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August 1988


Editorial Comment

Can a 92 Year Old and a 22 Year Old...

The Global Consultation on World Evangelization by AD 2000 and Beyond

A.T. Pierson and the Year 1900: A Challenge for Our Day

Bangkok Breakthrough "City of Angels" Needs New Light

Mission Opportunity of All History!

The Crisis of Missions

Continuation of The Crisis of Missions

Continuation of The Crisis of Missions

Continuation of The Crisis of Missions

Continuation of The Crisis of Missions

Bibliography of The Crisis of Missions

Caleb Resources: Mobilizing to Finish the Task

Perspectives - Fomenter of Revolutions

An Open Letter

Warren Gleason - Serving the Lord by Serving Meals

Astounding Event Proves Impact of Western Missions

Letters to the Editor

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Bangkok Breakthrough

"City of Angels" Needs New Light

A Report from the Joshua Project

In the spring of 1988 a team of 15 young people went out under the auspices of Caleb Resources to Bangkok, Thailand. Their goal was to acquire an accurate understanding of who the people groups in Bangkok are. They would base their conclusions on data acquired through personal interviews with hundreds of nationals.

Having defined the groups, the researchers hoped to share their findings with the national church, missionaries, and Christians in North America. Their purpose: to help the national church and missionaries minister more effectively, and to mobilize the American church for prayer for and outreach to Bangkok's unreached peoples.

The following report is an adaptation of a prayer guide produced at the end of the research expedition.

The City of Bangkok
Bangkok began as a small village by the Chao Phya River. In 1782 it became the capital of Thailand. Today, eight million people make their home in Bangkok's sprawling waterways and streets.

Bangkok houses the same number of people as greater Chicago ... in less than half the area. It is growing at an amazing rate mostly due to a flood of poor rural immigrants seeking better fortunes in the city.

Rural immigrants arc not the only flood. Bangkok sits on the marsh of a large river and is sinking at the rate of an inch per year. Every rainy season the city is flooded with water producing massive traffic jams. City planners have no solutions to the problem.

Ironically, the Thai name for Bangkok, Krung Thep, means "city of angels, home of all the gods," yet spiritual darkness may be found on every side.

Buddhism is a severe blight: fearing endless cycles of reincarnation, the people are taught to perform religious rituals to "make merit," hopefully earning a better "go-round" in the next life. This daily servitude blinds many to the one true, loving God who forgives and empowers for right living.

Behind Buddhism is a complex world of Hindu gods and venerated spirits. In daily crises and fears, the people of Bangkok turn to the spirit world, superstition and astrology. Spirit houses stand in front of most homes and businesses. Many wear amulets thought to contain spiritual powers. Sadly, spirits do in fact often fill the artifacts, and through them invade Thai lives and homes. The bondage of demonic powers is real.

Less than one percent of Bangkok's millions have turned to Christ, but the people of Bangkok are now showing an unprecedented openness to Christ

An Ethnic Mosaic
Bangkok's ethnic mosaic often confuses even Thai citizens, so it is not surprising that foreign visitors sometimes miss the subtle differences between Chinese and Thai groups.

Virtually all citizens of Thailand will quickly and proudly declare that they are 'Thai." But long-time residents can easily point out distinctives of Chinese and "true Thai" peoples. Their lifestyles and world-views arc different. They often dress differently and work at different jobs.

Perhaps the best way to understand Bangkok society is to view it as a spectrum between Chinese and Thai identities and allegiances. Families at the extremes of the Chinese-Thai spectrum are either very Thai or firmly Chinese. They see themselves as different from one another.

At the same time, however, these groups are not always exclusive. Chinese and Thai will sometimes intermarry and often interact. A large percentage of Bangkok is made up of "half-children," the fruit of these mixed marriages. They are referred to as a social set all their own: the "thai-jin."

Most new converts in Bangkok today come from this large, mixed population. These converts can act as bridges to both ends of the spectrum, though mission outreach must still be specially directed at both ends. Missionaries need to reach out to the Thai people in Thai styles of worship and communication, and to the Chinese in the manners and language of the Chinese.

Ethnic Chinese
The ethnic Chinese constitute a significant portion of Bangkok's population. They control 85 percent of the economy and thus form Bangkok's economic backbone. The majority came from China in the 1940s.

The ethnic Chinese are largely middle-class with smaller minorities in the lower and upper classes. They are characteristically hard working, operate family businesses, and put an emphasis on educating their children. Strong family ties, clannishness, Chinese dialects, and the practice of ancestor worship have made them a distinct people group.

Though most of the current generation speak Thai instead of Chinese dialects, they retain their Chinese ways of thinking and living. An increase in intermarriage between ethnic Chinese and ethnic Thai, however, has resulted in a reduction of cultural distinctions between their children.

Historically, it is the Chinese people who have responded to the gospel in Bangkok, and the majority of Bangkok churches are clearly middle class and Chinese. Bangkok's upper and lower class ethnic Chinese remain virtually untouched and have no relevant church in their midst.

Many new believers from ethnic Chinese backgrounds face enormous pressures from their families when they refuse to practice ancestor worship. Chinese parents believe their souls will not go to heaven if their children do not participate in this ritual.

Persecution may involve boatings, being thrown out of the family, and being cut off from support and communication.

Ethnic Thai
The ethnic Thai people built and have lived in Bangkok since its founding over 200 years ago. They are stereotypically happy, care-free, and unmotivated to make money or to work as hard as the ethnic Chinese.

In the ethnic Thai culture, high government positions are more to be desired than making money in the business world. Status and prestige are of greater value than wealth. They tend to hold jobs in education, the military, and government

Ethnic Thai believe that "to be Thai is to be Buddhist." If one becomes a Christian, he has betrayed his heritage. Persecution of Christians is not as intense as in ethnic Chinese families. A person's identity in the

A Graphic Representation of Bangkok Society

Thai culture is more individual than family-centered; if one becomes a Christian, his parents merely lose face; their spiritual after-life is not affected.

The ethnic Thai are virtually unreached in Bangkok. Due to differences in leadership style and ways of thinking, the predominantly Chinese church does not provide an environment in which ethnic Thai believers are normally able to persevere and mature in their faith.

Northeastern {Isaan) Migrants
Poor people from the Northeast of Thailand÷Isaan÷ arrive in Bangkok daily. Some want an education; others are brought to work as prostitutes; most are farmers who seek a better life.

Most of these people come with little education and few skills. They find temporary employment as servants, construction workers, food vendors, taxi drivers, etc. They are the city's poor and are usually looked down

upon by the rest of Bangkok society. Most stay no longer than the annual three-month dry season, though some settle in and become permanent residents. . The Isaan migrants are set apart from the other peoples in Bangkok by linguistic and cultural differences. They have a strong affinity for one another and tend to work, live, and socialize together. Many maintain close ties with family and friends in the provinces.

There are no churches in Bangkok specifically for Northeastern migrants and little evangelical witness is being done among them.

The Church in Bangkok
The evangelical community of 109 churches comprises .02 percent (two hundredths of one percent) of the total population in Bangkok. Most members are middle class Chinese. Very few ethnic Thai or Northeastern migrants belong.

The government recognizes five main church bodies: the older, mainline Church of Christ in Thailand; the Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand; the Thailand Baptist Association; the Seventh Day Adventists; and the Roman Catholic Church

Some congregations are growing quickly. Most are holding their own. Those churches which actively train and encourage their members to evangelize usually grow. Vast potential for growth is yet unrealized.

More than 1000 missionaries affiliated with some 70 agencies labor in Thailand. Most of them work in the northern part of the country. One estimate places the number of missionaries planting churches in Bangkok at less than 50.

Missionaries in Thailand play an important role in running schools and serving in hospitals and refugee camps. Increasingly, they are moving into training roles, equipping Thai people to plant and lead churches.

The government has passed legislation which limits the number of missionary visas. Professional job opportunities for Westerners abound, however. 'Tentmaker" missionaries can serve effectively.

Prayer Points
... for Bangkok

ð For spiritual release from the bondage of demonic powers.

ð For the young people. More than 50 percent of Bangkok's population is under 21

years of age. Many are receptive to the living God÷more so than ever before in the history of Thailand.

... for the Chinese

ð For a fresh boldness among Chinese Christians to reach out to other Chinese people who are not currently part of the church.

ð For protection of new Chinese believers persecuted by families, that parent-honoring communication would build bridges rather than barriers.

... for the Ethnic Thai

ð That God would raise up ethnic Thai leaders who have a vision for seeing their people reached with the gospel.

ð For a bold step forward to initiate targeted church planting efforts among the un-reached ethnic Thai.

... for the Northeastern Migrants

ð That culturally-relevant churches might be planted among them.

ð For creative evangelistic efforts that are tailored to these people's work schedule.

ð That the gospel might spread from the rural Northeast, where the church is growing, to Bangkok.

... for Bangkok's Churches

ð For unity among the believers in the various denominations.

ð For renewal of some churches which are complacent and ineffective.

ð For effective training of believers in evangelism and discipleship. For vision to believe God for the evangelization of all the peoples of Bangkok.

... for Bangkok's Missionaries

ð That God will call and prepare new laborers to work in the harvest field of Bangkok.

ð For effective partnerships in outreach with Thai believers.

ð For continued open doors for missionaries despite restrictions on missions visas.

For More Information:
Caleb Resources, P.O. Box 40455, Pasadena, CA 91104, can provide you with information about mission agencies and "adopting" one of the peoples mentioned in this report. Reaching the Peoples of Bangkok: A Strategy Report is also available from Caleb Resources at the above address for $15.

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