The Church in India is growing at an unprecedented rate, with house church leaders forging a burgeoning movement. Most leaders form house-church congregations that are part of a Protestant group, making it difficult to estimate their size. However, these non-traditional Christian communities are the biggest group of Christians in India, making up nearly 60 percent of Christians.
They also bear the brunt of persecution in India and find themselves the first target of Hindu extremists. When you’re the one leading the church and sharing the gospel with others, that threat raises exponentially. Today, house-church leaders like Vipur* (pronounced Vee-pur) are constant targets of Hindu extremists who resort to all sorts of persecution methods—even violence and murder—to stop the spread of the gospel. But as the persecution increases, the passion of these leaders to spread the name of Jesus only grows more intense.
Read Vipur’s story and learn how you can come alongside pastors like him who are leading churches where being a church leader and trusting Christ are fast becoming life-and-death decisions.
The attack came out of nowhere. One minute, Vipur was walking home from a ministry meeting. The next, he was fighting for his life—unarmed—against a man wielding a machete.
The man, a Hindu extremist, hid behind a bush, waiting for his target—the 46-year-old house-church pastor from Madhya Pradesh.
Once, twice … five times the blade came down. The pastor was unable to fend off the brutal blows. Miraculously, Vipur managed to get away and limp home. His wife and friends rushed him to a local hospital, but everyone, including Vipur, feared the worst.
The clinic was not equipped to provide the help he needed, and he had lost so much blood. Death seemed imminent.
It was not the first time the church leader has feared for his life. Nor would it be the last.
‘Wherever I Go, Persecution Follows Me’
For Vipur, his wife, and the couple’s three teens, persecution for their Christian faith is all too real in their home state, where 90.9 percent of the 75 million residents follow Hinduism, according to the 2011 Census. Hindu extremists regularly and brutally target Christians in the large Central Indian state nicknamed the “Heart of India.”
Vipur has been beaten before.
“Wherever I go, persecution follows me,” he says.
But instead of giving up his ministry, leaving his village or hiding himself and his family in seclusion, Vipur chooses to press on despite growing persecution against Christians. He leads several house churches. Of the 60 members of Vipur’s house church movement, 40 were baptized. The others, he shares, are still “getting to know Jesus.”
The violence and threats against Vipur and his family have strengthened, not weakened, his passion to share the gospel.
“That’s what God tells me to do: to stay and be strong,” he says. “Besides, I cannot run. What’s the point of fleeing? Wherever I go to serve the Lord, persecution waits for me. Persecution is part of Christian life in India. God’s intention with persecution is to test our faith.”
‘I Will Have to Forgive’
Nearly a decade ago, Vipur led his first house church in his village followed by more congregations in surrounding areas. His church even has a building. Still, practicing his Christian faith and leading a church movement is anything but easy in India’s second-largest state.
He and his congregations regularly face persecution from Hindu extremists. Four years ago, Vipur was beaten the first time.
“The Hindus kept threatening me, and they also kept saying to each other that I forced people to convert,” Vipur says.
The initial beating was not as bad as the injuries he recently suffered in the machete attack. As his body slowly heals, Vipur’s spirit is mending too.
After the severe slashing, he spent three months in bed, trying to recover.
“Now, I can walk and move, but I’m still very weak,” he says. “I always need someone to go with me. I’ve lost sensation in my face and am deaf in one ear. My eyes are dehydrated and are ultra-sensitive to light, which is why I have to wear very dark sunglasses.” He also has breathing problems.
Vipur admits he struggles spiritually, knowing he lives in a village where people want him to die. He identified his attacker to the police, and the man was arrested, then released. He believes influential locals are protecting his assailant. Sometimes, Vipur sees him in the market square.
“People tell me that if he drew my blood, I should draw his,” Vipur says. “But God is our judge. I will have to forgive. It’s really difficult. My wife wants revenge too.
“Whenever I see him, it’s like there’s an explosion in my chest. That’s how angry I am. But I know I need to listen to what the Lord says and forgive.
“It’s not easy to forgive the man who almost killed you.”
‘My Passion for the Lord Has Only Increased’
Vipur says until God directs him to leave, he will stay in his village and continue in ministry.
“I feel physically weak, but He makes me strong. My passion for the Lord and seeing others meet Him has only increased. I firmly believe what the Apostle Peter writes in his first letter: it’s good to suffer for the Lord.”
Still, the pastor begs for the prayers of other pastors.
“Please pray for me,” he says. “Pray that I will recover fully; that’s my deepest wish. I want to be able to do what I did before the attack and even more.”
Prayerful Action for Church Leaders
- Individual reflection:
- In your personal prayer time, pray with Vipur and his family as they face ongoing violence, discrimination and social pressures.
- Ask God for continued healing, both physically and spiritually.
- As a church, commit to regularly praying for Vipur’s churches–for protection, boldness to share their faith and strength to forgive.
- Schedule an #IDOP prayer event:
- Sunday, November 4, is International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
- Start thinking now about scheduling a prayer gathering. Open Doors provides specific materials to churches to help mobilize your church and promote it. Please contact us at mailto:[email protected] so we can serve you!
- During the event, you’ll have the opportunity as a church to write letters of encouragement to pastors like Vipur and other Christians in dangerous places.
* Name changed for security reasons.