Four New Apprentices Commissioned
17 May 2022
Elder Robin Gan introducing the CMA program and the four new apprentices
Left to right: Elder Robin, Prisca Wong, Woo Kae Sheng, Cheryl Tan, Joel Tan
“The service that God has designed for us in Genesis 1-2, we see now, the church fulfilling it. In Acts 28, we see this sense of unfinished business… We are Acts 29,” said Elder Robin Gan in his preamble before the commissioning of four new Church Minister’s Apprentices (CMA-ers) on the 20th March 2022. Given the title of the sermon that Sunday, ‘Called by God’, it was an appropriate time for the CMA commissioning. Among those who were joining the already existing group of five CMA-ers were Prisca Wong, Cheryl Tan, Woo Kae Sheng and Joel Tan.
“At the end of Acts 28, we see Jesus’ charge to baptise and make disciples of all nations. This is, in fact, far from accomplished. And therefore, both in the context of the New Testament, and our context in Klang Valley, the story of the church is not over.” Elder Robin went on to expand on how Christians must reflect the glory of God and how Christians are part of the new creation seen in Revelations. “We are not commissioning four people here today who are just about to embark on an adventure of two years, but who are dedicated to working out the possibility of working for Jesus Christ full time – through thick or thin, often unpaid, hopefully always paid by the church, in order to – rain, hail or shine, in prosperity, sickness, wealth, or pain sorrow, or depression – continue to be officers of the church.”
Elder Robin also explained from 1 Tim 3 that all Christians are called to handle the Word of God with care, and must remember the nobility of such a calling. This is why 1 Tim 3 is always read at each commissioning in order for the church to be reminded of the weight of such an honourable calling, even more so for those considering full-time paid ministry. Elder Robin then urged the CMA-ers to “put their hand to the plough” and forget all distractions in light of such a weighty undertaking.
Prisca and Kae Sheng reading Acts 28
Two of the CMA-ers, Prisca and Kae Sheng, will be focusing on Chinese ministry, supervised by pastor-in-training Daniel Lu, whereas Cheryl and Joel will focus on the English ministry.
In the CMA program, it is understood that apprentices are in training to be responsible for God’s church and should be encouraged and rebuked where necessary by church members in order to be sharpened for the tasks of being a full-time paid minister in the future. It was thus necessary for the church to be briefly introduced to the apprentices, to hear their reasons for pursuing CMA and to be fully committed to their training.
Prisca described herself as “a super pious kid who always went to church, and would read the bible a few hours a day.” However, she only viewed such fervent religiosity as a “point system to reach God.” It was only during her university years in CERC that she learnt how to read the Bible and realised the depth and knowledge of God being revealed in the Bible.
She also said that this realisation “really changes lives and helps us to see who we really are according to God and bring us to the true God.” This underscores how important reading Scripture is for all churches. “Malaysian churches need a lot of people who are equipped in teaching the Word,” Prisca said.
Kae Sheng in contrast, had grown up in Johor Bahru in a non-Christian home, and had joined Sunday School when he was 12 years old. However, he only understood the gospel as an 18-year old at a youth camp and decided subsequently to take Bible reading more seriously. With his zeal, he had joined an organisation geared toward youth evangelism.
“Coming to KL was a turning point for me. I remember from the Luke series in 2016/2017, where Pastor Robin challenged us to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. All this time, I thought I was saved and just had to perform my Christian duty. I was cut to the heart but it would take me another four years of wrestling with the temptation of worldliness – to have my cake and eat it as well – before I finally decided to be here now. I hope I can be of service to the church.”
Cheryl Tan with church friends celebrating her commissioning
Cheryl and Joel had similar stories as well about the lack of clarity on the breadth and depth of the Scriptures and its Christ-centred hermeneutics. Cheryl had been in a megachurch all her life, and she “never knew what it was like to taste the Bible.” She had only read the Bible properly in university and had been challenged by the gospel. “I could see the glory of God being real in our lives,” she recalled.
Joel Tan, as a pastor’s kid, had been asked multiple times if he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. He had mostly thought that it would be quite cool. However, he drifted away from such a purpose in his university years in wanting to pursue his own dreams and passions. Later on, he experienced a few key moments in church and during conferences held by the Gospel Growth Fellowship which transformed the way he thought about full-time paid ministry. But he took time to consider the work it would take. In the end though, Joel confessed that he knew he needed to try for full-time paid ministry. “I needed to learn what it means to please God with my whole being and my whole life,” said Joel.
Elder Robin then explained to the church that he would be committed to training these new apprentices for 24 months.
He also highlighted that such an endeavour would be the most serious undertaking in their lives, even more than their university degrees. The church was then called to stand and voice their public support and commitment.
“Church, will you be committed to the support, encouragement and assessment and recognition of this brother or sister for the office of pastoring and teaching?” asked Elder Robin.
The church responded that she would.
The four CMA-ers were asked by Elder Robin to share their hopes and expectations with the church before he prayed for them.
Joel Tan sharing his expectations for CMA
“I expect to be confronted by my own failings and weaknesses and learn to reshape and reform my assumptions about Christianity,” said Joel.
“I hope that the four of us will be given lots of feedback on our skills, and be godlier and learn to trust in God alone and grow to be responsible and care for members who are under us,” said Cheryl.
“I hope to learn consistency as a minister despite emotional stress, failure and persecution,” said Kae Sheng.
“I hope to be nurtured into a servant of good quality, not just in handling content but also, my servant-heartedness, and learn what it means to love the church deeply with a holy love that builds up,” ended Prisca.
Elder Robin then expressed his satisfaction with the suitability of the four apprentices and pronounced his support for them, on behalf of the church.
Elder Robin praying for the apprentices
The commissioning ended with Elder Robin praying for them, that they would learn to correct the errors of their minds and hearts, that they would love the Scriptures, and that that love would be poured out in a love for God’s people.