India is a very unique country: 1.2 billion population, almost overtaking China. It has a growing economy: the city of Hyderabad (14 million) has a huge “Tech City” – in fact that part of town is called “Cyberabad” – where big companies develop software, call centers, and more.
We visited the oldest location of an MB church – established in Nalgonda in about 1883 if I recall correctly. It is now a Baptist church. The oldest currently operating church seems to be Bethlehem church in Malakpet, a section of Hyderabad. They are completing a lovely new building. I preached there in 2008.
I reflected on the idea of permanence. Missionaries traveled to India from South Russia (now Ukraine) in the early 1880s so the church work there is well over 100 years old. The Bible College will be 100 in 2020. There are quite a number of currently active, large churches that are a century old or better.
A century of existence means that congregational life cycles have rolled through a few times. Larger congregations have built magnificent structures – mostly with their own money, but some also from other countries.
The conference is cycling too. The India conference in 2013 released a confession of faith done on their terms. The generation of leaders to which the keys of leadership were handed 50 years ago are now planning to transition out. A new generation will step in very soon.
My visit showed the overall health and strength of a conference equal in age to US and Canada. There are struggles; conflicts; shortages of resources – i.e. various negatives. But these are outweighed by the strength of the church fields; organized and visionary outreach; witness amidst opposition. God is at work in our sister MB conference in India!
Glory to God! Let’s pray for and learn from the MB Church of India (MBCI).