The Adventist Church in the Philippines consists of three unions with 14 missions and conferences. It has the third-largest Adventist membership of any country in the world. The church in the Philip pines makes evangelism a way of life. Its institutions, pastors, and members all participate. But through the years the most successful evangelistic tool in the islands has been the Voice of Prophecy Bible lessons.
The entire Filipino church rallied to celebrate the golden anniversary of the Voice of Prophecy. Each union has a VOP Bible school with lessons in the major dialects and a Voice of Prophecy radio speaker broadcasting in the dialects of their territory.
Voice of Prophecy Bible lessons
During every evangelistic endeavor church members perform the ground work. Two to three months before a public meeting begins, members of the congregations in the targeted areas go door-to-door enrolling interested persons in a VOP Bible course. Weekly they pick up the completed lesson and deliver the next lesson.
Evangelism in the Philippines is mainly personal work. Members develop a close relationship with their "students." This relationship is particularly important during the nurture and follow-up phase of an evangelistic program.
Every major evangelistic thrust makes use of experienced lay preachers. When a series of meetings is held between seedtime and harvest, these lay preachers devote full time to their public meetings. The local mission or conference, and often local congregations, provide them with a small stipend and budget for the meetings. Local church members form their teams. In the case of the Voice of Prophecy golden anniversary meetings, budgets were prepared for almost 200 lay members to do this work. Many of these lay preachers also serve as elders for their congregations.
Most congregations formed small teams of workers. These members were assigned a territory. They worked door-to-door, inviting friends and neighbors to attend the meetings. These teams organized and implemented much of what was done in the evangelistic meetings themselves.
Another characteristic of the Filipino church is the participation of every institution of the church. Schools, clinics, and hospitals set aside time and funds to join in the work. Groups of students from colleges and academies join with their mentors to form Voice of Youth evangelistic teams. Medical personnel from clinics and hospitals support pastors and lay preachers in the public meetings.
Health presentations form a part of every evangelistic meeting. Physicians, nurses, and health educators give lectures and often provide health screening or conduct free medical clinics in connection with nightly meetings. During the golden anniversary the Adventist Church supported the government's drug-education program nationwide. Pastor Benito Tejano chairs the government's drug-education program.
Problem of housing for new believers
Housing new congregations and enlarging crowded churches are marks of a church committed to evangelism. One of the aspects of the nurture and follow-up program is providing housing for new congregations.
A typical scene is being repeated in many communities during the second phase of the golden anniversary. Members gather materials, then mark out the position for foundations for new walls that may be two to ten meters larger than the current church building. For weeks the construction work goes forward. On an appointed day they remove the old building from inside the new building without missing one worship service!
In many villages a congregation will help construct a shelter that forms the beginning of a new company's church building as the evangelistic meetings draw to a close.
To encourage the careful preparation of candidates for baptism, the local mission or conference provides pastors, lay preachers, and elders with a baptismal decision questionnaire. As the Bible studies come to a close, each student is invited to make a decision to follow the Lord Jesus in baptism and become a church member. The questionnaire relates to Bible teachings and personal lifestyle. As the person signs the questionnaire, he or she makes a covenant to be faithful to the Lord and the church. All candidates for baptism take this step.
The golden anniversary of the Voice of Prophecy became an international event. One hundred twenty teams from 14 countries joined in the work. A few pastor-evangelists came alone. The majority were joined by as many as 20 members of their congregations. The guest teams joined forces with local members in the work of visiting interested persons, giving Bible studies, and participating in the meetings.
Hundreds of teams of lay members work in prisons throughout the provinces of the Philippines. During the golden anniversary many baptisms were conducted in prisons. Often these baptisms were conducted in 50-gallon oil barrels. Prisoners with longer sentences are often transferred to the national prison near Manila. There are three congregations of converts meeting in the Mantinlupa prison. One of these has a large membership, with prison inmates serving as officers in the church and Sabbath school.
Filipino pastors tend to play a different role than pastors in many parts of the world. The many churches and companies of the Philippines have relatively few pastors serving them. The average pastor serves 12 congregations. When the large city churches, where each congregation has its own pastor, are taken into consideration, the pastoral load is even higher. Large congregations do not have a pastoral staff. Lay members lead out in every area of local church administration.
The result is that Filipino pastors serve as district leaders. They train members and church officers in leadership and soul-winning skills. In their district itineraries they visit their congregations from three to six times a year. The main work of preaching, evangelism, and leadership falls upon the local church elders and deacons.
Herein lies the strength of the Filipino Adventist Church. Most of what is done is accomplished by the lay members. The Filipino church is a working church. A large percentage of all accessions to the growing church of the Philippines is the result of lay persons sharing their faith.
It is a common experience for an evangelist to have these lay preachers and members literally bring busloads and truckloads of converts to a baptismal service people the evangelist had no part in bringing to the Lord. In these cases the lay members did all the work.
Planting churches in unentered territory
During district meetings representatives from the churches often select an unentered community as a target for their evangelistic thrust. The local congregations form teams to visit each home, looking for persons who will enroll in the Voice of Prophecy lessons. Again, this work is followed by an evangelistic meeting. When the pastor is not available to lead out in the meeting, an elder or lay preacher conducts it. During the golden anniversary many new congregations were formed.
Three VOP teams conducted evangelism and praise meetings
Last April two weekends were set aside for praise meetings. Pastor Lonnie Melashenko, speaker and director of the international Voice of Prophecy, led one group; Pastor Royce Williams from the It Is Written television ministry led a second group. Pastor Williams once served as the director of the VOP in Manila. I led the third team.
At some of these praise rallies as many as 1,000 persons were baptized in one day. Guest pastors and local churches brought their converts to the central baptismal sites, most of which were in the oceans that surround the 7,100 islands of the Philippines.
Others joined in
The Andrews University Gymnics spent their Christmas vacation on a tour of 14 Filipino cities. Their objective was to enroll interested persons in the Voice of Prophecy Bible course and to distribute Steps to Christ to people in their audiences.
The Quiet Hour joined in celebrating the VOP golden anniversary. Through the years the majority of those baptized during the scores of Quiet Hour crusades have been graduates of the Voice of Prophecy Bible courses. The Quiet Hour sent two major teams, as well as supported 10 other guest teams.
Dr. Richard Hart, of the Loma Linda University School of Public Health, was featured as a speaker at the launching of the national drug-education program.
Light Bearers Ministry provided printed materials for the meetings at half of their usual cost. They also provided two budgets and two of their leaders as evangelists during the harvest meetings.
The General Conference helped fund four meetings.
Three pastors from former Communist countries conducted meetings. It was a special blessing from the Lord to have Pastor Lucian Cristescu of Romania, Pastor Igor Andreev of the Volga-Vyatskaya Conference, and Pastor Jiri Moskala of Czechoslovakia conduct meetings. This was the first opportunity to have pastors from former Communist countries join in the work abroad.
The guest teams may have received the greatest blessing. They experienced the potential of evangelism that is centered in lay participation. They saw the joy of members who brought neighbors, relatives, and friends to the mass baptisms.
The church has grown. Early in the planning the steering committees took an action to work and pray for 1,000 converts for each of the 50 years that the Voice of Prophecy has served the Philippines. As this article goes to press, the Filipino church praises God that it is well on the way to meeting this challenging goal. Along with this, the follow-up and nurture continues throughout the islands.