*this article appeared in the November issue of Evangelicals Today
Thank You, Pastors, for All You Have Taught Me
By Andy Smith
I first arrived in the Philippines in 1986. For two months, I served a church in San Pedro, Laguna. Pastor Nic spent quality time with me. We frequently discussed the growth of the Christian faith in the Philippines. We started a church plant in a nearby subdivision. At his urging, I preached my first sermon. At his urging, I also ate my first balut. Great memories!
In 1989, I returned to the Philippines. I have worked with several pastors since then. Each taught me important things. Some of them are close friends. Let me tell you about a number of them.
I spent my second year in Tanauan City. The gifted pastors who served there were Gerry, Clarito, Ed, Dan, and Do. Their church was highly involved in the community. The men played basketball in barangays where they were planting a church. Through music and drama, their youth powerfully presented the Gospel. I had long discussions with the pastors about the best answers to the questions which nonChristians regularly ask. It was an extremely valuable year.
Then I moved to Legazpi City. I served under Pastor Boy. We ran a fruitful Evangelism Explosion program. We also held three-night evangelistic campaigns every month. Through them, we proclaimed the Good News in a number of barangays. Each event included music, drama, a testimony, and a message. At Christmas, we went caroling in poor communities. We sang to households and gave them food items for their midnight meal.
Pastor Gilbert, Pastor Romy, and I often shared the Gospel together. On the slopes of Mayon volcano, we usually used the Bridge illustration. That is also where I began using a variety of words to describe sin, portray salvation, and present Jesus. Gilbert and Romy encouraged me and helped me better understand what people were thinking. They helped me take big steps in contextualizing my ministry.
I next worked in our Quezon City office. Pastor Elvin became a good friend there. We often ate lunch together. We discussed important matters such as making disciples in Philippine contexts. Plus, laughter punctuated each meal. In several ways, his approach to life and ministry shaped mine.
I returned to Albay and joined Pastor Roger in a church plant. He visited various barangays to make new friends. He attended a wide variety of events at the plaza to do the same. He occasionally moved house to gain new neighbors whom he could befriend. People claimed he was so well known that he could run for mayor. Thanks to his example, I am now more intentional about getting to know nonChristians.
In 2003, I moved back to Quezon City. I am an active member of a church here. Several men, Elpidio, Aimz, Rico, Tony, Leo, and now Roman, have pastored us. Their passion for God, His Word, and His Church has helped keep mine strong.
One of my roles is training and coaching pastors and church planters. I work with a wide variety of them. I have known Pastor Lito since he was a young man. His ministry addresses people’s spiritual and medical needs. He communicates the love and power of God to them through Bible studies and physical therapy. He challenges me and others to minister in a more wholistic way.
I have trouble keeping pace with Pastor Paul. When I visit him, we visit several people and places. God recently led him to a woman of influence. Through her, a thriving campus ministry has developed. In a little-reached province, students are coming to faith in significant numbers and being discipled to reach their own barangays.
Well educated, Pastor Pong can preach a meaty sermon. He now serves in a rural setting. A few years ago, he started preaching narrative portions of Scripture rather than didactic portions. The results were dramatic. People no longer fall asleep during his sermons. Instead, they listen eagerly and expectantly. Most importantly, they obey what they hear.
The Church in the Philippine has grown much in the past few decades. Praise God for the pastors who have served well. With so many additional congregations, we need more pastors than ever. On the other hand, the population is growing rapidly. Millions of Filipinos remain separated from God. So, we also need more members involved in ministry than ever.
It seems to me that we have reaped most of the ripe harvest. We have planted churches in the relatively easy-to-reach places. Therefore, our task is to start them in barangays that lack one. To do so, we must make sacrifices. We will have to use different models and methods. And we will certainly need to equip and release more church members to go and do the work.
Pastors, keep up the good work! If you are not already doing so, lead your church in answering the question, “What needs to be done?” Locate the unchurched communities in your vicinity. Get to know the people there. Discover what they value. Find out about their greatest needs. Then ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to be good news to them. Also ask Him to reveal to you the most meaningful way to share the Gospel with them.
Get your members more involved in the ministry. Urge them to give two hours per week to serve those unchurched communities. Make sure they receive the additional training they need. Then release them to go and do it.
Thank you, pastors, for all you have taught me. Keep God’s vision before you and those you serve. Keep pursuing it whole-heartedly. As you do so, I am confident that you will teach me much more.
Andy Smith is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of OMF Literature. Although religious as a child, he came to faith as a teenager. His conversion gave him a new purpose on life. Holder of an MA in Missions from Columbia International University in the USA, Andy has served as an OMF International missionary in the Philippines since 1989. He has planted churches, particularly in Albay province. He now trains and coaches church planters on how to reap a bountiful harvest for the Lord.
His first book published by OMF Lit is Meaningful Evangelism: Choosing Words that Connect. In this concise and insightful book, Andy Smith shows how the different sides of the Gospel could be used to connect with all kinds of people – people with different hopes, experiences and views of the world. And with this connection could come a more meaningful sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Meaningful Evangelism is available at all OMF Lit Bookshops, National Bookstore and Philippine Christian Bookstores nationwide for only P175.
Watch this video as Andy Smith talks about why this book is important for those who want to find the right words when talking about the Gospel of Salvation.