India (MNN) — Most Christians would agree that the heart of being a Christian is accepting and spreading the Gospel story of Jesus Christ. When Christians of all denominations can work toward this end in unity, the results are supernatural.
Jonathan Shibley of Global Advance says they’re seeing this in India. In a phrase, it’s an indigenous church-planting movement.
“Some of these regions of North India [are] right in the epicenter of the target that we’re been wanting to reach: those who have still not heard the Gospel,” Shibley explains.
“What’s exciting and encouraging is that there’s an indigenous movement among pastors and church planters of various denominations that have come together over a broad region with a systematic strategy of getting the Gospel to many of the villages that don’t even have one life-giving Gospel-preaching church.”
How often do we in the developed world take our abundance of churches for granted? Shibley says an estimated 100,000 villages or small communities don’t have a church that teaches the Gospel.
While many ministries take a leadership role in efforts to alleviate this problem, Global Advance finds that their support of indigenous leadership has been largely fruitful.
“Our role–and it’s a thrilling role–is just to be a great junior partner in whatever way we can,” says Shibley, “to encourage them, to equip them, to give them resources and tools.”
Shibley is aware that the leadership from within India is helpful for many reasons.
Many times, Global Advance reaches out to people through conferences. This time, having large groups of people meet in one place is not the best plan possible.
“In this particular situation,” Shibley explains, “we found that it’s better to go with smaller groups of people and more locations, training them to train others, basically, and giving them tools that they can use to equip and disciple other new believers.”
The work being done is long-term equipping and guidance. Many of the young pastors and church planters helped by Global Advance are new believers themselves.
“They don’t have some of the depth of knowledge, yet they’ve got the zeal and the fire of God because they’ve had a radical transformation in their personal lives, but they’re still growing in their discipleship and what it means to become a fully robust follower of Christ.”
Global Advance is attentive to this need.
“One unique thing that we’re trying to help them really think through is that when they engage a new village or a new people [group], go in and…partner with the locals and that village first,” Shibley explains.
By learning the new culture and helping locals solve problems, “that opens the door, of course, to share the good news of Christ in a relevant way that fits that culture and that village.”
In this way, the Gospel can spread exponentially in ways that are meaningful to different cultures and tongues. Their physical presence in villages is also a good way to deal with opposition.
Regarding the safety of these new believers, Shibley says they are fully aware of the risks and are still determined to be a part of speaking hope into their lost neighbors’ lives.
There is often much opposition because of traditional religious groups, but these believers know how important it is to share God’s Word.
Shibley asks that you pray for protection of these groups working in India. He desires God to bestow unity in the Spirit and Faith of these believers. Ask God also that He will provide the correct strategies and pathways, as well as open doors to share the Gospel.
“We’re encouraged by the unity that we see among so many Indigenous churches and different types of churches and denominations. And really the best way that the West can serve in this capacity is just to be an encourager, to be a mutual partner, and to be a junior partner to what they’re doing.”
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