If the Church does not Evangelise, It will Fossilise

A Tribute to the Late Pastor John Tan Eng Peng

By Tan Siew Kuan (Wife of Ps. John)


Looking Out for the Vulnerable

John’s heart from conversion to Christ in 1972 had always been for souls. He would frequent Tiong Bahru Park during his days-off as a policeman to distribute tracts and evangelise. He and another Christian colleague would gather Christians among policemen to fellowship, pray and encourage one another. They later formed a Police Christian Fellowship.

With Grace Filipino Mnistry members, Grace Assembly

During John’s years as a pastor in the Grace Filipino Ministry (GFM), most of the congregants were domestic helpers with some nurses and engineers. John and I stayed after service to fellowship, pray and do Bible study with them. John would, in his characteristic boisterous voice, declare that the Filipino brethren loved fun, food and fellowship. The sisters would prepare his favourite sandwiches and make sure he had the best portion. The members loved John and he loved them too. He was concerned about the sisters’ vulnerability due to their jobs. More than once, he had to protect the members from wolves in sheep’s clothing and false teachers. His first task as GFM pastor was to confront some key leaders who held to the “Oneness” (“Jesus Only”) teaching, a doctrine denying the Trinity. He also had to severely warn two strangers who came to church to lure ladies into prostitution. These two groups left. Those were years of learning, joy and laughter.

John trained the members in evangelism. He was delighted when, on their own initiatives, they went street-witnessing at Orchard Rd. He was gratified when some went overseas to work and applied the ministry skills learnt to serve God in churches in USA, Canada, England, Norway, Spain and the Philippines. A few became leaders and pastors. GFM is John’s legacy.

Ps. Rosita Cristobal (Rose, to John and me), the current GFM pastor, is one of those faithful members. John saw in her a heart for God and a sincere desire to serve. She and her husband Napoleon helped John in the ministry for many years. Rose undertook many roles — Bible-study leader, worship leader and administrator. She is humble and teachable. After John left, he was delighted that she far exceeded what he did for GFM. Ps. Rose expanded GFM to two congregations with at least 200 members. During the years under John, GFM was one congregation with about 60 to 80 members. John used to thank and praise God for Ps. Rose (and her supportive family) who grew GFM to a more matured fellowship.

Prayer for Protection

Missions trip in Thailand

The first assignment given to John as a Grace Missions representative was to Western Nepal. A remarkable thing happened before his trip. John received a phone call from a lady teacher, a Methodist he did not know. She told him that while praying, the Lord told her to pray for a John Tan. She told God she did not know this man. She said He told her to go to a specific page of a Singapore Church Directory to find John’s phone number. She had a message from God. The Lord assured John that He would take care of everything, and all would be well. John received the prophecy although he was puzzled by what it meant.

It turned out that the trip was an ordeal. He and the Nepali pastor had to walk about four hours under the hot sun until John felt faint. They had to cross 17 rivers and were delayed in their schedule. They stayed in a leprosy missions place with black-outs, leaving them in pitch darkness. The plane to Kathmandu from western Nepal was an old plane and on that day that John had to fly to Kathmandu, he heard that another plane had disappeared into the mountains. What an introduction to missions! John then understood that lady teacher’s prophecy.

Driven by Compassion

Throughout his years in missions, John experienced God’s faithfulness, protection and deliverance. In Vietnam, he was almost arrested. For that trip, he felt he should go one day later. The Vietnamese believers had to relocate him to another hotel as the authorities had arrested a Malaysian pastor the day before. For safety’s sake, John also had to destroy his preaching notes.

The work John engaged in opened his eyes to the great harvest fields in each country. He felt compassion for the people, their need for Christ and the need for shepherds among young pastors and church planters. In Pakistan, he preached in open-air to a thousand people. When he returned a year later, he was told in that meeting, a woman fell off the chair, felt heat in her body and was healed of a health condition.

John’s message to churches, groups or individuals had always been simple. Whenever opportunities arose, he presented the Gospel and urged people to receive Christ. He said, “if the church does not evangelise, it will fossilise.”

Conviction to Share the Gospel

Training centre in West Kalimatan

Over the years, John and I took time to attend weddings, funerals, birthday celebrations and home gatherings of friends, relatives and family to build relationships. Given a chance, John would share the Gospel. His conviction was that the Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe.” (Romans 1:16). On his sick bed, he shared the Gospel again to family and relatives and affirmed that for him, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21).

I followed John’s example how to share the ABCs of the Gospel, using the Scriptures:

A – Admit you are a sinner (Romans 3:23)
B – Believe Jesus Christ loves you, died, was buried, and rose from the dead to give you eternal life (Romans 5:8, 6:23)
C – Confess Christ as Saviour and Lord (Romans 10:9-10).

John had fulfilled his call. He could, with confidence, say he “had fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7).


Ps. John Tan Eng Peng passed away on 10 June 2020, after battling cancer of the bones and large intestines for seven months. He was a pastor with Grace Assembly for 18 years from 1985 to 2003. He served, among other portfolios, as a pastor overseeing the Grace Filipino Ministry (GFM) for 10 years and as a Grace Missions pastor for four years.