I have been in India for five days now, traveling with my close friend Anuroop Swamy. Anuroop is one of the key leaders in the largest church movement in India. It has been entirely built upon one-on-one disciple making that leads to establishing house churches. Last year they baptized well over a million new believers. I am enjoying the luxury of a flexible schedule; having said that, I do have some specific things to see and do.
First of all, Impact Nations has received a number of requests to conduct Journeys of Compassion in different parts of India. I am scouting two of these areas, the western border of Andhra Predesh and the Punjab––meeting the local leaders, getting to know them and their ministry values and priorities; traveling to various villages; and checking out practical things like food, lodging, travel etc.
After flying into Bangalore, a large and quite modern city in southern India, Anuroop and I traveled in 45 degree C temperatures about four hours north to a region that is largely populated by the Banjara people––Gypsies. These are the same people who over the centuries migrated from here all over Europe. Unlike the eastern parts of Andhra where we have been working for a number of years, here I am the only white person I have seen. The Banjara villages are untouched by western missions. They have never had anyone conduct mobile medical clinics. If Impact comes to these villages, we will be theonly western Christians.
When I met a village chief, he invited us to sit down in front of his home. In a few moments there were about 40 people crowded around. The chief talked to us about their needs for water, for better agriculture, and economic opportunities. He encouraged us to go into the small primary school, if a team comes, so that the children could receive prayer and hear the Gospel while they are young. This man is not a Christian!
A second goal for this trip is to get an experiential understanding of the house church movement in India. I have read the books, but this needs to be more caught than taught.
On Sunday morning I attended my first house church meeting. I have read about such meeting for years, but never seen one. I am not talking about a home group or a church that meets in a house but is essentially structured like a regular Sunday service with worship, announcements, teaching and prayer ministry. (Those I have seen, led and participated in for over 35 years.) What I witnessed was something else entirely.
For about 2 1/2 hours (the time flew by), with no leader directing the action, person after person shared a testimony, a song, a prayer, a scripture, a teaching or encouragement; one lady even shared a remarkable parable. No one asked for testimonies or anything else; people just spontaneously shared. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that when the church gathers each one has something to contribute.(1 Cor 14:26) This is what I saw. Each of these people (about 45 of them) were constantly winning others to the Lord through taking the time to be building new relationships and in this context of care, introducing them to Jesus. Many testified of meeting the Lord through the kindness of a stranger who became a brother or sister. I heard many testimonies of remarkable healings and deliverance. Two women shared about raising the dead. One lady raised a man from the dead simply by preaching the Gospel over his body until he opened his eyes and sat up! Another lady shared excitedly about the 22 people she baptized in a day. Another shared that she had asked the Lord for 300 disciples (new believers who make other disciples). She announced that since she had now done that, she was asking for 3,000 more disciples. All over the room they spoke out how many disciples they were asking the Lord for in the next month. The smallest number I heard was 5, the highest was 40––for one month. The time finished with communion and taking a meal together.
I experienced the new testament church life that Acts and the epistles describe. It was so exciting in many ways: a truly Holy Spirit-led gathering with no human leader; testimonies of miracles, salvations; many short and powerful teachings from the Scripture; worship that was free and spontaneous. As person after person contributed, the atmosphere became charged with faith and thanksgiving for all that Jesus was doing.
...all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)
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