Sharing the Gospel with Hindus

Reaching out to Hindus with the love of Jesus requires some understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities they present. Here is some guidance as to things to consider when sharing the gospel with Hindus.

1. Offer Jesus’ forgiveness:  Bakht Singh, an evangelist and Indian convert from Hinduism, said, “I have never yet failed to get a hearing if I talk to [Hindus] about forgiveness of sins and peace and rest in your heart.” Since the Hindu system is based on karma, forgiveness is not available to Hindus.

2. Keep God’s personhood in mind: A personal God is able to empathize with and respond to our suffering, something an impersonal ultimate essence (Brahman) is unable to do. Hindus need to know that a personal, fulfilling relationship with a holy and loving God is available to them.

3. Ask and listen: Hinduism is a very tolerant religion because of its widely diverse beliefs, so it is important to listen to your Hindu friend’s particular beliefs about God, sin, salvation and so forth. You will probably hear the word “enlightenment”, the Hindu version of salvation—you may want to discuss with your friend the difference between salvation based on human effort versus that based on God’s grace and forgiveness.

4. Be humble: Because of their sacrificial lifestyle, Hindus often consider themselves spiritually superior to Christians. Humbly share your life with them and let them see the peace and love your relationship with God gives you.

5. Focus on Jesus: Even Mahatma Gandhi said, “I shall say to the Hindus that your lives will be incomplete unless you reverently study the teachings of Jesus.” Encourage your Hindu friend to discover Jesus for themselves, and to read the New Testament, particularly Luke or John.

6. Be aware of differing definitions: Be especially careful of the term “born again”. To a Hindu this means reincarnation, something from which they want to be liberated.

(Adapted from Hinduism: A Religion Profile by International Students, Inc.)

Hindu Families

The traditional extended family is the foundation of Hindu society. The family is considered a sacred space, and it is called a second Ashram (a spiritual retreat). Many sacred duties and responsibilities come with raising a family. The family cares for its members from birth to the grave. Parents rear their children and arrange their marriages, educations and professions. In turn, the children are expected to care for their parents when they get old.

Individuals always put the good of the family first. Important decisions are not made alone, but are rather decided by the elders in the family. For example, marriage is not just about two people but is seen as the joining of two families. A person’s value is largely determined by the family into which one is born. Individual achievements always reflect on the family and bring either honor or shame, which also extends to the community.

As more Indians become educated and create a growing middle class, they are transitioning away from the extended family to a nuclear family model. However, Hindu families still retain their strong networks and ties. Even their relationships with members who are living abroad are often closer than Western family relationships. Becoming acquainted with just one Hindu family member can potentially connect you with hundreds of extended family members.

Families are important in any culture. They are a gift from God, and as such we should pray for and encourage the strength and goodness inherent in them.

WAYS TO PRAY

PRAY FOR entire families to come to the Lord.

PRAY FOR believers to meet and develop life-giving friendships with Hindu families.

PRAY FOR the good aspects of Hindu families to be strengthened and that this might lead to an openness to embrace Christ.

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

How Hindus See Christianity

An important factor in reaching Hindus with the gospel is understanding how Hindus view Christianity.

In India, Christianity is largely viewed as a foreign white man’s religion brought in with British colonialism. In the minds of Hindus, Christianity and Western dominance and oppression went hand-in-hand. Becoming a Christian therefore meant strengthening British rule in India. When India was fighting for its independence from Britain before 1947, most Indian Christians did not support the movement. This was and is still seen by Hindus as disloyal to India, which has led to a mistrust of Christians and a negative attitude towards Christianity.

For many Hindus, converting to Christianity is considered an attempt to erase their ancient culture, of which they are very proud, and replace it with Western morals and values which they deem inferior. Even Mahatma Gandhi, who praised some aspects of Christianity, saw the religion as divisive, pitting families against each other and destabilizing and denationalizing Hindu society.

Many Hindus believe that a strong India is a Hindu India. Hinduism and Hinduism alone must be embraced if India is to take its place on the world stage. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s current ruling party, strongly advocates for this idea.

While many Hindus are attracted to Jesus and his teachings, they reject institutionalized Christianity and view attempts to evangelize Hindus as hostile acts. They see our claim that Jesus is the “only way” to God as the height of arrogance.

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry. 2 Cor 6:3

WAYS TO PRAY

PRAY THAT those working with Indian Hindus will understand how India’s colonial history has shaped their views of Christianity so they can better represent Christ.

PRAY THAT Hindus may have their eyes opened to see Jesus as opposed to the institutional forms of Christianity.

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

Hindus in North America

Hinduism is the fourth largest religion in the United States of America, comprising approximately 1 percent of the population. Most Hindus in America have emigrated from South Asia, namely India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and other countries in the region. The influx of Hindus dramatically increased in 1965 when President Lyndon B Johnson passed the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Hinduism can also claim many American converts. The Pew Research Center estimates that 9 percent of Hindus in the US have converted to the religion. Many Hindu practices have made their way into mainstream American culture, such as meditation and yoga.

Hindus are among the most highly educated immigrants in the US. This is partly due to US immigration policies that favor the educated, but it can also be attributed to the high value Hindu families place on education. Hindus are also among the wealthiest groups of immigrants in the US. Pew Research Center has concluded that 36 percent of Hindus in the US make over $100,000 yearly, compared to only 14 percent of Protestant evangelical immigrants.

According to the results of a comprehensive study by the US Religious Census: Religious Congregations & Membership Study, close to 80 percent of Hindu congregations are located in metropolitan areas in which the population exceeds a million. Of these metro areas, the researchers found San Jose, California, to have the largest concentration of Hindus, with approximately 2.5 percent of residents identifying as Hindu. The researchers found the greater area of Baltimore, Maryland, to have the lowest concentration, with only 0.003 percent identifying as Hindu.

Hindus place a very high value on family and community. Hindus tend to stay in their own communities, attend their own temples and marry within their own culture. This can make it difficult for them to assimilate and form friendships outside their own communities. Second-generation Hindus are generally more assimilated but still have strong ties to their family and community.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Heb 13:2

WAYS TO PRAY

PRAY FOR the Body of Christ in North America to be a welcoming community.

PRAY FOR healthy and loving relationships between Christians and churches.

PRAY FOR opportunities to show hospitality to a Hindu individual or family.

community

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

Persecuted Christians

Sadly, the persecution of Christians in India is on the rise. The latest annual report from the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) shows an increase of more than 12.5 percent in recorded persecution against Christians from the previous year, listing 366 incidents in which Christians were targeted in 2019. The 2018 report documented 325 attacks against Christians.

“The frequency of attacks on Christian gatherings are escalating, especially during Sunday morning worship and prayer meetings. Pastors and members are beaten, sometimes so badly that legs are broken, and churches are vandalized. Hundreds of Christians are being imprisoned on false charges of converting Hindus to Christianity.” (2019 Annual Report by Persecution Relief, p28)

A large force behind the rise of persecution is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that is currently in power. The BJP’s goal is to reshape India based on Hindu culture and the Hindutva philosophy (you can read more about Hindutva on page 9). The BJP is highly nationalistic and has been criticized by some for being fascist. They have exhibited little tolerance for minorities in India and have even introduced government-funded programs that try to force Christians to renounce their faith, which they call “coming home”.

Numerous Indian States have passed anti-conversion laws. While the edicts may sound benign, they are often used to further discriminate. The State of Uttarakhand has recently passed a law that allows Christians who share their faith to be imprisoned for up to five years. A Hindu who wishes to convert to Christianity must first get explicit permission from the government. Many converts do not want to identify as Christian because it can result in loss of jobs and being barred from educational opportunities.

The Bible teaches us that persecution will come because of our commitment to Jesus. We who live in the West have not experienced the same persecution as our brothers and sisters in India. Let us take up their burden in prayer and in any other ways the Holy Spirit might lead.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Romans 8:35

WAYS TO PRAY

PRAY FOR Indian Christians to remain strong in the face of threats and fear.

PRAY FOR a more tolerant government to come into power.

PRAY THAT Indian Christians will be a light to those who persecute them.

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

Temple Worship

The temple is the center of the Hindu community. It is the first building constructed in the city, and the rest of the community rises up around it. The temple is involved in every important life event; birth, marriage and death all call for religious rituals performed and blessed by the temple priest.

A Hindu temple is not a place of communal worship like a Christian church. Instead, it is considered a sacred space that houses a particular deity. While there are millions of gods in the Hindu faith, most are considered minor deities and do not have a temple in their honor. However, there are many minor shrines dedicated to the lesser gods. Going to a temple is an individual act of devotion to the specific god that lives there. There is no special day of the week designated to worship; one can go whenever the desire arises.

Every Hindu home is also considered a temple and a place of worship. Most families have at least a shrine in their house, and others may have an entire room dedicated to prayer, worship and meditation. A family has a particular deity that they revere, usually represented by a picture or a small statue. They may offer it flowers and food as a part of their worship. Cleanliness is important to keep the temple pure and sanctified. To help keep the home pure, most Hindus remove their shoes before entering their home, and many refrain from activities seen as polluting, such as smoking, drinking or eating meat.

I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Isa 42:8

WAYS TO PRAY

PRAY that Hindus will tire of idol worship and turn to the one living God.

PRAY that the spiritual hunger of Hindus will grow and that the Holy Spirit will meet this hunger.

PRAY that Indian Christians will know how to effectively witness within their particular community

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

Hinduism and Astrology

Astrology is deeply woven into Hinduism as the belief that cosmic planetary forces influence your life’s destiny. It is a fatalistic and fixed view of life. Most Indian astrology comes from the Vedic tradition. “The basic premise of this astrology is that all things are linked. Your karma or fortune is determined by a predestined cosmic design. You are a soul incarnating in a body at a very specific time and place, and your life is a reflection of the greater whole into which you are born, just as flowers bloom at certain times, when all conditions are perfectly congenial. So is the case with our births on this planet, according to the theory of karma.”  Your karma is thus linked to planetary influences that control your life. Karma also ensures that you will reap what you have sown in your past lives.

Astrology in Hinduism is used to predict one’s future and to determine the most auspicious time to act. Auspiciousness indicates good luck and favorable circumstance. It is a strong belief that there are fixed times when a certain endeavor might or might not be successful, which includes many important decisions, such as when to travel, marry, have surgery, or visit your mother.

Most Hindu families have an annual almanac that shows the phases of the moon and position of the stars. Auspicious and inauspicious days are clearly marked. Misfortunes are frequently attributed to inauspiciousness, and this belief can become a bondage. Many Hindus fear living their lives without the guidance of an astrologer.

For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 1 Chron 16:26

WAYS TO PRAY

PRAY FOR Hindus and Westerners alike, that they will recognize the ultimate power of the God who created the planets and the stars.

PRAY FOR Hindu astrologers (holy men) to have a revelation of God’s majesty as they contemplate the heavens.

SOME PEOPLE believe they are cursed or unlucky because of astrological signs. Pray that they will hear the gospel and be released.

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

Diaspora

During the colonial era of the late 19th century, Hindu Indians began migrating to other parts of the world. Many were initially sent as indentured servants to Southern and Western Africa and the Caribbean islands. Later, Indian merchants and businessmen sought opportunities in Africa.

After World War II and India’s independence in 1947, 1.5 million Indians were granted access to the United Kingdom as the nation experienced a severe post-war labor shortage. They primarily filled unpopular jobs in exchange for naturalization through the nationality act of 1940. In 1960,

the United States of America also changed its immigration laws to allow more than 900,000 Indian professionals into the country.

Currently, more than 15 million people of Indian origin are dispersed throughout the world. Indians who live outside the Asian subcontinent are referred to as the Indian Diaspora. Most of them are in their second

or third generation of living abroad. While many people in the Indian Diaspora are still Hindu and celebrate popular religious and cultural customs, such as Diwali (the Festival of Lights starting today that celebrates the victory of light over darkness), the younger generation is not as strongly tied to these traditions as their parents. In fact, thousands of them have become Christians.

The Indian Diaspora has given us a wonderful opportunity to witness to Hindus in our own backyard, but to do this we must first welcome them with God’s heart. We must respect their culture and the diversity it brings to us. Always remember that no religious system has ever saved anyone; rather, it is the personal relationship to the living Christ that has saved souls. Let us acknowledge that we are all aliens and strangers on this earth as we reach out to the Hindus living among us.

Diwali Day 5: Bhai Dooj (the last day of the festival): This day is dedicated to the brother-sister relationship. Sisters put a red tilak (mark) on their brothers’ foreheads and pray for a prosperous life, while brothers bless their sisters and give them presents.

WAYS TO PRAY

PRAY FOR the Christians who are reaching out to Hindus with God’s love, that they may have wisdom and be guided by the Holy Spirit.

PRAY FOR the younger generation, that their hearts will be open to the gospel.

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

Treatment of Widows

Widows are some of the most unfortunate people in India. Traditionally, when a husband dies his widow is shunned and ostracized from society, including her own family. Widows are considered to be unlucky and a financial drain, and they are often blamed for their husband’s death. They are not allowed to remarry, and they are forced to shave their heads, wear white and not wear jewelry.

There are an estimated 40 million widows in India today. Despite the Widows’ Remarriage Act, which was passed in 1856, these customs still remain strong. “India is home to a traditional and patriarchal society, where the identity of women is determined by her husband even in the 21st century. Widowhood in such a society takes its worst shape. It is not only associated with losing a bread-winner but has wide ranging social implications.”*

Government assistance programs, such as the Indira Gandhi Widow Pension, are available, but they are restrictive and only help a small portion of women in need.

With little possibility of a bright future, many widows travel to the city of Vrindavan in northern India in the hope that they might die there.

According to Hindu teachings, if one dies in this city it stops the cycle of death and rebirth. There are an estimated 15,000 widows in this city of 55,000 people. They congregate there with the hope that dying in the city will free them from the same fate in their next life.

Diwali Day 4: Padwa, Govardhan or Bali Pratipada In North India this fourth day is celebrated by a special puja (the Mount Govardhan ritual). Mythology recounts that on this day Krishna lifted up the mountain on his little finger to protect the people of Govardhan from the anger of the rain god Indra. Some worshippers recreate Mount Govardhan by shaping cow dung into a mound outside their front door (others create figures out of cow dung), then make a flame offering before it and decorate it with flowers.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Rev 21:4

 

WAYS TO PRAY:

  • PRAY FOR Christian outreach to widows in the city of Vrindavan, that they will be able to share their hope in Christ.

  • PRAY FOR widows to learn about the everlasting love of Christ, and to have opportunities to continue contributing to society in meaningful ways from which they may find value.

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide