[The thoughts here are based more on my personal experience and learning during the event and not as corporate one.]
On August 26-29, leaders of house church networks from different provinces in the Philippines met once again for the fourth time in Cagayan de Oro City. Compared to the past summit, this one rises as among the best. Here are some thoughts that we have shared for 3 days.
Around 20 of us representing different networks from different ministries and expertise. Some have focused on having simple church gatherings among Muslim communities especially the ladies among us are so compassionate on reaching the unreached people groups in the Philippines. The stories are so wonderful to hear but I am so sorry to keep my mouth shut as they are confidential. Simple church meetings work so easily yet powerfully because it is simple enough that you don’t have to name your church organization nor even call it a ‘church’ as we know it. But clearly enough to see that Jesus, Isa is in their midst.
A team is working together among high school and college students. Reaching them out through simple church movement. One particular guy, 28, has been working so closely with these young people that he is even registered at DepEd to train on how to play ‘communal’ soccer game. That is what anyone can play anywhere as long as their is a basketball court. Well, every community here has one! I dumped him some “Back to the Basics’ books and a box of book of John, the Gospel as they are free to be given away as requested HERE. They are so good to win friends and in the long run make them Jesus disciples.
Simple ‘house’ churches are in a sense a community based since their meetings is easy enough to communicate simple people in the community. Where there are two or three or more people gathered together with you as a follower of Jesus then the spirit of God works among everyone. Church is not where we meet basically, but it is where Jesus Spirit can move, reveal and express Himself to us, the church. Church is people, not buildings nor homes, and there is a Kingdom of God, so who are the ‘members’ of this Kingdom? The church, people! That is why if church is buildings then it is a counterfeit of the Kingdom. The word denomination comes from the word denominate, meaning to dominate. Church today became little tribes celebrating their own human founders. It should not be so among us who pledge our allegiance to only one King, and that is Jesus!
Graduate from Elementary Teachings
House church starters stuck in the elementary teachings of simple church gathering, that is debating on the definition and terms and forget the work of disciple making. Especially those who came from traditional churches who takes with them a lot of traditional baggage. See, these things I have spoken to you is not hard to get in to your mind. What is hard is to get rid of the things that is in your mind. The success in understanding this movement is not based on how empty your garbage bag is but how full it is. We have to unlearned what we have learned for so many years of doing church our own way. I am glad that though I have attempted 3 times to be enrolled at a 4 year Bible School Training I failed to to so. It’s enough for me to learn from my older brother David Lim of whom he challenged those who puts their theologies higher than their relationships, “How much do we know Jesus in order to accept Him?” or say, “How much do you have to know your wife in order for you to marry her?” And here is a blunt statement: Let us not strongly stand on to what our theologies are for we know that 5 years ago they’re not there. Or put it this way, 5 years from now its pretty sure that there are some possible change in our beliefs! Unlike past summits and conferences, an argument for definitions and theological beliefs are among the major discussions. This time we settle the matter for a little while and go on with what are we really doing and what will happen if we continue doing what we’re doing. These started on and though we had breaks some still continue sharing stories and life experiences of up to 2 o’clock in the morning! Well, in the networks of friends, some became families of each other already. Given the privilege of an ’email away’ most have really have some wonderful chatting and corresponding between each other. One of the freedom to those who are involved in house churching is that everybody knows everybody. You can’t hide a secret life or else it be exposed in the light because in the light there is fellowship and in fellowship there is light and in the light there is no room for dakness. Unlike modern Christianity, anybody can just transfer church they want without changing their lives. But here, we may hate one another yet we still love one another.
Love One Another
Apart from David Lim and Ian Calo of Living Springs International and Vineyard, a person whom I respected as my older brother, very humbled and silent yet very deep in experience and wisdom, Ruel Guerrero, shared what Christianity is all about. Actually, its what worship is all about: Loving God and loving one another. Ophs, sorry, these 3 were not our guest speakers, when it comes to Philippine Summits we are so tired of one man-shows. They thought that they ‘knew God better than anybody else, closer to God than anybody else, and better than anybody else.’ Unlike the one-anothering in the N.T. were designed to support one another, admomishing every believer to ‘not to think more highly than he ought.’ Every one is a priest of God, I need you, you need me. Relationship is what the church all about, nothing more, nothing less. Just to highlight of how Ruel explains our worship in Romans 12, actually he didn’t explain at all but he let us all read the chapter, it’s all in there! Amazing, just amazing, simple and again, it’s all about you and me.
Sorry, you can’t please God!
Loving God is loving one another, for how can you love God whom you don’t see that you can’t even love your brother whom you see. Honestly, as we come to realize, God is God, He is Sovereign, He is Sufficient One, He is all in all – there is nothing we can do to please Him anymore other than loving our neighbor! “If you offer a gift to the Lord but know that there is problem with you and your brother, go to him and be reconciled,” this is what Jesus meant then: Relationship is more important than the gift! Let us value the relationship that we have than any situation. Situations may pass for a day or a week or year but relationships should last. Sad to say that people aren’t, it takes the spirit of God to recognize God’s will and obey them. Someone aptly said: Surely we love our neighbor because we love ourselves. We have mercy on our neighbor because we have mercy on ourselves. We forgive our neighbor because we forgive ourselves. We hate our neighbor because we hate ourselves. Surely we love our neighbor because we love ourselves.
Family-based Relationships or Church-based Relationships
Relationship is vital especially in the church. A church now becomes a business corporation instead of a family having ‘many fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters’ according to Jesus. Shallow Christianity has shallow relationships also, as long as you are inside the four corners of their church you have some wonderful relationships. But try to get out then you know what I am talking about. Like the pastors, they can sing and eat together, can even pray together yet when it comes to meeting needs you’re alone. I am so sorry, I have been there but glad that I have resigned! I found only one valid purpose of why pastors do visit their members, and you won’t know it until he waves good-bye, “I’ll see you on Sundays!” Like some of the good friends that I know in church they would gladly say when they sees you, “Hello Molong, how are you? I miss our time together. We can meet up sometime, Bye bye!” And then nothing happens. How could I ever forget such incidents. Is your relationship to your brother a church-based one or a family-based one? Will you see him because of church stuffs? Will see him in church only? Or will you see him because you’re a family and really misses him so much?! I’ll tell you, until you know how to behave as a family then you will continue having meetings, endless meetings! And my question is, “How long are you willing to do this?” I am sorry, if he becomes a brother unto me, and I to him, then I don’t even need to ‘folow-up’ on him. Follow-up of what? Our relationship is lifetime, we don’t need a lifetime of Bible study meetings and prayer meetings. We do study and pray but will not call it ‘meetings.’ Such wonderful times will happen spontaneously, spirit-led meetings, no programs yet learning to do things together as a family is a joy.
Followers of Jesus
A question arises among ourselves: “What do we call ourselves, Christian?” The word ‘Christian’ today leads only one thing and surely it does not lead to Jesus but to a denomination. God has called us by His Name, by what name are you called? Pentecostal? Evangelical? Baptist? I believe that the next breed of Christianity will not be called by their denominational names but by His own name – followers of Jesus. We are God’s priest who go and make disciples and so we are a church-going community, not church-goers. Christians are church-goers. Followers of Jesus are the church and so they don’t go to church, they are being church. At times in my teachings I would include: “How to convert a Christian into a disciple of Jesus?” And mostly those who call themselves Christians are the one’s who raise up their heads with a disturbing thought on their minds. The word ‘Christian’ today if you ask any people, at least here in my country, have become good light for they see churches springing up every corner, yet is a bad salt, no taste at all. The words of Mahatma Gandhi still rings true that if it were not for the Christians I should have been a Christian. Their only goal is to become church-goers and no wonder how many denominations we have today? Close to 40,000 and guess what? How lucky you are to be in the right place, and there’s more, yet they despised one to another!
Most house churches are like big churches out there, they are having endless meetings instead of having endless fellowships. In other words, they have not become families together, they still have ‘Christian neighbors’ and so ‘attend’ meetings. As my friend and brother Ching Alquino shares to everyone, “It is not in and out, there is only in! We don’t attend meetings! It’s wonderful to see Jesus in each of us, working to become like Him. We hear God in our brothers,” as he shares humbly. And that’s what happens anyway, we didn’t pray an ‘opening’ prayer nor a ‘closing’ prayer but there is prayer all around, in the discussions, in the meals together and in the room while ‘continuing steadfastly in the apostles teaching’ as in the days of the early church. One morning at breakfast Brother Ching says to me, “Wow, we slept at 2.30 in the morning last night.” I ask why, “what time did you slept the other night?” His answer burst some laughter in the table, “2 o’clock.”
Time comes that everyone shares their best experience in house churching, there are around 3 people who are new though have been practicing simple church answered, “This is my best experience!” We all give him a good laugh and then they continued sharing of what they have learned with tears on their faces. Some concerns ahve been settled, actually most concerns have been dealth with and solve. How I wish some of you have been with us on that 3 wonderful days of sharing and learning and loving one another. It’s just good, so good. Everyone received a bunch of books and cd’s as gifts, some even carried a box of leftovers of materials. And some even requested for more! What a wonderful time together!