This story originally appeared in the January 2012 edition of ITMI Monthly.
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." -Matthew 18:6
The realization hit Pastor Raj [name changed for security] like a millstone and a heaviness sank deep into his stomach. He felt sick.
The American’s words, “You are not God,” rang in his ears. He had been playing god.
“Your identity is defined by the fact that you are a child of God, not by what you’ve done or the positions and titles you hold,” the speaker continued.
He thought about the way he had treated the people in his church as if they were less important to God than he, demanding they carry his things and respond to his commands.
Tears welled up in his eyes as he realized how wrong he had been, and how poorly he was representing who God was by living this lie. “Where did I get such an abominable idea?” he thought, and then instantly realized that in Indian culture, religious leaders demand reverence and importance.
The Hindu priests function this way, and he had unwittingly assumed that Christian leaders should, too.
But the lie had even gone deeper than his behavior. He had believed that he was acceptable to God because he was a pastor, completely overlooking the truth that he was only acceptable to God because of what Jesus did for him.
“I’ve been believing and teaching heresy this whole time!” he thought.
He bowed his head in repentance.
He felt the heaviness in his heart and stomach lift as he thought about what it would mean for some of his poorest and most ostracized church members to learn their identity comes from what Jesus did for them, not in their cultural label.
He carefully paged through the printed material he’d been given for this conference, wondering what other lies he had brought from his Hindu past and taught his people as truth. He knew he needed more guidance to help him see the cultural lies he had accepted as truth without even thinking about it.
He needed help to build a community that treated people according to their true identities in Christ rather than their cultural identity. He hoped Paul, the experienced local Indian pastor who organized the conference, would help and disciple him.
When ITMI’s Chad Kritenbrink finished the section he was teaching and announced a break, Pastor Raj hurried to the front of the room to talk to Paul. “Thank you, thank you,” he said, “I didn’t know I was teaching my people lies!”
ITMI's Chad Krittenbrink training pastors in India, as Paul's brother, Xavier, translates.
The Need for Training is Great
ITMI’s Paul [last name undisclosed for safety] has been working very hard over the last several months to organize a traveling pastor’s conference all over southern India. ITMI’s Steve Evers and Chad Kritenbrink were the speakers.
“Paul is absolutely capable of doing it himself,” Chad said, “but for whatever reason, Americans are seen as experts.”
Steve Evers is a passionately animated and effective speaker in multiple countries and situations.
ITMI partner, Paul, training pastors in India.
Paul estimates that 700 Indian pastors and leaders attended the conference.
Paul estimates that 700 Indian pastors and leaders attended the conference and had the opportunity to be equipped to disciple their people in truth.
The need for Indian leaders who shepherd, disciple and equip believers with truth is desperate.
Hinduism has greatly influenced not only Indian culture, but Indian Christian culture. Combine Hinduism’s belief in reincarnation, an estimated population of 1.2 billion and the dowry system, and you get a culture that considers life cheap.
The destitution and poverty of this country is staggering. Around seventy-five percent of India’s masses live on $2 per day or less. (World Bank, 2005)
Poverty in India is staggering.
This country needs the hope and salvation Jesus offers, and yet even the Indian church is widely polluted by syncretism and cultural lies. She is struggling to be faithful to her mission.
Reaching People Effectively with Nationals
ITMI believes in nationals. We believe in God’s ability to use these national pastors and their weaknesses. In fact, we believe that when properly trained and equipped, nationals are the most effective way to reach a people.
We believe the Spirit is using nationals to change their churches, their communities and their country.
We believe the Indian church can be equipped to offer Jesus to the hopelessness of their culture.
Even though circumstances may be dour, Indian believers are inspiringly joyful.
That is what this trip was about. Steve, Chad and ITMI were able to come alongside Paul, an Indian national, and exponentially multiply his work toward this God-sized goal, which is only one part of his family’s multifaceted ministry.
Multiple Generations of Disciples Equipped
Paul and Molly’s ministry aims to build up and disciple those already with in body of Christ as well as to make new disciples through sports ministries, a girls’ orphanage and a boys’ prison ministry. In fact, their sports ministry is now largely led by boys who came to faith through that very ministry.
They were discipled and equipped to bless other boys the way they were once blessed.
ITMI's Chad Krittenbrink (left) and Paul (right) with a disciple and a leader who were both saved through the sports ministry and are now discipling others.
Because the ITMI staff guys are such a benefit to the ITMI partners, Steve and Chad are amping up for a full year of traveling. If you are able to help provide funding for these trips, ITMI and our partners would be so grateful.
The Real Hero
Chad and Steve aren’t the heroes of this story.
Truth be told we are all deserving of a millstone around our neck and a watery end, or worse. Since we’re all guilty of breaking at least one law, we’re guilty of breaking them all. (James 2:10)
But on the cross, Jesus took our millstones and replaced them with a beautiful heirloom necklace, announcing our status as his beloved children.
We love you, Jesus!
Data | The World Bank. Rep. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.2DAY/countries/IN?display=graph
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 12 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.