Stan Parks, Vice President of Global Strategies for Act Beyond describes what has happened…
Twenty-five years ago God began to do a new thing beyond what we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Desperate for God to work, these gospel workers prayed more than they ever had. Forced to cast aside human wisdom and tradition, God began to bring them back to purely Biblical approaches (see Luke 10) for reaching new communities. Having a vision to reach the whole 90+ million and having so very few workers, they realized they would have to go back to the New Testament pattern of new believers leading the churches and new apostles rising up to start the new churches within their own language group and in neighboring groups.
Anyone who says this Bhojpuri movement is not happening (and some still do) just needs to come see what we have seen. All sorts of ordinary people just doing what they see in the Bible.
We met a 12th grade high schooler who has started two churches. A young woman in university who has started three churches. A young man who barely spoke in the past who saw his sister exorcised of many demons and has started 10 churches. An eight year old girl who was dead and the raised back to life after a group prayed for her. A man healed of blindness. Too many amazing stories to repeat them all here.
This movement is deeply holistic in every way – addressing physical, spiritual, emotional, societal and most importantly eternal needs.
We visited with their ministry to railway children which the movement has started in multiple cities. Abandoned children by the millions live at railway stations across India. They usually sleep 2-3 hours a day due to fear of robbery, rape, beatings. The movement has started homes for these children. They bring them in and most children are so exhausted they spend the first week literally doing nothing except eating and sleeping. They help the children learn to trust and recover from trauma and then reunite them with family and help their families get healthy enough to care for them or find they foster homes with families they know – they have a constant stream of children coming through so they can help rescue more children.
We met a low caste woman who started a church in her home and then also started churches among the high caste people nearby – other Indians were shocked she could do that. It was explained that if God’s power is in her why could she not do this? God’s truth and power can break down any walls.
We spent a day with a man who was a drunkard and a murderer who had killed two men. God powerfully saved him and he and his leaders have seen three people come back to life after prayer (and despite feeling fear when asked to pray like this). Some people find resurrections hard to believe – if so, why did Jesus promise us that we would do greater works than him? We are getting credible reports of resurrections and healings, deliverances, etc. from all over the world.
Interestingly, a miracle sometimes opened the door for the first believers in the community, but afterwards it seemed that healing of sickness and addiction, etc. seemed to come after they believed. And not everyone is healed – they still struggle and pray with God saying “no” or “wait”.
More impactfully, this former murderer has helped start 100+ churches that each have their own leaders – with a good number of them being women leaders. He is currently working with 82 leaders (church planters starting beyond their own home church) who have each started between one and 30 churches themselves. That does not count leaders he has developed who are now repeating this process with their own leadership groups.
We were at a leadership meeting with another 40+ people who all have similar leadership groups with 20, 40, 50, 80 leaders, etc. – all of whom are starting churches themselves.
We were struck by the desire of these people to share with us. Sharing food (when they have very little). Wanting to pray for us after we prayed for them. Sharing their time so we can learn from them. Despite the amazing things, these guys are humble and keep saying “we need to learn from others and we keep making mistakes and isn’t God amazing!”
They are sharing with the global Body of Christ what He is teaching and they are obeying – and these lessons have helped spark movements in many other countries. We are deeply thankful and want to keep learning and do a better job of obeying.
This movement has some amazing numbers. Hindu fundamentalists with extensive political grass-roots census efforts claim that there are now 12 million Christians among the Bhojpuri language group of North India when 25 years ago they were almost non-existent. The Bhojpuri leaders long ago gave up on trying to count because it has exploded beyond human control and monitoring. Recent outside audits by missionary researchers point to tens of thousands of churches and millions of baptized believers.
But reports and amazing numbers are not the main thing – the main thing is that all the believers think everyone can share the Gospel, heal the sick, cast out demons, and care for the widows and orphans. They are sinful and human just like all of us, but they have a tremendous advantage. They have been spiritually born and raised in a movement that makes them think that when you read the Bible you have to believe it and obey. They think disciples should multiply disciples and churches should multiply churches and leaders should multiply leaders.
They don’t realize there are many of us as “Christians” around the world who don’t live like this. They think they have the same Father to teach them (John 6:44) and Holy Spirit to guide them (John 16:13) and empower them (Acts 1:8) as the New Testament disciples did. What would it look like if we all believed and acted the way they did?
It is interesting to see the development of the structures of this movement to accommodate specialized ministries… that will be a study in itself in the years ahead.