Celebrating 10 years with the 10th CMA apprentice
In the span of 10 years, CERC is blessed to have had 10 individuals join the Church Ministers' Apprenticeship (CMA) programme. For a church that was founded in 2008 with a gathering of just 25 people during the first few months, we recognise that God has powerfully worked in CERC to raise up many passionate Christians who are willing to take up the challenge of testing out full-time paid ministry in service to Christ.
These Christians pursue ministry in a land where ministers are scarce and much gospel work is to be done.
Of the 10, three have moved on to pursue further training in seminary (Jerome Leng, Daniel Lu, Vanessa Ong), while another three have gone back to their full-time jobs but are still actively involved in church ministry and teaching (Mark Leong, Adrian Miller, Barnabas Liew).
The remaining four – Penny Lai, Kimberly Fong, Elden Pan and Kek Jay Lyn – are still undergoing their training in the CMA programme.
As we celebrate our 10th year as a church, we took the opportunity to interview Jay Lyn – CERC's 10th apprentice. Jay Lyn graduated with a degree in Communications, majoring in Public Relations from the University of South Australia. Having worked in the PR industry for two years, she has since left her job to test out her gifting in full-time paid ministry.
In this interview, Jay Lyn tells us how she got into the CMA programme and how the experience has been so far:
Hi Jay Lyn, can you tell us the story of how you first considered trying out full-time paid ministry (FTPM)?
I started considering it in late 2011, when Jerome Leng challenged me to think about what I want to do with my life. He challenged me to think about how I am to live my life, and how I ought to be making decisions around the gospel and ministry if Jesus is Lord.
At that point, I had a plan then to fulfil my worldly passions but I hadn't really thought about how my decision would affect my service to God and His church.
So that was when it hit me. At one point, he asked: “Why haven't you considered full-time paid ministry?” It was then that I was challenged to think about it.
After much deliberation, I decided to drop my worldly passion and instead pursue PR as a degree. I believe that choosing to pursue PR was good stewardship of money, keeping in mind the limited resources my family had.
Did anything else convict you to try out FTPM?
Well for one, it was how I was going to make a decision around Jesus and serving His church.
Secondly, I think it was an awareness of the need for more faithful preaching and teaching of the Bible. I remember growing up not really knowing how to read my Bible and therefore not being clear on the gospel. So there is obviously a great need for more people considering FTPM, particularly in Malaysia. (really, really!)
Now that you're in the CMA programme, are you clearer about what FTPM is really like?
CMA is about testing and working out your gifting. In terms of desire, back then I was more naïve, having this sense of wanting to try it out but not really sure what it will mean. I can say that I have a more realistic view of it now, where life is going to be tough as a full-time paid minister.
Can you share with us whether CMA is what you expected it to be?
To be honest, I did ask a number of people before I started CMA. I asked them what it was like and told them to not to hold back from the tough details. So, I suppose what I told myself was that I must prepare myself for a difficult life, a very busy life – where I'm always preparing for the next thing. For example, it would be preparing for Bible study on Monday mornings because Bible study trainings is on Monday night. And then on Tuesday, it's something else, same goes for Wednesday and so on and so forth.
Coming in, I mentally prepared myself to expect this busyness – but when you're faced with it, it's a different thing, no matter how ready you think you are. It's just different in having to adapt to the change of environment.
But there was one thing that I didn't expect. I didn't expect the expectations people will have of CMA-ers. There's a certain perception that since you're a CMA, you're supposedly the “subject-matter expert” even when you're not. That was one thing I had to adapt to, that is to constantly live up to expectations and to fill in this role where you're supposedly meant to know better than everyone else.
So you've been in CMA about 5 months now. What has been most challenging in CMA so far?
I'd say it would be having to teach the Bible – because there is so much we don't understand, although we think we understand. So the challenge is to understand it well enough so that you can actually teach it well.
On one hand, it is about the extensiveness of your knowledge on the Bible. How well do you understand the text? What do different commentators think of different phrases? What are the different ways to exegete the text?
But the second thing is, “How to teach it well?” You don't want to just give people answers, you want to teach them how to think and how to exegete it in a way that they get it for themselves.
So those two things have been the toughest for me – having enough time to go through to understand all the material, and then to teach it in a way that is not preaching or giving answers, but to teach people how to think. Teaching people how to think is a very difficult thing to do.
Jay Lyn with the Tertiary Growth Group she leads
At the end of this training in 2 to 3 years, what do you hope to take away from this?
For one, to be trained to read my Bible better. CMA seriously exposes how bad you are at exegesis and how much you don't know.
Secondly, to be better at ministry for the sake of the church. So even if any of us fail the assessment, the goal would be to leave CMA being a lot better equipped as a lay person – to do things like being able to read the Bible better, being able to pastor people better in asking the right questions, and getting them to see their sin for what it is. It would also be to learn about how to think about challenging people and to do ministry. Also, not forgetting, to be a helpful lay leader.
It is those kind of skills that would otherwise take a lot longer to learn as a lay person.
Thanks for sharing with us the challenges of being in CMA. So, how can we pray for you and the rest of the CMA-ers?
Pray for us that we will keep our eyes on the big picture. In CMA, we are constantly challenged to not look at ourselves, to always push ourselves to look beyond ourselves and to remember what's at stake – Christ's mission and goal.
The prayer for us would be to have this big picture mindset – in order for us to be objective about ourselves, and on whether we can actually do this (FTPM) for our whole lives.
Having this big picture mindset will also help us train the younger ones coming after us, because the church is going to need a lot more CMAs than the handful of us now.
Lastly pray that we will persevere to the end, to train ourselves in godliness and disciplines so that we can be better members of the church.
We'll be praying for you Jay Lyn. We're grateful to God for these apprentices and seminarians and hope that they would be of great service to Christ and His church for the many years to come.
If you'd like to support the work of training future ministers in CERC for Malaysia, please visit www.cerc.com.my/support-us.