Why Nepal Has One Of The World's Fastest-Growing Christian Populations

NPR is trying to work out, Why Nepal Has One Of The World's Fastest-Growing Christian Populations

Bishwa Mani Pokharel, news chief at Nepal's Nagarik newspaper, pulls out copies of the census to show the statistical gallop of Christianity across Nepal. It listed no Christians in 1951 and just 458 in 1961. By 2001, there were nearly 102,000. A decade later that number had more than tripled to more than 375,000. Pokharel and others think the increase is really much higher but inaccurately reported.

"Before, when the Christians had a party, they slaughtered a chicken. Now, they slaughter a goat," says Pokharel, who has been reporting on the conversions. That extra meat, he explains, is necessary to feed all of the new people who've joined the guest list.

Churches now mushroom throughout the Kathmandu Valley and across the terraced hills. Proselytizing remains illegal, but with political instability and weak law enforcement, that doesn't stop it from happening.

The article focuses on what you can see above the surface. What they don’t see is that this is a grass root movement of multiplying disciples and churches. 

UPDATE: If you want to know what’s happening under the surface in Nepal, have a listen to any of the podcasts by Nathan Shank.

Why Nepal?

Nepal Christians prison 1961.jpg

Prayer can penetrate anywhere. Long before we enter the valleys of Nepal prayer can be doing a concrete work in laying the foundations for the future kingdom. . . . When we have prepared the way with the Spirit of God in prayer, he will answer those very prayers in permitting us to occupy Nepal.

Gordon Guinness, The Quest of the Nepal Border, 1928

We can never predict where and how the next breakthrough in world missions will occur. But when it comes there are always transferable principles on display.

Here's what John Barclay has learned after spending much of his life in Nepal and witnessing a move of God in this former Hindu kingdom.

First, there was an unprecedented degree of cooperation among various Christian groups.

Second, rapid development in Nepal, encouraged by His Majesty’s Government of Nepal, resulted in openness among the common people to new things.

Third, the prohibition of conversion and the reality of persecution from the outset prevented nominalism and kept the church strong.

Fourth, most converts were young, vigorous, and vibrant, with a keen sense of evangelistic outreach to the majority society. Also, family conversions were not uncommon, and mass conversions occasionally took place among tribal groups.

Fifth, retired Gurkha servicemen who had converted to Christianity while in the Indian or British army returned to their villages and established small Christian communities.

Sixth, new Christians were trained across the border in India to fill the need for pastors and church leaders. Locally, there were short-term training schools and conferences.

Seventh, several parachurch groups, especially student and youth organizations, worked alongside the churches to spur evangelism and to support new Christians.

Eighth, Christian literature, including translation of portions of Scripture into several tribal languages and the translation of the whole Bible in Nepali, spread the Christian message. Radio ministries transmitted the message. Bible correspondence courses provided instruction to thousands of new believers.

Ninth, the predominant use of indigenous songs and tunes reflected the general pattern of indigenous worship that included such culturally appropriate practices as meeting on Saturdays (Sunday being a working day in Nepal) and gender-segregated seating on the floor, often in ordinary village homes.

Finally, Betty Young, added the following: “A very widespread means which God has used in the rapid spread of the Gospel is healing—there must be thousands who have come to the Lord through healing.”

John Barclay: A Description and Analysis of the Growth of the Church in Nepal

The kingdom comes to Nepal

iStock_000006443676XSmall.jpg John Barclay shares some great news out of Nepal.

Until recently Nepal was the world’s only Hindu kingdom. The mighty Himalayas and the fact that Nepal was a closed land until the middle of the twentieth century enticed many, but from 1881 to 1925 only 153 Europeans are known to have visited Nepal and none became a resident.

The earliest recorded entry of Christians into Nepal was the visit of a Father Cabral, a Jesuit priest, in 1628.

For two centuries before 1951, Nepal was totally closed to any Christian presence.

From just a single secret Christian residing in Nepal in 1951, the number of Nepali Christians grew to about 40,000 baptized believers by 1990 and has increased more rapidly since then.

The most comprehensive survey of churches and Christians in Nepal was conducted by the Nepal Research and Resource Network.

It showed a total of 2,799 churches and 274,462 baptised church members. The survey counted 379,042 persons attending churches and presumed to be Christian; this number equals about 1.5 percent of Nepal’s population. Ten percent of the churches have sent out a missionary or evangelist, and one out of five churches has planted one or more daughter churches.

013-Learning from the East. Making it work in the West.

Jeff Sundell (2nd from left)

Jeff Sundell (2nd from left)

Wherever I go, westerners tell me, "It won't happen here."

Despite the impact of church planting movements in the developing world, they are a rarity in the western world.

In the first of two interviews I talk to Jeff Sundell about ten years experience in fueling church planting movements in Nepal.

In the second interview I talk to Jeff about how he is now applying those principles back in the USA.