Every October 31st, members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) all over the world convey their warmest greetings and well-wishes to their beloved Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, on his day of birth. Along with such birthday greetings, which they also did to their previous Executive Ministers, the brethren promise to always submit to and remain united with his leadership. Furthermore, they heed his exhortations and encouragement to actively serve God, dedicate themselves to their duties, and participate in all Church activities.
Detractors find the Church members’ sincere show of respect to their spiritual leader baffling. Others see it as fanaticism. But the faithful understand full well that what they are doing is in obedience to what the Bible teaches regarding service and worship worthy before God.
‘To the Lord and to us’
Having received the right to worship and serve God by virtue of the redemption through Christ’s blood (Heb. 9:14; Acts 20:28 Lamsa Translation), members of the Church Of Christ understand that mere membership in the Church is not enough to conduct worship and service that is pleasing to God. In Romans 12:1 (Amplified Bible), Apostle Paul taught the members of the Church that for them to render a “reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship,” they ought to “make a decisive dedication of [their] bodies … as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God.” Hence, devotion to God is essential in carrying out true service and worship of Him.
Those who are devoted to God “Always put [themselves] into the Lord’s work with all [their] heart, soul, and energy.” They are able to do so for they have “complete confidence that the diligent work [they] do in obedience to the Lord’s command is pleasing to Him” and they are able to “accomplish His purposes with great results” (I Cor. 15:58 Last Days Bible). This was proven by the first-century Christians in Macedonia. Apostle Paul testified about what they were able to accomplish and why:
“Best of all, they went beyond our highest hopes, for their first action was to dedicate themselves to the Lord and to us for whatever directions God might give them.” (II Cor. 8:5 New Living Translation)
Though they have been “going through much trouble and hard times” and were in “deep poverty,” the members of the Church in Macedonia were able to take part in the Lord’s work by giving offerings that were “not only what they could afford but far more” (II Cor. 8:1-3 NLT), thus going beyond Apostle Paul’s highest hopes. They were able to do so “for their first action was to dedicate themselves to the Lord and to us,” referring to the apostles, their leaders in the Church.
Hence, Church members who dedicate themselves to God dedicate themselves to the Church Administration as well, so they may diligently render worship and service worthy before the Almighty Father. Like the Macedonian Christians, they do this “unreservedly” (II Cor. 8:5 The Message), or without any shadow of doubt, for they have complete trust in their leaders.
To label such dedication as fanaticism is a big mistake because the faithful clearly know and understand their reason for doing so—this is “what God wants” (Expanded Bible). Out of their sincere intent to please God, true Christians gladly dedicate themselves to the Church Administration knowing that doing so is itself the will of God Whom they serve. Therefore, their dedication to their spiritual leader is a proof of their dedication to God. So, the level of loyalty regarded by members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo to their Executive Minister is grounded on biblical teaching.
To dedicate oneself to the Church Administration is only reasonable as it is God Himself Who placed the minister whom He has given the administration in His nation “to make God’s message fully known” (Col. 1:25 Holman Christian Standard Bible). The brethren are witnesses to how Brother Eduardo Manalo fulfills his God-given duty to teach God’s message. For the past 11 years as Executive Minister, he spared no time visiting the brethren no matter where they are or whatever the condition of their area may be—city or village, summer or winter, peaceful or turbulent—to edify their faith by preaching God’s words to them personally. Despite the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brother Eduardo Manalo remains undeterred in performing his divine mandate. Tirelessly and compassionately, he regularly officiates worship services—also regularly witnessed by brethren around the world through videostreaming—to remind them not to worry nor be afraid but to always put all their hope in the grace that God lays in store for them.
‘Obey and submit to their authority’
Seeing how the Executive Minister fulfills his divine task, members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo not only find it easy, but are also eager to heed the instruction of the apostles to the Christians concerning their leaders:
“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Heb. 13:17 New International Version)
Those who obey and submit to the authority of the Church Administration are “responsive to [their] pastoral leaders” and they “listen to their counsel” (Heb. 13:17 MSG)—not to lies espoused by enemies of their faith. They are “willing to do what [their spiritual leaders] say” (Living Bible) for they firmly believe that the instructions of those who administer the Church have God’s approval (Matt. 18:19) and accepting them is equivalent to accepting the Lord Jesus Christ and the One Who sent Him (John 13:20). So when they teach, they are thus doing what the apostles did:
“What we have seen and heard we announce to you also, so that you will join us in the fellowship that we have with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:3 Good News Bible)
Hence, having solid faith in the biblical truth that the Church Administration is placed by God in His nation, members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo wholeheartedly do what their leaders say for that is equivalent to joining with them in their fellowship with the Father and His Son. Those who are one with the Church Administration are therefore one with God and Christ.
‘Show them great respect’
Because of the indispensable significance of the Church Administration in one’s services to God, members of the Church wholeheartedly obey Apostle Paul’s instruction on how they should treat their spiritual leaders:
“Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.” (I Thess. 5:12-13 NLT2015)
To those who wonder why members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo treat their Executive Minister with honor, great respect, and wholehearted love, this is the reason—it is obedience to what is written in the Bible. And not only that. The brethren in the Church gladly and willingly do so because they themselves see and feel how Brother Eduardo Manalo “work hard among [them] and give [them] spiritual guidance.” Likewise, just as what the first-century Christians did, the members of the Church today always pray to God for the Executive Minister—that through him, “the Lord’s message may spread rapidly and be honored” and that may he “be delivered from wicked and evil men” (II Thess. 3:1-2 HCSB).
Hence, the Pasugo: God’s Message is one with the Iglesia Ni Cristo faithful as they greet and pray for Brother Eduardo Manalo on his birthday this year. May God continue to grant him the best of health and deliver him from all harm and danger. May our Father continue to have mercy upon His nation by constantly guiding the Executive Minister that he may always preach the gospel with the power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen the conviction of God’s people and inspire them during these uncertain times.