Another Great Awakening
FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 13, number 38, September 18, 2014
. . . to the praise of the glory of His grace, Ephesians 1:6.
By the time you are reading this I should be on my way back home from Hyderabad, India where I have been preaching and teaching. I taught at the Operation Mobilization headquarters there, but also preached on Sunday morning and evening at the Church of St. John the Baptist, an Anglican Church. I also recorded two television programs for a Christian television station which has an audience of 50 million people. Before coming to India I was aware that there was a growing interest in Christianity, that many were coming to Christ, but that interest is far greater than I have imagined. I can only call it another Great Awakening, like what happened in Eighteenth Century England, Scotland, Wales, and Colonial America. Something similar, of course, is also happening in China, Africa, and South America.
Consider, for example, that on November 4, 2001, Ram Raj, the leader of the Dalits, the so-called outcastes of Indian Hindu culture, had had enough of the 3000 years of degradation, humiliation, and rejection by the higher castes of India. He summoned the two hundred and fifty million Dalits to reject Hinduism and choose a new religion. A convention was held in Delhi on November 4 and at least 100,000 Dalits gathered together to recite vows to reject the religion that had failed them and the system that had oppressed them. Many became Buddhists, some Muslims, but many have become Christians. In fact, since 2001 Operation Mobilization (OM) has emphasized church planting amongst the Dalits, Scheduled Castes (lower caste Hindus), and Scheduled Tribes (aboriginal peoples of India), and thus far has planted 3000 churches. They have trained 1200 pastors through their four year curriculum at the International College of Cultural Studies who are now pastors in these church plants. Their goal is to plant 25,000 churches by 2025. I was teaching about thirty students, young men and women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two, who spend nine months in the field, going to specific villages (the men, in teams of two, and the women in teams of three or four). They engage in door to door evangelism in Hindu Scheduled Caste villages, with the Dalits, or Scheduled Tribal peoples. They also show the “Jesus Film” on a video or lap top computer to small groups. Many of them have been beaten by the Rastriya Swam Sevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu extremist group that seeks to guard the Hindu religion and Indian culture against what they perceive as Western influences. They use propaganda, forced reconversion of Christians back to Hinduism, and violence (beating, killing, and burning churches) if necessary. These students continue with their ministries however. Once they have a small core group of new converts, they then set up preaching stations and from there, churches. Each student team is expected to plant at least one church per their four years in the program. Some students have planted as many as ten churches. After nine months in the field they return to OM headquarters for two months of Biblical and theological training for which they receive a diploma for their education.
One evening I had dinner with two Bishops of the Methodist church. One was from Bangalore Diocese and the other from Hyderabad. There was also another man high up in the Methodist church in the Mumbai Diocese. I asked how many churches they have planted in the last ten years. The Bishop from Bangalore told me that they plant between ten and twenty each year, while the leader from Mumbai said they plant between five and ten each year. I spent several hours with the man who had the vision for Christian television programming some twenty years ago and began in Hyderabad with very modest resources. Today his operation takes up two floors of a commercial building and he has programming, primarily in the Telugu language, that reaches fifty million people daily. While recording a program I met five Muslim Background Believers (those who have been converted to Christ, coming out of Islam) who have a television program in Urdu, the language of the Muslims of India and Pakistan. These men have produced one hundred and eighty-two programs thus far. They call their program Haqeeqat which, I am told, means Proven Truth in Urdu. They take up various false ideas Muslims have about Christianity-that the Bible is corrupted, that Jesus is not God, that Jesus did not die, etc. and prove the validity of Christianity. By doing so they are dismantling Islam. Their audience is between three and five million Muslims. They told me that after recording a program on Saturday morning, while entering a restaurant a Muslim man recognized them from the television program and shook their hands, thanking them for their messages, requesting an Urdu Bible.
Then there are the three or four preachers in Hyderabad who preach to vast audiences on Sundays. One preacher has an outdoor stadium which seats twenty thousand people and he conducts four services each Sunday. Another preaches to as many as twenty thousand people. Their audiences are primarily Scheduled Caste or Dalit people. All the churches, I am told, are full. It does not matter what the denomination. I preached at the Church of St. John the Baptist, replete with a two hour, Anglican liturgical service with pipe organ, and priests, including me, wearing a surplice. Very formal and yet the church was packed full with at least four hundred people present.
My admittedly limited observation is that this must be a revival. There are innumerable conversions. There are mighty assemblies. If Muslims are being awakened to Christianity by dreams and visions Hindus and Dalits are by physical healing. These are quite common. There is mighty personal evangelism going on. No fear at all of direct, one on one evangelism, door to door and in the streets, on television, etc. And a mighty societal impact is beginning to take place. The Dalits are becoming more main stream in the culture. This, no doubt, will take many years but they are slowly but surely gaining a foothold in society as they are given the same privileges of education and hiring for jobs. This revival is not what I would have expected. There is nothing dramatic about it. I have not seen emotionalism of any kind. I have not seen manipulation though I am sure there must be some false prosperity gospel preaching going on somewhere. But this seems to be a quiet, steady, ever rolling forward movement of God. It seems to be like waves gently lapping the beach, relentless, ceaseless. It is the strongest in the south, in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Madras, but the Hindu strongholds of Orissa and Gujarat are beginning to experience the mighty presence of the Spirit of God as well, as evidenced by severe persecution of Christians in these states.
Pray for our brethren in India, that God will continue to sustain them, even as the persecution most certainly will increase. Pray that they will remain humble and true to Biblical holiness and the truths of Scripture. The devil often likes to bring counterfeits and confusion in revival times. And pray for the Holy Spirit to continue this amazing work of conviction and conversion, with hordes of those who formerly were in the domain of darkness, now living in the freedom of new life in Jesus. This is awesome, amazing. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.