"We have to give them time to fail"- CMA Commissioning of Jeremy Wee and Zechariah Lo | CERC News | Christ Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC)

“We have to give them time to fail”- CMA Commissioning of Jeremy Wee and Zechariah Lo

5 Apr 2023

By Shaun Alex Thomas

“You’re both wearing almost the same colour.” This unexpected remark from Pastor Robin induced the eagerly watching church congregation to laugh. It was close to 2 P.M. on a Sunday afternoon, just after CERC’s Pastor-in-Training, Jerome Leng, had finished preaching a sermon on Ezekiel 33-34 during CERC’s regular AM gathering on the 26th of March 2023. The AM congregation was joined by other CERC members and candidates who usually go for the PM gathering, most of whom had arrived during the tail end of Jerome’s sermon; they came to witness and to commit to the support and training of two new apprentices in CERC’s Church Ministers’ Apprenticeship (CMA) programme. Most of the AM congregation had not eaten their lunch yet, but this did not dampen their spirits, because they were eagerly anticipating what was about to happen. Indeed, for some who were gathered there that afternoon, they had been waiting for years for this moment to finally arrive.    

Pastor Robin was sharing a light moment with Jeremy Wee and Zechariah Lo during their CMA

One of the apprentices, Jeremy Wee, responded back to Pastor Robin with good humour — “I guess we’re in sync.” A fitting reply to mark the occasion, because although the two young men had come from exceedingly different backgrounds (Jeremy Wee, a former management consultant, had grown up in a non-Christian household in Kuala Lumpur; and Zechariah Lo, a former teacher and syllabus writer, hails from a Christian family in Sabah), they were now, standing together, waiting to be commissioned to embark on what was going to be the noblest task of their lives.  

Pastor Robin then directly addressed the church, “We’re now at the portion that I know many of you have been looking forward to. I know that the hour is getting late. But this is a very important part of our life together.” And with that, he began his preamble to the commissioning by taking the church through 1 Timothy 3.  

The key verse touched on by Pastor Robin was 1 Timothy 3:1, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” He pointed out that the characterisation, “a noble task”, was not used for any other job on earth. And that because of this, we are commanded, as God’s household, to treat what Jeremy and Zechariah were apprenticing for (the office of an overseer), as a role worthy of double honour (1 Timothy 5:17).  

Because of the nobility of the task of overseeing God’s church, Pastor Robin exhorted the church to “prayerfully seek for an outcome for which the church and its ministry given by our Lord is well taken care of, through the gaining of potentially new leaders and overseers that would need a culmination of a decade (at least!) of training and assessment which begins here on this day.”  

The assessment which these two young men were about to undergo is not an individual endeavour. The church is very much involved in the training of Jeremy and Zechariah. Pastor Robin reminded the church that this involvement would take a great deal of their time, money and patience. He even said, “We have to give them time to fail. Even when they come back (from seminary), they will continue to fail. But this is the blessing that we as a church, continue to look forward to and are committed to, so long as we are the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth. (1 Timothy 3:15).”  

In saying that the church had to give them time to fail, Pastor Robin was neither being defeatist nor was he putting the two young men down; he was encouraging the church to never get tired of training new people and that the church should be thankful that we have young people who are willing to give up two whole years of their lives to make mistakes, just for the sake of being tested for full-time paid ministry. Because as he said later, “This is not our church, this is Jesus Christ’s church. How can you just hand it to whoever [is] willing to take it over? We must find the best. The only way you can get quality, is to get quantity.”  

Once Pastor Robin had finished his preamble, he turned to the two young men standing beside him and asked them to briefly introduce themselves on three points: their Christian conversion, their entry into CERC, and their decision to commit to being tested for full-time paid ministry.  

Jeremy explained that he became a Christian because he saw there was no other hope other than Jesus Christ. He eventually committed to CERC as a member because he saw a culture of intense dedication for Jesus and His Gospel. Fittingly, it was a CERC sermon (preached by Pastor Robin during the Matthew series in 2019) that got him to commit to wanting to be tested for full-time paid ministry, as it made him see that this was really just part and parcel of loving Jesus with his entire being: all of his body, heart, mind and soul.  

As for Zechariah, his conversion happened when a former CMA-er (Jerome Leng, who is now a Pastor-in-Training and is coincidentally CERC’s first apprentice!) taught him who Jesus was from the book of John; it was only then when he finally saw that life truly was in Jesus Christ and that he could have assurance of salvation in him alone. Zechariah was brought to CERC by his brother, Joel Lo (also a former CMA-er!). What Zechariah then saw was that what CERC was giving him (the faithful teaching of the Word) was not something he could easily find where he came from in Sabah. This is what spurred him on to want to be tested for full-time paid ministry, so that he could bring this kind of ministry back to where he came from.  

The congregation responded with a resounding, “We will.” And with that, the two young men were now, formally, Church Ministers’ Apprentices at CERC. Pastor Robin turned to them again and asked them to share with the church what their expectations for the next two years were.  

The expectations they expressed were ardent, honest, and heartfelt. Zechariah admitted that he fully expected there to be enough failure on his end such that he would even want to quit, but also hoped that God would strengthen him enough to get him to draw from his deepest convictions of the gospel to keep on going and to keep on growing. Jeremy hoped to learn more of his own weaknesses, not so he could be overtly introspective and navel-gazing, but to grow into a more mature Christian who would help other Christians be better than himself.  

With these expectations intimated before the whole church, Pastor Robin appropriately brought the Commissioning to a close with a prayer to God for His aid. He prayed that the both of them would have confidence in the gospel, which is the power of salvation that offers light to the lost, and speaks the truth about who God is in a world that is rebellious against Him. He also prayed that they would succeed in being pastors and even be overseers over the various ministries that the Lord may so decide to give to CERC.  

Zechariah Lo (centre left) and Jeremy Wee (centre right) with some of their supporters after the CMA Commissioning was over.

The CMA Commissioning for Jeremy Wee and Zechariah Lo may now be over, but for them and for CERC, their time of assessment for the noble task of being an overseer had only just begun. If you are a Christian and thus, accordingly invested in the building up of Christ’s kingdom, so that our Lord gets the best that He deserves, do consider supporting our CMA-ers (those present, and God-willing, those in future) financially. You may visit https://cerc.com.my/support-us to find out more, or contact Joshua Tay (+6017-3365588), CERC’s Head of Fundraising, for any enquiries. If you have been spurred on to want to join the CMA programme yourself, you may contact Eileen Sim (+6016-8008306). If you’d like to find out more about Jeremy and Zechariah’s stories, you may look at their respective CERC Through My Eyes episodes (Jeremy- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASxnsyZl4bQ; Zechariah- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1roXDimRxmY)