Hi guys! I’m David, the 11th and latest apprentice of CERC’s Church Ministers’ Apprenticeship (CMA) programme.
I just joined the CMA programme in December 2018 and a lot has already happened in my life in the past months:
- I left my job as a pharmacist in a private hospital after finishing my compulsory 2 years of service;
- I got married in the first week of January this year;
- I finally moved out of the home I had been staying in for 26 years and into a new place;
- I started serving God full-time as a church apprentice; and
- unforgettably I gave out Angpaus for the first time during this recent Chinese New Year.
So, yeah. You can say life has changed pretty drastically for me. And just thinking back, none of these would have happened were it not for God’s work of salvation in my sinful heart through CERC’s faithful ministry of His Word.
So how did it all begin?
It began in September 2012. Back then, I was studying as a Pharmacy student in International Medical University (IMU) and I was hanging out with my classmates one day when Jou Ee happened to see me and casually invited me to come visit her church (CERC) that Sunday.
Jou Ee and I were high school friends and college classmates, and for a while, we also studied together in IMU.
She didn’t know at that time that I had already stopped attending my own church for a few months. You see, I grew up in a Pentecostal church, and at that point of time, I didn’t want to go to church anymore because I felt like it was a waste of time and that I wasn’t really learning anything new. For 21 years I had been taught that Christianity was just about being a good, kind person: stay away from drugs, be abstinent until marriage, etc, and if you do that, God will bless you with a good life (Michael Horton actually has a term for this called “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”). So, eventually I thought: “if that was all there is to Christianity, then I didn’t need to wake up at 8am every Sunday and go to church to be a Christian…. I could just do that at home.”
Anyways, going back to the story, I decided to accept Jou Ee’s invitation since I wasn’t churching, and so I visited CERC that Sunday. I remember walking up the church’s stairway during my first visit and seeing this sign board that has the verse Hosea 4:6 on it, “My people are destroyed because they lack knowledge of me” (little did I know that I would soon feel the full prophetic significance of this verse later in my life).
After that, I started coming to CERC on and off, mainly because Jou Ee kept inviting me every week and I felt bad to have to keep coming up with excuses and rejecting her invitation. I did not understand much of what was preached in the sermon at that time, but I did remember feeling very impressed by CERC’s culture. I’ve never seen a congregation so hungry and thirsty for God’s word.
Everywhere I looked, I saw people of my age taking notes, even on laptops, whereas back in my old church, I’ve never once written anything down before. I thought to myself: “why are they so different? Why am I not like that? Perhaps there’s more to Christianity than I thought?”
So, I took the chance during my next holiday break to find out why they were so different and decided to spend my free time listening to CERC’s sermons online. Coincidentally, they had a section with exactly what I was looking for, titled: “Things you should think about as a Christian”. So I chose to listen to this sermon series called “The meaning of life” (a series of four talks on the book of Ecclesiastes). Until this day, those were some of the most life-changing sermons I’ve ever heard. You can check them out here.
It was mind-blowing and very humbling. By the end of the last sermon, I realized that what I knew about life was a complete lie. My whole life of pursuing my own dreams and success is ABSOLUTE FUTILITY. And even though I had been a Christian for 21 years, I realized that I really didn’t know who God was and who I was.
After that I was really, really determined to know who God was. And so I decided to listen to more sermons. Till today I still don’t know why or how, but somehow by God’s providential grace, the next sermon series I downloaded was the “TULIP” series on the 5 points of Calvinism. Just in the first talk on “total depravity” itself, God completely crushed me again. The sermon completely changed my understanding of sin and for the first time in my life, I understood that I was a rebel against the Almighty God. I used to think sin was just being naughty and doing things you shouldn’t be doing once in a while. It showed me that I was enslaved to sin, helpless and hopeless when it comes to my salvation. I understood that all my works were just filthy rags and that I deserved nothing less than the full cup of God’s wrath.
It was then that everything about Christianity finally made sense to me. I finally understood the meaning of words that we use so often like “Grace”, or “Jesus died FOR MY SIN”. Before that, these words meant nothing but clichés that Christians spew out, but now, these words represent such amazing news. Needless to say, once I accepted Total Depravity, “U.L.I.P” (Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints) just naturally made sense as well. I saw that this was truly the gospel, and without this understanding of sin, the gospel would not truly be “good news” and Jesus would not truly be “our Saviour”.
“Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.”Charles Spurgeon
So that was the beginning of my new life in Christ. Ever since then, God has continued to work his salvation in me through the teaching and nurturing that I received in CERC. Soon after, I became a member and started serving church and my university CF in various ways. Fast forward seven years, and here I am today as an apprentice.
Beginning married life
As mentioned at the start of this post, I got married to my university batchmate and fellow church member, Emerlyn, in January 2019.
Married life so far has been filled with much joy, but together with that comes the difficulties of marriage as well. We’re both feeling the weight of our marriage vows. It’s not easy at all to submit to an imperfect and sinful husband, just as it is not easy to sacrificially love and to lead a sinful wife.
One thing that helps me to love my wife even when we fight is remembering quite clearly what Pastor Robin taught us-that the command in Ephesians 5 for a husband to love his wife is NOT CONDITIONAL upon the wife’s prior love and submission to him. That means, husbands are to love and lead their wives as their own body regardless of whether their wife submits to them. And the same applies vice versa. Now that’s challenging, but that’s the real love that Christ has demonstrated. And that’s what we are striving to live out in our marriage and in church.
I’m also very thankful that Emerlyn is supportive of me doing apprenticeship and pursuing full time paid ministry because it definitely affects our married life as well. Some nights, I would come home late from university ministries but she’d already be asleep. The next day, she would get up very early in the morning for work, but I’ll be asleep instead. So we don’t always get to see each other as often as we hope, but we really do appreciate the times we have together, even though it can be just us doing ordinary, mundane things like grocery shopping. It helps that she has undergone the Basic Ministry Training (BMT) program in CERC before, and so she understands the burden and demands of ministry. You can read more about her experience in BMT here.
Beginning life as an Apprentice
Emerlyn and I have settled down in our new home at No. 32, and are now living with Elden Pan, a fellow Apprentice under the CMA programme, and his family – wife, Jou Ee (surprise!) and 8-month old son, Ethan. That’s right: Jou Ee, my ex-highschool-and-college friend-and-also-the one-who-brought-me-to-CERC, and her family are now…. my housemates! Strange how God works out His plans, huh?
Anyway, Emerlyn and I have been getting used to this place and we’re thankful that church has made sure we have what we need to be comfortable so that we can focus on ministry.
As for my workload, I would say I haven’t felt the full weight of the average Apprentice’s schedule yet because I have not had to preach any sermons so far (though the first one is coming up real soon in one week’s time). But with that free time I’ve been busy doing lots of other things like reading the Bible with others, writing a teaching syllabus for a primary and also a secondary school chapel, running campus bible studies, preparing to teach at CERC’s School of Christian Ministry (SOCM) regarding Growth Group (GG)-leading, and also leading a GG and a Tertiary GG (TGG).
Beginning a new sermon series
This year, CERC has started a new sermon series on the gospel of Matthew, and it has been amazing so far to see Matthew’s sophisticated use of the Old Testament! I am actually really excited about going through a gospel again, because the reading of one of the gospels was a major turning point in my decision to pursue full-time paid ministry and to join the CMA programme. I’d love to share with you all about it but… we’ll save that story for my next blogpost! 😉
Till then, do keep me in prayer as I learn to lead and teach God’s people, and reflect on my growth throughout CMA.
Posted on 29th March 2019