Friday, October 10, 2008

Theory and practice of Christian mission

1. An overview of theory and practice of mission
Theory is “a formal set of ideas that is intended to explain why something happens to exists.” Every religion is having different theories. These theories determine religious practices. Practice is defined as “action” and “a way of doing something that is the usual or expected way in a particular organization or situation.” Christian mission is a sought of religious practice that is derived from different theories. There are many denominations and divisions within Christian mission because of different theories. It is very difficult to separate theory and practice from each other. In fact, sometimes theories evolve out of doctrines of the church. Sometimes theory comes from practice and some other times practice comes from a theory. It is not easy to assess which comes first.

The history of Christian mission is the history of theory and practice. Historically the church practiced mission in different models because of the theory it possessed. Different theoretical frame works brought different paradigm shifts in the history of mission practice. The early and Eastern church practiced mission as “Evangelization.” The early church practiced contextualized methods in their approach by using contextual terminology, accepting Gentiles in to the church without circumcision etc. During the middle ages the church developed a theory of “suffering” and “separation from the world.” These theories led the church to practice Monasticism as mission.

The protestant reformation questioned the authority of the church and it prepared a way for great missionary movements. In the wake of Enlightenment period, the theory of “reaching heathens” motivated and inspired western missionaries to scatter all over the world with the gospel of Christ. The evangelical awakening developed a theory of mission which believed “once people were evangelized and converted, moral uplift inevitably follows.” As the result mission had been practiced as winning people for Christ. Suffering for Christ was considered as a greatest virtue of a missionary in this period. The modern missions developed “Holistic Mission” theory. Tranqubar & Serampore mission practiced mission in a holistic perspective. Some of the leading evangelists like John Stott spoke on holistic mission that balances the tension between evangelistic zeal and social action. In our Indian context, indigenous charismatic leaders such as R. C. Das, Sunder Singh, Stanly Samartha, Russell Chandran, Ramabai, etc. practiced mission in different perspectives.

Having stated the overall theory and practice of Christian mission, I look into the subject on “How are Christians related with other religions in their theory and practice of mission?”

2. Introduction to the topic
Christians have been using different methods and approaches to relate with people of different faiths. The relationship with other religions is one of the hot discussions in this decade and it is one of the popular subjects in missions. Christianity in India has not gone into the depths of Indian cultures. “The gospel becomes relevant and reliable when it is communicated to people through their own culture.” Some of the missionaries in the past and even in the present fail to understand the culture of the people of other faith in their mission approach. “Yet many of the Western missionaries who served in India not only read the Hindu scriptures to acquire firsthand knowledge about Hinduism but even mingled with the people to the extent of participating in their festivals and even visiting Hindu Temples.” The early protestant missionaries like William Carey practiced unbiased approaches to witness Hindus and Muslims. Different denominations and Christian mission agencies developed different theories and practices in their approach to witness people of other faiths. There are positive and negative aspects in Christians’ approach to other faiths in their mission practice. In this context this paper mainly focuses on theory and practices of Christian missions in their encounter with other religions. The limitation of this paper is that it deals only with the theory and practice of Christian mission in relation to Muslims and Hindus and the concentration of the paper is on “contextualized methods” to relate with Muslims and Hindus.

3. Early missionaries’ attitude to other religions and cultures
Some of the Christian missionaries in the past especially during the time of colonial period considered non Western cultures and religions as inferior to their beliefs and practices. In fact they addressed non Christians as heathens, idolaters, people under the darkness etc. In this connection David rightly pointed out Western missionaries’ attitude and he says that “Christianity as well as Western Civilization was promoted as superior to the religions and cultures of India.” The elite Indian thinkers “rejected Christianity because it was alien to the spirit and life of the people of India and it was considered to be an ally of Western Imperialism.” Even though some of the Western missionaries tried to assimilate into local cultures they failed to relate with the local cultures and religions.

The significant observation is that “Christianity propagated by the foreign missionaries was branded as a denationalizing force and the Indian Christians as agents of British Imperialism.” Indian Christians were always suspected by the nationalistic leaders. “It was taken for granted that Britain had the full knowledge and power that others did not have. This assumption led them to colonize countries and annex them as their own.” Western civilization and knowledge was considered as superior compared to all other cultures.

4. Contextualization
The concept of contextualization is very much heard in the present day mission practice. In fact “Contextualization of the gospel is not a recent phenomenon, but exists from the time God planned to maintain a relationship with human beings. But the emphasis on the term ‘contextualization’ as a model of cross- cultural mission has been developed recently.” Robert De Nobili used accommodation theory which is a part of contextualization in his mission practice to reach the elite sections of India. Contextualization is an umbrella term which “includes indigenization of mission methods and theology.” In fact, indigenization is a part of contextualization.

The process of contextualization helps the missionary to assimilate in to the local cultures to understand them from their point of view. The “basic principle was to start where the person was in his own orientation to life.” The purpose and the aim of contextualization is to present Christian faith “in such a way that it meets people's deepest needs and penetrates their worldview, thus allowing them to follow Christ and remain within their own culture.” The main theory behind contextualization is to be relevant with the people of different faiths and cultures.

Hiebert talks about three types of responses to the process of contextualization. One response is denying the old cultural practices and beliefs which he calls “rejection of contextualization.” The second response is accepting everything that is in the new culture without questioning. This response is called as “Uncritical contextualization.” This kind of response leads us to the radical syncretism which may introduce unbiblical cultural practices into the church. The third response is evaluating the contextualization principles and methods in the light of God’s word. It evaluates the cultural and religious practices critically and adopts them which get along with the Biblical values. This is called as “critical contextualization.” John Travis, a successful missionary among Muslims, goes farther and developed six contextual models which are similar Hiebert’s contextual approaches.

5. Theory and practice of Mission among Muslims
The most resistant group to the gospel is Muslim group and the Christian faith has not really gone into the depths of Islamic culture. Several missionaries and mission agencies developed some of the practical theories and practices which can be helpful in relating with Muslims.

5.1 “C1-C6 Cross Cultural Church-planting Spectrums”
John Travis developed six contextual methods in his theory and practice of mission among Muslims. Travis’ contextual methods are “widely recognized and used as a benchmark of contextualization by Evangelical missionaries in the Muslim World.” In fact “he described what was being discussed by many Evangelical missiologists in the Muslim World and implemented by some and thus it is indicative of what missionaries in this area meant by contextualization.” His contextualized methods are called as “Cross-Cultural Church-Planting Spectrums.” These “six types in the spectrum are differentiated by language, culture, worship, forms, degree of freedom to worship with others, and religious identity.” His contextual models can be seen not only in the field of mission to Muslims but also can be seen in Christian ministry to different cultures and religions. These models will be helpful in relating with the people of different faiths and cultures.

C1 model: Non-indigenous language
The Western types of churches which are existed in different local cultures have been using non-indigenous language in their worship and mission approach. They isolate themselves from the local culture and in fact, these Christian groups “exist as an ethnic/religious minority.” The main theory is that they are biased of local cultures and there is a thrust for preservation of Christian identity. The Orthodox Syrian churches in India practiced this type of model. Syrian community maintained their exclusiveness of ‘elite caste conscious’ culture in their mission practice. Syrian language was used in their liturgy and worship instead of indigenous language. In some of the Middle Eastern Islamic Countries, Orthodox Church has been practicing its mission in this C1 model.

This model is not effective in witnessing to Muslims, because local people will not be attractive to the gospel unless their local language is respected and accepted by the missionaries. “Many English-speaking churches in former British colonies are good examples of the prior, while most Coptic churches of Egypt are good examples of the later.” In a multi faith context this model will not help the church to be an effective witness to the people of other faiths. The church remains as a monument in the midst of different faiths.

C2 model: Indigenous language with Christian Culture
In this model indigenous language is used but still church remains culturally distinct from other cultures. Only indigenous language is adopted but the terminology and the cultural practices are still Christian. The traditional mainline churches which were established by the western missionaries still continue in this C2 model in India.

The mainline churches in India use local language but the style of worship, liturgy, literature, musical instruments etc., are still imported from the western culture. These churches are still using songs which were translated from the English in to local languages. Apart from language, there are many aspects that we need to consider in our mission practice in a foreign culture. Music, dress, eating habits, and cultural practices should be contextualized. These C1 and C2 models are not that much effective among Muslims.

C3 model: Contextualization of the Culture
This model suggests “insider cultural forms.” They gather in church buildings as well as in unbiased places for worship to be more relevant to the culture of the converts. “The aim is to reduce foreignness of the gospel and the church by contextualizing to biblically permissible cultural forms.” It is a good attempt to be relevant with the new cultures. This model is sensitive to the indigenous beliefs and practices.

In this model, the established church enters into a new culture to witness and establishes a new church but the new planted church will not be imposed cultural practices of the established churches. “This newer church may target a different audience than the established church from which it was born, and it may feature more incorporation of biblically permissible aspects of the pre-emerging movements.” Most of the Muslim background believers are found in this type of model.

C4 model: Balanced Contextualization
It is a balanced contextualization method. It adopts Islamic symbols and Islamic worship patters like raising hands. Only Muslim background believes gather together for worship. They don’t identify themselves as Christians but rather they are identified as followers of Isa. The theory behind this model is that the followers of Christ should remain within the community yet they should witness Christ through the contextual approaches by using insider language.

Parshall strongly recommends C4 model in witnessing to Muslims. In his mission practice he encountered severe opposition in Asia but he succeeded in witnessing to Muslim communities in spite of his struggles. In one of the countries, which he kept secret, while he was ministering to Muslims he was advised to change his C4 model and in fact he was threatened to be killed but he continued and impacted that country with the gospel of Christ.

C5 model: Insider View
The theory behind this model is that gospel should be penetrated from the insider view and it should grow within the indigenous cultural point of view. In the context of Islamic nations the word Christian “connotes Western culture, war (the Crusades), colonialism, and imperialism.” This model is identified as “insider view.” Even though Travis’ “spectrums” are quite useful in the mission field, “it also raises many questions, particularly about the C5 ‘Messianic Muslim’ expression of faith.” The followers of Christ remain within Muslim Community and they remain as Muslims sociologically. They don’t come under the church centric Christianity. They may establish “Messianic Mosques” for worship. “Some missiologists propagate the idea that instead of getting Muslims into the Church, Jesus should be brought into the Mosque. That would allow Muslims who decide to become followers of Jesus Christ to stay within the fold of Islam, just as Messianic Jews have stayed within Judaism.” They remain within the culture and practices of Islam but they critically evaluate the cultural practices of Islam under the teachings of the Bible.

C6 model: Secret followers
These groups are underground followers of Christ. They don’t declare themselves as the followers of Christ but rather they follow secretly by remaining in their own religious culture. Since they don’t declare themselves as followers of some faith, Muslim community identifies them as Muslims, and they will not have any problem. These are secret followers who worship secretly. In this model believers do not share gospel with others openly and they remain in the community silently. “Nonetheless C6 believers are part of our family in Christ.” Even though they identify themselves as Muslims for a period of time they follow Christ secretly.

5.2 Mission practice among the Muslims in the light of C1- C6 theoretical models
The mission practice among Muslims falls under any one of the mentioned C1- C6 theoretical models. C4 and C5 models are mainly used by the contemporary mission practitioners among the Muslims.

5.2.1. Muslim-Christians
Those who support C5 model, identify themselves as Muslim-Christians. They speak positive aspect of Prophet Mohammed and Islam. In that positive mood “when it becomes clear that the Muslim listener is ready for more, they, like Zwemer, share Jesus as Lord and Savior.” Their mission practice is positive and they avoid confrontational critical approach. They call themselves as Muslim-Christians who practice their faith in the Masque. They live within the frame work of Islamic culture.

John Travis in his mission practice strongly recommends C5 model. He strongly believes that “C5 approach, which communicates the message of salvation in Christ without the intent to persuade Muslims to ‘change their religion’ might in fact be the one most appreciated by Muslims.” Travis worked several decades in Asia among the Muslims and he practiced C5 model in his mission practice.

Some of the scholars like Richard Jameson and Nick Scalevich argue that the first century Jewish converts remained in their Jewish background while following a new faith in Christ. They continue to worship in the Jewish temple (Acts 2:46, Acts 3:1). In the same way in this C5 model “Muslim believers, like early Jewish believers, are forming their own communities within Islam, and learning to love one another in small home fellowships as believers in Isa.” The fact is that “most Muslims have never met Muslims who ‘follow Jesus,’ so the curiosity that results from their identification often leads to open doors to share their faith in Christ.” Initially people may get attracted to listen this new faith but there is danger in this mission practice.

Parshall disagrees with Travis and he argues that C5 model is “unethical and sub Christian activity.” He gives a case study to support his argument. One of his team members entered into Muslim mosque by giving an impression that he wanted to worship. He joined with the Muslims in the mosque. After the worship the Muslims came to know that he did not intend to follow Islam, but just pretended. As the result he was about to be killed. Bill Nikides in his article “Evaluating “Insider Movements”: C5 (Messianic Muslims)” strongly criticized this model. He says, “C5 claims the desire to avoid syncretism, but this is truly attempting to close the barn door after cows has already gone. Its identity crisis with its divided loyalties, deceptive religious practices, long-term unbiblical theology, and separatist initiatives such as a redundant Muslim-background Bible all are convincing proof of its syncretism.” Since this model is little bit complicated it’s always better to reveal our identity with honesty and integrity.

Travis argues that resistance to gospel from Muslims is not theological but cultural. He farther suggests that “for the sake of God’s kingdom much of our missiological energy should be devoted to seeking a path where by Muslims can remain Muslims, yet live as true followers of the Lord Jesus.” The theory behind this concept is that Muslims can be reached if we allow them to remain in their religious culture. The main argument is that Jewish Christians remained in Judaism and continue to worship in Jewish temple. In the same way they argue that the Muslims should continue in this Mosque for worship. The problem with this theory is that “its foundations and religious forms are not of divine origin and therefore compromise the purity of the gospel.” Here comes the challenge of unbiblical cultural practices. Hiebert’s critical contextualization may be a great help to protect syncretistic cultural practices that are not Biblical.

5.2.2. Contextualized Worship practice
Travis narrates one of his friends named Achmad’s mission practice to support his C5 model. Achmad conducts “Holy Book reading sessions” in which he reads Qur’anic passages to get the attention of the people. He selects the passages from the Qur’an which are positive to the biblical faith. Travis observes that “Unsaved Muslims are more likely to attend Bible reading sessions when they also contain some Arab Qur’anic passages.” Initially it may attract people to listen the goodness of Biblical faith but it also brings some of the unbiblical cultural beliefs and practices into Christian faith.

5.2.3. Radical inculturation: Missionaries/believers becoming Muslims
This is one of the dangerous and unbiblical radical contextualization. The theory behind this concept is that unless we enter into Islamic culture and religion we cannot understand them to witness. They argue for “insider view.” Those who argue for C6 contextualization model say that “one billion Muslims are separated from Jesus Christ. One of the reasons they are separated is that Christians do not understand or appreciate them and their values.” Because of this conviction, they developed a theory that promotes believers becoming Muslims legally for the sake of witness. “This strategy centers around the Christian evangelist declaring himself to be a Muslim.” Their strategy is to enter into the Muslim community with all the legal and religious ceremonies.

It’s really funny to know that there are some missionaries who practice this type of approach. There are a few Asian Christian believers and Christian missionaries who practice this type of method. Parshall strongly condemns this type of syncretistic mission practice. This is a dangerous approach because we are not supposed to follow the religious rituals of other faiths which are contrary to the scriptures.

6. Different approaches to witness Muslims
There are different theoretical approaches proposed by different scholars. These approaches are used in the history of mission to the Muslims. Some of below mentioned approaches may come under the theoretical frame work of C1- C6 models but these historically practices in the mission field.

6.1 Confrontational
Some of the early missionaries like Henry Martyn, Karl Pfander, and St. Clair Tidall used this confrontational method. This approach will not work in these days because “today’s missionaries prefer to emphasize the positive nature of the gospel, rather than expose objectionable elements in Islam.” This confrontational mission method confuses people of other faiths and builds bridges instead of clarifying the truth. Especially “the way Christians interpret and use the titles of Jesus among Muslims are not only confusing but sometimes downright repulsive, leading many of them to reject the Word of God before they have a chance to consider its message.” The confrontational approach always uses rational apologetics tools to argue for exclusive truth claims of Christian faith.

6.2 Traditional Evangelical method
Samuel Zwemer, who was called as the apostle to the Muslims used this method. He strongly argues for “church based” mission to Muslims. His theory is that the church as a body of Christ should take the responsibility to witness Muslims. He travelled extensively all the Muslim countries and challenged the church to take up the responsibility to witness Muslim nations. In fact he was the editor for The Muslim World for 36 years. According to Lyle Vander Werff’s evaluation, Zwemer’s approach is that “evangelism must deal with the incarnation, atonement, and mediation in an experiential fashion.” This traditional evangelical approach is a type of western approach which practiced mission from the Western cultural perspective.

6.3 Institutional Approach
In this approach Mission is practices as institutional service to the society through different activities like education, medical and social service. The theory behind this approach is that “the denominations of love, compassion, and humility will break down the walls of prejudice.” In order to win the confidence of the Muslims this theory provides educations and medical service to the needy. Most of the Christian workers adopt community developmental programs in their approach to relate with the Muslims because “this practical dimension of help is appreciated.” Service to the society was considered as a preparation for the gospel proclamation.

The significant thing in this theory is that educational institutes prepare a way for the people of other faiths to read the scriptures. This theory was predominantly popularized by Alexander Duff. The belief is that higher education would “overthrow the native religions and to transform culture.” Because of this conviction mission was practiced as promoting educational and medical facilities. Several mission agencies use this mission practice among the Muslim nations.

6.4 Dialogical approach
This approach is very much emphasized and used in outreach to people of other faiths in the recent days. Christian mission is not only preaching gospel to others but listening from other faiths with an intension to learn from them. The theory is that listening form other faiths will help the missionary to understand others in a better way. In this mission practice “the missionary does not surrender his convictions. Rather, he affirms them in a way that permits him to grow in his understanding of Muslims.” This mission practice is very much present among ecumenical circles.

6.5 Diaspora approach: Christian students in Muslims universities
Education is a great tool to witness in closed countries, especially in Islamic nations. Bruce Nicholls developed students Diaspora approach. His theory is that students who scatter to different universities in Islamic nations would become powerful witnesses for the kingdom of God. In order to raise student witness in Islamic universities Nicholls practiced mission as sponsoring “mature Evangelical students who can enroll and engage in research at various Islamic universities.” This is a one of the best strategy to reach Muslim students in their nations. The evangelical students who get into Muslim countries can become living witnesses in the universities. Another opportunity is that Muslim students from untouched Middle Eastern countries are flying to Christian nations. Muslim students are at our door steps in our Indian universities. Surely they will have a listening ear in a foreign land because they need friendship and fellowship. This is an opportunity for the church to disciple Muslim students.

7. Mission among Hindus
Some of the Indian Christians developed national identity through their contextualized mission practice. Christian thinkers such as R.C. Das, Sunder Singh, Subba Rao, and Dayanand Bharati raised their voice against Western church centric mission practices. Their theory and mission practice comes under C5 model. Throughout the country God raised several indigenous movements which became a blessing to the nation.

7.1 Traditional & Confrontational approach: C1&C2 models
In our Indian context “it is often cited that general attitude towards Hinduism by 19th C. Christians is negative and confrontational.” Even though some of the missionaries tried to contextualize the gospel in the context of Hindu culture their attitude to Indian religions was confrontational. They remained in C1 and C2 level in their mission practice. Hiebert is right in commenting that “most missionaries saw Christianity as true and other religions as false and pagan.” The truth is that “missionaries often came as outsiders, living on compounds where they tried to recreate their Western-Christian cultures.” Local cultures were undermined and the new converts were encouraged to leave their cultural practices. In fact “much of the scholarship is ultimately directed to outmaneuver and defeat Hinduism.” The mainline traditional church in India still practice mission from C 2 level. The mainline church still use the same old English songs which were translated into vernacular languages.

7.1.1 Apologetic Style: Nehemiah Goreh
Nehemiah Goreh was one of the prominent Indian Christian thinkers. His approach was “defend Christianity by rationally refuting Hinduism.” Stephen comments that Nehemiah Goreh was “convinced that in some hidden way God has been preparing the Hindu hearts to receive the Christian revelation.” In his mission practice Goreh used apologetic approach to convince the intellectual Hindus. “Goreh’s dialogue with Hinduism was largely a negative one. Yet it would be a great mistake to imagine that he was merely a westernized Indian Christian, denationalized and out of sympathy with his own cultural tradition.” His approach was rational and traditional western type of confrontational.

Sunder Raj comments this type of Apologetic method as arrogant and he says, “The spiritual cannot be arrogant and the arrogant cannot be spiritual.” According to him “it is wise not to use much of apologetic logic and arguments to resent the uniqueness of Messiah-but rather allow his life, Spirit and sayings speak for his uniqueness-most importantly allow our lives to speak-because for the world around us the uniqueness of the Guru is just as perceptible as the uniqueness of the disciples.” In our Indian Hindu context Apologetic type of mission practice will not give any success.

7.2. The practice of C5 Model among Hindu-Christians
Some of the Indian Christian thinkers and mission practitioners such as Subba Rao, Sattampillai, Ebe Sunder Raj, Dayanand Bharati, etc., argued for insider view which we talked about C5 model of contextualization.

7.2.1 Sad-Guru Aradhana
Ebe Sudner Raj introduces a radical model of worshipping Christ in Indian cultural context. He argues that Indian cultural practices should not be replaced by western Christian culture. He contextualizes some of the Indian cultural practices such as Tilak/ Pottu/Bindhi, ornaments, Aarthy, last rites of ancestors, respect for parents and teachers, festivals etc., His argument is that Sat Guru (Yesu) should be worshipped in Indian cultural context without violating the scriptural values. In his mission practice he encourages these Indian cultural practices. He also contextualized some of the Hindu cultural practices such as Namakarnan, Pavitra Prasad (1 Cor: 11). He argues that “Lord’s supper” should be introduced as Pavitra Prasad.
Dayanand Bharati also practices Sat-Guru concept in his mission practice. Dayanand is more radical who uses C5 model in his mission practice. He gives lot of priority to discipleship. His argument is that “the concept of discipleship is thoroughly Eastern and Indian. It holds a deep appeal to the Indian psyche. The Indian mind estimates the genuineness of a spiritual message by the degree to which it is practiced and therefore concretized.” Dayanand Bharati affirms this and he uses this discipleship method in his mission practice. He addresses Christ as “Sat Guru” which is familiar to an average Indian Hindu. “The practice of Christian discipleship in an Indian cultural form is both communicable and involves the whole church in the task of mission.” He conducts marriage services and worship services purely in the style of Hindu temple worship.

7.2.2 Hindu-Christian church
Nadar Christians in Tinnevelly broke out from CMS in the year 1858 and formed “The Hindu-Christian church of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This church developed a theory that goes along with the Hindu religious practices. The western missionaries viewed Indian religions and religious practices as inferior and at times they used conquering approach in their mission practice. In this context the leader of the movement, Sattampillai, made his efforts to contextualize the gospel in the Indian Hindu cultural perspective. In fact the theory and the practice of this movement is a kind of revolt to the western superior spirit over the Indian Christians. The main theory of this movement is that Indian Christianity should be identified with Indian Hindu cultural practices.

Sattampillai claimed that Hindu cultural practices are similar to the Jewish cultural practices. He interpreted the term “Hindu” as geographical rather than religious and he understood Hindu customs as Indian customs. This inclusive approach to Hindu culture made this movement to adopt some of the Hindu cultural practices such as “prostration, sacrifice, use of frankincense and sitting on the floor were all accommodated; in the rituals of the church.” Old Testament ritualistic practices like “ritual impurities attributed to women” were practiced in this church because these kinds of practices are found in Hindu religious rituals.

Indigenous cultural customs were very much welcomed in this church. In fact, “They rejected everything which seemed to them to savour of a European origin and organized their church and religious services along indigenous lines using, for example, unfermented grape-juice instead of wine.” Worship pattern is very much inclining with the Hindu style of worship. Hindus fold their hands while they pray to their deities. This practice of folding hands during worship is adopted in this church.

7.2.3 Bhakti & Mystic tradition of Subba Rao
Subba Rao developed contextualized Christian practice and his mission practice goes along with Indian Bhakti tradition. “Subba Rao appeared more Hindu than Christian is a positive rather than negative point.” He openly rejected baptism and organized church. He identified himself as “Hindu Christian” and his mission practice is more of inculturation method. Subba Rao’s mission method falls under “Uncritical contextualization” method which was explained by Hiebert. Hiebert explains this uncritical contextualization as a mission practice which accepts traditional practices in to the church without questioning the practice. “Subba Rao remained a faithful devotee and servant of Christ within the Hindu community until his death on May 9, 1981”
Subba Rao used contextualized method which is relevant to the Bhakti tradition of Indian Hindus in his worship practice. Healing was given priority in his meetings. Initially there was a time of singing. There was no traditional type of preaching in his meetings. He conducted worship services purely like a Hindu type of Bhajans. The significant observation is that he directed people to Christ but not to himself like a Hindu godman. He used flowers and incense in worship service as reverence to God. Flowers and incense matter a lot to an average Indian Hindus in their worship practice. Subba Rao rightly contextualized his worship pattern according to the Hindu context but some of his convictions like reading of the Bible, Baptism are questionable. He denied Old Testament and some of his mystic experiences are questionable.
Christian church is called to be a witnessing community among the people of other faiths (Mat 5:14). Christ in his mission, encountered people of different faiths (Mat 15:22). He communicated the truth in a contextual way. His methods are innovative which were relevant to people of all faiths. People of different faiths experienced transformation by the ministry of Christ. Christians in India failed in witnessing to Muslims and Hindus because of church centric traditional approaches. The church in India neglected and did not pay attention to the prophetic voices from R. D. Das, Sadhu Sunder Singh, Dayanand Bharati etc.; the church in India should adopt contextual methods to be effective among Hindus and Muslims. India is the second largest Muslim populated country in the world. Indian church’s witness to Muslims is minimal. John Travis’s C4 contextual model and Phil Parshall’s mission practices should be adopted by the church in India to be an effective witness to the unreached Muslims and Hindus.


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Travis, John. “Must all Muslims leave ‘Islam’ to follow Jesus?” Evangelical Missions Quarterly 34 /4 (October 1998): 404-410.

___________. “The C1 to C6 Spectrum: A Practical Tool for Defining Six Types of ‘Christ-centered Communities’ (‘C’) Found in the Muslim Context.” Evangelical Missions Quarterly 34/4 (October, 1998): 407-408.

___________. “Messianic Muslim Followers of Isa: A Closer Look at C5 Believers and Congregations.” International Journal of Frontier Missions 17/1 (Spring 2000): 53-59. (2nd Oct, 2008).

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Unpublished & Web sources
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Dasan, Ebenezer D. Contemporary issues related to contextualization in the light of Friends Missionary Prayer Band’s ministry in South Gujarat from the beginning till present time. M.Th Thesis, Senate of Serampore, 1999.

________________. The impact of the Gospel on the adivasis of South Gujarat: An investigation into the mission methods. PhD Dissertation, Consortium for Indian Missiological Education in collaboration with the Fuller University, Bangalore, 2006.

Leffel, Jim. “Contextualization: Building Bridges to the Muslim Community.” (2nd Oct, 208).

Allison, Gregg. “An Evaluation of Emerging churches on the basis of the contextualization spectrum (C1-C6),
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