House Churches and Handicrafts: How Avenues for Ministry Multiply into a Gospel Movement
When Donna and Goutam Kishor think about ministering to the unreached in India, they start by “looking at the community and figuring out what [it’s] going to take for these people to come to Christ,” Donna said.
After they married in 2017 and moved to a different city in India, there was already a growing number of believers among their target people group. But when Donna and Goutam arrived, they noticed something lacking: discipleship. These local believers had been trained very well to share their faith and start other groups for interested people to come and ask questions.
“They were sharing the gospel broadly and had all of these groups started but didn't know what else to do,” Donna said.
Since the new believers were so skilled in these key areas, the Kishors assumed they had been discipled too. But one day, Goutam was teaching a Bible lesson and asked the group, “Who is Paul?” They answered, “the king of Rome.”
“And it wasn't like a guess,” Donna said. “It was a confident ‘he was the king of Rome.’” That’s when she said they realized, “Okay, they are not discipled at all.”
The Kishors started off their ministry focused on discipling the local believers and showing them how to operate as a house church, which isn’t simply a group of Christians meeting in a house.
“There's a leader, there's a treasurer, there's someone who's in charge of worship, but [we] really focus on the priesthood of the believer,” Donna said. “It's [their] responsibility to make sure things are getting done.”
Guiding a group of local believers to function as a healthy, autonomous house church is an important part of the Kishor’s ministry. This strategy allows for local leaders to pastor the church, rather than fostering a dependency on foreign mission workers.
“Once they started meeting, they're really excited [that] they're meeting as house church,” Donna said. “But the goal is not that we go and start a bunch of different house churches.”
“We want to see a movement,” Goutam said. “That [is what] we are praying for and expecting.”
Their sending agency, Global Gates, defines a movement as at least 100 house churches or 1,000 baptized believers.
“We are seeing that is happening,” Goutam said. But the Kishors aren’t trying to evangelize and disciple 1,000 people directly themselves. Their focus on the “priesthood of the believer” allows faith to multiply, rather than stay hidden in a new believer’s heart. And Goutam said the growth they’re seeing is not just from the fruit of their ministry; other organizations are also present here and doing gospel work too.
“The key to a movement is multiplication,” Donna said. “We're not just teaching one person, but we're teaching them so that they can also teach the next person.”
So far, about 11 other groups have “multiplied” out of one house church that they started.
“It sounds very easy,” Donna said. “It doesn't happen that fast and that cleanly. But multiplication is what gets to a movement.”
Training the American Church
While Donna and Goutam were in the U.S. this summer, they spent time with Parkway to not only share about what God is doing through their ministry in India, but also to discuss how a movement is possible among the 25,000 Indians living in the Richmond area. One afternoon, the Kishors went door-to-door with several Parkway members to meet local Indians.
“A big part of trying to reach any ethnic group in the U. S is figuring out what is the population and what really is their need,” Donna said.
Based on what Donna learned a few years ago in her ministry among Indians in Richmond, people’s needs can depend on how long they’ve been in the U.S. She said that Indians who are more established, who have been in the country for several years or even decades, tend to view themselves as locals. They may be more drawn to a local, established body of believers. But new immigrants who gravitate towards Indian-majority apartment complexes and shop at Indian restaurants and grocery stores tend to be more attracted to that ethnic community.
“For them, house church is really more what is necessary because they want to stay inside of their group,” Donna said.
That evening, after meeting local Indians, Donna and Goutam hosted a sample of what house church is like again, not only to show what they do in India, but also to cast vision among Parkway members for what is possible in their own community.
The model was simple. The group of 10 or so gathered to talk about their week and share prayer requests. Donna picked a Chris Tomlin song on her phone for the group to sing along with in worship. Then Goutam read the Bible story of the Woman at the Well. He asked a few rounds of questions about the passage – enough so that if anyone had never heard the story before, they would be able to retell it by the end of the night and explain what the story says about God. It was clear their training emphasizes each person’s ability and responsibility to go and tell this gospel story.
Creating Avenues for Gospel Conversations
One driver back in India directly benefited from this type of training. He lives in the area near Donna and Goutam’s ministry partners, so “anytime we have short term teams come, we usually hire him to drive us,” Donna said.
This man had heard the gospel many times, but he would not respond with any sort of commitment or decision. The ministry workers thought the driver might finally respond if Goutam, a local, would share the gospel with him. So Goutam did.
“I shared with him and he said, ‘I totally agree with what you were saying. I believe Jesus is the Lord, but I cannot [make] some decision. I cannot change my religion because if I do that my wife will divorce me,’” Goutam said.
Donna and Goutam understood because it’s a costly decision for an Indian to confess Jesus as Lord.
“In India, changing your religion means you are totally betraying your family, your neighbors, [and] your society,” Goutam said.
That was in August 2017. A few months later, they started a women’s handicraft group both to help the wives in ministry earn money and to provide a friendly setting to reach their unbelieving neighbors with the gospel. When Donna heard that the driver’s wife was at the first gathering, she had to meet her. Based on the driver’s fears, Donna imagined a scary looking woman. But the stylish young woman she met “was not at all what I expected,” Donna said. “She just talks really bluntly, so when you talk to her, you're like, ‘Okay, now I understand why he said that.’”
After several meetings, Donna wasn’t sure the driver’s wife understood the gospel or even listened to the Bible stories. But one night, the woman spoke up and said Jesus is God’s plan to save people from sins.
“House church was directly after, and so she came and asked for a Bible,” Donna said.
This summer, while the Kishors were in the U.S., a partner back in India called Goutam to share some good news. The driver said he’s now ready to be baptized! Goutam said it felt so good to hear that.
“God is working,” Goutam said. “He was the one who called them and was making the ways for them.”
When the Kishors arrived back in India, they discovered that both the driver and his wife are now believers.
“For us, it was exciting, not because this is the work that we've done, but because we came into this situation and saw that God was working, but they needed some structure and some avenues to allow things to happen easier,” Donna said.
If you’d like to support Donna and Goutam Kishor in ministry among the unreached, visit their Global Gates webpage here, then select “Ange/62000” as the designation. And download this PDF to read more about more avenues and projects!
Written by Emily Hall,
A member of Parkway Baptist Church