This is a brief summary of issues brought up from interviews with community development specialists and church leaders in the Philippines in 2007. I have seen nothing to suggest that things have changed. Community Development, I believe, is a critical component for the church and church members in being salt and light to the world. And... assuming the world does not end suddenly in 2011 or 2012 (as popular apocalypticists keep on about), wholistic development is critical in transforming the hearts of individuals as well as communities.
In the study, the challenges were broken down into three basic categories. These are: 1. Challenges within the Philippine Church context 2. Challenges within the Philippine context 3. Non-contextual challenges 1. Challenges within the Philippine Church context A. Bad Theology Bad Theology #1. Religious Dualism. Many in church maintain a strong belief that there is a major gulf between the sacred and the secular. This in itself is not bad. However, these churches then suggest that that which is sacred is for churches to involve themselves, while the secular is to be ignored by the church. Unfortunately, many churches believe that the physical, educational, social, and emotional needs of the surrounding community are secular, and thus, not their problem. Bad Theology #2. Separatism. Churches often seek to maintain a social purity... trying to remove the "stain of the world." Sadly, this often means that these churches do not interact with other people and institutions within their community. These churches often become insular... failing to make an impact with those around them. Bad Theology #3. Lack of Contextualization in Community Development. Community Development and Wholism are primarily Western concepts. They have entered the Philippines through secular and religious NGOs, as well as government agencies. There has been little work to develop these as Philippine Theology. This failure makes community development seem foreign to local churches. Bad Theology #4. Individualism. Churches, particularly Evangelical Churches tend to accept the Western ideal of Individualism. The church should focus on individual conversion, individual discipleship, individual development. Many churches have a hard time recognizing that other social groupings have any value at all. When a church sees a community as an aggregate of individuals, there is little to make the church value community transformation. Bad Theology #5. Apocalypticism. Of course, with different groups calling the return of Christ as occurring in 2011 or 2012, there is little to motivate churches to invest in community transformation. Scare tactics and mass evangelistic techniques seem to make more sense. This has been around for along time. St. Paul had to reprove people in the church of Thessalonica for sitting around being a burden on the church because they believed that Christ was returning at any moment. However, Jesus said to be faithful until the end... not making foolish decisions because of trying to efficiently "time" His return. If the church had spent more time seeking to mercy and justice to transform their communities physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually rather than trying to focus on date-setting, I believe the church over the last several decades would not be drifting towards irrelevancy. B. Lack of Resources. Philippine churches typically feel they lack the financial, material, and human resources to do community development. This is, to some extent false. Community development requires more will then wallet. This is, also, to some extent self-fulfilling. That is because if you do not train your membership to do community development, and you do not develop the material resources, than you (not surprisingly) lack these resources. C. Focus on Relief. Churches almost always focus on quick-fixes, bait and switch, and disaster relief. The idea of a long-term commitment to minister outside of itself, is quite foreign and scary to most Philippine churches. D. Lack of Example. Since most community development is done by government agencies or NGOs, churches lack good examples of church-based or church-initiated community development. When I was working on my dissertation from Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary a few years ago, I had originally decided to do my paper as a Grounded Theory Analysis of Church-based or Church-initiated Community Development in the Philippines. I decided I had to change topics due to a lack of source material.