Two million baptisms reveal India as 'greatest restoration movement of our time'
These numbers are possible because India is a huge country with more than 1 billion people. Today one of every six people in the world lives in India
I have been working in India since 1979. It has been quite a ride! On my first trip, I worked with one American and many Indian preachers for 25 days. I preached 61 times.
As a team, we baptized 900 souls. Much of this work was in new areas where teaching had been done, but churches had not yet been planted.
The idea that Americans go to India, preach and baptize hundreds after they hear the gospel one time is false. In each of the places I went, local Indian preachers had been working for months — sometimes, years. They had been teaching, planting and watering.
My job was to substantiate what these interested souls had already been taught, reinforce truths they had already learned, and encourage them to obey God.
My first two meetings were in Cuddapah District in
Andhra Pradesh. The preacher who took me to these meetings had been teaching a denominational preacher for seven years, and he had been teaching these congregations what he h ad learned over that period of time.
As I spoke to them, it was apparent they had been taught the truth and were not ignorant of the Scriptures. They listened in rapt attention. They were not promised any material benefits, nor given anything except the gospel. When they were baptized, new churches were planted. The denominational preacher was the first to be baptized.
In my years in India there have only been three times when anyone has suggested we give them anything to be baptized. When that happened, we told them to go home! Once a Baptist preacher said he would come to the Lord’s church and deliver his 100-member church if I would put him on support. I sent a message that we did not buy conversions, and for him not to bother coming to any meetings, because any “conversion” to the truth on his part would be suspect.
Over the years my co-workers and I have been accused of paying people to be baptized and buying denominational preachers. That is not true. We have done just the opposite. We tell those who come to our meetings that we offer only the gospel, and it is free. Denominational preachers are told before they are baptized that if they receive support from a denominational group, they will lose it when they obey the gospel — and we will not replace that support.
What has happened more often than people asking for pay to be baptized is this — several times folks have told us that they did not have money to give us to baptize them! (And Indians have given money to us Americans to preach the gospel in other places. My son, Kyle, treasured a one-Rupee coin given to him by an elderly woman for preaching the gospel — because it was all she had.)
I recall less than a dozen meetings when more than 100 souls were baptized in one meeting — usually when several villages came together for one meeting. We prefer to teach in one village at a time, to make sure folks know who the preacher is (and members are) of the local church. We average about 50 in attendance in each meeting, teaching people on their home turf. Our philosophy is to go where people are interested in hearing and learning about Jesus — regardless of caste, economic standing, education, religious background, language or location. When we lead one to Christ, he wants to share what he has learned with friends, relatives and neighbors — and have built-in opportunities for sharing God’s word.
Compare our philosophy with that of going only to the big cities, high-caste Hindus, English speakers, well-educated, wealthy, middle-class, and influential members of society. Once they are converted, the gospel will supposedly “trickle down” to other classes of Indian society. If this theory were to be pursued in New York, Paris or Tokyo, the results would be the same as in Bombay, Delhi or Calcutta — meager.
When I discussed different mission theories with one of the brightest minds on our team, an Indian evangelist, he asked about other approaches. I mentioned this theory, and he said in amazement, “Then why bother doing the work? They will not do any good! They will not reach the people who need to hear the message!”
He is exactly right. This elitist view of who will hear the gospel is reduced to about one percent of the people of India — those most unlikely to be interested in hearing about Jesus. This theory is doomed to failure. “Not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (I Cor. 1:26).
This is not a criticism of the workers, but an analysis of the concept. The idea that Paul only worked in the “large cities of influence” will not hold water when you look at a map of Galatia and see there are no large cities! Jesus went to the large cities and the villages. Jesus went to the common people, who heard him gladly (Mark 12:37). Instead of trying to make the work fit our methodology, shouldn’t we make our methodology fit the work?
In our team’s efforts, more than 2 million souls have been baptized. Unbelievable? Please consider that we have been working in India for more than 26 years and more than 15,000 preachers are working with us. Our team has conducted more than 650,000 gospel meetings in that time — the average number baptized is about three per meeting.
These numbers are possible because India is a huge country (about one-third the size of the United States in land area) with more than 1 billion people. Today one of every six people in the world lives in India.
There are more people in India than all of North, South and Central America and the Caribbean combined! India would fit nine times into Africa, yet Africa has only 65 percent of the population of India. There are many people to teach. Growing numbers of them are interested in learning the word of God.
Here are reasons why so many Indians are becoming Christians:
• Overwhelming poverty: 50 percent of the people of India live on $100 per person per year.
• Many Hindus are disenchanted with Hinduism and are seeking a better life
• India is home to the greatest restoration movement of our time. Our work alone has witnessed the conversion of 11,500 denominational preachers.
• Indians are the most religious people in the world.
Remember when the Lord’s church rejoiced with the successes of mission works? We accepted results as genuine, and did not question them, the workers or the methodologies employed.
We need that attitude again, and apply it to the most successful mission field in the world today — India.