by Francis Sunderaraj
This article is a response to the EMQ article “Post-missionary Asia: One Size Doesn’t Fit All,” by Roger Hedlund, January 1995.
This article is a response to the EMQ article "Post-missionary Asia: One Size Doesn’t Fit All," by Roger Hedlund, January 1995.
The post-missionary era in Asia is tied up with the post-independence era in many countries. The rising of nationalism and the determination of governments to become self-sufficient have affected the Asian churches and their strategies.
Since the explosion of the missionary societies in India in the 18th century, all kinds of attempts have been made to reach the people of India with the love of Christ. I studied in a Scottish Presbyterian College in Tam-baram near Madras, where the missionary professors never asked me, “Are you born again?” but their lives were exemplary.
I believe that the triune God is working silently and invisibly in his own way in Asia. We look for numbers, but God looks for people and transforms them in his own way. Recently, a young Punjabi Hindu convert told me that she was confronted by the living Christ as she was reading the New Testament owned by her late grandfather who was a Hindu. I am sure that there are many like her in India who are not in our statistics.
We live in a Christian community in India in the midst of people who are deeply rooted in their cultures, which are very much part of their own religions. I mean both Hindus and Muslims, and others. There is also a large segment of secular humanists in India.
In such a situation, the church has the gigantic task of growing both qualitatively and quantitatively. True church growth involves the strengthening of the local congregations in Christian nurture, evangelism, missions, social concerns, leadership development, church management, and so on. This requires educating the whole congregation.
Church growth also involves reaching the unreached, not just with the gospel alone, but also with the love of Christ. To meet this task we need both national and overseas Christians. We need short-term overseas Christians and missions teams. However, short-term workers and missions team members should not act like “helicopter” missionaries, landing for awhile and then taking off. They must know our people and their culture, and love them as they are.
We need people as experts and investors, as the government of India readily welcomes such people. Could not the churches in the West see to it that at least some of them — I mean those overseas Christians who come to India on secular assignments — be of evangelical persuasion?
While David Barrett may be right that most mission agencies are not reaching the non-Christian world, this is not true for our indigenous mission agencies. My observation is that most of these agencies are targeting the untouched non-Christian world.
In India we still have the glorious opportunity of sharing the gospel in our educational institutions and hospitals, where more than 90 percent of the students and patients are of other faiths. We need to strengthen the faith of the Christian teachers, nurses, and doctors, and motivate them in missions. Another avenue is sports ministry, which is catching on in India.
Our need in Asia today is for Christians, whether local or expatriate, who love people as they are, and who are sensitive to the contexts and committed to the holistic development of those who are reached for Christ.
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