There are 7,432 sub districts in Thailand. 75% of all sub districts in Thailand have no churches.
62% of all people who live in Thailand live in an area where there is no church. How will people hear the Good News of Jesus without a new apostolic thrust of laborers into the sub districts where there is no access to the Gospel?
For a full sized view of this map click here.
At the heart of the present uneven distribution of churches are many factors. Here are just five reasons for the present uneven distribution of churches in Thailand:
1. The tribal people groups in the North have had more access to the Gospel and have been more responsive to past outreach efforts. Many of them represent generally oppressed minority people groups rather than the ethnic Thai.
2. Most cross cultural workers reside in the North, but only a very small percentage are actually involved in training disciples who make disciples and sending and supporting workers to to plant churches in subdistricts where there are none.
3. The Thai people themselves, distinct from other ethnic groups, have a strong socio-religious identity in Folk Buddhism that is not being adequately addressed by most present outreach approaches. Generally, the pattern of evangelism has been “one by one against the family” rather than working for people movements and helping new believers navigate their culture through proper contextualization. To reach beyond the North, these issues will need to be deeply considered.
4. Although the definition of what constitutes a church and who can start one has only recently started loosening up in Thailand, house churches have been generally looked down on as being not truly a church. This is especially true if these churches are led by an simple village farmer rather than a seminary trained minister. The idea of “rabbit churches” versus “elephant churches” has not yet caught on. Many Thai pastors seek to copy patterns they learn from the Western world or Korea rather than simply using New Testament patterns and their own cultural forms. Therefore, “planting churches” beyond the North is seen as more difficult because of the patterns adopted.
5. Most people have been generally unaware of the present uneven distribution until recent times. Now through the work of diligent researchers and mapping software, we are able to see the task more clearly than ever before. Like never before in this history of Thailand, there is a great opportunity to launch outreaches and teams into sub districts where there is currently no church.
“When the people of the north get a burden and are trained to reach the remaining 74 provinces, significant gains for the Gospel can be made. Thank God this is starting to happen. Thai Christians from the north are moving out. Many more are needed.”- D. Martin
Thank you to Global Rize for their work on this Thailand map and the stats.
In coming posts, I will begin to dig deeper into some of what I see as obstacles and potential solutions for seeing breakthrough happen for the Thai people groups.
If you have not yet read my series on Thai church, feel free to visit the links below:
Part One: Progress of the Gospel in Thailand
Part Three: Makeup of the Church in Thailand
Part Four: Why Do the Thai Convert?
Part Six: The Fastest Growing Churches in Thailand