The story of the church in India begins with the arrival of the Apostle Thomas in the first century. He established a toehold before being martyred. Since then, the church has grown slowly. Only two percent of Indians identified as Christians in 2000. Something needed to change.
In 2010, OMS moved away from the traditional church planting methods of the past and introduced two church multiplication processes: Train & Multiply (T&M) and Village Church Planting (VCP). Both of these resulted in more rapid planting of churches but still depended too much on Western trainers. When the Evangelical Church of India (ECI) leaders asked these OMS trainers in 2014 to train seminary students to use T&M, we said, “No, we won’t train the students, but we will train the Indian coordinators to train the students.”
That training was the turning point. It was practical, fun, and needed no translation. The seminary students responded with enthusiasm and immediately began using T&M in their practical work of planting churches on the weekends in surrounding villages. More trainings followed as the coordinators traveled to various Indian states to train hundreds of ECI pastors, lay leaders, and Indian missionaries. Then Ezra Sargunam, ECI Bishop-President, declared that OMS was to train 7,000 church planters at the denomination’s 60th anniversary Diamond Jubilee celebration in January 2016 in Chennai.
What a challenge! ECI and OMS leaders met in October 2015 to plan this event AND what must follow. They faced many challenges, but everyone was encouraged as the plans took shape:
- Raise $350,000 to pay for travel and food for 7,000 people.
- Raise $30,000 to translate 280 pages of material into Indian languages and print 7,500 books.
- Arrange for a five-acre tent pavilion that would accommodate separate training areas for four language groups.
- Provide a similar pavilion where participants and their families could sleep.
- Train approximately 760 small group leaders to lead small groups at the Jubilee training.
- Organize the feeding of 7,000 and their families.
Nobody had planned, though, for the Chennai flood. Weeks of non-stop rain in December 2015 flooded Chennai and the surrounding areas to such an extent that ECI’s attention was fixed on flood relief. ECI reluctantly postponed this event until June 2016.
That was the bad news. The good news was that the delay allowed the needed time to complete translation and printing of the training books. Although the postponement meant that some people could not attend due to other commitments, penalties for changing train tickets, and extremely hot weather, the trainers and nearly 5,000 participants still persevered and attended the massive training event this past June. James, Amos, Raju, Lawrance John, and Rajan facilitated the training, and the small group leaders trained with passion and excellence.
Now the hard work begins. In order to reach the next goal of 100,000 house churches, all of these leaders will follow up with those who received training. Follow-up meetings began in July to review the plans and action steps of each church planter, schedule regular coaching meetings, and answer questions. In the first meetings, 89 church planters committed to establish 184 new house churches by October. These are exciting times of growth in India!
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