“I believe in the sovereignty of God over salvation, because I know that the conversion of a man is an absolute impossibility.”
The above statement came from one of the firebrands of sound theology who has worked tirelessly to turn the hearts of true believers back to the purity of biblical teaching, his name is Pastor Paul Washer. This quotation struck to the heart of AHFi and its helm of leadership for it centers on a forgotten concept in modern day Christianity; the absolute sovereignty of our Lord Jesus Christ who due to unsound doctrine has been viewed only as a savior but not as Lord. The disease of modern day Christianity is the idolatry of its decisionism. The heretical view of being saved by our acceptance of Jesus Christ instead of focusing on the supremacy of God who called unto the elect to salvation not by some heartfelt prayer no matter how sincere but by the true conversion of ones heart through the power of the Holy Spirit thus turning a person from sin, calling him or her to repentance as they walk in the newness of life in Christ Jesus.
Anyone can plant a church or build up a bible study, as anyone could take on the title of pastor by simply enrolling in various seminaries; but a true church is not built by human hands nor is the calling of Pastor set to a person by simply getting a degree in theology. To plant a true church requires true conversion. To become a true pastor calls for true conversion. Standing up in ministry takes more than just reading a few books, sounding knowledgeable in debates and having a tenure of 30 years or more in the christian faith. That does not cut it; what matters is true conversion, standing up for what is right; suffering for the truth and living solely for Christ’s lordship.
This is not to state that upon accomplishing such requirements, planting a church or heeding the call to Pastorship becomes easy; for if your faith is true- ministry is never easy but the present testings and tribulations causes us to develop endurance; and because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit no matter the storm one faces; there is irrevocable joy to press on for we do this not for ourselves, nor for ego sake; we plant, we build, we serve to proclaim the supremacy of Christ; to confess His lordship and in that. We are much satisfied for Christ is glorified in our victory or in our suffering, in our living or in our dying.
It was a wonderful day last October 20, 2013 when such a church who stood its ground and proclaimed the lordship of Christ in the heart of Quezon city celebrated its 3rd year anniversary. Abundant Harvest Fellowship International, a missionary church from Crescent city, Florida which opened its doors in the Philippines on October 10, 2010.
Pastor Lyle L.A. Lopez, a missionary from Florida and the senior pastor of AHFi recounts the journey each of the faithful saints have treaded. Each hardship they faced together to reach this 3rd year milestone.
“AHFi started with a vision, to plant a church that stood solely to uphold the truth of the gospel, in a world filled with misconstrued idealism and pseudo Christianity; our prayer was simple: plant Your church our King; draw true believers to this place, fill us with Your anointing and may we please you. I still remember the clattering of benches in SNR Fort Bonifacio where a handful of believers with my family made a covenant to God to plant A church and obey Him completely. Like many beginnings, everything started out well- we rented a space in Back to the Bible where we held Sunday service thus impacting the community. Trouble began to brew when our ministry faced oppression from the said christian organization which threw us out on the street. I can’t tell you how painful it was to see the state of christianity in the Philippines, where the vision is to compete instead of to complete. We tried to find a space to worship, our outcry to God was simple- Lord all we want is to worship you; please lead us to Your place that we may glorify You even in this trial.”
Pastor Lyle and his family searched through Quezon City yet could not find a space due to many business owners who disdained the idealism of being born-again. It was then that God granted them the wisdom and discernment to plant the church in his family’s ancestral home. After a few days of preparation, AHF reopened its doors in Dalisay Ext. West Triangle homes.
“The church bloomed in the Place, God is good and with that God began several ministries under AHF such as Harvest Groups; the Wednesday night service at AHFi, the youth ministry called the Armor Bearers, the Men and Women’s ministry and the Helps Initiative. Soon we saw members flock in our door, we never stood for big churches since our desire is to plant a small church with several campuses since the Pastor should know his congregants by name. The member should not be just a face in the crowd but a person whom the Pastor encourages, prays for and rebukes if need be.”
Pastor Lyle being a former child star and celebrity was constantly featured by different television shows and networks. His story was what they wanted; what he gave them was something else- not his story but God’s great work in his life.
“Glory to God, once the church focuses on a persona; it is not a church anymore but a social gathering of sorts with Christ as a vague footnote. That is something we would not allow, it should always be less of us and more of Him.”
In the midst of joy came trials pressed on by members of the flock who viewed God as an atm machine, or genie instead of Lord. There was no true conversion in their hearts but a vague belief that by sincerity; they were saved.
“When you hear of a testimony of change, such joy fills your heart- sadly not all who profess change actually changes. Not all who call themselves believers are actually believers. It boils down to the evidences of their faith. My family, our leadership and myself devoted every waking moment and at times even in late nights to early mornings to resolve personal issues, try to reason with them and pray for them. Sadly, many do not know how to respond to kindness. We opened our home to them but they worked to destroy what God has planted here. I pity them since there was no true conversion in them, they just went through the motion. Yes they served, they prayed and cried on the altar; but there was no change in their lives.”
Some of the former members turned to direct rebellion to a point of even working to destroy the current partnerships that AHFi had with an outreach church in the provinces who benefited greatly from AHF’s projects, activities and support.
“It was a tough time, we felt alone- my mother who is truly focused in God cried out and said; even if the only ones to remain are the 4 of us; we would press on with the work God entrusted. It is painful to see God’s truth become maligned by wolves in sheep’s clothing but at the end of the day; all you can do is trust in the Lord and be still in His truth.”
Many who formed the rebellion stood for easy believism; a heretical standpoint that licenses christians to sin since when sin abounds, grace abounds even more. They stood for the Once saved always Saved doctrine that promoted the viewpoint that regardless if you continue sinning; you were saved. Pastor Lyle who devoted 2 years in preaching sound doctrine was surprised to hear such a standpoint. His father, Bro. Rommel Villarico who stood as the church’s elder for doctrinal studies was appalled upon learning of the idealism that grace is unlimited for those who practice unlimited sinning. The rebellion worsened when the people who incited such a thing professed that lordship salvation is a cult like idealism.
“These people readily view Christ as savior but never as Lord; for if they did- their actions would have been to edify the brethren, to strengthen the church of Christ not tear it down because of egotism and pride. I do not despise or hate the, I pity them for they chose the broad road instead of treading the narrow path; thus to work your salvation with fear and trembling.”
In this difficult time, Pastor Lyle, His family, Youth Pastor Akeem Lumongsod and a handful of true believers stood in prayer and pressed on the work God entrusted. What happened next was the New Beginning God purposed in the opening of the Napindan Campus of AHF in Taguig. The campus started out as a youth outreach under the headship of Bro. Mario and Sis. Aleta Manosca. Their desire was to impact the youths in their neighborhood who has regressed to profanity, stealing and disobedience. Pastor Akeem Lumongsod heeded the call to come each Friday to share the word of God. What began as an outreach became the main branch for the Youth Ministry. Pastor Lyle Lopez then held core bible studies after the youth service. AHFi who was known for their wonderful activities and events took a step back from all that and focused on one simple thing: to share God’s word, impact lives and put love in action.
God’s hand moved for the Saints of AHFi who began Sunday Services in Napindan. They also held monthly outreaches to Gawad Kalingga, a government housing facility for the impoverished citizens of the Philippines. The vision came to them to plant a campus in Napindan with the creation of the Upper Room, a sanctuary overlooking The community where the youth services would be held and Sunday services would be accomplished.
“Hallelujah to God’s great faithfulness, God has planted through us the upper room situated in Napindan Taguig, a newly constructed house of worship. All glory to Him!”
God’s goodness truly shown, what the enemy meant for evil; God has turned for good. He sifted through the field of AHF and purged the Tares that inhabited alongside the wheat. He quelled the weeds and replaced them with generation of believers who truly sought to glorify God.
“That is why the 3rd year of AHFi means so much to us who remain; it signifies the end of an age of strife, disobedience and rebellion and signals the beginning of an era of complete obedience and truth. This is not because of a program we have set or some strategy to tie the people to this church; no- it is simply because all of us proclaim Christ’s Lordship. No one can truly proclaim Christ’s Lordship if the Holy Spirit does not dwell in them; praise God that He has sent forth the Holy Spirit in our midst and filled all of us with such an anointing to cleave to scripture thus proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ by the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 12:3 – “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.”
“We stand by the truth that we are slaves to Christ’s righteousness thus we will not do anything that goes against His will. This is an age of the renewal of our covenant to proclaim Christ’s lordship in our lives no matter the cost. We will follow, we will obey and regardless of the dry ground we tread upon, despite the birds that might devour the seed we have been called to plant; we will continue sowing not for us, nor for some misplaced idea of legacy- all this, our lives, our everything is to glorify our King!”
AHFi, now in its 4th upcoming year stands as a beacon of God truth in the heart of the Philippines as each Pastor, leader and teacher that has been called to service in this ministry stands to proclaim the truth of God’s goodness one verse at a time by the power of the Holy Spirit thus confessing and professing Christ in their walk moment by moment. Glory to God for His great faithfulness that shines in the church He planted.