Truth be told, being a pastor was never something I aspired towards.
I just had a deep love for the youth ministry, and a strong desire to be a part of what God was doing in His church and in my generation.
Even though I had this strong desire to serve God, I never envisioned myself working full-time in church.
First, I’ve never really been for the idea of being in a “position” — maybe because I always questioned “positional leadership” — being keenly aware that this generation might not respond so well to authority.
Additionally, I did not have role models when it came to responding to the full-time call. Five or six of my leaders received the call, but only one followed through to date.
I also saw the pay disparity between the church and the marketplace. Two simple words to describe my impression of pastors at that time? Overworked and underpaid.
Nevertheless, I had always looked up to my pastors and wanted them to lead me spiritually.
Every week at church, I looked for something that gave me an answer to these questions; I always sought to understand my pastors beyond what I saw in the sermons.
It was only when I was mentored by one of my pastors that I saw that he was human as well. He had struggles and frustrations like me, and he’s a sinner as well.
Suddenly, my whole idea of a pastor shifted. It went from “holier-than-thou” to “down to earth”.
Some time later, during one of my first few modules in Bible school, God really challenged me on how I saw the call to the office of a pastor. Through the module, I felt God really ministering to me and healing my distorted perspectives of a pastor.
It’s awesome how God is redemptive and brings me full circle in my full-time call journey. In time, I also came to realise that I didn’t really have to worry about money.
That is not because I come from a wealthy family. I come from a family of six, and my dad was the sole breadwinner of the family for most of my life until my sister began working.
My name is Jireh, and I saw how God has always been providing for me. I have seen the hand of God over my life.
And I think the most important thing for me coming into full-time ministry was knowing who God is — He is my Provider!
How my journey started
The possibility of joining full-time ministry first entered my mind as a youth.
When I was 14, I went for my first independent mission trip without my parents. We were doing community penetration by organising sports and games at schools.
When I reached that place, I learnt that the students would walk two and a half hours, barefoot, up the mountain to get to school. If it rained, they would just walk in the rain.
Then, during the games a boy ran up to me and hugged me. He had a big gash in between his first and second toe, but the wound had all dried up and was now covered in gravel and dust.
I was struck in the heart. They have so little, but they have so much joy. In contrast, we have so much, but we are not grateful for the things that we have.
I can’t wait to graduate. I can’t wait to ORD. I can’t wait to work. We are always looking towards the “next thing”. We are never content.
I felt the Lord ask me then, “What does it mean, that godliness with contentment is great gain?”
On the last day of our mission trip, I was so emotional.
I didn’t want to go back. I felt that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life — to serve the underprivileged and the broken.
At that point of time, I thought that God was asking me to be a missionary. That was the first time that I considered giving my life to the full-time call.
… do your best in whatever you’re doing now, and the Lord will enlarge your sphere of influence.
I came back and I told my mother and my form teacher that I wanted to quit school. Why was I studying Chinese or Chemistry when I already knew what I wanted to do?
My mum said, “Jireh, do your best in whatever you’re doing now, and the Lord will enlarge your sphere of influence.”
It was definitely the Holy Spirit speaking through her, because even today my mum can’t remember that she had said that to me.
From that moment on, I never studied for grades anymore. Something shifted inside me — I just wanted to learn to enlarge my sphere of influence to serve God.
My life’s 3 Ms: Music, Media and Missions
As I grew more serious about God, I went on to have a series of personal encounters with Him that developed my faith exponentially.
I served actively in the youth worship band and played drums for the kids service. My pastor also mentored me.
God brought me out of my double-life, a toxic relationship and even a period when I was suicidal.
At 17, because I did not want to study Chinese again, I decided to take the polytechnic route (in hindsight, I repent because I cannot preach the gospel in Chinese — I wished that I had paid more attention in classes!).
I went to Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Open House, where one of my friends was studying Film, Sound and Video. As they were explaining what the course was all about, I found I loved every part of it.
My mum said to me, “This is so you.”
My mum was, and still is, a woman of faith. People were telling her that this media route bo tan jiak (one cannot make a living out of it) and were endorsing other careers like becoming a doctor, lawyer, dentist or engineer.
But my mother encouraged me to pursue my passion, and those three years proved to be some of my best years in education.
By the time I turned 19, my spiritual formation then could be largely summed up with three Ms: Music, Media and Missions.
Indeed, I had a vision of me playing a percussion instrument in Africa: The people came out to dance and play, and even though we had a language barrier, music became our common language.
Because of that relationship and trust established through music, we would then be able to do the humanitarian work that we intended to do there.
There would also be a media crew there that would be documenting these experiences, so as to bringing it back to tell provoking and inspiring stories.
That was the vision I had, which God would soon bring to pass.
Towards the end of university life, I weighed up my post-graduation options.
- Continue my freelance videography, from which I could confidently earn a decent living
- Join a social entrepreneurship doing what I love (media and creative work for a good cause) with people I love
- Accept a personalised full-time internship offer from the biggest marketing MNC in the world
If I followed that third option, my pay could easily climb up to a five-digit figure once I became a full-time staff there.
And yet the moment the offer from the MNC came, I immediately rejected it. That led me to ask myself, why did I do that?
On another occasion, I was at a focus group discussion. We were asked to discuss one of four quadrants: Arts and Media, Business and Government, Education, and the Church.
When it came to the quadrant of the Church, I realised that I had so much to say. I was so excited dreaming about the possibilities and the beauties of the Church.
Through these two incidents, the Lord revealed to me a sure desire He had placed in me — I had a heart for the Church and not so much for the marketplace.
I had a holy indignation about where the Church currently was, and I really wanted to see the Church win.
The final domino that fell which led me to answer the full-time call happened after a humanitarian recce trip to Cebu.
It was not even a mission trip, but a recce visit to scout out humanitarian organisations that could potentially partner with my school.
During the trip, I got to interact with many potential beneficiaries, and took many meaningful videos detailing their plight and living conditions.
Upon returning to Singapore, I showed my peers videos of the trip. In retelling the events of the trip, I also shared that I had engaged with the folks in Cebu through the use of music and drums.
Suddenly, the fire that had been burning in me since I returned from the trip made sense. I realised that in some way, my dream or vision had been fulfilled. There I was, doing music, missions and media all at once!
Instantly, I left the table and went to process this hunger, fire and restlessness with the Lord. I called my pastor, and he told me to ask three people to pray for me regarding the full-time call.
But me, being stubborn, decided that I wouldn’t tell anyone. Instead, I asked the Lord to show me three distinct signs at the upcoming church camp.
There was no sign until the last day of camp. I was in church shooting some video testimonies with another pastor and when we finished, we sat down for breakfast.
He said to me then: “Actually Jireh, I’ve been wanting to tell you something for the longest time. About a month ago, I was preaching, and I felt that someone to my left had a full-time call.
“I gave a full-time response call, but someone else responded. But I felt that it was for you. Did I hear wrongly?”
I believe that in seeking the Lord for His will for our lives, we shouldn’t just sit around and wait for confirmation. We should actively seek it out with fear and humility!
I looked at him stunned, and then I shared with him everything that I had been considering. I began tearing up as my pastor affirmed the zeal he saw in my life. That was the first sign.
The second sign was more vague. Right after that breakfast, I asked the camp speaker to pray for me. The speaker shared that the Lord revealed three words to him as he prayed for me: “Train and equip”.
There were no more signs from that camp.
Some time later, I asked my missions and worship pastor if she thought I had a full-time calling.
She said she did, before adding: “Well, if you really feel that you have a missions call, go for mission conferences, go for mission trips. If it is so, the fire in you will burn even stronger.”
Until today, I have never heard the audible voice of God over my life to go into full-time ministry.
But I believe that in seeking the Lord for His will for our lives, we shouldn’t just sit around and wait for confirmation. We should actively seek it out with fear and humility!
As it turned out, the words “train and equip” came to pass in a different way; the Lord used the timing of the pandemic to propel me towards full-time.
In a time when the church could not gather physically, the Lord used my media gifts to pioneer an online platform for Eternal Life Assembly, enabling us to livestream our church services.
God really enlarged my sphere of influence in that season. Ministry leaders and pastors were looking to me for direction, and I found myself positioned strategically in the church for a time such as this.
I was passionate about creating a platform where creatives in the church could gather and place their five loaves and two fishes to the Lord.
The Lord led me to start a new ministry, the Communications and Media Ministry, where creatives could step up and use their media and creative talents for the Lord.
The Lord brought forth an army of creatives spanning the generations to serve in this ministry, and used me to train and equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4).
By God’s grace, the ministry has been growing and has grown to about 30 people today.
After that, it became a question of how I wanted to move on from there. After a series of confirmations and affirmations, I decided to lead them in a full-time capacity.
It’s about obedience
Till this day, I still struggle with the knowledge that I’m on the route to becoming a pastor.
Am I still waiting for the remaining sign from God? Well, yes and no.
But at the end of the day, I’ve decided to say “yes” to the kingdom of God — whatever that looks like.
I’ve learnt to hold on to life as loosely as I can. If God calls me out of the local church and into the mission field tomorrow, then I will obey and follow Him wherever He calls me.
Until my time on earth is up, if I can lead just one more soul to Jesus, then may I fulfil just that.
If I can embody the character of Christ wherever I go, no matter what the deployment may be, then let that be my testimony.
It’s not so much about whether I had grown the ministry or raised leaders — it’s more about whether I embodied Christ through the way I lived my life.
It is my goal to make His delight and pleasure my pursuit, because Jesus is worthy of all we can give to Him and more!
- Do you know what God has called you to?
- Take a look at your gifts and talents. How might God use these?
- Speak with a trusted, older believer about what you’ve learnt — then think of one practical step you can make to walk into your calling.