Language Barrier


The day I first stepped in Jubilee Evangelical Church was April 13, 2002, to audition for the musicale Bow Down (I remember the date because that was my late father’s birthday). I am celebrating my “10th anniversary” with Jubilee this year, and I don’t regret a single moment of it. The church has nurtured me into who I am today. It is through Jubilee that I was baptized, continually learn more about the word of God (Sunday service, equip, cell groups), learned how to share the gospel (standard Evangelism Explosion), and served God through various ministries across ages (Youth for Christ, Power Camp, Holy Week Retreat, Sunday School, Church Choir, Praise and Worship, DVBS, among others). I love Jubilee because it is a Chinese church and yet we are not too constrained about the Chinese culture. Jubilee is a small church that offers two worship services: Sunrise Celebration at 7:45am (targeting the youth with English as the medium) and the Main Worship Service at 9:30am (Bilingual service with English and Fukian as the medium).

When I was still in college, getting up early in the morning to attend Sunrise Service was doable. But now, it is really a struggle for me to wake up early for Sunday, and go to church in Jubilee. It is such a struggle that often, I would choose not to sleep at all so that I can be “awake” for the worship service.

I shared my struggles to some of my church contemporaries, and they also admit that they and a lot of their friends—old time sunrise service attendees–are either having a difficulty or have already stopped attending church in Jubilee because it was too early. Most of them opted to worship in other churches with a later English service instead. As we grow older and have more responsibilities at work and at home, it is becoming harder and harder to go to church at 7:45am. It is also quite challenging for a sleepy person to absorb the message.

You may ask me, if we cannot get up and attend the 7:45am service, why not go to the 9:30am service instead? It is because for people who are not used to listening to bilingual sermons, the shift of language can really be distracting. Most Chinese in Quezon City speak and understand English better than Chinese. Most Filipino-Chinese Christians in Quezon City read the English Bible and not the Chinese Bible. Most Filipino-Chinese Christians in Quezon City can relate to English praise songs and hymns better than Chinese.

Sunrise Service started as a youth oriented worship time, and as you can see, it really caters to youth. As the members mature, they leave that service and seek a “meatier” worship. This for me poses as a serious problem. We keep on inviting people to go to church, and they stay only for a short time and leave, and then another batch of churchgoers attend Sunrise, and leave again. This is one of the backdoor exits in Jubilee Evangelical Church!

At the same time, “grownups” who are more used to English find it hard to worship in a bilingual church. Eric, one of my friends from another church mentioned this sentiment: the era of bilingual churches has passed. They were created years ago for the Chinese people who barely understood English. Now, it is a dying breed–Unless of course you will cater to the new Chinese people from mainland China instead.

Why can something that worked in the past not be effective today? Times have changed. Chinoys are now more Filipino than Chinese. Christopher, another friend of mine, mentioned that it is even worse in the States, where the American-Born-Chinese immediately lose the “ethnicity” and the ability to speak and understand Chinese. Face it. Once Chinese people become citizens of another country, dilution is certainly bound to happen.

I’ve been praying about this for almost a year now, and God is giving me the strength to write this blog to express how I really feel. I urge you to pray for me and for the growth of our church. This issue is not about preference of one person over the other, but it is about the “tongue” that is more understandable to the majority.

My proposal:

  1. Removal of the 7:45am “Sunrise Worship” catering to just the youth
  2. Adjustment of the main worship (bilingual) service from 9:30am to 9am (just 30 minutes earlier)
  3. Creation of an English Worship Service at 10:45am, for families to attend together.
  4. Establishment of two Sunday School class times, one for each service



7:45am Sunrise Worship (English) 9:00am Bilingual Worship (English – Fukian)
9:30am Main Worship (English – Fukian) 10:45am English Worship

One objection I can foresee in this proposal is the unwillingness of the older generation to change or try new things. However, we also want to help the younger generation grow in their faith too. We want to worship in the language that we can understand. It is also hard to invite new believers to a 7:45am church, as opposed to a 10:45am church service. I can almost guarantee that more people will attend the 10:45am English service than the current Sunrise attendees and the Bilingual service.

In my proposal, this verse is the source of my courage: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” – 1 Cor 12

Included in my letter is a quick report of other nearby churches’ Sunday worship time:

Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF) in  Ortigas: –       8:00-9:30 AM (English service, morning)

–       10:00-11:30 AM (English service, morning)

–       12:00-1:30 PM (English service, noon)

–       2:30-4:00 PM (Filipino service, afternoon)

–       4:30-6:00 PM (Filipino service, afternoon)

–       6:30-8:00 PM (English service, evening)

Victory Greenhills –       2:30pm, 4:30pm, 6:30pm (English services)
Victory Ortigas (Robinsons) –       8am, 10am, 12pm, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm (English services)
Christian Bible Church of the Philippines (CBCP), Talayan Village, Quezon City –       7.30am. English Service

–       9.00am. Chinese-English Service

–       9.15am. Youth Worship (in the library)

–       11.00am. Chinese-English Service

United Evangelical Church of Greenhills (UECG) –       8:30-9:45am – Chinese Service (bilingual)

–       10:30am – 11:35am — English Service

Grace Christian Church in Grace Village, Quezon City: –          730am English Service

–          9am Chinese-English Service

–          11am English Service

Grace Gospel Church, Sta Mesa: –          7am – English worship service

–          9am – Chinese worship service

–          11am – English worship service

Greenhills Christian Fellowship (GCF) –          8am, 10:30am, 5:30pm – English services

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope there is something we can do about this. Again, please pray for our church’s growth!

(by the way, this is a revision of the letter I wrote to the board of elders and deacons last May 22, 2011. Nothing happened so far. The board was quick to action—they had a poll: move both sunrise and main worship services 30 minutes later or no change. “No change” won by less than 20 votes. Too bad, right?)

Please share your thoughts about this matter down below… (and don’t forget to identify yourself 🙂 )

23 responses »

  1. Pingback: Language Barrier No More | Shanda's Happy Deals

  2. Pingback: The official reply of Jubilee to my blog « Shanda's Happy Deals

  3. Hi Shanda. Heard about your blog. Finally, I got to read it and I can say with all sincerity that it is written with love and conviction. It is positively written and it should be received positively. I can feel the love that you have for Jubilee and I praise God for you.

    God is Watching and God is Listening. Lord willing, He’ll provide a solution soon. And it might be sooner than most of us expect, maybe next year….


  4. Tingin ko ok nmn intention so oks lng.. (wag mo nlng sabhin eric haha) though my main point nung sinabi ko yun is hindi tungkol sa schedule but “if chinese churches will cater only to chinese/filchi pips eventually mamamatay.. kc di nmn gusto yun ni God right? Di lng ako agree na parang exclusive churva, parang sa province medyo nauubos yung members pag ayaw mgreach out” proposal ko kaya ko sinabi yun is hopefully (malayo pa) uec churches ay hindi n ma”label” na chinese church but evangelical church lng.. Hehe (nothing to do with time sched ng service but kung sino ang target ng churches) ….. Yun yung context ko (after magmission trip ako sa uecolongapo)

    Re time sched, feasib study is the best… Survey mo youth service goers and yung isang service… Admin stuff kc yan meaning just do the math… survey.. Yung obvious sa atin hindi obvious sa knila… Dapat yung survey walang nakalagay na premises para no bias. Admin issues dapat yung basis e numbers.. No numbers no proposal.. Hindi usap usap lng or pkiramdaman or churva churva so survey tlga..

    Sana ngwait kayo ng opportunity (like mging deacon or talk informally to your leaders isa isa) rather than blog, kc pag walang change na ngyari (reasonble or not) it might discourage yung mga members na nakabasa(maisipan na bulok leaders magisip)… And bka rebel yung dating … Again blog ba yung gusto ni God na means… Kc tingin ko walang nareresolve na “LQ” sa fb, rather mas nasisira yung relationship or ngiging cold

    In the end kung cno yung leader dapat tyong mgsubmit khit inconvenient , the point of your passage is unity in christ… submission(endurance) sa established leaders is also part of it.. So hnggng proposed lng tlga tyo sa board… Ksi nmn mgdeacon n kyo! Para mas may say!


  5. I agree with you that we need an all English worship service.
    I have even proposed to the board that we have both services at the same time.
    One service will use the Main Chapel and the other use the Lower Chapel.
    We can move sunday school to JCA school building.
    For the speakers who mostly speak both languages, we can do this: (example) ; On the first week, Rev Young can deliver his message to the Chinese congragation and Rev Pan can deliver his message to the English speaking congragation. For the second week, both of them swap and deliver the same message in the other language.
    If we have both worshp service at the same time, there will be no problem as to who will bring the elderly to Church to listen to the Chinese message. There will be a type of service for each member of the family, from the elderly – Chinese speaking member, to the English speaking congragation, to kids attending Sunday school, We will in effect target the entire family within the same time period.


    • there seem to be a lot of solution to this problem. I am sure God will lead us to the best decision. Hopefully soon!

      Change is inevitable, and hopefully, the old-timers will be “servants” this time, and minister to the greater needs of the people by accepting the change.

      Personally, i think we need spiritual (not just administrative) leaders to step up and take charge!


  6. I am behind you in prayers. I am also in total agreement with this comment: “I’m not into dishonoring the elderly, but having their “focused” service can likewise be beneficial, otherwise, they also complain when there’s not enough Chinese songs sung, when the presider can’t pronounce the Chinese words right and so on.”

    I may partially agree if somebody will argue that it isn’t about comfort but it’s learning to count the cost of following God (in this case, waking up early, sacrificing a day to wake up early and go to church). However, we’re still primarily evangelicals in this sense and it would be saddening if we only take into account those whom the church cater to, not those whom we hope and pray to reach out to. IF there comes a time, decades from now, when youth suddenly becomes early risers, I should be able to sacrifice too and wake at – or wait until – 6am to attend a service to help in reaching out to them. Presently, a large fraction of the seekers wake up later than this. It’s not about us succumbing to the fear of having members move to another church, but it’s more of doing away with the changes that seem to be affecting our active evangelism and discipling. Those whom the church had successfully reached out to must be able to consider those whom the church must now reach out to. A series of changes may occur, but that’s how I see the idea of counting the cost of winning souls for God. It is crucial that we never forget our vision as we make decisions regarding such issues.


    • P.S I’m not suggesting a total change in the time, just perhaps a third one catering to English-speaking seekers as well? I agree with possible opposing views, and I know the aforementioned concerns were considered by those in the position (and I apologize for talking and typing too fast) but I know sooo many people who have declined invitations or who have stopped entirely for this reason, and it’s really heartbreaking to witness it, but I know that I should acknowledge and trust that God has reasons for this current schedule. And I trust that God will bring them to a sanctuary in His own time, not by my might, not by our church’s, but by God’s leading alone.


      • sad how people leave the church no? I know some who choose to attend other churches not because they do not love the Jubilee family, but because their family prefers to attend a later English service. There are also a lot of Sunday School parents who just bring their kids to church and worship somewhere else (or not worship at all). Just sad.


  7. Hi Shanda, thanks for writing this blog. Just to let you know how much I share your sentiments. We should look forward, not backward, look for long term benefits, not short term ones. The needs of the youth need to be considered more even if it means the elderly, hopefully more mature members, sacrifice more. In the Bacolod Trinity Church, the elderly (mostly more comfortable with the Chinese language) attend the 9am Amoy service (no translation, thereby finishing at 10am). The English service follows at 10:15am. Both services are doing well. Celebration worship services (joint service) happens once in awhile. I think you should give this “proposal” to the Board. Don’t expect immediate change. i just hope they spend more time studying this. And when they do the survey, they should also consider the age group that gives a specific answer. I’m not into dishonoring the elderly, but having their “focused” service can likewise be beneficial, otherwise, they also complain when there’s not enough Chinese songs sung, when the presider can’t pronounce the Chinese words right and so on. God bless your courageous heart!


    • hi carol, I gave them this letter last May of 2011. This is my follow up. Hindi naman tunog nang-a-away diba? It’s an expression, but of course I will choose to submit. Kaya nga nasa Jubilee parin kami ni Fil eh. hehe


  8. The oldies would even be happier if you put them at 8 am… Because they really wake up early and they still prefer to cook for their children and grandchildren for the Sunday Family gathering.

    Your proposal is right. The same struggle with my church for years.

    The main problem people are not the oldies but those in the fifties and sixties. These are the people in leadership position who never consult the congregation but put matter in their hands. They are the present church leaders, where most of them decides was is comfortable for themselves.

    Keep praying…. it took our church 7 years before we started the English service… (“,)


  9. hi Shanda, this is a nice read.Well, I think in the final analysis, it takes two to tango. On one side it is the demographics the church is catering to. This will define the program, time, venue, strength at the pulpit, even the budget. The second one depends on the person’s mindset, priorities, and season. I have friends who will chose to wake up everyday except Sunday to run so that he can be physically healthy but fail to come to church because Sunday is the only time he can sleep all day.

    I think it is also a balance between a church being flexible yet strongly rooted int he Bible. It is a balance that is not always easy to have. It is a big challenge.

    I ponder one 1 thing in relation to your blog, How is the christian life on Monday to Saturday? Sunday service is important as the rest of the week. This I believe is a big challenges to churches today. How the churches deal with it on the Sunday pulpit will matter a lot for the rest of the days of the week.

    Anyways, I am really really glad about you posting on this topic. It shows you have grown up in your faith in God. That is very very good. I do believe that a church cannot cater to everybody. It is a matter of a person finding a church where he or she would encounter God, be rooted in the Bible, and grow in the faith. And from the point of view of God, I think He sees that many many people go to church on Sunday, but what matters to Him is who worships Him on that allotted time, who worships Him in spirit and in truth.


  10. for me the notion of “too early” is just an excuse….. A friend of mine who attends NMEC before , is always late , i asked him why he is always late , his answer is “ang aga kasi e” now he attends church at CCF the 8am service , my point is that it depends on the person if he/she feels nurtured or enlighten by the service , no matter how early it may be it doesnt matter….. for example why do people usually have the patience to wait in line to be seated for instance in MANNHAN its a chinese restaurant but many filipino wants to eat there , its because of the menu right? because after eating, there is a feeling that you ate good food and you are happy about it , how about mcdonalds? you may be full but thats about it and after eating there for sometime you grew tired of it…. just like in church , there are some church that you attend just for the sake of saying that you are a christian “drive thru” , and there are churches where in you want to seat down and enjoy and stay longer… so in my opinion it depends on the person if this church is “SOFITEL” and that church is “MCDONALDS” language is not a barrier……. opinion ko lng toh and sorry for the wrong grammars haha


    • what you say makes a lot of sense. But in a bigger sense, we are not talking about Sofitel versus Mcdonalds, but, Mcdonalds Erod versus Mcdonalds Wilson. If this branch doesn’t offer Apple pie, I’ll just go and get it from the other branch. There is nothing wrong with wanting to sleep more on Sundays. It is a day of rest after all. As long as you attend a bible-based church and grow spiritually, the name of the church doesn’t matter or the time of the service. With all the options out there (CCF, VCF, GCF, UECG, etc), how can Jubilee grow when people you invite just leave because of the worship time and language being used? Our pastors in Jubilee right now use English to preach and they have to be translated to Chinese for the main service, not the other way around.
      Also, the people you meet in church ten years ago is not there anymore. Because of the school, there are always new people coming in. But when they graduate from college, poof! they’re gone.


  11. good read shands,,,, its been ages since i went to jec… but i strongly agree that we make it one worship service 10am ( not 10:45 ) im blessed with your testimony, on how god has touched your life


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