and Hopes regarding Cross Cultural missions¡¯ efforts being done from India With Special Emphasis on Case Studies of Grassroots Initiatives
Thomas M Parackal
April 10-12, 2019
This paper seeks to present
a broad brushstroke, painting impressions, challenges and hopes regarding cross
cultural mission efforts being done in India. This is more intuitive and
leaning on personal experiences and observations, instead of a more objective
survey or research-based approach. With no formal education in theology or
missiology or any training or deployment with any church or mission agency, I
am quite conscious of my limitations and potential blind spots. However, I draw
boldness from the fact that God invites all His children to participate with
Him as He builds His kingdom and fulfils His purpose. There is also great
encouragement in the fact that He has provided every resource and gift as He
has deemed necessary for those responding to this mandate across the globe.
Next in this paper, several
case studies relating to "grassroots¡± mission efforts are presented that
are first hand and experiential in nature. This allows me to share some of the
major challenges and hurdles faced by these initiatives. And in conclusion, I have attempted to point
out from these experiences, my suggestions on what needs to be changed or
improved in order for grassroots missions¡¯ efforts to be more successful in
I come from Bangalore - a city in South India
which is home to more than 500 mission organizations, with most of them having
their headquarters located here.
Missions in recent history has been driven from two clearly disparate camps -
National and Multi-national.
National Missions has done
a commendable job in the last century, but now seems to be in decline. The
rallying cry was "indigenous¡± i.e Indian money, Indian men and Indian
management. The levels of ownership and accountability shared by the rank and
file of these organizations is praiseworthy. These organizations were welcomed
as respected influencers by the church and grass root level support was
extended to them. A number of leaders of these organizations were highly
regarded and sought-after speakers at evangelistic conventions, cutting across
denominational considerations of mainline evangelical churches. Today, however, these organizations seem to
be struggling. Leading organizations in National Missions like IEM and FMPB
have reported drastic shortfall in new recruits owing to a scarcity of people
willing to join them. They seem to have been affected by a shift in the
churches' theology of mission favouring social work over the conversion of
agencies have always depended on foreign funding for their comparatively larger
scale operations. Clearly defined ministry supply chains emerged between the
financial backers in developed countries on one end and mushrooming local
churches at the other end. As mission became a project with many demands across
this supply chain, accountability in the system gave way to a numbers game.
Numbers on reports assumed greater significance than quality of disciples.
Scalability was simply proportional to the amount of money being pumped into
the chain. This has in all probability resulted in significant damage to the
cause of cross-cultural mission in India.
Revival of National
missions therefore is much desired. This is where the question of grassroots
mission efforts being encouraged to spread through the Indian church assumes
I would like to now sketch
the following case studies of what I would consider as grassroots mission
efforts in India. I have the privilege of being connected with each of these
and therefore right at the outset I would like to point out that these may not
fully represent what might be happening across the great land of India with its
several hundred languages and thousands of ethnic groups.
The first case is about the
formation of small teams sometimes also called Mission Interest Groups, around
a common purpose that is strongly anchored in cross cultural mission. These
teams comprise of 6 or 7 people and their families who adopt a mission
objective and commit to engage it holistically with their time and resources.
True to small team characteristics, the roles and gifts, including talent and
skills possessed by each member of the team is expected to be different yet
complementing each other towards the common purpose. Such teams are volunteer forces that are autonomous.
Being small and commanding limited resources, they are forced to be highly
adaptive and innovatively make the most of every situation. Their
transformative impact depends on how quickly they can attract others to form
similar teams to multiply teams. This
grassroot level effort found expression in two distinct areas - the cross cultural evangelistic initiatives
of the local church to which I belong and a team that was focused on
mobilization for cross cultural mission to reach the unreached and unengaged in
India. Here in brief are their stories.
1. The St Thomas Evangelical Church of India
(STECI) was set up in 1961. It actually came out as the result of a reform
initiative within the Mar Thoma church. The Mar Thoma Church itself was the
result of a reformation in 1857 within the Malankara church in Kerala. This
reformation is sometimes referred to as the reformation of the East.
STECI was set up with 3 main objectives - 1.
Right doctrine - based on the 66 books of the bible 2. Right living - a holy lifestyle
and 3. Right Mission - the task of evangelizing India. The Board of
Evangelistic Work was set up as the special arm for engaging the Mission
objective. However, until 1998, there
was hardly any traction with respect to the mission objective. As is perhaps a
common pattern in the global missionary movement, a lateral initiative was
birthed in 1999 after few people committed their lives to work for evangelizing
the Hindi Belt - the heartland of India comprising of Hindi speaking states
such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand,
Rajsathan and Bihar. By 2008 the Hindi Belt Mission (HBM) which was rapidly
growing captured the imagination of young people who were part of this church
and dispersed across major Indian cities owing to vocational compulsions. Ever
advancing communications technologies and the advent of faster and cost-effective
travel options saw this informal network consolidate few key tenets - Every
believer a missionary, every family a mission station and every local church a
mission center. Meanwhile the formal leadership and structure of the church was
persuaded to consider this development as a credible initiative aligned to the
mission objective. Thus, the idea of a very decentralized structure of State
Missions working on the model of Mission Interest Groups that were autonomous,
was endorsed by the church.
HBM continued to grow and experienced a breakthrough
when the new believers spontaneously started witnessing
without any formal strategies or training. Out of their love for the Lord they
witnessed to their relatives, friends, colleagues and brought them into the
church. Several churches in Hindi Belt Mission began to multiply and grow in
their mission activities, as a result. This became a great encouragement
for local churches in other states as well.
Today we have 2 mission interest groups
active in our local church in Bangalore, which has a membership of about 120. Each
team comprises of about 7 to 8 members each. There is one family that is
financially supported by the teams that is exclusively engaged for the role of
evangelism. All the rest are volunteers, but actively involved in engaging
Sunday school and educational empowerment for children and young people cross
culturally. Annual events like VBS attract hundreds of children and it is
heartening to see the entire local church rallying together to support the
event. The desire is that every member of the local church becomes a part of a
mission interest group.
Regular and consistent involvement of these
teams have witnessed a few significant socio-economic developments among a
backward community. The most important change was in young girls opting to
continue their education towards university graduation, that enables them to
breakthrough into a new space of opportunities.
In a recently concluded consultation of the
HBM in Amla , Madhya Pradesh, a poignant observation was made about the health
of bahya kerala churches (churches outside Kerala, spread across India).
Wherever such churches refused to embrace the local culture and stayed in their
comfort zones of congregating only as Malayalee migrants (people from Kerala)
these churches have tended to extinction and eventually the sale of
infrastructure and property they accumulated. On the other hand, there were two
wonderful examples where such local churches embraced cross cultural engagement
and witnessed a completely different outcome - a thriving vibrant local
congregation deeply embedded in the local culture.
2. The story of Frontier Education Services
began in 2001 when 6 young families from different vocations yet having a
common upbringing in the UESI (Union of Evangelical Students of India) came together to explore greater involvement
in cross cultural mission. This eventually led them to study the course -
Perspectives on the World Christian Movement and form an organization -
Frontier Educational Services (FES) whose mission was to mobilize the Indian church
for cross cultural mission. FES was indigenous and supported by its founding
members. The primary channel through
which mobilization would be achieved was education, delivered through courses
like Perspectives and Kairos. All projects were designed to be self-sustaining.
Effective mobilization was expected to forward generate involvement and
indigenous resourcing for scaling up cross cultural mission efforts. We
eventually had a corporate leader who after completing the Perspectives course,
resigned from his role, joined FES and to this day promotes and conducts the
Kairos course across different locations in South India.
The second case is about cross-cultural
mission engagement in the context of the marketplace, promulgated by business
entities. Being one of the four stakeholders of such a business entity, I am
happy to present our perspective on such entities.
The history of commerce and
economics throws up some interesting pointers to the marketplace as a
significant area for mission engagement. In the early period and the middle
ages, trade and commercial activity was by and large restricted to families.
Until the reformation, the doctrine of creation governed arguments on the
proper use of wealth in the Judeo-Christian world. The Industrial Revolution
that followed the British Enlightenment accompanied by scientific advance and
its impact on advance of economics eventually created today¡¯s marketplace. The post-industrial era, though only two centuries old in
human history, has set the premise that Accumulation/Maximization of Wealth
should be the primary goal for individuals and business entities. Its
values are shaped by capitalism and the free market economy with wealth
creation as the sole ¡®bottom-line¡¯. The marketplace thus serves as a system (an
ism) that shapes the values and beliefs of people.
While it is possible for
Christian employees in any organization to become points of influence for
Kingdom values, it is through businesses or organizations in the marketplace
that this value system is propagated. In some ways, these
business entities play the role of ¡°high priests¡±, enforcing the tenets of the
marketplace such as materialism, individualism and self-promotion into the
lives of people, challenging the premise of the Word of God that we are only
stewards over all of God¡¯s resources. Businesses drive the values of the
marketplace through people management, hierarchies and control structures,
power centers, culture and end-justifies-the-means worldview. Therefore it
provides the opportunity for a new kind of business entity – the Business As Mission
(BAM)- to propagate a counter culture in
the Marketplace and turn the keys to a momentum towards Christ. This holds the
potential to re-shape the value system in the marketplace, beginning with
specific industry verticals and growing further to nationwide impact.
To maintain its integrity
as a missionary enterprise, the BAM must have committed disciples taking on
leadership in the key ¡°stakeholder¡± roles of investors, executive leadership
and technical /functional leadership.
These roles have the
strategic advantage of visibility and influence and provide platforms for
disciples to be witnesses to non-Christian employees through word and deed of
the coming King and His Kingdom, by modeling the stewardship of all resources
(including money) in the marketplace in ways that honor God, by displaying the
power of transformed God-honoring relationships, and by governing the influence
of work at the marketplace on all other walks of life, including family,
service of the needy, government and governance, and the efforts by front line
missions to take the Gospel to unreached peoples.
The Great Commission (Matt
28:18-20) reveals that discipleship is man¡¯s responsibility, which, in
partnership with God¡¯s transforming work, brings about Christ-like character,
the fruit of which in turn makes God¡¯s kingdom known to the whole earth. This
is the underlying purpose of all mission initiatives across history, and BAM is
Our company, registered as
Stylus Systems Pvt Ltd. In Bangalore in the year 1999, has identified the
following 7 disciplines for continuous learning and inculcation amongst its key
"stakeholder" roles of investors, executive leadership and
technical/functional leadership. These disciplines are focused towards building
Discipline 1: BE OF ONE
unity, as displayed in the Trinity, (John 17:21) in obedience to God¡¯s purpose
for the BAM, in defining, understanding, and implementing decisions within the
1. Consistently replaces ones own opinion with
the group¡¯s opinion once an agreement is reached.
initiative to be clear about all relevant aspects of the agreement.
all public and private statements, articulates the consensus reached as a group
and does not add own words or leave out any part of the consensus.
to evaluate various views, arrive at a common understanding, to implement the
conclusion in order to solve problems.
5. All agreements are reached in a spirit of
humility and love.
Discipline 2: ENGAGE IN
Strategic Prayer is the
exercise of prayer for the identification and removal of root causes that
hinder the movement towards the goal of glorifying God in global worship.
is a regular identification of root causes through prayer and data gathering.
and corporate time spent (frequency and time) in prayer¡¦
abreast of the latest developments in the movement towards the goal
and Identifying personal and corporate sins with humility.
in taking corrective actions for personal and corporate sins
Discipline 3: VERBALIZE THE
Verbalizing the Gospel is
making sure the hearer understands all aspects of the Gospel (God¡¯s absolute
righteousness and God¡¯s justice, Sin and sinfulness, God¡¯s judgment of sin,
God¡¯s love for sinners and God¡¯s salvation) and calling people to respond in
over time instances of sharing one or more of these concepts.
prayer for individuals and their needs.
relationships with people – more intimacy in relationships.
with more people.
ability to connect and leverage day to day events/situations to explain the
Discipline 4: STEWARDSHIP
We acknowledge ourselves to
be managers, rather than owners, of all resources at our disposal, and God as
the giver of all resources. This means that our mandate is not to enrich
ourselves, but to faithfully [efficiently and effectively] use the resources at
our command to meet the Master¡¯s goals for the business.
measures that connect to the Master¡¯s goals for the business.
in how the resources are used to achieve the goals.
to ¡°let go¡± when required.
are being used in the most productive way for the Master¡¯s goals.
Discipline 5: CONTINUE
An ongoing process of
learning related to God¡¯s kingdom and purpose and stock take to see if BAM and
its concepts, efforts and methods used in the business are meeting that purpose
document and share new insights connected with BAM.
acknowledged as a Subject Matter Expert on more areas connected to BAM.
able to articulate Biblical solutions to business related problems.
measures to show how the business impact's God's glory.
Discipline 6: FOSTER
The practice of
identifying, defining and modelling Organizational values, based on biblical
values that are valid within the organization's context.
evaluates effectiveness of the values to keep the organization faithful to its
number of decisions influenced by values.
acknowledged as a champion of the values.
of instances of Verbal reinforcements of the values.
Discipline 7: MENTOR /
The Mentoring Discipline is
the ability to enlist others into BAM (goal, roles and disciplines) and impart
one¡¯s expertise so as to equip the other to be effectively used by God to
fulfil His purpose for the BAM.
1. Is enthusiastic to help, support and
transfer, skills, expertise or experience to another individual for their
as a SME or has experience or expertise for reaching a Goal or developing
up Mentoring Milestones to transfer skills, expertise and experience in a
the Mentee focused on the Mentoring Goals and Milestones.
the ability to use process and systems to review mentoring progress and make
significant value to Mentee in terms of knowledge, skills and expertise.
in supporting and inspiring Mentee to work through the Milestones and meet
confidence in the Mentee.
regular feedback to the Mentee and supports or handholds Mentee in taking in
additional activities, learning or exposures to reach Mentoring Goal.
10. Provides latest information, technology or
practices in the agreed Mentoring area to the Mentee.
Challenges faced by these
While the journey of nearly
two decades has been rich in learning and often paradigm shifting, it also has
been replete with challenges. While I