A few days back, I was carrying a conversation with my friends and acquaintances from IVCF (Intervarsity Christian Fellowship), Philippines, on a Facebook page, regarding the efforts to reach out post-modernist Filipino students for Jesus. The discussion will speak for itself. (See below.) Please read on and discover with me the ways we, Christians, are witnessing to post-modern peoples of the world.
The ensuing discussion is very diverse mainly because of the diversity of the participants. There are pastors, students, IVCF staff workers and former staff workers, a retiree, one missionary, and one mission executive. All of us share the same common experience--our passion to serve God through IVCF. I highly respect all these persons. Through their responses and reflections, I have learned more about post-modernity here in Asia.
(It is a bit long but I think it is worth your time. I know it was for me.) I edited some parts to protect the privacy of the people, to give clarity to the discussion when people started writing in Tagalog (Filipinos' major language), and to delete unrelated postings. Some of the Filipino expressions could not be translated into English. I just left them as they are hoping that my readers will understand the greater context and big picture of the exchange. Have fun!
(WALL POST. By: Me) Are we still being relevant to our students in the campuses of our universities and colleges in the Philippines? Are we missing the mark and not addressing the issues that "post-modernist" Filipino youth are experiencing? What say you . . .
(Cito) I don't really know, David. But I'm tempted to say that Filipino students are influenced by Western, especially, US post modern students because of social networking and the US media. They are experiencing what I call "church fatigue" where you are merely entertained and get your fix from one person on the pulpit. They are more relational and want to express themselves with no holds barred. They want to be independent from their parent’s beliefs and think that being an agnostic or atheist is cool and trendy. In other words, they have no convictions. But there is hope. IVCF could really seize the day if they improve their small group system and interactive Bible studies that are really open to honest discussion. We are trained that way. This year I have almost a hundred student contacts from all over the world coming to my house off an on every Friday night. I say of and on because only 30-40 of them come at the same time. They will not come to church with me but they will come to my house and eat my home cooked meal. That's because they are relational. They listen to my 5-10 minute spill from scripture because they know they loved and cared for. So, in my opinion, there is hope and we can still be relevant if we put relationships first over theology.
(Me) Thank you, Cito. To make my question more specific, are we saying then, that our IVCF gatherings now are focused on entertainment or are they offering relationships to everyone who come? (Maybe, a better question: "Should we wait for them to come or should we start going to where the students are?")
(Cito) I should say, go to where the students are instead of wait for them to come. Because my house is close to the campus, and because I'm older, I am not embarrassed to invite them to my home for dinner. I just started with two students and they invited their friends and so on till we reach almost a hundred in less than a year. Do you think the students will refuse (if the food is free) kung libre and kainan? Believe me if you have a free dinner every Saturday night, they come to your dinner instead of the beer garden. And because it is your home or your place, you are free to share the Gospel in a non threatening way. (Try it and you will see how your place will get full of people when there is good and free food.) Subukan nyo kung hindi pupunuin ang place pag may libring masarap na pagkain. I will show you pictures in this site later.
(Elvin) The cultural and academic mind set of the Filipino cannot be generalized it depends from ones home background and it differs from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. We need to learn their ''context''. Of course let us fish where the fish are.
(Cito) That's true Elvin. I'm not too familiar with Filipino students. I'm assuming too much that they are as under siege from the media, Hollywood and even their professors. Only 15% of professors here (USA) are believers and often times their hands are tied.
(Alma) If IVCF is not relevant, why do we still have a lot of students in cell groups? They just revived the University Belt area, opened a new IVCF site at Recto. I think the need is still the same from my time till now. Our IV staff comes to us in the campus, they take their time to get to know us individually, isn't this the best approach so far? In the big classroom the students can get lost but not in the cell group. Why do you think we love our staff so much?
(Alma) Though students keep up with "modern" things, I know I have a son. The need for a purpose and salvation is more dire than ever. They are inundated of all the material things, but the need for God and a purpose in life can not be denied.
(Zans) I think all you have mentioned are right, just to add more, building relationships with the people/students we are reaching out is very vital, its not enough to know them by their first name, what I mean is that, we have to be involved with their lives, we have to be a friend for them, a brother, a sister or even a parent for them, because in this way we can assure them that we care about them just as Christ cares about them. We have to let them feel that we are just like them, that we get hurt, get frustrated and we get tired sometimes, and amidst of these we can stay joyful and contented because we have Jesus in us. I believe building relationships with those (who) are lost is the first of our priority to have an impact to ones life, in this way they would see our actions and our lifestyle, and if they will be blessed with our lives, sharing the gospel would just be as easy as eating rice...thanks.
(Me) The need for God will always be the same. The way this is expressed, however, changes. Loving them in a participatory way (getting involved in their lives) is laudable. But love follows cultural grids. Granted there are different contexts in the Philippines, there are still common themes that we can work on. (Otherwise, a Cebuano catholic can never find any connection with a Tagalog animist from Laguna). So, if there are success stories reported in the University Belt area, why is this not happening in other areas? Why is it relevant here and not there?
(Me) Maybe, the question should be: Is there such a thing as a "post-modernist Filipino?"
(Ferdinand) It is our business to know and be well versed in the language, thinking and philosophy of anyone we are called to share the Gospel with. And then, to learn to see and act on things (in) God's ways. To be all things to all people and yet being very careful not to preach with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Holy Spirit's power. Sadly, today's penchant for relevance, noble as it is, has resulted in the lowest level of gospel sharing so that we produce believers who go to church to entertain or be entertained and whose lives are no different from that of unbelievers. Thankfully and by God's grace, this is not how we do it in IVCF.
(Me) Relevance and entertainment are two different animals. Those who are claiming to be relevant because they are entertaining . . . they are not telling the truth.
(Zans) Two things to do and these we share to the IVCF students, obey God in our lives and teach others to do the same.
(Alma) Kuya Ferdi and Zans, way to go! Thank you for all the work, modernism or not God is still relevant!
(Arthur) If IVCF is a parachurch and not a church, I would strongly suggest that camps and retreats by IVCF should not extend up to Sunday so that IVCF members who are expected to be church member as well should worship in their respective churches and not in camps as i experience before. We should value our worship in our churches more than anything else. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy"
(Ferdinand) Hi, Arthur! I agree with you completely. We do have a tendency to substitute IVCF involvement for church involvement. Kaya i-ibabalik natin yung 7 point pledge including - An IVCF'er must be an ACTIVE member of a local church.
(Elvin) By the way (brethren) mga kapatid, a church is not confined in a building nor defined by denominational practices. I had been a pastor too but allow the members , students to freely worship where ever they are temporarily situated.
(Arthur) As long as it is church, Elvin. I agree with you, but do you consider camps as church?
(Elvin) Ha! Ha! Church are people, Arthur, indwelt by the Holy Spirit (and) its not an organization. When your local church goes to a place during camps say in Baguio for a week they don’t cease to be the church even if they don’t have a worship service in their usual place in the city of Manila for instance.
(Alma) The camp is not permanent. Just like the Kawayan Camps, they are spiritual boot camps.
(Orpha) Arthur, a church is a body of believers where Christ is the head. These body of believers can also be seen in places like camps.
(Me) Modernist says: "Church is the building where people meet every Sunday." Post-modernist says: "Church is where people gather where ever to seek God as a community."
(Me) Our biggest problem in IVCF occurs when we come with our Modernist mindset to the students who are Post-Modernist. So, are the Filipino students of today post-modernist?
(Ferdinand) Again we refrain from making encompassing generalizations that may prove untrue to a particular student/hearer's situation. What is certain is that they and we are subjected to this, the postmodern "worldview", where objectivity is an illusion, authority is challenged, motives are suspected, and logical incoherence is accepted and so without the certainties of modernism, this worldview results in a generally pessimistic, disillusioned outlook. The more important questions are - to what degree have we and our students been influenced by it and how are we facing its challenges to our Christian faith.
(Me) So, Ferdinand, are you saying that the more important matters for IVCF is to be "defensive," finding out how Post-modernism is influencing us, rather than being "offensive," discovering new ways our Christian faith can become relevant to Post-modernist Filipinos?
(Ferdinand) Read my second question. :)
(Me) When we start with the assumption that everything about Post-modernity is indifferent to the Christian gospel (e.g., objectivity is an illusion, authority is challenged, motives are suspected, and logical incoherence), then we cease to be relevant to those who belong to Post-modernist culture. What about the strong value for community among post-modernist? Creativity? It is no wonder that most post-modernist people are artist. When you come with the stance of modernism, you alienate post-modernist people because logic and order (as opposed to creativity) and individuality and pursuit of personal ethics (as opposed to life in community) are all basic tenets of Modernity. So, my question to you: "How are we facing the challenges Post-modernity has in relation to the Christian faith?"
(Reynaldo) (May I join your discussion, Brothers.) Pwede seguro akong makasabat mga Kapatid: I think how contemporary life is influencing people and how we face this with relevant responses are both important. Not without the other. But the first before the other! It is true that trying to lead people to CHRIST without genuinely addressing and meeting their needs is ineffective. Yet it is also true that while we strive to know how we are being affected by the world and how we can respond relevantly, addressing and meeting people's needs - we can miserably fail to lead people to a personal and living relationship with JESUS which is most important. We always need to make sure that these three issues are clearly and properly addressed. Decades have passed and the nations are still largely unevangelized. We have to really go back to the Bible and to the HOLY SPIRIT for effective thinking and action! Glory to GOD!!!
(Arthur) So what you are saying is that when several of us members of the church go to Baguio City on Sunday, we could have our worship service there? And, if it falls on the day we have the sacrament of Last Supper, we could also do that?
(Arthur) Modernist or Post modernist, when one neglects to go to church on Sunday or the designated Sabbath day, he is not heeding God's command to honor the sabbath day. You worry too much about titles and those uninitiated like us wonders what are you talking about.
(Arthur) The teaching of God through the Bible is always relevant. Always.
(Me) Arthur, I agree the Bible is always relevant. But how you make it relevant is another thing. Let us say, you have a friend who does not believe the Bible is God's word. How, then can you share to your friend the relevance of the Bible?
(Reynaldo) Yes, Kapatid! JESUS led the Samaritan woman to a personal relationship and real worship to His FATHER in an unexpected place! As long as we worship the LORD together in SPIRIT and in Truth! However, we do not get into the habit of going to different places for pleasure and worship. Each "Dugong IV" should be faithfully worshiping with GOD's people and leading more people to CHRIST in the community where the Worship Center is. What I am trying to share ourselves with is how JESUS combined worship with leading people to GOD. These should not be separated. I agree with you that many leaders and seminaries have actually led potential and supposedly effective students and graduates to become ineffective because through prolonged analyses and experience of ideas, the gap between them and the world which needs CHRIST so badly, is also lengthened badly. What I am trying to express based on my ministry experience with the LORD is that we have to go back prayerfully and diligently to GOD - to the Gospels and the Book of Acts to recover our vision-mission, inspiration, education and effectiveness in the world, in the Kingdom ministry! Glory to GOD!!!
(Reynaldo) Kuya, makiki-share po kami sa inyong pinag-uusapan: It is true that many contemporary students have such a strangely different worldview: rejection of objectivism, rejection of authority, pessimism, etc. This is a great challenge to you and your Wife - to your faith. You are now commissioned as Director of IVCF, to re-organize our staff workers, graduates and students with a large task of making today's whole Army of GOD in the student world efficient and effective in winning souls, making disciples and sending servant-leaders - loving GOD and loving people. I just would like to encourage you that you can be successful like Joshua! You can "attempt great things for GOD and expect great things from GOD" to happen! Just be faithful to the Word, sensitive and submissive to the HOLY SPIRIT (letting Him to empower you every morning and every day for action) just as you carefully consider current intellectual issues together with the people under your stewardship and with the people who are behind you to support. Glory to GOD!!!
(Me) I am praying for wisdom and God's double anointing to all our IVCF leaders. You are the ones who are out there on the front lines. More power to you. We (theorist like me and other academicians) are very, very proud of you.
(Reynaldo) Kumusta ka na Dave? I appreciate you, knowing you through the internet more than when we were at PCU! You are a blossomed Christian intellectual! Glory to GOD!!!
(Reynaldo) Glory in Heaven awaits both the wise and the righteous! "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." (Daniel 12:3) The seminary and seminarians of scholastic and educational tradition seem to have exemplified sharing people wisdom, and the mission work and missionaries, to leading people in righteousness. However, we must again strike a balance here to be really more effective as servant-leaders of CHRIST today. Although there are disciple-leaders who are more efficient in one than in the other. Just as he who "shares genuine wisdom is righteous", "he who wins souls is wise". Not without the other. We cannot just refer soul winning and making disciples to "experts" and the "like-minded". Nor can we just refer knowledge, wisdom and teaching to "another set of experts" and the "like-minded". Going and making disciples are assigned by our SAVIOR and LORD JESUS to all of us, just as the same LORD and SAVIOR assigned to all of us the goal of knowing and being wise. "Go and make disciples of all nations,...teaching them everything I have commanded you, and behold I Am with you until the end of the age." This is one of the great reasons why many churches and leaders today are truly recovering the vision and strategy of winning people to CHRIST, instructing them in wisdom, empowering and sending them to go, make disciples and multiply - in and through the very "local churches" where they belong. Para-church organizations are good, but the local church is the best place to dream and do the mission successfully. It is so important therefore for seminaries and missionary organizations today (if they genuinely desire to be efficient and effective instruments of GOD) to really get closer, pray and work with as many local churches as possible! Not primarily with/for finances, but for/with prayer, teaching, training, empowering and sending ministry! (Matthew 28:18-20 and the Gospels; Acts 1-28) Glory to GOD!!!
(Anne) Amen!!! Brother Rey.
(Reynaldo) Thanks po, and Glory to GOD!!!
(Alma) Jesus’ disciples were ordinary people, fisherman, they were not intellectuals but they responded to the calling. The message of Salvation never change, we do not need to be “smarts” when the Sprit of God moves, He can use ordinary people to move mountains.
(Reynaldo) You are very right Sister that JESUS tapped ordinary people! Yet these people were trained by Him for three years in the realities of loving GOD and loving people, facing crowds, meeting their needs, and imparting to them their greater need - the Gospel! Therefore, their "ordinariness somehow ceased", because they became extraordinary people. In a sense, they became spiritually intelligent (wise) people ready for effective ministry in the Kingdom! In another sense, they became "intellectuals", because they were then able to bring their mental faculties to a higher level! This is not bad as long as it does not prevent the HOLY SPIRIT from imparting His message in power! Some of the humblest people were intellectuals, and they were mightily used by GOD to bring people to CHRIST! Just to mention a few: the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Peter, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, John Stott, Isabelo Magalit, etc. The LORD welcomes and trains us as many ordinary people, but we welcome with Him those who were gifted with higher intellectual faculties than we have, as they humbly render service to the LORD and His people! Glory to GOD!!!
(Alma) I agree with you Reynaldo, but we do not need a complicated theory of Salvation, the message is simple but powerful!
(Lorena) Hi Rey, you just quoted a popular statement made by William Carey- my favorite missionary. for everybody's info- there is a movie about his life, CANDLE IN THE DARK. I first saw this in 2000 when I did a training (session) in Hawaii. And I purchased a copy of this movie in India and had been showing it to my students.
(Willy) For the non-academics like me, what is Modernist and what is Post Modernist?
(Elvin) Make it simple please. Ha! Ha! Ha! They sound profound di ba but communication wise ano dating? The Americans have an acronym for that “KISS.” Brother, sorry ha!
(Willy) While the academes might be contemplating their KISS answer, which one would be considered closer to the Biblical worldview, if this is even a relevant question?
(Me) Simple. Biblical worldview. Let me explain. (1.) Salvation is simple, but following Jesus entails a lot of complicated decisions and complex reshuffling of a new believer's priorities. You do not need a seminary training to understand this truth. (2.) The Christian Gospel is simple, but "simple" here does not mean a mediocre attitude or even a careless abandon. Jesus' parables about the Kingdom of God remind us of thinking through our commitment to radical discipleship. (3.) What about biblical worldview? The Jewish leaders and Pharisees were very close to the biblical worldview, but they still miss the point. What is profound about Post-Modernity is that, according to current Christian definitions, post-modernists are very far from the biblical worldview, and yet, they are very close to the Kingdom of God. Is this not simple enough? Read John chapters 3 and 4 again, and read them with the "eyes" of a post-modernist. God bless our leaders in the Philippines as they grapple with the issues of reaching out the "new emerging" post-modernist Filipinos for Jesus.
(Elvin) Hey, the modernist in terms of period of time is simply the 20th century and the post modern after that. So the ideology and cultural (followers) in this digital age, dominated by social networking, need to simplify the dissemination of the Word by communicating it effectively. If possible, saying it in the heart language of our target people (gets you) 'gets nyo'. Huwag lang ma pikon mga brother, ha?
(Arthur) @ Dave: Preach the gospel (but of course you should read your bible, meditate upon it, and ask the help of the Holy Spirit to illumine you on things you don't understand) and leave to God the decision whether to open his eyes and heart to understand it. The problem is when you try to "save" him by your strategy and your understanding of his mind set. Let God be God. I still do not understand your definition of post-modernist. Sorry. Perhaps i will have the privilege of meeting you one day and have a sharing on this issue. BTW, do you happen to know Boy Cabugao? Churchmate ko sya now here in Pangasinan. If you have the time, we will be very happy to meet you here. Thanks for being patient with me. I hope I have not offended you with my stand. I am just articulating my point as I see it. God be with all of us.
(Edwin) If you are not based here in the Philippines, David, then there is no need to even ask that question. Then again, we are starting a new ministry at the University Belt again this year. Tingnan natin how students and the new sets of IV staff will react to your question ha. Relevant and valid naman.
(Orpha) I very much agree Elvin. We are facing a complex generational culture where generation gap is very obvious. Even the mindset of the Christian youth differs from their Christian parents. For me to become relevant to their culture is to go down to their level...not to tell them what to do, but encourage them to become disciples and servant leaders of their peers. I believe that is what IVCF-Phil. is doing.
(Vic) For definition of post-modernity, Dr. David F. Wells, author of "No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?," "Above All Earthly Powers" (a critique on postmodernism), and many other books, defines post-modernity here: http://www.youtube.com/wat?ch?v=us3AOS-OjCg. I hope this helps clarify the issue at hand.
(Alma) Can we end this topic now!!! Let us move on, next topic pls!!
(Edwin) Right you are Alma! He, he. Parang Messianic na di maintindihan!
(Alma) If you guys won't stop go to A. Melba Maggay and K. David Lim, all the Bible Scholars and academicians!!! Kami ni Willy ay lay workers, w/ simple minds!!! Not theorist!! Nursing theories puwede pa!! :D Then make a separate group titled: Bible Scholars and Theorist!!!
(Zans) Yeah, I agree we have to end this topic...the power to change people's lives is not our job, it is God's. Basta (At any Rate), our only job is to show to them what Christianity is and share who God is...whatever time it might be...our programs might be outdated but the power of God can use even the old fashioned way to change a person.
(Vic) Since the moderator and owner of this group is telling us to stop this discussion, I propose that we should abide. Thanks Ate Alma for reminding us. You are doing what the moderator ought to do. Cheers!
(Arthur) I beg to disagree... it’s high time that we also learn from them. What do you want as next topic, reunions of KC? At walang katapusang reunions? Sorry, but I think this is more relevant.
(Edwin) No problemo. Arthur, KC what ka? 1975? Ako sa Anilao, Batangas.
(Arthur) I am learning (from this post) and I hope you do, too.
(Willy) Back to the original question above, I believe that we can be relevant in the universities and colleges (or anywhere) if we address the issues of the "post-modernist" (or any worldview). However, even if after you have addressed a person's objections to the Gospel, if he/she chooses not to believe, your reasoned arguments will mean nothing to that person. We should be students of what the PM's (post-modernist) believe but I think that simply preaching the Gospel and pray for the move of the Spirit is still the best way. But of course we must speak and live the truth in love just as Jesus did.
(Me) Thank you everyone, for your contributions and patience. I am based in Taiwan, but I think I still have a role in posing these sets of questions for IVCF leadership. IVCF was my "first mentor." It was during my PCU days (Philippine Christian University, Taft Avenue) when I matured as a Christian leader. KC 82, LG-DC, and other IVCF camps and retreats, too many to enumerate, have molded me to what I am now. So, you see, I have a stake here. Dugong IV ito! I cannot "abandon" IVCF just because I am already serving here, overseas. When ever I read about IVCF campus chapters struggling and faltering, my heart breaks. And this is the context of my sets of questions. WE CAN END THIS TOPIC. But please keep seeking God's direction in how best we can reach out the many Filipino students in our campuses--whether they are post-modernist or not.
(Alma) Our support has been unrelenting Dave if this will make u feel encourage and better! God bless!!
(Edwin) David, just send whatever you can to your local IV Chapter. I guess that is when we call ourselves Dugong IV.
(Marnel) just when I had something posts to read in this group page, you had to stop! Wish you will keep on going guys.
(Edwin) He, he. Huli man daw at magaling, naihahabol din! What's your two cents' worth, Marnel?
(Arthur) Do say what you want Marnel, I am sure they wont mind, unless they like to talk other matters of more importance.
(No more entry at this point.)
(Right after the discussion was stopped by the moderator, Lina emailed me her thoughts on the subject matter. Please read below)
(An email from Lina) You brought up a very important question about modernism and post modernism. Sad that many, even Christians, don't even notice the big cultural world view shift. I was planning to add some thoughts about it to give concrete examples so that the epistemology will be understood better by laymen. But, the moderator stopped it. The fact that many have responded only means that the topic touched a cord in many hearts. I just hope that the IVCF staff will be tough minded enough when it comes to teaching modern world views to students and to give concrete examples. I am sure it would be easier understood by laymen better. We need discernment about this. Oprah Winfrey is one example of a person who has a postmodernist world view - yet many Filipino Christians were watching her shows. Oprah is no longer on network but she has her OWN cable show. Thanks for your input on this.