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Church growth soars in India despite persecution, COVID-19

By January 18, 2021

India (MNN) — For the second year in a row, Open Doors ranks India 10th on the list of countries where it’s most challenging to be a Christian. “But even [amid] that persecution, God grows and strengthens his Church,” says David Reeves, President and CEO of unfoldingWord.

The resourcing ministry is celebrating unexpected good news from church planting partners in India. “During 2020 – the COVID year – they’ve planted more churches than all the 25 years of their ministry work there,” Reeves says.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people coming to Christ, and house churches are popping up all over the place because of that.”

As described here, unfoldingWord supports national believers so they can translate God’s Word into their language. “They’re tired of waiting [for a translation]; they’re trying to do it themselves, and we provide tools [and] resources to help them,” Reeves explains.

(Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash)

In India, Church leaders want to establish their churches in sound doctrine but lack access to Bible translations in their languages. By equipping these leaders with biblical resources and training, unfoldingWord empowers them to translate the Bible with excellence and efficiency in every language that needs one.

Pandemic blessings

COVID-19 restrictions in India put many believers in a difficult position. See our full coronavirus coverage here. Nonetheless, it was a year of opportunity for unfoldingWord’s network of church planting partners.

One partner shared the following report with Reeves:

Because they could not meet with others during lockdown, they decided [to] simply start specifically praying for unsaved people they know. Then, they decided to follow up those prayers by phone and WhatsApp. They estimate about 100,000 conversions during lockdown as a result of this approach. Similarly, with church-planting, they encouraged every church to [pray for] 10 specific villages or neighborhoods [with] no church. Then, as restrictions loosened slightly, they were able to get into these regions. They estimate that churches adopted about 50,000 villages during lockdown, and 25% now have an “opening” for the Gospel — some believers, a small house church, etc.

His summary: “This is much more than we could have done pre-COVID.”

Risk vs. reward

This work is critical, but it’s not easy. Reeves says several of his friends in India were killed for their Kingdom-building efforts. Others were “thrown in prison [or] persecuted in various ways,” he adds. More about persecution in India here.

There are plenty of risks involved, but it won’t stop the Church from moving forward.

“This context looks a lot like the first century Church. These folks keep pressing ahead, just like the early Church [kept] pressing on amid persecution,” Reeves says.

“Pray for them – [for] courage to keep pressing ahead; that God will protect them [and] they’ll have the tools and resources they need.”

Along with prayer, consider supporting this work financially through unfoldingWord. “We’ve got several phenomenal opportunities going on in India,” Reeves says. See a full list of projects here.




Header image depicts a church in Hyderabad, India. (Photo courtesy of Paul Silvan via Unsplash)