This October, I visited the Philippines for the first time. While I was only there for two weeks, I visited churches and met many local leaders from River Rock Church Philippines.
I opened my eyes to learn whatever God wanted to teach me. I journaled every morning while there, and I’ve now had the opportunity to process it since I’ve been home.
There are so many great takeaways from the trip! I made new friends and will keep the memories for a lifetime. Here are my top five lessons learned from the church in the Philippines.
1. Desperate prayer.
One important thing to know about my trip to the Philippines is that we ran a youth camp on the coast of Panay during the same time that Typhoon Paeng hit. This severe tropical storm caused $236.5 million of damage and 162 reported fatalities. Somehow we kept the camp going despite flooding, a power outage, and even when the water lines went down.
I saw firsthand how Filipino Christians prayed as a first response, not a last resort. Throughout the worst parts of the storm, youth students and leaders gathered together for prayer and worship. God heard their prayers and moved the Typhoon away from our island. It was a decisive moment when the electricity came on while we were singing about the power of God.
And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times. - 1 Kings 18:42-43
2. Passion (not performance) in worship.
In America, we can often treat worship as a performance. In the Philippines, I saw so much passion in worship. There weren’t always lyrics on the screen. They didn’t have many lights or excellent sound equipment. But people worshipped with all they had.
Everyone, not just the worship leader, was clapping and shouting. One of my favorite phrases I heard was, “Give God your hands!” The worship leader would say this to invite people to clap for God. I love the idea of giving God everything we’ve got in worship.
Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! - Psalm 96:1-3
3. Personal buy-in to the mission.
One thing that impressed me about the local church leaders was their commitment to the work of ministry. Almost every church leader I met was bi-vocational. Some even used their own funds to purchase rice for those in need. These leaders are not in ministry to get anything out of it, but they are pouring their lives out for the sake of God’s kingdom.
You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” - Acts 20:34-35
4. Contentment in all situations.
One thing that struck me was how unfazed many people were about the Typhoon. These people face similar struggles year after year. I couldn’t help but think about how we complain about any inconvenience we experience in America.
Instead of complaining about the situation, the church leaders developed a plan to help distribute a couple of thousand dollars worth of relief supplies to families displaced by the Typhoon.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. - Philippians 4:11-12
5. Empowering ministry workers.
The network of churches I visited has planted around 35 churches in the last decade. They are multiplying smaller local churches instead of growing one large congregation. If you think about it, this model has a ton of growth potential. It’s much quicker to replicate a simple church of 20 (with or without a building) than to replicate a complex church of 200.
I understand that changing your church’s ministry strategy may not make sense. But the lesson that we can learn is to empower more ministry workers. Many of these churches are led by younger leaders who aren’t fully trained yet. These young pastors usually have a more experienced pastor who oversees them and teaches them on the job. If we want to see a greater harvest, we must learn to empower more workers.
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” - Matthew 10:37-38
What lessons have you learned from cross-cultural ministry? Let me know in the comments below!
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