News Articles

WEEK OF PRAYER: Training Christian leaders amid ‘ocean of idolatry’

[SLIDESHOW=41592,41593,41594,41595,41596]EDITOR’S NOTE: Nov. 29-Dec. 6 is this year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention for workers such as the couple in this story in South Asia. The Week of Prayer, with the theme “Because of Who He Is” from Psalm 96:3 (HCSB), undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at imb.org, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $175 million.

Please see additional articles on Donald and Helen McKinney and their work below this story.

SOUTH ASIA (BP) — Donald and Helen McKinneys’* outreach to South Asians started in North America. They first got to know a South Asian people group in their church’s backyard in New York state before becoming Christian workers on the other side of the world.

Helen and her Sunday School teacher from Trinity Baptist Church in Niskayuna, N.Y., began visiting the homes of the church’s neighbors, several of whom were from South Asia. Each Thursday over tea, they formed friendships with the families, who showed them photos of family members in South Asia.

“The ladies would so welcome us, they were so lonely for their family,” Helen recalled. The Thursday home visits turned into a weekly Bible study when they also swapped recipes and played with the children. A former school teacher, Helen gravitated to interacting with the children. Over the next 10 years, the Thursday class drew about 50 women each week.

“That really started in my heart a love for these people,” Helen said of the South Asian people group she has served among. “They’re so precious, so open to hearing the truth of God’s Word.”

Donald was invited on a missions trip to South Asia while he was a professor and dean at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary’s Northeast Campus in Albany, N.Y. Year after year, the McKinneys spent their summers in South Asia, where Donald taught theology, outreach and leadership development to pastors who had started house churches in South Asia but had little access to pastoral training.

Most of the pastors were raised Hindu, which purports that “gods are in everything: nature, trees — not trees representing gods but that the trees are gods,” Donald said. “They have a god for this and a god for that — one for prosperity, another for health, etc.”

After deciding to devote his time to church leader development there, Donald said, “I was initially overwhelmed by this ocean of idolatry.”

He visited Hindu temples to see how people worshipped, observing people offering food, flowers and incense to statues and praying to them. One evening, he saw a celebratory procession of a new statue being added to a temple. Devotees carried the flower-draped statue on their shoulders as they circled the temple, crying out, “God is coming! God is coming!”

Another night, Donald struck up a conversation with an electrical salesman praying at the temple. “He told me he worships 40 gods a night, and Jesus is one of them,” Donald recounted. “I told him that wasn’t good enough. Jesus needs to be the only one.”

Overwhelming to Donald, in addition to the number of gods that Hindus believe in, was the sheer number of people in the area.

There are 1.6 billion people living in this part of the world, and it has “the greatest concentration of lostness,” Donald said. There are more unengaged, unreached people groups in South Asia than in the rest of the world combined.

One of the most rewarding yet humbling aspects of sharing the Gospel in an unreached area is being the first one to tell someone about it, he said. When looking at someone absorbing the words of the Gospel for the first time, Donald can see the person “listening to the power” of God’s Word, curious to know more.

By the look on a man’s face, “I know this guy’s never heard this in his life. … He has no idea how the story ends.”

Donald, in contrast, started preaching when he was 14 at the church where his father was pastor, Calvary Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla. After serving as a pastor in Mississippi for nearly 17 years, Donald returned to Calvary Baptist to serve as pastor for four years before joining Mid-America Seminary’s New York faculty.

He has used his pastoral experience and theological education to train South Asian church leaders how to share their testimonies and simple Gospel messages, as well as how to form house churches and how to lead worship services and Bible studies in that setting.

The leaders are hungry “to grow and to know and to learn,” said Donald, despite what it has cost them.

A former Hindu turned minister was told by his family, “You can either get rid of Jesus, or we’re going to get rid of you,” Donald noted. “I have to serve Christ,” Donald said the man told his family, who kicked him out of the house.

“They closed his room and said don’t come back, you’re not welcome in this house anymore,” Donald said. “If you’re hungry, we don’t intend to feed you. Don’t call us if you’re sick, we won’t take care of you. As far as we’re concerned, you don’t exist anymore.”

The pastor now goes village to village, preaching to a wide circle of 16 house churches. “What you give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering helped me to help him,” Donald said. “He told me, ‘What you teach me every month, I go home and I preach to all my churches, and I come back and I learn some more.’ Thanks for helping him. It really matters.

“I see my brothers (in Christ) who are faithfully, steadily witnessing, seeing people saved, baptizing them and starting new churches,” Donald said.

“I’m encouraged by the work of the Lord in the churches, by the work of the Holy Spirit to raise up young leaders, and I see many of them coming forward to do the work of the ministry.”

Find resources for churches at imb.org to learn more about and promote the Lottie Moon offering. While Southern Baptists are encouraged to give to the offering through their churches, a “Give Now” option is available for individual online gifts.


Former traveling idol salesman
plants network of house churches
By Kate Gregory

SOUTH ASIA (BP) — Walk into a typical Hindu home in South Asia and lining its walls on at least one side will be a row of colorful, framed depictions of Hindu deities. In one corner of the main room will be an altar to the gods, with more pictures and figurines adorned with fresh-flower garlands.

David used to spend his days traveling from village to village near his home in South Asia to sell these pictures and figurines from his cart.

He was proud of his mobile shop, and “I was proud of my Hindu gods and goddesses,” David recalled.

One day, a Christian minister approached him, talking to him about Jesus.

“I told him, ‘I have enough gods,” David recalled. “I have my own gods and goddesses, I don’t need an extra god.”

Undeterred, the minister shared the Gospel with David’s family. His father, mother and wife professed Jesus as Lord. But David refused to go to church with them or have anything to do with Christianity for three years.

Finally yielding to his wife’s requests for him to attend a church service with her, “the same day … I decided to follow Jesus,” said David, who, like many of the Christians there, goes by a name from the Bible instead of the name of a Hindu god he was given at birth.

The four Christian family members were baptized in a joint service. “Since then, the joy has been unspeakable and that obedience has made me to rejoice in the Lord every day,” David said.

As he began reading the Bible and praying, he realized “there are a lot of people perishing without Jesus … my people … so I need to share the Gospel.”

Once going from town to town touting wares of countless Hindu gods, David now goes village to village planting house churches dedicated to the One True God. Among the four house churches he has started, including one in his home town, there are 150-200 attendees. Sixty of them have been baptized — publicly forsaking all other gods and putting their faith in Jesus Christ alone.

David doesn’t shy away from sharing the Gospel in villages that others don’t or won’t. One village contains cases of leprosy. Another has been targeted by Hindu militants because dozens of villagers are joining the growing house church there and being baptized.

The Christians there live in small tents “in the dirtiest area of their town,” said Donald McKinney,* who has provided pastoral and church planting training to Christian leaders there, including David. “They are despised, and they are very, very low in the social order.”

McKinney’s ministry partner, Nanjappa, who leads the church leader training program, helped the villagers start a microbusiness raising pigs in order to provide income for their families.

As villagers became Christians, they began tithing of what little they had to the house church. Believers stopped spending their time getting drunk and began working hard to make a go of raising pigs. The villagers built pens for them right next to their tents.

The impact of the Gospel on one of the pig farmers was particularly pronounced. Now called Moses, the pig farmer was no longer known in the village as a drunk. He became a leader in the house church.

Area Hindu militants did not look favorably on the change in Moses, so they poisoned the pigs’ food or water. Nineteen pigs died — a loss of nearly one year’s income for the Christian families.

Instead of turning away from his new-found belief, Moses “was encouraging others not to lose heart,” David said. “Even though it was such a loss, to focus on the Lord.”

“Let us follow Jesus,” Moses told them. The Christians were able to obtain more pigs to start again.

“Though they have less, they give,” David said of the villagers’ continued tithing in the house church. “If we say there is a need, they give. Sometimes if they cannot give cash, they give in kind (goods or services to help the congregation), and they are so happy to give.”

Contributions to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions have enabled McKinney to offer church leaders like David training, counsel and encouragement.

“Your gift to the missions offering helped us be there, to teach them and guide them,” McKinney said. “Your gift has helped a lot of guys that you’ll never see this side of heaven learn the Scripture, grow churches, baptize believers and spread the Word of God, so thanks for helping us to do that.”

Find resources for churches at imb.org to learn more about and promote the Lottie Moon offering. While Southern Baptists are encouraged to give to the offering through their churches, a “Give Now” option is available for individual online gifts.


WORLDVIEW: Counterfeits and truth
By Erich Bridges

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — There’s an easy way out of your troubles, they promise. Just believe in whatever religion, ritual, tradition, program, secret formula, magic trick, miracle cure, philosophy or secular substitute for God they are pushing.

They who? “Counterfeits-R-Us,” you might call them.

They’re open for business in every society and culture. They traffic in idols of the heart, the mind and the spirit. Anything that distracts you from hearing and understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ is their specialty.

They push all the latest distractions — and some very old ones. Karma, for instance, and reincarnation. Many Hindus and Buddhists believe karma requires them to undergo an inescapable cycle of actions and consequences. Bad actions bring bad consequences, with no mercy or grace. The only possibility for eventual liberation is reincarnation. Many, many lives in the future, they hope they will attain release from the seemingly endless cycle.

There is only one antidote to counterfeits: truth. The Lord, as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

“Declare His glory among the nations, His wonderful works among all the peoples,” commands Psalm 96. “For the LORD is great and is highly praised; He is feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary” (vv. 3-6, HCSB).

When He is lifted up, He draws people unto Himself. Our task in missions is to declare His glory and works among all peoples and make disciples of every nation.

Donald and Helen McKinney* (one of the couples featured during the 2015 Week of Prayer for International Missions) have been doing just that in South Asia. Using Lottie Moon Christmas Offering funds, they purchased supplies for a center they started to aid poor women and children in the country where they serve. One of the women they led to faith in Christ was the wife of a man who badly burned himself in a fit of drunken, suicidal despair. His cries of pain drew scolding, not compassion, from his neighbors. He should accept his fate, his karma, they said.

Before he died, however, he too sought Christ. As others believe, the larger community will come to know that the Gospel of Christ is greater than karma or any other spiritual substitute. He is truth.

Through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program, you make it possible for Southern Baptist workers to declare God’s glory among the nations and His wonderful works among the peoples.

All counterfeits will crumble to dust before Him.

*Name changed.

    About the Author

  • Kate Gregory