Touted as the financial and entertainment capital of India, Mumbai is a dynamic city that also shapes the tone of gospel movement within the nation of India. To learn a little more about the gospel landscape of city of Mumbai and nation of India, we recently connected with Rev. Arthur Thangiah, MDGC champion and key leader within the Mumbai Transformation Network, an organization committed to advancing gospel movement.
Mumbai is a city defined by a dynamic energy and the parallel existence of affluence and poverty. Described by Rev. Thangiah as “a city that never sleeps,” Mumbai also features food stalls for every taste and budget, local trains packed to bursting, and even a refreshing seaside stroll. Mumbai serves as the base for the National Stock Exchange, the Reserve Bank of India, and Bollywood, thereby securing its role as a leading city within the nation of India.
Mumbai also faces significant urban challenges as a city. These include but are not limited to a lack of open green areas, poor road conditions, and an ongoing housing challenge as 60% of Mumbai’s residents live in slums. In addition, India as a nation continues to grapple with the rise of fundamentalism, poverty, and the very real threat of terrorism. Despite these municipal and national challenges, Rev. Thangiah’s love for Mumbai is infectious. He exclaims, “The 22 million people of Mumbai are such a wide contrast. Yet God loves each one of them and has a plan for each one of them.”
The city of Mumbai’s gospel movement journey is thought to have begun in the 17th century with the arrival of the Portuguese, and the beginning of India’s gospel movement has been attributed to the Jesus’ disciple Thomas. Mumbai currently contains a wide variety of denominations, which are committed to continuing a journey towards unity that began in the 1970’s and 1980’s. India’s latest census cites 2.3% of the nation’s population as Christian, though local church leaders believe this number does not reflect the fullness of the community committed to the gospel.
Rev. Thangiah works with the Mumbai Transformation Network (MTN), an organization that has partnered with approximately 100 other churches to share the task of bringing the gospel in a deeper way to the city of Mumbai. Led by Pastor Viju Abraham and facilitated by city movement leader Tom White, Mumbai’s first Prayer Summit began in February 2003. This Prayer Summit was so dynamic that a second Prayer Summit was held within the same year. The Prayer Summit has been held every year since. The increase in relational strength between pastors and leaders from different churches and organizations has been directly attributed to these Prayer Summits. Reflects Rev. Thangiah, “We realized that praying together was a start but we needed to work together to see the process of transformation come through. We have conducted Prayer Summits every year and each Prayer Summit has seen a unique demonstration of the presence and power of God.” In 2008, Mumbai hosted The Global Day of Prayer and subsequent smaller prayer gatherings have unfolded across Mumbai, supported by the Mumbai Transformation Network. Rev. Thangiah states, “We believe that there has to be an undergirding of prayer in all our actions”. This undergirding of prayer is recognized and sought for by the Body of Christ in Mumbai.”
Different organizations have taken up the charge to advance gospel movement in a strategic and effective way. These efforts are organized according to different spheres of need or influence within the city of Mumbai. For example, Mumbai’s Arts Conclave has organized two conferences and is engaging in ongoing collaborative relationship with pastors for the purpose of creating a space for artists and the arts within the church. A conference has been organized to equip and empower pastors and leaders to utilize media effectively in the journey towards gospel movement. A legal cell is training Christians with knowledge regarding their rights in times of religious opposition or persecution. Yet another conference on the topic of the ‘International Call to Compassion’ has been organized for over 300 delegates. While other partners are working in gospel movement seek to work in collaboration with the government authorities to address the need for family unity, seeking therefore to enact a major initiative to stem the rising divorce rates in Mumbai.
Ultimately, Rev. Thangiah reported that “the strategy adopted to advance gospel movement in Mumbai has been to divide the city into 18 zones and have a leadership team in each zone that would consist of pastors, organization leaders and influential leaders in the eight spheres of influence.” Rev. Thangiah does not however, credit one key individuals or organization as being responsible for the current gospel movement occurring within Mumbai. Rather, he attributes Mumbai’s gospel movement to “an army of individuals and organizations from the different spheres of influence carrying out what God has put on their hearts.”
Rev. Thangiah sees Mumbai’s gospel landscape and Movement Day Global Cities’ mission as connected. He states, “We can learn much from the broader Movement Day community on how God is working in other cities and how to best apply its’ strategies to our own background and implement it in Mumbai.”
Will you join us in lifting up, in prayer, the city of Mumbai and all those working to advance gospel movement there? Rev. Thangiah has asked that we pray specifically that “each individual in the Mumbai Transformation Network would function in their God-given role to transform Mumbai.” Thank you for your prayers!