Mobilizing Indians for Missions: An Interview with Shibu K. Mathew by Shane Bennett

Dear Readers,

Sometimes I wonder about the Missions Catalyst. The editorial team is all American, a good percentage of the readership is American, and whatever humor I manage to wedge in here probably only makes sense to Americans. What about the readers who aren't American?

Two things I know: We value readers from other places, and we and struggle to understand how to make Missions Catalyst as relevant as possible to the greatest number of people. So if you're a non-American reading this ezine, thank you. Please let us know how we can be helpful to you.

In an effort to honor our non-western audience, this month's Practical Mobilization column is an interview with a bright young mobilizer from India. Shibu K. Mathew is the editor for Ethne magazine. Ethne is a mission magazine by Indians and for Indians. It exists to help and nurture the growing missionary vision of the Indian church, to give a voice for the unreached people groups of India, and to give moral support and encouragement to the hundreds of missionaries who are serving that nation.

Shibu also runs Perspectives classes. His brilliant web site reflects the skill and passion of the young IT professionals who make up his classes.

I met and chatted with Shibu at the Perspectives National Conference in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. He graciously allowed me to pepper him with some questions.

Shane Bennett

What are the main aspects of your work?

I head up the Frontier Education Society, a missions education organization designed to mobilize Indian believers for mission work among unreached peoples. We pursue our education objectives with the Perspectives course and by creating mobilization resources such as Ethne magazine. I also run unreached-oriented events such as campus ministry missions days, missions camps, and other conferences.

How did you get involved with Perspectives?

I began working with a couple who came to India to start Perspectives. When they moved to another part of India to help communities through business, I continued with the work here in Bangalore.

How do you promote your classes?

We tried advertising, but it just didn't bear much fruit. So now we use email to publicize, but mostly the word goes forward person to person. People who have taken the course go and tell others. [Successful classes in the U.S. follow similar promotion strategies.]

What do you want to see God do in the lives of people who take your classes?

I want him to move them to change the way they live, to make a transition into what he wants them to do. This may take time. It's not easy in India to jump from one career to another. If you don't like your role, even so you stick.

I encourage my students to go back and mobilize their friends and church. One group did this very intentionally. Their local church really changed. They went on to have impact through a national forum. Initially they had some troubles. Church leaders said, "We've been here all these years. Who are you?" But they pushed through and started a mission board within the church. It became very active and now sends missionaries to less-reached areas of India.

Are Indians going out beyond India for the gospel?

No doubt about it. One of the best things we can export from India is people. They go as nurses and engineers, and we've not tapped this completely. Software engineers are welcome around the world. We had one guy after Perspectives who went to Taiwan with his company. He's been asked before, but didn't want to go. After taking Perspectives, he and his wife went. We encourage students to come as couples, so after the course, they can act as couples.

We also realize that students can cross great boundaries without even leaving India. Crossing a state border for us is like going to a new country. Having grown up in Kerela, I'm E3 [cross-cultural] in Bangalore!

If you had three missionary teams to place in India, where would you send them?

Rajastan, Gujarat, and someplace else in western India. That's where things are not so good.

What would you have them do?

I would have them go and live among the people, serve them. And in doing so, look for natural ways to plant churches. I would discourage doing flashy things, crusades and such. Rather, just go, live among the poor, gain respect and trust, serve them. They will ask, "Why do you serve?"

To take Jesus to the growing middle class, you must have a legitimate identity, a profession or role. [Editor's note: Check out the India Missions Association site for more info on the growth of God's kingdom in India.]

What gives you hope for the growth of God's kingdom in India?

Well, it is his promise! But further, who thought India would turn from so poor to the way it is now? It's a good thing that God is doing there.

India is basically a spiritual country, we yearn for something beyond ourselves. "God lead us from darkness into light, from death to life, from falsehood to truth," is a common prayer. This is our prayer, and God hears it. Sometimes I look around and wonder how it can happen. But he's going to do it. Revelation 21 says, "It is finished. The bride is ready. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End." This is the hope. It will happen. That is a key passage that drives me.

When you're 70, what do you want God to have done with you?

I want to have finished the work God has for me. I imagine that will involve investing in people so they can see God's glory as a motivating factor in their lives.

What does the Indian missions movement have to offer the rest of world?

Our sufferings. We can exist through any circumstances, sleep anywhere, eat anything. And in many cases we have fewer barriers to cross.

The Indian missions movement is not yet as professional as I'd like to see it. I believe we'll see more go-getters in the next generation. I look forward to seeing this scenario: An IT guy climbs the ladder. He's a vice president by the time he's 30. He's traveled, enjoyed the world, then begins to think, "What should I do? Is there anything more to life?" Guys like this come to my class as brilliant chaps, running big companies. It would be good if we could see them bring that expertise into missions.

Check out the following websites below 

Perspectives India

Missions Catalyst e-Magazine