A thousand apologies for the silence since the end of March. I’ve been completely swarmed, and this week looks like it’s going to be even crazier than the last. In the meantime, do enjoy an article I wrote for Eagles Vantage Point – a real privilege. Click here to see the online article, or just read on…
Generation Y Crusader!
The Y Generation hallmark
One distinguishing hallmark of the “Generation Y” young adult is his or her likelihood of switching jobs every other year. As I embark on the seventh year of my professional pilgrimage, I am privileged to have worked in the military, marketplace, and Christian ministry, in Singapore and Shanghai. Hence, I am inclined to associate myself with the ambitious yet fickle minded traits of my generation and our increasingly challenging landscape of being an active marketplace evangelist.
It is neither simple nor straightforward to shine for Jesus as a young adult in a progressively dark world. That said, I hope that my experiences and observations will encourage you to persevere as an ambassador of truth; I offer my thoughts on the intrinsic issues of having pride, maintaining integrity, leaving a legacy in the workplace, and how that may be linked to winning souls for Jesus.
My definition of “Marketplace Evangelism?” The intentional effort of ensuring that colleagues and business associates recognize your Christian faith and lifestyle through your choice of words, work attitude, and what fills your calendar after office hours. You should also deliberately and regularly attempt to minister the Gospel of Christ through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit during God appointed opportunities – the results are up to God but the effort is down to us.
Dealing with the evergreen issues of pride
You cannot escape it – how you deal with pride kicks off your first foray into the battlefield as a Christian in the marketplace. In my initial weeks in Shanghai, I adorned what my boss candidly referred to as, “The Typical Singaporean Mentality,” where I actually believed in my superiority over my Chinese counterparts.
I have repented, of course, but I remember feeling severely humbled when my supposedly inferior Administrative Manager demonstrated, with ease, how to negotiate both complicated Chinese laws and cunning Chinese businessmen with shrewdness; only then did I appreciate our vast differences and his vast experience. It was a sobering realization.
Regardless of positions or paychecks, we must carry in our suitcases an attitude to learn – from subordinates, peers, and superiors. After all, what do we have to lose except our repulsive and often obstructive pride? Observe what 1 Peter 5:5-6 (The Message) instructs, “…And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other… So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs.”
Displaying visible integrity in invisible places
I spent 21 months as a Marketing Manager in the alcoholic beverage industry in Shanghai. Sometimes, I had to accompany my boss to entertain clients at bars and nightclubs. In a (literally) dark place fraught with affordable sleaze, it becomes easy to forsake your Christian values, especially so if you are a visually stimulated, testosterone filled man. I recall a conversation with the twenty year old girl who was paid to host me – smack in the middle of our superficial chatter, I asked her, point blank, “Why are you doing this?” Rather than taking her home that night, I sincerely hope that she took home my probing question instead.
Temptation is real and it charges at us with alarming regularity. We must be aware of the different types of temptations in our various arenas of work. Fight the temptation of sluggishness and haphazard work; fight the temptation to abuse the privileges of position; fight the temptation of excessive occupational indulgences (like alcoholism); fight the temptation of a secret and decadent overseas lifestyle or when no one is observing.
Leaving behind a legacy of authenticity
Be true to yourself and stick to your convictions – pretending to be a good testimony is short lived and strenuous. I believe that it is acceptable to mess up occasionally or have fragments of bad attitude in the beginning; it is how you repent and recover from your mistakes that truly matter. I am persuaded that a non believer would find it more refreshing to see an imperfect believer making blunders and bettering himself from it.
A former Singapore Armed Forces colleague commended me for heading into full time ministry because it was something I had told them I would do eventually. And when he learnt that I am ministering in a church now, he spoke of the respect he had for me.
Let us not measure our successes by material achievements nor prestigious positions but by the unique footprints we leave behind. We must remember that our testimony is not what others think of us but what they think about Christ in us. I quote Steve Green in his timeless song, “May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe and the lives we live inspire them to obey. Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful.”
Getting the Church involved
The Church must teach her youths and young adults how to remain relevant instead of teaching them to be perfect religious snobs. What does it mean to be in the world but not of this world when sometimes their behavior and demeanor suggest that Christians are sometimes out of this world?
It is imperative for the Church to impart a humble spirit and a non judgmental attitude if she wants her people to reach the lost in their world. Believers must learn to write their own testimonies and be equipped to share it anytime and anywhere; they must also know when and how to step out of their comfort zone and to bring comfort to a society that is hurt, confused, and searching for more.
I have discovered that being available and meeting felt needs are the most effective ways of marketplace evangelism; and usually these two work in tandem – you should be available for them whenever they have needs. I encourage my young people to be sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit whenever they converse with people, so that they are able to recognize when they should transit from a worldly dialogue into a spiritual conversation.
How would you describe yourself as a professional?
You should ask God for a personalized vision statement to anchor you at the marketplace!
Midway through my stint in Shanghai, my company instructed us to update our personal particulars and there was a field that read “Briefly describe yourself.” I struggled to describe myself without using John 15:5 or my life motto that was derived from it. Anything that was religious in nature would be irrelevant to my organization. I remember staring at the monitor with complete blankness. So I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to inspire me.
Thirty minutes later, in one fell swoop, I penned a statement that would foreshadow the testimony that I would eventually leave behind: “I am a Bible believing Christian who desires to know God more by working excellently, learning earnestly while pursuing a God pleasing balanced lifestyle for the glory of God!”
Joey Asher Tan is a 27 year old Youth Minister with Grace Assembly of God Church, Singapore. He answered God’s call by heading into full time ministry in October 2009 and pastors 120 young people in the Grace Assembly of God (Bukit Batok) youth community.
I thank the Lord for the kind and generous compliments I have received since I performed “Find Us Faithful” at Watchnight Service 2010. It’s quite a pleasant experience having church members randomly approach you to say, “You were the one who sang at Watchnight right? Great job!” All this encouragement means a lot to me because it’s communicated in my primary love language.
Isn’t it wonderful that a song written in 1988 still has relevance and impact two decades later? That’s the hallmark of a hall of fame song. I praise the Lord for those who have told me how the song has encouraged them in their pilgrimage of faith but I think no one has heard how this timeless Steve Green song has become an integral part of my own faith journey.
This is a post I have wanted to write for the last year and so I shall publish it tonight.
While I’ve heard and sung it during my ACS days, it was at IDMC 2009 that this song reprised in my life. It was by God’s grace and people’s generosity that I even got the chance to attend this annual sold-out conference. It was my first IDMC and also the first time I sat into Ps Edmund Chan’s sermons. It goes without saying that he instantly became one of my favourite speakers.
It was at the final plenary session that God spoke into my heart and assured me that He’d take care of me. You see, throughout the conference, I was struggling with one decision – whether I should take up Ps Ronald’s offer to step into full-time ministry with R-AGE. This was potentially the biggest decision of my life thus far. I remember the clincher from Ps Edmund that God used to convict my heart and convince my head.
“Obedience is the highest expression of stewardship.”
At that moment, I remember Ps Edmund instructing the worship leader to lead the congregation to sing this song as a prayer of dedication. There was no emotionalism, no hype, no spiritually charged atmosphere and no preacher offering an invite to approach the altar. I sang the song to God from the bottom of my heart. I was certain tears rolled down my cheeks…
And I found myself in a soliloquy with God. Hands clasped, head bowed and eyes tightly shut, I uttered a simple prayer to God – “Okay Lord, I will”.
“Find Us Faithful” became the official soundtrack of my decision to enter full-time ministry.
Fast-forward to the start of 2010. I had tasked my first batch of REAL (2010) candidates to craft the REAL creed and compose the REAL song. After a week of compositions and revisions, their collective effort resulted in the completion of the official REAL creed. I was so proud of them when they recited it in front of R-AGE. However, they didn’t have the technical or inspirational competence to compose the song. So I let it rest.
However, in one inspired moment on a weekday morning, the Spirit reminded me of “Find Us Faithful” and impressed upon my heart to use that song to lead REAL 2010 into a time or worship. So I did that. And as I sang it to them for the first time, I found myself in tears again. This time, it wasn’t about me, but about them, for they represented the generation of young people that I would have the privilege to pastor.
The song became my earnest prayer of dedication for these 16 precious youths – that they would leave a lasting legacy for the REAL batches who would join after them and the batches who have gone before them. I opened my tear-filled eyes and saw a number of them in tears too; one was even on her knees. I knew the Spirit was moving powerfully in and speaking clearly to these kids. It was an anointed moment indeed.
I vaguely remember telling these things: “The Lord wants to engrave this moment onto your heart… You are standing on holy ground… The Lord is here in our midst…” I knew instantly that this was going to be the theme song for REAL (at least until an even more appropriate song is written).
A few months down the road, I led this song at the weekly Tuesday staff devotion. Again, I received the similar responses from my colleagues. There were no tears from me this time but I was sure this song registered something in their hearts. I know this because a few of them came to share with and affirm me.
Come 2010 Q4, Ps Kenny approached me from out of the blue and asked if I was keen to sing “the song that I led during staff devotion some months ago” at the Watchnight Service 2010, just before Ps David delivered his challenge. I was pleasantly surprised by the opportunity that was presented before me but I took a week to consider it before I eventually took up the offer; I wasn’t sure if I could manage rehearsals and REAL camp concurrently.
I had to activate Joel Tay to accompany me in this song because the minus-one track had not arrived from the States. He was kind enough to take on the challenge despite just a couple of days’ notice and we had, at best, two rehearsals – one at his house and the other at the GII Sanctuary a few hours before Watchnight.
Throughout rehearsals, I was constantly reminded of how the song presentation must challenge the church to leave behind an example of faith for the generations that would come after them. I asked God to help take the attention off me and shift it onto the message in the song – minimum showmanship, maximum diversion. And I trust that He has.
Last Thursday, I had the privilege of having dinner with Ps Edmund and his wife Ps Ann, together with Dr Bill Lawrence and his wife Lynna. Whenever I meet new people, I would naturally share about my journey to Jesus and my full-time calling. There and then, at Coleman’s Cafe in Excelsior Hotel, the official soundtrack played in my head.
It kept playing throughout the evening, until I went to bed; and I think the song will keep playing in my head, to serve as a personal reminder for me, for the rest of my life, until I see my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ face-to-face. No prizes for guessing the first question I would ask Jesus when I meet Him.
I couldn’t help but feel that it was a full circle indeed – to share this story (again) in the company of my mentor, who (by divine appointment) is the same pastor who facilitated my decision-making process into full-time ministry in September 2009. Indeed, “God is good, in control and will bring His will to pass”.
Oh Lord, may the footprints that I leave lead young people to believe in You and life I live inspire them to obey You. Please find me faithful at the end of my pilgrimage, Lord. I love You…
For this blog, I refrain from narrative writing, but I want to testify of God’s goodness, so here it is.
This afternoon, just before my champs headed for lunch, I taught them Steve Green’s “Find Us Faithful”. For some reason, I was impressed to do this last night when I was seeking God for them. As it turned out, this simple one-song singspiration unexpectedly evolved into a powerful time of ministry. As the tears streamed, hearts responded, eyes turned, emotions stirred, hands raised and commitments evoked, I’d like to believe that God was doing a work of renewal and refreshing in their perhaps jaded journey.
I prayed over them and challenged them to remember why they have decided to be a part of REAL. And as I prayed, I was convinced that we cannot and will not be able to accomplish the upcoming work and undergo the remaining training by our own strength and motivation. We have to and must turn to God, for it is His grace that would see us through and His power that would be perfected in our weakness. I felt so much passion dripping in my prayer and God’s anointing really moved me to tears.
In a week, three would depart from this group and in a month, I’d graduate the remaining 12. (I anticipate it to be a bittersweet sentimental moment.) I reminded them again that the success of REAL is not about what happens or is completed in these two months but about who they will turn out to be in the years to come. What is the legacy that they desire to leave behind for future REAL participants and the current and next generation of young people? What is the legacy that you want to leave behind for others who would come behind you?
So before the REAL team writes their own song, I hereby declare this timeless classic to be REAL programme’s official theme song. The ministry in L4R7 was undoubtedly the highlight of today. God’s presence was so strong in the room; I believe we were standing on holy ground.
Find Us Faithful
by Steve Green
We’re pilgrims on the journey of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace
Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us, let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful