In this edition of Growing Closer, we speak to one of our deacons, Benjamin Tan. Ben was most recently appointed as LAPCOC’s deacon on 28 Oct 2018, together with bro Michael Yeo, who took on the elder’s role. Along with his wife Seow Hui and kids, they are known for being a faithful, pious family and can be frequently seen serving the Lord. Let’s catch up with Ben to know him more, and importantly, to find out about his thoughts on the recent call for elders and deacons.
Farand: Hi Ben, thanks for doing the interview. How are things for you and the family currently?
Benjamin: Things are going pretty well for us! We have been much blessed - Seow Hui was able to work out a part-time work arrangement with her employer, and we are grateful for the extra time to spend with the kids. As the kids get older and spend more time in school, opportunities to spend time with them were increasingly scarce, so it was a good thing for us.
Farand: Any plans for the school holidays ahead?
We haven't made any travel plans for the coming school holidays. We were not expecting such rapid re-opening and relaxing of the Covid-19 measures, so all our passports are expired! Our kids are quite the homebodies, and so would enjoy the break by being able to stay at home and read or play games. They have been eager to play some board games that I bought but haven't had time to play with them, so the coming holidays would be a good opportunity for us to do that.
Farand: Yes! The passport thing is such a collective Singaporean first world problem!
What are some of the games? Are the kids at the age where they can all play together?
Benjamin: Haha yes, I think we will let the current passport rush pass before renewing ours.
I bought a boardgame off Kickstarter called Marvel United. It's a cooperative game which means all the players are on the same team and trying to defeat the game together. We've played the game a few times with memorable victories and also crushing defeats. There are several expansion sets which add other Marvel superheroes and villains and we haven't had the chance to try those out yet.
Farand: The marvel game sounds really amazing.. I’ll go look it up later!
Caught the latest Dr. Strange yet?
Benjamin: No we haven't - we watched Sonic the Hedgehog 2 instead on the Labour Day holiday. Most of the time, the kids pick the movies we watch. I may have chosen Dr Strange if it was up to me haha
Farand: And yourself? You have referenced your job a few times in sermons and lessons about going for on-site inspections etc. could you share more on what exactly you do?
Benjamin: I have been with my present company for 10 years, working in a petrochemical plant in Jurong Island. The plant produces petrochemicals which eventually become the plastics that we use in our everyday lives. I started my career there as a Process Engineer, and the main job scope is to look at the various parts of the plant to make sure that everything is operating as efficiently as it can be, in terms of minimising waste and energy consumption. When things do go wrong from time to time, we help to investigate the causes so that we can prevent recurrences. Going on site is part of the troubleshooting process, and sometimes we can gain valuable information by using our own senses out in the field, rather than solely relying on the data collected from the instruments. This is my favourite aspect of the job, trying to piece the different bits of information together to form a cohesive understanding of what could have happened.
I have since moved to the Operations side where I sadly don't get to do as much of that. In my current scope, I don't get to dive as deeply into problems but am instead doing more in terms of coordinating and reporting the progress and outcomes of the investigations that the other engineers do.
Farand: I see. Hopefully that means possibility of work from home?
The company is looking into possibly implementing some form of permanent flexibility in terms of working from home, but that is still not finalized. At the moment, we are back in office most of the time, with about 1 day working from home per week.
Farand: Recently, they announced the nomination of new deacons and elders. Would you be able to give some background on that?
I think we all recognise that when it comes to elders and deacons, certainly more men stepping up into these roles would be beneficial to the church, and would also lighten the burden on the elders especially. I believe that there is much wisdom when God designed the church and its organisational structure. Having a plurality of elders is especially important when we consider the wide-ranging scope of responsibilities that the elders have. Everyone has their individual areas of strength, even elders, and having more elders then allows for each elder to contribute based on his strengths. Thereby, the whole eldership, and by extension the congregation, would benefit from that.
Farand: Would you be able to go into a bit more concrete details on where or how having more elders or deacons would possibly be able to benefit the church?
First, let's deal with the more straightforward case of how having more deacons would benefit the church - in Acts 6, the seven were appointed to look into the daily serving of the physical needs of the church so that the apostles were not weighed down by these burdens. There are many things that need to be taken care of to ensure that the church and its activities run smoothly. These things range from taking care of the infrastructure, the finance and admin side of things, planning and coordination of events, evangelism efforts, benevolence, mission work etc. Currently, besides the elders and deacons, there are active men who help take charge of some of these matters. As I mentioned previously, we all have different strengths as individuals, and drawing from our strengths and areas of expertise would bring about better results and outcomes. And that's where we would appreciate and benefit from more men coming forward to serve. In addition, for the men who are already serving, if they meet the biblical qualifications of a deacon, then why not become one? It is an affirmation of their commitment to serve and to continue serving.
If by having more deacons, we can relieve the elders from some of these administrative areas that they are currently busy with, then they can instead direct more of their attention and time towards building up and encouraging individual members, and helping those who may be struggling spiritually or going through difficulties.
As for having more elders, I believe one of the key roles of an elder is to look out for the spiritual welfare of the congregation. In order to do that, they would need to know members better and deeper, thus being able to form closer relationships. Based on these relationships, they will then be more approachable when individual members need help. Having more elders not only allows for more attention to be given, but also having elders of different personalities would enable the eldership to connect better with the different members, and to really make sure that everyone is taken care of, and that the members are being watched over spiritually.
Would you be able to share more on your decision process back when you were asked to take on the role?
Back then, when asked to consider taking on the role, the first instinct was to say no - there were surely many other respected, faithful, mature members who would be more suited than myself. In the course of discussion with the elders then, I was asked to take more time to think about it and to discuss with my family before saying no. My wife and I were apprehensive, as we were unsure of how much more it would take in terms of commitment and involvement. There was a question of whether we could cope at home if I was more involved, especially as the kids were younger back then.
I took some time to study more about the role of the deacon. During this course of study, I came to learn more about what being a deacon entails. It was not a leadership position, but one of service. At that time, I was already serving in some areas and I saw it as continuing to serve, but as part of the scriptural organisation. As I got married and had children at a relatively young age, I also saw that there were many active young men of my generation or younger who have either not had kids yet, or had very young ones. I thought that by stepping into the role, I could make it easier for them to make the same decision in time to come. My wife and I have always thought it important that we have more men in the leadership, and we thought that having more deacons would in time to come, lead us to having more elders.
There was a bit of urgency back then, as there were some adjustments and changes following the setting up of the Eastside Church of Christ, and with the support of my wife, I decided to agree to take on the role and then just see where and how things go from there.
Thanks for the insightful response. Since then, how has the past few years as being a deacon been like? And how has the role impacted your faith?
Honestly, since becoming a deacon, not very much has changed. We would look for men who are already active and serving (1 Tim 3:10) and since deacon is really just another word for servant, there probably wouldn't be a massive change in terms of what we would be doing and how we are serving. As has been mentioned before over the pulpit by our preachers, the qualifications of elders and deacons are mostly qualifications that all faithful men should aspire to mature into. Therefore, it isn't like we would or should behave differently before and after being appointed.
Being a deacon and being in the regular meetings with the elders and the preachers and the rest of the Management Committee, brings about exposure and an appreciation of how many brethren are really working hard in various areas, and that's always an encouragement. We see the problems and challenges that are encountered, and are therefore very aware and conscious that our continued existence as a faithful congregation is not something that can be taken lightly or for granted. It has strengthened my faith to see the love that the elders and other brethren have for the church.
On a personal level, I am appreciative of the many prayers for the elders and deacons. These prayers are encouraging and for me, a reminder to continue serving God and this congregation.
Thanks for all the thoughtful and deep answers. I think everyone also appreciates the work that the elders and deacons put in.
One last question from me. Your family has shown tremendous consistency in getting the helpers with the family to be baptized and part of the LAPCOC family when they are in Singapore. So what is the secret?
Haha, it has been mentioned several times and I have to say we honestly don't know. We are pretty embarrassed honestly when this gets mentioned as we don't feel like we do very much. Credit really goes to our helpers themselves for their willingness to come with us to the worship services, and then to the brethren who taught them in the visitor classes, and finally of course, to the power of God's word.
I’m sure the subtle influences of your family’s Christian living played a huge role. Thank you once again for your service to God and example to the church!