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The last place I wanted to be on Christmas

by | 20 December 2017, 8:56 AM

I grew up in a traditional Chinese household. We went to temples and burnt incense. I even remember my mother buying some pencils from the temple when I was 7 because it was believed that if I used those pencils in my exams I would do well.

Growing up observing these traditions and beliefs, Jesus was a completely foreign concept to me.

Interestingly, I first came across Jesus in one of those old-school tear-off daily Chinese calendars when I was 5. They had an illustration for every key event of the month, and for April they had an illustration of a bloodied man nailed to a cross.

I remember asking my mother who was the man and why he was on that cross.

“He was nailed to the cross to die. He’s Jesus.”

The image of the nails piercing through his hands and feet with blood flowing out freely stuck to me for a long, long time.

I wouldn’t really call my younger self an atheist. I didn’t believe in the traditions my family followed, but I also had a very negative impression of Christians and the Church.

I had Christian relatives who were avid gamblers and even manipulated my grandfather to alter his will for their financial benefit.

My aunt often complained about how the Church that invited my cousins to their free Sunday kids programme ended up asking them to tithe monthly, even though they were not members of the Church or even Christians at that point in time.

My Christian classmate often skipped school and slept in classes. We even copied answers for our homework together – from another Christian!

Going to Church didn’t seem to make them any different from me, I reasoned. In fact, I seemed to be doing better than some, if not most of them.

When my classmate first invited me to her Church on a Saturday afternoon in 2008, I gave no second thought to it and turned her down.

The Easter service invitation card that Fiona gave me on the bus home from school.

I’m not free. I have CCA. There’s a remedial class happening. I have a family gathering.

I made up all the excuses I could. I didn’t want to mess up my life. I didn’t want to become like them. Church was the last place I’d ever wanted to be at.

Yet underneath the surface, my life was already a mess. I was quietly in search of a purpose and a hope in my life. But I was too proud to let anyone know about it.

One day after school, I decided to get myself a Bible and find out what’s the deal about Jesus.

In April 2009, my father was suddenly hospitalised for hypertension. I came home from school after an exam and found my mother standing anxiously at the gate.

“Your dad… He’s in the ICU.”

I’d never been gripped by such a fear as this.

One night in my room after a hospital visit, I opened up the rarely opened Bible I’d bought earlier that year at a Borders sale, thinking there was no harm in finding out a bit more about what my friends believed in.

I didn’t know where to look; I didn’t know what to do. Then my eyes landed on this verse in 3 John.

“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 2)

Beloved.

That night, something changed within me. Unbeknownst to me, my heart had started moving towards this God who calls me beloved.

“Want to go to the mall tomorrow?” Fiona, my classmate, asked me.

It was Christmas Eve the following day.

A part of me guessed that we were going to Church – and to be fair her Church service did take place in Suntec City – but for some reason I just didn’t call her out on my suspicion.

I thought that showing up for once would make her stop inviting me in the future. I went wanting to leave the service as soon as possible. I went ready to confirm for myself that Church wasn’t for me.

I don’t remember much of what happened during the service, or the songs they sang. At one point I even wondered to myself, what is going on?

But I remember very clearly the message that was preached that day by the Senior Pastor – an exhortation from Romans 5.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

Everything started to fall into place.

The illustration of the bloodied man nailed to the cross came back to my mind again. So that was why he was there.

Jesus died for me. That was how much He loves me.

When the time for altar call came towards the end of the service, Fiona nudged me and asked if I wanted to receive Jesus into my life.

Without any hesitation, I nodded and we went down to the front of the hall together.

All I wanted to do there and then, was to run to the Man who had died that painful death for me.

“Oh, you became a Christian?”

I bumped into a secondary friend on the bus and she couldn’t hide her surprise hearing that I was on my way to Church.

I couldn’t blame her for that; I had been relatively vocal about my disapproval towards Christians and the Church in the past.

Nobody could really understand what motivated this change in me. To this day, neither do I have the exact words to explain it.

Every now and then I think about my life before and after 24 December 2009.

At the age of 16, where my peers seemed to have known what they wanted to do in life and what they wanted to study in the future, I was purposeless and directionless. Life was utterly meaningless and there were many days when I wanted my life to just end. I wasn’t suicidal, but I had absolutely no clue why I was alive.

My life was a mess. But nothing in my life today is the same as my life back then.

As a new Christian, I learnt that God loves me unconditionally, wholeheartedly and continually. But to continue believing in that required an additional measure of matured faith.

I continue to believe God’s love even when I don’t see or feel it, just like how I believe and know that the Sun is still there and real even when it is not shining. I continue to believe in God’s love even when the darkness feels overwhelming. In psychology, this is also known as object permanence. It is the understanding that things continue to exist even when they cannot be seen.

In psychology, object permanence is the understanding that things continue to exist even when they cannot be seen – like God’s love even when the darkness feels overwhelming.

This is the hope that keeps me going even on the most difficult of days.

If I hadn’t received Jesus Christ into my life, I wouldn’t have known that there was so much more to my life. I wouldn’t have known Someone whom I can talk to and who knows all of my thoughts.

So this Christmas, if someone has invited you to church, I encourage you to go with an open heart. Don’t let others decide for you what Christianity is about. Come and see for yourself who the bloody man nailed to the cross is.

And if you’re wondering whether to invite a friend, a classmate, a colleague, a family member to church, I hope you find the courage to just do it. If Fiona hadn’t taken that first step to get me to Church that Christmas Eve 8 years ago, I wouldn’t be where I am and who I am today.


If you’d like help getting connected to a local Church or community of believers, feel free to drop us a message at hello@thir.st! You could also pop by one of the many Churches celebrating Christmas this weekend – find one near you using our Christmas directory!

/ christina@thir.st

Christina is a designer who memorises Pantone swatches. Her standard bubble tea order – oolong milk tea with 25% sugar, less bubbles and no ice. She also dreams of raising her own pet penguin one day.

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Exploring the greater world of good

by Thir.st | 17 September 2018, 5:18 PM

Love travelling and mission work – and wish you could do both at the same time? We met up with Actxplorer, a Singaporean social enterprise that brings travellers and locals from developing nations together to create positive social impact on communities. We interview Danielle, Mindy and Jeremy – 3 Actxplorers in their twenties who have made this their full-time job.


Where were you on your faith journeys when the call to do this came?

Danielle: I was the person with a 5-year/10-year life plan all laid out. When the opportunity to stay on in Actxplorer came after my internship here, I hesitated initially even though it was a good fit of my skills and interests, because it did not fit my understanding of how my career would look like. However, God taught me to trust Him with my future, so I eventually decided to stay.

Mindy: It felt like God answered my prayer of many years of finding a job that combines education, youth engagement, sustainable development, and travelling Southeast Asia. Yet, I hesitated as it meant a huge pay cut, a change in lifestyle, and to be honest I was not even sure what I was getting myself into. Risk-taking always accompanies faith. I took the risk and am still keeping the faith.

Jeremy: To be honest, I was at a point where my faith mattered little to me. I was preoccupied with life, and I let it get the better of my faith. Being on this journey has given me the opportunity to meet many overseas missionaries and Christians, and seeing the good that they’ve done has helped reaffirm my faith, and I am slowly but surely taking steps back to God.

Danielle (centre, bottom) in Hin Laat Village with NUS students and their homestay host

What has your life mission and vision always been? How did this fall in line with that?

Danielle: I could never imagine myself working in a typical office. It’s just not in my personality, so I guess God knew and blessed me with an “atypical” job as I committed this part of adulting to Him. Also, over the years, God has revealed to me a heart for missions — and Actxplorer is good training ground for that.

Mindy: For the most part of my twenties, I’ve been fascinated by the rich geography and diversity of cultures of our region, and with it a desire to share it with others. I was an educator in high school, and right now I believe that I still am an educator, but in the field – the Southeast Asian field!

Jeremy: I’ve always had the goal that my future job would be something that made a difference in people’s lives, whether through medical research from my field of study (Pharmacology), or now with Actxplorer. Although travel often can be tiring, the trips are almost always meaningful and help create change all around.

Mindy on a visit to Yayasan Prima Unggul, a entrepreneur training school for outstanding but economically poor students from Flores and Papua in Jakarta, Indonesia

Describe a moment on the job where you knew you were really called to do this work.

Mindy: We bring many young people on different kinds of trips around Southeast Asia. My moment was seeing young people develop empathy for communities, gain new and deeper understanding of social issues plaguing our region, wanting to do something about them – and ultimately seeing that we can make positive impact in the region in just 2-3 years.

One of my favourite moments was seeing a group of Singaporean secondary school boys and girls dressed in Papua traditional wear, performing to a Papua song that they’ve learnt with their new Papuan friends.

The Singaporean students were really hesitant, shy, and grumpy at the beginning, but the Indonesian students were persistent in engaging them, encouraging and pushing them to overcome their insecurities. Witnessing the transformation, friendships built, and intercultural exchanges was an affirmation for me that night.

Jeremy: It was during one one of my first University student trips in 2017, doing educational work in a school within a poor district of central Vietnam. On the second last day of our 2-week trip, nearly the whole school gathered to wish us well.

Many tears were shed, and many students shared how fortunate they felt to have us teach at their school. I realised then, that even though our work was simple, and somewhat short, but the lasting impact we made will stay with the students.

Jeremy working on a community-based tourism project (in collaboration with SMU) in northern Vietnam

What do you think God is doing in your own life through this work?

Danielle: God is giving me His lenses to have His heart of compassion. I do foresee a potential struggle where I get caught up with doing but neglect my own relationship with Him — so it is important to do what I do with the motivation of pleasing Him and not people, as well as work with a consistent effort to involve my heart and emotions, rather than delivering project after project, deadline after deadline.

Mindy: God is teaching me to get out of my comfort zone, and to use the talents that He has given to me. It is also about learning to trust in Him, and to depend on Him in all aspects of our work. It can be daunting to lead people on trips and to have constant self-imposed pressure to make sure that our work has positive impact on the communities we work with and also for the travellers. And when we are in the field, the environment can be unpredictable, many things can happen, yet God is always there with us and I take great comfort in that.  

Jeremy: Through my work, He is teaching me perseverance and compassion. Sometimes, I have the tendency to give up on things midway when it gets difficult. Knowing that giving up means giving up on the people who we’ve supported helps me to persevere and do the best that I can.  

I do this work because I believe that more light needs to be shed on the good works being done, and there’s only so much you can relate with someone simply through media. Being on the ground, and being apart of people’s lives is totally different, and the fruit you gain afterwards, whether physical or emotional, will stay with you for a lifetime.

Danielle on a field studies trip (with NUS) to visit the ethic minority of Moklens in southern Thailand

What have you learnt that you hope to impart to this generation?

Danielle: I have learnt that we are really privileged, and we are not entitled to what we have. We have a responsibility to steward what God has given us! If we have been given 10 talents, we are accountable for how we have used these talents when we meet God face to face – so if you are intelligent, if you have a gift in a particular area, or if you have a burden for a certain group of people, act on it! Make full use of it for good, and don’t bury it in the midst of your busyness.

Also, I want to encourage people to start making responsible decisions, and do not think less than they should just because they are “lazy”. These decision often affect lives – if we waste less, if we choose our travel destinations and activities more wisely and responsibly … Our actions bless people more than you can imagine.

Mindy: Everyone can play a part in alleviating the social issues we see in our world today. There are a lot of opportunities to serve, locally or beyond – only if you seek them. Be proactive in seeking opportunities to serve in areas that God has put a burden in your heart for. Speak to likeminded people. Go for talks and exhibitions. Watch documentaries. Read to make sense of the world. I think it’s also very easy to lose sight of God in the midst of doing, so be prayerful always and make sure that God is at the centre of all the action!

Jeremy: I hope that my generation will come to understand that they shouldn’t always focus on themselves. Life is so much more than social media and luxury. You can find just as much meaning and satisfaction when you put others before self.

Mindy in Myanmar trying out wood carving. We were this uncle’s first foreign students!

What’s next? 🙂

Danielle: Continue learning and growing at Actxplorer, and experiencing what it means to worship through my work.

Mindy: “Actxplore” even more opportunities all around Southeast Asia, and possibly Nepal and Mongolia soon!

Jeremy: For Actxplorer to grow even more, and open up offices in more cities so we can create greater impact.


Sign up here to join the inaugural Actxplorer dialogue series on November 1, 2018.

Hop onto the Actxplorer platform to find and book activities that are fun and beneficial to communities. Proceeds go back to funding good causes and supporting the local community. For enquiries on customised trips and social impact workshops, or partnering with existing social enterprises, you can drop them an email here.

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What would you give to walk in power and love?

by Wilson Barnabas Koh | 28 August 2018, 1:15 PM

“Do you have any pain in your body?”

One of the boys in the group of young people who had been drinking when we approached them pointed to his friend and said, “Can pray for broken heart or not?”

“Sure.”

My friend Joyce proceeded to prophesy over the young lady in the area of relationships. The girl’s eyes suddenly widened and she exclaimed, “I felt a warm sensation and a sense of peace in my heart.”  Her friends were amazed.

This prompted another of the guys to share. “I am a believer,” he said. “But I have backslided.”

Joyce then prayed for him, upon which she saw a word appear in her mind. “I saw the word ‘music’,” she said. The guy was astonished. He used to lead worship in church.

“The Father’s arms are always wide open to receive you,” Joyce told him, and when someone else in the group declared a sprained ankle, she asked him to pray with her for the boy, who received healing!

The first boy was astonished. How was it even possible that God could work through someone like him? Joyce wasn’t surprised – she was a “normal” believer in Jesus too. It was all about knowing his identity as a son in the Kingdom of God.

This is just one out of thousands of testimonies we have heard over the past few years.

As believers, we are called to fulfil the Great Commission by going out to reach the lost (Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:19-20). Yet more often than not, we stop short at inviting people to the church for evangelistic services so that someone else can do the work for us.

The Great Commission is the responsibility of every single follower of Jesus Christ. If you are in Christ, you are anointed, appointed and chosen to go. When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, it was meant for every believer to be His witness (Acts 1:8).

No one is excluded. This includes you and me.

To be His witness is different from “doing” witnessing. Some believers switch on their ‘outreach’ mode during outreach activities. Once the event has ended, they switch back to their ‘usual’ mode, which is their real self. Witness is a thing they do, not a thing they are.

When we know our identity, we stop waiting for another evangelistic service or outreach event – our whole life becomes the outreach.

And people can discern if you are truly loving them, or simply putting on “outreach behaviour”.

It is our desire to see believers walking in their identity 24/7 as sons and daughters of the most High, where there is only one consistent mode of living: Lifestyle Christianity.

When we know our identity, we stop waiting for another evangelistic service or outreach event. Our whole life becomes the ministry (2 Corinthians 5:18). Our whole life becomes the outreach. Our lives are constantly reaching people wherever we go and in whatever we do. It’s a lifestyle!

You can be reaching someone while you are getting the groceries in the supermarket. You can be reaching someone at your workplace. You can be reaching someone when you are in the elevator. You can be reaching someone wherever you go, as you go.

“And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.” (Matthew 10:7-8)

Our ministry has seen thousands of people ministered to everywhere we go – in cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, foodcourts, malls, petrol stations, buses, trains, planes, Grab cars, elevators, toilets, over the phone with telemarketers … We’re bringing Jesus to the whole of Singapore.

We have seen multiple ailments healed: Spines straightened, deaf ears opened, myopia corrected, cancer removed, autoimmune disease gone, the lame walking.

Jesus has called every believer to represent Him (John 20:21) so that the world will encounter the love of the Father and be reconciled to Him (2 Cor 5:18). Jesus walked in authentic power and love throughout His life on earth. Everyone who came to Him was not only loved, but also healed and delivered (Matt 8:16-17).

The Cross is not a revelation of our sin. The Cross is a revelation of our sonship.

People often say: “But I’m not Jesus. I can’t walk like Him!” Well, while Jesus is God who came on earth to save us, He also came to show us how we can live like Him. He did not just die for us. He also died as us, so that we can be like Him.

The Cross is not a revelation of our sin. The Cross is a revelation of our sonship. Jesus died to restore our value and identity as His sons and daughters. But if we do not know who we are, we will not be able to live according to who He had created us to be.

We were created in His image. We were sons to begin with. By His perfect sacrifice, Jesus has redeemed us back to that position. Now He is calling us to represent Him.

To represent Christ is to walk like Him – both in character and in power. The world can walk in a measure of love but without power. The enemy can walk in a measure of power but without love.

But only we as believers can walk in both power and love.

When we know our identity, power and love will flow naturally out of who we are in Christ (Mark 16:17-18). This is not only reserved for the pastors, evangelists and leaders, or the fivefold ministers – we yearn to see everyday believers in Singapore awakened to their true identity as sons and daughters.

For Singapore to walk in her destiny as the Antioch of Asia, every believer has to participate. For there is no spectator in the Kingdom of God.

Christ in you is the Hope of Glory. Christ working through you is the manifestation of His glory.

When we realise who we are in Christ, we can represent Christ effectively to the world. When people see Christ in us, they encounter hope and turn to Him.


Wilson is part of the team that is hosting the School of Power and Love, founded by evangelist Todd White. The 3.5 day equipping school has been run more than 100 times in the States and other countries, and takes place for the first time on December 5-8, 2018.

Early bird pricing ends October 10, 2018. Register for it here.

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Some save Batam: Taking the heart of Singapore beyond our shores

by | 8 August 2018, 4:58 PM

It’s barely 8AM and Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal is already swarming with people. We’re there to catch the second earliest boat to Sekupang, Batam, where we’ll be visiting a community house in the slums called Noah’s Ark.

Taking us to Noah’s Ark is Isaac Ong, whose involvement in Channel 5‘s The Final 1 and The Voice (SG/MY) has increasingly put him in the spotlight over the years.

The youth director of Emmanuel AOG, who recently sang with S.H.E’s Hebe Tien on China’s Come Sing With Me, is no stranger to social media influence – he often speaks in various church circles and leads the FOPx worship team.

Isaac leading worship at FOPx Worship Night 2018

Isaac also happens to have bought the community house – which he refers to as an eco-learning shelter for the children who live in the slum – as part of his humanitarian work through Colours Global, a company he set up at just 23 years of age.

“I was in Batam with Habitat for Humanity, and one day when we were driving around we passed by all these schools that were not painted, and I thought to myself, it’ll be so easy to paint them – I could do that!” he tells this story with trademark candour.

“And I felt God speak to me then from The Message version of Matthew 5:14, that I was going to start a company to bring out the God-colours in the world.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.” (Matthew 5:14)

“The second thing He told me was: ‘You’re going to buy a house’ – which I definitely didn’t have money for!

“So I asked for a sign if any of this was really from Him, and when I got into a cab on the way home a few days later, the song on the radio was ‘True Colours’! And that’s how I started Colours Global.”

Although there was no sign of “the house” for the next 5 years, Isaac wasted no time furthering his love for helping the less fortunate, partnering organisations such as the Singapore Girls’ Home and a non-profit in Batam that serves the children in over 40 slums.

Isaac spending time with little children in Batam (Photo credit: Isaac Ong)

From the outside, Isaac, who turns 30 this year, is easily a wonder boy of sorts with an unattainable track record for the regular Singaporean. But this assumption is quickly fading just an hour into our trip.

“When I say we, I often mean me!” Isaac confesses with a laugh when I ask him who’s the ‘we’ he keeps referring to with regards to all the work he’s been involved with.

“I went on a mission trip to the borders of Thailand and Myanmar at 17 years old and that’s where my eyes were opened and my love for the poor started.”

And it’s been one person’s show of love and kindness ever since. Mission trips across the poorest parts of Asia in between school terms, self-funded social movements to care for the marginalised in Singapore … Nothing extravagant – just simple acts of seeing beyond oneself.

Isaac on one of his mission trips overseas (Photo credit: Isaac Ong)

When we arrive at the port, he suddenly slips out of sight and returns with Rotiboy buns for all of us.

That’s where I realise that Colours Global is Isaac Ong.

Just one boy who’s made caring his career, be it caring for those in the media space where he’s also called to, caring for the hundreds of young people under his care in church, or caring for the child who runs up to him in a slum.

The good news is: Anybody can care. And for Singaporeans, all it might take is a 45-minute ferry ride.

A bird’s eye view of the slums on the outskirts of Batam

Noah’s Ark is just a small part of a bigger project to bring education to the slum children in Batam,” Isaac explains as we travel to the slum district. “The organisation Colours Global partners with has efforts in over 40 slums, where volunteer teachers get on bikes and ride into these villages to give tuition to the kids there.

“Most of the children who are born in these conditions don’t usually go to school – their parents expect them to help support the family. So they’ll grow up fishing, farming … But in more dire circumstances it’ll be illegal activities such as prostitution.”

It was 2 years ago, during one of his trips to Batam that Isaac was invited to view a slum house that his friends from the partner organisation were interested in buying.

One of the slum districts in Batam

“They didn’t know what God had told me about buying a house 5 years before that,” he recounts. “And they weren’t trying to get me to invest in it either, because they knew I barely had any money!”

Buying the house would have given them space to set up a permanent learning space in that slum, where children from that community and neighbouring ones could gather daily for enrichment lessons.

But for Isaac, this stirred something in him from the first time God had spoken about Colours Global: “You’re going to buy a house.”

The slum house, barely the size of a studio apartment, cost about SGD$3,500. That would mean sacrificing a majority of Colours Global’s funds – that is, Isaac’s main livelihood.

Noah’s Ark, the community house that sits by the river at the edge of the slum

“But I knew in my heart that it was the house,” Isaac says, conviction in his voice. “So when I got back to Singapore I immediately called them to say I was going to write a cheque to buy it – because if I took any longer, I might’ve changed my mind!”

So at the age of 28, just as God had said, Isaac Ong bought a house.

The moment we arrive at Noah’s Ark, the children start to trickle in. It’s Saturday morning, so there aren’t any programmes on, but they’re clearly used to gathering there with Rudy, one of the two Bible school students who lives there to serve the community full-time.

“We call it Noah’s Ark because it’s the last house on the edge of the slum that’s by the water,” Isaac shares as we toured the little house that had been thoughtfully painted with animals walking two-by-two.

The little community house that is Noah’s Ark

“It’s also a place where the children can find refuge when they are in trouble.”

Setting up Noah’s Ark is just a start on taking the education initiative in the slums to the next level. Since late last year, Isaac has been assembling teams from Singapore to come over to Batam to hold 2-3 hour children’s programmes – also called Noah’s Ark – at the 40 other villages.

“It’s like a travelling circus where the kids can come down and learn music, drama, arts and craft, play games, which exposes them to English and math … And the parents get to see how their children respond to learning.”

Isaac hanging out with the community children at Noah’s Ark

“Many used to be quite unwilling to send their children to school, so in turn the children think that school is boring and go out to work instead.

“But with this Noah’s Ark programme that we bring into their community, the children have so much fun and when their parents see that, they realise that education is important and good for their kids.”

That’s how he hopes to be part of a larger move of God to save these children off the streets, and one day out of the slums – into a greater hope and future.

It’s an invitation open to all Singaporeans, Isaac tells us. And as usual, he’s keeping it simple: Follow him on Instagram (@isaacong) and he’ll be posting details on participating in the Noah’s Ark tour very soon.

“What’s one ferry ticket and 45 minutes to come to Batam, right?”

Saying goodbye to the Noah’s Ark kids

As we say goodbye, the children take our hands in theirs, placing the back of our hands on their foreheads as a sign of respect.

Moved by all that I’ve heard from him today, I find myself returning the action, which startles the little girl who’s greeting me. “This is usually done to someone senior,” Rudy explains. Someone of a higher status. But that’s not who I am, or what I want to be seen as: In God’s Kingdom, I am no higher than anyone.

And this is the spirit Isaac walks in, whether he’s on stage or in the slums, which makes him the true voice of a generation: He’s always serving, always loving.

Always bringing out the God-colours in the world.

/ joanne@thir.st

Joanne is a bundle of creative energy commonly heard before she is seen. She believes in the triune power of good conversation, brilliant writing and bold ideas. She also likes milo.

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GET IN WITH THIR.ST

by Thir.st | 1 August 2018, 1:44 PM

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So if you’re in the business of writing, video production, photography, animation, coding, preaching, composing, acting – and more – say hello and GET IN with us.

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What’s my role in the fivefold ministry?

by | 26 July 2018, 2:36 PM

So you’ve been going to church for sometime now and wondering where you fit into the greater story of God’s Kingdom. After all, we are part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:12) and as part of the Great Commission, we are each entrusted with growing the Church (Matthew 28:19).

Where it gets confusing is how am I, as one person, supposed to? Where do I start?

Having mentored others for several years, I try to give people some starting tools to discover who they are and how they’ve been made to serve the Kingdom in broad strokes. One of these tools is knowing which part of God’s ministry you are strongest at, based on Jesus’ fivefold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:8-13.

When (Jesus) ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men … And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God …” (Ephesians 4:8-13)

If you play role-playing computer games, this is easy to understand. When Jesus returned to heaven, He had promised to build His Church, His ekklesia, which wasn’t a building for people to hold services but a “faithful body of people”. As the head of the Church (Colossians 1:18), He passed us His ministry in five key parts or roles: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (pastors) and teachers.

Each one of us has a role – not picked by us but by God – to play as we participate in His work. Each of us is also given different spiritual gifts and natural talents to enable us to play this role uniquely and well – but that’s a story for another day.

Before you take a simple quiz to discover what your role might be, here’s a short description of each of the Five – sometimes explained using a hand diagram.

THE HAND OF MINISTRY

1. Apostles: The thumb

We know Jesus started His ministry with 12 Apostles who were later tasked with continuing the work and raising up churches across the rest of the world long after He’d ascended to heaven.

The word apostle means “messenger” or “one sent forth”, which gives us a clue to what an apostolic calling entails. Like the thumb, the finger that allows us to grasp things, apostles are pioneers and builders who are gifted in establishing and upholding churches, ministries and movements.

2. Prophets: The index finger

Although we tend to think of prophets as those who can foretell the future, an wider understanding of prophetic ministry would be those who are gifted in carrying words of God for His people. In 1 Corinthians 14, the gift of prophecy is for upbuilding, encouragement and consolation.

Like the forefinger that points the way, prophetic ministry involves giving direction and correction. Besides being able to sense God’s word for particular seasons or situations, such as the prophets in the Old Testament, prophets may also be able to recognise His gifts and callings on individuals, giving them guidance too.

3. Evangelists: The third finger*

One of the better known roles of ministry would be the evangelist – the messenger who proclaims the good news and welcomes people to join the flock. Represented by the finger that extends furthest, evangelists are gifted in outreach ministry.

Everyone is tasked with evangelising to those not yet in the family of God, but evangelists are particularly strong in the area of preaching and witnessing – with a passion for winning others over to become followers of Jesus Christ.

* Yes, we know it’s commonly referred to as the middle finger.

4. Shepherds: The ring finger

The ring finger symbolises commitment to marriage, similar to a pastor’s commitment to those in his care. The word “pastor” literally means “shepherd”, and like people who rear and watch sheep, pastoral ministry involves protecting, leading, nurturing and feeding the flock (John 21:17).

Those with a pastoral inclination are faithful caregivers and parental figures, consistently guiding those under their ministry to places of sustenance, growth, safety and rest.

5. Teachers: The little finger

Last but not least, teaching is the gift of passing on knowledge and training others to apply their gifts well. Teachers, trainers and mentors do a lot of unseen work, but like the little finger, their job is critical to the flourishing of disciples of Jesus Christ, Himself referred to as rabbi, or teacher (John 3:2).

Teachers are not just well-versed in know-how or information, but gifted educators who are able to clearly and effectively express this for another’s benefit through writing, curriculum and lecturing.

 The fivefold ministry is just a starting point for understanding our divine DNA and destiny. And rather than something we volunteer for, such as the ministries in church (e.g. ushering, worship, fellowship etc), these roles are appointed by God that can be confirmed by other believers in time.

Each of us is gifted to a different degree in all five areas, which means everyone is able to operate in the entire fivefold regardless of our primary strength. The fivefold quiz itself simply gives us an idea of what we may be better suited for in the process of advancing the Kingdom of God.

Visit the Fivefold Ministry Test page to find out what yours is!

/ joanne@thir.st

Joanne is a bundle of creative energy commonly heard before she is seen. She believes in the triune power of good conversation, brilliant writing and bold ideas. She also likes milo.

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