This is an article from the July-August 2013 issue: A Historic Wind is Blowing Through the House of Islam

12 Months Blocs Spotlight for July 2013

South Asian Peoples With Emphasis on India

12 Months Blocs Spotlight for July 2013

There is an urgent need for harvest laborers to come to India from other countries.  Why?

  • One-third of the world’s remaining unreached people groups live in India. India’s unreached are an astonishing array of 2,350 peoples with different cultures, languages, castes and religious traditions.
  • Half of the world’s largest unengaged, unreached people groups (with populations numbering 100,000 or more) live in India.
  • 95% of India’s population belong to unreached people groups.
  • India’s population of 1.3 billion is more than North and South America combined (900 million) and more than Africa and the Middle East combined (1.26 billion).  Outsiders see India as one country, but with one-fifth of the world’s population, it should be considered the eighth continent.
  • India has a booming economy, but 40% of the world’s poorest people (and 70% of these are Muslim). A recent report by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative indicates that eight Indian states have more impoverished people than 26 of Africa’s poorest countries combined, totaling more than 410 million people.

Many ask, “Shouldn’t India’s Christians reach India?”

  1. India has less than 50 million evangelicals (4% of the population), mostly in the far northeastern and southern states. India’s central and northern states, where the bulk of India’s population lives, have very little Christian presence. By comparison, Africa has 360 million evangelicals (35% of the population), and North and South America have 440 million evangelicals (49% of the population). 
  2. India’s evangelicals speak only a few of the 1,500 languages needed to effectively communicate the gospel in India. We must encourage cross-cultural outreach by the Indian Church, but India needs far more cross-cultural workers than the Indian churches can realistically provide. Prejudice is also a problem, both toward and by Indian Christian communities. Only 10% of the languages of India have any scriptures, but Indian believers, who control the Bible societies, struggle with accepting the validity of translations in neighboring languages.
  3. India receives only 6% of the world’s full-time Christian workers, including 8,000 foreign missionaries (7 missionaries per million), most of whom work with the Indian Christian population. By comparison, Latin America (with less than half the population of India) receives over 100,000 foreign missionaries, or 172 missionaries per million people. Africa receives over 90,000 missionaries, or more than 90 missionaries per million people.

(These statistics are from Joshua Project, The Atlas of Global Christianity and Operation World.)  


How come Evangelical population of India is placed at 55 million
When the total Christian population is only 24 million?

Joab Lohara

Two responses to Joab’s August 22 comment:

1. Note that the article doesn’t specify 55 million evangelicals in India, but less than 50 million.

2. The Atlas of Global Christianity (Todd Johnson, Ken Ross, et. al.) tallies 58.4 million Christians in India in mid-2010 (about 4.8% of India’s population). The Atlas also reports that there are 46.7 million evangelicals (Great Commission Christians, 3.8% of India’s population but 80% of all Christians).

Darrell Dorr

Also, by comparison, Operation World estimates India’s Christian population at 5.8% or 71 million. So the Atlas is even more conservative. The 2.34% from the census is known to have significantly undercounted Christians.

I would note in passing that the number of workers in India (7 missionaries per million) is *foreign* work and does not include the vast number of home missionaries. Fewer foreign workers are being sent to India now because of the massive home missionary force. I remain amazed at the number of missionaries sent to Latin America. I think it’s disproportionate to the number of unreached and the sizable population of the church in Latin America. I suspect Latin America should be more in line with India, but… it’s so close to North America and so easy to send missionaries there?!

I believe that more missionaries who would have been in India on their own are afraid of language barrier. Am one of such people

I attended a missions conference on India at my church’s denominational headquarters about 5 years ago and they said that conservatively about 14% of India’s population was Christian (I believe this was all denominations, both Protestant and Catholic).  This was based on some studies and surveys they had done;  I did not get access to the details of them.  They also said that most of these Christians are in the southern and northeastern portions of the country, as was mentioned in the article.  There is still a huge need for genuine gospel preaching and church planting in large tracts of northern and central India, but the 14% number was encouraging to me since about 20 years ago or so the number quoted by most missions agencies was roughly 2%.  In my limited travels in India, I have anecdotally seen an increase in the number of Christians over the years.  Let’s pray for this to accelerate in the upcoming years! 

I’m a bit concerned about how the call for outside missionaries will play out. In my opinion, the best way for people from outside India to minister in India is by training indigenous Indian Christian leaders (elders, pastors, deacons) in doctrine and practical knowledge of the Gospel of Christ and then leaving them to do the work of evangelizing their fellow Indians.  I’m very much concerned that outside Christians (by that I mean non-Indian Christians) do not try to impose their cultural norms on the Indian culture, which is very different from the cultures of most outside Christians.  While I believe some of India’s culture needs to change in response to the Gospel, the actual doing of that should be mostly by the Holy Spirit working through Indians themselves.  That’s not to say that we outsiders can’t play a role in that, just that it should be a secondary role.

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