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Baptist Press reports on "diversity in India" 2004

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]

  • http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=19672
  • http://www.bpnews.net

    Beyond Hinduism and masses in poverty, India also is a nation full of diversity
    Dec 7, 2004
    By Erich Bridges

    EDITORS' NOTE: "That All Peoples May Know Him" is the theme for this
    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 in Bombay
    (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
    nationalist alliance.

    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
    are soaring.


    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,
    Buddhists, tribals.

    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. Many a
    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.

    That's India.

    "Diversity is India," observes a leading Christian strategist who
    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 groups
    (more than 10 million members each) who are currently "unengaged" by
    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.


    The three global "giants" standing between the body of Christ and the
    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 Christian
    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 has always
    been postmodern."

    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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