To Build a Home – 12 Years of God’s Faithfulness
Posted on 8 Oct 2020 by CERC
An interview with CERC’s Founding Elder, Elder Robin Gan
Have you ever yearned for a home? A place where you belong, are nurtured, discipled, and loved. CERC’s story, too, began with the search for a home — where good Bible preaching would thrive, fueled by a deep yearning for a real Christ-centered, God-glorifying ministry.” This dream wasn’t Elder Robin Gan’s alone, but that of a group of brothers and sisters in Christ who first started gathering in a house in Bandar Sunway every Sunday to hear God’s Word preached faithfully. So we built that home, through the labour of love that we have come to know today as Christ Evangelical Reformed Church. Today, more than 400 of us call CERC home. 12 years on, we speak to Founding Elder, Elder Robin on how far CERC has come, and how much further we have to go.
It is about 11pm on a Wednesday evening, and we’ve only just completed a short meeting on the fundraising calendar for the year and are squeezing in an interview with Elder Robin to get his thoughts for this year’s Foundation Day. The goal? Help people understand what CERC is all about, and channel the incredible sense of passion and mission we have for Jesus and His kingdom that strives for an ambitious gospel tradition worthy of our Lord. 12 years on, we launch into our interview, and settle in for a treatise of wisdom from our dear pastor.
Here we are, celebrating CERC’s 12th Foundation Day. So let’s go back to the very beginning in 2008 — why CERC? What led to her founding and what was the goal back then?
When we first began, our foundation was and has always been a faithfulness to God’s Word. Good, solid bible preaching, which would flow into and be at the very center of the lives of those who would come under His Word. Just imagine — a world fueled by a culture of gospel dedication, where people are truly living Christ-centered and God-glorifying lives — that’s our vision. But to get there, especially in Malaysia, you need to develop a robust, evangelical gospel tradition. To do this, you need to have faithful Christian leadership. So CERC’s goal, really is to raise up generations of faithful Christian ministers in Malaysia, the region even, in order to bring the gospel to the masses. To someday have the strength and diversity to not just feed ourselves, but nurture those around us. To be able to send ministers to those who may need guidance, wherever they may be.
Now when CERC first started, we were meeting in the home of Joy’s parents to study the book of Joshua and frankly, with lots of blank looks. Yet the Spirit has led us to persevere and grow through lots of painful moments and the customary resistance — and we’re still here today – so I suppose, one can say the Spirit is alive indeed!
And thanks be to God! It was the clarity of the gospel preaching in CERC that first drew me to His church. As a newcomer, I still remember that day pretty fondly. It was a Sunday sermon, but the bible was being taken seriously, the reality of mankind’s hypocrisy fully on display through John the Baptist, and I found myself being taught to understand God’s message through the Scriptures – vipers and all! I sometimes take this for granted nowadays, but it’s incredibly important to have faithful preaching. How then does CERC go about doing this — nurturing faithful leadership for God’s church? And what does it take to do this?
Well, the reality is we’re trying to build gospel tradition in a sinful world. Knowing this, once again, we must have faithful Christian leadership. CERC’s work involves transforming the youth, by edifying students who are passionate for the Bible, encouraging their interest in and training for ministry, and replicating this passion for the gospel in schools, universities, homes, and our work with other churches. We look to build up men and women for God’s kingdom. Today, we’ve got a burgeoning women’s ministry, an ever-increasing list of people interested in pursuing full-time paid ministry, and more apprentices excited to head off to seminary every year. This is all extremely encouraging, but also financially challenging.
Right, and I hear we’ve spent about RM710k on theological education since our founding in 2008. We also spend a significant amount of time on theological training and apprenticeship. We even have a dedicated theological fund. Why put so much of our resources into this?
Well, if the goal is to raise up ministers for God’s kingdom, that’s what we’re going to invest in. We invest in theological education because we know that for someone to lead a church well — as defined by the apostle Paul and our Lord Jesus — to oversee God’s sheep through the Word, one needs to be built up. The truth is you’re going to need management skills, word literacy, years of testing, and the experience of different ministerial environments.
Although apprenticeship is critical in CERC’s training — we do it before AND after someone goes off to seminary, there is still the privilege and necessity of a good theological education. Sitting down for exams to study the bible, appreciating it as a literary product of the Holy Spirit, learning the original languages, understanding ethical complexities, and learning from specialists who are also pastorally experienced… It’s not easy, but very necessary to raise up men and women who would pioneer generations of quality, faithful leadership in Malaysia and the region.
Admittedly, this is challenging work. Nevermind the exchange rate, one needs a stable and politically neutral environment for theological education to flourish. Yet, our context and reality is one of a pluralistic world filled with socio-cultural, economic, and geographical pressures. It’s hard to get the gospel clarity and continuity necessary to build a strong tradition. Now if a seminary is backed by good churches, it is able to transform culture through the nurturance of an ecosystem. In a gospel-centered ecosystem, you can see even the music changing, the skits changing, the city itself transforming. Kingdom change actually starts with kingdom building.
Today in 2020, we are trying to move into the second phase of our growth — with many new campuses and projects in the works. But with every new campus we begin, we pretty much start from scratch all over again. This is why financial support is extremely crucial for the mission.
Kingdom building is serious business indeed, and every ounce of support goes a long way. So after 12 years, we’re in 2020 and it’s been a pretty challenging year, to say the least. Having said that, what’s critical for CERC at this point in her growth today?
If I had it in one word – survival. This year, we’re all expecting an economic recession. That comes with unemployment, an uncertain recovery, and an even worse exchange rate. We also have a young congregation, which is beautifully encouraging, but also financially challenging. We’ve got Elden going off to seminary next year, and more apprentices excited about pursuing full-time ministry, but are held-back by resources.
Also, operational support. In a church of 400, we do need crucial support that would go a long way towards the building fund and general expenses. Our supporters know that we are a pretty frugal church, and creatively so too. Every dime is maximized and we have a pretty large workforce. The church has grown and is still growing, we went up from 335 to 400 through the coronavirus lockdown alone. Our virtual ministry has provided what originally began as an alternative, a legitimate method of discipleship — even reaching our brothers and sisters in Sabah, Singapore, and the Philippines! Yet, although the future looks bright, the reality is the present will be a struggle.
It’s definitely bittersweet, but I suppose as God’s people, we would expect nothing less than to persevere and to trust in His providence! Nevertheless, there’s certainly been some pretty amazing teaching in CERC, I was especially struck by Matthew last year, and some of us still go back to sermons from years ago. Let’s talk about what we’re doing in 2020 and 2021 — we’re attempting a biblical theology series for the first time. What were you hoping to do with the God’s Story series?
Every year, our goals have been the same for the preaching — for God’s people to be edified, the non-Christian to hear the gospel in our preaching, and be evangelized. At the heart of it is Christ-centered preaching, à la 1 Corinthians 2:2-5 — we aim for people to learn how to be biblically literate, to understand how to appreciate the text from a literary perspective, and understand who Jesus is.
I hope that the church looks back at Adam, and is grieved by the hordes of people in hateful rebellion against our Father in heaven, such that we yearn for the King and see Him in His resplendent glory in heaven, ruling from above. I hope for us to live powerful, godly, spiritually anointed lives, as we live, work, learn to forgive each other, and demonstrate the realities of living as God’s people.
Also, I’m excited about Ephesians — it’s life in one book of the gospel! Hopefully we learn not to see it as compartmentalized silos, but the transformation of the heart, as Christians, to being the light of the world.
Indeed… and we know these are hard times too. Any thoughts on how gospel growth may continue in these moments, and how we can steward well with our finances in times of need?
Certainly, we aren’t out of the woods. We’re humbled by the zeal, ethos, commitment, and raison d’etre of the people of CERC and our supporters who have been fully present and gracious throughout the years. We’re humbled by God’s providence. You, our brothers and sisters, also have your own churches to be responsible for and take care of. Nevertheless, it is out of your generosity, and your extra capacity to give, that we hope you will be able to spare a thought for us. If you have given us a pledge, we reaffirm that what you are doing is indeed vital for the health of Christianity in Malaysia, and the glory of God.
Finally, what’s at the heart of all this? Why go through hours of sermons, ministry training, and keep trying to love and serve? Why do this at all?
We are a church who understands how glorious Jesus is, and understands that more importantly, above personal ambition, that God’s glory is at stake. You and I, as people ambitious for God’s gospel — let us not be satisfied in ourselves, but satisfied in the glory of God!
Thank you for all that you do in your support of CERC and the building up of God’s kingdom in Malaysia and beyond. If you would like to contribute, please consider supporting us financially by clicking here!