From the monthly archives:

April 2004

Visit of Andy Hansen and Family

by Original Author on April 10, 2004

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter

Andy Hansen, his father Milton, and his son Joseph (from Stephenville, Texas) visited us in Davao for two weeks during the month of January. We traveled to several different congregation including Metro Manila and far outreaches that had to be visited by traveling several kilometers by canoe and the rest of the way by motorcycles. We enjoyed their fellowship very much and rejoiced to have these fine men with us. During the visit to Esperanza, we baptized a new congre gation. Twenty-four were baptized in a beautiful river near the church. Brother Hansen especially enjoyed the children. Probably the highlight of the trip was visiting the church in Metro Manila served by Elder Conrado Quinto. There was a large congregation assembled and the singing was excellent. The Lord also blessed in the preaching.

Photos Travel to Agusan with Brother Andy Hanson

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The Vision by Elder Gus Harter

by Original Author on April 10, 2004

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter

What is the New Testament Church?

As a young student of the Bible, I sought a congregation practicing First Century Christianity—not just any group whose beliefs and practices were established only two hundred years ago. I wanted to serve a legitimate church that had been faithful in doctrine and practices for two thousand years. The church that Christ built must proclaim the ancient biblical doctrine of salvation by sovereign grace based on the finished work of Jesus Christ. Their worship service must conform to the simple apostolic practice of scripture.

I was looking for the remnant of the church set up by our Lord during His ministry. I was tired of lazy and lackadaisical religion. I desired the fire and breeze of Pentecost. I wanted the radical claim upon my life that moved the men in the Book of Acts to conquer the Roman Empire in less than forty years. Most of all I desired to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ in my life and preaching. I desired to say with Paul “I am crucified with Christ neverthe less I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Upon finding the Primitive Baptists, I quickly learned that they adhered more closely to the teaching of the New Testament than any people I had ever known. In Februaiy 1963, I united with them and have been blessed to serve churches in Kentucky, Florida and Georgia. For the last three years I have been laboring in the Philippines pioneering and planting churches. As of this writing we have 44 constituted churches and 65 fellowships (congregations meeting every Sunday with their own Pastor but not yet constituted).

The purpose of this article is to give a brief presentation of the method we have used in planting churches. The pattern is found in the Book of Acts and various epistles of the Apostles. The goal is to produce New Testament Churches. The majority of our congregations were begun as home bible studies and continued until there was a sufficient number to form a new church. The Apostle Paul built church es all over Europe and Asia following this same method. Other churches have been established through ministers who have personally embraced our doctrine and taught it to an existing congregation. Then the entire congregation unites with our people through confession of faith and baptism. This is similar to the experience in Ephesus recorded in Acts 19:1-6. Paul re-baptized 12 who had been previously immersed with John’s baptism. I am not interested in changing signboards on the exterior of church structure, but in planting congregations that preach and practice First Century Christianity. I am not looking for just numbers but lives which have been changed by their belief of truth and dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ.

We realize that Christ is the builder of His church (Matthew 16:18). But in the planting and establishment of churches he used his ministers to be His fellow builders (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our goal is to have mature churches in the Philippines. A mature church leads its people in worship. This is the major duty of the Bride of Christ. Secondly, the members must be able to evangel ize their community with zeal and understanding. Third, Pastors need be able to edify and build-up their congregation by teaching the whole council of God. Fourth, they need to do the work of helping people by being the Good Samaritan. Lastly, through fellowship they should be a source of strength and encouragement. Further the congregation, when mature, should have the leaders (Elders and Deacons) of their own choosing. The church must be able to support itself financially. It should not have to depend upon outside help in order to do the Lord’s work. The church members should be taught to support the Lord’s work with their offerings. The church should also follow customs or traditions of its own people as long as they are not against the teaching of the scriptures. This is why the Apostle Paul said that when working with the Jews, He lived like a Jew; when working with the Gentiles, He lived like a Gentile in order to win them (I Corinthian 9). We have a long way to go to reach these goals of maturity , but we do have a good start.

The Church Planter.

The Church Planter is a God-called minister of the gospel who is motivated by the desire to exalt our Lord in the preaching of the gospel and in His life. He is one whom God has called to pioneer the establishment of congregations. He must be able to guide men and women in repentance and conversion to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Then through the blessing of the Spirit of God, he must lead them in truth to become a balanced church member. He must teach them to love, support and pray for the advancement of our Lord’s Kingdom in the world. The work is difficult, and the rewards are slow in coming. If these practices are not convictions, it is best not to start. Count the cost before you begin. Listen to the experience of Moses. “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh daughter; choosing rather to suffer, affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.”
(Hebrews 11:24-26).

To begin with, the minister must have a close walk with the Lord. He must faithfully daily read God’s word and regularly spend time in prayer. He must systematically study the scriptures and always be ready to give a rea son for the hope that is in him. “He must study to show himself approved unto God as workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15). “He must be a of good reputation, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior; given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own hours; having his children in subjection with all gravity. For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:2-6).

In pioneering a church, you must be able to see a vision of the fmished product years down the road. Choose your area of labor with a conviction that God has led you there. This will
help you labor through the discourage ments and disappointments. Many will tell you they will attend but will never come to meetings. Many will come only once or twice and not come again.

A good friend of mine in America, who is very successful at inviting visitors to church, once told me. “It is easy to get visitor to attend to church: out of every hundred I invite, one will generally come.” You must be more than spiritual; you must have perseverance. The Right Place for Church. In order to see the right response to church planting, we must choose a place where the Lord is blessing. We can follow the leads of faithful church members who have family or friends that desire a church in their area. As we pray for open doors of evangelizing and constantly speak of our faith to those we meet, our Lord will open opportunity for us to plant churches. The guidance of the Holy Spirit is the most important thing in choosing a community for church-planting (Acts 16:1-5). Often He will guide us as we think about such things as receptivity, strategic location and evangelization. But sometime he will visit us in a spe cial way such as Paul and his vision of Macedonia (Acts 16:9). After choosing the right community, we need to choose the right meeting place. These are some principles to follow:

1. The people should feel at home in the structure. For example, people who are used to a cool nipa house may not feel good meeting in a hot concrete block house.
2. The size of the meeting place should fit the number of people. If the place is too large, it will give the people a cold lonely feeling. If it is too small, the people will be uncomfortable and restless.
3. The people should be able to pay for the expenses of opera tion and maintaining the meet ing place.
4. The meeting place should be clean and maintained.
5. The place must be easy to get to and easy to find. It is best if it is centrally located to those attending.

Types of Meeting Places.

It is possible to use different types of meet ing places to start a new church. Some of the most common types that have been used in the Philippines are as follows:

1. Outside Place. Some churches have been started in a shady place under a tree or besides a building. This is nice during hot, dry weather. But it is not good when it is rainy or cool. So an outside place usually can be used only temporarily.
2. Temporary Shelter. A temporary shelter can be put on bor rowed or rented land. Temporary shelters can also be built out of poles and leaves or grass. Temporary shelters are cheap. They are good to use in the very beginning of evangelis tic work in a community because they can be moved somewhere else if the work is not successful. But it is hard to use them for a long time because they are easily damaged by wind or vandals. Also, anything left in them can be stolen easily.
3. Home Most churches in the Philippines are started in homes. This is because they are easy to find, and there is no expense. However, there are some problems of meeting in a home. The most serious problem is that many people do not like to go to a home unless it belongs to a relative or friend. Also, the family who owns the home may get tired of having the church meet in their house. Finally, the owner of the home may feel that he or she should have authority over the church. But in spite of these disadvantages, most churches will have to meet in homes until they are strong enough to afford another meet ing place.
4. Public Building. It is not uncommon for new churches to meet in public buildings like schools and Barangay Halls. Not only are public buildings often free-of-charge, but they offer large rooms with many seats. They are also easy for new people to find. The only serious problem is that the church may be put out of the building at any time.
5. Rented Building. All or part of a house, a bodega, a store, an office building, an apartment, etc., may be rented either full-time or part-time. This has the big advantage of freedom and certainty of use. A rented build ing may also be used for the Pastor’s living space. The main disadvantage is the expense of paying the rent.
6. Church Building Of course, the best type of meeting place is a building that is owned by the church. It may be used any time and is easy to find and beautiful. It is best if the church can build its own building to fit its needs. But it is possible to buy a build ing and convert it into a church building.

The Right Evangelical Method.

The most scriptural approach, and that which follows the examples in the Book of Acts, is Group Bible Study. Paul began most of the early churches thru meetings with Jewish congregation. They used the Old Testament as a guide which was being fulfilled before their eyes. He afterwards turned to the Gentiles. They began in homes. The method is inexpensive and requires very little or no money. Second, it can be duplicated. It can be done in any community and any social class. The Philippines is mainly a Catholic-dominated country and, contrary to American Catholics, Filipino Catholics do not discourage reading and studying the Bible. Many Catholics desire to study the Bible for themselves. Therefore, Group Bible Study opens the door to 80 percent of the population because their background is Catholicism.

The time and place for Group Bible Study differs greatly according to the convenience and schedule of the participants. Some businesses welcome Bible Study among their employee during business hours. Most Bible Studies begin in a home among family members. As the participants enjoy the meetings, they begin to invite friends and relatives to join them. The Bible Study last about an hour. Songs are sung. Often short chorus are taught because they are easy to teach and remember. As interest increases, we generally go to the homes of others who attended in order to expand the outreach. At the church that we pioneered in Davao, we have had as many as 20 different Bible Studies continuing at the same time. This creates several cell groups that meet together on Sunday morning. On Sundays there is a large crowd for encouragement. At other times, there is close fellowship in their home Bible Study.

We accept the authority of the Bible alone for study at our meetings, and we often make various outlines on differ ent biblical subjects. We sometimes follow the Articles of Faith, the systematic study of The Doctrine of Grace, The Five Phases of Salvation, or some other well-known presentation of our doctrine. In Group Bible Studies that I lead, I generally make a series of presentations in a particular order. I begin with the Inspiration of Scripture. We must have a common basis for truth. I then proceed to the preservation of Scripture. It is important to show that the scripture were not only inspired, but they have also been preserved. I then outline the method used to interpret Scripture. Having agreed on the common ground for truth, I proceed to a biblical view of God. In two to four presentations I clearly explain the attributes of God. A man must see God in His exalted and sovereign position. I follow this with one to three presentations of the sinfulness of man and his depravity. With the understanding that man is incapable to aid his salvation, I spend four sessions on Salvation by Grace, Unconditional Election, Particular Redemption, Irresistible Grace and Preservation of the Saints. After salvation is understood, I show the New Testament marks of the church. I conclude the Bible Study with the responsibility of the child of God after being quickened by grace. Hopefully this will lead to baptism. If the people are very receptive, I often reach the same goal much quicker without this thorough presentation.

The manner of the Group Bible Study is generally to follow a lecture method. The teacher preaches first, however it is always followed by a question and answer session. At times the session is in a discussion format with questions and answers. Group participation is good to let you know where the stu dents are in their understanding of truth.

G.H.Photo of Minister’s Conference 2004


Update of theWork

April 7, 2004

Originally posted by Elder Gus HarterDuring the month of February, 2004, Elder Donnie Halbgewachs and I held three Ministers Meetings in Davao City, Iligan City and Pagadian City.We covered four major topics: • The Pioneering and Building of Churches• The Finances of Church• The Integrity of the Minister• Essentials and Non-essen tials of the Church […]

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