Reaching the Hindu World
There are more Hindus in the world than Protestant Christians. Protestants constitute 10.4% of the world population; Hindus nearly 13.1%. Despite hundreds of years of efforts to reach them, they still remain a large group to be won to the Lord.
The growth of Hinduism had been mainly biological until recently because a Hindu had to be born and could not be made. However, recent movements in Hinduism have converted thousands into this philosophy from other religions.
The chart below shows the distribution of Hindus around the world. Most of the Hindus outside India are migrated Indian nationals. Since India has the largest Hindu population--700 million--I shall deal mainly with them.
Evangelization of Hindus
Through the Centuries the honor of being the first missionary to the Hindus goes to the Apostle Thomas who came to India in 52 A.D. and established seven churches among the Hindus within two decades. Later, the arrival of some Syrian Christian families between the fourth and the eighth centuries and the arrival of Western missionaries during the latter half of this millennium have contributed to the evangelization of the Hindus to a level of about 4% of the population.
More than 75% of the 36 million Christians in India were influenced by Western missionaries. Bibles in many Indian languages would not exist today but for their efforts. The story is the same with many churches, schools, and hospitals.
Hindu Reaction to Mission Work
The colonialist Christian approach to Hindus during the early 19th and 20th centuries resulted in the rise of many Hindu reform groups such as Arya Samaj, Brahma Samaj, Prarthana Samaj, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (the Hare Krishna movement), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the New Age Movement.
Since Hinduism "converted" into a missionary religion during the last century, it is growing more than ever before around the world. A recent report received by Henrietta Watson, head of the Institute of Hindu Studies at the U.S. Center for World Mission, states: "The Indo- American Society in Chicago overtly stated their goal is to have a Hindu temple and a training center in every American city with a population over 500,000 by the year 2000. They are on target with imported idols and priests from India with 43 temples already constructed in the USA by 1988." Should we wait to hear more such reports before we begin to act?
Present Efforts to Reach Hindus
Research done by Dr. Abraham Pothen in 1989 records 194 indigenous mission agencies working in India with about 11,000 national misssionaries. Most of these agencies focus on Hindus as their main target group because they constitute the major part of the population. The following chart shows the distribution of religions in India.
Efforts to reach the Hindus outside India has been carried on by various mission groups in the respective countries.
Mass communication of the Gospel has impacted India very extensively. Literature distribution, radio ministry, film ministry, correspondence courses and crusade evangelism show good results. However, considering the large number to be reached, the present efforts are very minimal, and they need to be multiplied many times.
Hindrances to the evangelization of Hindus are mostly not theological, but rather social and cultural. The Hindu social structure (based on the caste system), opposition from the Hindu government, militant activities of certain Hindu groups and the spirit of nationalism are some of the issues that prevent willing Hindus from confessing Christ. Other major hindrances are the 1,652 languages and dialects and the 3,000 caste groups which make the communication process a difficult one.
The number of foreign missionaries in India has shrunk from 5,900 in 1950 to 640 in 1988, mainly due to the restrictions of the Indian government. Therefore the task of evangelizing India depends heavily on the nationals.
In North India, where the Hindu concentration is the greatest, there is an average of only one church for every 2,000 villages. The need is so great that thousands and thousands of new churches need to be established in order for each of the villages to have a Christian worship place in their community.
Reaching India By AD2000
One Indian magazine, Samadhanam Monthly, Jan.1991, reports that there are about 3080 people groups, 82 of which have been reached. But 66 of these have been reached only very minimally. As a result there are 2,928 groups that have yet to be reached.
There is growing interest among Indian Christians in reaching their land. This is evident from the meeting of 1,000 church leaders in August 1990 to commit themselves to planting a church in each of 600,000 unreached villages and 499,000 neighborhoods in cities by AD2000!
The leaders, from over 100 denominations, mission societies and training institutes, will use the DAWN (Discipling A Whole Nation) strategy of saturation church planting.
Seventy-five percent of the Indian population lives in the country's 600,000 villages. In order to provide one Christian worker for each of these villages, there needs to be at least 550,000 more committed workers. Where are they going to come from? They will need to come mainly from India itself, from the 36 million Christians already there.
Who is going to train them? How long it will take to send these many missionaries if we train them in the present facilities?
Dr. Hedlund, director of Church Growth Center in Madras, reports that there are 157 seminaries, Bible schools and training institutes in India. Most of them have the facility to train and send out less than fifty trainees a year. It would take another 75 years to train enough Christian workers to send one to each of the villages in India if we are to train them with the present facilities!
However, most growing Christian movements prepare workers in local churches rather than in schools. If each existing evangelical church were to set apart just two workers, we would easily reach the 550,000 needed.
Considering the population growth and other related factors, an average of 55,000 Christian workers need to be sent out to the field each year if we are to fulfill the Great Commission among the Hindus in India within the next ten years.
The Christians in India need all the cooperation they can get from Christians all over the world at this time. The door of the Gospel to the Hindus in India is being closed day by day. Anti-conversion laws have already been passed in some of the states. It is an urgent time to act.
I believe it is high time for us to concentrate our efforts on reaching the dear Hindu men and women around the world before this form of Satan's deception begins to devour millions more into its philosophy.
What is your part in reaching the Hindus for Christ?