A Q&A with 2023 Wesley SGM Conference Speakers

A Q&A with the Guest Speakers at this Year’s Wesley Small Group Conference, Pastor Kirk Tan and Lay Pastor Dr Stacey Tay, from Covenant Evangelical Free Church (CEFC)

Former banker Pastor Kirk Tan and Lay Pastor Dr Stacey Tay know what it is like to be in the marketplace. In fact, Pastor Stacey Tay is still working as a paediatrician at a local hospital. Both are gracious enough to answer some questions about their ministries and how they came to their decision on ministry work.

Thank you, Pastor Kirk and Pastor Dr Stacey, for sharing with and speaking to us at the recent Small Group Conference by Wesley Methodist.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

    ST: I’m considered a  third-generation Christian but I encountered God when I was a child, and it has been a wonderful journey of discovering and knowing God in my life. I work part-time as a paediatrician and my husband is a GP. Both my kids are in their 20s and study at a  local university. 

    KT:  I am a first-generation believer and became a believer after a Christmas rally near my mid-20s. I was in banking but am now in full-time pastoral ministry. My wife was my colleague but has been a homemaker for over 25 years now. Today we have our three young adult sons.          

    Please share with us when and how you come to the decision to enter full- or part-time ministry.

    ST: I had grown up with family members who were committed to serving God in full-time ministry. When I joined CEFC I started to serve in the Women’s Breakthrough Weekend as I found this a wonderful place of life transformation through encountering God. So it was in the women’s ministry that I found my place and calling. 

      It was through one of the church Dawn Prayers that I heard a specific call through John 21 to “feed my lambs”. The call to ministry was a call to surrender. During the prayer, the pastor had shared the story of the explorer Ernest Shackleton who had gone to seek help for his stranded ship on an ill-fated Antarctic expedition. They trekked across uncharted land, but at one point were challenged by a steep drop versus staying and dying from the cold. He jumped, and that free falling resulted in the group being able to find help and rescue for the whole crew. I was confronted with the idea that surrender was a dangerous but necessary step forward. This was the core of my decision to obey God in my call to serve wherever He put me, whether in lay ministry or at secular workplaces. 

      Lay Pastor Dr Stacey Tay

      KT: I am thankful to God for the privilege of serving in ministry leadership for over 25 years now at Covenant EFC which is my first church. Seven years ago, the church installed me as one of her first three lay pastors in the then newly created pastoral office. Two years ago, I joined the church full-time as a pastoral staff.   I sensed a call to full-time ministry some 20 years back. God clearly confirmed the timing of the calling two years back. 

      Going vocational full-time was not driven by considerations of effectiveness or any additional spiritual weight that comes with being a full-time pastor as compared to being a lay pastor. Anecdotally, when various well-meaning friends found out that I would be leading the same ministry responsibilities as a full-time pastor, they asked me in jest: Why go full-time? Why not stay as a lay pastor and enjoy the marketplace salary? They had a legitimate point. The only compelling reason therefore had to be this: God has called me into full-time ministry, and so it was for me. 

      Thank you for sharing your testimonies with us in a confidential, safe space during our recent Wesley Small Group conference. You encouraged us to be authentic and personal. How have your personal stories impacted your ministry?

      ST: In our ministry we have a saying that as leaders we are just signposts that point to Jesus. We don’t have the power to change people, but God can use our testimonies to point others to understanding the nature and character of God. Personal testimonies touch something deep within and help others to identify with real struggles as well as real breakthroughs. I believe God does not waste a single life experience, a single struggle or a single tear to bring glory to His name.

        KT:  One of my primary calling is in the area of ministries to men. For such a ministry to be effective, authenticity is required. Yet authenticity requires a safe place to be positively impactful in a community. Otherwise, authenticity alone can be counter productive.  What then is a safe place? In our men’s ministry, we crafted an acronym for SAFE: ‘S’ stands for being able to share honestly with each other, ‘A’ where there is a culture of accepting one another in love, ‘F’ for fixing not one another in judgement and ‘E’ to encourage and exhort one another towards godliness.  When authenticity operates in such a SAFE place, it then creates an empowering community among the brothers.  

        In your busyness, please share with us how you have experienced the presence of God in your ministry and workplace.

        ST: I’ve found that both the ministry and the workplace are arenas where I see God at work. He always knows what is around the corner. And I have been wowed by how He brings connections to help me in the next important step both at the workplace as well as in ministry. I suppose this is what we call divine appointments. He brings people, conversations and opportunities that I would never have dreamt about. I am often reminded that God is as interested in my life at work as well as in church. 

        KT: For me, experiencing the presence of God has to be an intentionally cultivated practice. It requires me to sensitively attune myself to the presence of God, where I am constantly aware of and partnering with His continuing and ever happening work in me and in those around me. As a wise man once said, when your eyes only see the natural or physical, then even the spiritual will seem physical or natural to you. But when your eyes are spiritual, then even the natural and physical will be spiritual to you.  

        Share a fun fact with us – name your favourite local food.

        ST: Fish head curry! 

        KT: All the unhealties! Curry rice, rojak, fried oyster egg!

        Pastor Kirk Tan

        Photos by Johnny Koh

        ‘Ask for a Renewed Heart that Clings Only to Jesus’:  Summary of Pastor Kirk Tan’s Sermon at SGM (Small Group Ministry) Conference on 20 May 2023

        By Joanna Tan

        The key message of the first Personal Discipleship plenary morning seminar at the recent Small Group Ministry Conference (SGM) by Wesley Methodist Church directed straight at our hearts. Pastor Kirk Tan opened with a familiar passage “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

        We were reminded that it always begins with our hearts, and we were given a safe space in the function room to examine the condition of our hearts together and ponder about the current state of our relationships with God:

        1. Are we hungry for a deeper love and relationship with Him (more of you, Lord)?
        2. Are we hurt inside, struggling to accept and see Him beyond our suffering (where are you, Lord)?
        3. Are we hardened by our sins, doubts and disbeliefs and rejecting Him in our lives (No, Lord)?

        A challenge was posed to each of us to dig deeper and reflect on whether we truly have a relationship with God, and whether Jesus would call us His friends. And if we feel far from Him, guess who moved?

        Pastor Kirk recounted the Story of Lazarus in John 11:1–54 and the many lessons for us to take away.

        We were reintroduced to the character of Martha, sister of Lazarus. Like Martha, we are often caught up with the busyness of our lives. Many of us harbour ‘idols’ such as our careers, relationships, wealth, achievements and even our ministry work. These things often become more important to us than God Himself. It absorbs our hearts and minds and we allow our pride to take over as these things make us feel good about ourselves. We are reminded not to be ‘caught up’ with these many things but to also learn to be like Mary, the other sister, and to only focus on that one thing that is necessary—our relationship with God.

        And when trials, suffering and failure occur, we may retreat and isolate ourselves, or put on a mask pretending that everything is ok. We either fear being perceived as weak or fear troubling those around us to help us in our time of need. This is where we must cling onto the “Seven Assurances of God” just like how Martha and Mary clung on to the hope in their hearts that Jesus will save their brother, Lazarus:

        1.       God is in Total Control (v4)

        2.       God loves us (v5)

        3.       God knows/holds our future (v11,12)

        4.       God’s timing is perfect (v14,15)

        5.       God wins in the end (v22-26)

        6.       God cries with us in our pain (v35)

        7.       God can do the impossible (v43)

        Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me though he dies yet shall he live and everyone whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25–26)

        So what is the condition of your heart today, and what is your relationship with Christ?

        Are you willing to boldly ask for a new/renewed heart that clings only to Jesus?

        Missed this year’s SGM conference? Not in a Small Group yet? Find out more about this year’s SGM conference and how to join a Small Group here.

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