As Senior Pastor of Ikthus Church in Bacolod City, Philippines, Jose Ma T. Ascalon recalls the days before he was introduced to the Purpose Driven paradigm in 2005. At that time, Sunday services averaged 150 people, there were mid-week prayer meetings, and the church functioned like a machine that simply met the basic expectations of the members. With an inward focus, the church began to take on a consumer mentality with internal conflicts slowly creeping their way into the congregation.
Simply sustaining a maintenance mode was frustrating and exhausting for Jose, to the point he considered quitting the ministry. “The church thought that having all kinds of theological teachings and a few regular activities would propel us into auto pilot to function as a spiritually healthy church,” says Jose. “It was a sit down, listen, and praise format, hoping that the church would just self-correct itself.”
Nothing seemed to take the church to the next level, and they remained stagnant in their spiritual growth. In the midst of their desperation, a missionary returned from furlough in the United States and gave Jose a copy of the Purpose Driven Church. As he read the first few pages of the book, he felt the answers he had been looking for were right in front of him.
“I was so excited that I officially resigned from all my other positions in the denomination,” recalls Jose. “I read the book over and over again.”
Eager to share the principles, he gathered his leaders and organized a retreat to study the book together. Line by line, they memorized the PD strategies and made a commitment to implement the system. The clear pathway presented for creating a healthy church ignited his leadership, renewed with purpose and meaning for the future.
Jose says the paradigm shift didn’t happen overnight. It took almost five years for the church to transition from “getting” to “giving.” Serving as an impetus for change were supporting PD materials including the 40-day campaigns that helped bring unchurched people through the doors.
The new purpose, growth, and direction led to the launching of seven satellites and eight affiliates, all of which are thriving today. Now their church serves as a model for other churches and leaders in their region that are seeking coaching and mentoring.
On an average Sunday, Ikthus Church has 2,300 people in attendance and has 150 small groups gathering each week. “By the grace of God, we found property and finally built our Main Hall that can hold 1,200 people,” explains Jose. “Including our satellites, we have 15 Sunday services around the City of Bacolod.”
One of their greatest expressions of Christ’s love has been their establishment of the Ikthus Redeemed Community, a program addressing needs in rural areas. They help provide education, housing, funding, jobs, training, healthcare, and clean water to those in need. After six years, their model has spread to 49 other sites in the island groups of Visayas and Mindanao.
“To some extent, we were doing a smaller version of the PEACE Plan,” says Jose. As he reflects on their current level of church health, he adds: “We are growing consistently. Structure is in place and our leadership is supportive of our mission, which is building disciples. Honestly, I don’t know where our church would be today if we had not implemented PD.”