Luke, Chapter 10 gives some very workable principles on church planting that fit in the Philippine culture.
There are three main values I see in each one of us that gives us the potential to saturate our country with God’s Word through Simple Church. Let us check them one by one and see how it fits in starting house churches mainly in the community.
Close Family Ties
If we define house church as an ‘extended’ family meeting together for mutual edification then our family gatherings fit perfectly. Filipino’s uphold family ties to the highest extent, we live close to each other even as individual adults. We love to gather just to have a meal together with the entire clan up to the 4th generation. And what’s more surprising is that we do not need to put it in our calendars. It becomes an instinct for us to gather and sit, talk, eat, pray [if you don't mind, or prophesy] and serve. Hmmm…it is S.T.E.P.S. on what to do in a house church meeting. We don’t even need to create a program to foster new ideas and stories. We are also good at doing surprises when we meet. We love to talk and eat. We do not need to create a family, we are family.
We call it “Bayanihan” in our own dialect. It is a creation of alliances with neighbors and a helping attitude whenever one is in dire need. No one needs to teach us on how to create community, we already have one! Our celebrations such as fiestas, holidays and family reunions speak of how we are created for this idea of simple gatherings. Most Filipino’s have traditions, either Holy Friday or All Souls Day. It is a religious event yet most families gather around foods and laughter – it becomes an event that is full of surprises to bond relationships. We’re not doing it so much anymore for religious purposes but to have fun. Do you know that we Filipino’s are known for the number two happiest people in Asia? And who are number one? Me and my family .
We call it “Barkada” or a group of selected friends fits most of what a house church looks like. It is church to the fullest. We normally treat our barkada as our second family next to our own physical one, though sometimes others hope it to be their real family. The value behind this group is simple, “You feel like a family.” Added to the word barkada is the word “pakikisama” which is extending support to our relatives or offering help even to our neighbors who are in need. And “Utang na loob,” meaning a debt of gratitude – or the giving of special favors to the other person regardless of the moral outcome. In simple terms, “we might hate one another yet we still love one another.”
Based on this premise, a working house church model for us will look a little different than other house churches in other countries. Even in our country, house churches in different cities and towns with different people and personalities will still look different from one another. Put it this way, I could not do house church with the street people the way I do house church with the professional people. It just doesn’t work. I must be resilient and adaptable enough to cater to different people. Like Paul, able to become wherever, whatever and whoever he is with.
Starting a house church movement in a community is only one way of doing it. In this article, several people in my circle of influence have used this approach, and some prove it to be hard [mostly to those who keep asking endless questions about it without doing it], yet to most people it works. The principles and practices behind simple church can only be answered by asking the right questions, “Is it right?” No, “Does it work?” If you believe it is right, then it will work. Not the other way around.
Houses Of Peace
In Luke 10, Jesus asked us to be sensitive enough on how to recognize a ‘man of peace’ in a house. Look for the initial sign: food. “If the man of peace offers you food, eat,” He said. Something rings in your head, right? Yes, Filipinos were made for simple church gatherings! We know that wherever we go even just passing by someone who is eating they will gladly invite you to eat with him. We know it’s not real hospitality right, but we know also that if the person urges us twice or a third time we better accept his offer for he is serious in his asking.
At times I come to think that Jesus somehow has a Filipino appetite, He came ‘eating and drinking.’ Most Filipino’s love this endless eating. He never came to a house where there is no food. Think about in Matthew’s house, they have a party! In Zaccheus’ house, still there is party with his ‘barkada.’ At Simon the Pharisees’ house also. Looks like Jesus’ barkada always has someone celebrating a birthday! And have you recognized that whenever Jesus speaks of God’s Word He always likens it to a spiritual food? Huh! Yummy ha. [Matthew 4:4]
Now Let’s Start The Process
Starting several home Bible Studies around the community or village is one of the best ways to start a house church movement in an area. Targeting 3-5 family hosts that are close enough to gather them for the future celebration is an ideal attempt. Leave your ‘religious doctrine’ behind, but do not forget to bring your ‘doctrine of food.’
Honestly, food might be a stumbling block for the family host because they might be out of budget to prepare a meal. But honestly, it is the best way to start a house church. Do some variety next time you come, or ask them not to prepare the next time. Remember, you are going to visit different houses in a day and you don’t want to get sick. I tried getting sick because of the different drinks that they offer. I learned my lesson. How to ‘tweak a bit’ of your Bible Study method to look like a house church setting: Most of us who are Christians from denominational streams have a way of doing Bible Studies in someone’s house. So I included at least five ways you can change your approach.
Do It All In A Day
If possible, the schedule for your Bible Study in these houses can be done only in one day, each can end up for one hour at least to one and a half hour at most including fellowship time.
Take more time asking normal questions such as: “How are you today?” “What have you been doing these days?” and “How’s the children?”
Make sure you will not look and sound like a ‘heavenly man’ especially if you are preparing these families as ‘God’s own family’ on earth as it is in heaven when you finally start a house church. Don’t be religious, I mean.
Be Quick And Gracious
If you can run a 20 – 30 minute ‘open Bible discussion’ it is great to start with good participation. ‘Open Discussion’ means that you do not appear to them as one who knows better than anyone else who are present.
Do not talk too much and do not worry if the discussions go off the topic. Be sensitive enough especially if you allow them to ask questions. Remember, most questions the person asks are his own personal struggles inside his heart. Make sure you ask questions that can reveal God’s intentions to human illusions.
A couple of ‘quick’ visits at the family during the week are very helpful to build some rapport. ‘Go with flow’ might mean sitting with a mother while she’s washing clothes or cooking. She might appreciate a helping hand and affirmations from you like one I love: “You look blooming today Nanay, what did Tatay do to you today?” This wife is in the middle of cooking some food for dinner while I gave her a hand helping chops some veggies. The husband sits around watching TV and hears me speak these words and answered teasingly, “Of course, I took good care of my wife.” though behind my back they often fight.
As soon as the father affirms my statement I directly admonishes them saying, “That’s good because Paul says in the Bible that husbands should love their wives, and wives should submit to their husbands.” And both them nod and answered me back, “Really?” And a long discussion ends up having a meal together with them. This does not become a ‘quick’ visit then but becomes more intimate with the family, which is much better. These kinds of visits are not for ‘religious’ purposes or to earn their trust for them to go to your church. This is church already, in real life situations.
Unbelievers Are The Priority
To reach the unbelievers quick and fast, house churches are the ideal. To encourage believers to attend your house church is the surest way to have a debate, unless he or she is tired enough of doing traditional church. Simple Church then is for non-believing people. You do not need to share to them about a “holy man dressed in a holy robe, to speak in a holy place for a holy message in a holy day for a holy fee,” as Wolfgang Simson suggests. They know nothing about these matters. In other words, they have no traditional ‘garbage’ in their mind.
I was once an aggressive house church guy who loved to roam around and whatever Christian person I’m in contact with I would always share enthusiastically about house church and how it is simple enough for anyone to just do it. Honestly, I ended up having big arguments that lasted from 5 in the afternoon to 2 in the morning. I won the argument but lost a friend. Not a good way on ‘how to win friends and influence people!’
After that experience, I decided to just be quiet as much as I could but at the same time sensitive enough to listen to their heart’s cry. Often they needed a change in the way they do church ‘as we know it.’ Our level of hunger is not the same as someone else’s so we cannot just use the same words that changed us to change other people’s hearts.
Christians are saved people already, that’s the simple fact. They do not need to be saved again. In the Philippines, there are still 80% of the people who don’t really know who Jesus is to them. Let’s focus our target to the lost and let Jesus Himself deal with His church about its monthly bills and expensive problems, uh, programs. Let Jesus creates a hunger for reality in His church through its shortcomings.
Someone Needs To Go With You
The job of a church planter is to ‘leave’ as fast as he can after the house church has been established. Since I started in 2000, only three house churches out of 13 that I established still continue to this day. The problem? I did not prepare others to do what I was doing. A responsible servant of God will not remain in insecurity about the ministry that God has prepared for you, but will give others the permission to do the same. My principle in training is, if I know how to do it, why should I do it? Let him who knows not what to do, do it. For how can he learn if I do it myself? God mostly then will give each of us the work and the work will teach us how to do it.
Jesus sent the disciples ‘two by two.’ Why? For prayer and encouragement and of course for modeling purposes – learning from each other [2 Timothy 2:2]. A good leader leads others only for a while, and the lets the Holy Spirit take charge of his own disciples life and training. The ‘natural father,’ is trained in real life situations, not as a professional clergyman from the seminary. He first leads his own extended family. Only then can the leader leave and come back once in a while, to see the growing life of the church
A simple success principle: Always bring others with you on the journey.
Church is about relationships, nothing more and nothing less. Loving God, loving your neighbor, and loving your enemy. Stop specializing in some liturgy and special outlines for your Bible Study. But start specializing in building healthy and devoted relationships with each other. You can win a person’s heart in a day quicker than a hundred sermons in a year. “Sermons does not produce disciples,” as Gary Goodell realizes, relational ways of life is.
In the Philippines, respect and honor can be seen in two ways: When you enter a house ‘leave your slippers or shoes’ outside and greet. Second, bless the hand of the elderly. Leaving your slippers outside especially if the house is clean can earn you great respect. Though most of the family host doesn’t really care, but ‘attempting’ to do it is a sure way that you are welcomed at their house.
Blessing the hand of the elderly is a Catholic tradition for many years, but not now, at least in the Philippines. Yet it is showing respect to your elders, and parents and Lola’s and Lolo’s love it. And what in return? The elder’s/parents who are in charge pf most of the house will treat you as their son or daughter instantly!
Establishing relationships with the family you’re trying to reach out to is vital in the making of a simple church. Why? Church is simply a family. This is the ultimate picture of church in the Bible! God, the Almighty, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob becomes our Father? What a paradigm shift this is. And I became his son? And Jesus became my eldest Son? We are to treat each other as brethren, I Timothy 6:1-5. And we are called the ‘household of faith?’
Remember, a house church is your extended family. It is a reflection of God’s family on earth, as it is in heaven. So learn to be one with them.
“Hello. I am Molong Nacua and I live with my lovely wife Lisa on the beautiful island of Cebu in the center of The Philippines. My heart is to be used by the power of the Holy Spirit to build a network of Barkadas for Jesus in The Philippines. What is a barkada? A barkada is a wonderful Filipino word for a company of friends, joined together in a common bond of friendship, loyalty and love for each other. To me it best describes the kind of companies of brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers that the Lord Jesus wants to build in The Philippines, loyal to Him and each other, carrying His life within them and extending His Kingdom throughout our nation. Mabuhay.”