The Gospel in the Philippines (2)
Wilbert Garingo Enostacion
La Union, Philippines
Part one of this article appeared on this journal on April 5, 1990 edition. The writer's aim is to give more information regarding the sowing of the gospel in the Philippines, which sometimes is called the "Pearl of the Orient." Located in Southeast Asia, the Philippines are 7,669 islands with a population of 50.5 million people.
Contemplating on the situation, the gospel has been sown in the islands in the past 90 years. Many local churches have been existing and doing their best to serve the Lord in every capacity they could afford. Though most of these have limited workers and workers obtained limited formal education, yet the continuous sowing of the seed was done night and day. However, one thing has been overlooked or rather somewhat neglected to be done by many workers. Let's try to see the reasons why such were undone.
Appointment of Elders
Many local congregations that have been existing in the past 20 to 30 years still do not have elders to oversee the local work. In Luzon, down to the Visayas and Mindanao, in the past decades churches have never appointed elders to ". . . set in order the things that are wanting" (Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5). Gospel preachers in the past may have overlooked to declare the whole counsel of God regarding the qualities of men to rule as elders in every local congregation.
Viewing it from this prospective, elders are God-given leaders in the local churches to run the affairs of the local congregations. When local churches have no elders, often times heard is the preacher or the local minister. Here lies the danger. Gaining influence developed into a party among preachers in a locality, some may be guilty of "lordship" among themselves without even realizing that it has been done. When this happens, it is too late to know that people whom we have grown to respect have become "lords" over the churches! In some instances, we are not so apt to be deceived by men we don't trust, but by people we have learned to trust. We may listen to them uncritically, without questioning the scriptural foundation of what they uphold and teach (1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Pet. 2:1-ff).
Present and Future Problems
Present. One question that American churches have long been waiting to be answered by any Filipino individual or church: "Can a Filipino preacher be fully supported by any local Philippine congregation after working with them for more than 15 years or so? Can a Philippine congregation take over the support of their workers?"
This inquiry cannot be answered by either yes or no.
Paradoxically speaking, local churches in the Philippines which have a supported preacher working with them had a rapid growth compared to those congregations who had no one helping them. These churches are like babes in cradles and loving arms of many American churches. Without the care and assistance given to native preachers, numerical growth cannot be as tremendously progressive today than before 30 years ago. In the early '60s that U.S. churches poured support for Filipino preachers. The rapid growth of sprouting churches in the countryside was credited to such trust and confidence.
Scripturally, our Lord designed that local churches may assist in the needs of its workers (1 Cor. 9:14); in some instances, a multiplicity of local churches help to support one preacher in a local area.
Future predicament. Not so many American churches understand the economic situation in 3rd world countries, like the Philippines. The 7,669 islands has an annual devastation of more than 25 typhoons! Sometimes, earthquakes, tidal waves and basically all types of calamities strike.
When a legitimate calamity occurs, U.S. churches are eager to assist the needs of any victims of such calamities. Here lies the danger. Because some native preachers have corrupted the funds sent into their care, and some false report reaches American churches, a blanket condemnation is issued to all Filipino preachers, that they are all liars! It hurts, and it destroys the crcdibilities of many faithful and worthy men. Sometimes, it is tantamount to racial discrimination that a legitimate appeal finds no response at all.
The Philippine economy. The economy in this nation is fluctuating; there is no price control. Prices of prime commodities are much higher than those in the rural and urban areas comparing it to those in the cities. However, support of preachers in rural and urban areas is much lower than those in the cities!
Preachers' support should not be leveled to any professional in the country. A physician diagnoses the physical :nature of sickness; a preacher diagnoses false doctrines and change of state of the man by the Word. A preacher's work is worst than a public or private school teacher because preachers work without any hour limitations, receives .more work than compensations. Preachers have no paid "holidays" compared to a public teacher or any employees; a preacher does not received any "13th month pay" at every year's end, while all employees have. Full-time supported gospel preachers could not have any secular works; for, to have such diminishes the full-time evangelization of the word, while all professionals can. Worst of all is that, all ,professionals are entitled to any promotions offered by any company; while the preacher receives no "promotions" on ,any worthy or extra-ordinary accomplishments done; most of the time, instead of praise what he gets is intrigues and icriticisms! By the way, what monetary equivalent does one ,soul being brought back to God's side have?
All professionals in any country work to got rich in this life, while preachers work for the progress of the gospel and his kingdom. The big difference lies here; while professionals have their income coming in, preachers on the other hand, have their income always going out to be spent for the Lord's work! Very few preachers get rich through their support; only those who have huge inheritance from their families, have gained huge money before they went into full-time preaching, or have sold their businesses for the Lord's works.
Corruptions. This kind of sin is as old as the earth. Judas, being chosen by our Lord was corrupt, how much more for those in the church? Preachers are not excluded from this, but are an often prey for such a venomous action.
Local churches in the land have a membership that is poor, and cannot afford to support their own preacher, either partial or full. This poses another problem because preachers have their families to feed, cloth and take care of. The tendency is, talented gospel preachers will depart the full-time preaching and go into secular work to find enough support for their families. When this would happen, first to be affected is the local church work. Congregations become stagnant, and a declining spiritual growth soon comes out. The end result, is that the many years spent to make that particular local congregation strong were ruined in just a moment due to the stoppage of the preacher's support.
When dishonesty occurs, U.S. brethren should not take actions that may affect the innocent ones. In a basket of rotten apples, there are still a few that remain in good taste and eatable!
Let this piece of appeal remain in your minds brethren; let not the need of any worthy Filipino preachers be hindered. As long as the sun rises in the east, support to these faithful and worthy men should be given preference in all manner, not only to those in the Southeast Asia; but in the whole of Asia, China and Hong Kong! Fellowshipping with each worthy gospel preacher in each local work should continue to prosper as the Holy Writ said: ". . . but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love" (Eph. 4:15,16).
Today, in this last decade, let us re-echo the words of our Master: "The harvest, truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few" (Matt. 9:35-38). Why not "look into the field, for they are white unto harvest" (Jn. 4:35)? Many are willing to "go," but they need to be sent. Isaiah has spoken it well: "Lord, here am I, send me!" Brethren should investigate the need to help anyone going.
Any of you, dear readers, who are interested in fellowshipping with the on-going work here in the Philippines, even in China or Hong Kong; request for some information where you can best afford to assist the Lord's cause. Don't ask, what the Lord can do for you; but ask, what you can do for the Lord and his cause? If you can help why not write me at: P.O. Box 9, San Fernando 2500, La Union Philippines. I can put you in contact with those faithful, worthy and sound men who have been working in the Lord's vineyard but with inadequate flow of supply. Let us join hands brethren to say: "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your holy name give glory! " (Psa. 115:1)
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 13, pp. 404-405