The MTS Series: Part 2 – Why do MTS?
Posted on 26 Sep 2013 by Jerome Leng
I did MTS because I could not bring myself to do any other thing but serve the Lord for the rest of my life. Couldn’t I do that whilst studying a secular degree and holding a job? No, not until my conscience was clear and I was certain that my Lord had not given me gifts to serve him in full time paid ministry (FTPM). Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that all Christians should serve in FTPM and I won’t argue that it’s because we need Christians in different social areas and work sectors. That’s a silly argument. If there is any work sector that is lacking, it is pastoral ministry. Did not our Lord say himself that the “harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”? Jesus himself says that we should ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into his harvest field (Matt 9.35-38). But I am saying that all Christians must know the gifts that God has blessed them with and so use whatever the Lord has given them for the building up of His Church (Rom 12.3-6, 1 Cor 12, Eph 4).
God gave me the opportunity to understand myself and his ‘calling’ in my life through MTS. It so happened that I was reading the bible one-to-one with Elder Robin and I told him about my desires to serve in FTPM. He advised that I do an apprenticeship program before deciding to go straight to seminary; you don’t necessarily learn what ministry is really like until you do it. But seminaries are essentially academic institutions. We cannot think of Christian ministry as we would with our secular degrees. The common notion that once we have a particular degree, we are then “qualified” for a job. But that is not so with seminary degrees. As a seminary graduate (and depending on which seminary), it just means that you have a brain that is more acquainted to the bible and theology. It does not mean that you are “qualified” for ministry. I would speak more about the “qualifications” for ministry in the following posts when I talk about “MTS assessment”. So Elder Robin offered me to do apprenticeship with him in CERC.
I took an entire year to decide to do it.
The primary reason for this was my own heart. I am sinner and I struggle to live my life entirely for God. I was doing the degree of my choice; I had a bright future as a doctor and I kept telling myself that I could still serve the church whilst pursuing my career! But my heart is deceitful. I knew that I wanted to have the best of both worlds. I did not choose medicine to serve God. I chose medicine because it gave me the notion that I would be more secure financially and socially in this world. There was no consideration for God or his church when I first made that decision. Sure, I could say that I could do missions in Africa or Pakistan, help the Orang Asli in the Kampungs, bless my church with free health care and even improve the medical system in my country. But these were ideals of a naïve boy. There was nothing fundamentally Christian about this. As noble as charity is, we must not make the mistake of “Christianizing” such things. The greatest of Christian works and service is done daily in the mundane activities of life with humble obedience. Christian ambition is rooted in our Lord’s commission to “make disciples, baptizing people into the name of the Father, the Son and the Spirit and teaching them to observe all that He has commanded”. So I had to ask myself: Where does my heart lie? What will I busy myself with daily as a Christian? As a Christian, what should I be driven to live for?
MTS is time dedicated to full service for the Lord for a period of 2 whole years. I became more sensitive to the matters of my heart and the way my mind responds to the truths of the Gospel. My whole life had to be reoriented around the concerns of God! What a privilege that was but as I drew nearer to a holy God, I realized what a wretched sinner I am. This made me realize how grateful I should be for the grace of God and the utter dependence a Christian must have in the Spirit for regeneration and faith.
Through MTS also, my family was sanctified. The bulk of the year in the decision making was spent convincing my parents. I could not do MTS alone and I wanted my family to understand the importance of being obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ. My mother grew up in a Christian family; my grandfather was a pastor of an Anglican Church in Sabah. My father became Christian to marry my mother. They went to church regularly but their Christianity was nominal; we did not have to read the Bible regularly or understood the need for prayer, evangelism was considered dangerous but we still kept going to church on Sunday. They gave me “Christian tradition” without having it been Christian. And so, it was difficult to convince them. Why would their son want to spend his entire life with repetitious traditions? He should do something more fulfilling, interesting and greater than…“ministry”.
I spoke to them every week about the gospel and therefore my decision for at least 8 months straight; my parents thought it was just a “phase”. I remember talking to my dad for hours; I deliberately wanted to go to Singapore with him (to visit grandmother) so that I could talk with him in the car as we drove there. I had to skip some classes in uni to do this and had to make plans to catch up with my studies. And so, after a year, with much arguments, tears and blood (yes, there was blood), my parents did not just allow me to do MTS but matured in the faith as well. My father understood the sovereignty of God and the demands of Christ’s Lordship. My mother understood that there was no greater sacrifice than God’s in the giving of His Son; her own son’s sacrifice pales in comparison to the Lord whom he wants to serve.
Another reason to do MTS is the local church. I understand that in our present time, there are true churches which are less healthy and therefore more impure compared to other true churches. In other words, some churches are more mature than others and this will affect the quality of the MTS training. I believe CERC is a true and healthy church. The church is solid in its bible teaching. Our Elder Robin is a wise man and he models for us servanthood in the way he worships God and loves the church. All the members are dedicated to loving one another in mutual service. Not a single member is left out in any of the various ministries of the church. I see not only apostolic orthodoxy but apostolic orthopraxy and this is a great blessing from God. If God has blessed me in such a church, all the more I should take this opportunity to learn what it means to do Spirit-empowered ministry. I should consider how to continually supply my church with faithful biblical knowledge and theology so that its members remain strong and healthy in the faith.
And finally, MTS trains people to exercise godly wisdom. Notice the reasons for doing MTS are a matter of working out what it means to be obedient to Jesus with careful thought and courage? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Our God is sovereign in all circumstances, whether it be our personal calling and gifting, our family’s salvation, our church’s health, our financial situation, our relationship and our future, all are in His hands and for His disposal, not ours! We must acknowledge His complete control and therefore submit every single aspect of our lives to His will. Now, in my life, the Lord has led me to do MTS and that made me consider carefully everything in my life and I had to learn to dedicate all things unto Him. That’s why I did MTS.
Ah, I am moved to prayer!
Below is a prayer “Christian Calling” taken from the “Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions”. This is my prayer and I hope it will be yours as well.
O Lord God,
The first act of calling is by Your command in Your Word, “Come unto me, return unto me”;
The second is to let in light, so that I see that I am called particularly, and perceive the sweetness of the command as well as its truth,
In regard to Your great love of the sinner, by inviting him to come, though vile,
In regard to the end of the command, which is fellowship with You,
In regard to Your promise in the gospel, which is all of grace.
I need not search to see if I am elect, or loved, for if I turn You will come to me;
Christ has promised me fellowship if I take him, and the Spirit will pour himself out on me,
Abolishing sin and punishment,
Assuring me of strength to persevere.
It is Your pleasure to help all that pray for grace, and come to You for it.
When my heart is unsavoury with sin, sorrow, darkness, hell,
Only Your free grace can help me act with deep abasement under a sense of unworthiness.
Let me lament for forgetting daily to come to You,
And cleanse me from the deceit of bringing my heart to a duty because the act pleased me or appealed to reason.
Grant that I may be salted with suffering, with every exactment tempered to my soul, every rod excellently fitted to my back, to chastise, humble, break me.
Let me not overlook the hand that holds the rod, as You did not let me forget the rod that fell on Christ, and drew me to him.
May the Lord lead us all to fulfill His will in His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! Amen.
Thank you for reading this second post. I hope that we can continue conversing. Although this seems one way at the moment, do contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a chat.
Grace and Peace,
Jerome Leng has been a Pastor-in-Training of CERC since 2020. He graduated with a Bachelor’s and M. Div in Biblical and Theological Studies from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and was the recipient of the seminary’s prestigious Clyde T. Francisco Preaching Award in 2018. He returned in December 2019 to answer what he discerned to be God’s calling for him – to be a minister of God in his homeland of Malaysia. He also serves as the youth pastor of the church. Jerome is happily married to Robyn and they have a son, Emmett.