New Role, New Beginnings
Posted on 25 Mar 2020 by Jerome Leng
Good to be home
Robyn and I left Malaysia for seminary on the 31st of July 2015 and returned on the 1st of January 2020. That’s four and half years away in the US. We enjoyed our time at Southern Seminary tremendously, but we know that our time there was only for a season. The goal has always been to return to Malaysia, where “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2).
It is so good to be home with CERC. Serving our Lord in Malaysia is what we’ve been preparing for. We’re glad that we’re back to carry out the task for which we believe the Lord has given us to do.
Currently, I am a pastor-in-training at CERC. This is an interim period for me to grow into my role as a pastor of the church. Scripture says that we shouldn’t be “hasty in the laying on of hands,” that is, we shouldn’t be too quick to appoint someone as an elder (1 Tim 5:22). This command is applicable to all men, even those who have trained in seminary because a theological degree doesn’t necessarily mean that one is qualified to be a pastor.
No seminary education can guarantee that a man is ready for the pastorate, nor can any seminary fully equip a pastor for his role. Seminary can only provide a pastor with the tools that he needs as a workman of God, but it is in the context of a local church that he must prove himself fit for the task. In other words, getting a degree from a prestigious seminary doesn’t qualify any man as a pastor. Rather, it is the church’s role to recognise a man as gifted for the task and gifted from God to the church “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Eph 4:12).
And so, I am thankful for this arrangement because it gives me time to adjust into this new role. I am looking forward to serving the Lord as a pastor, but I don’t want to rush the process as this is a serious and very important task. As a pastor-in-training, I will have many opportunities to preach on Sunday and leadership responsibilities in various ministries under the supervision of the Lead Elder of CERC.
In the past two months of serving in this capacity, I have benefited much under Ps. Robin’s mentoring as I learn more about the requirements and challenges of performing faithful gospel ministry in the Klang Valley. It is one thing to learn about faithful gospel ministry in theory and quite another thing to actually practice it. Ps. Robin and the ministry here at CERC has set for me a good example of a high commitment to the authority of the Scriptures in the preaching and teaching of the Word and how the ministry of the Word is central in all that we do. Some folks might say that our ministries are too “intense” or “radical.” (They would probably say the same thing about Jesus’ ministry in the gospels as well.) As for me, I see it as passionate love for the Lord our God.
One of the sessions that we had together as a ministry team was particularly encouraging for me. We considered the question, “What did it take for the Reformation to take off?” When we examined Luther’s life, we noticed that he wasn’t just a Sunday preacher. Luther preached multiple sermons in a week. Sometimes, he even preached twice a day! Now of course, the key is not so much in the frequency of his preaching, but the frequency is indicative of his belief in the need to preach the Word regularly and frequently. How else will the Reformation happen unless the Word is preached!
This fact of Luther’s life spurred me to consider my teaching ministry. I refuse to merely be a Sunday preacher, no, I want to declare the Word of the Lord and teach people the Bible as often as I am able to. Practically speaking, it is going to be challenging to work out my schedule because I need to factor in time for preparation. But it is a problem worth having. After all, I don’t see my role as a pastor as a “job.” I see myself as a “ligament” (to use the analogy in Eph 4) and an instrument in the cause of the expansion of the Kingdom.
I was also given the privilege of leading CERC’s Youth Ministry. We have about ten youths, ages 13-17, that attend our weekly meetings. It’s a motley crew, but we enjoy each other’s company. Serving the youth reminded me that no one is too young or unimportant to learn the gospel. In fact, I believe that these are the best years to prepare a young disciple of Jesus Christ to live as a faithful disciple in the church and the world.
This year, we’ll be reading a book together, God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts, and studying various portions of Scripture to understand the Bible’s overarching narrative. Our hope is to give our youths a road map to the Bible so that they will know how to navigate their way through the Scriptures on their own. We also hope to equip them in the area of evangelism and apologetics and teach them to think theologically about our culture. Our youth ministry is a training hub of sorts to prepare our youths to engage the world with the gospel. Of course, we’ll do all of this while we have lots of fun together!
If I were to summarise what I feel at this point of being in Malaysia for about three months, I would say that it feels like a new beginning. Robyn and I have spent most of our early marriage years in the US and we find that there’s much to adjust to the culture here in Malaysia. And CERC has grown so much since we left. It’s not a little church of a hundred people anymore and our congregation’s appetite for the Word is large. Their understanding of the things of God has deepened as well. I do feel like I have a lot of catching up to do!
One of the incredible things I have seen since coming back is the spiritual growth of my brothers and sisters. CERC has grown numerically as well, but what really impressed me is how much the congregation actually knows about the Scriptures and theology. Some of them know as much as some of my friends at seminary! I am excited to serve with such a mature group of believers, but at the same time, I am personally challenged to keep growing in my knowledge of the Scriptures and its theological implications. We’re in an exciting stage of our church life together because I see so much opportunity to do great work for our Lord Jesus. God has, indeed, been very gracious to our church.
I feel that my journey in Malaysia as a servant of the Lord has only just begun. My apprentice years were foundational. My seminary years were preparatory. Now, it’s time to hunker down for the long haul in the service of His Lordship, King Jesus in Malaysia. I cannot thank Him enough for His grace and mercy to allow me to serve Him in this way, being the unworthy sinner that I am. And I am grateful that the Lord has blessed me with a Christ-centered, gospel-loving, truth-speaking, and ministry-minded church like CERC. I cannot ask for a better start.
In His Service,