While I was in India, I had the privilege of sitting down with a dear friend who pastors a key local church in northern India. I got to ask him questions about some of the joys and some of the challenges of ministry in that great land. Here is our brief discussion.
Tim: What are some of the evidences of God’s grace you see in the church in India?
Pastor: I think first and foremost, just the growth of Christianity. The number, the population, and churches all over the country of all strives, all kind, all denominations are experiencing growth numerically. And the kind of growth that I’ve seen in the last 15, 20 years is just unprecedented in Indian church history. I think that’s one thing.
Then, second, along with growth in, numerical growth, there’s just been a growing hunger and desire among a lot of young people and young pastors, leaders, just to know the truth, that of theology. Just a much more keen interest in wanting to study the Word of God, and teach it well, counting for the truth. So these, so numerically, and even in terms of quality. It’s still in minority, but, much more than what it used to be when I was younger or even in the last generation or so.
Tim: What are some of the challenges the church in India is facing now?
Pastor: So, I think with the rise… As the church has grown, one of the biggest challenges that we’ve faced from within the church is a lot of false teaching. Or, just false Gospel. So, health, wealth and prosperity is rampant. Healing craze, just, that’s rampant. I think a desire… So, a lot of people have sensed a desire to reach their neighbors, a lot of them have sensed a desire to see lost people come to know Christ. In order to see that happen to that end, they will do anything to take the Gospel, so to speak, to the people. And that has hurt the church. I think that’s one big problem.
Lack of theological education in the church. Pastors, leaders having no training, no formal training. And that’s happening because we don’t have good theological seminaries. Although we have hundreds of seminaries all over the country, but conservative, faithful, biblical teaching is difficult to find. And therefore, men who haven’t been trained well, because they’ve gone to these seminaries that are not actually faithful. Or, they just haven’t had access to formal theological education in that sense. And then, this would be within the church.
And then the third thing is, rising right-wing nationalistic Hindu movement in the last 10 years or so. The current government wants to portray itself as open to the world, inviting the world to come and invest. But at the same time, moving towards more conservative identity of Indian equals to Hindu. And so, they are increasingly passing laws in various states that is making conversion difficult and they gave a lot of tacit approval to persecution, organized reprisal against Christians. The officials at district level, at village levels, are much more emboldened than ever. So they, so the bureaucracy, officials, along with religious right-wing group are basically, are more bold than ever to just attack Christians, harm Christians, attack churches and those kind of things.
Tim: How can the churches in the West best help the churches in the East? And there’s been a long history of the West trying to do that, starting with modern missions movement, William Carey and so on, a little bit beforehand, and then I think we’ve seen it go really well at times and really poorly at times. So, how can the West today help the churches in India?
Pastor: So, it does sound like, a bit iffy to say this, but prayer certainly. Organized, just prayers from, by Christians in the West. Then, second, just awareness of who the people are in India. There’s a lack of resources in India, and what I mean by resources, I primarily mean theological education. Training of pastors, raising of indigenous local workers. And that has to be done well and with a lot of thought and care given. Not… And a lot of agencies in the West and a lot of churches in the West are very sincere. But, all they do is dump money in India and they don’t think carefully. And they get excited about numbers, or they get excited about partners who will tell them how God is moving in crazy ways. But they say those things, sometimes sincere, sometimes, a lot of times, not so sincere. And they say those things because they know these things will get people excited in the West. And putting money in the hands of such kind of people is unhelpful. So, being very careful who you are giving the money.
Then, rather than just sending young men and women from the West to India. The kind of people… So, I’m not saying… We need more workers, but we need workers who are more careful, who have thought carefully, who have been involved in the local churches, who’ve been vetted by local elders in the local churches, who’ve served and loved the local church back at the West first. The problem with a lot of western workers who are in India have never been part of local churches, they’ve never been held accountable, they’ve never been trained, they’ve never served in local churches. And therefore, when they come to India, they care not much for the local churches. They would rather bypass local churches and Christians in India and do their own thing.
So, two, three ways, just praying, giving money to the right people, sending the right kind of people.