Christian Culture

In the Philippines

By Jerry Smith

The Series

Christian Culture in the USA
Christian Culture in the Philippines
Our Response

The Philippines is one of the few predominantly Christian God-oriented religious cultures in Asia, next to South Korea. The Philippines is a Third World country that has deep roots in the Catholicism of their Spanish occupation of over 300 years from the early 16th Century to the late 19th Century. The Filipino brand of religion is quite similar to that of the Central and South Americas which includes patron saints, festivals, and rituals. In the Philippines, school children can still hear about God. You can still find public school classrooms where God is welcome, the Bible is a reference, and everybody knows who Jesus Christ is. Although the religious environment here has become more integrated with Islam, religion is not a taboo topic. In fact, some Filipinos I have spoken with find it strange that in the U.S. one cannot speak openly about God in school.

Nevertheless, the Philippines is drifting slowly but steadily toward the same downward spiral of American culture. Evolutionary thinking has become more pervasive throughout schools, and even private Christian schools. Students are confused and parents seem oblivious as to where this is leading. There is even political dialogue aimed at proposing a bill for same-sex marriages modeled after modern American thinking. It is a subtle yet dangerous progression. Christian churches here reflect Western church practices in terms of attire where a shirt and tie are worn replacing their traditional barong (bear in mind that this is a tropical country). Other practices include heavy use of music in worship services, a superficial level of Bible study during worship, emotional appeals, and emotion-driven church services — much of what we might find in the U.S. church culture today.

Sadly, foreign missionaries have a poor reputation among some of the local Filipino ministers. Some local ministers refer to foreign missionaries, especially those from the USA, as mission-haris. In the Filipino language, hari means "king." The implied meaning is that these missionaries raise a comparatively huge income from supporting churches in the U.S. then come to the Philippines and live like kings among the poor, with maids, caretakers, cars, and nice houses, while distancing themselves from the realities of the country. This rather than connecting with the people and immersing themselves into the local culture. I myself have personally seen this far too often from foreign missionaries.

As for teaching, I conducted a study several years back for my doctoral dissertation and discovered a severe lack of Christ-centered, Bible exposition in local churches. In fact, on at least two occasions the preacher did not mention the name of Jesus once during hour-long messages. Other churches spent more time preaching messages that appealed to good morals rather than what the Bible explicitly says.

There are several mega churches here that have pre-programmed lessons and Sunday messages which tend to stifle the Spirit-led expository preaching from the Word of God from personal experience and study. There is an incessant push to make disciples while failing to promote the nurturing of a more Christ-centered daily walk with the Lord among church members. It is as if membership in the churches is the primary goal of these mega church to increase their numbers and perhaps even political power. As a result of this continuous push for more converts, members become forceful in their approach to evangelism. In my communications with people here for over 17 years I have discovered the sheep are starved and bleat from spiritual hunger and hurt from spiritual beatings from their shepherds.

Finally, there is a variety of Christian cults in the Philippines, some Western, some homegrown. Like Baskin-Robbins, you can name your flavor. Masses of people throng to hear certain speakers who promote themselves, who neglect the cross of Christ, and who deny the Deity of Jesus Christ. When asked why a member will go to heaven or what makes them worthy to be in the presence of God, they are proud to say which church they belong to or which leader they follow.

Image Credit: Victory Christian Fellowship; "More than 14,500 attended"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Church-Issues

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Published on 6-12-17