The COVID-19 pandemic has led Philippine Challenge (PC) and it’s partnering churches to powerful new ways to expand the ministry. With face-to-face worship greatly restricted, many Filipino pastors have become enamored with and dependent on livestream worship. Unfortunately, only around 15-20% of church members have sufficient internet access. For those who do have access, passively watching the service falls far short of the church functioning as a body, as described in Scripture.
“As a supplement, we have developed ‘Simbahay’ Guides,” says Dave, an OC/PC mission worker. “’Simbahay’ is a combination of two Tagalog words, simbahan – church, and bahay – house. So, we have ‘House Church’ or ‘Church in Your Home.’”
In participating churches, all members read through the New Testament, one chapter per day (then the Old Testament). “We choose a passage from the seven chapters for families to discuss and share how they will obey what God has shown them,” Dave says. “Family members then pray for one another. No surprise, it’s working!”
Most, or all, members of the household participate, including unbelievers. Filipino households usually include a few kids, maybe Grandma, and maybe a cousin or two. “We also include a good passage from the seven chapters to briefly explain salvation,” Dave says.
Evelyn, a 29-year-old single lady, leads the sharing time for her family. After three weeks, both her mother and father put their faith in Christ! Philippine Challenge hears many stories like this.
Sharing the Gospel Message
“We also include a good vision casting passage, from the seven chapters, challenging each family member to share God’s message to them that week with unbelievers and for the family to pass the Simbahay Guide along to unsaved families for their use,” Dave says. Because Filipinos are interested in the Bible, even unbelievers, they use the Simbahay Guides! Amazing!
“The Delgado family shared the Simbahay Guide with Mr. Delgado’s brother and their family,” Dave says. “They are using the Guides and have all put their faith in Christ! We have a lot more stories like this also. So amazing!”
Simbahay is expanding access to the gospel and it’s not bound by conventional limitations. “The benefits are tremendous, even for members who are able to participate in the livestream or face-to-face worship. We’re very happy that Simbahay is being widely used and we’re working on expansion,” Dave says.
Outreach Bible Studies by Group Chats
An outreach ministry formed due to COVID-19 restrictions was Outreach Bible Studies by Group Chats (OBS GCs). Through messaging applications (like Facebook Messenger), Filipinos can join an Outreach Bible Study and communicate and grow all in a group chat.
This format has proven effective because many Filipinos don’t have access to high-speed internet for streaming video or downloading pictures. During the pandemic, cellphone providers began to give their users limited data access for free, so more Filipinos could use the internet but at slower speeds. “With no video to stream or photos to download, the limited data given to cellphone users by providers is just enough for the group chat,” Dave says.
Poverty is still prevalent in the Philippines, but most people have a cellphone. So, with this free access to limited internet, group chat is available to almost all economic levels. Removing data limitations of having to stream a live church service or download a video allows for more Filipinos to be reached by the gospel through Group Chat! “The method really clicks with Filipinos who are interested in the Bible,” Dave says. “Filipinos are very social. They have really missed social contact during COVID and this form of Bible study gives social involvement.”
Many Filipino believers are being trained to lead these OBS GCs. “Pastor Nonoy has trained some of his members to lead OBS GCs. These members have started 63 new GCs producing 792 new believers! Pastor Gerry has trained his members who now have over 40 OBS GCs, with over 500 new believers,” Dave says.
This is merely the beginning of how God may use both of these ministries for his glory.
Pray with One Challenge
“In answer to prayer, fruit continues to multiply. These two ministries were birthed out of the pandemic. Both are going strong,” Dave says.
Please join us in prayer for:
- Wisdom for Dave as he develops higher level training materials and mobilizes more trainers to expand these two ministries.
- Strengthened spiritual lives of church members through Simbahay, especially those who are unable to access their other local church ministries.
- Many new believers, through OBS GCs and Simbahay.