Our responsibility to make disciples
Behind the planning of every evangelistic outreach is the consideration of how those who comes to Christ to be discipled.
Taking the gospel to unchurched villages.
In our home town in Watford,UK, there are over 60 churches. In the Telugu states, where sixty million people live in rural areas, there are some 28,000 villages of which about 20,000 in (2015 ) did not have a single church. In our early days in the bible school in Hyderabad, John Badu had a map of Andhra Pradesh on the wall of his office, with 574 pins in key locations in the state. He encouraged any who visited him to pray with him for the gospel to reach these places. So we have always considered how to take the gospel to the unchurched villages.
How God changed the atmosphere through healing.
In Sion, we supported full time evangelists, directing them to take the gospel to about six villages every week for six months. The plan was for the evangelists to preach one day a week in the village, aiming to see a sufficient numbers of salvations to start a house meeting, that would be the score of a church. Some churches were started in this way. The evangelists met opposition or indifference until someone asked for prayer of healing and was touched by God, when atmosphere changed and people began to listen to the evangelist and be saved. However, it was not easy to support these new house groups at a long distance from the base in church in Hyderabad.
The outworking of planting churches.
A like approach is being used among tribal groups in Guntur District. An evangelist with a strong pastoral heart has planted churches so far in 18 Tribal groups, pastoring each new group himself. This means he holds a church meeting in each place on a different day, and in two different places on a Sunday. This way of working, he has sometimes pastored six churches at a time continuing to lead each church until he has found others to take responsibility for the group. Currently, there are 18 churches under his overall leadership in this way.
Vision to establish 10,000 churches in the next 10 years in unchurched villages.
About five years ago we embraced an overall vision for the Telugu States. This was to establish 10,000 churches in the unchurched villages in the next 10 years. This was far outside our thinking that it had to be God! A small group of leaders whom we had come to know and occasionally worked with over the previous 15 years had come together and received vision. It was so in accord with John Babu’s heart for the state that we had long before embraced, that we committed ourselves to play our part in achieving the vision.
We started by drawing together Pastors that we knew of already in each district (Andhra Pradesh districts before the division) and over two years held conferences in each of the 23 districts, sharing the vision. Wonderfully, some 1700 pastors committed to pray 1 hour each day for revival in the Telugu states, and many caught hold of the vision, being determined to play their part in its fulfilment. They each receive regular ‘prayer text’ from the voluntary administrator, who is himself a Pastor.
Planting two to three churches each week.
Our plan is for each church to plant churches in local unchurched villages. A team from the ‘sending’ church goes regularly once a week to preach and pray for the sick in the village. Once three or four families come to Christ, they start meeting as a church in one of the believers houses, supported by the sending church. This type of small home church in an embryonic church village. Our heart is that there should be at least one place in the village, which is witnessing to the one true God. A very small start to reaching the population of the village with the gospel. So far this approach is planting 2 to 3 churches each week.
Partner ministries sharing in this vision.
In parallel with this, another of our partner ministries is sharing in the vision, and has held 10 training sessions for groups of up to 50 pastors on church planting. These are also seeing 2 or 3 churches planted in unchurched villages each week. Praise God for this, but we need to plant 15 churches each week to meet the target we believe God has given us.
Seeking God’s guidance for future work.
We are currently seeking His guidance on planting churches in areas where there may be as many as two children villages in an area with no church. The work so far has been at very low financial cost but there are likely to be significant costs involved in large crusades or in other methods of taking the gospel to these areas.
We are thrilled with the way God is working through our Indian ministry partners, and are confident that He will enable us to fulfil the vision He has given us. He is great!