India, the seventh largest country in the world. Populated with over 1.2 billion people. Home to four of the world’s major religions –Hinduism/Buddhism/Jainism/Sikhism.
Famous for those vast Himalayan mountains and the ever- flowing Ganges river. India holds itself with dignity in the world of international cuisine, with those spiced – up curries that have in various forms filtered their way around the globe to tease and intrigue our western pallets. She has breathed Bollywood to the West and offered Mahatma Gandhi to the world.
Capitalized by New Delhi and motivated numerically by Mumbai. By choice, in 1947 she farewelled her British heritage sporting ‘a stiff upper – lip ‘ as one would expect, to charter on a journey of founding a republic on January 26, 1950. From here, India has proudly raised her glass of destiny.
For those interested in peoples groups and cultures, India holds a special intrigue with an invitation to ‘sense of responsibility’. Her people need to discover God and His truth – but how do you get the Gospel of eternal liberation to 1.2 billion people?
A similar style of question troubled an incoming King several centuries ago. His title was King Frederick IV of Denmark and he was concerned for the well – being of his subjects living in the Danish settlement of Tranquebar on the coromandel Coast of South – East India.
The King wanted to send missionaries to this region, but none could be found in Denmark, so he looked to Halle in Germany.
Soon, two young followers of Christ were prepared to become the first non-Roman-Catholic missionaries to take the Gospel to India from Europe.
One of these young men was 23 years old Bartholomew Zigenbalg who arrived in Tranquebar on July 9, 1706. Zigenbalg would minister there for the next 13 years prior to his death.
Together with his coworker Henry Plutschau, Zigenbalg developed five principles to assist them in their Gospel presentation.
(1) Church and education compliment one another
Those who follow Jesus must be able to read the Bible, so pre-evangelism education becomes essential.
(2) Believers should have availability to the Bible in their own language
Zigenbalg worked faithfully to translate the New Testament. The young missionary discovered he had a great gift for languages, so within 8 years he had completed his New Testament translation. Prior to his death, Zigenbalg had translated the Old testament up to the Book of Ruth. This work was then completed by others, such as Johan Philipp Fabricius, who was well known for his translation of hymns.
(3) The Gospel must be preached in a relevant cultural manner
To accomplish this Zigenbalg studied the culture and religious beliefs of the people of South India.
(4) The aim of all Gospel presentation should be that of definite and personal conversion
Their intent was to proclaim the Gospel of Christ expecting the Spirit to use that presentation to bring hearers to a conviction of sin.
(5) As soon as was suitable, the Church was to become Indian and not Western-European
The new converts were to be a disciple and through time appropriate Church leaders raised up to continue a ministry to their own people, in their own language, and within their own culture.
God was using Zigenbalg and Plutschau to establish His Gospel witness in the great nation of India.
In July 2006, the Indian peoples basked in the enjoyment of their traditions of Bollywood appreciation ; growing international cricket success ; the global acceptance of the ‘cult ‘classic movie ‘Bend it like Beckham’; Jamie Oliver advocating the West to partake of a “hot” vindaloo; and a week-long celebration of the 300thanniversary of Zigenbalg’s Christian legacy to the Indian culture .
This anniversary was celebrated by Hindu, Muslim, and Christian alike. Thousands traveled to Tranquebar just to be involved in the celebration. The Post Office even issued a special stamp. All of this because of the Gospel, and a gift called Zigenbalg.
Oh, I should say, here in the West we didn’t celebrate this event. Instead, we gave attention to Italy winning the world cup with their defeat of France; we listened to Newt Gingrich informing us that “we are in the early stages of .. the third world war “; we wrestled with the decision to hold onto our black PS3 or purchase a just-released white version, and afresh we looked to Bono to ‘save the world’.