Indian Evangelical Team is committed to reach the unreached at any cost. Every year, IET plants several hundred pioneer churches in far flung villages and unreached tribes.
Once a congregation is birthed in an unreached tribe, it soon becomes strategic to part-help build a ‘house of God’ for the congregation. A separate ‘house of God’ becomes critical in establishing the pioneer work, so that it lasts. Why is a separate structure, even though it may be a tin roofed shed, important? There are several contextual, legal, and strategic reasons. Let me share some.
First, a church building creates a feeling of stability for the new believers. In most of Asia, particularly in South Asia, a sacred place of worship has proven to be an important element in establishing a new and respectful religion. We have repeatedly seen that the Christian faith establishes itself faster and spreads quicker when having a ‘house of God’ is part of the strategy. This is perhaps the most important element for me; I want to see the product of our energies and investments last till Christ returns.
Second, a separate structure accelerates financial self-sufficiency in a village church. Recently we found that in those villages where we constructed a simple tin roofed prayer shed, the congregation achieved at least 25% financial self-sufficiency within few months. Interestingly, when we added a two roomed structure behind the prayer shed for the pastor to live in, the financial self-sufficiency of the congregation improved to anywhere between 50% and 75%. This in itself is a 25% return on the investment, every year. Makes complete financial sense. Then, it is only a matter of time and planned direction for the congregation to become fully financially self-sufficient and stand on their own feet.
Third, every planted church quickly grows in number. This growth soon requires the congregation to meet beyond the small, cramped huts of individual believers. Villages do not have a public facility for rent. Meeting in the open or under the shade of the tree is not possible for almost half the year, particularly during the prolonged monsoon season, winter months, and during the cruel scorching summer. Moreover, any such gathering creates an impression of Christianity belonging to those ‘outcastes’ instead of remaining as a viable option for ordinary citizens, as part of regular community life. This creates a negative impact on the image and, obviously, for the growth of Christianity in that village and those surrounding it.
Fourth, India is segregated by the inhuman caste system. Members of one caste will not go into the homes of a lower caste, but they are willing to gather in a ‘house of God’ together. A house of God is sacred and removes the strong ‘caste barriers’ to the flow of the gospel. A common place of worship allows people from different caste to come and hear the Gospel and then worship the Lord, together.
Fifth, a four walled ordinary building also becomes critical to hold Christian events, including weddings and funerals, granting a sense of respectability to Christians. In its absence, Christians suffer a lot. A cluster of villages can benefit from one single church building located in the hub.
Lastly, only a separate place of worship (even if a tin roofed shed) is legally recognized to be religious. Only attacks on such places are considered to be a religious attack. All other attacks are not.
So, what does it require to help a village congregation build a church? Well, the believers will provide the land. Then, they will also helps with manual labor. Our partnership would include providing finances for materials and professional labor. A tin roofed structure (with brick walls) will cost about $3500. If we decide to add two rooms to it for the pastor to live in — a strategic investment — it will cost only another $2400. As shared earlier, this additional investment will help the congregation to soon reach full financial self-sufficiency.