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Gospel multiplies among India’s Lingayat people so much that coordinators may leave

EDITORS’ NOTE: This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions, Dec. 4-11, focuses on eight strategy coordinator missionaries and a church serving as a strategy coordinator, exemplifying the global outreach supported by Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The first of the stories features Marty Hunter, who works among the Lingayats of India. Strategy-coordinator missionaries play a key role in reaching the whole world with the Gospel, focusing focus on people groups and cities by studying cultures, learning languages and developing master plans for reaching every individual with the Gospel. They enlist other missionaries, volunteers, local Christians and prayer partners to help carry out those plans to see the Gospel spread quickly and churches to multiply rapidly in church-planting movements that can only be explained as works of God.

NEW DELHI (BP)–God has moved so dramatically among one Last Frontier people group in South Asia that the Southern Baptist missionaries working among them since 1997 are planning to shift their focus to another people without access to the Gospel.

When Marty and Jodi Hunter* decided to accept responsibility for taking the gospel to India’s Lingayat people, other Christian workers didn’t offer them much hope of success. In 1997, researchers could count only 800 Christians and no churches among the Lingayats, a high-caste Hindu group that numbers 15 million.

“People discouraged us, saying the people were hard-hearted, that the work would be fruitless,” Hunter said. “Today we’re looking at about 3,000 believers -– most of them people who have come to faith in the past two years.”

The number of Lingayat believers is growing so rapidly that Hunter believes they will see 18,000 believers in 1,000 house churches by 2006 -– a movement strong enough to be left in the capable hands of local believers trained to reproduce themselves.

Several factors have played a role in sparking this church-planting movement, evidencing reflecting a spontaneous, rapid multiplication of the Gospel:

— Prayer –- “Southern Baptists prayed specifically for this people group in 2000,” Hunter said. “Not many months later, we began seeing an amazing outbreak of the Gospel that has been going on now for three years. We see a direct link between the outpouring of prayer and Lingayat people coming to Christ.”

— Lingayat witnesses –- “We knew that, ultimately, a Lingayat is going to receive the Gospel message best from one of their own people,” Hunter said. “Previously, we had only trained willing Christians from other people groups. We saw a turning point in 2002 when we trained the first Lingayat believers to reach their own people.”

— Customized material –- “We had some Lingayat believers write Gospel tracts for their own people, using some of their own distinctive symbols and vocabulary,” Hunter said. The Lingayat team had planned to print 10,000 of the tracts, but the Bible society insisted on a minimum press run of 100,000. “We saw that the principle of sowing abundantly and reaping abundantly holds true with Gospel seeds,” he said. “Before long, we found ourselves ordering a second 100,000 tracts -– and now we’re on our third!”

— Family evangelism -– “When Hindus have come to Christ in the past, they often were encouraged to leave their families. New believers became isolated and didn’t have a voice with their families,” Hunter said. “Now we emphasize that new believers should go back to their families with the Gospel. We point out that the Geresene Demoniac wanted to leave his community, but Jesus told him to go home and tell them what the Lord had done. When Jesus came back, a multitude of 4,000 people wouldn’t leave His feet! When Lingayats see that God’s will is for them to stay and win their community to Christ, the Gospel spreads rapidly.”

— Training trainers -– The Lingayat team also trained new believers in a set of simple concepts they could easily pass on to people they led to Christ -– harnessing the passion of new believers and transforming them into multiplying trainers. “In one case, I trained a group of 10 believers. They came back and reported that 30 people had come to Christ,” Hunter recounted. “I told them that when we came back in another 10 days, we would not discuss who they had led to Christ, only the experience of those 30 new believers who had been trained to share their story. When they came back, they reported that those 30 new believers had led 270 people to Christ!”

Even when the time comes to leave the work entirely in the hands of Lingayat believers, the Hunters won’t have a hard time finding another people group in need of the Gospel.

“There are nearly 1,000 other people groups just like the Lingayat in South Asia -– hidden people groups that have been overlooked with the Gospel,” Hunter said. “About 50 percent of Last Frontier people groups are Hindu peoples.

“That is such a major bloc of the Great Commission -– one that’s really neglected.”
* Names changed for security reasons.

Ask God to move among the Lingayat people of India:

-– Pray that He would deepen the hunger Lingayat people feel to know Him.

-– Ask Him to reveal the truth about Jesus to Lingayats and draw them to Christ.

-– Pray that His Spirit would embolden and strengthen Lingayat believers to bear witness effectively in their communities.

-– Join Christian workers and local believers in Karnataka state as they pray for 140,000 new believers and 10,000 churches in 2005.

-– Ask God to help Southern Baptists understand the need – and their responsibility – to take the gospel to all who have yet to hear.

-– Ask Him to multiply the number of believers and churches until they cover South Asia “as the waters cover the sea.”

The Lingayat of India -– and a thousand other people groups just like them -– need you to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Here’s how you can help:

— Learn more about the unreached peoples of South Asia


— Pray for the people of South Asia


— Give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering


— Lead your church to pray and give


— Lead your church to be a strategy coordinator


— Discover opportunities for service in South Asia


— Ask a question or share a comment

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    About the Author

  • Mark Kelly