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An evangelism project that has seen great success for the past 50 years in Latin America has recently been introduced to India. Latin America Mission's Ken MacHarg reports that "Evangelism-in-Depth" was begun by LAM using door-to-door evangelism, medical caravans and other methods that involve the entire community over a long period of time. Now, these biblical principles are being used in India. Following its introduction last year, one pastor reported a 50 percent increase in attendance as church members have begun sharing their faith with family and friends. Many in India report success with "Evangelism-In-Depth" through women evangelists. Male evangelists are often persecuted in Indian villages, but the society respects women and will not openly hassle them. Also, women have more openings to Indian homes as men usually go out to work while women stay home during the day. (Mission Network News, July 12, 2002)
A Fresh Movement of God
Evangelism in Depth reaches India
By Jeanette Windle
LAM News Service
"This is the beginning of a movement in our country that can make it possible for every Christian to be mobilized for evangelism." The spokesman was Rajesh Sebastian of Mission India. The event to which he referred was the series of Evangelism-in-Depth seminars presented by LAM missionaries last August in three cities of India.
For any student of evangelistic movements within the Christian church in the last century, Evangelism in Depth (EID) is a familiar concept. Pioneered by Latin America Mission in the 1950s, the movement brought together the spectrum of Evangelical churches to reach their communities systematically through a combination of crusades, discipleship, neighborhood Bible studies, community outreach and personal evangelism.
EID had a profound impact on Latin America in the last half-century and is credited with playing a vital role in the rapid church growth there. At the core of EID is the mobilization of the individual believers, rather than professional evangelists, to share Christ within their sphere of influence.
"New Christians evangelize instinctively as they share how God has changedthem," explained Juan IsÃ¡is, LAM missionary and long-time director of EID in Latin America. "EID helps local church members lose their fear of evangelism and begin sharing naturally with friends and neighbors what God is doing in their lives."
How did EID make the jump from Latin America to the subcontinent of India? It all started when Juan IsÃ¡is was invited to attend Amsterdam 2000, an international conference on evangelism sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. There he met Saji Lukos, executive director of Mission India, and shared the concepts of EID with him. Excited at the possibi lities, Saji invited Juan to help Mission India implement EID within their organization.
Juan put Saji in contact with Tony*, an LAM missionary who has seen extraordinary church growth through the implementation of EID in North American churches. While Tony worked to put together a ministry team within the U.S., Mission India leadership began sharing their own excitement over EID with other pastors and church leaders. A few months later in August 2001, Juan and Tony flew to India to hold the first three EID seminars. Mission India leaders Rajesh Sebastian, assistant director of conferences, and Reverend S. M. Tendi, assistant director of pastors, ministered as local hosts and coordinators.
The first seminar was held in the city of Nagpur, where Mission India has its headquarters. At least 100 pastors and Bible school students attended the three days of meetings. By the end of the first day the sense of excitement was palpable as participants began to grasp the truth of the principles of evangelism being shared from God's Word. By the end of the seminar, church leaders were already organizing a plan to take the teachings of EID to the Nagpur Christian community.
In the next city, Raipur, the seminar began with 125 enrolled. But as pastors and ministry leaders left the session excited with the concepts they were hearing, they began contacting others. By the final day 195 leaders were in attendance. That same enthusiasm permeated the final seminar in the city of Warangal where 130 pastors, church planters and ministry leaders attended, bringing to almost 500 the number of leaders trained and committed to carrying EID back to their often very different spheres of ministry and society.
No "one size fits all" One of the most exciting things about EID, Tony shared, is that it is applicable to all cultures and backgrounds. This is not a "one-size-fits all" program or methodology imported from some other country. It is Biblical principles on how to share one's faith within one's own society. The strategy of how to implement EID is up to the local church. In India, where there is enormous variation of cultures, languages, and socio-religious conditions, strategies to implement EID may vary as widely. In one part of the continent, it may be possible to hold an inter church evangelistic crusade or go door to door with Christian literature. In other regions where there is strong persecution from Hindu or Muslim majorities, community service to the needy may be the best evangelistic tool.
"The big move in India is going to be personal evangelism," predicted Tony. In many regions where religious freedom is restricted by local pressures, if not by law, this is the only means to evangelize.
In essence, each of the 400+ church leaders who participated in the August seminars have become local EID coordinators, returning to their home regions to mobilize their own area churches to evangelism. And though only a few months have passed since those first seminars, the results of their commitment are already being seen.
One pastor shared about a 50% increase in attendance as church members have begun sharing their faith with family and friends. A coordinator of a Bible school in Himachal Pradesh, one of India's most unreached states, returned home from the EID seminar so convinced by its teachings he immediately began visiting area churches to teach EID principles. Most recently, on January 12-13, Rajesh Sebastian and Rev. Tendi, who continue to coordinate the movement of EID in India, conducted a two-day EID seminar in the city of Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, India's largest state. More than 100 church leaders and pastors attended this seminar.
But the vision of the Indian church leadership is greater than what has happened until now. Those who have seen the fruit of EID in their own churches want to see its concepts impact all of India. With that goal in mind, Mission India has invited Tony and his EID team back to India to take part in two historic events. First are plans for an EID seminar in the strategic northeastern corner of the country where the borders of Nepal and Bhutan, two of the world's most unreached countries, join together with India. More than 200 church leaders from the three nations are scheduled to attend.
Even more unprecedented are plans for a women's conference in October 2002, to train 1,000 women ministry leaders in EID concepts. This arose from the request of a woman who attended one of the original seminars and saw the urgency of recruiting women to the mission of evangelizing their communities.
"The force of women power is seldom used in the evangelistic activities in India," stated Rajesh Sebastian. "But the truth is that they can be a mighty force."
Rajesh went on to explain that while male evangelists are often persecuted in Indian villages, the society respects women and will not openly hassle them. Also, women have more openings to Indian homes as men usually go out to work while women stay home during the day. And female believers far outnumber males in Indian churches.
"Through this women's conference," Rajesh summed up, "we are targeting the majority in the church which is seldom used for ministry purposes."
The fields of India are visibly "white unto harvest," was Juan IsÃ¡is' impression after his time there. But with only 2.5% of the population identifying themselves as Christian, that harvest cannot be brought in without the mobilization of the entire Christian community. Those who have been touched thus far with the vision of Evangelism in Depth have no doubt that EID will play a vital role in the reaping process.
*Name withheld for security reasons