Know Your Leaders - Elder Associate Tan Yee Kiat
Elder associate Tan Yee Kiat shares with us how God sovereignly brought various people into his life to help him know God and Christ; and divulges his heartfelt prayer for unity in GBC.
1. Could you introduce yourself to our readers – for example what you do for a living, and tell us a bit about your family members.
My name is Tan Yee Kiat. I was born in Kuching, Malaysia and came to Singapore in Dec 2001, shortly after my 15th birthday. I currently work as an engineer in a petrochemical facility on Jurong Island. I am the oldest of three boys. The other members of my family all still reside in Malaysia. My parents both worked in the insurance industry but have retired, and my two siblings currently work in accounting and computer programming.
2. Please share with us what you understand your role to be as an elder associate of the church.
I will quote the exact wording used when I was asked to consider taking up this role, which is that an elder associate is to participate in the elders meetings and to observe the proceedings to discover if this is "my shape". Though I contribute in my way to the discussions that matter to our church, I am cognizant and clear that I am not an elder.
Nevertheless, from the Bible, various terms are used to describe or are closely associated with eldership, and I suppose each term captures the role that an elder plays in church.
Episkopos, which means 'overseer' and is sometimes translated 'bishop', refers to the role of overseeing matters related to the church.
Poimen, 'shepherd', refers to the role of shepherding God's people. This term is used heavily in 1 Peter 5:1-5.
Presbyteros, which is the term usually translated as 'elder', is packed with Old Testament meaning relating to how God has designed the gathering of His people. For example, this term is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) to translate Numbers 11:16 – "Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.'"
The elders associate were all selected on the basis that these were people who were already in some way doing these roles in the respective ministries God has given them.
3. How did you come to Christ (your conversion) and how did you come to join Grace Baptist Church?
My conversion story is the result of God sending various people into my life to help me know God and Christ. My aunt (Dad's second sister) was one of the most faithful believers in my extended family and she bought me my first Bibles (from a children's version to a full NIV). My immediate family was not Christian.
Bibles from Yee Kiat's aunt :)
Another influential person in this story was our neighbour Uncle Poh Teck Hwa. He invited my family to his church's evangelistic rally at First Baptist Church, Kuching. Soon after I responded to the altar call as a primary school kid, Uncle Poh Teck Hwa asked my parents for permission to bring me to church. This happened for a number of years and Uncle Poh was tremendously faithful in bringing me there despite moving out of the neighbourhood.
Nevertheless, I would say that despite having access to Bibles and church, the gospel was 'veiled'.
When I came to Singapore to start school in 2002, I dropped the idea of going to church altogether. It was hard adjusting to this new environment and the amount of pressure was completely new to me. My Mum started seeking God at this point too and started attending a Chinese-speaking church near our home. She told me that she wanted to get baptised and so she signed both me and herself up for the baptism class. That was how my holiday was spent upon returning from Singapore.
At this baptism class, I understood with clarity why Jesus died on the cross.
And so I was baptised immediately with this understanding. I came back to Singapore looking for a church and spent my Sec 4 year in Grace Assembly of God. I did not know anyone there however, and was just walking in and out of service. When I finished Sec 4 and started my A levels, we were moved to a hostel nearer to Victoria Junior College and it was simply too inconvenient to head to Grace Assembly every Sunday. A friend was attending Grace Baptist Church and recommended a visit. So in 2004, when the second English congregation was moved to 11 am, I started to attend that service.
4. Tell us something about yourself that many members do not know.
A lot of people don't know that I have never studied music formally!
5. Could you share with us one of your greatest joys and one of your greatest challenges as a spiritual leader of the church?
Leaders, whether myself or anyone else, are works in progress too, and God is definitely still growing us. I think one of my greatest joys would be really knowing God more and more through His word. Our acquaintance with His word is also God-infused, in the sense that just like any struggling people, it is something that was not there before. God growing us to understand His word more and more is one of my greatest joys.
The greatest challenge would be seeing members being casual about attending church or care group. It is always discouraging whenever we see people stop attending the service or care group or any sort of gathering. It brings tremendous anxiety with regards to the spiritual state of the person.
6. The Bible tells us to honour our leaders. In that light, how can we pray for you and encourage you meaningfully?
Just as anyone in the church has struggles of their own – be it family, relationships, work, health, etc, leaders have theirs too.
Leaders also struggle with obedience, turning away from the life they want versus how God wants them to use their lives. At least this is deeply true for me.
I sense deeply however, that GBC has a struggle with trust. Both on the part of the congregation towards the leaders, and perhaps the leaders towards the congregation too. I pray that God will help us with our unity.