For everything there is a season, a time forevery activity under heaven. A time to be born and a timeto die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time tokill 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 aseason appointed by God for everything. Every church too has a season of greatharvest and a season of declining congregations. Even though it may look like Christianity in Europe andUnited States is drastically falling, thereby affecting the global Christianpopulation, the truth is that there is a shift in the religious landscape ofChristianity taking place all over the World. A century ago, about 80 percentChristians lived in North America and Europe, compared to the 40 percent today.
Today, less than 50% Christian population is on North American and Europeanheritage. There is a massive growth of Christianity in the Global south.Nations like India, China, Africa have grown rapidly. The Christian communityin Latin America and Africa alone account for 1 billion people. There is agreat diversity of Global Christians flooding into the US for work orrehabilitation. “Such diversity poses real challenges (and opportunities) forU.
S. churches, which must acknowledge the specific cultures from which thesenew 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 thataccepts and enriches these ethnic groups as well.
One such ethnicity that is onthe rise in our context are the Indians. There has been a huge rise in thenumber of Indian immigrants in the U.S. with the rise in development andtechnology. As the stereotype correctly suggests, Indians are very good withnumbers, computers and medicine. That is why there is a huge inflow of Indiansfulfilling the demand of these professions in the U.S.
, which also creates alot of opportunity for the American church to reach out to these ethnic peoplegroups. Over the past 100 years, Christians grew from less than 10 percent ofAfrica’s population to its nearly 500 million today. One out of four Christiansin the world presently is an Africa, and the Pew Research Center estimates thatwill grow to 40 percent by 2030 (www.pewresearch.org).
This should give us anidea of why reaching out to these people groups is so important for theexchange of both spiritual and formative learnings that can take place by theWestern nations as well as the global south. Instead of bringing the gospelas a plant to other cultures and transplanting it among them, bring it as aseed and grow the plant in their culture.As mentioned throughout the Bible, the mission of God is veryChrist-centered. When Jesus gave the disciples the great commission, He showed God’sgrand redemptive plan for all humanity. We know that salvation can come onlythrough Jesus Christ, so it is the responsibility of the church to lead peopleto the truth.
Ministry was not just for the early church. Problems and issuesof many kinds still occur in every person’s daily life and the answer is foundonly in Jesus. Therefore, we know that ministry is relationally and culturallyrelevant to our communities. The Kingdom of God is the central theme of Missionin the New Testament. God’s unconditional love for each and every person,drives us to love our neighbors, families, friends, etc. This love when reciprocatedby both God and Human mutually, develops into a relationship.
This relationshipfurther 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 carryout 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 iscontextualization. The gospel is contextualized uniquely represented in eachculture. Therefore, different ethnicities will relate to and connect betterwith, in different ways.
But before taking this direction, few questions needto be asked to evaluate the scope of reach which can be done through the fourstreams to engage Church in local community which we learnt in class. Questionslike, ‘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 goodfoundational base and starting point for the church’s work. In our context ofreaching out to the Indian community, we could start by getting involved intheir needs. As an Indian myself, I know that there is widespread poverty whichaffects a lot of families.
They come to the U.S. so that they earn to send backmost of their earnings for their families to survive.
By addressing these needsand beginning to pray about them with the Indian people is a good start. Indiansare 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 integratingEvangelism and social outreach which Sider talks about in his book. “If you believe that persons are bothmaterial and spiritual beings, them your social ministry should combinespiritual and material aid” (Sider, 2005). Just like we learnt through Dr.Jay Moon’s book about revealing God through African proverbs, Indians too have popularproverbs that are commonly used to give council, advice, encouragement, hopeand love.
These proverbs called ‘Muhavre’,are an excellent way to communicate in a contextual way and be able to show Godthrough something that already exists in their culture. There is not just a betterconnect, but also a better understanding and interpretation by the Indian peopleif these proverbs are used.The purpose of this practice is to engage with the localcommunity. When non-Christians look at the positive changes taking place intheir society because of the church, it opens people’s minds to the sovereigntyand love of Christ. “It creates newopportunities for church members to come into relationship with non-Christiansin the context of ministry, and it makes community residents more receptive toinvitations to attend church or to hear the gospel” (Sider, 2005). The purposeis also to have an effective Holistic church ministry.
For this, theleadership of the church need to be those that possess faith, love andcommitment as operating as a holistic church is not easy. It has its own set ofchallenges and difficultiesIt is important to remember that even though we conduct allthe 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 haveacquired, but God, who is already at work in each person. It is because ofprevenient 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 thework in the people, should make us more confident as we strive to fulfil God’smission. For this, we need to be in sync with God to understand His will andpurposes. Finally, we know that Jesus lived to serve the community whereverHe was.
He healed the blind, the lame and the sick. He also fed those who werehungry and provided for those in need. Just as Jesus did, we too are called toserve one another. We know the greatest command Jesus gave us, to love the Lordwholeheartedly and love our neighbors as ourselves. As this church recognizesthe need to reach out to the Indian community, it must be done in love and withdiscernment from God.
For ultimately, this is not our mission, but it is the ‘MissioDei’ that we get to be a part of. Citations Jenkins,Philips. The Next Christendom: TheComing of Global Christianity. Oxford University Press, 2011.Wright, Christopher. The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of theChurch’s Mission. Zondervan, 2010.
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/05/christians-remain-worlds-largest-religious-group-but-they-are-declining-in-europe/Ronald J. Sider, Philip N. Olson & Heidi Rolland Unruh.
Churches That Make A Difference: ReachingYour Community with Good News and Good Works. Baker Books, 2005.