Arjun* is from a city by the Ganges and a member of one of the largest unreached people groups in the world; the Budjpuri. From a Hindu background, he came to know Jesus. With a heart for reaching his own people, he eventually joined a YWAM team in his city led by a fellow Indian named Mohan*. When George Patterson and I traveled together in India and Nepal doing seminars, Arjun made the journey to our seminar in Calcutta. He began to see the potential for spontaneously multiplying churches among his people. Realizing that the church in the New Testament was not burdened by buildings and paid staff, he was encouraged to follow that simple model in pioneer work for his region.
He and his teammates returned 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.”
When the emerging movement had grown to 25 churches, they encountered a major set-back. Another ministry came along and offered to pay the volunteer leaders of the churches if they would switch to their organization. All but three churches were “bought out.” How heartbreaking for the team, loosing so many of those they discipled.
As many of us have experienced, the death of a vision may lead to resurrection. Arjun, Mohan and their coworkers persevered. After the pruning, more growth sprung forth. New believers formed new churches. Gradually some who were lured away by money became disillusioned and returned.
Arjun told me a significant turning point came as they began avoiding western traditional practices (which are not in the Bible) that made the Gospel and church appear so unnecessarily foreign. Believers now gather together for “satsang”. These Hindu-background fellowships of Jesu Bhakta (Jesus Devotees) allow the local believers to drink of the “Living Water” by using culturally-appropriate “Indian bowls.”
Vibrant Satsangs, filled with obedient disciples of Jesus, have been planted in scores of different locations throughout the area, serving over 1,000 baptized believers. Arjun said many villages are asking for workers to come. Training, equipping and multiplying local elders is a major priority, because the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
*not their real names