Critical Podium Dewanand Christianity
Baptist Press reports on "diversity in India"
Sacrificer Erich Bridges
Sacrifice code wfor0398
Sacrifice date Dec 7, 2004
Baptist Press reports on "diversity in India" 2004
[This report is from the Baptist Press and deserves to be critically
evaluated. It gives an insight into the missionary church planting
strategies of the notorious Southern Baptist Church - moderator]
BP NEWS, WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2004
Beyond Hinduism and masses in poverty, India also is
a nation full of
Dec 7, 2004
By Erich Bridges
EDITORS' NOTE: "That All Peoples May Know Him" is the theme
year's season of prayer for international missions in Southern
Baptist churches across the country. For the next five days, Baptist
Press will feature stories and photos that highlight the challenge of
reaching the masses in India with the Gospel. The national goal for
this year's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is $150 million -- every
penny of which will be used to send missionaries and support their
ministries. The International Mission Board relies on the Lottie Moon
offering for 51 percent of its annual income.
MUMBAI, India (BP)--Where can you find thousands of millionaires, and
nine of the world's richest billionaires?
Who makes more movies than Hollywood?
India -- by far. "Bollywood," the vast film industry based
(now Mumbai), churns out about 1,000 pictures a year, roughly twice
as many as Hollywood. Hindi movies burst with melodrama, action, sexy
stars and big musical production numbers -- and gross $3.5 billion a
year in worldwide ticket sales.
Which nation boasts the world's biggest democracy?
India. And it still works, as demonstrated by this year's stunning
upset victory by the underdog Congress Party over the ruling Hindu
Which country now counts more than 24 million Christians -- nearly 19
million of whom are evangelicals?
You guessed it: India.
If your most vivid impressions of India come from old National
Geographics and Rudyard Kipling's jungle stories, update your mental
file with these facts:
-- India's 1.07 billion people -- second only to China in total
population -- are 80 percent Hindu. But more than 130 million Muslims
call India home (some estimates range above 150 million). That rivals
the combined population of all countries in the Arab Middle East.
-- Indian teenagers spend $3 billion a year on fashion accessories.
-- The Indian middle class (those earning $2,000 to $4,000 annually)
now numbers 300 million -- larger than the entire U.S. population.
It's expected to approach 450 million within the next five years.
-- Massive rural-to-urban migration will likely double the population
of India's cities within two decades. That's equal to "all of Europe,
all of a sudden, needing water, sanitation, drainage, power,
transportation, housing," says an Asian Development Bank official.
-- Want to tap into a youth movement of gargantuan proportions? No
fewer than 555 million Indians are under the age of 25.
-- Indian universities produce more than 1.5 million graduates each
-- The booming Indian economy was forecast to grow 8 percent this
year as Indian industries match or surpass some of the world's top
-- India has some 200 million English speakers. The nation's vast
collection of peoples also speaks several hundred other languages and
-- Three Indians made Time magazine's list of the world's 100 most
powerful and influential people this year: Bollywood superstar
Aishwarya Rai, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and IT
industry mogul Azim Premji (reputedly the world's fourth-richest man).
Make no mistake: India still faces enormous problems of poverty and
need. The poor in some 800,000 towns and villages still account for
the great majority of the population. About 300 million people live
on less than a dollar a day. As many as 3,000 Indian farmers in a
single state (Andhra Pradesh) have killed themselves over the last
six years because of debt and drought.
India has the world's largest number of working children (up to 115
million); many toil in sweatshops. At least half of the population
cannot read. Meanwhile, many of the graduates pouring out of the
nation's universities can't find decent jobs. Despite economic
growth, too many applicants are competing for too few positions. The
government counts 40 million jobless workers, while the vaunted
Indian info tech industry employs fewer than 1 million.
But India has made amazing progress on many fronts -- economic
expansion, education, technology. Its scientists, academics, computer
specialists, entrepreneurs and entertainers are challenging -- and
often surpassing -- the best other countries can offer. Expectations
`DIVERSITY IS INDIA'
Here's a tip to avoid cultural schizophrenia in India: Realize that
you can find anything you look for there. Staggering wealth and
appalling squalor. Showbiz fantasy and harsh reality. High-tech
companies and age-old cottage industries. Instant business deals and
molasses-slow state bureaucracy. Mega-cities and remote forests. The
latest trends and ancient traditions. Go-go capitalists and
doctrinaire communists. Holy men and atheists. Intense spirituality
and crass materialism. Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Christians,
Hundreds of India's ethnic, religious and caste groups live in
geographical or social isolation from each other, looking at the rest
of this vast "nation of nations" with curiosity or suspicion.
south Indian, if set down somewhere in the north, would be as
bewildered by the customs and languages as someone from the U.S.
heartland parachuting into Scandinavia.
In other places, particularly the cities, different peoples and
cultures mix and mingle in seemingly countless combinations. Mumbai,
India's largest city, is a world unto itself.
With more than 17 million people jammed into a 180-square-mile
peninsula, Mumbai is the financial capital of India, the film
capital, the organized crime capital, the AIDS and prostitution
capital. It is the home of India's most expensive real estate -- and
Asia's biggest slum. You can live under plastic tarps on the streets,
as multitudes do, or dine with old money at the exclusive stadium
cricket club (joining fee: $30,000).
On Mumbai's sidewalks and crowded commuter trains, you can rub
shoulders -- or trade elbows -- with stock traders wearing cell
phones and $1,000 suits, beggars, college students, Muslim women
covered by black burqas, Punjabis, Tamils, Kashmiris, Bengalis,
Assamese, Gujaratis, Keralites.
On one bustling street, a plush mansion built as a set for Bollywood
movies stands empty, while at least 100 squatters live in lean-tos
along the outside wall. "That's Mumbai," shrugs one resident.
"Diversity is India," observes a leading Christian strategist
lives there. "You can lose yourself in all the challenges and
unlimited horizons for missions in this country. You could pour a
thousand lifetimes into India and never exhaust it."
But even a thousand lifetimes dedicated to spreading the Gospel won't
make a real dent in India -- unless they are lives focused on
multiplying disciples and churches.
Of all the surprises and superlatives of India, here are several of
the most important:
-- India's 24-million-member Christian community is growing, but
remains a small minority of the national population of 1.07 billion.
-- India and its immediate South Asian neighbors have more than 200
people groups with populations exceeding 1 million.
-- Nearly half of the world's unreached people groups live in India
and the South Asian region. They have yet to be touched by the Gospel
in any significant way.
-- India alone is home to 14 different "super-mega" people
(more than 10 million members each) who are currently "unengaged"
a church-planting movement strategy. In other words, Christians are
not yet focusing on any of these groups in a way that will result in
growing, self-sustaining church movements. Just one of these ethnic
peoples, the Rajput, totals 40 million souls.
-- South Asia, which includes India, has half of the world's Last
Frontier population -- more than any other region.
'AS INDIA GOES, SO GOES THE GREAT COMMISSION'
The three global "giants" standing between the body of Christ
fulfillment of the Great Commission in our day are China, Islam and
India -- each with a population of more than 1 billion.
Two of these three meet in South Asia: India -- and the nearly 400
million Muslims living primarily in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
"As India goes, so goes the Great Commission," contends the
strategist. "And how is India doing? Not that well, quite frankly.
Not because it's inaccessible -- because it's neglected. If this is
truly the last of the giants, God is giving it to us on a silver
platter. It is a friendly place, an inviting place.
"There is no excuse for not getting the Gospel out here. I'm
overwhelmed at the openness."
That assessment seemingly contradicts frequent reports of persecution
of Christians in India, resistance to evangelization and the
resurgence of Hindu extremism. True, violent opposition is very real
in certain areas, but it's often a reaction to the Gospel's spread --
which persecution can't stop.
India's (and majority Hinduism's) renowned spiritual tolerance also
lives up to its reputation in many ways, both as bridge and a barrier
for the Gospel.
"India skipped modern," observes a Christian worker. "It
How so? The philosophical idea that many paths lead to God or truth
probably originated in India -- and now strongly influences the West.
It challenges the exclusive claim of Jesus Christ to lordship, but
opens many doors in India to talking about Him.
In the cities, at least, Christ's followers can readily gain a
hearing in the noisy Indian marketplace of ideas. In the more
traditional and resistant villages, growing numbers of believers are
boldly proclaiming the Good News.
"We've seen so many people come to Christ, so many churches started
hundreds, maybe thousands of new churches," says the strategist.
"This is an incredibly responsive place. We just need more people
implementing church-planting movement strategies. That means moving
from planting an individual church and bringing a few people to
Christ to saying, 'What's it going to take to see a movement that
sweeps through a people?'
"In God's economy we have a vital role to play: a role of
encouraging, training and multiplying ourselves through hundreds and
thousands of national partners."
It's already happening in some places, like the huge north Indian
state of Uttar Pradesh, where more than 5,000 house churches have
sprung up in less than two years.
It will happen in many more places, because wherever the light of
Christ is lifted up, He draws people unto Himself.
"Our job," says a believer, "is to turn on the light,
turn on the
light, turn on the light!"
Erich Bridges is a senior writer with the Southern Baptist
International Mission Board.
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