Shekar comes from a Hindu background in South India. He was introduced to Christianity at a young age but because of heavy opposition from family he did not begin to follow Christ until he was 20 years old, when a friend shared the gospel with him. Shekar’s work as an engineer eventually led him to North India, where he met his future wife, also a believer.
After attending a seminar in 2007, Shekar and his wife felt the call for full time ministry. Two years later he left his permanent job and with his wife attended the one-year Pastoral Internship Training associated with the United Christian Church of Dubai.
Uttar Pradesh is the home to nearly 200 million people in North India, making it the most populous state in India. Of an estimated 500 million people living there, only 0.5% is evangelical Christian.
Shekar, now an associate pastor with Zion Ministries, Lucknow, North India, is not daunted by these statistics. He says, “North India is one of the most spiritually deprived yet strategic places in terms of church planting and evangelism. Scripture assures us that God will be worshipped by “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language.”
Shekar connected with The Gospel Coalition International Outreach through Jonathan Christman, now the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky. As a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Christman helped plant an Indian church in Louisville, Kentucky. He had also visited India in 2005-2006 and witnessed unhealthy churches. But in 2008 he journeyed to India again, meeting Shekar.
“I have not met another ministry or group of men so faithful in all of India. It is a joy to serve with them,” Christman says of Shekar’s ministry. His church supports Zion Ministries financially and often sends teams to serve alongside them.
Zion Ministries is a church planting ministry with the vision to “Equip, encourage and establish strong Christian worshipping communities that are easily accessible in every district of North India.” Shekar says, “We work with godly men and women of integrity and faith in the unreached or less reached parts of Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand, to help them evangelize and plant churches among their own people.”
Two hundred house churches have been planted over the past 20 years. With the increase, the demand grows for theological training and resources for pastors. There is an overall lack of theological resources available in India. And though most people in North India speak English, Hindi is the primary language used. Thus, there is an even greater need for Hindi resources
“We believe that if the churches in the North have to be firmly rooted in scripture and theologically strong, then they need solid Bible teaching and training in their own language” Shekar says.
The Gospel Coalition helps alleviate this need through International Outreach (IO). Last year, Zion Ministries received 600 books through IO’s Packing Hope program. The resources included three John Piper books: Don’t Waste Your Life in English and Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ and 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die in Hindi.
One student from Allahabad Bible Seminary wrote: "I have been benefited much from the book, Don't Waste Your Life. Whenever I read that book, I used to thank God and remember you in my prayer.” (Sic)
Zion Ministries uses the resources to train and send out pastors all over North India and into Nepal. For many of these pastors, the Christian book in Hindi is the first they’ve ever received.
Pastors and leaders from all over North India travel to Zion Ministries to receive training. At Zion’s recent conference on regeneration, 300 copies of Piper’s Finally Alive were distributed. The TGC-IO resources play a vital role in the ministry of these pastors and leaders, who share what they learn from the books with their church members, and use them in one-on-one discipleship.
“With the help of the books our team is growing in the knowledge of the Word and also God is using them to strengthen the local churches in the villages” Shekar says.
Zion Ministries plans to plant hundreds of churches, build a Bible-based school and start an internship program so that university age students can experience firsthand ministry – and hopefully catch the vision to continue full time ministry.
More resources are needed in order to continue to reach pastors with theologically-sound teaching materials. A contribution to The Gospel Coalition-International Outreach encourages faithful preaching in India and other poor areas.
Shekar asks for prayers “that the Lord will use us to preach the gospel to the most unreached people of North India and plant gospel-centered local churches.”
Caitlyn Barbee is a recent college graduate. She lives in Arlington, Texas where she works with international students on a college campus.