Billy Graham Center
World Congress on Evangelism, 1966
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EVANGELISM IN INDIA TODAY
in recent years have demonstrated that India has come to occupy a unique position
in Asia and in the world. Her experience as the world’s largest democracy,
and her potential as a neutral force between the East and the West, make India
a strategic nation. Multilingual and multireligious, with 45 centuries of history
behind her, she is trying to emerge from the ox—cart to the modern jet
age. The urgency to make this transition and the need for national unity and
security are great, and therefore India is exerting much energy for economic
development and nation building.
by I. Ben Wati
the midst of these projects, what is the state of “Kingdom building”
in India today? Of its 500 million people, (over 400 million are Hindus and
50 million are Muslims), only 5 million are Protestant Christians. However small
it may be, we believe that the Church has come to stay in India. And we thank
God that India is still open to the Gospel. Because religion matters much more
to the average person in India than in most countries, government policy toward
religion is neutral. Every citizen is free to profess, practice and propagate
the religion of his choice. This fundamental right is of inestimable worth.
to many of India’s problems is her vast population. It has about 15% of
the world’s population, but occupies only 2% of the world’s land
area. India’s population of 500 million is larger than the combined population
of all of Africa and Latin America. With one million more mouths to feed every
month, the problem of hunger and economic development in India is truly stupendous,
all the more difficult because 82% of the people live in 550,000 villages that
are steeped in tradition and are without proper education.
challenge of the Gospel to a resurgent India and to its teeming millions is
great indeed. After 250 years of Protestant missions we have less Christians
than the country’s annual population increase of 12 million. Evangelism
has made little impression, statistically speaking, and yet, India is a land,
of seekers after Truth, and millions cry with Job, “Oh that I knew where
I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat!” (Job 23:3). More
than ever, seekers from all levels of society are coming, boldly to the Church.
If the Church it India truly obeys her Lord and Master, He will certainly capture
the heart of India. There is general recognition, therefore, that what the Church
in India needs today is revival so that Jesus may reign supreme.
the Church in India is not ready to receive all those who want to come into
the household of faith. This is true for several reasons.
The Church lacks spiritual life.
“The Church....has failed to discharge its spiritual responsibilities
to the nation mainly because of its spiritual feebleness .... What is needed
is a deepening of the spiritual life of the average Indian Christian .... Unless
the Indian Church is revitalized, there is no future for Christianity in India.”
So wrote Mr. Rajaiah D. Paul not long ago.
The Church lacks spiritual leadership.
Mr. Paul says further: “Our leaders have no time to train us for this
evangelism, to help us to show forth in our lives the love of God, the redeeming
grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The Church lacks evangelistic concern.
It is ingrown, and complacent regarding the Lord’s commission to proclaim
the message. Because of a seeming lack of love and fellowship within the Church
it cannot help people in their social setting and cannot contribute significantly
to the nation.
reasons indicate that the major hindrances to evangelism in India today are
within the Church itself. It is true that much progress has been made toward
church union in India by sincere people, one reason for this movement being
that a united church would mean more effective evangelism. But honest church
leaders admit that in the last 17 years church union has not led to any significant
advance in evangelism.
is not only within the Church, however, that we find obstacles to evangelism.
The teachings of universalism and syncretism are rampant, and the revival of
non—Christian religions also exerts increasing pressure on the Christian
Church. In India, working toward a welfare state, missionary methods and language
are being used by so called secular people to accomplish their aims. Areas of
pioneer work previously in Christian hands are now increasingly being undertaken
by government and social uplift groups to do educational, medical, leprosy work,
tribal welfare, etc.
over India tremendous forces have been released by independence and nationalism,
sweeping vast millions away from their familiar past. This imposes a terrific
strain on the ancient faiths to provide inner resources and power for everyday
life. Leaders are painfully realizing that democracy is essentially a spiritual
concept, that strong and sure foundations are needed to fulfill the ideals of
equality, justice, and service. Many are feeling the void and bankruptcy of
a life and society without moral foundations. Certainly the greatest problem
is the same old problem of the human heart. Millions in India are looking for
something new that will satisfy their inner longings.
years ago the visit of Dr. Billy Graham to India gave an impetus to evangelism,
and in some measure awakened Indian Christians to the need of reaching the lost
within and with out the Christian community. Revival and evangelism became familiar
and meaningful terms in the Church.
years previous, in 1950, the Evangelical Fellowship in India (E.F.I.) was formed
to pray for the reviving of Christ’s Church in the sub—continent.
The E.F.I. is a fellowship of the concerned, the concerned who long to see spiritual
life and an evangelical faith in India’s weak and struggling Church. We
are discovering that our fellowship in the Gospel, our unity in the defense
of the Gospel, and our burden for the, furtherance of the Gospel is being blessed
of God. We are also discovering that united fellowship and witness is much more
powerful, convincing, and, fruitful than the ministry of any isolated individual
or group, however good it may be. And thus we are finding great encouragement
in united fellowship and action in co—operative ministries such as in
radio evangelism, literature production, theological education, and preparation
of Christian education materials for the Sunday schools, etc.
Union Biblical Seminary in Yeotmal, India, is a fine example of evangelical
co—operation to produce the needed leadership for India’s Church,
With 100 students from all over India, and with students from 10 other Afro—Asian
countries, it is one of the most significant theological colleges in India today.
the most significant thing in India at present is the increasing number of evangelical
nationals who are making a vital contribution to India’s Church. Aziz
William, Subodh Sahu, Paul Sudhakar, Augustine Salins, Victor Nanogaram, Sam
Kamalesan and others have ministered not only in India but also in other parts
of the world.
medical and educational endeavors continue to remain effective means of evangelism,
literature has received special attention in recent years. Reading rooms located
in the busy streets of towns and cities, Bible correspondence courses, work among
young people and university students, increasingly effective Christian conventions
and evangelistic campaigns —- all these are beginning to make an impact
Like all countries in the world today, India is experiencing political, social,
and economic insecurity. The threat of Communism is real, and the shadow of war
is dark, but God is here and we must work while it is day.
We rejoice that the Church in India is a reality. It has taken root. Here and
there are signs of deepening life and missionary vision. But there is real need
for revival in the Church so that our evangelism will be more effective. We thank
God for open doors. We also thank God for the many adversaries we must face, for
they make us examine the Biblical bases for evangelism. We pray earnestly that
we may overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony, that
India may believe in Jesus Christ as the only Saviour and Lord.
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Last Revised: 11/1/06
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