India is an incredible country. It is home to over 1 billion people, 800 different languages and dialects, and 800 million Hindus. India is the second largest Muslim country in the world with over 120 million Muslims, and is also the birthplace of Buddha. It is a country with the most people and the fastest growing economy. This massive population lives in an area of 1,990,062-sq mile, with 510 people/sq mile density. Nearly 16% of the world’s population is Indian, living on 2.4% of the world’s land surface. India is the largest democratic country with parliamentary federal republic form of government. The constitutional head of the state is the President, who is advised by an elected Prime Minister. India is rich in culture and religion and its diversity creates an exciting experience. Colorful Hindu shrines and temples are on almost every corner and you can see people bringing rice and grains and other offerings to sacrifice to their gods. The sight of this will break your heart as you see people who can barely feed their children give up their last bit of food to the gods asking for them to provide. So many people are tired of sacrificing everything to the gods but getting nothing in return. People are searching for answers. They are searching for truth. The church of Jesus Christ has the answer they are looking for but they will not know until some one take time to explain the truth. That’s where Global Expeditions comes into play.
Missions Endeavor to Reach India
Special emphasis to reach the people of India with the gospel of Jesus Christ was the goal of many mission agencies and missionaries alike down through the ages. Pioneer missionaries such as William Carey, Amy Carmichael and others gave many years reaching the Indian people and yet India today is still a very needy country in the free world. As I traveled far and wide around the country in the 70’s with Operation Mobilization (OM), a gospel outreach team, I can’t help but noticed many mission centers with beautiful buildings empty with no one to continue the work. The government of India revoked missionary visa in 1960 and forced most missionaries out of India. The reasons for missions India not fulfilling the Great Commision as I see it can be summarized in three ways:
- First, the majority of mission endeavors in India were focus on meeting the physical needs with little or no emphasis on spiritual needs. When the western missionaries left India what little gospel witness there was gone. This is one reason why India is still unreached because many pioneer mission agencies deemphasized spiritual conversion. To a typical Hindu, Christ is just another god without spiritual conversion or understanding.
- The second reason why the masses of India are still unreached is because only small number of indigenous churches preaches the gospel and takes the Great Commission seriously.
- Thirdly, the attitude of the average Indians toward Christianity is hostile and goes back to the way the English treated some of the Indians during the British rule. To many, it is the white man’s religion and sees no distinction between the American and British.
Based on these assumptions, I proposed any missionary endeavor should take into account the three points. Social programs are good and must be used in the context of as a means to communicate the gospel. It should be avoided at all cost as the main emphasis. An extension education slogan I learned from college fits well in this context, “if you want to reach the heart reach his mouth first”. It is possible to make someone receptive by meeting his felt needs but it can never substitute the meat of the gospel. Secondly, we need to challenge Bible preaching churches the important role they play in bringing the gospel to the people. Lastly, we need to be aware of the “white man religion” attitude held by average Indians. The approach of the mission should be as indigenous as possible to counter their perception. We can’t change their attitude but we can avoid hardening their hearts by being careful of their faulty perception.
Common Mission Strategy
I see the sub-continent of India (including Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Bhutan) as one unit for reaching with the gospel of Christ. These countries have many things in common: background, religion, economics, people, etc. They all experienced political struggles and what it costs to obtain freedom. From a religion stand point, they all belong to the same family of the Hindu religion. There is very little distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism. From the economic point of view, each country is very similar and the cost of living is very much within the same range. The people in these countries are basically the same and often hard to distinguish unless you are from the region. For the reasons mentioned above, these countries should have a common ministry strategy and approach but with specific criteria for each country.