THE FRONTIER journal
NEWS + STORIES FROM THE MINISTRY OF FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP
MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PAGE 2
INDIA BY THE NUMBERS PAGE 8
BIHAR STORIES + PRAYERS PAGE 10
COME AND SEE FINDING SIGNPOSTS OF THE KINGDOM IN NORTHERN INDIA PAGE 4
MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR WHY INDIA? WHY NOW? RICHARD HANEY
Our spring newsletter is devoted to God’s work in India. It’s a hard place to summarize in a few sentences. India’s huge population with its mosaic of languages and people groups dwarfs every other country on the diversity scale (see infographic on page 8). And India is complex when it comes to religions as well. It’s the birthplace of four religious traditions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. Our partners in India work primarily in northern India and particularly in Bihar, India’s poorest state. Frontier Fellowship’s history of involvement in India dates to Ralph Winter’s “unreached peoples” vision articulated in his 1974 Lausanne address. Winter acknowledged that his people-group thinking built on insights by Cam Townsend and Donald McGavran. Townsend saw peoples separated horizontally by language and culture, whereas McGavran in India noticed that people lived in vertically segmented castes. Winter realized the need for Christians to cross boundaries (tribes, castes, languages) to offer the Gospel to the unevangelized. In his article “The Quantitative Case for Continuing Missions Today” he wrote, “what is most needed in India today is the development of liberating fellowships of Christian faith among the hundreds of millions of Indian people who live in the hundreds of unreached subcultures.” Winter argued that it would take new mission structures rather than existing churches to do pioneering cross-cultural church planting. That’s what Frontier Fellowship sees and supports in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Jharkhand. A second generation of younger church-planting and disciple-making entrepreneurs now lead the way. India, of course, is home to the majority of the world’s Hindu peoples. It’s home to the second largest number of Muslim peoples (after Indonesia). Northern India is witnessing a growing church planting movement, and we’re pleased to participate in encouraging the indigenous evangelists and church planters who serve here. We pray in particular for this harvest season in northern India to continue and flourish. P.S. We hope you enjoy our first newsletter reflecting Frontier Fellowship’s recent rebrand. Explore our new website at frontierfellowship.com and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
same heart FOR EVERY PEOPLE, AN INDIGENOUS CHURCH FOR EVERY CHURCH, A MISSION VISION
OVER TWO BILLION PEOPLE ALIVE RIGHT NOW HAVE NEVER HEARD OF JESUS. That reality compels us to engage the world’s least-reached areas, supporting efforts to establish local churches that can proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom to their communities and beyond. We’ve been at this mission for the last 35 years as Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship, and now we’ve embarked into a new chapter of ministry as Frontier Fellowship. We continue to look toward the frontier of missions—committed to equipping and mobilizing followers of Jesus to embrace their calling to make His name known among every nation, tribe, people and language. page 3
COME AND SEE
FINDING SIGNPOSTS OF THE KINGDOM IN NORTHERN INDIA HANNAH TEAGUE CREATIVE DIRECTOR
India is the kind of place that gets under your skin. It’s impossible to experience passively—the dusty, smoky air that envelops you when you walk outdoors, the vibrant spectrum of color pressing in on every side, the traffic that’s both terrifying and like an elaborately choreographed dance in which everyone seems to know his or her place. India was somewhere I always dreamed of going but hadn’t been until this past January. I joined a team of 10 Americans who traveled together to the state of Bihar, where we spent two weeks learning from and serving alongside Frontier Fellowship ministry partners. I made up half of a photography/videography duo embedded in the team and focused on documenting the work of our partners. Being a photographer often means a front-row view of whatever’s happening, and sometimes it’s about lingering in the background or on the sidelines— looking for what’s not obvious, noticing the details. Honing in on the subtext. And India is a culture of subtext. While its environment is saturated and overpowering, its aura is restrained and indirect, where honor and respect are prized (if unequally given). The caste system influences virtually all aspects of society, and worship of every kind intersects daily life in a constant negotiation between the sacred and profane. India is an experience that sticks with you—a place simultaneously wild and beautiful and stretched thin and overflowing.
UNLIKELY GROUND Bihar isn’t a part of India that captures much attention at the national (or international) level. Largely rural and underdeveloped, it’s more likely to serve as the object of disdain than be considered a place where something new and revolutionary could unfold. It’s evident how centuries of spiritual emptiness, inequity, marginalization and institutional neglect have taken their toll. And even to believers, this physical and spiritual wilderness hardly seems like fertile ground for a Gospel movement to take root. So for those of us who look at a place like Bihar with the incredulity of Nathanael in John 1:46— “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”—our bold and visionary ministry partners would invite us to come and see how Jesus specializes in creating something new, even in the most unlikely places. (CONTINUED ON PAGE 6)
DO NOT REMEMBER THE FORMER THINGS, OR CONSIDER THE THINGS OF OLD. I AM ABOUT TO DO A NEW THING; NOW IT SPRINGS FORTH, “WE CAN SEE THIS DO YOU NOT PERCEIVE IS IT? ONE FAMILY.” I WILL MAKE A WAY IN THE WILDERNESS —MB (MINISTRY PARTNER) AND RIVERS IN THE DESERT. —ISAIAH 43:18–19
COME AND SEE
PIONEERING THE FRONTIER If you spend two weeks roadtripping through rural India with church planters, you’re bound to hear some stories. It’s not difficult in a context like Bihar to imagine the early church of the New Testament—the accounts of Jesus and what He had done spreading from person to person, from village to village. We heard countless testimonies of deliverance from abuse and oppression and miraculous healings from incurable diseases, prolonged illnesses and demonic powers. The kinds of stories most Western believers would find hard to fathom because they’re so far outside our frame of reference. It’s clear God is on the move, stirring hearts and drawing people toward Himself. And He’s using His people—from every background you can imagine—to proclaim the Good News of His grace and freedom. India’s church planting model has historically been structured around a centralized location and a pastor who functions as the sole authority over every aspect of ministry. It’s not unlike models we’ve seen elsewhere in the world. But as far as growth is concerned, this approach essentially prevents the mobilization of new leaders and planting of other churches. In recent years there has been a growing movement centered around the biblical model of the New Testament. Rather than calling people to one place of worship, our partners are on the move, fostering the growth of house churches and equipping new believers to continue the work of church multiplication and disciple-making. Their ministries are marked by prayer and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit as they invest in community development and train up leaders. They’re dreaming and strategizing and praying toward the audacious goal of establishing a church in every village of northern India—the kind of courageous zeal only Jesus could inspire. Our partners are convinced local believers are the most effective resource for reaching their people groups. They share the same language, customs and culture as their communities, and in most cases they’re also relatives. These believers are well equipped to reach their own villages because it’s already familiar ground for the planting.
“YOU MAY NOT ALWAYS FIND BUILDINGS, BUT YOU WILL MEET PEOPLE—PEOPLE WHOSE LIVES HAVE BEEN TRANSFORMED. THAT’S THE REAL CHURCH.”
That’s why the Indian church is growing so rapidly in northern —MS (MINISTRY PARTNER) India. New believers are quickly mobilized to welcome others into the Kingdom and make more disciples. They might not all have seminary training (and might even be illiterate in some cases), but first-generation believers are sharing stories of Jesus’ work in their hearts and impacting their families and communities in powerful ways. “You may not always see buildings, but you’ll meet people,” our friend MS shared, “people whose lives have been transformed. That’s the real church.” The signs of God bringing new life to communities are soon apparent. “If we visit a place after even just two months, we can sense the change,” said MS. page 6
“IT’S NOT ABOUT PROJECTS—IT’S ABOUT BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS. THAT’S WHY I FEEL SO CONFIDENT IN THIS WORK GOD HAS CALLED US TO.”
Yet our partners recognize discipleship isn’t overnight work. It requires sustained and sacrificial investment— what Eugene Peterson called “long obedience in the same direction.” Their ministries, committed to shared authority and mutual trust to ensure continued growth, depend on faithfulness, reconciliation and grace as they respond to new challenges and opportunities.
Ultimately, while strategies and programs inform their approach, our partners always return to the foundational principles of connecting with people, caring for their felt needs and building bridges for the Gospel. “It’s not about projects—it’s about building relationships,” said our friend MB, “and that’s why I feel so confident in this work God has called us to.”
—MB (MINISTRY PARTNER)
“CHOOSING AND” I recently came across Jessica Honegger’s idea of “choosing and.” It’s a helpful way to process the contrasts of India, understanding that contradictions don’t always negate or delegitimize each other and might instead be tensions to hold at the same time. As followers of Jesus, we can inhabit this in-between space and recognize where life as God intended—true shalom, or life in its fullness—isn’t yet a reality and find joy where He’s making a way through the wilderness. We can mourn for a world marred by sin and its effects and be filled with hope because Jesus will redeem all things. This means my heart breaks when I hear precious children recount how they were abandoned by their parents. And it also means I can celebrate how they’re now experiencing healing and belonging in an environment where they feel safe and loved. We notice and grieve where brokenness and injustice rob people of dignity, opportunity and wholeness. And we work toward and rejoice at the signposts of God’s Kingdom coming, evidenced through the transformation of individuals, families and communities as they encounter the Gospel. So yes—Bihar, perhaps unimportant and underestimated from a human perspective, is also where we see new life springing up. We’re privileged to witness and participate in the good work God is doing as He draws people to Himself. It is, as one of our friends put it, like experiencing a little glimpse of Heaven—where people of every nation, ethnicity and language will finally worship God together. LEARN HOW YOU CAN JOIN GOD’S WORK AT THE NORTHERN INDIA FRONTIER BY VISITING FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM/OUR-PARTNERS-PROJECTS OR CONTACTING US AT INFO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM.
BY THE NUMBERS
1.3 billion POPULATION
23 official languages page 8
1,500 ADDITIONAL LANGUAGES
W O R L D â€™ S
2nd largest population th 7 largest country 68.8% 640,867
of population lives in
% 81.6 13.1 2.4 2.1 0.2
Muslim Small religions/other
2,077 unreached people groups
STATISTICS FROM JOSHUA PROJECT + INDIA CENSUS DATA
BIHAR STORIES + PRAYERS REFLECTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE WINTER 2017 INDIA TEAM
TEAM LEADER / FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP BOARD MEMBER SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
While visiting fellow believers in India, my heart filled with joy and my mind was amazed as story after story was told of individuals, families and entire villages becoming followers of Jesus. I witnessed disciple-makers in action. Men and women who earnestly pray, find unreached people, recognize Persons of Peace (as God directs them), lead Bible studies, and baptize and mentor new believers to do the same. Two great lessons were learned from these unlikely teachers: indigenous mission partners are the best disciple-makers, and they understand the implication of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20)—they’re making disciples who are making disciples. As their ministries move forward, they know it’s not because of their great leadership or having a great strategy but because God is a great God, who tells them, “I will be with you.” They firmly believe this is enough for any person seeking to do God’s will.
Allison Bicknell WATERFORD, MICHIGAN
I’ve probably seen around 100 baptisms in my 23 years of life in the church. During my time in India, I witnessed 50 baptisms in one day and 95 another day. This is good news to shout from the mountaintops! The number of people meeting Jesus and taking steps of faith on a daily basis is amazing. My heart came alive with passion as I saw how God is using different ministries to share the Gospel with multitudes of people. He showed me what great things He can do through those who trust and serve Him—like 95 baptisms in one day! I saw the beauty of what true servanthood looks like through the lives and ministries of the leaders we met who are impacting their country for Him. Just like Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news…”
Dr. Sam Leong
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
This trip was full of encounters with God’s transforming work in people’s lives as I explored and engaged in member care (emotional support to pastors and ministry staff through counseling services)—virtually uncharted territory in northern India. It’s impossible to deconstruct the 20+ hours of marriage counseling my colleague, Myrna Klassen, and I facilitated and identify what brought change and moved couples from defensiveness to openess so they could see the page 10
emotional truth about themselves and each other. There were many moments when we were acutely aware of God’s presence and followed where He led, which increased the intimacy in these couples’ relationships. This trip confirmed my calling to an ongoing role in member care and use of my training as a psychologist to serve Indian church leaders. And I clearly saw the need to learn Hindi for effective counseling. Everything I know about therapy and the insights and words to bring healing and encourage resolution were useless without a translator speaking in the language that connected with the hearts of these dear people. God reminded me through this trip that He is using the unity and prayers of the global church for the growth of the Gospel. I’m inspired to join what He’s doing by coming alongside India’s emerging church leaders with holistic care to help their souls, families and ministries flourish.
ANAHEIM HILLS, CALIFORNIA
Psalm 67 begins with an impassioned invocation and doxology, a priestly blessing for all peoples and nations to know and enjoy God. David is so assured of God’s salvation that he invites the reader to sing along. You can just hear the resounding stringed instruments as voices of freedom rise to the heavens in praise! GOD BE MERCIFUL TO US AND BLESS US, AND CAUSE HIS FACE TO SHINE UPON US, THAT YOUR WAY MAY BE KNOWN ON EARTH, YOUR SALVATION AMONG ALL NATIONS. LET THE PEOPLES PRAISE YOU, O GOD; LET ALL THE PEOPLE PRAISE YOU. OH, LET THE NATIONS BE GLAD AND SING FOR JOY! FOR YOU SHALL JUDGE THE PEOPLE RIGHTEOUSLY, AND GOVERN THE NATIONS ON EARTH. SELAH. —PSALM 67:1-4 (NKJV)
Oh Lord, our prayer is that we embody this exalting praise and eternal hope that we witnessed in the lives of our Indian sisters and brothers. Fellow believers who encountered You, the God of all gods, who quenched their fiery suffering and oppression with Your saving pools of refreshing grace and healing and transformed lives from idol worship to worshipping the one true King of kings. You are the One who breathes new life into dry bones, who empowers believers to do greater things than ever dreamed or imagined. Please continue to pour Your blessings over the work of our brothers and sisters as You multiply the loaves of provision in faithful response to their obedience to spreading Your Gospel message. We pray Your grace and protection upon these sons and daughters, devoted to equipping lives that will reshape the spiritual landscape of India. May they know that Your loving eyes remain fixed on them, Your listening ears hear every word and Your gentle voice will comfort and guide their every step. We pray this in the mighty and powerful name of Jesus. Amen. page 11
Save the date: CONNECTING MISSION LEADERS CONFERENCE 7132 PORTLAND AVENUE SUITE 136 RICHFIELD, MN 55423–3264 FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM INFO@FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM 612.869.0062
Inviting believing communities to engage people groups where the Good News of Jesus and His Kingdom is not yet known
OCTOBER 26–28, 2017 FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS KEYNOTE SPEAKER EVELYNE REISACHER
author of Joyful Witness In the Muslim World
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Quarterly magazine with news and stories from the ministry of Frontier Fellowship