What is the most effective form of outreach or “evangelism” in Thailand?
We have already seen in our previous posts that God is working through existing social networks in Thailand to bring people to Himself. He is also using miracles.
But how does the abiding presence of a body of disciples of Jesus committed to loving God and loving their neighbors shift the odds of new Thai people coming into the Kingdom of God?
As we will see, the reason Thais are an unreached people group is not because they are resistant to the Gospel, but because faith has not been a viable option for them in their own social networks.
They are cut off from the Gospel message simply because their are no messengers in or near their own village.
From his extensive research into Thai conversion and church growth, Visser comes to the understanding that the Thai people are more open to believing than we may have believed.
5 Key Quotes
- “The Thai have not declined to become Christians because of active resistance but because it has not been a live option for them in their own social network.” (p. 167)
- “The odds of a Thai living in a village with a church becoming a Christian are at least 84 times greater than the odds of someone living in a village without a church.” (p. 127)
- “It is not the openness of the (Thai) population but the presence of a church that makes the difference.” (p.127)
- “That Protestantism among some (Thai) social groups forms such a tiny minority is not a problem of demand but of supply.” (p. 164)
- “Faster growth in Thailand will be all but impossible without starting churches in areas where so far there are none.” (p.164)
According to the 2010 Thai census, there are 61,032
villages in Thailand situated within
- 7416 subdistricts,
- 928 districts, and
- 77 provinces.
What will it take to supply each one of these villages with a group of passionate disciples of Jesus who love God and love their neighbors both in word and action?
We already know that the “one by one” method of planting new churches will not be able to do the job. The process is just too slow and cumbersome.
Like an elephant’s gestation period, we cannot expect it to act differently than its DNA.
In an effort to demonstrate faith in a great harvest in Thailand, some groups have set out to build bigger buildings as a strategy rather than focusing on bringing people to Jesus. This gives the appearance of something when the true substance is lacking.
What do we need to understand?
Within the culture of the majority of Thai Christian circles, a church is not a real church unless it has at least 50 adult believers meets regularly in a special building, under the leadership of a Thai pastor- preferably seminary trained, and is recognized as such by the government.
The definition of “church” has not yet been fully brought to the lowest common Biblical denominator and this needs to change if we expect to see “churches” planted in every village.
The question of “what’s it really going to take to see a church planted in every village in Thailand?” needs to drive our prayers and action plans. Many strategists call this “end visioning.” It is started with the end in mind then working backwards into strategy and action.
New Apostolic Centers and Apostolic People
One recommendation that could be helpful is for established churches to morph into regional planting centers with the aim of planting new groups in every village near their main location. Pastors would not count these churches as “cells” but give authority for them to be autonomous and self governing, meeting simply in homes on their own schedules.
They would not require them to come to Sunday “services” in the city but would maintain a coaching/fathering relationship and encourage each believer including the local leaders to remain in their vocation or self-supporting.
Those Thai leaders who are financially supported would act more as apostolic circuit riders whose main role is to open up new villages by using the strategies of Jesus found in Luke 10 and Matthew 10. They could help coordinate new native 2×2 teams who have been sent out as apostolic church planters. Again, there is a focus on the people not the buildings and trappings associated with “church” even in Thailand.
The Most Effective Form of Evangelism?
“Church planting is the most effective form of evangelism under heaven”- C.Peter Wagner.
In Thailand this understanding still holds true.
The more important questions are:
- “What kind of churches?”
- “What method of planting them?”
More on this in the next posts…
This post is part 5 of an ongoing series:
Part One: Progress of the Gospel in Thailand
Part Three: Makeup of the Church in Thailand
Part Four: Why Do the Thai Convert?