The need is immense and the mission field vast in South Asia. Millions of people have never heard the gospel and indigenous workers are few and untrained. Local governments are hostile and the danger is real. Despite the challenges, the call of the gospel remains.
Answering the call, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has developed a partnership in South Asia, working with nationals and mission personnel to spread the gospel to unreached, unengaged people groups (UUPGs).
“Our work is in a South Asian country with great needs,” a Southern Baptist missionary, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, told the TEXAN. “It is rural and also urban. It is in the least evangelized area of this nation. This area has massive numbers of lost people and many unreached, unevangelized people groups.”
The region of South Asia where the SBTC is partnering also has seven major languages and many sub-dialects, making training, preaching, and discipleship very difficult. More than 60 major people groups call this area home.
In addition to the vast number of people groups, it is also governed by groups hostile to the gospel.
“In our area, strident, radical, militaristic Hinduism is rampant,” the missionary explained. “This nation is ruled and guided by unseen but all-powerful social rules of caste and privilege. Often the existing established churches are cold, formal, dead, and filled with in-fighting and fleshly leaders.”
In the face of these daily challenges, mission personnel are working to evangelize the lost and train indigenous leaders to pastor and plant churches.
“Physically, we are promoting self-support for pastors and teaching them skills, trades, and small business work that will allow them to plant churches and spread the gospel. Simple things such as candle making, tailoring, basic electrical skills, cabinet making and basic carpentry are most useful at a village level. We are beginning a series of trainings to teach organic production of vegetables on small plots for home use and for sale to others.”
Meeting physical needs of pastors is combined with training in basic Bible teaching.
“We are training new leaders and young pastors in simple Bible doctrines and simple church leadership skills.”
Pastors are taught how to grasp the gospel, how to reproduce their own new leaders, and how to grow their own network of churches and workers.
Missions personnel are called upon to motivate, guide, and train these national workers.
“They can do the job and our joy is to assist them,” the missionary said. “In doctrine and in practice they are open to scriptural guidance. They attend various one-, two-, or three-day events when doctrine is explained and taught. We show them how to use basic study tools, such as a concordance. We help them learn to prepare sermons and to teach small groups. We want them to do the ministry, not us.”
Michael Dean, pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, has personally seen the value of training national pastors for ministry in South Asia. Travis Avenue has had a partnership in South Asia for six years and Dean said the work there is best done by indigenous leaders.
“The vast lostness of the area can be pierced through the establishment of believers and groups that ultimately grow into house churches,” Dean said. “These churches need leaders who are trained to be New Testament church leaders. One of the greatest investments that can be made by SBTC churches is to partner with a specific area to train and equip leadership that results in church planting.”
Investing the past six years in the same region of South Asia has produced results in ministry, Dean said.
“Our church has adopted a specific district and we’ve strategized as to how we can best equip leaders who can go into places that Americans can’t go. In the course of that, we have discovered that American churches can come alongside indigenous churches to help with family ministries, children’s outreach, community health camps, youth ministries, and many other efforts.”
Dean encourages other SBTC churches to get involved with the South Asia partnership.
“Don’t underestimate the impact your church can make in a region halfway around the world,” he said. “Partnering with local ministry leaders provides valuable encouragement to believers who are serving Christ in settings that are often hostile to the gospel. These leaders need to know that other believers are standing alongside them. We have the resources that can be strategically vital to the reaching of one of the most densely unevangelized regions on the face of the earth.”
The missionary the TEXAN spoke with agreed, adding, “I urge churches to work with Terry Coy [SBTC missions director] and other state SBTC leaders. Join them and help us. We need volunteers, teachers, and other workers.”
In addition to hands-on partnering, all churches can lend vital prayer support to the work in South Asia.
“We need prayer most, first, and to the largest degree,” the missionary emphasized. “If you would, please simply take a few minutes at the beginning of each Sunday School class or other small group meeting, and pray for us. Oh, how we need that.”
The SBTC mission staff can provide e-mail addresses and names of mission field personnel for churches to provide prayer support.
Churches interested in becoming part of the South Asia partnership should contact the SBTC’s Tiffany Smith—firstname.lastname@example.org or 877-953-7282 (SBTC)—to learn about the next SBTC vision trip to South Asia. Smith can also connect churches with another church that is already involved in the partnership.