For everything there is a season, a time for
every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time
to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to
kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up
(Ecclesiastic 3:1-3). Just as we are reminded from this Bible verse, there is a
season appointed by God for everything. Every church too has a season of great
harvest and a season of declining congregations. Even though it may look like Christianity in Europe and
United States is drastically falling, thereby affecting the global Christian
population, the truth is that there is a shift in the religious landscape of
Christianity taking place all over the World. A century ago, about 80 percent
Christians lived in North America and Europe, compared to the 40 percent today.
Today, less than 50% Christian population is on North American and European
heritage. There is a massive growth of Christianity in the Global south.
Nations like India, China, Africa have grown rapidly. The Christian community
in Latin America and Africa alone account for 1 billion people. There is a
great diversity of Global Christians flooding into the US for work or
rehabilitation. “Such diversity poses real challenges (and opportunities) for
U.S. churches, which must acknowledge the specific cultures from which these
new believers stem” (Jenkins, 2011). With the rise in such diverse cultures,
churches in the U.S. need to reconstruct their Church services in a way that
accepts and enriches these ethnic groups as well. One such ethnicity that is on
the rise in our context are the Indians. There has been a huge rise in the
number of Indian immigrants in the U.S. with the rise in development and
technology. As the stereotype correctly suggests, Indians are very good with
numbers, computers and medicine. That is why there is a huge inflow of Indians
fulfilling the demand of these professions in the U.S., which also creates a
lot of opportunity for the American church to reach out to these ethnic people
groups. Over the past 100 years, Christians grew from less than 10 percent of
Africa’s population to its nearly 500 million today. One out of four Christians
in the world presently is an Africa, and the Pew Research Center estimates that
will grow to 40 percent by 2030 (www.pewresearch.org). This should give us an
idea of why reaching out to these people groups is so important for the
exchange of both spiritual and formative learnings that can take place by the
Western nations as well as the global south.

Instead of bringing the gospel
as a plant to other cultures and transplanting it among them, bring it as a
seed and grow the plant in their culture.

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As mentioned throughout the Bible, the mission of God is very
Christ-centered. When Jesus gave the disciples the great commission, He showed God’s
grand redemptive plan for all humanity. We know that salvation can come only
through Jesus Christ, so it is the responsibility of the church to lead people
to the truth. Ministry was not just for the early church. Problems and issues
of many kinds still occur in every person’s daily life and the answer is found
only in Jesus. Therefore, we know that ministry is relationally and culturally
relevant to our communities. The Kingdom of God is the central theme of Mission
in the New Testament. God’s unconditional love for each and every person,
drives us to love our neighbors, families, friends, etc. This love when reciprocated
by both God and Human mutually, develops into a relationship. This relationship
further develops into having the privilege of being part of God’s big family,
which is His kingdom. The significance and relevance of a church is to carry
out the mission of God by being a sign and foretaste of this Kingdom of God.

An effective way for the church to move in this direction is
contextualization. The gospel is contextualized uniquely represented in each
culture. Therefore, different ethnicities will relate to and connect better
with, in different ways. But before taking this direction, few questions need
to be asked to evaluate the scope of reach which can be done through the four
streams to engage Church in local community which we learnt in class. Questions
like, ‘Where are we?’, ‘Who are we?’, ‘Who else is concerned?’ and ‘What is needed?’
are good questions for the church leadership to ask. These questions lay a good
foundational base and starting point for the church’s work. In our context of
reaching out to the Indian community, we could start by getting involved in
their needs. As an Indian myself, I know that there is widespread poverty which
affects a lot of families. They come to the U.S. so that they earn to send back
most of their earnings for their families to survive. By addressing these needs
and beginning to pray about them with the Indian people is a good start. Indians
are a very community driven people. So, to see a community in a foreign land,
welcoming them will make them feel safe and accepted. This is the concept of integrating
Evangelism and social outreach which Sider talks about in his book. “If you believe that persons are both
material and spiritual beings, them your social ministry should combine
spiritual and material aid” (Sider, 2005). Just like we learnt through Dr.
Jay Moon’s book about revealing God through African proverbs, Indians too have popular
proverbs that are commonly used to give council, advice, encouragement, hope
and love. These proverbs called ‘Muhavre’,
are an excellent way to communicate in a contextual way and be able to show God
through something that already exists in their culture. There is not just a better
connect, but also a better understanding and interpretation by the Indian people
if these proverbs are used.

The purpose of this practice is to engage with the local
community. When non-Christians look at the positive changes taking place in
their society because of the church, it opens people’s minds to the sovereignty
and love of Christ. “It creates new
opportunities for church members to come into relationship with non-Christians
in the context of ministry, and it makes community residents more receptive to
invitations to attend church or to hear the gospel” (Sider, 2005). The purpose
is also to have an effective Holistic church ministry. For this, the
leadership of the church need to be those that possess faith, love and
commitment as operating as a holistic church is not easy. It has its own set of
challenges and difficulties

It is important to remember that even though we conduct all
the research and gather the information, it is the Holy Spirit who empowers us.
We rely not just on the knowledge, skills, technology and plans that we have
acquired, but God, who is already at work in each person. It is because of
prevenient grace that we know that God is already at work in everyone.
Therefore, being rest assured that God has already gone before us and begun the
work in the people, should make us more confident as we strive to fulfil God’s
mission. For this, we need to be in sync with God to understand His will and
purposes.

Finally, we know that Jesus lived to serve the community wherever
He was. He healed the blind, the lame and the sick. He also fed those who were
hungry and provided for those in need. Just as Jesus did, we too are called to
serve one another. We know the greatest command Jesus gave us, to love the Lord
wholeheartedly and love our neighbors as ourselves. As this church recognizes
the need to reach out to the Indian community, it must be done in love and with
discernment from God. For ultimately, this is not our mission, but it is the ‘Missio
Dei’ that we get to be a part of.

 

 

Citations

 

Jenkins,
Philips. The Next Christendom: The
Coming of Global Christianity. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Wright, Christopher. The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the
Church’s Mission. Zondervan, 2010.

Christians remain world’s largest religious group, but they are declining in Europe

Ronald J. Sider, Philip N. Olson & Heidi Rolland Unruh. Churches That Make A Difference: Reaching
Your Community with Good News and Good Works. Baker Books, 2005.