India (MNN) — Christians in India face a growing tide of resentment and persecution, and it means the risk factor for church planters and evangelists is growing.
According to the Open Doors World Watch List, India is currently the 15th harshest country in the world for Christians to live. Under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, radical Hinduism has grown as a nationalist movement.
Hindu extremists have made it known that their goal is to establish India as a completely Hindu nation by 2020, propelled in a public statement by VHP patron Ashok Singhal in 2015. Currently, India is nearly 80 percent Hindu, according to the CIA World Factbook. Christians only make up 2.3 percent of the Indian population.
Global Disciples recently traveled to Sikkim in northeast India for a small business training with local Christian leaders, evangelists, and church planters. There, they spoke with the believers and heard of the difficulties they face.
Tim with Global Disciples explains, “There is a little more pressure from the government and from communities where Christians are living…. I think the government in India has said that by 2020 they want to be a total Hindu country. The Christians have sort of taken that up and said, ‘Well, by 2020 we would love to see 20 percent of India be Christian!’”
The small business training with Global Disciples is important since church planters and evangelists in India sometimes struggle to bring in an income and provide for their families.
“We sat with them for a little over a week and we trained them on business principles, things that God has given into their hands that they can do — not necessarily to be business people, but to be church planters who are able to have a way to feed their family,” shares Tim.
“Also it gives them an identity in some of the communities where maybe it’s a little more difficult to go in as a missionary, but you can go in saying you are doing a small business and then in a quiet way reach the community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and start a church or a fellowship.”
In addition to the small business training, one of the Indian Christian leaders led the participants in a devotional lesson on risk, faith, and obedience. Tim says it was poignant to see a local believer encourage his fellow church planters and leaders on this topic because, “he understands the risk, he understands all that goes on in the community.”
As if the religious opposition isn’t enough, Christians and everyone else in their communities have also been struggling with very practical obstacles. The area that they were in had a strike going on causing travel restrictions. It’s also monsoon season so the roads were washed out in several places.
Tim says these issues prevented many people from coming to the training, “because they were fearful of the strike and the monsoon season and the roads and some of that, and that’s a legitimate fear. But [the devotion leader’s] challenge was that without taking a risk, multiplication just doesn’t happen. Church growth without risk is probably not going to happen. Starting a small business without risk, it’s really difficult.”
Ultimately, Global Disciples believes it’s important to train local Christian leaders to reach their own communities with the Gospel and to even train other Christian leaders. “They’re able to understand these fears, they’re able to understand the difficulties in a much greater way than we’re able to understand them.”
But, he adds, “The Church in India, as I talk with the believers, they’re not afraid of what may be around the corner for them. In fact, they say that whatever happens, they believe that the Church will grow.”
So, even if you are not a believer living in India, there are ways you can encourage our Christian brothers and sisters.
“We need people who will partner with us in prayer, and especially for our local staff around the world. We’re in about 45 different countries and in each one of those countries, we have local people who are working. So we need prayer for our local leaders that they’ll be able to stand in places that are difficult and take the risk, that their faith would grow and that they would be able to say yes to what God is asking them to do!”
Tim continues, “Also, as we continue to send out church planters and train them, we need resources so that our trainings can continue. We’re always working toward people being locally sustainable, so we don’t continue supporting in one area besides a relationship with a local leader.”