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Grace Together, Serving One Another Together

Yanadi Gunawan (Yan) reflects on the 5 months he spent at GBC as a pastoral intern. Originally from Indonesia, Yan is currently a student at the Singapore Baptist Theological Seminary, and his ministry calling is in teaching and preaching, possibly in an academy. 

If you have not already known me, I am a student at the Singapore Baptist Theological Seminary (BTS). However, I spent most of my last semester (Jan-May 2019) in GBC as a pastoral intern, instead of in BTS as a student. Being a relatively new member at GBC myself, I find it to be a great privilege to be entrusted with such a role. For that, I am grateful to the church. It also came with a set of challenges as I was basically developing new relationships with brothers and sisters I just came to know, and to whom I am new. 

Perhaps the highlight of my internship is to learn that Ps Ian loves his ice cream and Ps Ollie his roasted chicken rice. Just kidding, but I am sure they will appreciate the kind gesture. There are three main components in my internship. They are: (1) Bible and book readings and discussions, (2) staff’s and elders’ meetings, and (3) meetings with church members. But apart from those, I have enjoyed the friendships I have developed in the office, some special mention includes Joshua Lowe, Caleb Lee, Pauline Wang, Ps Tan Lay Thok, Kris Maran, and Nicholas Ng, without whom such solo internship would have felt quite lonely. 

yanadi-sutan-enews-2Yanadi (3rd, clockwise from left) with Ps Eugene Low, Joshua Lowe, Nicholas Ng, Ps Samuel Beh, Carrie Chong, Kris Maran, Ps Ian Buntain, Caleb Lee and Ps Oliver Chia.

I would say that the most formative and reformative component of my internship is my Bible reading with Ps Eugene. This is because only from the Word of God would anything good flow. We read 2 Timothy (completed) and 2 Corinthians (in progress) together. Two key verses that stick with me are:

What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim 2:2, CSB) 

To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. Who is adequate for these things?” (2 Cor 2:16, CSB)

These two are timely reminders of the need for discipleship relationships and my utter inadequacy apart from Christ. But more than just two key verses, what has been really refreshing is to learn how Apostle Paul grounds his decisions, actions, and commands on the person of Jesus Christ. And that is really the meaning of living a Christ-centered life. I hope to point Christians to Christ in that way. 

By God’s amazing enablement, I was able to complete 14 books in the period of 5 months. The topics covered by the books include biblical theology, preaching, ministry, and biblical counselling. Two books that left great impression are Marshall and Payne’s The Trellis and the Vine and Paul Tripp’s Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. These two broke my pre-conceived notion that being in full-time ministry is basically signing my life away to become a ‘service provider’. Just as what Paul says in Eph 4:11-13, the work of full-time ministers is to equip the saints, not some of the saints, so that all the saints can do the work of ministry that builds up the church. We ought to be a church who desires to serve one another, and not to always be dependent on our full-time ministers as we spiritually mature.  

Having attended staff’s and elders’ meetings for 5 months, let me be the first to tell you that our staff elders and lay elders are imperfect. No, I did not mistype the sentence. And that is a good thing for at least two reasons. Firstly, we are reminded that we are still on this side of eternity, so are our elders. Secondly, our unfailing hope is only in the person of Jesus Christ, not our impressive elders. But that poses us with a common challenge, that they need our prayers, honest encouragement, and loving reproofs. I have often fallen into judgmental thoughts myself. But being in constant communication with the church members has been very helpful to remind me of my own sinfulness and the need to pray for our leaders. Therefore, I urge the church to be in constant communication with one another and pray for our leaders, as they pray for each of us at least once a month in their shepherding meetings. Personally, I am grateful for every single staff elder and lay elder that our church has been blessed with, each with his own strengths and weaknesses, I have witnessed their faithful reliance on Christ and giftings to serve the body, something worthy to be imitated by us as they imitate Christ.  

I have to admit that as I am becoming more well-versed with dad jokes, I am also becoming the awkward uncle to the younger generation. In my attempt to meet church members and build meaningful relationships, I realise that I met with those older than me much more than those younger than me. For that, I am grateful for Hewlett Chew, Melanie Seet, Matthew Seah, Shawn Ong, and Bibianna Yeo who visited my family to get to know one another, and the many young people who have been friendly and helpful from interactions elsewhere.

yanadi-sutanFellisia (front row, left) and Yanadi with (clockwise from left) Shawn Ong, Matthew Seah, Bibianna Yeo, Hewlett Chew and Melanie Seet.

From interactions with various church members, I have learned about the church better and built a few discipleship relationships. Several things I learned about the church: 

  • Our church is friendly. Our church is very intentional about speaking and living the gospel. And these two things are probably why many people came and decided to stay.
  • Our church is old (this year we are 60-year-old by God’s grace) and inter-generational. This means we have preferences about how things should be done. This is said not to single out those who have been in the church for a long time, but also those who are new, because everyone of us has preferences. To think otherwise means that I am partial in thinking. But whatever our preferences are, let us take every thought captive to obey Christ so that we do not stumble our own brothers and sisters in Christ and let us continue to have honest and loving conversations with one another.
  • Lastly, our church is generous. Thank you for paying for meals. So let me encourage us to be faithful instruments of God in each other’s life. 

There are plenty of things that I have learned from this pastoral internship that I would not have otherwise learned from any seminary. Usually people assume that such internship is a walk in the park since it only involves reading, attending meetings, and meeting people. But to me personally, what have transpired have impacted me in such a profound manner. By God’s grace, I came out of this internship a changed man. I see the end of the internship as the beginning of my service in our church. I hope to meet even more people, including you reading this blog post, in a much less formal manner, and hopefully to build discipleship relationships with more brothers in one-to-one Bible reading and life sharing over tea, coffee, or ice cream, depending on your preference. And I personally hope to witness such discipleship relationships out of Christ, not merely out of ordinary kindness, grow and spread in our church as we are continually sanctified to be the perfect bride of Christ. So feel free to come talk to me. 

I thank you, the church, for all the support shown to my family and me, and apologise for any wrong words or deeds. See you around. 

Grace together. All glory to God. 

Your brother in Christ,

Yanadi