Family on Mission

6975Six years ago, nang magsimula ako bilang Leading Pastor ng Baliwag Bible Christian Church, ang isa sa mga nauna kong ginawa ay dalhin ang mga key leaders ng church sa isang three-day retreat. Bilang resulta noon, narinig natin na ang nais ng Diyos ay magkaisa tayo na pagtulung-tulungang tuparin ang isang misyon. Nakasaad ito sa ating Mission Statement: “We exist to build local and global GraceCommunities of committed followers of Christ for the glory of God.” Mahabang proseso ang pinagdaanan ko, ang pinagdaanan natin, para unti-unting maging malinaw kung ano ang ibig sabihin na ang church natin ay maging GraceCommunities. And I thank you for being patient sa prosesong ito. That you still stay here and are committed na makibahagi sa misyong ito kahit hindi pa ganoon kaklaro din sa inyo kung ano nga ba talaga itong GraceCommunities.

So my goal today is to bring more clarity kung ano ang ibig sabihin na ang church natin ay GraceCommunities. Ano ba iyon? Nasaan na tayo ngayon? Saan tayo papunta? Ano ang magiging bahagi ng bawat isa sa atin? If you are a leader, saan man ministry area ng church, this will help you focus sa kung anong direksyon ang patutunguhan n’yo sa ministry. Kung member ka ng church, maiintindihan mo kung bakit dito ka dinala ng Diyos at hindi sa ibang church. And I pray that you will be more committed as a result – at hindi lilipat ng ibang church, maliban na lang if the Lord leads you to. At kung hindi ka pa member, o may nag-imbita lang sa iyo na kaibigan ngayon, I want you to hear that it is Jesus who is inviting you to follow him, join his church, and be on mission with him. I pray that after this sermon, you will have a radically different way of looking at church and what it means to be involved in a church like this.

Ang nakalulungkot kasi, maraming Christians, ang pananaw nila tungkol sa kung ano ang church at kung ano ang ginagawa ng church ay nakatali sa tradisyon. Tradition can be a good thing. Pero kung ang tingin mo ang church at participation mo sa church ay kapag Sunday lang, during our worship gathering. Yan na ang nakasanayan mo, yan na ang tradisyon mo, pero dapat mong baguhin kung gusto mong maging faithful sa intensiyon ng Diyos sa iyo bilang member ng church. So we must reform what we are doing as a church, if we want to be faithful to the Word and his intention for us to be effective in fulfilling our mission where we are at this period of time in history. So we keep listening to him and then adjusting how we are doing things in this church.

Mahalaga ang ginagawa natin tuwing Linggo – we worship God, we listen to his Word, we gather together. But it is not enough. That is why we also gather in our smaller groups called GraceCommunities:

  • Concepcion (Tues 6pm), kasama pa ang mga taga-Sto. Cristo, led by Ptr. Robin
  • Virgen delas Flores (Wed 7pm), kasama pa ang mga taga-Poblacion at San Jose, led by Ptr. Jessie
  • Sabang (Wed 7pm), kasama pa ang mga taga-Tibag, Tambubong, at Ulingao, led by Ptr. Marlon
  • Bustos-Plaridel (Fri 6pm) led by Bro. Nelson and Bro. Boyet
  • Sta. Barbara (Sat 7pm), kasama pa ang mga taga-Makinabang at Tarcan, led by Ptr. Ronnie and Ptr. Henry
  • Barangca (new schedule beginning today, from Sun 9am to Sun 4pm, joining us every first Sunday), ako po muna ang mangunguna diyan.

Ang mga GraceCommunities ay hindi lang tungkol sa kung saan at kung kailan magkakasamang nagtitipon. Siyempre mahalaga iyon. Pero kahit saan at kahit kailan, sama-sama nating ipapamuhay ang buhay na nais ng Panginoong Jesus para sa atin at tulung-tulong tayong dalhin ang pangalan ni Jesus saanmang lugar nais niya. We believe that the best way for us to fulfill the Great Commission – “make disciples of all nations” is by organizing our church by GraceCommunities. We gather where we are. Then, we scatter where God leads us – para sa iba pang mga Christians at sa mga hindi pa nakakakilala kay Cristo.

Ganito ang sabi ni Francis Chan sa kanyang book on disciple-making na pinamagatang Multiply (pages 53-54, emphasis mine):

 Throughout the Bible, we see pictures of the global church (which includes all followers of Jesus in all locations) and the local church (which includes particular followers of Jesus in a particular location). Out of 114 times that the “church” is mentioned in the New Testament, at least ninety of them refer to specific local gatherings of believers who have banded together for fellowship and mission. God intends for every follower of Jesus to be a part of such a gathering under the servant leadership of pastors who shepherd the church for the glory of God.

Despite the clear priority that the Bible puts on believers being part of a local church, many followers of Christ try to live the Christian life apart from serious, personal commitment to a local church. The reasons are many. We are self-reliant and self-sufficient, and the kind of mutual interdependence and even submission and accountability to others that the Bible talks about frightens us. We are often indecisive, hopping from one church to another looking for the “perfect place” and the “perfect people.” Many of us have been hurt in the past by things that have happened to or around us in the church, and others of us simply don’t see the importance of being specifically connected to a local church.

But the Bible says the local church is important. God has entrusted local churches with godly leaders who teach us His Word and care for our souls (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:1–8; 1 Tim. 3:1–13; 5:17; Titus 1:5–9). God has united us together in local churches to keep one another from sinning and straying from Christ (Gal. 6:1–5; Matt. 18:15–20). God has commanded us to gather together in local assemblies where we preach God’s Word, celebrate the Lord’s Supper, baptize new believers, and pray for and encourage one another (Acts 2:42; Heb. 10:24–25). Then we scatter to care for believers and to share the gospel with unbelievers (Acts 2:43–47). Clearly, being a disciple and making disciples involves committing your life to a local church where you are joined together with other believers under biblical leadership to grow in the likeness of Christ and to express the love of Christ to the world around you.

Paul’s First Missionary Journey (Acts 13:47-52; 14:7, 21-28)

Para tayo maging faithful sa pagsunod sa Panginoong Jesus, mahalaga ang pakikibahagi sa church at sa misyong ibinigay ng Diyos sa atin. Malinaw itong makikita sa book of Acts, partikular na ang mga missionary journeys ni Paul. Sa Acts 13, makikita nating si Pablo ay naging bahagi ng church sa Antioch. Ipinadala siya kasama ni Barnabas ng church para ikalat ang salita ng Panginoon sa iba’t ibang lugar. Pumunta sila sa Salamis, Paphos, Attalia, Perga, at pagdating sa Antioch ng Pisidia, ipinangaral niya ang tungkol kay Cristo una sa mga Judio, tulad ng kanyang karaniwang ginagawa (Rom. 1:16-17). Pero di sila nakinig. They rejected the message. Tulad ng nararanasan din natin as we preach the gospel to many people. But we must go on with our mission.

Kaya simula noon, ang naging focus ng ministry ni Paul ay sa mga hindi Judio or Gentiles. Bakit? Sabi niya,”For so the Lord has commanded us, saying (from Isaiah 49), ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth‘” (Acts 13:47). Ito ang misyon ng Panginoong Jesus. Ito ang misyon ni Pablo. Ito ang misyon ng BBCC. Ito ang misyon ng bawat isang tagasunod ni Jesus.

At dahil misyon ito ng Diyos, tiyak na tatapusin niya. Verse 48, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Itinalaga na ng Diyos ang mga taong maniniwala sa mensaheng dala natin. We preach. God calls people to salvation. He is sovereign sa misyong ito. Yan ang confidence na meron tayo. Yes, he is sovereign. But we are also responsible to do our part of spreading the Word. Verse 49, “And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.” Hindi lang iyan si Pablo at Barnabas. Pati mga na-disciple nila, they were now making disciples. We organize our church into GraceCommunities for disciples to make disciples who make disciples, for our church to plant churches which plant churches.

Hindi madali iyan. Sina Pablo inaway, pinalayas ng mga tao sa Antioch of Pisidia (vv. 50-51). Pero kahit mahirap, masaya ang mga nakarinig ng Salita ng Diyos. Verse 52, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit“. Mula sa Antioch, punta sila ng Iconium, tapos sa Lystra, tapos sa Derbe. Kahit may mga oppositions, tuloy pa rin, “and there they continued to preach the gospel” (14:7).

At itong “gospel” hindi lang para sa mga non-believers. It is also for making disciples, yan ang goal, hindi lang to convert them, o makapag-organize ng events. Verses 21-22, “When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciplesencouraging them to continue in the faith…” Sa mga iglesiang naitayo nila, patuloy na pinalalakas nila at itinuturo ang salita ng Diyos. Pero hindi naman kaya yan nila Pablo lang. Iiwanan din niya ang mga churches na iyan na siya namang pangungunahan ng mga elders o pastors. Verse 23, “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” So we also train leaders na mangunguna sa mga GraceComm. Crucial yan. So we pray for God to raise up more leaders as we multiply.

Bumalik na sila Pablo sa Pisidia, tapos sa Pamphylia, at sa Perga at sa Attalia (vv. 24-25). Pag-uwi nila sa church nila sa Antioch, verses 26-28, “they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.” This is God’s work. And when we gather, we celebrate his work. When we scatter, we join in his work of making disciples and planting churches. Kaya nga sabi ni Francis Chan:

God has commanded us to gather together in local assemblies where we preach God’s Word, celebrate the Lord’s Supper, baptize new believers, and pray for and encourage one another (Acts 2:42; Heb. 10:24–25). Then we scatter to care for believers and to share the gospel with unbelievers (Acts 2:43–47). Clearly, being a disciple and making disciples involves committing your life to a local church where you are joined together with other believers under biblical leadership to grow in the likeness of Christ and to express the love of Christ to the world around you.

G-C-M: Three Foundational Elements

gracecommKaya meron tayong GraceCommunities. Ano ang isang GraceComm? It is God’s family being formed by God’s Story participating in God’s mission. Sa ganitong definition, nakapaloob ang tatlong foundational elements na di dapat mawala sa isang church of GraceComm. G-C-M. Gospel-Community-Mission.

Gospel. Kaya merong Grace na nakakabit sa Community. We exist by God’s grace. We are sustained by God’s grace. We persevere by God’s grace. At ang biyayang ito ng Diyos ang nakapaloob sa gospel (Acts 20:24). Ito ang sentro ng God’s Story na siyang dahilan kung paano tayo nabuo, na siya ring humuhubog sa atin ayon sa wangis ng Panginoong Jesus, na siya ring ikukuwento natin sa iba. We desire for our church to be gospel-centered. Na palaging binabalik-balikan ang mensahe na tinawag ni Paul na “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3) – na si Jesus ang fulfillment ng mga pangako ng Diyos, na sa kanya ang Diyos ay nagkatawang tao, namuhay na perpekto sa pagsunod sa Diyos para sa atin na sumuway sa kanya, namatay para akuin ang parusa ng kasalanan natin, nabuhay na muli at ngayon ay naghahari sa puso ng bawat isang nagtitiwala sa kanya, at balang araw ay babalik para maghari sa buong mundo. Yan ang pinag-uusapan natin. Yan ang ikinokonekta natin sa buhay natin. Hindi lang basta isang Bible study group ang GraceComm. Yes, we study the Bible. Pero hindi iyon ang goal. Ang goal ay tulung-tulong tayong mas makilala si Jesus, na mabago ang buhay natin sa pagsunod kay Jesus.

Community. Hindi lang ito isang social gathering. We are God’s family. Tayo’y mga anak ng Diyos at magkakapatid sa Panginoon. Tulung-tulong tayong inilalapit ang bawat isa sa relasyon sa Diyos. We love one another as family. Oo, magkakaiba ng background, ng personality, ng pag-uugali, ng level of maturity. But we learn to accept, understand, love, forgive, encourage, comfort each other. Hindi madali. Messy, masalimuot, but we believe na as we involve ourselves sa GraceComm as one family, doon talaga natin mararanasan ang biyaya ng Diyos, how the grace of God transforms self-centered sinners to become loving and serving and sacrificial. In other words, to be Christ-like in relationship to God and to one another. So, hindi lang tayo nagkikita kapag may gathering. We are intentional in involving our lives with others, sa ordinaryong araw-araw na pamumuhay. Kasi nga, we are family.

Mission. Naranasan natin ang biyayang ito, at nag-uumapaw ito sa buhay natin patungo sa ibang tao. We are blessed to be a blessing. We participate in God’s mission. Dahil pamilya tayo, tulung-tulong tayo dito. Lahat may gampanin. Oo tutulong tayo sa ibang tao, pero ang goal natin ay hindi lang para maging social activist o involved sa society natin, our mission is to share God’s Story to as many people as possible. Kung saan tayo dadalhin ng Diyos. Ang isang GraceComm ay missional church, defined by Ed Stetzer (Planting Missional Churches, pp. 19-20) as: “…doing mission right where you are…A missional church is on mission…being intentional and deliberate about reaching others…focused on God’s mission…being aware of what God is doing in the culture and joining him in his work. A missional church is willing and eager to engage the culture with the truths of the gospel.”

Multiplication. In line with that, our goal is to multiply our GraceComm, Lord willing, into two every 12 months. Karaniwang mangyayari ito sa konteksto kung nasaan tayo ngayon. Local GraceCommunities. I believe na nacompose ng Diyos ang church natin na magkakahiwalay ng lugar for this reason. Hindi tayo tinawag ng Diyos para maging megachurch, kundi ang approach ay multi-church. Ito ang proseso ng Diyos na ginawa sa akin as I lead this church. I now believe that we can best give glory to God by spreading his glory, not gathering a lot of people in one place. Ikalat natin ang karangalan ng Diyos sa iba’t ibang dako.

Sa pagtutulungan ng mga existing na GraceComms, we pray na this year or next year masimulang mabuo at maitatag ang GraceComm sa Sto. Cristo, San Jose at Poblacion, Tibag, Tarcan, Makinabang, Milflora, Tangos, Tilapayong. Sa Baliwag pa lang iyan. Ang Bustos-Plaridel, makapagsimula ng GC sa Poblacion, San Pedro at Tibagan na eventually ay maging isang congregation na GraceCommunities of Bustos. Ganoon din sa bayan ng Plaridel, San Rafael, San Ildefonso, San Miguel, San Luis, Candaba, at maging sa Manila area. Posible rin naman na hindi isang locality. Pwede siguro sa isang marketplace o company o kung saan ka dadalhin ng Panginoon. Hindi lang local GraceComms, but also global as we support missionaries to the unreached and as we prepare to send some of you to go to these peoples.
Family on Mission

Participation

I pray that you will begin to embrace this vision and see your part in making this a reality. Na hindi mo na lang pinapanood na nangyayari ito. Kundi you are participating, you are committing yourself, you are passionate to make this happen. Tulad ng passion ni Paul, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). 

  • Kung isa ka na sa mga leaders o inihahanda na sa leadership, tulung-tulong tayong dalhin ang ating GraceComm sa ganitong direction.
  • Kung part ka na ng isang GraceComm, wag mong pababayaan ang pagtitipon n’yo. Magmeet kayo isang araw to plan and pray and clarify kung ano ang specific na misyon na ibinigay ng Diyos sa inyo. Make a covenant together.
  • Kung member ka na ng church o regular ka nang attender, pero wala ka pang GraceComm, hanap ka ng pwede mong salihan. Maaaring permanently. O sa iba temporarily kasi gusto ng Diyos sa lugar mo makapagsimula din ng GraceComm. Makipag-usap ka sa akin at sa iba pang leaders kung paano gagawin. Begin committing to participate as a covenant member. Hindi lang Sunday attender.
  • At kung hanggang ngayon, di mo pa matatawag ang sarili mo na Christian o Christ-follower, I appeal to you. Believe in the gospel of Jesus. Hayaan mong si Jesus ang bumago sa buhay mo. Simula ngayon, commit your life to his lordship, to be on mission with him.

Mission Impossible?

Mukhang imposibleng mangyari sa isang small or medium-size na church na katulad natin? Kailangan siguro ng maraming pera? O mas mahusay na methodology? O kumuha ng marami pang graduates sa Bible school at seminary? Naniniwala ako, it’s my deep-seated conviction, na lahat ng kailangan natin para matupad ang pangarap na ito ay nasa atin na. Kaya nga GraceComm, nasa atin na ang grace o biyayang kailangan natin para matupad ang lahat ng ito. We already have…

  • The Servants of God. Kayo yun. Tayong lahat yan. Leaders and members and those in training for leadership, tulung-tulong tayong lahat na ilalaan ang buhay natin para sa misyong ito. We have all the people we need to make this dream a reality. We already have the servants of God, ang tanong na lang, “Are you going to serve?”
  • The Story of God. We have the Word of God. The gospel. Ito ang kapangyarihan ng Diyos na babago sa buhay ng mga tao. Perfect na iyan. Hindi na kailangang i-improve o baguhin. We already have the Story of God, ang tanong na lang, “Are you going to tell this Story to others?”
  • The Spirit of God. The Spirit is the power we need (Acts 1:8). Nasa atin na iyan. Bagong believer ka man o matagal na. We all have the same power to do what God has called us to do. Ang tanong na lang, “Are you going to depend on him and pray more of his work, o sa sarili ka titingin?”
  • The Son of God. Jesus! We build GraceCommunities. Pero siya ang Ultimate Builder (Matt. 16:18). He will finish the job. At along the way, makakaexperience tayo ng setbacks, persecutions, sufferings, failures. At posible na ang ilan sa napag-usapan nating future na GraceComm ay hindi maging reality. But we know, that as long as we have Jesus, he is enough for us. He is everything for us. Kaya nga sabi niya pagkatapos ng Great Commission, “I am with you always to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

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