With IGO President Valson Abraham
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Written by India Gospel Outreach
Praise God for working through succeeding generations to fulfill the Great Commission in India and around the world.
This month, we present the third installment of an interview with IGO President Valson Abraham as he presents his perspectives on the future of missions in India and elsewhere, especially as it involves young Christians, both in India and the United States.
QUESTION: What signs do you see of a younger generation of Christians in India and America getting involved in missions?
VA: That is really a multi-faceted question, and the answer is very complex, both in a negative and positive sense. Let us first start with the negative and end with the positive, beginning right here in America.
First of all the media, even Christian media, tend to emphasize the negative, indicating that many young people are dropping out of church, that two-thirds of high schoolers who went to church all their lives will drop out and not return.
Most church young people have weak understanding of their faith and adhere to what some have called a “moralistic therapeutic deism”—in other words, God exists and orders life. He wants people to be good and nice and fair. Their goal in life is to be happy and feel good about themselves. Go to God when you have a problem, otherwise God is uninvolved in life. Good people go to heaven. Even so-called evangelical young people believe these things.
QUESTION: This doesn’t sound good. What is the cause of this?
VA: Most churches, even evangelical churches, teach a weak and powerless gospel. Little emphasis is made on the cross, repentance, conversion and transformation, too much emphasis on entertainment. Too many parents, even church-going parents, do not really preach the gospel to their children. They all go to church on Sunday, but that’s about it for the week. As a result, teenagers hold many heretical views, and when they go off to college, they become easy prey for godless professors who are more than ready to sow doubt and confusion among these vulnerable young people. This causes them to reject what little they have learned.
QUESTION: How many true believers are there among today’s American young people?
VA: Various surveys indicate that no more than 15% of today’s young people in our churches have a vibrant Christian faith.
QUESTION: This does not sound good at all.
VA: But it is typical—and historical. God has always worked through a small remnant--the tiny minority who resist the temptations and pressures of an anti-God world. In this respect, America’s Christian young people are also like the truly dedicated Christian young people of India—a small minority. They all face persecution for their faith, just in different cultural forms.
Think of young Daniel and his three friends. This is the model we should remember when we think of our young people in today’s world. Think of what this tiny minority accomplished. God is less concerned about numbers and more concerned about young people sold out to Him. Let us pay less attention to the numbers and more attention to the spirit. God raises up His people in every generation, including this one, to fulfill the Great Commission in many ways.
QUESTION: What factors determine who these faithful young people will be?
VA: Typically, whether in America or India, such young people experience conversion at early ages and come from churches and youth departments that stress conversion. They become equipped spiritually and intellectually to withstand pressures and discrimination from atheist and agnostic professors. They have parents who train them in the way they should go and don’t just depend on their churches to do their work for them. Such parents make them go to church, hold them accountable, mix tough love with grace centered on the cross of Christ—parents who lead and encourage their children to develop strong faith and vision through example.
Of course, the remnant also includes many who come from non-Christian backgrounds. This is especially true in India but also in America. I am speaking of the typical model of successful faith-building in today’s young people who go to church.
Such faithful young people can do and are doing much to prepare themselves for Great Commission service. I see this in the growing number of young people who are taking short-term mission trips, becoming awakened to the opportunities and challenges in those parts of the world that still have yet to hear the Good News. This remnant is determined to be salt and light. This is happening both in America and India. It is encouraging and a rather new phenomenon.
QUESTION: In terms of attitudes toward missionary service, what do you see that separates this generation from previous generations of young people?
VA: More than any other generation, today’s young people in America and India are ready to use all their skills in the service of their Master, not just as evangelists, teachers and preachers, but in all fields. They see the mission field as every area of life that is typically regarded as “secular.” God has given them gifts, and they want to serve Him in whatever way God has gifted them.
I hear stories all the time, and I personally know, many Christian people of many ages and backgrounds, who are taking the Great Commission to heart, making it a major part of their lifestyle. They recognize that God has blessed them with certain gifts and abundance of resources. They are giving their money and also of their time and gifts in feeding the poor and hungry, providing free medical services, rescuing at-risk women and children, teaching job skills to those who lack them—many different avenues of ministry—all in the name of Jesus. These services of love from so-called Christian “lay people” are winning increasing numbers of people to Christ. These are people out of reach by most evangelists. This is a growing spiritual phenomenon both among American and Indian Christians.
An increasing number of pastors in America and India are becoming bi-vocational, that is, both serving as church pastors and working in the everyday world alongside everyone else. Think of Paul, the tentmaker as well as an apostle, preacher and teacher. This growing trend takes the pastor out of his ivory church tower and brings him into contact where people live and work. This opens up all kinds of new opportunities to learn how people think and communicate the gospel
QUESTION: What is India Gospel Outreach doing to meet these growing trends?
VA: Earlier issues of Prayer & Praise describe a new counseling program at India Bible College and Seminary that offers Christian workers new tools for helping people and communicating the gospel in new, more relevant ways that are almost unknown in India.
One of our big dreams is to open up an India Christian University on the campus of India Bible College and Seminary that will expand the outreach of the Good News in unprecedented ways.
QUESTION: How will India Christian University do that?
VA: We must fulfill the Great Commission in all its social and cultural dimensions. A major part of IGO’s mission is formation of an India Christian University. India Gospel Outreach has already secured Indian government registration for this. As God provides, ICU will take place on the IGO campus and also in Hyderabad where God has already provided additional land.
Seven areas comprise the backbone of every society. These seven areas will become the foundation for India Christian University: 1) Theology, 2) Business, 3) Education, 4) Arts and Entertainment, 5) Family, 6) Government, 7) Media and Communication. ICU will also include schools of nursing, engineering and Christian leadership.
Many Indian Christian young people are ready for this. The time is ripe, and I can’t help but think God is preparing the way for this even though, at the present time, we don’t have the finances for such a great project.
QUESTION: How is God preparing the way?
VA: Through prayer. Both in America and in India, I see and hear more desire and deeper prayer for revival and awakening. Prayer is always the prelude to revival, along with a hunger for more of God’s power in the world. More people are praying to complete the Great Commission among all peoples. God answers prayers like that. It is to His glory to do so. With revival will come an unprecedented desire to spread the gospel and the possibility for projects such as India Christian University and other things we haven’t even considered yet. God always does above and beyond anything we ask or think. Let us think big and see God multiply! Pray for larger vision to pray bigger prayers and expect God to answer in big ways.