INDIA – Ministries in India are reporting significant growth in the Christian Church among middle and upper caste Indians and the younger Indian generations.
Long recognized as one of the most diverse nations in the world, India is currently the second-most populous nation on earth, with over 1.2 billion residents. Experts predict that India will soon eclipse China as the world’s most populous country.
According to Operation World, 74% of India’s populace identify as Hindu, 14% describe themselves as Muslim, and 6% are Christian. However, with an annual growth rate of nearly 4%, Christianity is by far the fastest-growing of all major religions in India.
According to a statement last month from The Mission Society, a ministry committed to organizing and supporting Christian mission work around the world, Christianity is growing at rapid rates across India. This trend was detailed in the latest issue of the Society’s Unfinished magazine.
Christianity is emerging at an especially rapid rate among middle and high caste Indians, as well as young people, according to the statement. Traditionally, Christianity has largely been limited to lower castes in India, so the spread of the Gospel across other cultural boundaries has been encouraging to missions groups.
“With more than 71 million claiming Christianity, India is now the eighth largest Christian nation in the world,” Dick McClain, president and CEO of The Mission Society, explained. “Yet with 456 languages and more than 2,611 distinct people groups, India still has more people groups unreached with the Gospel than any other nation—88 percent of its population.”
Some demographers are now describing India’s culture as the “new India,” where complex cultural changes are leading to unprecedented receptivity to Christianity. However, religious animosity is still an ever-present threat to missionaries in India.
“While India has always had a religiously plural ethos, contemporary India is polarized along religious lines for varied reasons,” a recent article in Unfinished magazine explains. “The rise of Hindu nationalism has been accompanied by the persecution of the Church in different parts of the country. While in some places things seem to be normal, there are pockets of strong resistance and violent reaction to the Christian faith and its missional endeavors. This calls for fresh thinking in gospel articulation.”
Despite the opposition, thousands of Indians are still coming to Christ.
“The Spirit of God is blowing across the land in fresh ways as many ‘Christward movements’ are occurring,” the Unfinished article continues. “In these movements, people may not be moving toward the ‘Church’ or ‘Christianity’ as we know it, but they’re moving towards Christ. There have been movements among, not only tribal and rural communities, but also among high castes and other groups that have historically not been very receptive.”
Ultimately, according to missionaries, India’s changing culture presents enormous potential for the spread of the gospel and Christianity.
“India is rapidly changing, and the nation is in flux,” the Unfinished article concludes. “It is diverse and complex. … We need to be aware of this complexity as well as the tectonic shifts that are happening in contemporary India. The need of the hour is to ‘understand the times’ (I Chronicles 12:32), ‘interpret the times’ (Luke 12:56), and serve appropriately in ‘such a time as this’ (Esther 4:14).”