Is An Explosion of Faith Coming In India?
Ed. Note: The following is not intended to present an "ideal" for all believers in India to follow. It also does not condemn those millions in India who have chosen a Western form of Christianity as their way of life. This is simply the actual testimony of a real person (name changed) who had an experience of meeting and talking with a devout believer in Christ who has chosen no longer to employ the designation Christian, but is still earnestly seeking to be fully a disciple of Jesus Christ within his own cultural tradition.
I was amazed.
Rajan--who considers himself a Hindu believer in Christ--was sharing stories with me about his experience with Christ! Earlier, "he had been a Christian."
"When I became a Christian, no one ever told me how to obey and respect my Hindu parents."
When Rajan finally discovered on his own that obeying his parents was essential to being a Christian witness the first thing he did was to quit calling himself a "Christian!"
William Carey called such people "Christian Hindus," and that might be better.
But Rajan calls himself a Hindu Believer. True, in a cultural sense he is still Hindu. He once belonged to a "Christian people group" but today he has become again a part of his family's people group-- which is Hindu. It was not easy for Rajan to become obedient again to his family elders. It has been a ten year journey of observation, learning and asking God how his people can ever come to understand the Gospel.
Rajan was a product of "Extraction Evangelism" as a youth (See article on page 14). Indian Christians told him about all the demonic things in his Hindu lifestyle and culture. Not only did he take this to heart, he also went home to his family and taught them all about their demonic Hindu ways. That is, Rajan took a "stand for Christ." In his home he absolutely refused to participate in the Hindu traditions and rituals required of a Hindu son.
As a result of this "Ss staunch Hindu family, his father immediately took him out of the Christian school he was studying in and enrolled him in an ashram school for boys. However, the power of the Gospel had already gripped Rajan and during his remaining two years in that school his faith in Jesus remained strong.
After completing his ashram studies and an engineering degre, Rajan began teaching at a university. There he began to lead Bible studies and disciple young Hindu men into believing faith in Jesus Christ. Over the years Rajan and others involved in a similar evangelistic method began to notice that these new disciples were going through the same cycle they themselves had experienced.
That cycle, simply put, was leading young Hindu men to faith in Jesus Christ. When returning home to their Hindu families they were rejected and basically left with two options: Take a "stand for Christ" and leave family and join the "Christian church" as their new family, or leave Christ and remain a part of their blood families.
The cycle produced a no-win situation for seeing Hindu caste communities come to faith in Christ. In both cases they were unable to be relevant witnesses among their Hindu caste families. More often than not, these options produced backsliden Hindu converts, wooed by the pressures of family to stay away from the Christians.
Rajan and others who had experienced this cycle in their own lives began to ask questions and seek answers from God's word. First of all, they set all their "Christian" teachings aside as they studied the Bible for themselves, as the Bereans in Paul's ministry. They asked: What is the Gospel?, What is the church? What "Christian" things are repugnant to our Hindu people unnecessarily?
The first thing they did was quit calling themselves Christians. Lamentably, for a Hindu, the word Christian has abominable meanings associated with it. Christians take away the Hindu names of children and replace them with "Christian" names. But, today if you go to see a Hindi film, more than likely the villain of the story will have a name such as Paul, Mark or Mary. Furthermore, the villain will be a despicable drunk or the most immoral character of the show.
Also, Christians eat animal flesh, and they sometimes encourage Hindu sons and daughters to do the same as a sign of their new found faith. But more than this, the Christians usually call out Hindu sons and daughters from their people and invite them into a "new" family, a family their natural families cannot understand or claim.
All this helps us understand why Rajan and his friends chose the way of "secret believers." Ironically, however, their "secret" is a secret in church circles, not a secret among the Hindus where their faith is known and often respected.
Becoming a "secret believer," or better defined, a Hindu believer in Christ, obviously requires a major shift in thinking. Rajan made this shift in thinking in the home of his parents where he still lives today with his wife and two children. But what does this actually mean?
As a young child, Rajan was responsible for various Hindu ritual responsibilities in the home. One of these was the daily fetching of the flowers to be offered to the family god as well as the multitude of god idols on the prayer shelf. Rajan faithfully delivered the fresh flowers to his mother daily so that she could do the family puja.
This family tradition came to an immediate halt when Rajan originally became a "Christian."At that point he was taught the evil involved in this ritual and that he should have nothing to do with idol worship.
Today, however, Rajan--who is now in his late thirties--has resumed the practice of fetching and delivering puja flowers for his mother's daily worship. In fact, Rajan, as a believer in Christ, has been doing this for over ten years now. Throughout these years Rajan has seen the number of idols his mother worships decrease. The puja room shelves were once full; now there are only a few idols left.
It had been a great crisis for him when, as a Christian, he realized he had alienated his family and cursed their faith, never to convince them of his new-found faith. He felt it was God's Word that powerfully pointed out the disobedience and lack of respect he had brought upon his parents and family elders.
When Rajan resumed his responsibilities as a Hindu son, (which is extremely important in a Hindu family) he gained their ears and their hearts. Rajan did not resume his duties and keep silent. Instead he gave his parents and elders new meaning as to why he was obeying them: he had simply read the Holy Scriptures that teach the children to honor and respect their elders.
Of course, this gives only a small glimpse into the vast and detailed issues Rajan has had to reevaluate over the next months and years. However, in revising his thinking--and thus his actions--he has now won his grandfather to understand the supremacy of Christ. And, his grandfather is the key to his community since he lives at the family house in the Hindu village that represents their community.
Rajan and many other men, scattered throughout India, have been seriously contemplating how to be true to God's word--and yet find entrance keys into their Hindu communities. Many of these men are professionals and businessmen who see their lives as a bridge into the faith of the communities of their own people. They are truly "secret believers" as far as the Westernized churches are concerned. They are not busy planting "Christian churches." These men and women are raising up Hindu believers who understand the meaning of the Gospel--Hindus who aren't ashamed to claim Jesus Christ as their only Lord.
Shouldn't every Hindu be able to say, like Paul, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile and then for the Hindu?
The title of this testimony at the top of the previous page was given by me, not the author who has chosen to remain anonymous. The title is a bit playful. There is nothing in this testimony that would suggest that this relatively tiny "phenomenon," as we might call it, will inevitably sweep the country of India.
But, what do you think? Can we believe that the power of the Gospel will soon plant the church among the hundreds of millions of caste Hindus? In the last hundred years, most of the Christians in India have come from what used to be called the "untouchable" category. About 25 million of 140 million are now Christians. This has been a wonderful testimony to the power of Christ. Nothing could have been more impressive than for "untouchables" to become world-famous surgeons, scientists, professors, etc.
But the on-looking Hindu world has had as much trouble laying hold of this new faith as the Greeks in Paul's day had in becoming Jews in order to know the God of Abraham.
Has any headway been made with the massive Hindu sector of about 600 million souls? Less than .001% of the Hindus in this caste structure have ever broken out to become despised "Christians." Can we learn something from this? Is breaking out something they must do to belong to Christ?
In any case, we must not leap to the conclusion that those in India who have chosen to relate to the Western Christian tradition are in any sense wrong to do so. Remember that Paul took a Greek through the temple rituals in a case where that choice was understandingly made. The one thing he absolutely would not do is to allow anyone to say that a Greek HAD to become a Jew in order to be saved.
What is the parallel here? Do we say that for anyone in India to identify with the Western Christian version of Biblical faith is a perfectly legitimate choice but that to make this a requirement is absolutely unfair to the Apostle Paul's convictions?
It is also true, as the Heavenly Kingdom movement in China has shown, that "new" versions of faith can very easily be deviant not just different, heretical not just healthily indigenous. RDW
Pattern of Response in India: Note the numbers in the chart below. The response is: Among the Hindus, ZERO % Among the Dalits, 18% Among many Tribal groups, over 50% —the larger, more dominant the group, the fewer converts to Western Christianity. Logical? OK, how about a De-Westernized version of Christianity for the Hindus?
Didn’t the Lutherans get a de-Latinized version and before that, the Greeks got a de-Jewishized version?