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Strategy coordinator recounts keys to Hindu responsiveness

NEW DELHI (BP)–The difference between the past and the future for India’s Christians is as dramatic as the difference between addition and multiplication.

“In the past, Christian workers have seen encouraging response to the Gospel from oppressed communities and tribal peoples,” not mainstream Hindus, said Marty Hunter,* a Southern Baptist strategy coordinator focused on taking the Gospel to India’s Lingayat people group. “In our day, we are seeing a new response to Christ from the Hindu.”

(Strategy-coordinator missionaries like Hunter play a key role in reaching the whole world with the Gospel, focusing on people groups and cities, from African tribes to Asian megacities. They study cultures, learn languages and develop 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. Ultimately, strategy coordinators hope to leave their work in the hands of Christians from their groups as they move on to others still in darkness.)

Among India’s Lingayat people, Hunter noted that one reason for the responsiveness to the Gospel is a dramatic new vision, an approach that trains new believers to multiply themselves, rather than just add to their number.

“In 2003, I received training from an IMB missionary who told us how he used this technique to see incredible response where there was no response before,” Hunter said. “In little more than a year, 30 believers in an area with no churches became 10,000 new believers and 906 small groups.

“Since that time, we have been seeing many Hindus come to Christ and new house churches started by new believers. The new believer is transformed into a multiplying trainer by using very simple concepts that can be passed on from new believer to new believer.”

This new approach fosters a church-planting movement —-a spontaneous, rapid multiplication of churches among a people. The technique gives new Christians a series of six simple lessons that establish an “obedience-based faith” and equips them not only to win others to Christ but also to immediately train those new believers to win and train other new believers.

New believers form a house church around family members who also have become believers. They hear and apply God’s Word through participative Bible studies in which a leader asks basic questions to help the group understand the Scripture passage. Because the studies are saturated with prayer and a commitment to hearing and obeying Scripture, the new believers remain solid in theology.

The vision also dramatically affects the way church planters see their ministries.

“I spoke to a group of 27 church planters,” Hunter said. “They no longer thought of themselves as a church planter who plants a church or two. Instead, they think of themselves as master trainers, each raising up 20 leaders who raise up more leaders, each planting multiplying house churches. The vision transformed from dozens of new churches to thousands of new churches in the same time frame.

“We tell them, ‘It is a great thing to plant a church. It is a greater thing to plant multiplying churches. It is the greatest thing to train leaders to plant multiplying churches.”

Hunter said he instills this vision by showing new believers an apple.

“I ask them, ‘When I hold up an apple, what do you see?’ Most people will see an apple. A few visionaries will see a forest of apple trees in that one apple. They plant the apple seeds, and the seeds grow into apple trees that produce more fruit and still more seeds.

“I tell them I don’t see a group of new believers; I see a whole people touched by the Gospel as they train all new believers to share Christ, grow in the Word in participative Bible studies and start multiplying house churches.

“I tell them, ‘If you live this vision, the Gospel will cover your people like the waters cover the sea. They can see what is happening among them and -— even more important —- they can see the potential that lies ahead.

“We have a great opportunity before us. I see this as a time to bless Hindus with Christ, who loves them and died for them.”
*Name changed for security reasons.

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  • Mark Kelly