India AG Partners with ICOM to Nearly Triple Churches
The India Assemblies of God and the India College of Ministry, a school of Global University, are working to reach their goal of planting 25,000 house churches by the end of the year.In 2010, the 8,000-church India Assemblies of God set a lofty goal of planting 25,000 house churches and training 30,000 workers in 10 years. As 2019 drew to a close, more than 14,200 new house churches had been opened and approximately 34,000 students have enrolled in the India College of Ministry, a school of Global University.
At first glance, it may appear there is little chance of the church reaching its goal of 25,000 churches. However, the number of students enrolled in ICOM has already exceeded the goal, and as a graduation requirement each student is expected to open a house church — placing the goal of planting 25,000 house churches within reach. It is evident that a powerful move of God is taking place in a country where currently only 2% are Christians.
The AG World Missions area director for India (name withheld) was initially uncertain that roughly seven house churches a day were being opened in India — was this an exaggeration or approximation? Not at all. The leader of the India AG provided detailed records, documenting each house church plant.
One of the keys to the rapid growth through house church planting has been the availability of translated training materials through Global University to the India College of Ministry (ICOM). The materials are used to train lay workers to plant and lead house churches.
According to Global University, of the 34,000 students enrolled at ICOM, 4,000 have graduated in the past two years, 400 more will graduate early this year, and a “mega-graduation” of about 2,000 students is slated for this fall.
Global University offers a 16-course Certificate based on the Christian Life program and a 24-course Diploma based on the Christian Service and Berean programs for lay workers, with each course designed to be completed in one month — 3 1/2 years total.
However, the task of providing materials goes well beyond simply raising the money to purchase the materials — which Light for the Lost, districts, and individuals as well as national churches continue to do — it also includes overcoming language barriers.
“There are hundreds of different languages in India, including 15 national languages,” explains the area director. “Making the materials available to India in the different languages is a challenge, but there’s always great excitement anytime we’re able to get ICOM materials translated into another language.” Currently the Global courses are translated into nine major languages of India.
The area director explains that in India, few materials are available for the “small” language groups. “Small” is a relative term. For example, a language spoken by 70 million people in India is considered small as it represents roughly just 5% of the population. Yet, in comparison to the rest of the world, those 70 million people exceed the total populations of all but 20 countries, including Thailand, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Canada.
What’s particularly impressive is that these house churches are opening in a country that has repeatedly challenged Christianity in certain regions. Slightly more than 80% of the population are Hindu and just over 14% are Muslim.
“God is moving in India, but what people need to grasp is that the population in India is greater than the population of the continent of Africa, and there are more people groups in India than in the continent of Africa — we describe India as nations within a nation,” the area director explains. “We hear stories of great growth [in the church], but great growth of one section of India does not mean great growth in India . . . of the 2,718 people groups in India, 273 have been reached.”
Rick Allen, director of Light for the Lost, agrees and recognizes the challenge that awaits. However, he notes that the growth of the India Assemblies of God through its house church initiative has begun to break into regions of the country that are unfamiliar with the gospel, and as the gospel is being presented in native languages, the more acceptance it is given.
“In working with the leader of the India AG, we’ve learned that for just $100, a student can receive three years of training and plant a church,” Allen says. “With an economical use of resources like that, we in LFTL have found many people and churches willing to partner in planting churches and training pastors in India.”