A simple goal: a church in every village of India in one generation. Makes a lot of sense if you want to reach what will become the world’s most populous nation.
Quick calculation: one million churches required among India’s 4,693 people groups.
Paul Gupta is not discouraged the by the enormity of the task. It energizes him. He knows God will do it and somehow he’ll find a way.
The first step was to reinvent the Hindustan Bible Institute (HBI) as a the engine room for a church planting movement. Shift it away from a Western formal academic model of education.
HBI was was the second largest theological training institution in Asia. Yet according to Gupta:
“The priority to develop godly, mature individuals, skilled in sharing their faith and proclaiming God’s Word to the unreached, took second place to the development of individuals of knowledge who could serve in the professional ministries of the church.”
HBI moved toward non-formal field training supplemented by training intensives and on-site mentoring by effective church planters. Most of the trainer mentors had 3-5 successful church plants under their belt. That counts me out!
Trainer mentors assist trainees in the development of spiritual disciplines, character, and skill for ministry. Gupta observes that the on-site mentoring for church planting seemed to have the most powerful impact on student learning.
What was the outcome?
Let’s contrast the students in the formal and non formal programs at HBI:
“The 482 students who had spent two to five years in our theological development program had degrees, but few pastoral skills for ministry.
A less-educated trainee enrolled in five years of non-formal training had learned to share his faith, develop 25-30 leaders in a local church, and often planted three to five churches where churches did not previously exist. The more than 500 non-formal graduates had planted an average of 4.5 churches each. . .”
Between 1987-2003, 500 apostolic leaders planted 2,300 churches. Not a bad outcome.
So Paul Gupta set a new target: By 2015 he is trusting God for 2000 new missionaries, 10,000 new churches and 1 new million believers.
Amazing what can happen when God gives you a simple goal and you take Him seriously.
This is one of the best case studies I've ever read of a church planting movement. Before you tell me India is a world away from your context, let me remind you that so are the Gospels and the book of Acts. It's the principles that are transferable and simple. Some things never change.