Charlie T. can still remember standing in the church he used to attend in Virginia 8 years ago. Every Sunday he would pray that the Lord would raise up healthy, gospel-centered churches in his homeland of India. In 2013, he came back to India in search for a healthy church, but found very little. After completing his theological studies, he moved to north India where he was able to complete an internship in like-minded church.
Charlie T. was sent out from this church in the spring of 2018 to plant a church in the place where he grew up. All of the zeal, expectations, and excitement that Charlie had when he started out soon collided with the reality of hindrances, difficulties, and discouragement of ministering in a new area. In this article, he gives us a unique perspective on the struggles of breaking new ground in South India.
“I had a ‘perfect’ plan in my mind of what to do, and how to do it- even before I came back to my place to start the work. However, when I began implementing that plan, things began to fall apart. Practically speaking, I could not do what I desired to do, and faced with these unexpected difficulties, I found myself discouraged. Honestly, it took me a little while to overcome that initial discouragement. I would like to give you some insight into a few of the hindrances that I need to overcome as I pursue this incredible task before me.
The first hindrance is finding and securing a place for rent. The city that I live in is getting overcrowded because of educational institutions, jobs, and other luxuries. People from different parts of the country are flooding into this place. The real estate business is booming, and there are apartments that are available for the people to occupy. The problem is, the owners of the apartments and the community leaders hesitate to rent those places to certain groups of people. They do not rent those places to bachelors (who are seen as troublemakers), and they do not want to rent to Christians, fearing a threat to their own religion.
Bachelors in this city have a bad reputation. They are known for immorality, smoking, drinking, robbery, and misbehaving. For these reasons, the owners really hesitate to rent their places to those who are not yet married. They also do not want to upset the families who are already living in the apartments. Many owners reject renting their place to any single people, without giving a second thought concerning the person’s character.
The other problem for owners is the issue of religion. Christians once had a very good name for their integrity and faith in this area, but things have changed over the last couple of decades with the false/prosperity gospel taking strong roots in the urban cities. When the common person hears that someone is a ‘Christian,’ they automatically associate him or her with this type of teaching. They know of the preachers who are deceiving and looting the people of their money. They hear rumors of ‘Christians’ who are falsely converting other religious people into Christianity by offering them material benefits or false hopes. These things anger the religious people of this place. This has given rise to more ‘religious radicals’ who are speaking out against Christians and Christianity. The worst part is that this hatred is now spreading even to the common man. Now it is not just the radicals, but also common men who have started to oppose any Christian activity in the city. Those who have apartments or meeting halls to rent hesitate to rent them to Christians. In fact, it took one year for the local church that I’m currently attending to find a place for Sunday gatherings.
It is my desire to secure an apartment that has a room large enough to hold a Bible Study, in hopes that this will eventually turn into a church plant. Finding that place has been a struggle. Week after week I searched, and owner after owner that I spoke to all gave the same response, ‘no’. However, after searching for a couple of months, I finally found a Christian family who are interested in allowing me to rent their place. Please pray, as they consider this. I believe that this place would be good, because there are no churches in this area. Hopefully, this will be the place where the Lord uses me to establish His church.
With the rise of religious radicals that India has recently seen, and the propaganda they promote, it has become increasingly harder to evangelize people. Even if Christians simply talk about Christ with people, they usually get warnings that they are not to attempt to convert anyone. Of course that does not apply both ways, for those of that religion are encouraged to try and convert Christians. In fact, they use social pressure, threats, and other means to force conformity to their ways.
It is time for Christians to think about these issues and handle them carefully. Please pray that God would help us to be wise, faithful, and bold in sharing the gospel with clarity, so that we may declare the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ among the people of India. Now, I need to find out ways to build that trust with the people and share the gospel with them. God help me! Please pray for me in the midst of these uncertain times.
I do praise the Lord that even in the midst of these hindrances, the Lord has graciously allowed me to start a Bible Study in my local language (Telugu) on Sunday evenings. Those who have attended have shown great interest in learning the Word of God. God is slowly adding people to this group, so I am encouraged and praise Him for that. I am humbled by the way God is working in this city. Though these are small beginnings, I can see the hand of God in all these things, so I am thankful. May God be glorified and Christ be exalted in South India!”
Would you please take the time to pray for Charlie has continues to labor in South India?
Stephen began working for HeartCry in 2015. As coordinator for Asia, North America, and Western Europe, he currently oversees the missionaries over 10 countries. He currently lives in Virginia with his wife and four children.More By Stephen Jacobs