South Asia: A Mixed Methods Study
By James Nelson
Muslims are among the economically and spiritually impoverished people in South Asia. All but one of the 742 Muslim people groups in the region are unreached. While workers in South Asia are under-represented in FPR’s sponsoring network (11 percent of workers to reach 30 percent of the world’s Muslims), many workers—national and expatriate—have seen churches established and multiplied in the region.
Access models frequently used by workers in South Asian contexts include an emphasis on education (especially among workers of Christian background), along with skill development and business creation.
Scriptural communication in South Asia reflects a variety of methods—oral and written—that consider audience preferences and emphasize breadth and depth of teaching. Workers from Muslim backgrounds often incorporate Islamic books and terms. These workers appeal to truth seeking—sometimes directed toward Christ as the fulfilment of revelation; other times focused on rendering Islamic doctrines as insufficient and inconsistent.
Personal relationships often focus on prayer and/or counselling, both to meet needs and to demonstrate the personal nature of the living Messiah through power and wisdom. Frequently affirmed Fruitful Practices include the demonstration of cultural awareness and sensitivity, an emphasis on scriptural rootedness, flexible and versatile approaches and dependence on God in a posture of humility.
Infrequently affirmed Fruitful Practices include those relating to leaders in new churches. Also notably evident in churches of Muslim-background believers in South Asia is the frequent
use of singing in worship, as well as an emphasis on baptism.
Ideas for further development or emphasis in South Asian church planting include:
- Intentional development of leaders
- Reduction of economic dependencies
- Innovation of new methods
Fruitful Practice Research commends the many workers and agency leaders who gave of their time—both in sharing their experiences and practices, and in reviewing the preliminary findings
of the research team during Fruitful Practice training sessions conducted in June 2016. We pray that they will find these findings both encouraging and motivating.