Note: This was an article I wrote for my alma mater’s book (IGSL, formerely ISOT-Asia, entitled ”Lessons from the Field”) sometime in 2010 I think. It’s quite long so I will post them in three parts. Hope you enjoy reading this!
Confirmation of a Personal Vision
Let me shift to something a little bit more personal for a while.
Recently, the Lord gave me a new dream to pursue. It connected an event in my past with a glimpse of the future. While I was in Bible school (not ISOT) in the mid 90’s, I had a class in which my fellow pastors and I were required to memorize and recite orally the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, as part of our exam. When I entered the classroom, almost all of my classmates were busy reciting to each other. For some reason, they all appeared to me so childlike doing this and hardly the seasoned pastors that they were. They even looked to me so cute and cuddly (honest to God)! I suddenly felt such tenderness and love toward them. At that moment, I sensed the Lord speaking to my heart, “Manric, one day I will use you to minister to your fellow pastors.”
Like Mary, the mother of Jesus, I treasured this thing in my heart. Teaching and equipping are two of my stronger spiritual gifts, and the thought of helping my fellow pastors was both a thrill and a privilege. But after a few years of struggling with my own local church, I began to doubt. “Who am I to minster to my fellow pastors if I myself struggle a lot with my own local church? I can’t even make my own church grow in numbers, how can I help other pastors grow theirs?”
By God’s sheer grace, after many years of barrenness and immaturity, our church began to grow slowly but steadily.
In January 2010 our church held its annual seven days of prayer and fasting. I sensed the Lord whispering in my heart, “When you turn forty (I was turning thirty seven that year), I will open a new door for you. I will write a new chapter in your life.” Instantly, I remembered that episode in my Bible school days about ministering to the pastors. Although there was no direct “word” about that from the Lord, I somehow knew in my heart that it was the very thing the Lord was referring to.
A week or two after that episode, a mentor of mine was sharing a passage from 1 Chronicles 4:27 with a group of pastors of which I was part. It was about Shimei from the tribe of Simeon being fruitful, but because his brothers weren’t that fruitful, the entire tribe of Simeon remained small, especially compared to the tribe of Judah. My mentor went on to exhort us to become strong leaders pastoring strong churches so that no “tribe” from the Body of Christ would remain small and weak, but every local church would become as strong and numerous as Judah. That devotional message hit me like a ton of bricks! It was the confirmation that God was indeed calling me to help equip, train, and mentor in whatever way I can my fellow pastors specifically and the Body of Christ generally.
Further confirmation of that new “calling” came quickly. Out of the blue, a pastor friend of mine in Antique, who is the head of the ministerial fellowship there, invited me go to their province to conduct training programs for pastors. He certainly did not know how the Lord was dealing with me during that time.
Another confirmation was the open door in Camarines Sur. In 2009 my two Associate Pastors and some members went on a local mission exposure trip to that province. When they came back, they told me that I should consider going there to help train pastors. I plan to do this in 2010.
I believe the Lord will open more doors for me in the future especially since I have a church member who works for a Christian non-government organization (NGO). She promised to connect me with many pastors in far-away and desolate places so that they too can be trained and equipped in the Lord’s vineyard.
When God confirms a vision, He himself opens doors that no one can shut!
Back To ISOT
The funny thing about all this training stuff is that it led me back to ISOT.
I have an accountability group with six of my fellow ISOT alumni. This deserves a story of its own. But for now, let me just share that during one of our meetings, Pastor Kenny Garcia sat in. I shared a little bit of what the Lord has put into my heart regarding helping to equip fellow pastors who lack formal pastoral training. Pastor Kenny, who happens to be the Luzon Coordinator of Foundations for Christian Leadership (FCL), ISOT’s training arm specifically targeted to pastors and church leaders who have not gone to seminary, told me, “Why not start out by helping with FCL?” I told him I would consider it. I eventually agreed to teach 27 inmates at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa on the course ‘’Biblical Preaching’’.
Vision and Character Formation
As an aspiring visionary, I’m nowhere near the Bill Hybels or Rick Warrens of the church world. Be that as it may, I’m still very impatient when it comes to implementing plans and programs which I believe the Lord wants us to do.
Visionaries know this. If someone catches a vision from above, they can’t sleep; they talk about the vision all day to anyone who cares to listen; they sometimes skip meals, and sometimes are caught daydreaming. When they go to their churches, their words are full of fire and zeal. Every bone in their body is excited. Passion and purpose are almost always never the issue with visionaries. The issue usually is one of patience and showing mercy.
Leading with vision, ironically, has taught me, through pain, tears, and unnecessary loss of members, to lead with love. Vision has helped to soften my heart. I am ashamed to admit this—I don’t suffer fools gladly. I’m drawn to bright, self-sufficient, self-motivated people. These get my praise and attention. The “slow” ones usually get my ire. I often threaten to leave them behind.
Two mentors of mine are my exact opposite and they are the ones God used to model for me what it means to be a true shepherd of God’s people.
Don Cua is my spiritual father and someone I consider my second father since my own earthly father passed away a few years ago. He is a pastor’s pastor. Every Monday, he mentors and shepherds anywhere from eight to twenty other pastors. Some of them come from unhealthy churches. Others are simply wounded in the ministry. “Manong,” as everyone fondly calls him, ministers to them with a big heart. I have seen fellow shepherds get back on their feet, strengthened through Manong’s example of love and compassion.
Another mentor, Pastor Rafy Panlilio, is someone I personally call “Pastor Tender Heart.” He is a visionary leader who has turned his church around from one that is old, decaying, and dying to one full of zeal, passion, and life for the Lord. In our mentoring sessions, he told us of his personal experience of lifting up wayward or rebellious members before God’s throne and telling God how he loves these lost sheep and how precious they are personally to him. He begs God to restore the broken fellowship. God has honored those humble prayers time and again.
It is only now that I’m learning this valuable lesson—vision and compassion go hand in hand. Passion and patience can co-exist. I don’t need to lose a single member simply because the Lord has shown me a vision or a new direction for our church. It is a matter of shepherding the people properly through the process. But I cannot, and will not, be able to do that unless God changes my own heart and grants me supernatural love for my flock.