“… I really wanted to be a pastor. I wanted to help. I wanted to minister. I wanted to go and share the love of Jesus [with] the world. And so I’ve got two paths: family business or maybe ministry, right?” This was the life-changing question Dennis Sy pondered over before ultimately joining the ministry.
The Family Business
But being raised in a Filipino-Chinese household, Dennis’ vocation was perceived as impractical by his parents who owned and worked at a store in Divisoria. From as early as five years old, business talk permeated the air of the house. “[From] very young I would always hear about business, about earning more money, how we can expand. That was our topic […] every dinner time after Divisoria. Pupunta sa bahay, all I could hear about was really business, business, business, and how to make more money. Our parents are very, very strict, yet at the same time, they were very empowering. They would expose us to the family business.”
Indeed like many Fil-Chi kids, Dennis and his siblings manned their store on summers from elementary through college. Dennis was essentially a working student; he started out at the family’s bodega and worked his way up towards sales and marketing.
He realized that his parents just wanted him and his siblings to have a good life. “My dad rarely cries, but there was one time he was teary-eyed when he was talking to all six of us siblings and he told us, ‘this is my dream for you guys, that you would be successful, na gusto ko, umaapaw kayo sa success so that you can help others.’ Rarely do we see our dad cry.”
The Path to Pastoring and Acting Like a Man
Dennis took up Behavioral Sciences which, to him, seemed easy when he was still deciding on his program course. Later, it became clear to him that he took the right course. “… now that I’m pastoring–talking about social planning, behavioral science, anthropology, culture, and now we’re talking about this, the Chinoy culture. That’s why we started also a website and a movement called Act Like a Man.”
“I was 27 years old and there [were] hundreds of men and women, mostly singles from 18 to 25 years old that [were] going to our church. We started out with around 250 people, but in less than a year we grew to a thousand people with a lot of single people.” Dennis started talking to and coaching these single churchgoers and realized that a lot of them did not know how to live their lives, earn money, etc. They lacked guidance, in the holistic sense, on life and wanted to know how the Bible could be applied to every area of their lives. Thus, Act Like a Man was born.
Dennis started blogging and training men on how to become better men, fathers, providers, and leaders in their households and society. Soon, Act Like a Man became a movement, raking in a million readers annually. “We’ve got books, we’ve got podcasts, we’ve got a Youtube channel where you can go and get your Manhood Resources.”
As a graduate of behavioral sciences, he also recognized one of the social problems we have which was “fatherlessness”. “We have so many stories of fathers who might be providers financially but not emotionally, physically, spiritually… We felt like it was time for us to introduce a different kind of fathering. That’s why we did Act Like a Man.”
Soon he started writing a book on finance while teaching single men how to handle their finances. Then he compiled all of his blog posts into his second book called “Act Like a Man Now and Again”. He was inspired by the testimonies of the lives he has touched; there were stories of men who got married, took on the challenge, and manned up in many ways. He continued writing more books.
His parents weren’t initially on board with his vocation. It even came to a point when they would fight. His parents would argue: “‘Wag kang mag-pa-pastor, papayat ka nyan.” But one day, his parents went to Korea for a Bible trip with their church. When they returned home, his mother gave their blessing. She said: “When we went to Korea, we saw the pastors there who were so passionate about God and they had no salary. If you want to be a pastor, we release you with our blessings. But you will not get even a single peso from us. You have to ask that from the Lord.”
With all the money he earned as a working student, he went to Bible school. “I had no pay. I was doing it out of love and passion. And during my time in Bible school, that’s when I started my gig. Nagwe-wedding host ako, nag-i-stand up comedy ako sa mga show, just to get money, so that I could survive. Ang pinepray ko lang kay Lord noon, Lord sana magkaroon lang ako ng gig para tuloy-tuloy lang ako dito sa calling ko bilang isang campus missionary or a youth minister that goes around different schools, training them in godliness and in leadership.”
In the end, his parents were happy that he was a pastor. They realized that it wasn’t about wealth. “What would a man profit if he gains the whole world but he loses his soul? A lot of people have got a lot of wealth, but they’ve lost their soul, the why of our existence, and our purpose. That’s why I want to be a pastor.”