Powerful evangelists like Dr. Billy Graham and Reinhard Bonnke have preached the gospel in the majority of the major cities of the world. The gospel has been preached by them and others in many Third World cities where Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, idolatry, and witchcraft prevail, and as a result many who never heard the gospel have turned to Jesus Christ. In some meetings great miracles of healing and deliverance take place as irrefutable evidence that Jesus is the Messiah and the way, the truth, and the life.
As fruitful as crusade evangelism has been for the gospel, by its very nature it is not capable of fulfilling the Great Commission.
The reason is that in the developing world—that is, the Third World beyond the borders of the christianized West—most of the population still lives in unreached villages where the gospel has never been heard. An estimate in 2008 had 56% of the inhabitants of the developing world still living in villages outside urban areas. Most of these villages are remote.
In India, projected to pass China as the world’s most populous country by 2022, nearly 70% of well over one billion people live in an estimated 650,000 villages. Some of these villages still lack electricity and so have no access to TV, and therefore Christian TV broadcasts are not available to them. For example, in October 2015 it was reported that in six states (Bihar, Jharkand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal), 31% of homes lack electricity. Some households in unreached villages which do have electricity might have a TV set, but few Hindus or Muslims watch Christian programs. Where Christian TV is available, 95% of viewers of Christian programs are already Christians. A similar percentage likely holds for those who listen to gospel broadcasts on the radio. (Then there is the problem of false teachings, like the extreme prosperity gospel, not infrequently heard on Christian TV in India.)
Although massive crusades can be very fruitful in the cities, they have not touched the villages where the majority of the developing world lives. Not only that, even in cities the impact of crusades can be limited. The miracles witnessed and the thousands accepting Christ at the event are generally limited to the event itself. After the foreign evangelist leaves the miracles cease. Moreover, effective follow-up and discipleship of the multitudes who accept Christ is very difficult and elusive. Since the evangelist has a very special calling, he cannot train local servants of God to do what he has been called to do.
Despite such great crusades, Hindu countries remain predominantly Hindu and Muslim regions remain Muslim. Buddhists nations, with the exceptions of Korea and possibly China (which was officially not Buddhist but communist), have not changed. The efforts of over two centuries of the “modern missionary movement” cannot be mentioned in the same breath as what the early disciples accomplished in Acts where with power the gospel swept throughout the known world within a few generations.
But let us turn our attention back to the villages where the majority of the developing world’s population lives, and therefore cannot be reached by the massive crusades which can be held only in cities.
What should the Church do about this inasmuch as we are in the Last Days when the Messiah returns? We must send forth vast armies of well-trained laborers into the Lord’s harvest field in the millions of unreached villages around the world. The end will not come until this is done.
Luke 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
That is the mission the Lord has entrusted to The Elijah Challenge. How are we accomplishing this mission?
We are taking disciples with a village background, and training them just as Jesus trained his disciples. How did Jesus do it? He did not send them to Seminary or to Bible School for a few years, but rather he took them from village to village where he preached the gospel to the lost, healed the sick, cast out demons, and taught them.
Why no Seminary or formal Bible school education for these disciples today?
Seminaries and Bible schools in India, for example, turn out approximately 20,000 graduates annually. Virtually all of these, having worked so hard to obtain their degrees, will seek employment in established churches, Christian colleges, universities, and government positions requiring workers to have a college degree. In these institutions they will receive decent pay on which they can support their families. None of these institutions however are found in villages, but only in cities. Therefore virtually none of these Christian graduates will leave the city to live in remote villages where the gospel needs to be preached and newly-planted churches will need a pastor. In such a village they will not be able to support themselves financially.
Big crusades have not brought the gospel to the majority of the developing world’s peoples who still live outside urban areas in villages, sometimes remote villages.
The Elijah Challenge is now beginning to fill this vacuum starting with Odisha (Orissa), India.
In Luke 10:9 Jesus commanded the 72 disciples to “heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’” We are doing the same in India.
We choose disciples with a village background, and then train them by taking them from village to village just as Jesus did with his disciples. Accompanied by these disciples we preach the gospel, heal the sick and cast out demons in the villages. After this training we send these disciples into unreached villages where they themselves will heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God.
While watching a well-known Christian TV program one day, I heard mention that through their TV broadcasts the gospel is able to reach places “where missionaries cannot go.” Yes, there are definitely difficult places in the world where foreign missionaries cannot go. But now we are sending local village disciples into places not unfamiliar to them. They will be much more fruitful than foreign missionaries and impersonal TV broadcasts. They go from house to house in those places to share the good news, just as the early disciples did.
The Lord has graciously enabled us to train present day disciples to obey the commands in Luke 10:9 effectively. In India they go from village to village. In each village they go door-to-door to heal the sick miraculously with the Lord’s power and authority, and then proclaim the kingdom of God to the family. Entire villages are coming to Jesus Christ as they witness the powerful miracles and hear the gospel of the kingdom of God. House churches will be formed in each village. No “special” calling is required to do this; every disciple—represented by the 72 disciples in Luke 10—can be trained to preach the gospel in this way.
We financially support each village pastor. Each of them will reach out to six surrounding villages in the same way
Since 2015, through our workers The Elijah Challenge has reaped a harvest of 39,930 Hindus and Sikhs in India for the kingdom of God in India. In terms of dollars and cents, the cost per salvation has been $3.10.
Our goal is by 2020 to have sent out 100 disciples who will in such a way reach 700 villages for Jesus Christ.
And that will be just the beginning. Since every disciple of Jesus Christ can be trained as Jesus trained and sent out the 72 disciples in Luke 10:9, the growth will be exponential. And it will be possible to reach 650,000 villages in India by 2035.