"I really want you to enjoy the Scriptures" - Pastor Robin preaches at Youth Church | CERC News | Christ Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC)

“I really want you to enjoy the Scriptures” – Pastor Robin preaches at Youth Church

15 Mar 2023

By Shaun Alex Thomas

To some, the name “Youth Church” may suggest it is a simpler, and thus, a lesser gathering of God’s people — a kind of compromise to accommodate a younger generation of Christians who simply cannot keep up with the more mature adults. If this is what you envisage a typical Christian youth program to be, you would be encouraged if you visited CERC’s Youth Church on a Sunday morning. I guarantee that you would want to swap bodies with a youth afterwards just so you could gain weekly admission. 

The youth getting revved up for Youth Church!

Now, this is not to say that Youth Church is a separate gathering from the larger body of Christ here at CERC. Youth Church is an extension of the morning AM gathering, and since Youth Church was launched in January 2023, the youths have been going through the same Ezekiel series as the rest of the church. The youth will first participate in the AM gathering along with the adults — praising God with songs, listening to the reading of Scripture, praying, and participating in everything else that the adults do. The difference is that just before the sermon for the main AM gathering begins, the youth will make their way up to the Youth Room on Level 2 to gather as the Youth Church. They leave the main gathering not to idly pass the time by entertaining themselves with movies or games, but to sit under the preaching of God’s Word. This preaching is supposed to be simple enough for them but not any less faithful to the Gospel. 

This past Sunday, March 5, 2023, as the youth had left the main gathering to go to the Youth Room, two adults,  Penny Lai (CERC’s General Manager) and I, who usually go to the evening PM gathering, sat unobtrusively near the church entrance on the Ground Floor. We were waiting patiently for Youth Church to start, for this was not a typical Sunday — on this Sunday morning, the preacher for Youth Church was none other than CERC’s Lead Elder, Robin Gan (as he was preaching at Youth Church that morning, he attended the PM gathering later in the evening). At a quarter past 11, as we were silently typing away at our laptops, the door for the side entrance suddenly burst open, and Pastor Robin rushed past us, hurrying upstairs to preach to the youth. Penny and I leapt up from our chairs and hastily followed after Pastor Robin, as we did not want to miss out on a single word of his sermon.

We were quick, but Pastor Robin was even quicker. When we got to the Youth Room, the auxiliary personnel were already at work miking him up with a wireless headset, and we were struggling to find a seat. The Youth Room is a small, cozy space, and it was jam-packed with people — 11 youth, eight adult youth leaders, three CERC members and candidates rostered to help run operations and two “gatecrashers” who just wanted to hear Pastor Robin preach – 24 in total. One of the adult youth leaders, Colin Loh conjured up chairs for the gatecrashers (Penny and I) just as Pastor Robin began his sermon. 

His opening words set the tone and direction for the rest of the morning: 

“I really want you to enjoy the Scriptures because that’s the key to your life.”

Pastor Robin beginning to preach.

Enjoying the Scriptures is a challenging goal to achieve for anyone averse to even reading more than a few paragraphs, let alone the social media-infatuated Generation Z. If I were to only reproduce the basic ‘facts’ about Pastor Robin’s sermon (as shown below), you might think that Pastor Robin had shot himself in the foot in his goal to get the youth to enjoy the Scriptures because:

  1. The sermon covered two entire chapters of the book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 20-21), with a total of 81 verses with over 2,500 words.
  2. The sermon was almost two and a half hours long. 
  3. The sermon caused Youth Church to end at 1:45 PM, well after the usual Youth Church lunch hour. 
  4. Aside from a handful of slides, a drawing on a whiteboard, a kukri knife and some oranges (read on to find out what these were for), Pastor Robin did not employ any visual aids and relied mainly on speaking directly to the youth. 

It may seem incredulous that anyone could enjoy sitting down for two and a half hours listening to someone talk, but that was precisely what happened, not for one exceptionally gifted individual, but for a room full of youth. And it was not because it was someone just “talking” but because God’s Word was faithfully and skillfully preached. 

Pastor Robin did his best to be perspicuous as he preached. He did not just overwhelm the youth by reading out loud from commentaries or swing to the other extreme of flourishing them purely with personal anecdotes and analogies. He was just being real with the text and, therefore, being real with the youth. 

He began on a sombre note. His explanation of Ezekiel 20:3 (“Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God, Is it to inquire of me that you come? As I live, declares the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you.”) was that this was God giving His people the “cold shoulder” and he likened it (for the youth’s sake) to be akin to their parents saying to them “I’m not talking to you.” Pastor Robin didn’t hold back in showing us how Ezekiel describes the horror of our sin — “In the distant past, you were horrible. In the recent past, you were horrible. In the future… that’s the Gospel.” And because God is so holy, he must pour out his wrath upon sinners. Though God was speaking to Israel in Ezekiel, what we see in Ezekiel is universally true for us as well. 

To illustrate this point from Ezekiel 21:3 (“Thus says the Lord: Behold, I am against you and will draw my sword from its sheath and will cut off from you both righteous and wicked.”), Pastor Robin took a kukri knife and sliced an orange in plain sight (but also from a sufficient distance to not accidentally hurt anyone) and said, “I am not a preacher of fear; I am a preacher of the Gospel… This is how God wants you to understand the Gospel.” 

Pastor Robin preaching the Cross from Ezekiel.

Careful not to fall into legalism or slip into unorthodoxy, Pastor Robin stressed the centrality of the Cross in understanding Ezekiel’s message and that God’s holiness was vital to getting the Cross right — “God’s holiness has a sharp edge to it because he is holy. He will always fight for his holiness so that his own Son would die… You should wake up to the reality that all flesh will grow weak, all flesh will face God, and all flesh will be judged. Flesh that is under Christ, in his Spirit – that flesh will be saved.”

Pastor Robin had no interest in filling up the youth’s minds with knowledge while leaving their hearts bare and untouched. He exhorted the youths to reflect on their lives because “holiness is being different from the world” and that “a Christian takes his holiness seriously”. In his closing prayer, he thanked God for how the death of God’s Son on the Cross spoke volumes to the world on the need for holiness and how Jesus was judged because the world is sinful. He also praised God for the Gospel — the sharpest knife that cuts through everything and exposes us just as He had exposed Israel. He also asked God to make the Youth Church a bright shining light in this world and for them to be a Youth Church that takes God so seriously such that they would take the Scriptures seriously and present their whole lives as holy offerings to God. 

After Pastor Robin’s sermon, there was a response song (“It’s Your Grace”), and the youth then stayed back to reflect on the sermon as they ate lunch (Colin had packed lunch for us all) in the Youth Room. Though it was close to 2 PM, everyone was still wide awake and actively discussing the content of the sermon that had just been preached. As for the gatecrashers, we slipped out quietly, not wanting to impose ourselves onto the youths’ very important reflection time. But slipping out before the reflection time did not matter much — the sermon was so exceptional that it left a lasting impression, one that we will perhaps remember for the rest of our lives. 

Pastor Robin coming to preach at Youth Church was a special occurrence that does not happen every Sunday. Still, CERC’s Youth Church is a wonderful community of youths eager to hear God’s Word preached every Sunday and they meet every Sunday during CERC’s main AM gathering. If you know of any youths who need to be encouraged to continually offer their lives as holy offerings to God in Christ (which is every single youth), do invite them to join. You may contact CERC’s Youth Pastor, Jerome Leng, at +6017-656 5952 if you have more enquiries.