Coming out to come Home this Christmas

This Christmas, Salt&Light brings you a series of stories on new beginnings. Your life can begin again too.

by Janice Tai // December 20, 2021, 4:58 pm

Tc feature

Tou Chen is now a bible school instructor at Rhema Bible Training Center and an assistant pastor at 3:16 Church. All photos courtesy of Chang Tou Chen.

It seemed he had it all. 

Money, sex, power.  

Chang Tou Chen was at the top of the game in the banking and finance industry. His last role at a big bank was as Southeast Asia banking head, leading hundreds of staff.  

Tou Chen left his role leading the Southeast Asian arm of a big bank in 2015.

Besides having a high-flying and high-paying job, he also lived the high life of clubbing, partying and wild sex.  

In a bid to chase after higher highs, he would have sex with three or four men in the same night.  

The pleasure was seductive. Yet curiously, after every encounter, he felt empty, unfulfilled and unsatisfied, he told Salt&Light.  

In a bid to chase after higher highs, he would have sex with three or four men in the same night.  

The more encounters he had, the emptier he felt. The emptier he felt, the more encounters he sought in order to fill the void. Yet the void in him not only did not get filled, it simply deepened. 

“It wasn’t a lack of meaning or purpose. I just felt something was missing in my life,” said Tou Chen, 52, who grew up in church but left it when he was in his early 20s.  

After 30 years of this lifestyle, he felt an intense hollowness within him. That was when a friend of his told him he was going to church.  

“I am too dirty to go to church,” Tou Chen remarked in response.  

Yet it was God’s way of pursuing him with His love.  

This Christmas, the ex-banker turned pastor and Bible school instructor shares how the birth of Jesus changed everything – not just for him but for the world.  

When church became irrelevant 

At a young age of seven, Tou Chen was aware that he was attracted to men.  

At 13 years old, he saw a picture of a shirtless man and could not help noticing that he was sexually aroused.

“I wanted to ask people at church for help but I was too ashamed and I didn’t want to be a social outcast. Back then, the stigma in society and church was more pronounced,” he said.   

Tou Chen in his younger days.

He started to date girls, thinking that it might help, but it did not.  

As he became more and more curious about guys, he started to buy gay magazines and porn videos for self-pleasuring.  

His parents are believers and there was a time when he was fervent for the Lord, serving as a leader in cell group and church camps.  

But he left church in his early 20s, as he was turned off by the behaviour of some members of the church. The Scriptures and his faith also did not seem relevant to his life at that point in time.  

The time of his life

When he stopped walking with the Lord, he plunged into a different world and began having the “time of his life” at gay bars and saunas.  

“As I was new and fresh to the scene, there were lots of guys who wanted me, and there were also lots of guys that I myself wanted,” Tou Chen said candidly.  

Tou Chen (front left) with his family. He has two brothers and a sister.

He began having multiple one-night stands, experimenting with new acquaintances night after night. He had a boyfriend then, but he cheated on him because he simply wanted more sex, he said. 

“I was angry with God because if He wired me this way, then there was nothing else He could say about it that doesn’t seem like hypocrisy.”

“We don’t even need to know each other’s names. A single look or touch, a short exchange, that’s all it took to initiate sex. I was like a kid in a candy store. Sometimes, one treat a day wasn’t enough,” he added.  

He became addicted to sex and would sleep with multiple men a night.  

“There was no happiness in it; there was just the desire for sexual pleasure. As the years progressed, I grew more disgusted with myself because I knew my appetite and indulgences were not healthy for any normal human being,” he said.  

He realised there was a black void of emptiness within him that he was trying to fill with sex, but the sex just could not fulfil what he needed.  

After three decades of living this way, Tou Chen found that, to his despair, he could not break off from the vicious cycle of seeking out more and more sex.  

He felt terribly empty inside.  

The Word spoke

One day in 2014, a friend of his told him that he was going to church that Sunday.  

“I am too dirty to go to church,” Tou Chen declared.   

What his friend said next shocked him.  

“Son, come home now … just as you are.”

His friend replied that with Jesus “you are righteous before God”.  

“That’s nonsense, how could I be righteous before God, look at all the things that I’m doing,” he answered, half mockingly.  

His friend insisted he was still righteous before God, something his pastor had reiterated.  

Out of sheer disbelief, Tou Chen followed his friend to church to hear this strange pastor for himself. 

At that very first service, something filled him like never before.  

“I realised it was the Word of God that I had starved myself of in all those decades. I was hooked,” said Tou Chen.  

He returned again and again every week for one year to listen to the Word. But he did not abandon his way of life.  

The twilight

Instead, he would rush to the first service every Sunday morning and then rush off right after service to a gay sauna for the rest of the day for multiple sexual encounters. 

“I had imbibed the world’s narrative that I was ‘born this way’. I was angry with God.”

“I didn’t know at that time that this emptiness inside me was my spirit panting for God. So, I came back every Sunday morning hungering for the Word to feed my Spirit. But I existed in a weird twilight zone and still wanted and needed to feed my flesh. It was surreal,” he said.  

It was only one year later that he had a revelation from God during a particular sermon. The pastor was preaching on the parable of the prodigal son. Suddenly, Tou Chen’s spirit opened up to recognise the truth of the Father’s love.  

“The prodigal son, he was far away and the father saw him from far and ran to him. For this to happen, the father must have been personally looking out for the son all the time and yearning for him to come home. Why would the father yearn for this unworthy and good-for-nothing son to come home?” Tou Chen wondered. 

“Do you realise that the son was still dirty at that time? He had just returned from feeding pigs and was homeless, smelly and filthy and yet the father fell on his neck and kissed him with his own lips. Yet the father put the best robe on him. It was as if God was saying to me … Son, come home now, just as you are.”

Apart from two pastors, the only people who knew of Tou Chen’s same-sex attraction in the early days were his gay friends and his younger brother (right).

This broke his heart and set him on tears for years to come, every time he recalls that moment. 

“My heart was hardened because I had imbibed the world’s narrative that I was ‘born this way’. I was angry with God because if He wired me this way, then there was nothing else He could say about it that doesn’t seem like hypocrisy,” said Tou Chen.  

From that day on in 2015, he realised that he had harboured misconceptions about God and decided to start walking with God again. He stopped having sexual encounters. 

Reality of both God and the Fall 

Tou Chen began embarking on a quest for answers. If he was to set God and the Bible as his authority, then he had to find out what the Bible says about same-sex attraction: Is this of God? Did He make me this way? If He did, why so? If He didn’t, what am I supposed to do about it? Beyond same-sex attraction, how does the Bible inform the way I should live my life in other arenas?  

“While we cannot choose the form of brokenness we have, we always have a choice on how we respond to it.”

His pastor took him through the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit also guided him in his struggles.  

“Some people think that because we did not choose to be same-sex attracted, therefore it must be of God. But there are people who are born lame and blind and God did not make them that way. Yes, we are all fearfully and wonderfully made and we should be made perfect but that isn’t the reality that we live in,” said Tou Chen. 

“We live in a world that is corrupted by the Fall and so reality reflects both the hand of God and the hand of the fall of Man. We are all broken in different ways, whether we are broken sexually or have anger management issues or other weaknesses.”  

“While we cannot choose the form of brokenness we have, such as same-sex attraction, we always have a choice on how we respond to it. We don’t have to be slaves to how we feel,” he added.  

Tou Chen with his mother. He once felt bitterness towards her but has since sought forgiveness and reconciliation.

During this period of his search for answers, the first issue that God surfaced up to him was not one surrounding same-sex attraction, but one concerning his relationship with his mother.  

“We live in a world that is corrupted by the Fall and so reality reflects both the hand of God and the hand of the fall of Man.

“I had bitterness towards her and I knew God wanted me to repent and release forgiveness,” said Tou Chen. 

“This is not about dealing with the ‘root cause’ of same-sex attraction, because even after addressing that area of my life, my same-sex attraction did not go away,” he said.  

“Rather, it is about not leaving doors open to the enemy or giving the devil a foothold as mentioned in Ephesians 4:27. In releasing forgiveness, I strengthen my spirit and expand my capacity to allow the grace and power of God to be deployed more fully in my life.” 

Subsequently, Tou Chen sought freedom from bondage by feasting on the Word of God. What he read finally fed the hungry void in his life.  

Learning to walk by the Spirit

Galatians 5:16 suddenly became personal for him: If you walk by the Spirit, you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 

“This same-sex design was the desire of my flesh and I was addicted to it. But my spirit is born of God and has the same desire for God. Yet because the flesh and the spirit are contrary to each other, there is a war and it was God who helped me to overcome the desire for sex every night,” said Tou Chen.  

He took reference on walking by the Spirit from Romans 8:5: Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  

The first church group that Tou Chen (far right) came out to was Choices. He later volunteered to be part of the community who journeyed with others.

Specifically, Tou Chen said that meant guarding his mindset and mindshare.  

“Why, God? Why?” he asked God in desperation.  

“Mindset is about setting your mind on having a 100% biblical perspective as your truth and authority, instead of mixing and matching God’s narrative with what we encounter in the world.

“Mindshare is about what we dwell on and think about in our free time. Do we give space to or fill our mind with things that are not of God? If so, those things will displace the things that are of Him,” he said.  

Yet despite his best efforts, it was difficult for him to fully overcome the addiction to same-sex attraction. Some nights, the lust of the flesh was overwhelming.  

“I would be so disappointed with myself. It was frustrating to come so far and yet stop short of complete victory,” he added. 

Years of struggle 

Two years passed and he found himself still without complete victory.  

There were decisive moments when he trashed all the gay porn videos and all the baggage that reminded him of his previous self. 

Yet he still found himself struggling, clicking on the same gay porn sites, reactivating his cancelled subscriptions and seeking new sources to look at.  

At that moment, he felt a force rushing into his heart.  

“Why, God? Why?” he asked God in desperation.  

God pointed him to James 3: “Look at the horses, you turn the bit and the horse will turn. Look also at the ships, though they are large ships driven by fierce winds, it is steered by a small rudder.” 

“God revealed to me that, for some of us, breaking free from this condition is the experience of a horse. When you turn, the horse will turn immediately and completely. For the very large ship that is driven by fierce winds, when you turn the rudder, it is turning and it will turn completely, but it won’t turn immediately,” he said.  

His journey was the experience of the large ship, God told him. 

“As long as I kept confessing the truth of the Word of God over me that I have been delivered from the power of darkness, my ship is still turning and, one day, my ship will completely turn,” he said.   

Having come out, Tou Chen appreciates very much how he has been embraced by 3:16 Church pastor Pastor Ian Toh and his family, as well as other leaders from the church.

So he stayed in faith, confessing the truth of God even though he was still struggling and falling. 

The last remnants

Finally, on June 6, 2018, God showed him the final obstacle that was holding him back from complete freedom.

He was led to Numbers 33 when God said to the children of Israel: If you do not drive out the last remnants of the inhabitants of this land, they will remain a scourge to your eyes, a thorn in your side. 

Tou Chen knew that if he was not prepared to let go of the last remnant of his fleshly desires, it will remain a scourge to his eyes and a thorn in his side for the rest of his life.  

From that night onwards, he broke free from the chains, including pornography.   

“That night, I told God, I don’t want any of this anymore, I want it all out,” said Tou Chen. At that moment, he felt a force rushing into his heart.  

“It was like what we read of in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost – the power and grace of God rushed into my chest,” he said.

He did not know what this was all about, but he knew something special had happened and that things would never be the same again.  

From that night onwards, he broke free from the chains, including pornography.   

“It did not mean that I don’t experience any more temptation. However, in the past there was a sense that it was only a matter of time before I fell again. But now God has given me the strength and grace to be victorious against these temptations,” he said.  

However, he cautioned against persons with same-sex attraction expecting or waiting for such dramatic moments of ‘deliverance’.  

“Not having such experiences or feelings certainly does not mean He is not working in your life,” he said. “We all encounter the Holy Spirit in different ways.”

A new season 

Tou Chen left the banking and finance sector in 2015 after two decades in the industry.

In 2016, hungry for the Word of God, he enrolled in a diploma programme at Rhema Bible Training College.

Tou Chen teaching students at Rhema Bible Training Center on Zoom during the pandemic season.

It was in Rhema Bible school that he discovered his gift of teaching and God’s calling for him in that area.

When in 2018 he was invited to teach as an instructor in the school, he accepted the position. He also teaches at its affiliate Bible schools in Malaysia and India.  

Tou Chen as a guest speaker in India.

Today, he serves in several ministries including Truelove.Is under 3:16 Church and Choices under Church of Our Saviour Singapore. Recently, he also became an Assistant Pastor at 3:16 Church.  

Tou Chen’s work with TrueLove.Is, a ministry of 3:16 Church that provides stories and resources for Christians who want to know more about LGBT issues.

Tou Chen with his loved ones after the ordination service where he was appointed an ordained minister at 3:16 Church.

For the last two years, he has been in a steady relationship with a woman, though he was quick to emphasise that dating or marriage should not be viewed as a desired “end goal”.  

“The solution is not to date a girl and everything will be okay, but to follow God’s way for you. I took that step because I sensed God directing me to this relationship,” said Tou Chen, who still experiences same-sex attraction but no longer acts on it. 

This Christmas, Tou Chen urges all those who are struggling in any aspect of their lives to find hope in Jesus’ birth, as He has come into this world to make a way for us to come home to God.

In Romans 8:2 it is written: Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set (us) free from the law of sin and death.  

“You may not see the light at the end of the tunnel but don’t give up. I was there for two-and-a-half years. We are not slaves to the fall of mankind and the law of sin and death but have been redeemed into freedom,” he said.  

“It does not mean we no longer experience the consequences of the fall of mankind, be it same-sex attraction, poverty or injustice, but because Jesus came, we now have the choice and grace to be free to overcome them.”  


Coming out to come Home this Christmas

Coming out to come Home this Christmas

Coming out to come Home this Christmas

Coming out to come Home this Christmas

About the author

Janice Tai

Salt&Light senior writer Janice is a former correspondent who enjoys immersing herself in: 1) stories of the unseen, unheard and marginalised, 2) the River of Life, and 3) a refreshing pool in the midday heat of Singapore.