This summer I will have the privilege of teaching a course at Regent College, Vancouver. Entitled “Surviving Success, Appreciating Failure: A Biblical Perspective on Handling Success and Failure in Christian Leadership,” it will run from July 31 till August 4.
You can check out the details on the Regent website at: https://www.regent-college.edu/academics/summer/summerweeks5.html#APPL588
In many ways this is the course I was meant to teach, a course that is the lesson of my life. Unfortunately few have shown interest in the course and if this continues Regent will cancel the course.
Born as the only son in a Chinese Diaspora family, I was told from young that I needed to work hard to succeed in life. I was told that as a Chinese in Malaysia, the odds were stacked against me and that I had to work hard and succeed in order to survive and make a life for myself. No one talked about the possibility of failure and how one was to cope with it. Failure was not an option.
In many ways I tasted success in the early part of my life. I did fairly well in school examinations. I won a number of prizes in various disciplines. I held various leadership positions in school and church. And although my pre-university exam grades were not that hot I managed to get a place in the dental school of the University of Singapore. Dentistry wasn’t as hot as medicine but was still one of the preferred occupations for children of the Diaspora Chinese.
The first sign that my life was not going to take the route of my peers was the realization that God was calling me to a church related vocation. Moving from dentistry to the pastorate was traumatic for my family and myself. Still, there was some kind of success here when I ended up as the senior pastor of a leading church in my denomination.
Then came the death of one wife, the breakdown of a second marriage, the loss of my public ministry and my reputation, and my sojourn through clinical depression. This was failure big time.
This series of traumatic events forced me to rethink the whole subject of success and failure. I had to. I had to make sense of all that happened. Nothing in my life prior to these events had prepared me to face these horrendous developments. These were things that happened to other people. As for me, well I was primed for success not failure.
But God had prepared me. I ended up going to Regent College for my theological education. It was my second choice. But in retrospect I now see that God made sure I ended up where I was supposed to be.
Regent taught me two things among others. It taught me how to hear God speak to my life through the proper interpretation of the Bible. And it taught me that God’s no.1 priority for His children is that we grow into Christ like maturity.
Armed with these two gifts I began the journey of reinterpreting my life. In so many ways now, I see my “failures” as God’s gifts to me, to help me grow up. I am still healing. I am still growing. On bad days I am depressed and angry. On good days I am grateful. And there are now more good days than bad days.
I was therefore delighted when I received the invitation to teach a summer course at Regent. I saw it as a way that I could thank the school for what it had given me. We talked about various courses I could teach. We ended up with “Surviving Success, Appreciating Failure.” It would be an exercise in biblical theology and spiritual formation. I suspected that there were many more who needed to understand how God defined success and failure.
Now it looks like I may “fail” if the course is canceled for a lack of response. I understand that there are many reasons why people may not sign up for a course like this.
Graduate study in North America is expensive. And a topic like mine is not exactly a feel good summer topic. Besides my course is scheduled to run at the same time as courses taught by evangelical luminaries more well known in the world wide evangelical community. Well, I am at a stage of my life that I am able to cope with such ?failures.?
But if you could benefit from a study on success and failure from a biblical perspective, please consider joining me this summer. I look forward to hearing God together with you. Or if you know someone who could benefit from the course, please help me put the word out.
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan