A Church for Every People and the Gospel for Every Person by AD2000 in India
God is doing tremendous things toward the realization of the vision of the AD2000 & Beyond Movement in India. Here is a brief overview of some of what God has been doing to reach every people group in India:
April 1987 saw the first Consultation on National Strategy (abbreviated as CONS and later called Council on National Service) convened in Madras under the leadership of Dr. Paul R. Gupta (currently Chairman of CONS) and Dr. Vararuchi Dalavai, where the focus was on developing the vision of reaching the entire nation, gathering data on unreached peoples and developing training programs to prepare the grass-roots-level leaders for evangelism and church planting.
CONS sponsored the All India Congress on Church Development, Hyderabad, August 14-18, 1990. The theme of the Congress was: Jesus said: I Will Build My Church (Mt. 16:18); Therefore: Let Us Rise Up And Build (Neh. 2:18). The Congress brought together 1,200 evangelists, missionaries and church leaders. A good number of them were from the front lines and were attending a national Congress for the first time. These were the ones who were more accustomed to receiving brickbats rather than bouquets. It was heartening to see them committing to the following faith goal: "By the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, we will attempt to plant a church in every village and in every colony of every town and city by the year 2000 & beyond."
At this writing (June 1994), India is reported to have a population of 880 million people, 45% of whom are illiterate. There are about 600,000 villages and 400,000 colonies. According to one estimate, there is a Christian witness in only about 100,000 villages and colonies. The task unfinished is colossal and the challenges Himalayan-like. To the extent God's people in India come together, to that extent the work of evangelization, missions and church planting will succeed. Leaders of denominations, churches, missions and agencies are recognizing in an increasing measure the need to work together because of compelling circumstances. In this area of promoting cooperation and partnership, India Missions Association (IMA), under the leadership of Ebenezer Sunder Raj, is playing a notable part. IMA, founded in 1977, is an umbrella body that brings together a number of indigenous missionary agencies for fellowship, learning and consideration of issues common to them. IMA is convening a Missions Conference in Secunderabad, September 1-3, 1994 with its theme as: Partnership In The Gospel. Mention also has to be made of Dr. B.E. Vijayam of Partners International who is conducting helpful seminars on Partnership from time to time.
According to a preliminary survey of unreached and adoptable peoples conducted by agencies such as Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse, the Summer Institute of Linguistics and World Vision-MARC, India has 1,727 such groups.
Says Dr. Theodore Williams, the first General Secretary of Indian Evangelical Mission and India Missions Association: "We do not see the missionary challenge in terms of States and Districts and not even in terms of North and South. We see the unreached people groups wherever they may be in rural or urban areas in whatever State or District, in the North or in the South and accept them as the objects
of our missionary concern and outreach. Districts and States are man- made, often created with political motives. God sees the human race as a beautiful mosaic consisting of various ethnic groups, languages and cultures. It is His plan that the Church must be planted in every people group."
The Church Growth Association of India, under the leadership of Vasantharaj Albert, has produced an India People Prayer Diary 1994. Its main focus is on People Groups [castes and tribes] in the context of each State and Union Territory of India, with accompanying prayer requests. This is a valuable tool which hopefully will lead some to move on from a prayer burden to actual missionary involvement.
A number of States in India have more people than several countries who are member bodies of the United Nations. Attempts are being made to convene Statewide Congresses on Church Development. One such Congress was held in Bihar, known as the graveyard of missions, in June 1992. For the first time, 312 grassroots-level -workers came together and were made aware of the overall AD2000 Vision. Representatives of 42 denominations and missionary organizations present at the Congress have accepted the challenge of reaching the unreached people groups. Bishop N.M. Bagh of the Diocese of Patna has committed his Diocese to planting 250 more churches by AD2000. Congresses similar to the Bihar State Congress are being prayerfully considered for other States where Christian presence is minimal. Priority is being given to convening such a Congress in the state of Orissa in the near future.
Mission India 2000, Madras, January 1992 reported that 50 million people in India were ripe and ready for harvest. These belonged to the most responsive people groups identified by the Church Growth Association of India and confirmed by the State Level Strategy People Groups Workshops at the Mission India 2000 Congress.
A compendium called Mission Mandate was released at the Mission India 2000 Congress. Its general editor is Bishop Ezra Sargunam of the Evangelical Church of India. This compendium has five parts. Part One has 56 brief articles on topics related to evangelism, missions and church planting. Part Two constitutes a directory of evangelistic, mission and parachurch organizations. Part Three has an exhaustive list of training institutions, Bible seminaries and Bible schools. Part Four carries some success stories from India's harvest fields. Part Five provides data on people groups, tribes and ethnolinguistic groups. This compendium is an invaluable resource for all those related to the AD2000 & Beyond Movement whose vision statement reads: A Church For Every People And The Gospel For Every Person By AD2000
The Lord is doing great things in certain interior parts of India, gathering sons and daughters to Himself even without His human instruments ever visiting those areas. Their going has been preceded by radio waves through programs broadcast by Far East Broadcasting Associates, Back to the Bible and Vishwa Vani (TransWorld Radio India) . Dr. Emil Jebasingh reports that TWR India has pleasantly discovered that even before the arrival of their workers, small groups have been meeting regularly for worship and instruction exclusively through the medium of their radio programs.
Yet another commendable project now underway in India is the FT- 5000 effort on the part of India Every Home Crusade. FT stands for "Final Thrust" while 5,000 denotes the number of laborers who will be placed in the 4,000 districts in India. This project, under the leadership of B.A.G. Prasad, has as its ultimate goal: "To plant 250,000 churches or Christ Groups in the villages and towns where there are no churches. Also to hand over the new believers for nurture and fellowship to Bible-believing churches if these are located close by."
One indicator of the manner in which the AD2000 Vision is building up in India is the numerous requests for participation in the Global Consultation on World Evangelization (GCOWE), to be held in Seoul, Korea, May 17-26, 1995. About 800 persons from 24 different States and Union Territories of India have been recommended for GCOWE. Each one has been assigned a particular network in keeping with that person's known aptitude. The number of recommendations is far in excess of the quota allocated to India.
Twenty-two Zonal and State Coordinators and key leaders heading up the various resource networks are advancing the AD2000 Vision in the country. A broader-based ad hoc working group, including CONS which gave birth to the AD2000 Vision, has been set up. It is hoped that this arrangement will bring in even greater cooperation and involvement than at present.
But it is not all smooth sailing for the ship of the AD2000 Movement in the land of India. Obstacles and opposition abound. Religious and political intolerance are gaining ground. The massive blocs of Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism have yet to be penetrated in a marked way. In fact, Islam has more followers in India than in the Muslim countries of Pakistan or Bangladesh. Those ministering to Muslims are few and far between. Response from high-caste Hindus has been meager. Militant Hinduism is on the rise. Social ills are skyrocketing. The AIDS virus is spreading rapidly. In short, the winds of adversity are blowing stronger than ever before. But we fear no such winds. After all, the Gospel has always flourished under pressure. Christ is building His Church. The Lord God Omnipotent reigns! --John Richards is Associate International Director of GCOWE 95 for the AD2000 and Beyond Movement.