November 2008 Update: 51 house churches have been planted in less than 5 months
By Missionary/Pastor Carl Henderson in the Philippines. Carl trained with The Elijah Challenge in 2006. In addition to being a pastor, Carl also serves as Elijah Challenge Coordinator for the Philippines.
Since I took over as Senior Pastor at Baguio International Church (BIC), 9 months ago, we have been working hard to convert this into a “missional church.” Not a church that merely sends missionaries, but a church where everyone is a trained and experienced evangelists and where we all live a life for God’s mission (Which is to save the lost and extend the Kingdom of God.). We have been training our many new members in evangelism with The Elijah Challenge (TEC) and the Way of the Master (WOTM), in Obedience-Based Discipleship, and in Church Planting. Our goal for church planting is to have a church within close walking distance of every person in this community. It is our hope that this will turn into a Church Planting Movement. We do this by forming SEED Churches (SEED = SeekersEmpowered for Evangelism and Discipleship Churches). These small Seed Church/house church fellowships of eight (8) to twenty-five (25) people meet together and function as a simple New Testament church (praying, singing, studying, and discipling each other.)
This combines so well and naturally with TEC that I had to share my views with you about our new method of evangelism, although it is actually the old, original way Jesus and the Apostles did evangelism. You know that last year we trained 400 evangelists in TEC and WOTM, and conducted 15 crusades with many people healed (34 during just one crusade) and many turning to Christ in repentance. Many of these newly trained evangelists are still at work all over the Philippines. However, I am slowly coming to the realization that although God showed up powerfully all through last year, we were actually using extrabiblical methodology instead of New Testament methodology.
Let me explain what we have been experiencing and doing and then let me show you its New Testament foundations. We have been doing a mission outreach to a nearby community, Naguillian (1 hour away) with our newly trained evangelists who have a lot of local experience doing evangelism. These new evangelists, four to six at a time, from Baguio City are now functioning as missionaries for four days each week in Naguillian. In the first five weeks, we planted 10 churches. Five in Naguillian and five here in Baguio.
Five of these churches were planted by a 21-year-old female missionary-evangelist on our team. She started with here landlord who was miraculously healed of severe back pain using the TEC. The landlord introduced us to four more groups of people. They became Seed Churches when asthma, a severe three-day headache, high fevers, and arthritic knee pain were healed in each separate group. One or two miracles turned the groups of friends and relatives (whole households) into Seed Churches.
Two of our 19-year-old missionary girls from BIC prayed for and exercised their authority (using TEC) for two people in Naguillian who were sick and could not walk, both were healed. The girls said “Even we were surprised by how fast and they were completely healed.” The next day they prayed with authority for rain, using TEC. They wanted to help an old widow who was planting rice in dry rice fields and the rain fell in a tremendous and miraculous way! These two girls were hugging each other and dancing in circles when the rain fell in answer to their prayers. They were shouting praises to God and rejoicing! The rest of the team did not know why they were so excited. Finally they told the team they had commanded the rain to come on a cloudless day and two hours later the downpour began. The rejoicing girls told them that God healed in Jesus’ name and they were confident he would bring rain, which he did.
Others have been healed of the deadly Dengue Fever. One woman had recently recovered from Dengue Fever but the extreme body temperature had created an infection in her left eye, and busted the blood vessels in her eye. When our team took authority over the swollen and painful eye, it was healed, but the redness remained. They took authority over the redness and her eye turned white again. Here family got a mirror to show her that it was clear. She then told our team that her throat was sore and infected from the Dengue Fever secondary infections. They took authority over her sore throat and it was instantly healed. The team even had her drink water which was very painful for her to do before and she gulped down glass after glass of water now that she could finally drink without pain. Needless to say another Seed Church was born in that household with many relatives and neighbors now attending (a whole household).
People with sickness and those too weak to walk are healed, many fevers have been healed with an instant return to full strength and energy levels, back pain, knee, hip pain healed, people who suffered from stomach pain for over a year were healed instantly, four-day-old colds and fevers, breathing problems and many other illnesses have been healed. Every healing leads to a new Seed Church and sometimes to a whole household coming to Christ. One Seed Church had nine people healed in a single afternoon. This always leads to a cluster of seekers or new believers (a household).
Most of our evangelists are Filipinos trained in a few months by attending Sunday school classes at Baguio International Church (BIC), where they have learned the skills they need to be a missionary. They are now functioning as missionaries and church planters in house to house outreaches. God chooses the weak things to confound the wise!
We have 38 Seed Churches (26 in Naguillian and 12 in Baguio) started now. Most have about eight (8) to twelve (12) people some have twenty (20) or more people present (conservatively there are over 250 new believers and seekers after God). Many are experiencing changed lives by reading, discussing and obeying the scriptures. We have baptized people almost every week now for the last eight weeks. Many of the new disciples are taken to do evangelism immediately. Some have done evangelism on two weekends in a row and have only been with our SEED Churches (small/simple/home fellowships) for three weeks. Our new converts are already starting new Seed Churches, even while they are still new believers themselves.
By lowering the bar on what it takes to be a church (assembling together in homes) and raising the bar on what it takes to be a Disciple of Christ (being obedient to Christ commands, a life of repentance, and seeking the lost). We are seeing great progress almost immediately and tremendous progress in only eleven weeks. Of course we have used the TEC with great effect and this brings many people to the Seed Churches and excites our new converts to take it to others. By avoiding the crusade atmosphere and crusade events, I think we are seeing an even more exciting and long lasting effect (fruit that remains), converts who convert others and start more Seed Churches using TEC to heal the sick.
Many people are coming to Christ! Thirty-eight (38) new Seed Churches in eleven weeks. We have baptized 58 people who have remained faithful, we are discipling many more, and we are now training seven local leaders to replace us and plant even more churches. It is a very exciting time, we believe that TEC and rediscovering the New Testament model of “house church and household evangelism”, is how we have been able to multiply believers instead of just adding one or two.
Now that you see the results, let me explain how God is empowering us to multiply new believers. From Genesis through Acts, God’s people were commanded to multiply, and take dominion in the earth. With Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob this meant physical descendants. In the New Testament, this is a “type and shadow” of Jesus’ command to us to “go and make disciples of all nations…and teaching them to obey” (Matthew 28:19,20). Notice that the original command was to multiply—not to add. Much if not most of our evangelistic efforts merely add people to the church. However, God’s original plan and the New Testament example was to add people to the church by multiplying! Using the New Testament as our model we have found a way to multiply the number of people coming into the Kingdom of God.
(1) First, the “Person of Peace.” As we all know, Jesus told the disciples to heal the sick, cast out demons and preach the Kingdom of God. All of us who have been trained in TEC understand this but I think we skip over the rest of the passage. The next thing Jesus did in this passage was to explain the method to do this by finding a “Person of Peace” as described in Luke 10:5-9.
Here Jesus says, “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. 8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ The person of peace or “worthy person” is also alluded to in the parallel passages found in Luke 9:1-6, Mark 6:10, “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave.” (Matthew 10:11)
Jesus said the key to powerful evangelism was to find a “person of peace” or “worthy person” and work from his house and let him introduce you into the community. We have many examples of this happening in Jesus ministry. The Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar, was a person of peace. She brought the whole city to hear Jesus and to be converted by Him (John 4).
Levi the tax collector was a man of peace. Mark 2:14-15 tells how as soon as he followed Jesus he brought his sinner friends together to meet Jesus.
Mark 2:14 “As he (Jesus) walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. 15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many… As soon as Levi the “man of peace” was converted he brought his friends to Jesus to be converted.
In another example of Jesus finding a man of peace, was Zacchaeus the tax collector. Jesus recognizes him as a man of peace and stays with him. He holds a banquet and many were there who heard Jesus and Zacchaeus speak. When this sinful man is converted the whole community hears the story.
Luke 19:5 Jesus said Zacchaeus, “I must stay at your house today.” …7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.'” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” When Jesus came to seek and save the lost in Jericho he was looking for a man of peace.
(2) Secondly, Household Conversions. The New Testament is full of examples of whole households being converted. The New Testament records some individual evangelism, and open-air street preaching, but it also provides many examples of households coming to faith.
In Acts 10:24, Cornelius the Centurion is converted with his whole household. “Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.” While Peter is speaking to them the Holy Spirit falls and immediately he commands them all to be baptized. “So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.” (verse 48)
Acts 16 records the conversion of Lydia who becomes a “Person of Peace” after her whole household is converted in verses 14-15:
A woman named Lydia… The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
Later in Acts 16, the Philippian jailer’s whole household is converted in verses 31-34:
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night,,, he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God–he and his whole family.
The conversion of the household of Crispus the Synagogue ruler is also recorded in Acts:
Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized. Acts 18:8.
The “person of peace” and the conversion of “whole households” (or groups) has been instrumental in our recent expansion and the growth of our church and ministry. Let me give you a couple of other examples. One of the elders in our church has a crew of laborers working for him. Many are related, and the others are like a family all living together at the same job site and sharing a hut together. He has evangelized them and in less than three months all ten (10) of them have been baptized and saved.
We evangelized a 19-year-old college student in Burnham Park. She came to church and brought four of her friends all from the same province that she comes from. They were all evangelized and were born again. In less than eight (8) weeks, they were doing evangelism with us; some were doing evangelism even before they were converted. Since then this same girl has brought seven other students with her to church. She and her newly converted friends still continue to bring other students to the Seed Church they started in their college.
We heard about an eleven-month-old child with cancer. We went to visit the family in the hospital. To our surprise the child was not healed with TEC, but the family was so impressed with our commitment to their son in the hospital and our many visits to the hospital that the whole family of five, including two mothers-in-law, were been baptized at our church. They are now involved in ministry to other children and families with cancer at the hospital, even while their son continues to battle the disease. They have a Seed Church that meets in their home and all of this happened in a little more than three weeks.
Another elderly woman asked me to speak to over twenty of her friends. They had worked for her over the years, they are from the same mountain tribe and village. The following week she brought them to church. Many are related and they are all committed to being baptized next Sunday at our church. This group (household) are all interrelated friends and families from the same Igorot tribe.
In every case it was a group (a household) that had a common identity, and a “person of peace” was used to bring the whole group to the Lord. Over thirty people are coming to our church now because three “people of peace” unlocked the door to their eternal future by reaching out and embracing a group with a common identity (household) and brought them into the Kingdom of God. In this manner we are multiplying believers, not merely adding them.
To see an amazing video of some of these people being baptized, on YouTube see “Seed Church Baptism” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q09uJdcM7kg.
The biblical New Testament “way” of following Jesus bears more fruit (meaning producing obedient disciples) than all the salesmanship, and church growth strategies combined. We at TEC have learned to use our biblical authority and the power of Jesus name to heal the sick, and now let the healing lead whole “households” to Christ. When you do personal evangelism remember you are on a quest to find a “person of peace” who will unlock a whole group of friends and family (a household) from the clutches of sin and death. God bless you!
Pastor Carl Henderson
Missionary to the Philippines