SOUTH ASIA (BP) — A group of Southern Baptist pastors squeezed their way into a small area with crowds of Hindu faithful to watch the ritual slaughter of goats at the Kali temple in Kolkata, India. Those with cameras were swatted with batons by temple security guards adamant the group not capture images of the beheadings.
That scene, combined with earlier scenes of idol worship and ritualistic cleansing in other South Asian cities, was a clear reminder of why these pastors — which included Fred Luter, who was Southern Baptist Convention president at the time — had journeyed there. The Old Testament was played out right in front of them, real and tangible, even brutal. But they had come to tell South Asians that the fulfillment of the Gospel in Jesus changed everything — for all.
“We as believers, we understand that the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God — [our] Lord Jesus Christ dying on the cross — is the best and is the only one sacrifice that has been done in history,” said Humberto Gonzalez, minister of First Euless en Español, a Spanish-speaking ministry of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas. “So we don’t have to kill more animals. Jesus died for all of us.”
Gonzalez reflected the sentiment from his pastor colleagues who traveled to South Asia from African American, Korean, Chinese and Hispanic Southern Baptist congregations across the United States. Team members said they were profoundly impacted by seeing the effort people go to for a religious experience at the Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim places of worship they witnessed on the trip.
The experience served as a reminder that being part of a New Testament church doesn’t involve building earthly establishments to get God’s attention or involving a priestly caste system to beg Him for redemption for others. The joy of the Christian faith is that believers know they already have been redeemed by Christ on the cross and through His subsequent resurrection. Christians are part of the Kingdom of God, no animal sacrifice or candles needed to atone for sins — just placing their faith in Him.
Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, noted “too many times we get so interested in building our own kingdoms in our city, in our state, but we’ve got to look at the bigger picture.
“Again, this is one sacred effort: all of us coming together to impact the world, not just our city, not just our state, not just our nation, but to impact the world … with the Word of God.”
And the Kingdom of God is growing in South Asia despite the sheer number of people spiritually lost and dying without access to His Good News. There are more unengaged, unreached people groups (those without an active Gospel witness) in South Asia than in the rest of the world combined. More than 1.6 billion of the world’s peoples are from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka or the Maldives.
After visiting areas where churches are being started, pastor Joseph Chan of Arizona’s Tucson Chinese Baptist Church said he is impressed with the growth of new churches in South Asia through the Holy Spirit’s leading and the obedience and perseverance of Christian workers and local pastors.
“It seems that when things are difficult, when the environment is not as friendly or maybe to some extent hostile, that’s where the Kingdom of God and the Gospel flourish even more so,” he said.
See and hear some of what the pastors witnessed: