No Serious Opposition
For a number of years, the Seventh-day Adventist church in the Philippines faced no serious opposition from its members. Although, independent groups, or “offshoots” as they were branded, arose, the structure was not jolted from its seat of complacency. But when the historic Seventh-day Adventist homechurch movement came into being, varied reactions, positive and otherwise, arrested the minds of the leaders and members of the structure. Some were elated that finally a group of people, who were not afraid to stand up against the unscrupulous and abusive church leaders, had emerged. Some thought that this movement would help foster changes in the church, while others dismissed it as just another “off-shoot.”
The Birth Of The Movement
How did this movement come into existence? Let me review our history for you. On November 20–24, 1991, a seminar on worship and revival was conducted in Manila by a certain evangelist, composer, author and church musician from Hong Kong. The Lord used this humble messenger. We had never seen or heard such powerful Spirit of Prophecy quotations and documentation before. His references from the writings of Mrs. White were totally unfamiliar to us. Although we had been in the church for many years, these books by Mrs. White were nowhere to be found. Churches have bookshelves, but the shelves now contain flashy trophies from sports competitions. We have been told, by the old brethren, that those shelves were originally filled with Spirit of Prophecy books, but, they were taken away to make room for the trophies! What a disgrace to the testimony of the Spirit!
Laymen At Work
The impact of the seminar on worship and revival was one of spiritual renewal. We were provided with materials to reecho the message, and this we have done. The message was nothing but the good old Adventist message of the sanctuary doctrine, righteousness by faith, health reform, the Three Angel’s Message, and Sabbath reform. There was a season of revival and reformation in the churches and laymen were engaged in these activities. The Filipino evangelist from Hong Kong, who started the revival, was warned by the conference to stop his activities. Fearing to lose his job, (he worked in the conference) he kept quiet and went home. But there were laymen who continued giving the message and who would not sell out for a mess of pottage. Many souls were revived and a hungering for the Spirit of Prophecy books was felt.
As it was for the reformers of old, the established church would not allow any movement to stand in its way. The ministers urged the brethren not to listen to these “unlearned revivalists.” They said, “We alone have the authority to have revival meetings. Who are these preachers of new doctrines? They are ignorant, deceived and fanatical. They adhere too much to the counsels and testimonies of Ellen White!” With such weapons, the advocates of truth have been attacked. What sins have been done? We have been taught in our Sabbath Schools, year after year, to keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus, and now that we are presenting these plain and direct teachings of God’s Word, they want us to shut our mouths. What a mockery of our religion!
The leadership was so determined to uproot the growing reformation that they issued a circular, warning the churches not to allow any revival meetings to be conducted by laymen on the church premises. Despite the circular, other churches managed to conduct their meetings during the night, thinking confidently that there would be no interference from their ministers. Since most of the ministers pastor ten to fifteen churches, they only visit each congregation every one or two months. Think of how neglected these churches are. They are left to starve to death, spiritually. Hence, this eagerness to attend revival meetings. These meetings were allowed to thrive for only a couple of nights. The “Judases” went immediately to summon the pastor and in the midst of the revival, the pastor would show up and violently interfere. The reactions of the ministers were varied when they discovered that revival meetings were being conducted in their local church. Some drove the speaker away; others had the electric lights in the church put out. I knew a layman who was forcibly carried down from the pulpit, by the order of the pastor, because he was found conducting revival meetings.
In my local church, our pastor was less combative. When he found that we were having a revival meeting, he showed up and asked us to stop. But due to the insistence of the brethren he gave way. The brethren urged him to listen, and he politely accepted. He listened intently, perhaps watching to find some points of error so that he could have vestige to stop the meeting. He could find no theological errors though, because it was just good old-fashioned Adventism.
The laymen revivalists did not teach instantaneous sanctification, nor did they downgrade obedience to God’s law and call that righteousness. There was no fanaticism, no time setting, no strange new beliefs; it was just the pure Adventist faith. After a series of nightly meetings, our pastor had seen nothing wrong. The brethren asked him why the leadership were so bent on forbidding such meetings. His reply was: “You know we are under instruction from the Conference.” Poor minister. He has not seen the great danger that is upon him.
The following quotations are full of warning: “But beware of rejecting that which is truth. The great danger with our people has been that of depending upon men and making flesh their arm. Those who have not been in the habit of searching the Bible for themselves, or weighing evidence, have confidence in the leading men and accept the decisions they make; and thus many will reject the very messages God sends to His people, if these leading brethren do not accept them.” Testimonies to Ministers, 106.
“God designs that men shall not decide from impulse, but from weight of evidence, carefully comparing scripture with scripture. Had the Jews laid by their prejudice and compared written prophecy with the facts characterizing the life of Jesus, they would have perceived a beautiful harmony between the prophecies and their fulfillment in the life and ministry of the lowly Galilean. Many are deceived today in the same way as were the Jews. Religious teachers read the Bible in the light of their own understanding and traditions; and the people do not search the Scriptures for themselves, and judge for themselves as to what is truth; but they yield up their judgment, and commit their souls to their leaders.” The Desire of Ages, 458, 459.
The revival and reformation did not, as the leadership supposed, end at these threats. Houses were thrown open and invitations to labor in different houses and places poured in. The leading brethren, who started the revival and reformation, were not trying to separate from the established church or start a new one, they were just trying to help people draw closer to Jesus.
Unfortunately, they were disfellowshipped, and not long after them, a series of disfellowshipping followed in the local churches. We knew well that this was Satan’s effort, calculated to weaken us, destroy our courage and prevent reformation. With deep sorrow, many tears, and much pain, we bore such burdens. What was our sin? Why was the leadership so upset? They invented a special, new loyalty question and demanded this to us: “Are you willing to submit to duly constituted church authority?” That was the only question they asked, because nothing could be found wrong with what was being preached at the revival meetings.
The following quotations had a telling influence in our experience: “Jesus departed from Jerusalem, from the priests, the temple, the religious leaders, the people who had been instructed in the law, and turned to another class to proclaim His message, and to gather out those who should carry the gospel to all nations.
“As the light and life of men was rejected by the ecclesiastical authorities in the days of Christ, so it has been rejected in every succeeding generation. Again and again the history of Christ’s withdrawal from Judea has been repeated. When the Reformers preached the word of God, they had no thought of separating themselves from the established church; but the religious leaders would not tolerate the light, and those that bore it were forced to seek another class, who were longing for the truth. In our day few of the professed followers of the Reformers are actuated by their spirit. Few are listening for the voice of God, and ready to accept truth in whatever guise it may be presented. Often those who follow in the steps of the Reformers are forced to turn away from the churches they love, in order to declare the plain teaching of the word of God. And many times those who are seeking for light are by the same teaching obliged to leave the church of their fathers, that they may render obedience.” The Desire of Ages, 232.
“After a long and severe conflict, the faithful few decided to dissolve all union with the apostate church if she still refused to free herself from falsehood and idolatry. They saw that separation was an absolute necessity if they would obey the word of God.” Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 46.
Establishment Of An Church Organization
On September 8, 1996, we organized ourselves, knowing that “system and order are manifest in all the works of God throughout the universe. Order is the law of heaven, and it should be the law of God’s people on the earth.” And just like the experience of the pioneers when they Organized, we too had a hard struggle in establishing organization. “Notwithstanding that the Lord gave testimony after testimony upon this point, the opposition was strong, and it had to be met again and again.” Testimonies to Ministers, 26. With the establishment of organization, we lost some of our brethren. They feared that if we organized we would become like Babylon, but we knew that this is God’s leading. Today we are moving under the orders of the Captain of our salvation.
Moving Forward Despite Financial Depression
The system of organization has proved a grand success. Despite the financial depression, we are pressing forward with the work. Although it has brought many perplexities upon those who bear responsibilities, yet by the grace of God, the cause has all this time made rapid advancement, and all its various fields have had encouraging growth.
Our work here has greatly enlarged, since we have organized, making it necessary to employ more workers. Our workers are in good spirits and are working aggressively in their respective fields. There was an unusually bountiful harvest, in nearly all parts of their territory, making it an opportune time to bring the message of present truth to SDAs and non-SDAs alike. We know Satan is not idle, but we perceive that God listens to the cries of His servants. He gives grace and courage to maintain the truth against the rulers of darkness in this world. Here in the Philippines we are striving to build upon Christ as our sure foundation, and with Him, nothing shall be able to prevail against His work.