Matthew Tan was born in Singapore in 1971 to parents who were both performers in a Chinese street opera troupe. With family links to criminal triads, illicit drugs, corruption and crime were part of everyday life for young Matthew as he grew up. When he was seven, his father was imprisoned for heroin addiction, forcing his mother to become the sole bread winner for her four children. An unsupervised “latchkey kid”, Matthew hung out with local hooligans and inevitably joined a gang. At school, he was regularly punished for fighting and bad behaviour.
By the grace of God, at sixteen Matthew accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour and he became active in Youth for Christ in Singapore. Matthew had always felt the Lord’s call to full-time Christian work, however in 1990, believing himself to be ill-equipped to minister, he instead joined the Singapore Police Force.
Over the next two years, Matthew quickly rose in seniority from beat constable to plain clothes detective. He received many Police awards for outstanding service. Matthew solved many high profile cases, one of which received international notoriety and media attention: The conviction for vandalism and subsequent caning, of American teenager, Michael J. Fay. However, the strain of the high public profile and the trauma and internal conflict of having to arrest his own father on three occasions, took its toll on Matthew’s life and he felt himself inexorably slipping away from God.
The Lord on the other hand, remained faithful to him and in 1996, at the Lord’s prompting, Matthew left the Police Force, became active again in church life and within two years, was a worship leader in one of Singapore fastest growing churches serving a congregation of more than 12,000.
By 2003, Matthew had launched ‘Sowers Music’, a ministry with a deep passion for calling both believers and non-believers into a deeper relationship with God through music and the arts. Matthew has been invited to minister and conduct workshops at large and small churches, Christian camps and crusades, in cities and smaller centres throughout Asia. He has led crusades in Malaysia’s huge Indoor Stadium, at the Sydney Opera House and has ministered to crowds of over 50,000. Matthew has seen over 5000 come to know Christ through his ministry in four years alone. To Matthew’s surprise, the story of his problematic and dysfunctional relationship with his father and his move into Christian ministry attracted mainstream media interest in Taiwan and was the subject of a television documentary there.
A singer songsmith in his own right, Matthew has to date produced two albums of original Christian music and is currently working on a third and fourth. He plans to write a book and record his first English language Christian album during 2010 .
In 2006, Matthew was invited to minister to Asian churches in New Zealand. God opened other doors and relationships were also forged with European churches where he was invited to speak and perform. While in New Zealand, Radio Rhema invited Matthew to be interviewed on air and he was able to showcase tracks from his Chinese language albums.
Pastor Mike van der Vlugt of Auckland’s Baptist Tabernacle has this to say of Matthew:
“I was immediately drawn to Matthew when my wife and I first met him a few days before he was to come to the Auckland Baptist Tabernacle church to lead worship and share with us. Matthew came with his ministry partner, Nicole. Whilst Matthew is a very gifted man he spoke nothing of himself or his own achievements but instead, gave honor to Nicole and the impact SHE had through her testimony. His humility is very real. I respect his ‘servant heart’, his desire to fit in with us and his unwillingness to impose his own agenda.
Matthew was a great encouragement to our young music team. He offered coaching which was really effective and practical. I was so pleased to hear Matthew speak to the team during practice. He challenged them and got them to think about the reason that they were worshipping: that it was for Jesus and that they should give it all to Him.
Matthew is a gifted communicator. He relates so well to the various “internationals” we have at Global, although he does however, tend to speak a little too fast! We have a unique congregation at Global, with many new speakers of English. His passion for Christ is very evident.
I admire his courage and frankness in sharing deep and difficult things from his own life. I know this cannot be at all easy for Matthew but his desire to proclaim Christ’s work in his life prevails. I know his testimony impacted a number of people here. Matthew balances what he has to say with a refreshing and infectious sense of humor! Matthew made himself available to meet and pray with people on other occasions. This speaks of his approachability and his positive and effective influence on people. Should he be available, we would certainly be glad to have him come to Global on a regular basis to share God’s Word and to encourage our leaders.”
Matthew L. Tan