Break the Christian Cocoon— Let Hindus See Jesus
I am concerned with how little focus is given in our mission planning to target the Hindus in India and overseas. There are about 746 million Hindus in the world and they comprise 13.3 percent of the total population of the world. About 706 million Hindus live in India and they make up about 80 percent of the population of India.
The Problem—Indifference or Inadequacy?
Patrick Johnstone (in Operation World) indicates that evangelicals make up 1 percent of the population of India. That means there are some 8.3 million evangelical Christians in India—though I believe there are many more. These are Bible-believing Christians, people sincere in their personal Christian life, faithful to their church and to missions. They want to see the Hindus come to Christ. But most of them never attempt to communicate the Gospel to their Hindu friends and neighbors. I believe the problem is not really indifference, but rather inadequacy! It’s as if Christians are trapped in a “Christian Cocoon,” isolated from Hindus. They need our help to break free! They must break free if Indian Hindus are to be reached.
The Program—Evangelical or Evangelistic?
There are many churches in India that can be classified as evangelical. Too often their ministries and programs are confined to the denominational and traditional structures maintained by the leaders and the members of those churches. They serve the purpose of shoring up the faith of their members rather than seeking to reach out to the Hindu community in that part of the country. Thus many of these churches and their programs are of course evangelical, but they are not necessarily evangelistic.
There are also a good number of parachurch organizations in India that are identified as evangelical. But most of these organizations are busy in reviving and helping the churches to maintain their evangelical faith. The question is: Are we only interested in enabling the churches to be evangelical? Or, are we interested in equipping and mobilizing the evangelical churches to be evangelistic in the context of the Hindu world around them?
The Principle—Priority or Pragmatism?
Again referring to the statistics presented by Johnstone in Operation World, there are 198 mission agencies in India and only about 50 percent of them are involved in cross-cultural work. And of these, more than 90 percent work among the tribal people (who comprise only about 7 percent of the population of India), who are not Hindus. Maybe it is the result of missionary pragmatism: Tribal people are often more receptive to the Gospel than the Hindu community. Reaching Hindus also requires more research and preparation. As a result, many agencies have preferred to concentrate their work among the tribals.
Of course the tribal mission must go on. But it must not be done at the expense of ignoring our priority in reaching 80 percent of India.
The Purpose—Conglomerating or Communicating?
We can find pockets of Hindu communities—and Indian Christian communities as well—in countries all over the world. Particularly in 18 countries around the world, there are communities of Hindus which number over 100,000. Sadly, not much is done to communicate the Gospel to them. The overseas Indian Christians have been preoccupied in establishing themselves and their families in a foreign country. Preserving their cultural, traditional, and spiritual values has been their primary concern, trying to maintain their identity and security as part of Indian Christian society in a strange land and culture. They are not equipped and mobilized to take up the challenge of communicating the Gospel to the Hindus around them.
The Need for Training the Laity
Over the years, I have personally listened to hundreds of Indian Christian believers speaking with much regret and frustration, “I want to talk to my Hindu friends about the Lord Jesus, but I just don't know how to communicate to a Hindu.” This is because these believers are third and fourth- generation Christians and they do not know Hindu thinking. They have never been trained and equipped to share the message of the Gospel with confidence and clarity in the context of Hinduism. The problem is two- fold. On the one hand, they are ignorant of the concepts of Hindu thought. On the other hand, they are equally ignorant of the Christian concepts that could help them make a meaningful presentation of the Gospel in the context of Hindu thinking. So they feel intimidated when they think of sharing the Gospel with Hindus. This means we should seriously think of providing a proper Lay Training Program if we are sincerely concerned about communicating the Gospel to Hindus.
The Need for Developing Strategies
We need to recognize Hinduism at different levels. The Hindu tradition accommodates varied religious concepts. It is not so much one religion as a conglomeration of religions. We also need to identify numerous Hindu unreached people groups as they exist in different levels according to the caste system of the Hindu society. So we cannot follow a stereotyped method to communicate the Gospel to all Hindus. There is a great need to do serious research in order to produce proper tools and appropriate strategies to make the message of the Gospel meaningful to Hindus at different levels.
The Need for Partnering with Proper People
There are credible indigenous mission agencies, churches, and individuals that are doing good work in India. However, we need to motivate them to focus on reaching the Hindu communities and enable them to accomplish the task by Ministering to Hindus.
must equip and mobilize the leaders resources. We can accomplish great and members of the church, univerthings for God if the churches, sity and seminary students, Christian agencies, and the Christian believers workers and missionaries in India, in the West would enter into proper and overseas Indian Christian partnership that will be productive in workers. We should also equip and terms of building up the Kingdom, mobilize the people in the West who and not helping some people to build want to be involved as short-term their own empires in India. The missionaries, non-resident missionarpeople of India have seen enough of ies, and partners with the national workers in reaching the Hindus. empires in the past. They need to see I am convinced that we must carry the reality of the Kingdom of God. on this mission of reaching the Hindus.
The Need for a Mobilization Program
But we cannot do it without help from God and His people. You can have a If we are really serious about very important place in this mission. reaching the Hindu world, we need to We invite you to join hands with us. think of mobilizing people at various levels. Feel free to contact us for further information and involvement.
This article initially appeared in Mission Frontiers, Nov. 1994.