After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10
The mission of India Connection since it was founded is to “Reach the Unreached and Teach the Untaught”. We exist to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person from every tribe and tongue. Over the past 20 years, by the grace of God, our organization has helped to plant over 150 churches in 17 states across India.
At the end of last year Pastor Joseph heard from the Lord that we needed to be more intentional about planting churches in 2021, with the goal of planting one church every month. God has already blessed this step of faith; in January alone, He has already started 4 new churches!
Pastor Ben Hiwale talks about our vision to plant one new church every month this year!
3 Ways To Plant a Church
The traditional way we do a church plant in India starts when a man and his family loves the Lord and comes to us to be discipled. After we train them and equip them, they begin holding regular prayer meetings at their house. As they share and more people come, the gathering outgrows the house and the flock has to look for another place to meet – in the yard outside perhaps, or under a tree in the village. A church is born.
In addition, every year we send graduates from the Koinonia College of Theology out into the field to plant churches, either back near their home villages or somewhere else they feel a burden to go. Usually they will be under the guidance of another local pastor until they have enough practical field experience to plant a church of their own.
The third opportunity we have is with pastors who already have a small independent church. They love the Lord, they preach the gospel, but they are looking to join an organization for fellowship and equipping. Nobody has ever taken the time to guide them and help them grow their small, 40-50 person fellowships.
These men come to us, or connect via our website, and we invite them to visit us in Pune. Sometimes Bishop Hiwale travels to another state to meet with a group of pastors. We pray with them and evaluate each one to see if he is a good fit for our organization. What kind of man is he? Does he have the gifts he needs to pastor a flock? Are he and his wife willing to make the sacrifices required to shepherd a flock?
When everything is in place, we bring the new church under the umbrella of our registered organization. We ordain them and help them get their marriage and burial licenses. Every year or two, we invite them to a Pastor’s Conference for prayer, fellowship and teaching. Whenever possible, we visit their churches to exhort and encourage the people and offer spiritual oversight to the pastor and his family.
Evangelizing in India
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15
India can be hard ground for the gospel because other religious traditions are so entrenched in every part of a person’s life. Unlike the West, where life is increasingly secular, the vast majority of Hindus practice their religion regularly. They go to temples and they celebrate the festivals; every night they light scented candles in front of the idols in their home. There is a ceremony for almost everything they do, from birth to death. Before they drive off in a new car, they have a priest break a coconut in front of it.
When we present Jesus to them, Hindus will often have no trouble accepting Him as just another god in a vast firmament crowded with heavenly beings. However, when you ask them if they have a relationship with their gods, or do they pray with the priests when they visit the temple, that is something new. Christianity is the only faith where we can share the deepest part of our heart with God, and He listens to us, comforts us, speaks to us.
Like followers of every other religion, Hindus and Moslems in India are diligent to do religious works. Moslems pray at the appointed times and keep the law, Hindus perform all the rituals. And then they wait and hope they did everything right, because if you don’t do it right, or if you don’t do it enough, or if you don’t give enough, then your sacrifices may be found wanting and your family is at risk of some sort of calamity.
When you begin to share Christ and his unconditional love, a love that doesn’t depend on what we do and how we worship, and that they can have a relationship with God on a personal level, that they can feel the presence of God living in their heart, that is something very foreign and strange. When they realize they can have that, there’s often an openness to hear more.
The way you evangelize in India is by establishing trust, which takes time. You need to let people know you genuinely care about them, their family, their soul, their eternity. You can’t just give them the gospel and walk away. You can’t pull out a tract “The 5 Things You Need to Do To Become a Christian” and leave it there. As you take time to build a relationship of trust, the Lord will provide you with opportunities to pray with them, because everyone needs prayer. They’re lost and they don’t know where to turn. It’s only a matter of time and you’ll be able to present the gospel to them.
Looking Forward in 2021
Over the course of the year as we continue to carry out this vision to plant one church a month we will be bringing you stories of the men and women who are faithfully doing the work in India.
They are all sold out for the gospel; they’ve been tested and tried and are out there now teaching the word of God despite persecution and lack of resources.
We will also be talking about a new church-planting model that we believe God has called us to that will help us better support these men and their families and accelerate the formation of strong churches. Over the next few years we plan to identify a few pastors, especially those from unreached people groups, and provide them with monthly income for two years so they can go out and do the work they were called to.
Our experience has shown that two years is enough time to establish a church large enough to be self-supporting. We have seen these churches mature and become a place that sends out its own people and plants more churches. So the impact is exponential.
We feel that the Lord has grown India Connection for such a time as this, and we need to become very intentional about prayerfully identifying certain men and sending them out to preach the gospel and get as many souls as possible into the kingdom of God.
Is the Lord putting a stirring in your heart to support this work? Contact us today if you would like to get involved, or use the button below to donate to this work.