It was a five-days camp meeting that I was invited to in one ofthe islands of my province, Cebu. I was saved on the 7th of April, 1991 and three days later I was baptized. When I gave my life that day to the Lord, I knew deep inside that He has plans for me. For 9 years, I was pregnant of that call before I could birth it. During this time, I was part of two evangelical churches. In one of those churches, I was a worker doing everything, from floor to ceiling jobs, from being a 24/7 church security guard to being the church musician, from tirelessly doing crusades and concerts to everyday evangelisms and bible studies! Then I became a youth leader and an assistant pastor in the otherchurch. In 1999, I started to pastor my own church.
I sought the Lord about His will for me in regards to what kind of church I should handle. The answers came as I was reading my Bible one night and the house church was birthed. My story on this journey appears in Rad Zdero’s book, ‘NEXUS: the world house church movement reader’, on chapter 42. Iunderstood that God calls me to do church in homes. I also understood that I needed spiritual fathers who can walk alongside me who have already experienced life in their manyyears of journey.
For the next 8 years of starting house churches from the scratch, I have faced challenges and struggles to the point of me wantingto give up many times. If it were not for the strong call of God in my life, I am supposed to be physically dead long time ago. Inone of my trips to the islands, the ship I was on was on fire. It was four o’clock in the morning, still dark and I found myselffloating in the deep seas without a life jacket! The only light thatwas there was the fire from the burning ship. There were dead bodies of drowning fellow passengers floating around me. At this time, I believed I was going to die as well. “This is it”, I said to myself and I felt my heart race and my teeth rattle. I forgot all the scriptures that I had memorized for years and the family members didn’t even cross my mind in that panicking situation. Watching all the dead float around me and hearing all the screams for life, my head turned a total blank. I am not a good swimmer; I can kick the waters for a little while. Most of the Filipinos like me don’t swim. We have seas around us with thousands of islands but that doesn’t make us great swimmers. The horrible scenes around me in the deep waters made me lose all hope. In the midst of hopelessness and fear, I remembered one thing: the call of God in my life when I gave my life to Jesus in that camp meeting. “I know I have a call”, I remembered. Next thing I knew was the peace that flowed through me that surpassed all fear and hopelessness. Two hours later, I was rescued along with the other survivors.
“Talking new, acting old.” (Gary Goodell)
I started 13 house churches in the first year with around 200members altogether and we met once a year in a theater. Thenumber of house churches increased to 38 and then it went down and up and up and down. That’s how I define those eight long years of doing church in the house. I built networks around the country with those who are in the same journey like me.Sometimes I flew 16 times in a month doing trainings and attending summits. It gave me the feeling of being successful.Starting ‘honey, I shrunk the church’ style churches in homes worked much quicker than starting Institutional Church (IC)style churches. I admit I learned a lot during this time.Unfortunately, just as I was dissatisfied with my 9 years of workin the institutional churches, I felt the same feeling ofdissatisfaction after the 8 years of service and work in thechurch in the houses.
The next phase of my journey into organic church began when Iconfronted myself with these very tough questions:
Have I got the job done? Did I even start it?
Jesus told us to go and make disciples; do I really know how to make disciples? Are the people in my house churches, disciples? If yes, do they know how to make disciples? If no, then they are not disciples. They don’t even understand the word disciple then.If they are not disciples, then it is me who didn’t really know how to make disciples. And if I do not know how to make disciples then I am not a disciple at all!
I was so ashamed of myself. A disciple is one who makes otherdisciples but I didn’t know how to make one. I was so ashamed of claiming myself for many years that I’m a Christian and yet Ididn’t know for sure how to make disciples. I couldn’t believethat for all those years of heavy experiences of doing church, I didn’t even know how to define what a disciple is. I know how to make converts for sure, I have been leading others to pray a’sinner’s prayer’. I know how to hold Bible Study Programs, Discipleship Programs, Youth Nights! I have even compiled my own materials for teaching. You name it! I know to arrangemusic bands, compose songs and organize concerts in the malls.But those questions about discipleship scared the hell out of me! I ended up giving away all the books and materials I’ve read andwritten, burned some, even gave away church things like theguitars, chairs, song sheets, etc. I understood what Neil Colesays, “we should not be afraid of failures, but what we should be afraid of is being successful in the things that doesn’t really matter”.
Worst thing that I later on found out was that most of the members of my house churches came from otherinstitutionalized ‘elephant’ size churches. They came indisgruntled, with burn out syndromes of doing church once a week and now they are here with me doing even more church in a given week! There were a few, who were just born very new in Christ and I called them “rabbits”. I soon realized that mixing rabbits and elephants was not a good idea, the rabbits will getcrushed and they eventually will die. I tried asking kindly to elephant Christians to take the rabbits on their backs, fatherthem, serve them, be there for them, but somehow they loved to work alone.
I thought the best-qualified people for the new revolution called house/ organic/ simple church would be those who are tired of institutional church systems and have left those systems behind. What I figured out is that they are the most disqualified people I have ever experienced! Most religious folks I know who joined ‘house churches’ are using this new way of being/doing church only to justify their own wickedness and stupidity.
Let me explain why I use such strong words. Such folks may be tired of the system and have even stepped out of it, but they are not tired of themselves nor have they let the system step out of them! They were rebellious in their institutionalized churches;they became even more rebellious in the house churches. Theynow thought that because they are out of the IC system they are free to do just what they want about church and about their lives. I suspect that the very way Jesus would handle this is to kill the‘self’ in them again. Literally, stop what you are currently doing if you want to do the will of God in regards to His Church. It may take a year or two, maybe even ten or more for you to die to your-self and to start living again according to the will andpurposes of God. Dying to ‘self’ means being able to say and live Gal 2:20..I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. I am dead.Dead people do nothing, you know. God is not in need of your service. He is God Almighty. He is able! The first thing that a person should do if he wants to do what God wants him to do is to stop doing whatever he is doing, and start listening to the King and obey and do exactly what He says his part is in His kingdom. Is it not called ‘wickedness’ and ‘stupidity’ when you do something you think God calls you to do and yet it isn’t? Doing nothing when God wants you to do something and doing something when God does wants you to do nothing is also calledsin!
Do I have to? Am I told to train leaders? Am I even supposed to be called as one?
Another challenge that I had to face and the one that hit me the hardest is the training of leaders who will be able to handle these small churches in their communities. Most of my leaders are young people either still in high schools or in colleges. I had many questions on my mind regarding leadership. I was even reluctant at first to ask God about this. Do I have to have leaders to handle these little churches? Do I have to ‘train’ them the“John Maxwell” way? If I have to, then for how long am I going to train them? Honestly, I was shocked to hear a ‘no’ for ananswer from the Father without any further explanations. Now I know why I should not ‘train’ any man a ‘leader’ One of the most liberating feeling I have now is that I am free not to train leaders at all and I am happy for it!
I was a good leader based on performances. In my 20’s, with allthe experiences as a Christian (now I’m 37) I could say that I did well. It’s just sad to realize that I never heard God say to me,“Pastor Molong, well done good and faithful leader!” It is astounding that God never even called me with that title: Pastor!Churchy people tend to call me that, but not God; not even foronce!
“Jesus develops servants, He doesn’t train leaders,” saysWolfgang Simson. We simply develop servants to make more followers of Jesus. I often ask myself and others, “Jesus said,‘Go and make followers’ and you became a ‘leader’. Who made you?”
I have none and why should I bring them in?
Another challenge that faced me is that not doing church ‘services’ in a sacred building meant I don’t gather them for worship. What then should be the purpose of gathering them?
See, you need to understand that we tried to do church in the houses for eight long years with my 13 house churches trying out all sorts of versions. We tried elephant style for a year then we tried cell church, and one of the craziest ideas that we could possibly come up with was to evangelize in a cemetery at nighttime, trying to experiment raising the dead! Then I becametired and bored of trying again. I began to understand that God’s life is not found in ‘trying newly’ but in ‘dying daily’ to ourselves! Sometimes being tired and bored is a process of’death to self’. I do nothing until the King orders what I shoulddo. God’s ways cannot be found in ‘trying’ a new method,‘changing’ a theological teaching (good start but still it won’t change any!), nor ‘attending’ summits and conferences. God’s ways are found in God’s heart.
Cut to the chase, I wanted to stop everything. Destroy the house and build something entirely different. Not simply rearrange the furniture in the house. I heard someone says how to start something different within an institutional church: “burn the church and kill the pastor.” Test it for yourself; burn it and see if what’s left is of silver and gold or just of hay and stubble. Don’t wait on God to do this for you. If you wait, He will do it and you won’t like it. In the US alone, there are may be 1,500 new churches planted every year, but around 3,500 churches close down the same year as well. It is true with the pastors: five pastors said they were called by God to pastor a church, the verysame pastors now say that they are called by God to leave their churches!
How did we burn our church? I did literally nothing with my wife for the next two years. We stopped ‘reading’ our Bibles and having our ‘religious’ prayers. We even stopped ‘praying’ for food until we got rid of that guilty feeling of not doing “it”. When we asked, “is it Sunday, today?” then we knew we haven’t burned the church down fully. We are not killed yet fully. If you are sitting in a church and think about the beach,then you are religious. It is when you are walking on a beach and think about God that you are becoming righteous and godly. We are so in love with ‘doing’ things that the ‘doing’ becomes a maintenance of our title and status with God where in fact we are not created as human ‘doers’, but as human ‘beings’. We are called to “be” the church.
We started to wait on God and to listen Him speak to us. When you want to start obeying God, the first thing you need to do is to stop what you are doing and listen to His instructions. That means if you want to ‘listen’ you gotta keep ‘silent’. (it’s nice to take note that the words ‘listen’ and ‘silent’ has the same letters). And from that silence came prophecies of what we will be doing in the next phase of our journey.