they talk to youths, and to be sensitive to what the Spirit might possibly prompt them to say instead. It’s imperative that we do not make up advice; for the lack of a better way to phrase it – let’s not bullshit others. There are days that I do not have the answer and when that happens, I will be honest and tell whoever I’m speaking to that I will get back to them a few days later. Don’t trust anyone who’s always got the answer. We must stop whenever and however the Spirit leads and prompts us to, and seek God for an answer first. I remember BH’s advice regarding advice-giving – “If people run to you, you better run to God, otherwise they might think that you are God!”

I try to surround myself with people who know what people are like – basically older and more mature individuals who have seen more people than I have. They give great insight to people and how to deal with those who are more challenging to manage. They teach me how to discern and share their experiences with me. Hence, regardless of how high-up I may rise in a leadership role, it is important that I do not isolate myself, but to surround myself with people who are involved in the right kind of attitude, and those who are like-minded. Having RY and PL to share with me their journey on being a ministry-man and a family-man gives me great leverage to know what to do when I’m faced with similar situations. However, after I receive their advice, I will still consult the Lord first for obeying what the He has set upon my heart to do is of utmost importance.

And then of course, there are those whom you simply trust with your life because you know that they always have your interests at heart. These are people whom have gone through seasons with you and the ones who have proved their consistency and availability in your life – basically, those whom have stood the test of time. He or she could be a best friend, parent, sibling, mentor or partner. Always treasure the value of their opinions simply because they love you without agenda and want the best for you.

In conclusion, in the area of giving and receiving advice, here are the four categories of people whom you should seek and aspire to become:

  1. Word people
  2. Spirit people
  3. People people
  4. Trustworthy people

These are the people whom you know will dispense good advice and godly counsel.

but what if I cannot connect with youths anymore?

Even though I’ve only been with R-AGE as a full-time staff for nine months, it feels as if I’ve been doing it for nine years. I started serving as a youth leader when I was 17 years old and I “rose” through the “ranks” and have experienced almost every single ministry role before. Before I left for Shanghai, I must have been one of the youth leaders with the highest public profiles – surely everyone knew Joey Asher Tan.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), all these amounted to nothing.

I was severely humbled when I returned for my first Grace Retreat (the one with Life Game) and to my shock and horror (and massive disappointment), there were people who did not know who I was and those who knew me pretended like I didn’t exist – I don’t blame them – being physically away does result in relational drifting, and that is manifested in friendships that are eventually downgraded to acquaintance-ship. I have since learnt that youth ministry is transient and that no leader, however big his or her profile, is indispensable. The reality is, one day youths may forget who RY is or what CX has done for the ministry. I always think that if it could happen to JH, SH, DL or JT (leaders of yesteryear) it could definitely happen to me.

And you know what? I’m actually thankful for that.

It challenges me to think beyond myself and to build for the next generation of leaders and youths, for the future R-AGE and Grace Assembly of God, and ultimately, the next Joey Asher (i.e. the next youth minister who’s going to take over me). And yes, I’ve already identified my potential successor(s). I’m so thankful that this ministry is never going to be about me. And the best thing about it is that it’s not even down to my own choices or “something that I’ve set out to do” but by the innate and proven ephemeral nature of youth ministry. It forces all of us to think beyond today. I absolutely embrace that because I’m in the business of guiding and helping the generations after me to surpass everything I have achieved and will ever establish.

By the way, I’m quite astonished with the way the Spirit leads my pen.

Actually this wasn’t what I had intended to write about today; what I had wanted to share was the advice I gave to AS this afternoon. She asked, “But what if I cannot connect with the youths anymore?” I struggled with exactly that when I first re-joined and attempted to re-connected with R-AGE and I could really identify with her. So I gave her three pointers which I applied to help me overcome this real challenge.

  1. Ask God to give you a heart to love the youths and hands to serve them.
  2. Be consistent and always be around for them – to listen to and guide them – they’ll open up to you sure enough.
  3. Be patient with yourself and give yourself a trial period of at least three months before you evaluate your progress.

I met LW for an early dinner and I was so encouraged by his appetite to learn and grow. This boy’s got immense potential in the ministry and I can’t wait to see him grow into a man of God; it heartens me greatly to know that the ministry is filled with young men who are as hungry as he is; the future of R-AGE looks bright indeed. Praise the Lord!

top ten ways i will remember PIERCE.

I actually ought to be shot for only posting my reflections on Pierce now – especially when I encouraged all the campers to blog, facebook and tweet about Pierce – and I’m the last to be on the task which I set. Shame on me and thank you all for being merciful (I’m sure you’re more merciful than those who threw the water bombs with such glee!)

When I began the day, I knew that I’d write about Pierce tonight and I’m glad I met up with JH tonight; and as I shared with Him what God had done in Pierce, it helped me to consolidate my thoughts into bite-sized chunks. (I actually wrote a really long reflection on my mobile, but I think I’ll just can that for this instead.)

In no order of importance or significance, more like a what-comes-to-mind-first:

I. The difference between this awesome youth camp and the last awesome youth camp (Dream-makers) in R-AGE was the God-factor; what sets Pierce apart from the other events that I’ve been a part of over the last decade (and trust me, I’ve been part of a lot) is that God visited us in a progressively tangible manner with each passing hour. It is in the presence of God that our lives are changed and the presence of God was so strong in this camp that it was un-mistakable and un-manufacturable.

II. The youths rose to take ownership of the youth group. I smiled the widest during two particular moments; firstly, when I saw cell kids approaching cell mentors at the altar call to take turns to pray for them – forget about hierarchy or maturity, they just wanted to minister to their brothers and sisters! Next, when JN, TT, SY and LW approached me for a five-minute interval to teach the campers an R-AGE cheer which they had created themselves – that to me was “youths leading youths”. To these two items I’d say, “Outstanding and well done, R-AGE, keep it up!”

III. For me, there were two events that really galvanised the ministry. Even though we had already expected the youths to gang up on the committee during the war game, I felt that there was a spiritual significance behind that epic rallying of all the campers – I’d say this carelessly, but I think there’s something prophetic about that act of coming together for the same common purpose (of mercilessly destroying us). The other activity that, hopefully, would stick in the campers’ head for a long time to come would no doubt be the Midnight Workout and how they earned their camp t-shirt – it taught them about sticking together, no matter what, whatever it takes. I’m confident these two programmes brought our unity and togetherness to new heights. May it drive commitment to the youth group into their hearts.

IV. When you are surrounded by an outstanding team of Generals and Knights, you can’t help but to rejoice with them when you see them rise up to take the mantle of leadership and exhibit the qualities of excellence, passion, initiative, dedication and commitment. On paper, I already knew that my committee would make an amazing team and when execution took place, it confirmed their ability to deliver. I deliberately gave them autonomy and they reveled in it. Well done!

V. I had never in my wildest dreams expected Be a Barney to take off like that. When we printed about 400 cards, we thought it’d be just about right, and that we’d actually have a few leftovers for ourselves to bring home as keepsakes. I think it was just after dinner on the second day that EL reported the crisis to me, “Joey! We have no more Barney cards!” I smiled and thanked the Lord for how the campers really caught the Barnabas’ spirit of encouragement! They’re still at it now, I believe!

VI. Here’s some trivia for you – Plug & Play was actually an idea which I had wanted to implement in R-AGE way back in 2005 (I still have the meeting minutes!). It remained dormant for years until I identified the hidden potential in NC to “take over” it and take it forward. She took a good six months to say “Yes” to my invitation and it was my personal delight to see her execute the inaugural Plug & Play on the first evening. I was convinced there and then that there was no one except her who could pull it off in that manner and magnitude. She far exceeded my expectations and everything I had hoped Plug & Play would turn out to be; she basically took it and made it her own, and I’m sure she’d soar with it now.

VII. With every camp or retreat, and yes, I do mean every, there will always be hype at the end of it – there is no exception for Pierce. However, while it’s only been two weeks since Pierce concluded, I’ve already seen noticeable changes in R-AGE @ GII’s culture, both in and out of services and cells. It’s as if the youths finally realised that they could actually have so much fun, actually enjoy worshipping God, actually engage with sermons, actually pray for one another in such a manner and actually relate with one another with such kinship. Pierce somehow became a point of activation for the youths to actualise what they’ve always had. I remember telling JH that it’s not as if we went “higher from being already high”, but that we went from “zero into one”. Something just clicked and we never had that!

VIII. I am seriously considering publishing the evaluation forms for they will be a great source of encouragement for anyone who reads it. What encouraged me most was how a great number of youths indicated their interests to serve in R-AGE – as CMs, emcees, ushers and just about anything – simply because they want to contribute to the ministry and be a part of its growth!

IX. At the close of the first day, I had an opportunity to catch up with DL and she, very excitedly, shared her Dream-makers experience with me – she still kept Angel & Mortal notes from that camp in her Bible and she still remembered all the different activities and lessons, especially the one where we tortured the leaders. There and then, the Spirit reminded me of the potential of Pierce and that its impact and effect would continue to be felt a decade later. It has been my prayer and desire that this camp creates a mark in R-AGE @ GII’s journey to fulfilling God’s destiny. I believe and I confidently declare that, by faith, we will achieve our destiny in God!

X. Last but not least, Pierce seriously affirmed my full-time calling 1) with youths, 2) at Grace Assembly, 3) in R-AGE. I am immensely grateful to God for His faithfulness in my life and it gives me great courage in the coming days!

All right, I know the past few entries have been really long and grandfather-ish, but please bear with me for I already know what I am going to write about tomorrow and for the next couple of days and they sure look like they’ll be lengthy entries too!

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