I back from two weeks in India visiting some of our workers who partner with local believers to fuel church planting movements.
A few impressions. . .
One in six people on the planet live in India. There are people everywhere. I'm old enough to remember India with a population of 600 million. It's now up to 1.1 billion and rising. The population is young and there are no restrictions on family size as there are in China. India will become the world’s most populous nation by 2025.
The economic miracle. Over the last 20-30 years the Indian people have achieved amazing success in lifting hundreds of millions out of abject poverty. There is still a long way to go, but India is full of resourceful people. They are a rising economic power.
The most dangerous thing you will ever do in India is get into a car or onto a bike. There are 125,000 deaths every year on the roads. The highest rate in the world. If you’ve ever seen how they drive in India you’ll know why.
Mission impossible. An afternoon walking around Old Delhi overwhelmed by the crowds was enough to convince me that reaching India is an impossible task. It has to be a work of God. It has to be rapidly multiplying movements of disciples and churches that are not dependent on Western funding and control.
God is up to something. There are many examples of rapidly expanding church planting movements led and financed by Indian believers. Not just in the Christian strongholds down south, but in the "missionary graveyards" in the north. It's not unusual to hear of thousands of new churches started by ordinary people.
We still have a contribution to make. India can only be reached by movements that are funded and led by Indians. But I’ve seen how Westerners can still play a role in partnering with local leaders. Our workers are there to share Christ, make disciples and plant churches. They model what they teach. But their most important work is to train and encourage local leaders to get the job done.
Christianity is an India faith. Christianity made it to India during or soon after the apostolic age. There is good reason to believe it was the Apostle Thomas who brought it there. There have been followers of Jesus in India for 2,000 years. Today Christians account for less than 3% of the population, but they are directly involved in 20% of primary education; 25% of care for widows and orphans; 30% of work with the handicapped, AIDs patients and lepers.
Counting the cost. Finally, some Christians pay a high price for their faith in India. In 1999 Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons were burnt alive by Hindu extremists in Orissa. Staines and his wife Gladys had spent 34 years serving among the lepers of India. There are many thousands more whose names we don’t know who are suffering for their faith in India.
Here's the challenge: 70% of India's 1.1 billion people live in its 600,000 villages, the rest live in the 5,000 towns and 380 cities. What will it take to see communities of disciples multiplied throughout every village, town and neighbourhood?