A letter from Brother Aby Mammen
Happy to know about your concerns about Indian missionaries. First, let me try to answer your questions.
The name of the brother whose transcript I wrote is Philip P Eapen. You may visit his website : http://www.philipeapen.com/
1. Malayalam Bible : The Malayalam translation of the bible popularly used by the protestant Christians is about 170 years old. Some of the words used in this translation are not understood now or has translational errors. So, preachers tend to compare with English bibles to get a clearer interpretation of the verses. In 1997 a newer translation of the bible was published, but it has not become popular. The people have a traditional mindset and they adapt to the new methods very slowly. Also, these are the only versions that are available. It would be good to have a Malayalam children's bible at least.
2. Persecution in Orissa : The news you have followed about the persecution in Orissa is the one propagated by the media. It doesnt give the full picture. The underlying reason behind why Christians are being targeted is because of the rate of Christian conversion is increasing !!! How is this increase brought to notice ? When Christian organizations themselves try to boast through the media about their work of conversions. You'd have know how the Australian missionary Graham Staines along with his two sons were torched to death by Hindu extremists.
Yesterday I got news about two pastors being attacked in Bihar. Many similar persecutions are happening to the native people. But it is not brought to notice at an international level, probably because the people affected are a minority and there is fear in the minds. Also, due to Christian principles, people do not seek to take legal actions against their persecutors.
3. Intimidation and Isolation of a new believer, house church :
To understand you need to read the full sentence and also the cultural context here. Related to this non-involvement is the general climate in today's churches. Instead of being seeker-friendly, the churches intimidate and isolate newcomers. Instead of having attractive, relevant services, the churches often have archaic forms of worship, seating arrangements, architecture, etc.
Please don't think that Christians try to harass those new comers in the church. To understand about the non-attractive worships, I'll explain more. In India, Pentecostal churches do not have benches inside the church to sit comfortably. This was mainly because of two reasons :
One is that : from the time Pentecostal movement became prominent in the land, the people were used to sit down on the ground on mats inside the church, mainly because we considered it as a better posture to worshiping God on our kneels than sitting comfortably on the benches. Also, there were no good musical instruments available as that of today. What was available was Drums and clangs and people clap hands when they sing and there is no choir in small churches. Even today, there are many churches who considers using other musical instruments would not be effective for worship!
Secondly most churches are poor and contains few number of people. In a town there will be many churches - a few big churches and many small churches. So, small churches would not have their own church buildings. Building a church needs money and the building expense cannot be met by the few members. So, they meet at the Pastor's home / rent a house to use for worship. That's how the name "house church" is coined. But interestingly, this is what we see in Acts of Apostles !!! In villages mostly the churches are poor and are house churches.
Even if a church has many members and has raised money to build a church structure, they would not generally seek to beautify the church or make the interior comfortable with benches / decorate the stage... or have good music for worship. This is because of the mindset of the people who are satisfied with the traditional worship style.
I go to a house church too. But we have electric organ to accompany the worship.
So, when a non-Christian comes to the church they will find a bit uncomfortable to sit on the floor, hear songs sung without music, listen to lengthy sermons etc... makes it unattractive.
Another aspect is using jewelery is considered sinful by the pentecostals here. Generally, people in our land give much importance to jewelery, especially the women. You can see a bride will be decked with ornaments for her wedding.
The early Pentecostal church leaders in our land took a stand to lead a simple life-style. They decided not to use expensive clothes/ build big houses etc and will not use jewelery. But as time passed by not wearing jewelery has become the general code-of-conduct in the church. People have taken it as a doctrine. So, when a non-Christian come to church, they will be seeing people without jewelery and will feel odd. Usually only the widows don't use jewelery in the land. Some churches would not allow to take baptism or partake in the Lord's table if the person has worn ornaments, because they are afraid to act out of the tradition. Thus it is a harassment and intimidation to the new comers.
You see these are because people are blindly following the tradition.
4. Summary of my previous mail for you to understand better :
1. Evangelism is done by very few people/organizations. People generally do not consider that they are appointed to do evangelism. But this was not the case earlier.
2. Churches are not friendly / happy place to the new-coming people. (I've explained why in 3 above)
3. Missions are not happening in unreached areas much even with the mission organizations because of - fear of attacks by non-Christians, lack of finance, lack of good relationships with people of other faiths and inability to mingle with the people in their cultural context.
4. Successful evangelism happens with person-to-person method. People bring their close friends or relatives to Christ after continually ministering to them at a personal level. This is called friendship evangelism or household evangelism. Mass evangelism like a convention will help only in creating a mood in the minds of people which should be done with a follow-up of those who have shown interest in knowing more of Christ.
5. Cell based church style : a big church will have small divisions called churches which will have their own prayer meetings and evangelistic efforts. This is becoming very effective.
6. Many churches who are good in evangelism are not good at teaching the Word. So, discipling is not done well. What results is a group of people who are not grounded well in faith.
7. There are churches who have lot of vision to engage in cross-cultural evangelism , but they lack finance. But there are other churches who have surplus finance but lacks the desire to reach out to evangelism.
8. A fast growing church movement in Eastern Uttar Pradesh ( the largely populated , but poor state in India ) - operating as a social welfare movement. The people evangelize their household members. No outsiders is involved. The converts do not throw away their traditional practices which are not contrary to the Word. They do not practise idol worship. But their weddings, festivals etc are still celebrated in their own cultural ways. Hence it is fast growing for the past 15 years.
9. Literature evangelism is very much in need now. Also, having songs, books, training materials, films in native language .
5. How you can help missions :
To see the zeal and the burden you have in the progress of the gospel has encouraged us greatly, dear Brother. May God greatly bless you.
I can help you to get connected to missionaries who really are in need and doing missions in difficult places.
I have contacts with mission organizations which find very difficult to run because of lack of finance. These times a lot of mission hospitals are shutting down or have started functioning as private hospitals (ie by taking more money for treatment to run the hospiltal, instead of the free / less money they used to take for the treatment as they used to), because of the lack of committed Christian doctors who are ready to serve with low salary.
I occasionally support a tribal mission hospital - who minister to the tribal people in a place called Attapadi (http://www.tribalmissionindia.org/). I have great admiration to Dr. Muraleedharan of this organization who was instrumental in setting up a mission hospital, nursing school, an English medium school in a remote place in Tamil Nadu, by investing his life there.
There is another mission organization called Indian Evangelical Mission (http://www.iemoutreach.org/), which are also struggling to pay their missionaries. I have a friend - Luke Titus who is a missionary working in a place called Lahaul & Spiti - places in the Himalayan mountain range. A hardworking missionary from my land doing cross-cultural missions at Himachal Pradesh.
Another mission organization is http://jesusmissionindia.org/default.aspx. Saju Mathew of Jesus mission is another missionary leader I admire. He has mission fields in Orissa where persecutions happened. Also, God is using him in Mozambique in Africa. There are other poor pioneer missionaries I can connect to through trusted missionary leaders.
Missionary organizations will have a Social Welfare Trust through which they can receive money. If you can let me know how you would like to support - like is it a one time support or a continual support I can tell you what is a better method for sending the funds. Also, would you like to transfer the funds to the missions organization or directly to missionaries ? How did you help the mission field at Nepal ?
My mail is quite long... :)
I hope I have explained clearly to your questions. Pls let me know if you need more clarifications.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil 1:6).