by Paul R. Gupta and Sherwood G. Lingenfelter
What role should theological education take with church planting movements? To answer this important question, Paul Gupta presents a case study based on his experiences in India as president and director of Hindustan Bible Institute (HBI).
BMH Books, P.O. Box 544, Winona Lake, IN 46590, 2006, 244 pages, $14.99.
—Reviewed by Robert Reese, World Mission Associates, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
What role should theological education take with church planting movements? To answer this important question, Paul Gupta presents a case study based on his experiences in India as president and director of Hindustan Bible Institute (HBI). As an active supporter of Gupta’s work and as a theological educator himself, Sherwood Lingenfelter offers his reflections at the end of each chapter. Each of the first ten chapters presents another layer of the evolution of Gupta’s vision for nurturing church planting movements across India.
Gupta’s father founded HBI in 1952 based on the model used by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. When his father died in 1977 Gupta was studying at Fuller Theological Seminary under Dr. Donald McGavran and others of the Church Growth Movement. He returned to India to lead HBI in 1983, eager to use the institution as a vehicle for church growth in India.
Gupta soon found that pressure to conform to accreditation standards for theological education worked against the production of church planters. Without losing academic credibility, he determined to change course from the expected path for HBI in order to meet India’s need for more churches. This meant branching out into non-formal training for church planters, while also making formal training more relevant.
HBI opted to spearhead the strategy of Jim Montgomery’s Discipling a Whole Nation (DAWN). Research indicated that to accomplish the DAWN goal of one church in every village (or one church for every thousand people) would require the planting of a million new churches and the training of a million new pastors. Clearly, theological training as normally envisioned would not even begin to meet the challenge.
Thus, Gupta describes step by step how the vision of saturating India with churches led HBI into uncharted territory as a training institution. Each chapter builds upon the one before and includes challenges and setbacks HBI faced. Decentralization and cross-cultural training became crucial to motivating and building workers who could gather in the harvest across India.
The only reservation I had reading this book was that both authors seemed sure their goals could not be achieved without hefty subsidy from Western Christians. In the concluding section Gupta warns that tribal resurgence will disrupt current global harmony, and warns churches to prepare for a time when international partnerships will be difficult. Surely it would then be wise to move these growing church planting movements away from dependency on foreign funds.
Check these titles:
Garrison, David. 2004. Church Planting Movements: How God is Redeeming a Lost World. Midlothian, Va.: Wigtake Resources.
Pickett, J. Waskom.1933. Christian Mass Movements in India. Lucknow, India: Lucknow Publishing House.
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