Delighting Grace: Please tell us something about yourself and how Living Waters-Asia came to be.
Dennis: I came from a Christian family. My father is involved in teaching doctrines in church Sunday school. My mom is a great Christian parent and wife. There are several pastors in both my parents’ families. I basically grew up in church. I was involved in several ministries growing up, including in evangelism. But I was mostly involved in music as I had an uncle who was a member of the Philippine Madrigals Singers that influenced me a lot. I was part of a professional Christian choral group in college and later became the choir director for five years of a church. I was so into music even though my field is really in psychology (I have an M.A. in psychology). Church and Christian service was part of my life, not really because I loved doing it, but more because that was the norm in my family. All along, I thought I was already a Christian because of my involvement in church only to find out one evening in December of 2005 that I was just fooling myself. That evening, I was confronted by God’s moral standard, the Ten Commandments, through my first ever Way of the Master episode which talked about “True and False Conversion”. Publicly, I was the model Christian. But privately, I was living a life rebellious of God. For the first time, I was humble enough to acknowledge my true standing before God. That night, I truly repented of my sins and trusted Christ for my salvation.
After that, God placed in my heart the burden to share the principle of the Way of the Master as I was concern that there could be lots of people in churches that were like me before, a false convert. I decided to start a youth group which will help me share the principle, thus, the Star Youth Ministries was born. During that time, I was purchasing WOTM materials from Living Waters offices in the US and Australia with the shipping fees costing more than the actual items I order. That’s when I emailed the Living Waters office in the US and asked why they did not have an office in Asia. The response I got from Emeal “EZ” Zwayne (Living Waters Executive VP) was “Do you want to head it?’ To make the long story short, by September, they gave me the “go” signal to establish Living Waters Asia and by November, we opened our office and started our operations.
Delighting Grace: Why is modern evangelism wrong? I always hear Ray Comfort talk about this in his writings and programs, and I presume he is talking about American Christians. But as a Pinoy (Pilipino), how far is this “modern evangelism” affected our churches here and does it differ from our American counterpart?
Dennis: This is how I view biblical evangelism compared to modern evangelism… With biblical evangelism, you’re like telling a sick person to go to this hospital so he can get treatment for his illness which you proved he has. At first, he was hesitant to go. But after making him realize the seriousness of his illness, he finally did. The person goes to the said hospital, gets very difficult treatment, and then goes home cured. With modern evangelism, you tell a sick person to go to this hospital because they throw great parties for everyone which guarantees every person visiting the hospital going home smiling. You never tell him about his illness. The guy goes to this hospital, looks for the party but couldn’t find it. He then goes home disappointed and still sick.
The damage modern evangelism has created in the US is the same as the damage we have in our country as most Christian churches in the Philippines copy what’s happening in the US. And the damage is not just because we are copying what’s “in” in US churches. There will always be damage whenever we play around the message of the Gospel. Christians of today, I believe, are less confident on the Holy Spirit and the Gospel’s ability to stand on its own. We forget that the Gospel is a message penned by God Himself. Thus, we see clever Christians adding aspects to the Gospel that aren’t really part of the original message just to make people “give God a try”. And so, what we have right now is a movement that tries to adjust the Gospel to the world when it should be the world adjusting to the demands of the Gospel. As far as the Bible is concern, the only reason why we need Christ in our lives is for the forgiveness of our sins and the justification that will allow us to go to Heaven which we can only get from the perfect sacrifice of the Saviour. Life-enhancement and happiness in this world is not part of the benefit of having Christ in our lives. This is the reason why I do not need to start my Gospel presentation with “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” Sin is the reason why I need to bring out the Ten Commandments to people who are proud of their own righteousness so that the other requirement for salvation, repentance, is also given as a response to the Gospel together with faith on the Lord Jesus Christ (Read Acts 20:21).
What’s the result of modern gospel preaching? False converts. I can bravely tell this fact to any modern gospel preacher because I was once a false convert. I thank God every time I realize that had He taken my life before that one evening in December 2005, I could be suffering in Hell right now. But God was rich in His mercy towards me. He made me see what I really was… a wretched sinner needing His salvation.
So you may ask, “Does all modern gospel presentation result in false conversion?” I admit, no. Praise the Lord He still saves despite a “God is love and has a wonderful plan for your life” message. You call that “grace”. But realize this… most of the time, we only get one chance to deliver the Gospel to someone. Don’t you want in that one chance to do it correctly, effectively, biblically, the way Jesus did? And understand this, the only time you can be assured that the Holy Spirit will move when you share the Gospel is when you preach sin, righteousness and judgment to come (Read John 16:8-11).
Delighting Grace: Is it hard for Pinoy Christians to get hold of this sort of evangelism from the traditional ones we are taught at church?
Dennis: In almost 6 years of doing Way of the Master seminars all throughout the country, after we’ve shared the principle of biblical evangelism, we always hear participants give their agreement to what we shared to them. There have been seminars where during the closing prayer that the host pastor leads, we hear them say, “Lord, forgive us for neglecting for a long time a principle you have taught in your Word that we should use whenever we share the Gospel.” I feel so encouraged to continue on with what we’re doing whenever I hear prayers like that. But the sad thing is that old habits are really hard to forget. Some pastors who have gone through our seminars and have embraced the principle for some time go back to their old ways of sharing the Gospel. That, for me is very disappointing. I believe that what makes them go back to their old and erroneous message is the burden to bring in results. They have a need to show records of conversions from their evangelism efforts, as if they have the ability to see into the hearts of people. With the Way of the Master, you leave the message to the person you shared it with and let the Holy Spirit take it from there, which, if I may add, should always be the case. We forget that the saving of souls is not our job. That’s God’s part. Our job is the planting of the seed of the Gospel in people’s hearts. I dare not enter the realm of the Holy Spirit. I just do what He leads me to do. The only proof I can count on whether a person really was converted is a changed life and not the instance where the person followed a prayer I happened to lead.
Delighting Grace: One of the trademarks of LW is their money tracts. Personally I love them. What are the reactions of people receiving those money tracts?
Dennis: They love it. With other tracts, you’ll experience rejections when you give them away. With the money tracts, as well as other WOTM tracts, you’ll have people asking for more. One time, I was giving out money tracts in PMA at Baguio City. After giving out a few to a group, I left. When I looked back, they were trying to get to me to ask for more. Here’s where man’s materialism works to the evangelist’s advantage.
Delighting Grace: In your Gospel Buzz activities, who are the people you consider hard to reach? Are there particular people that you love that will go sit with you; have a one on one conversation for an hour or so?
Dennis: During our Gospel Buzz, we basically talk to anyone. We really do not have preferences. With the right approach, and at times, the right tools, with God’s help, we can easily start conversations with anyone. Our only difficulty during these mission trips are the dialects of people. They can understand us but a lot of them can’t really express themselves to us. But in a way, their inability to answer back to us gives us the freedom to share the Gospel to them uninterrupted. There are times that God helps us in these trips by giving us Christian locals to help translate to us what people we are witnessing to are telling us.
Delighting Grace: You do open air preaching and I will be doing it soon. Why should we open air preach? Can you give an advice to people who want to do open air preaching? How do you personally prepare for this activity?
Dennis: Why should we open-air preach? (1)Because Jesus open-air preached. If there’s someone any Christian should follow, it should be Jesus. (2)Another thing is that when people see how we go out of our comfort zones just to stress a point, they will realize how important the point we are making is. Sin is a serious thing. That’s what was said in Isaiah 58:1 “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression…”. (3)Lastly, when you open-air preach, you get to share the Gospel to a number of people at once with a single presentation.
What you are willing to do for God shows how much you love Him. What motivates me to stand in front of people to preach in the open-air is primarily my love for God, my compassion for the unsaved is second. This is the reason why I try to know God more personally through His Word so I will love Him more to make me want to again and again go out of my comfort zone for Him. Ask God to help you love Him more, and sooner or later, you’ll find yourself preaching in the open-air.
Delighting Grace: We all know that in evangelism and in other ministry God appointed us we need to spend money (i.e. buy materials, gospel tracts etc.).What tips can you give to people are low in budget but has a huge passion to see people get saved?
Dennis: You know what, the financial part in running a ministry is a lesser concern for me. When we were starting with the Star Youth Ministries, we spend from my pocket. Please understand that I’m not a rich guy. I’m a salaried employee in the school I work as a principal. So it was difficult financially at the start. But we just continued with what God has led us to do and later on, people noticed what we were doing and they started giving to our ministry without me asking them. Although we are Living Waters’ official agency in Asia, we receive no financial assistance from them. The sales of evangelism materials cannot fully cover for our monthly ministry expenses. There are months that we are not even able to sell one pack of Gospel tracts. But God has sustained us. We sacrifice for the ministry. Members of our evangelism team in several instances are even the ones that give to our ministry. I don’t receive anything for my work with Living Waters. That’s why I still work to provide for my family. We believe that God likes what we are doing and so we just let Him provide. We now have several evangelism-driven Christian supporters. But the total of the support we get is just enough for our regular evangelism programs and office expenses. I think that’s God’s way of making us trust Him regularly.
One thing we did before Living Waters Asia was given to us was to write our own tracts and have them photocopied. Later, God provided for better looking tracts. Maybe for starters, they can also do that.
Delighting Grace: Please invite our readers to check Living Waters-Asia. I love your seminars and I think people out there will be interested having you come over their church.
Dennis: Thanks for the opportunity to share our ministry to other Christians through this interview. You can know more about us by visiting our website at www.livingwaters-asia.com. You’ll find so many helpful resources there to equip you in your evangelism efforts. And if you want us to do a Way of the Master seminar at your church, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s all go out and serve our King. Happy fishing!