Monday, March 19, 2007

Elephant gods and Sourdough

Hindus have millions of gods. One of the most widely worshipped one is Ganesha, which looks like a mutant elephant. George Robinson, Philip and I saw lots of altars to this god last week on our leadership training trip to India. One restaurant we went into had a worship shrine to Ganesha at the front door. A handicrafts store had a big shrine prominently positioned by the checkout counter.

How do we as followers of the Living God, the Lord Jesus, help those enslaved to such a god?

Remember the answer to the famous question: how do you eat an elephant? “One bite at a time.”

Let’s rephrase that question: how do you defeat an elephant god? “One life at a time!”

That was our focus last week in India. Training 35 people how to train others to do evangelism and discipleship that results in planting new churches. Expanding the kingdom of God one soul at a time, then gathering them together in new churches to be discipled.

You may be thinking “that’s just a drop in the bucket . . . there are a billion people in India!”

If that is what you are thinking . . . you’re right. Just a drop in the bucket.

Maybe a better analogy is sourdough. How do you make sourdough bread? Each time you make a batch you hold back a small ball of dough. It has the sourdough yeast in it, which is needed to make the dough rise.

When you put that small ball of dough in a new batch, the yeast multiplies and the bread rises. Then you put it in the oven, but first you hold back a small ball of dough. The yeast for the next batch is always in the current batch.

There are lots of effective churches and ministries working in India. Many people are coming to Christ. We’ve had teams going to India for 10 years. Now we thank the Lord that He is allowing us to expand our ministry there through training church planting coaches.

Each of these coaches will be like sourdough yeast going back to their areas of ministry. Here’s why.

Dani Abraham, our India coordinator, did a great job gathering together 36 leaders from 10 states of India. Among them they spoke 5 or 6 languages. In our training we covered Vision for Church Planting, plus a very basic church planting process: Pray, Evangelize, Make Disciples, Gather Together, Develop Leaders and Multiply.

Then each day we went with the leaders we were teaching out to Banjara gypsy villages to "practice."

There is severe discrimination in India, the result of the Hindu "theology" of the caste system. The Banjara are treated very badly. They work hard at menial jobs, such as breaking up rocks to make gravel. The homes we saw were made of sticks covered with discarded plastic. Cooking was done on a small mud "fireplace" in front of each hut (at bottom of picture).

Often towns refuse to put in water lines to their neighborhoods, forcing the women and girls to spend many backbreaking hours carrying water.
Pray. The first day we taught a session on Vision for Church Planting and another on prayer. Then we went to the Banjara villages to prayer walk. We prayed for the area, and also for some of the people's needs there.

Evangelize: The second day we returned to share the Good News about Christ with people in 4 different villages. 36 people prayed to receive Christ in the 2 hours we spent in the villages. Hallelujah!

Make Disciples and Gather Together. The third day we returned to the villages to follow-up with the new believers and gather them together into new house churches. 50 people showed up at one of those meetings! The new believers in one areas got permission to meet in the front room of a house in the midst of their recycled plastic huts (see picture at left). That day many of these illiterate Banjara gypsies began to learn the 7 basic commands of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Plus 6 more people trusted Christ at the follow-up meetings.

Develop Leaders. 24 of the leaders we trained indicated that they want to be e3 church planting coaches back in their regions. Most traveled at least 24 hours on trains to return home, with some taking 3 days to get back. Dani Abraham will be coaching each of them as they now conduct First Steps church planting training and EvangeCube training.

Multiply. They go with a fresh vision for mobilizing churches to mobilize churches. Each committed to try to train at least one church and 50 believers each month. They have been "infected" with the "yeast" of God's vision for expanding His kingdom. As they go and make disciples, they will multiply more "sourdough" leaders. And one by one, life by life, soul by soul people will be rescued from the destructive paths of worshipping elephant gods.

Before we left Dani already had plans to train 100 leaders next week in a ministry in another state that wants to plant churches among other tribal peoples in India. Also, 3 trainings in Nepal in 3 weeks were set up.

Bottom line for the 3 day conference? 4 new house churches planted. 40 professions of faith. Over 100 attended inaguaral meetings of new house churches. 36 leaders trained, of which 24 were certified to be e3 Church Planting Coaches in 10 Indian states.

Jesus promised that He would build His church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. We thank Him for allowing us to see that promise come to life last week in Kazipet, India.

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