When we joined the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ), one of the things we were encouraged to do during our Bible Studies was to ask questions. The Minister would end his lesson and then ask us, “do you have any questions?” Most would just shake their heads, No. Once in a while, there would be someone who would ask and this would encourage others to also ask follow up questions. Soon it would be a full-blown question and answer session with the Minister pulling out verses from the Bible like breathing oxygen from the air. It was always so smooth and brethren would have smiles on their faces, proud that those questions from Bible students and guests alike would be answered straight from the holy book. You will even often see brethren nudging their guests, whispering “go ahead, ask a question” – almost daring them – to show that any question could be answered by their resident minister. Those were proud moments weren’t they? Whether it is about the Messenger, or Jesus or eating blood or some odd topic like U.F.O.s we enjoyed those sessions.
Nowadays, in what should be the zenith of the Church, we see different pictures. In America, as well as in other countries, during Bible study sessions, we see empty sanctuaries. Brethren barely even attend, except for the officers who are “required” to show up. Many don’t have guests and if they do show up with one or two, they are unimpressed by the young men preaching to them, or, as most of them were called in school, STF; or they have some newbie straight from the islands who can’t make the verb-subject agreement work but still preach with great haughtiness and cockiness – still feeling they are the God’s gift to mankind because they were able to be “top-notchers” in the Philippines, which is why they were “rewarded” of “going abroad” – regardless of their lack of training in the foreign language. And yet, if you would look at the local records, you would be amazed at the long number of Bible students listed. But where are they? Ahh, that is one of the mysteries that continue to spread.
In the Philippines, you could say it is the opposite – there are many people who are being brought to the bible studies and Missionary venues – coming in droves. At times, hundreds come to these events – many of them looking forward to attending because they are able to obtain free rice, or get a free meal or many things that they truly need. It is understandable that people would flock to these events because of the great need in the Third World country. But how many of those who were invited, actually listened, heard and joined purely out of faith? The Church gave out so much freebies last year that the non-members dubbed us the “Church of Rice”. Yes. Real funny right?
What we see here is the magic with numbers. Let’s start with the Americas; most of the Ministers of course, will say it doesn’t matter where they are assigned, but the truth of the matter is, they will do everything they can – NOT to be sent back to the Philippine provinces – even if they have to “fudge” the number of Bible students. How is that done you ask? Just simply ask an honest Light of Salvation Chairperson and they will tell you – any guest that walks through that door and shows any kind of interest, their Minister will register as a “Bible Student”. So you say, they “might” be interested. Sure. That’s why there’s that long list of names of people who have never attended Worship Services or even returned for another Bible study. Another “one-timer” but hey, that’s ok, they are still counted on paper, right?
In the North Midwest District, they have tried even hygiene items(?) to draw the people.
In North California they even tried GIFT CARDS (yes, really) for those who showed up. And then we’ll shove that verse in their face?? “BECAUSE I FED YOU!” How cruel can that be? But hey, again, it looks good on paper! 15,000 guests; 50,000 guests; 1 million guests!!!
In South California, despite the magic numbers being produced in some locales, in the number of Bible Students, the entire District managed to break over 100 baptised souls. God bless those baptised souls – but compared to the number of “listed” bible students, you would wonder if those people really even exist anymore. The results usually won’t even break 10% in most Districts. If you think I’m making all this up, check for yourself, it’s very easy – in the next Worship Service, pass by those papers that the Light of Salvation officers put out – they have the list of names of “Bible students” and count how many actually are signed by those who ATTEND. I’d show one here but they would recognise my resident Minister. He wouldn’t be too happy with that.
Let’s hop back over to the Philippines where there are guests being driven in by the truckloads. Why is that you ask? Tell me, if you are struggling to feed your family and here is a group offering to give you a sack of rice, if you attend, wouldn’t you take it?
The reason of the Church in giving out food is because “Jesus also fed people”. Well.. actually. It’s different. This is what the Bible says in Mark 8:
“During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
Jesus did not lure them with food so that they could come and listen. They wanted to come and when they did, Jesus had compassion and was worried they would have nothing to eat on the way home. There were no McDonalds on the way home.
The problem with the lure of giveaways, like Jesus said: “you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you believe in me” John 6:26 Living Bible. There was actually a time that the former Executive Minister instructed the locales to STOP FEEDING the guests because he said that they were going for the wrong reason. Isn’t that what Jesus did not want? And now, it has become the focal point of these events – show up and get a prize! LITERALLY.
So next time you hear statistics in the Worship Services and meetings, pay close attention; don’t be easily too dazzled by the flash of large numbers – instead, listen carefully – there will be a lot of numbers thrown at you. For example – “Millions of people have been able to listen” – yes.. MILLIONS listened (meaning attended) – but not baptised. Here’s another one – “hundreds of chapels constructed this year” – yes – as in the tiny “Barangay” chapels – which Brother Bien Manalo himself said are “TEMPORARY” and really meant to be for Bible studies. How many are dedicated by the Executive Minister? Who can forget tiny Bakersfield? And there’s tiny Florida chapel as well. Tiny – as in seating capacity of just breaking over 100. That’s considered “Barangay” chapel in the Philippines. Remember… “magic”
(excerpt courtesy of Bro. John K. Magaling / Marlex Cantor)
This goes for the numbers for new officers as well – when they say, 1000 new officers took oath – what they really mean – most of those were already officers and they just took additional 2nd or 3rd duty.
If some of the readers might be thinking that I am just saying a bunch of garbage without evidence, then let me be more specific with numbers and with evidence. For example, some of the numbers that have been mentioned in the past are the number of buildings and chapels purchased since 2009. Those are true. But remember, don’t be too dazzled by the flash – two of those edifices are in the Chicago Illinois area. The District Office of North Midwest and the chapel of Chicago itself. Both were purchased during the current Administrator’s time. What has happened since then? Let’s just look at the picture shall we?
The first picture is the District Building with the FOR SALE sign. And the second one is the former Chicago chapel dedicated a few years ago. Both are no longer used. Magic.
Let me add this recent one. The “new” Local congregations which is a “reflection” of the “continued growt” of the Church. There are many “new” ones – in different Districts. Here’s one: Glendale. What is interesting about these so-called “new” local congregations is that the members are from the Los Angeles locale. Their worship services are in Los Angeles chapel. The officers are from Los Angeles. And yet, they are now “Glendale”!! MAGIC!
Here is an additional one that I’ll throw in for good measure. Brother San Pedro, the General FB minister of the Church, the master of posting tales, posted this. Please tell me what is his basis for saying this?
So if the”Defenders” are less than 1%, why are they SO WORRIED and UPSET? If the number of Defenders is truly dwindling, why even bother? There are supposedly about 3 million brethren worldwide, what could 34 Defenders do? If the Church is, and I quote, “MORE SOLID THAN EVER”, then why keep posting about them?
During the time of Israel, the Bible calls that “WHITEWASHING” Read the 13th chapter of Ezekiel. Here is a small portion – …They will not belong to the council of my people… because they lead my people astray, saying “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash… By lying to my people, who listen to lies, you have killed those who should not have died and have spared those who should not live… I am against your magic charms…Because you disheartened the righteous with your lies.”
The point I just want to drive home is that brethren should be aware – there are those who try to dazzle us with big numbers – but that’s all it is – as they say, a lot of “smoke and mirrors”. Go ahead and show pictures of worship services. Go ahead and show us brethren smiling with EVM. But we all know that underneath the smiles and handshakes, there lies the truth – the truthful numbers that are not mentioned; the number of those who are oppressed- those who are pushed into silence for the sake of not being expelled. There are the many locales who cannot even afford their rent, the Ministers’ rent, the monthly expenses; There are the secret numbers of District which cannot afford to pay their bills. How many have Ministers and workers now have to plead with brethren to personally help because they don’t even have rides or to plead to the officers to add to the funds so they don’t have to move to another place of worship? Those are the cold hard truths. Is the Church bankrupt? No. But I am sure many of you officers, especially outside the Philippines can feel the financial burden. And you ask about one of the big questions? Are the bank loans real? Be aware again with the smoke and mirrors – the Iglesia NI Cristo does not have any loans. But ask, does the Maligaya Development Corporation have loans? Yes it does. Who is the MDC? We’ve been through this before. Let’s just say it’s m-a-g-i-c.
As Mr. Harry Potter would say: “Wingardium leviosa!”
Before you go, have a smile…
Proverbs 25:18 – “Like a club and a sword and a piercing arrow is a man who testifies falsely against his neighbor”