Great racial, ethnic, religious diversity makes the Indian society the most complex society on the face of the earth. The Hindu heartland of mystery and myth fascinates the natives as well as foreigners. The subcontinent of South Asia is geographically dominated by this country. The 631,149 villages are grouped as 465 districts, 25 states and seven Union Territories. Population increases at an explosive rate. Every year the population of Australia (18 million) is added to the 930 million (1995) of India of which one half live below the poverty line. By AD 2020 India will be the most populous country in the world with nearly 1.3 billion people.
With present economic liberalization, the urbanization of the predominantly agrarian population is rapidly increasing. Urbanization will enormously increase the population of the urban poor which poses a challenge to the urban Christian Workers who are very few at present. Women, the custodians of the Indian culture, are the victims of the culture they protect. Most of the Indian women, who outnumber the male population, are desperately looking for spiritual and social liberation.
Though the presence of the Church in India dates back to AD 56, most of the growth of the Christian population occurred during the last 200 years when the Father of the Modern Missionary Movement, William Carey, set his feet on the shore of India. This growth was through a series of peoples movement among the 1970s. These growing movements were contested by the increasing force of Hindu militant movements which turned into a powerful political force. Discriminatory legislation against the Christians inhibits conversions and deprives converts from the untouchables to Government allocated jobs and funds. Visas for expatriate missionaries are hard to obtain and the foreign missionary force is aging and in rapid decline.
Revivals in South and North East India have become the cause for releasing an enormous indigenous missionary force and reviving local churches for missionary outreach. Indigenous missionary agencies increased spectacularly from 26 in 1972 to over 200 at present. This brought an increase in indigenous missionaries from 550 to 11,500. The growth of the charismatics is hard to measure for lack of statistics. Their growth has been remarkable during the last decade. Every day about 5,000 Christians are added to the 42 million in existence. About 30 congregations are added every week to the existing 150,000 congregations.
In India, the year AD 2000 was focused as a rallying point initially by organizations and denominations that were already moving toward Networking relationships. Since 1989 with the dawn of AD 2000 movement a "stand alone" position was biblically refuted, and now many indigenous agencies work in a spirit of cooperation. There is an increasing awareness for networking and partnership. The biblical reality of belonging to the body of Jesus Christ began to be expressed in several partnerships. The AD 2000 movement has instilled purpose in the body of Christ and church planting is now the chief activity of several denominations and mission agencies. Today, the AD 2000 Movement has become nationally accepted and every day it gains new momentum. Goal setting and the importance of prayer are the chief ingredients of the movement in India. More than 100 evangelistic agencies -- church and mission -- have adopted AD 2000 goals. Several other National Networks have become involved since 1989. The most notable are Mission India 2000 (MI 2000) Council on National Service (CONS), Indian Missions Association (IMA), and Final Thrust 5000 (FT 5000). Regional networks like Vision 2000, in Salem, Tamilnadu have initiated partnership and generated enormous power for church planting at the grass roots level. They have mobilized 400 pastors from several denominations who have planted about 600 new churches within two years as a part of Vision 2000.
Taking the lead from other networks, especially CONS, the participants of the Pre-GCOWE gathering took up the challenge of initiating a mission movement for India's unreached peoples. Remarkably this is 30% of the world's unreached peoples. The goal is to plant churches in all the remaining 500,000 villages and in several thousand unevangelized segments of the 300 largest cities in India. To achieve these goals, delegates have agreed to cooperate with the India Mission Association, which networks to place an evangelist in every postal code area.
We all know how essential prayer is. The Indian church is becoming a praying church. Our Prayer Network has planned to identify and mobilize 100,000 prayer warriors to focus their efforts on 100 gateway cities and the 2700 unreached peoples groups of India. Our Women's Network is planning to form prayer groups across the country and is initiating pioneering Church Planting efforts to get into segments of the Indian society where men cannot go.
The Pastors Network and Mobilizing New Missionaries Network have separately planned to mobilize, train and make available 85,000 pastors/church planters/missionaries to add to the expanding harvest force. Researchers have planned to network together to generate information on our harvest field and harvest force both in rural and urban populations by 1998. Our Urban Network is drawing up plans to concentrate on India's 100 largest cities in order to develop leadership and create local networks before the year 2000. We are committed to meet the increasing challenges of Urban Ministries. Our Radio Task Force has planned to coordinate the efforts of the all radio-broadcasting agencies, helping to plant churches in the 24 Indian languages with one million speakers which do not have church movements.
By God's grace, regional, state and district level networks have been formed, priorities are set and action plans are ready. The vision and task of reaching India in this century has brought together an army of lay people and full-time workers in an unprecedented act of cooperation.
As we go back to our respective countries having met, interacted, heard and seen the presentations, we are excited and we are motivated to join with you to "Declare His glory among the heathen, His wonders among all people." May the peace of God the Father, love of God the son Jesus Christ, communion and comfort of God the Holy Spirit be with us and empower us. Amen.
Vararuchi F. Dalavai, India