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.
- Removal of the 7:45am “Sunrise Worship” catering to just the youth
- Adjustment of the main worship (bilingual) service from 9:30am to 9am (just 30 minutes earlier)
- Creation of an English Worship Service at 10:45am, for families to attend together.
- 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 🙂 )