Iba rin talaga ang nagagawa ng kawalan ng internet connection, much more cellphone signal. I recently attended a Pastors’ and Workers’ Retreat and I can attest to a very significant effect of internet connectivity (or the lack thereof) on human interactions. Mas authentic and tawanan, mas totoo ang kwentuhan, mas buhay ang hagalpakan. In this world digital connectivity, we need to establish more often the significance of genuine relational connections.
Isa pa sa major feat na naranasan ko while on that retreat ay nakatapos ako ng isang libro in one seating. Dahil wala akong cellphone na need constantly i-check during break periods, I really felt like I am one with nature that time, at parang kausap ko lang in person ang mga characters ni Kuya Rei Lemuel Crizaldo, ang author ng Bili na Kayo ng Church. Ang unusual ng title ano? Pero sa title pa lang, magkakaroon ka kaagad ng idea what the book is about – the emerging commercialization of the church.
What’s interesting about this book is that it is presented in a “he said, she said” format. Para kang nakikinig ng usapan ng magkaibigang sina Sef and Nivz habang nagbabatuhan sila ng mga arguments about the church – answering our questions that we dare not ask sa mga church leaders natin. Sabi nga sa blurb ng libro, “ang pagpili ba ng church ay parang pagsha-shopping lang para sa bagong gadget? Sa dami ng nagsusulputang churches, alin kaya ang dapat mong puntahan? Kung lahat sila ay mag-iinvite sa iyo, anong gimik kaya nila ang makakahatak sa iyo?”
Sef and Nivz presented our view of the church in opposing spectrums: one, that it must uphold and maintain its traditions despite the changing times and two, that it has to adapt to the cultural and preferential shifts of the churchgoers. Sa dalawang panig na pinakikinggan ko (err, binababasa), sa totoo lang nalito ako kung saan nga ba ang bias ko: I can identify with Sef and his frustrations with the institutionalized church, na hindi na tayo kinakikitaan ng mga pag-uugali na unang ipinakita ng early church fathers natin – pag-ibig, pagkakaisa, Christlikeness. I do also agree with Nivz, lalo na sa encouragement niya na huwag tayong mawalan ng pag-asa sa church dahil lang sa dungis ng mga taong bumubuo nito. If Jesus died for the church, why should we give up on her?
Nagpatikim din si Kuya Rei ng interesting facts about the church history in this book. Maging yung iba’t ibang mukha ng iglesia natin ngayon ay ipinakita rin niya: cell churches, house churches, community churches, traditional churches, mega churches, digital churches. May pros and cons. Ngunit kung ang tanong mo ay “should I stay or should I go?” at “if I stay, where do I stay?” ikaw na ang bahalang sumagot niyan based on your convictions. Ang masasabi ko lang, I appreciate how God sometimes lead us to questions unanswerable by either yes or no so we’ll learn to listen to Him intently, even in matters such as leaving or staying in a specific church family.
Before I end this post, I’d love to share this statement from Sef. Pertaining to church, he says “the institution is human, it is the identity that is divine”.
Actually habang binabasa ko ang libro, it’s as if my questions were being articulated and presented to me. Hindi lang pala ako ang may mga frustrations sa institutionalized church in general. Hindi lang pala ako ang nagtatanong, “why does it hurt to be in church?”. Pero through the years that I’ve stayed and served in the church, I began to love it not because of its flaws but in spite of it.
Grab a copy on Bili na Kayo ng Church available in all OMF and Philippine Christian Bookstores.