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Two million baptisms reveal India as ‘greatest restoration movement of our time’

‘These numbers are possible because India is a huge country with more than 1 billion people. Today one of every six people in the world lives in India.’
By Ron Clayton
For The Christian Chronicle
November 1, 2005

I have been workingin Indiasince 1979. It has been quite a ride! On my first trip, I worked with oneAmerican and many Indian preachers for 25 days. I preached 61 times.

As a team, webaptized 900 souls. Much of this work was in new areas where teaching had beendone, but churches had not yet been planted.

The idea thatAmericans go to India,preach and baptize hundreds after they hear the gospel one time is false. Ineach of the places I went, local Indian preachers had been working for months —sometimes, years. They had been teaching, planting and watering.

My job was tosubstantiate what these interested souls had already been taught, reinforcetruths they had already learned, and encourage them to obey God.

My first two meetingswere in Cuddapah District in Andhra Pradesh. The preacher who took me to thesemeetings had been teaching a denominational preacher for seven years, and hehad been teaching these congregations what he h ad learned over that period oftime.

As I spoke to them,it was apparent they had been taught the truth and were not ignorant of theScriptures. They listened in rapt attention. They were not promised anymaterial benefits, nor given anything except the gospel. When they werebaptized, new churches were planted. The denominational preacher was the firstto be baptized.

In my years in India therehave only been three times when anyone has suggested we give them anything tobe baptized. When that happened, we told them to go home! Once a Baptistpreacher said he would come to the Lord’s church and deliver his 100-memberchurch if I would put him on support. I sent a message that we did not buy conversions,and for him not to bother coming to any meetings, because any “conversion” tothe truth on his part would be suspect.

Over the years myco-workers and I have been accused of paying people to be baptized and buyingdenominational preachers. That is not true. We have done just the opposite. Wetell those who come to our meetings that we offer only the gospel, and it isfree. Denominational preachers are told before they are baptized that if theyreceive support from a denominational group, they will lose it when they obeythe gospel — and we will not replace that support.

What has happenedmore often than people asking for pay to be baptized is this — several timesfolks have told us that they did not have money to give us to baptize them!(And Indians have given money to us Americans to preach the gospel in otherplaces. My son, Kyle, treasured a one-Rupee coin given to him by an elderlywoman for preaching the gospel — because it was all she had.)

I recall less than adozen meetings when more than 100 souls were baptized in one meeting — usuallywhen several villages came together for one meeting. We prefer to teach in onevillage at a time, to make sure folks know who the preacher is (and membersare) of the local church. We average about 50 in attendance in each meeting,teaching people on their home turf. Our philosophy is to go where people areinterested in hearing and learning about Jesus — regardless of caste, economicstanding, education, religious background, language or location. When we leadone to Christ, he wants to share what he has learned with friends, relativesand neighbors — and have built-in opportunities for sharing God’s word.

Compare ourphilosophy with that of going only to the big cities, high-casteHindus,English speakers, well-educated, wealthy, middle-class, and influentialmembersof society. Once they are converted, the gospel will supposedly“trickle down”to other classes of Indian society. If this theory were to be pursuedin New York, Paris or Tokyo, the results would be the same as inBombay, Delhi or Calcutta — meager.

When I discusseddifferent mission theories with one of the brightest minds on our team, anIndian evangelist, he asked about other approaches. I mentioned this theory,and he said in amazement, “Then why bother doing the work? They will not do anygood! They will not reach the people who need to hear the message!”

He is exactly right.This elitist view of who will hear the gospel is reduced to about one percentof the people of India— those most unlikely to be interested in hearing about Jesus. This theory isdoomed to failure. “Not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, notmany noble, are called” (I Cor. 1:26).

This is not acriticism of the workers, but an analysis of the concept. The idea that Paulonly worked in the “large cities of influence” will not hold water when youlook at a map of Galatiaand see there are no large cities! Jesus went to the large cities and thevillages. Jesus went to the common people, who heard him gladly (Mark 12:37).Instead of trying to make the work fit our methodology, shouldn’t we make ourmethodology fit the work?

In our team’sefforts, more than 2 million souls have been baptized. Unbelievable? Pleaseconsider that we have been working in India for more than 26 years andmore than 15,000 preachers are working with us. Our team has conducted morethan 650,000 gospel meetings in that time — the average number baptized isabout three per meeting.

These numbers arepossible because India is ahuge country (about one-third the size of the United States in land area) withmore than 1 billion people. Today one of every six people in the world lives inIndia.

There are more peoplein India than all of North,South and Central America and the Caribbeancombined! India would fitnine times into Africa, yet Africa has only 65 percent of the population of India. Thereare many people to teach. Growing numbers of them are interested in learningthe word of God.

Here are reasons whyso many Indians are becoming Christians:

• Overwhelmingpoverty: 50 percent of the people of India live on $100 per person peryear.

• Many Hindus aredisenchanted with Hinduism and are seeking a better life

• India is hometo the greatest restoration movement of our time. Our work alone has witnessedthe conversion of 11,500 denominational preachers.

• Indians are themost religious people in the world.

Remember when theLord’s church rejoiced with the successes of mission works? We accepted resultsas genuine, and did not question them, the workers or the methodologiesemployed.

We need that attitudeagain, and apply it to the most successful mission field in the world today — India.

RonClayton and his wife, Karen, coordinate India Missions from Hyderabad, India.The Central church, Cleburne, Texas, oversees the work.

Filed under: Staff Reports Views

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