A guest post by Abhijit, leader of our partner organization, STEP International, in India
Did you know that India happens to be mentioned in the Bible twice? Esther 1:1 and 8:9 are the two places in God’s Word where India, then considered a province, is indicated. God has a big heart and plan for India when it comes to His mission for the church. No other country in the world has a greater concentration of unreached and least evangelized people than India. And no other country in the world has such a complex society with thousands of diverse communities separated by caste, language and religion.
Operation World, a definitive prayer guide, provides the following estimates: “Of 159 people groups [each group consisting of] over one million people, 133 are unreached. Also, 953 ethnic groups have a population greater than 10,000; of those, 205 have no church and [experience] little to no outreach from Christians. [These groups] can be found in every state, although they tend to be more concentrated in the north.” The least evangelized people groups in India are mostly located in the northern states, and others such as Odisha (previously called Orissa), West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
Persecution and suffering have become a routine part of the Christian life, faith and practice in India. Christian communities and in-country ministry workers face intense persecution, hostility and opposition from Hindu fundamentalists, especially in the northern parts of the country. For instance, in the 1970s, Odisha was the first state in India to enact an anti-conversion bill that restricts church planters, pastors and evangelists from holding baptismal services without the permission of the local government. In recent years, persecution and hostility have increased significantly in Odisha, Jharkhand and Assam states, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet, despite this great opposition and persecution, the church continues to grow at a rapid rate. On one hand, more and more indigenous Christian workers are awakening to the need to evangelize their own people; on the other hand, there is a lack of leadership development and comprehensive theological training. As a result, new churches face the threat of false teachings. Many of the country’s Christian workers have little or no theological training to help them identify and combat unbiblical ideologies.
“Priya” (whose name has also been changed due to security concerns) is an indigenous church planter from Odisha who has undergone theological training. This believer now courageously shares the message of Jesus among various unreached people groups:
“I was born and raised in a Hindu family. My ancestors were idol worshippers. From my
childhood, I followed the Hindu religion and traditions. During the years 2005 and 2006,
I heard about Jesus Christ from an indigenous evangelist and, by God’s abundant grace, I
came know the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ. In July 2007, I accepted Jesus as my
personal Saviour and decided to receive water baptism.
God opened a door for me to study in a Bible school, where I completed a one-year
course. After my studies, I began working as an evangelist in 2011. Since then, I have
been serving God for the extension of His Kingdom by working among unreached people
groups. It is difficult working in areas where hostility and persecution are on the rise, to
the point that persecution has become a daily experience. On a regular basis, I receive
death threats. Once I was beaten up for performing a water baptism in a local community.
Despite this opposition, God is using me to reach people with the Gospel in different
villages. People are attending fellowship gatherings and coming to faith in Jesus. It is a
privilege to serve our living God among the unreached.”
Please pray for these faithful witnesses, and that God will call and equip many more to join in
the great harvest of souls – especially in these days as we approach the Lord’s imminent return.
Mosaic International has recently partnered with STEP International to fund a church plant by an indigenous leader in Southeast Asia. If you would like to be a part of funding this church plant and the pastor who leads it on a monthly basis, please consider a year-end donation to Mosaic International.