“The formation of networks and collaborative strategies is crucial in areas where mission must operate in a circumspect manner. When a host of agencies work separately in areas wary of or opposed to Christian mission, they can soon appear as an external threat. Networks that provide overall strategies and broker the work of many agencies and churches on a field can be highly effective for kingdom advance. Within such larger frameworks, the different nationalities and agencies can understand and apply their unique strengths and gifting for the benefit of the overall mission effort and the national church.” –Operation World, 2010, p. 20.
Our History: On 11th March 2013, 70 grass-roots pastors, evangelists and church planters from 8 indigenous mission agencies from Odisha and West Bengal states of Northern India, gathered together on STEP campus for 3 days to discuss the need for multi-faceted holistic training and member care for those on the frontline of kingdom ministry with minimum formal theological training or no training at all and working hard in the context of hostile situations, suffering and persecution. Grassroots Christian workers realized that they need a common platform where they can connect with one another; grow through non-formal, but curriculum based training programs; share their experiences, skills and resources. Christian workers and indigenous mission agencies strongly felt the need for formation of a network and collaborative strategies and as a result East India Native Pastors Network (EINPN) was born.
Mission & Vision: Church growth is a rapid reality in northern Indian states despite of hostility and persecution of Christians. More and more indigenous Christian workers are rising to the need to preach the gospel to their own people. The need of the hour is to come along side the indigenous workers and support them to reach their own community and people groups with the gospel. One of the crucial need of this hour is encouraging, equipping and training the indigenous grass-roots workers of the persecuted church in the contexts of suffering, persecution and hostile situations and helping them to become salt and light in the community. The future of the persecuted church and mission work in this context heavily depends on the training of the persecuted church and her workers (evangelists, church planters and leaders). This begins at the grass-roots level. East India Native Pastors Network (EINPN) is made up of a tapestry of indigenous mission agencies and Christian workers (pastors/leaders, evangelists and church planters) from north Indian states that seeks to encourage, empower, equip and resource the Christian workers in northern India. EINPN has three goals in specific: connect, grow and share.
Why EINPN: North Indian states are strategically important. Least-evangelized peoples in India are mostly concentrated in the northern Indian states such as Odisha (previously called Orissa), West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Operation World (2010), a definitive prayer guide, estimates, “The world’s least-evangelized peoples are concentrated in India. Of 159 people groups of over 1 million people, 133 are unreached. Also 953 ethnic groups have population greater than 10,000; of those, 205 have no church and little to no outreach from Christians. They can be found in every state although they tend to be more concentrated in the North” (emphasis mine). For instance, of the 799 peoples present in Odisha, 709 registered in the census as having zero Christians. According to Joshua Project (a study of the less and least-reached People Groups), there are 279 People Groups of which 80 are Unreached, Unengaged People Groups (UUPG). Twenty-one of them have a population of more than 100,000 in the state. In the list of UUPG, various tribal groups also are included. For instance, there are 62 tribal groups are in the border region of Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand. Of all tribal groups, twenty are less than 0.1 percent Christian and 40 are less than 1 percent Christian. One of the biggest tribal groups in India is called “Santal” and they are mostly concentrated in the border region of Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand.
There is a crisis of proper development of Christian workers in northern Indian states. In particular, poor discipling and lack of proper holistic theological training of northern Indian Christian leaders has led to a crisis. Very few Christian leaders from northern Indian states have been empowered or given opportunities to lead Christian missions in India. In the last one hundred years or more, Christian missions in east/north India have seen a plethora of adventurers—Christian missionaries (cross-cultural, mainly from southern Indian states). Some of these so-called “missionaries” (not originally from Odisha or other north Indian states) have risen to the status of heroes of prominence in India and the West because of their work experience in northern India among the unreached, poor, persecuted and tribal peoples. Yet all their efforts seem to have availed little for the state of Odisha and Christian missions in northern India. Hardly any Christian women from Odisha are found with higher-level theological degrees.
Northern Indian states are mission fields. Both Indian and Western Christian mission agencies have for a long time recruited Christian workers and raised funds on the basis of the land of northern India being deep, dark, and backward. But all these efforts have produced few results. How many Christian mission leaders from Odisha or West Bengal or any other northern Indian states have been produced? How many northern Indian Christian workers are heading mission organizations in India? Today many Christian missions say, “We work in north India.” The next question, “Who is leading your mission in Odisha or West Bengal?” They reply, “Someone from Chennai or Kerala.” The language of our mission work has prevented us from taking seriously the significance of training and raising indigenous Christian workers. Thanks are given for the work of those cross-cultural missionaries in the past. However, time has come to encourage, empower and equip more workers from eastern and northern India; train them, and provide them with resources. If Christian missions and Christianity in Odisha is to progress, it is Christian workers from that region or local workers who can make a difference. If any Christian mission or ministry (either from the West or India) envisions success in northern India, they must see that local Christian workers are given leadership, responsibility and freedom to execute ministry plans, vision and agendum.
For more information about EINPN, contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org