The Acts 29 Emerging Regions Network serves in places where Christians are few, churches are under-resourced, and persecution is severe. Will Bostian, lead pastor of City Church Fort Worth, writes, “Not everyone can be in these places. This is why we aim to facilitate partnerships between churches to plant churches—specifically in unreached areas.”
India is one of the most unreached places in the world. It’s home to 1.3 billion people, ninety percent of whom practice Hinduism. The need for gospel proclamation is staggering in this theologically impoverished nation. Reaching these people for God’s glory requires great sacrifice, perseverance, trust, and collaboration.
Despite complications from a global pandemic, unrest, and opposition, Jesus is growing his church in India. He’s rescuing rebels from their sin and adopting them as beloved children. Church-planting momentum is building in India, and it’s our privilege to be God’s fellow workers (1 Cor. 3:9) as we labor alongside him and others who have a passion to see the people of India worship the risen Christ.
Partnership is essential to any church-planting strategy. We depend on one another as we work together to multiply our efforts. One man who is passionate about building global partnerships is Jeff Neville. Jeff serves as the India Catalyst for Emerging Regions. Jeff (who’s a father to nine kids!) has been a planter and pastor for 13 years. For 10 years, he led Red Tree Church in St. Louis, Missouri, to partner with a church in Mumbai, India.
God sends us to all nations to make disciples. Even the hard ones. But we can go with confidence because he’s promised to be with us when we do.
After much traveling back and forth between St. Louis and Mumbai, he eventually moved to Mumbai to invest in church planters who were starved for theological training and collaboration. While there, he established partnerships with Redeemer City to City, the International Mission Board, and Acts 29. He developed a one-year cohort for 15 aspiring planters. These men are all currently engaged in some capacity in planting churches across India.
For the past eighteen months, Jeff has been involved in replanting an Acts 29 church in St. Louis. With a core group of forty, this church has tripled in size—amid the pandemic. Heartland Church joins Jeff in his passion for the people of India to know and worship Christ. Jeff is invested in the church-planting momentum that’s building in India, and strives to launch others into this great work God is accomplishing.
God is raising up men and women in India to reach lost people within their own country. Vihaan was an imam, serving at a mosque in Mumbai. His family are all Muslim clerics (father, uncles, brothers). In May of 2018, Vihaan met Jeff and Saju (an Acts 29 candidate pastor) at a mall in Mumbai. He told them he was reading the Bible to better understand the Christian faith and lead his people through their questions about Christianity.
Over the course of several meetings, Jeff and Saju walked him through the gospel and Vihaan professed faith in Jesus. A week later, they baptized him where he publicly shared his testimony to a crowd of believers. Jeff and Saju discipled Vihaan for the next year, teaching him the truths of Scripture. He was even able to attend a few church-planting conferences.
Vihaan has suffered great persecution since becoming a follower of Christ. Despite threats to his life, and to the lives of his parents, he has a strong desire to take the gospel to the Muslim community in Mumbai, and to impact India for the sake of Christ.
A year ago, there were three Acts 29 member churches in India, and all of them were planted over a decade ago. Today, there are four member churches, four candidate churches, and 13 planters in the pipeline. In February of this year, just before the coronavirus exploded around the world, 100 pastors and aspiring planters from India gathered in Mumbai for the Acts 29 India National Summit.
God is mightily moving in India. He’s building his church and we get to be part of it. Is it difficult? Yes. Is it costly? Very. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Jeff believes in the next three years we’ll have a dozen or more Acts 29 churches planted in India, and that they’ll become their own network. He says India is positioned to become the largest, most influential sending nation in the world. God is mightily moving in India. He’s building his church and we get to be part of it. Is it difficult? Yes. Is it costly? Very. Is it worth it? Absolutely. The difficulty of the task doesn’t deter us from it.
God sends us to all nations to make disciples. Even the hard ones. But we can go with confidence because he’s promised to be with us when we do (Matt. 28:19–20). Let’s work together to see churches planted, collaborative networks launched, and Jesus worshiped to the ends of the earth!