On the Banks of the Ganges
How does the gospel message spread in difficult to reach places? It spreads best when local people work in local ways. As the message of God’s love becomes indigenous (in sync with the local culture), it multiplies quickly. Indigenous Disciple-Making Movements (DMMs) are taking off everywhere! Here is one YWAMer’s story.
Arjun* is from a city by the Ganges River in India. He is part of one of the largest unreached people groups in the world: the Bhojpuri. Though from a Hindu background, he came to know about Jesus. He had a heart to reach his own people. Arjun wanted them to know the love of God and find the same joy and peace he had found. He eventually heard about and joined a YWAM ministry in his city. His team leader was a fellow Indian named Mohan*.
Some years ago, George Patterson and I (K. Sutter) traveled together in India and Nepal. We were training people about how to multiply disciples and churches. Arjun made the journey from his city to our seminar in Kolkata.
He saw the great potential for multiplying churches among his people. The church in the New Testament was not burdened by buildings and paid staff! He didn’t want to be either! A simple, biblical model was what he wanted to follow in doing pioneer work for his area.
Vision and Hope
He and his teammates returned to their city with fresh vision and hope. Years ago, I described their early work in an article in YWAM’s magazine, The International YWAMer:
“Small teams formed combining primary health care and evangelistic Bible studies. They headed out to the villages. Physical needs were met as simple gospel stories were told in the local language. Gradually people began experiencing the love of God. The ministries of health care, signs and wonders, and God’s Word made an impact—people were being healed and delivered. Many began turning from Hindu idols to faith in Jesus.
The new believers came together to form simple churches because none existed. Meeting in a little house or under a tree, the believers committed to one another to lovingly obey Jesus’ commands. New elders ‘learn by doing’ while being trained in the background by the YWAMers.
These believers are stepping out in faith, praying for needs and sharing the gospel with their families, friends and neighbors. The sick are being healed, the demon possessed delivered and even the dead raised back to life! Hundreds of men, women, and children have been born again. The churches follow the New Testament pattern, reproducing into their own daughter churches. At last count, thirteen new churches have been established.”
Major Setback and the Need to Persevere
When the emerging movement had grown to 25 churches, they encountered a major setback. Another ministry came along and offered to pay the volunteer leaders of the churches. If they would switch to their organization, they would no longer have to worry about money! All but three churches were “bought out.” How heartbreaking for the team, losing so many of those they discipled.
As many of us have experienced, the death of a vision sometimes leads to resurrection. Arjun, Mohan, and their coworkers persevered. After the pruning, more growth sprang forth. New believers formed new churches. Some who were drawn away by money became disillusioned and returned.
A Key Change that Led to More Growth
Arjun told me about a significant turning point. It came as they began avoiding western practices that made the gospel seem foreign. Many Western cultural traditions were not found in the Bible. But somehow, they had been a part of the gospel he had heard and seen practiced. They decided to make a shift to a more Indian style and way of worshiping.
Believers now gathered together for satsang. Instead of using the word church, they used this more familiar word. Satsang simply means sacred gathering in Hindi.
They also decided to call themselves by a more understandable name. Instead of using the word Christian, they decided to call themselves Jesus Devotees (Jesu Bhakta). These Hindu-background fellowships of Jesus Devotees began to grow rapidly. This helped the local believers to understand and accept the gospel. They didn’t have to become foreigners to follow Christ. Loving Jesus in their own way created great freedom and joy!
It was like they were drinking of the “Living Water” but were using “Indian bowls.”
Vibrant Satsangs, filled with obedient disciples of Jesus began and multiplied. They were planted in scores of different locations throughout the area. The movement grew to well over 1,000 baptized believers. Arjun said many more villages are asking for workers to come. Training, equipping, and multiplying local elders is a major priority now. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
What Can I Do to Help?
Though this DMM continues to grow rapidly, there are many challenges. The biggest one is leadership development. They are working hard to not only grow in breadth, but also in discipleship depth. This movement’s leaders need faithful prayer support behind them. The enemy would love to stop the spread of God’s Kingdom in that area.
Would you be willing to regularly pray for South Asia and the needs of workers there? Your prayers will help this movement continue to grow and multiply!
*not their real names