POWELL, Tenn. (BP)–They had little knowledge and no local contacts when it began sending teams to India more than a year ago. But after multiple trips, volunteers from First Baptist Church of Powell, Tenn., have found the best weapon to reach a city of 2 million people for Christ — prayer.
“After six weeks on the ground, [First Baptist had] identified believers and those who want to see house churches and believers grow and to see the work done,” says Jay Adler*, a leader of the First Baptist team.
Adler specifically credits prayer with guiding the team to a Christian man, Nihl Mattah*, through contacts with an Indian living in Knoxville, Tenn. Mattah lives in the same Indian city where First Baptist works.
The team hopes that Mattah can help spark a movement of house churches throughout the city, where Christians make up less than 1 percent of the population.
The team also has recruited more than 350 prayer supporters, instead of the 200 they originally requested. That number continues to grow. Churches and organizations can contact First Baptist to join the prayer team.
“It’s kind of coming from everywhere,” Adler says. “People are wanting to pray for us and see what we are doing.”
Adler believes the team needs all the prayer it can get.
“We can’t do this,” Adler says. “But God can do more in five minutes than we can do in five years.”
Before heading off to India to spread the Gospel through the Project Thessalonica effort to reach the nation’s cities, interested Southern Baptist churches might want to consider the following:
1. Are you committed?
Don’t expect fast results, Adler says. Starting a self-perpetuating movement of churches in India requires a long-term commitment.
“If you are not willing to give it at least three years, then don’t start,” he says.
A church also needs a solid core of people, other than those in church leadership positions. Pastors and other paid leaders can only take it so far, Adler says.
2. Listen to those with experience.
Even a church that has participated in multiple mission trips needs advice, Adler says.
The First Baptist team found valuable help from Project Thessalonica coordinators Marc and Ann Bowman. Simple things such as knowing how much to give as a tip or what type of clothes to wear can help a team avoid obstacles.
“When someone has been on the field for four or five years, they know the little things you need not to do or say,” Adler says. “We have to listen.”
3. It takes research.
Learn as much about the area as possible. Visit libraries and bookstores, and go online to find useful information.
Adler admits the Powell team could have used more information about the city, such as finding the best hotel locations and avoiding the monsoon season. By preparing in advance and learning from those who have gone before, churches can maximize their ministry opportunities.
*Name changed for security reasons. To learn more about serving through Project Thessalonica, e-mail [email protected] or call the International Mission Board at 1-800-999-3113.