It has been almost 10 years since the great leader of the Iglesia Ni Cristo passed away. The memory of Brother Eraño G. Manalo cannot be wiped away. He exemplified a true leader of God. One who cared for the sheep and tended to our needs.
The work of a true pastor of the Lord is not simply preaching. They KNOW the needs of the servants of God. How does a leader get to know the needs of the servants? He does not merely rely on hearsay or by word of mouth. He finds out for himself. He listens and finds out their concerns and their fears. That’s what Jesus said:
“I am the good shepherd. As the Father knows me and I know the Father, in the same way I know my sheep and they know me. And I am willing to die for them.” John 10:14
How do you get to know them if you don’t even take the time to talk to them? Brother Eraño was amazing at that. He spoke to the people. He asked them their names, how they were, where they are from, what is it that they wanted to talk to them about and he remembered them. There was no express meet and greetwhere people are shuffled through a line and you get to touch one hand, a picture is taken and then you are herded off into the nearest exit. It used to be a real meeting and an experience.
Brother Eraño really spoke to people so he knew there were differences in cultures, in countries, in livelihood, and even in seasons.
He knew it did not make sense to hold grand evangelical missions if it was hurricane season or if it was winter season and people would have difficulties driving in snow. He knew that the lifestyles and livelihood of church members in Japan were different from the church members in New York.
Brother Eraño even knew that certain activities did not fit some cultures so he did not insist on them.
Nowadays, it seems the current Church “leader” will simply IMPOSE what he wants because he can and everyone simply has to live with it, whether it makes sense or not. It’s what you call “one size fits all” decision making. Whatever he says, goes for everyone no matter where you are. Could some things be done like that everywhere? Sure but it does not mean it makes sense. Let me give you a couple of specific examples:
- Holding a SIMULTANEOUS WORLD-WIDE EVANGELICAL MISSION. Could it be done? Sure! But that would mean it would be held at 7:00 AM in one venue and 11:00 PM in another venue. Does it make sense to invite guests at 7:00 AM and some at 11:00 PM? NO. Could it be done? Yes. But is it effective? NO.
- Let’s try another one. The WORLD-WIDE WALK. Was it done? Of course! There were people who walked in the rain and some had to walk in the snow. It even looked great in pictures! But did it really make sense? Not really. If you think about it, what was the point of The Walk? Fund raising? That could have been done by simple monetary contributions. Then what? FOR SHOW. Nothing more.
The point is, decisions of a GREAT leader takes into consideration the welfare of the people. There will be people who will follow and some will not even complain but if a leader is WISE, he would think about how it would affect those involved. It is not merely insisting to get it done, especially when there really is no true benefit to it. The examples I mentioned above were done. The Church members but those are merely for show and to be able to say “Ooh! We are ONE!” But the reality is, there really is nothing gained, except for announcements of accomplishments and for photo ops.
I know this is odd to use but I am going to quote the comedian Chris Rock when he said, “Sure you can drive with your feet if you wanted to, but it don’t make it a good idea!” Ok, let’s be more scriptural. “Some of you say, “We can do anything we want to.” But I tell you that not everything is good for us.” 1 Corinthians 6:12. Get the idea?
Let me take one more example: Vow Prayers. We keep getting told about joining a vow prayer for this and vow prayer for that. Are vow prayers bad? No but the leaders need to also be considerate of the members. They cannot just keep imposing schedule after schedule without thinking about the life and schedules of the people.
Wait a minute. You might say, isn’t it that we should sacrifice our time and effort for these things? Sure, but the vow prayers before were for a specific purpose and a specific time frame. Nowadays, vow prayers are endless and for any and all reasons. Special Offering weekend… setting aside weekend.. Evangelical Mission weekend… Pastoral Visit… Donation weekend… it is non stop! What is wrong with that? If the brethren and especially officers are always being required to attend this vow and that vow, what happens? They end up getting weary of them and eventually missing them. Am I speaking against God’s commands? On the contrary, the Bible says:
“It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.” Ecclesiastes 5:5
Why set these endless vow prayers which the people will end up breaking because they have no end? I hope I am making point across because I am sure that someone will read this and say AHA! You are against prayers! You are against Missionary Work! Wrong. My point is, that our previous Administrator, Brother Eraño, was always considerate and tried to make things easy, not hard. He knew that life was already hard enough as it is. He did not have to add anymore burdens than what we already have. Jesus and the Apostles had that same spirit. Here is a specific example:
When the debate whether the Gentiles should abide by the Jewish tradition of circumcision, the 1st century Administrator considered not only the culture of the Gentiles but also the difficulty of imposing it upon them. What did the leader decide?
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. Acts 15:19-20
Did Jesus simply say, ok, obey whatever I tell you and deal with it even when it’s too much for you? He also was considerate: “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. ” Matthew 11:28
Many of us have burdens. We have pressures at work. We have troubles at home. Scraping up every cent is tough for many. LIFE IS HARD. Obeying God’s commands are already tough to apply in life. Brother Eraño knew all that. He empathised with us. He knew sacrifices were made by brethren. There was no need to add to them. He was truly guided by God. How could we ever forget someone like that?