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23 April 2018

40 years of sharing Jesus with the Asian community

Clive Thorne has been sharing Jesus with neighbours from the Asian community for 40 years. Here he shares a little about the Discovering Jesus through Asian eyes course and how it can help you reach out to those in your community from a Hindu, Sikh and Muslim background.

How did you first get involved with the Discovering Jesus through Asian eyes course?
I have been reaching out to Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims with the gospel for the last 40 years. Having trained in India with Operation Mobilisation, I started Southampton Asian Christian outreach in 1983 which has become Southampton Lighthouse International Church in which over half the congregation have found faith in Jesus from Hindu, Sikh and Muslim backgrounds. Manoj Raithatha, South Asian Forum director at the Evangelical Alliance, suggested the idea for the Jesus through Asian eyes booklet, designed to give bite-sized answers to 16 questions commonly asked by Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Buddhists about the Christian faith, and I decided to get involved in helping to write the first edition. The booklet was so successful that I suggested rewriting it to work alongside a discussion course that would explore further what the Bible said about these questions, which I then wrote together with Robin Thomson of South Asian Concern.

What is your favourite part of the course?
I really like the flexibility of the course and booklet – they can be used in so many ways! The booklet is a handy size to give away – bigger than a tract but not as big as a book. The questions are in a logical sequence that can be used as a series. It starts with "Is Christianity a Western religion?", progressing through the classic questions asked by Muslims such as "What do Christians mean by calling Jesus the Son of God?" and "Can we trust the Bible?", and Hindus/Sikhs such as "Why do Christians say that Jesus is the only way to God?". The booklet then progresses to questions around responding to the gospel and the possible consequences such as "Would I have to leave my family and culture to follow Jesus?" 

Equally, however, it is possible to pick out one or two questions that really interest a particular seeker and just study them. The materials can of course be used in direct evangelism but are also useful in training Christians in the questions they are likely to face and how to answer them. This is itself a major need as many Christians are unsure how to approach people from these other faiths with the gospel and knowing the possible questions in advance can help give the confidence to make that start.

What do churches need to be able to run the course?

You do not need to be an expert on these other faiths to run this course – the primary need is to have interested Asian friends. Talking to Asian people about the gospel is usually quite easy as Asian cultures tend to take religion for granted. They are often curious about what Christians believe especially as the wider society does not seem to reflect religious belief very much. 

This does not mean that they are about to become Christians as Hindus and Sikhs believe that all religions are from God but there is an openness to discuss spiritual things. They may want to do this one-to-one rather than attend a group as they may worry what others from their community would think if they are seen to take an interest in Christianity. 

You can also run the course as a training exercise for members of your congregation or a group of churches could work together in this. The materials that are needed are copies of the Jesus through Asian eyes evangelistic booklets and participants' guides for each individual and a leaders' manual for those leading the sessions. These can be ordered from the Good Book Company at info@eauk.org

How are you helping churches get ready to run the course?

I am available to take half-day or full-day seminars on running a Discovering Jesus through Asian eyes course. The day can also include talks on reaching Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims with the gospel and starting a multi-cultural church. This could be for one church or a group of interested churches in an area. I would be able to bring with me people who have come to faith in Jesus from these backgrounds to give their testimonies. If interested, please contact me at info@eauk.org

How can Christians be praying for Asians in their community?
In the 2001 census, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims represented 4.6 per cent of the population of England and Wales but by 2011, this had risen to about 7 per cent. It is expected to be over 10 per cent by 2021 and a conservative estimate is that people of these faiths will be more than a quarter of the population by 2050. There is a huge and growing mission field on our doorstep – pray for the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest field.

Pray for courage and opportunities to speak about Jesus to Asian neighbours, workmates and friends- you will probably be pleasantly surprised by their openness to talk.

It may be that only a few Christians in any one church in an area have it on their heart to pray for the Asian community and so it could be a good idea to invite Christians from different churches in the area to come together to pray maybe for this particular need. This can lead to encouraging one another and even working together in Asian outreach and it was how things successfully started in Southampton.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to open hearts to see Jesus – it is His work and His harvest and we are just His workers in the field. Discovering Jesus through Asian eyes is just another tool to help bring the harvest in.    

Find out more about the Discovering Jesus through Asian eyes course here: discovering-Jesus.com

Clive Thorne has spent the last 40 years in outreach to Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Having trained in India and Coventry with Operation Mobilisation, in 1983, he started Southampton Asian Christian Outreach which became Southampton Lighthouse International Church. He has written "Light out of Darkness" about the first 25 years of this work in Southampton, a basic discipleship book "Built on the Rock" and was involved in writing the "Jesus through Asian eyes" evangelistic booklet and the accompanying "Discovering Jesus through Asian eyes" discussion course. "Hidden in Plain Sight" is about the heartbeat of the Christian life and what it means to build treasure in heaven.