Tent Efforts in the Philippines

A Survey of Mission Problems, Methods, and Relationships in the Philippines.

By S. V. YOVAN, Assistant Director, South Central Luzon Mission

The Philippines as a commonwealth has a growing population of sixteen million people, according to the 1939 census. About ten million of these are Roman Catholic, and the rest are divided into Mohammed­ans, non-Christian tribes, and various Prot­estant denominations. Thus the preaching ot the gospel of salvation to civilized Filipinos must of necessity be adapted mainly to the Roman Catholic faith, which is still the domi­nant religion of the vast majority.

Most of the governing corps of men, ruling politicians, party moguls, and municipal offi­cers profess to be Roman Catholics. There­fore if an evangelist puts up a tent in a town or a barrio, it is quite likely that he will preach to a Catholic audience. Consequently, if a preacher is to meet with success, his ser­mons must be tactful as regards Roman reli­gious dogmas and doctrines. Most of the rich people in the Philippines are Roman Catholics, and this is also true of the influential, leading citizens of the country. We may well heed this counsel from the Spirit of prophecy :

"This message must be given, but 'while it must be given, we should be careful not to thrust and crowd and condemn those who have not the light that we have. We should not go out of our way to make hard thrusts at the Catholics. Among the Catholics there are many who are most conscientious Chris­tians, and who walk in all the light that shines upon them, and God will work in their behalf."—"Testi­monies," Vol. IX, p. 243.

Although some of our believers are brought out from other religions, their percentage is insignificant when compared with those who come from Roman Catholicism. The most suc­cessful means of calling men and women into the fold in this archipelago is by tent meetings. Branch Sabbath schools, cottage meetings, Bible readings, colporteur work, and other means have yielded a small fruitage, but the main bulk of our membership of twenty thou­sand came directly through evangelistic tent campaigns.

Regarding the methods used here in a tent-effort series, I would say that first of all we send out leaflet invitations announcing the meetings as lectures. We avoid speaking of sermons, be­cause Catholics believe that their priests are the only persons who can appropriately preach on religion. The Bible does not have weight with them, and therefore we announce in our invitations that such a subject as "Past, Present, and Future" will be expounded in our tents, or we advertise some other subject that is seemingly un-Biblical.

Native evangelists in the Philippines do not always use the same method in carrying on their tent-effort series. The methods are var­ied, as well as the dialects. But they seem to have a common ground in their tact and pres­entation. I would like to speak of the method of one of our successful evangelists in this island field. One of his lists of subjects ac­companies this article.

In presenting the message from the begin­ning to the close of an evangelistic campaign, we must bear in mind that we should not an­noy or embarrass the audience. For the first ten nights we should not ask the people to stand during the singing and praying. Let those sitting down under the tent and those standing outside remain as they are, and pro­ceed with your announcements and services. After ten nights with this procedure, ask the people to stand up during the songs and prayers, while opening and closing the night services. The preacher himself may choose either to kneel or to immediately sit down when he ascends to his pulpit.

Be careful not to make a call too early. A call can be launched after finishing more than half of the series, but should not be made often. Do not ask people to stand when mak­ing a call, or they may not return again for the following nights. The best thing to do is to ask them only to raise their hands for the time being. When you are about through with your series, or about one week before you finally close your tent campaign, you may re­quest those who give their hearts to Jesus to stand up. By this time the converts are well indoctrinated and spiritualized, and have the backbone to stand up for Jesus in public.

In visiting the people, we should be tactful and timely. Visiting should begin after the preaching of the ten commandments. Some people do not appreciate being visited too early, and if you start too soon, they may cease coming to the meetings. After hearing us preach on the law of God, they learn that we are a commandment-keeping people, and then those who are getting interested will ap­preciate our visits. In visiting, we should stand for principle. The first impression lasts longest, and therefore we should start out properly.

It is wise not to visit just before mealtime. In the Philippines, people will urge guests to eat and drink at their tables, but the food offered is not always in harmony with our health principles, and sometimes it is too early to explain new light to them. They often offer callers soft drinks and food between meals. It is better not to eat, but to drink is courteous. Sooner or later they will become sociable and will ask many questions that come to their minds. We must be tactful so that we do not hurt their feelings when we refrain from replying to all their queries. It is best to tell them in a careful, friendly way that on a certain night that topic will be taken up, and that they should attend meetings without any absences in order not to miss hearing about it.

The sermon on the Sabbath question should be immediately followed with an invitation to attend Sabbath services. Sabbath meetings may be held either under the tent or in an appropriate rented building. The Sabbath meetings should be continued without collec­tions until after the subject of tithes and offer­ings has been presented at the tent. After this phase is expounded, then the Sabbath school can be organized, and temporary officers appointed, and tithes and offerings may be collected. It is better for the workers to act as officel-s until other leaders have been trained to carry on the programs.

When it comes to preaching the third angel's message, we must emphasize that the Papacy is the beast, and not the Roman Catholic peo­ple. Our workers can make their way into the hearts of Catholics, and they will appreciate our explanation of the number of the beast, 666, if we are wise, courteous, and tactful in our presentation. But if we present the Cath­olic religion and the Catholic people as the beast of the prophecy, there is no doubt that enmity will stand between us and our audience. The emphasis, therefore, on the presentation of the beast should be that it is the Papacy which God condemns. Do not use a loud and sharp tone in presenting the beast of the third angel's message. Rather, a modulated tone and a sympathetic appeal will draw souls to Christ.

In our warning messages to the people to come out of Babylon and forsake their vices and abominations, we must always put the blame on the devil, and not on the people. The point is to make them feel that God is con­demning the devil and his ways, and not con­demning the audience. Very soon they will see our side clearly and will no doubt love the Scriptures and finally accept the word of God. In all our presentations Christ is the central theme, but care should be taken that we are not monotonous in the way we speak of Him.

There is joy in the heart of an evangelist at the time of preparation for baptism. There is rejoicing also in heaven over souls who have repented. However, when it comes to active baptism for those who have accepted the mes­sage, it is best to ask them to wait a little while until they voluntarily pay their tithe. This is not necessarily true, of course, con­cerning children who are under the support of parents, and thus have no income and there­fore no tithe to pay. And yet even these should show evidences of accepting this important doctrine.

After the baptism of candidates, the work­ers should begin immediately to train and teach them how to win other souls. All con­verts should know how to convert others. So they must be taught how to do missionary work. The workers should produce, accord­ing to the best talent available, some colpor­teurs, lay preachers, church officers, future workers, and other active members to help promote the beloved cause. Raising a church that does not know how to work, and does not work, only brings trouble to our organization.

The evangelist must not leave the place too soon. It is better to put up a chapel first, and then leave after the church is organized. I believe that from seven to thirteen months from the time the tent is erected should be spent in the same place. After leaving a place. one should visit the converts occasionally if possible, and communicate with them by letter. This will bring positive fruitage and success.

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By S. V. YOVAN, Assistant Director, South Central Luzon Mission

October 1940

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