Musician-turned-pastor Franklin Benitez to play drums again to build a church
Franklin Benitez was just a child when his ears caught the rumbling sound of the drums in the “Hawaii Five-O” soundtrack. From then on, he wanted to be a drummer himself.
He did so—and quite a popular one at that, as a member of the band Hungry Young Poets and, later, Barbie’s Cradle.
Benitez was pursuing a promising career as a musician in America when a near-tragedy led him to change course and become a Christian pastor. He’s now producing a benefit show to raise money to build a church for Christ the Living God Fellowship (CLGF).
The event, dubbed “Welcome Home” on Nov. 25, 6 p.m., at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay, features some of the country’s hottest young performing artists: Zild (incidentally Benitez’s son), Gigi de Lana & the Gigi Vibes, Juris, Kenaniah, Chen, Daddy’s Home, and Benitez himself pounding the skins again with Musicians on Fire.
In this Q&A, Benitez looks back on his life and why became a pastor.
At what age did you get into music, and why the drums?
I was 7 years old when I heard the drum intro to the theme song of the TV series “Hawaii Five-O.” I was instantly attracted to the beat. From then on, I wanted to learn to play the drums.
What was the best thing about having been a member of Hungry Young Poets and Barbie’s Cradle?
I learned many things musically, not just as a drummer, but the dynamics of playing in a band. I appreciated the experience of performing in music festivals, even the TV appearances were great. I was a member of two of the best bands in the Philippines and I enjoyed every minute of it.
But you left the music scene to serve as a member of a Christian church. What led you to make such a crucial decision?
All along I thought my life’s purpose was to be a famous drummer, and that I would find fulfillment in earning money. However, I saw more value in channeling my talent and skills to bring people closer to God.
You’ve been serving as a pastor of your church. Did you ever have doubts or apprehensions about your role, considering its heavy responsibilities?
I was really hesitant, because I was then in Las Vegas and my music career was picking up. More so, I was raising a family and didn’t have any idea of what the future would bring if I became a pastor. But soon I discerned that it was, indeed, a calling, that with God all things were possible and He would provide for my needs. Whatever doubts and apprehensions were gone.
Recall your most challenging times so far as a pastor of your church.
Fourteen years ago, we lost the property where our church stood. Almost every Sunday we didn’t know where we could hold our service. That was a major challenge. Also, it was a disappointment to see people abandoning you in the middle of spiritual battles.
What about the happiest moments?
The happiest moments, which still happen, are people renewing their relationship with the Lord and getting serious about serving the church. I find fulfillment seeing their lives change for the better.
What has been the most effective way to reach out to your audience during your talks as a pastor?
People turn attentive every time I share my life testimony and explain the reasons I answered God’s calling. My wife and I were in the United States when she almost died. I begged the Lord that if she survives, I will serve Him.
I also find it effective to listen to the audience about their needs, including sensitive matters.
You’re busy organizing a benefit show to build a new church. Tell us about it.
The benefit show is called “Welcome Home”—which is an expression of the church to invite people, especially those who feel empty and need a spiritual family. The event will be fun and exciting with our lineup of performers, but it’s also a chance for us to open our doors to help the audience grow in their relationship with God. The proceeds that will help us build our church is secondary.
Are you also performing?
Yes, I’ll be playing with Musicians on Fire, which is composed of musician friends from various churches.
What’s the greatest reason people should watch “Welcome Home”?
Two reasons, actually—the wonderful experience of watching a show featuring great performing artists, and the timely opportunity to build or strengthen or even restore one’s relationship with God our Father, just like the story of the prodigal son in the Bible. We are your spiritual family welcoming everyone home!