Making disciples

A Long-time Pastor Gets Ordained

How EFCA GATEWAY helps churches multiply and develop disciplemakers.

Pastor Jonathan Steeper needed leaders. When he signed on to become the pastor of Kalihi Union Church (EFCA) in Honolulu, Hawaii, after spending time as a pastor in Canada, he knew the value of pastoral and lay leadership with gospel-centered and biblically-based theological convictions. As he considered his new context with limited resources, he realized multiplying disciplemakers would be a primary focus; he needed to raise leaders inside the church.  

In the past, he’d worked in churches with training programs for lay leaders, and he wanted that for Kalihi Union Church, but they didn’t have anything to meet that need. His answer came when he attended EFCA One for the first time and heard about EFCA GATEWAY.  

He knew it was the right program for the church because it allowed leaders to train more leaders, providing simple, clear instruction that others could pass along. Transferability was important to him, too. In the past, Jonathan had developed his own material to train leaders, but those leaders couldn’t naturally follow that material. He saw how GATEWAY had a multiplying effect, making disciples who make more disciples.  

Kalihi Union Church serves in a unique neighborhood in Honolulu—Kalihi is home to a diverse group of people groups all speaking different languages. To serve them, Kalihi has 12 services in each language. From Tongan and Samoan to Japanese and Mandarin, they serve many groups. Because of the makeup of the congregation, they take small steps to disciple each group. That’s also why Jonathan was looking for a simple training program to strengthen the doctrinal convictions of the church and guide established leaders toward credentialing in the EFCA.  

He knew it [EFCA GATEWAY] was the right program for the church because it allowed leaders to train more leaders, providing simple, clear instruction that others could pass along.

“We have a great statement of faith in the EFCA,” Jonathan said. “I was looking for a tool that could help us with a vast diversity of leadership.” 

A long journey in ministry 

One of those leaders was Kendal Fong. Kendal first became a Christian as a teenager. The youth worker who led him to Christ had a direct impact on his future plans. Since then, he desired to lead others to Christ, and he stayed on that path, becoming a youth pastor at a local church, studying full-time and working at a local outreach ministry.  

Realizing it was too much to manage, he resigned his youth pastor position and earned his bachelor's degree in biblical studies. Around the same time, a leader from Kalihi Union Church knew his ministry background and invited him to become their youth pastor. He’s now been in that role for 23 years. Throughout most of that time, he wasn’t ordained with the EFCA.  

To develop leaders, Jonathan kickstarted an EFCA GATEWAY class in the church. As the leader and facilitator of the first class, he encouraged Kendal to go through it with the intention of him becoming licensed and ordained with the EFCA. In addition, Jonathan hoped once Kendal received his ministry credential, he could potentially take over and lead the class himself. (EFCA GATEWAY requires a credentialed leader to facilitate classes.) But, first, he needed to pass the class and apply for the credential—a challenge unto itself.  

“He really disliked the academic side of things,” Jonathan said, “but he’s amazing with people.”  

For roughly 12 months, EFCA GATEWAY students spend their time studying Scripture and the EFCA Statement of Faith and then writing papers on their doctrinal beliefs. During the class, they read their papers aloud and have a discussion on what was read, helping them refine their thought process and their theological convictions. 

Jonathan Steeper and Kendal Fong
Pastor Jonathan Steeper (Left) and pastor Kendal Fong next to him.

"GATEWAY helps in revealing the holes and the gaps in people's thinking. And filling those puzzle pieces in,” Jonathan added.  

When he first started, Kendal struggled with the reading and writing portion of the class. “What takes a normal person to write, say, an hour's worth of things, I think it takes me double,” Kendal said.  

Yet, the discipline of reading and writing was both challenging and rewarding. Despite the struggle, he felt excited and loved the solid theology. He appreciated that whatever he wrote had to be grounded in Scripture, and the pace and rhythms moved closer to his learning style.  

Throughout the lessons, Kendal enjoyed hearing the diverse perspectives, backgrounds and knowledge in the class. Some approached the papers in an academic way while others, like Kendal, wrote from his own experiences, through a narrative lens. All the students landed in agreement on the core doctrinal truths, but that didn’t stop them from diving deeper into each topic, having discussion and dialogue. 

For Kendal, every finished paper was a victory, so when he reached the end and proceeded to apply for his two-year ministry license with the EFCA, he felt rewarded through the growing process. Once he attained his license, Jonathan passed the baton on to him and co-leader Steven Ching to lead the next GATEWAY class.  

When he started teaching the second class, Kendal found leading and teaching to be more enjoyable. He liked to talk with people, build relationships and see the students become better leaders. 

“I also don’t have to write the papers,” he said with a chuckle.  

While Kendal persevered through his class and earned his license, many others didn’t make it through the full course. For some, GATEWAY is too rigorous and difficult. Jonathan said, by the end of the program, their classes shrank by fifty-percent. Yet, one of the things Kendal loves most about teaching the class is watching students learn, grow and stay resilient. His time in GATEWAY gave him empathy for the students, allowing him to know what they’re going through and find ways to encourage them. 


“It’s an example of if you want to learn and grow and see value in it, then you will do whatever it takes. So that’s my joy. It’s such a blessing to see him and the other students stick with it and press on.”

For instance, in Kalihi, many pastors from Micronesia minister to the Micronesian population there. The church partnered with several of these Micronesian pastors and invited them to come to their EFCA GATEWAY class. Many came, but after a while, few remained; they dropped the course, except one. The remaining participant is a full-time pastor at his church, works as a security guard and takes care of his family. Still, he found time to dig into God’s Word and learn, and if he didn’t understand something, he’d call Kendal.  

“I’m so proud of him,” Kendal said. “It’s an example of if you want to learn and grow and see value in it, then you will do whatever it takes. So that’s my joy. It’s such a blessing to see him and the other students stick with it and press on.” 

Celebrating Kendal's ordination

As for Kendal, he continued his leadership development by pursuing ordination with the EFCA. He used the papers he wrote in EFCA GATEWAY to build, develop and refine his ordination paper. After two decades of hands-on pastoral leadership and several more years of studying in GATEWAY and going through the ordination process, Pastor Kendal was officially ordained with the EFCA.

In celebration, the church gathered to pray, support and bless Kendal, especially those who walked side-by-side with him through the journey. “It was really special,” Jonathan said. “It was a very large celebration of the community. GATEWAY became the means by which he was able to break down barriers in his own life.” 

Jonathan noted many who go through their GATEWAY class haven’t pursued credentialing with the EFCA, but use their new skills and knowledge to strengthen their leadership positions. Some have moved away to other churches and took leadership positions there. Others have used their experience in GATEWAY to build confidence when they lead as elders in the church.  

“I feel those who go through [GATEWAY] are solid leaders,” Kendal said. “We will easily put them in a leadership position and many of them already are in those positions. It’s an affirmation and a confirmation that they believe and know what they believe.” 

To facilitate or join an EFCA GATEWAY class, visit to learn more. 

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