I started a church online in India in the pandemic

In April and May, India was hit with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

We were experiencing more than 400,000 reported cases and thousands of daily deaths. I remember that on one single day, I received the news of five people I knew, who were passing away due to COVID -19.

What do you say and do in times like these?

During my short life of 30 years in India, this was one of the worst crises we have ever experienced. It is no less than a national trauma. There has been only death and suffering everywhere.

A crematorium staff member said, “We are in a season where there is no space in hospitals, but we will try our best to make space in cemeteries and crematoriums.”

What do you say and do in times like these?

Our church created a COVID task force to help those affected by the disease. We were able to help many, from sourcing medical supplies and hospital beds to delivering oxygen but, unfortunately, even after trying everything, we did end up losing some of our dear ones.

At a time such as this, one thing has become clearer and clearer in my heart – Christ and his Church are the only hope for all nations. Christ gives us hope beyond death and Church gives us love, comfort and support.

Yes, there is a huge need for better health infrastructure in India. Yes, there is a great need for better education for the poor and vulnerable. Yes, poverty is nig problem and the leadership could develop more empathy, but what India desperately needs is Christ and his Church that is devoted to him and to people!

William Carey is the father of modern missions and monumental when you think of mission work in India. He said, “Attempt great things for God and expect great things from God.” Another notable missionary, C. T. Studd, said, “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, within a yard of hell.”

When my local church in India and I ponder on these words and what God desires, the answer is again Christ and his Church! Pandemic or no pandemic, knowing Christ is life. There is nothing better we can do than to be the Church and share Christ. We do need to attempt great things for God. We do need to run the rescue shop called ‘Church’. We do need to think and live beyond ourselves.

It can seem as if only crisis or a pandemic can give us an urgency of eternity and the need for Christ. But it always is now or never.

So, keeping all these things in mind and heart, we officially launched LIFE Hinglish Church in early July. It was launched online, which is not an ideal way to begin a church plant, but then what is ideal in a pandemic?

Almost everything has gone online here in India; home has become our only hub.

Life Hinglish church is something of a pioneering project.

When we meet online the two biggest things to fight against are consumerism and passivity. So, to meet this challenge, we have encouraged attendees to prepare and to participate well. For example, we invite them to prepare for the service by finding a spot that helps them to be most attentive.

Along with turning on their own Zoom video, we encourage people to invite one-two friends to do the service with them. Having some friends to do the service with also helps to meet the relational void that can be so present in an online gathering.

So far, we have had a good response! We started the LIFE Hinglish church with around 35 people. Mostly, young working professionals, who had moved for work to our city, Gurgaon (30 kilometres southwest of New Delhi).

LIFE Hinglish church is something of a pioneering project. Sadly, there are no Hinglish-speaking churches, even though Hinglish is the heart language of around 70-90 million people living in the urban cities of North India.

If you want to see the gospel grow, then it is necessary to preach the gospel in the heart language of people.

Hinglish is an informal hybrid language, blending Hindi and English words. An example is this soft-drink slogan ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’ (‘The heart wants more’). One of the most famous people who speaks in Hinglish is Virat Kohli, the Indian cricket captain.

There are good English, Hindi and bilingual churches, but no Hinglish churches.

The reason for this is simple: No one has tried it and others feel it’s too complicated to run a church service in a fusion/hybrid language of Hindi and English. However, if you want to see the work of the gospel grow, then it is necessary to preach the gospel in the heart language of people.

So, our vision is to become a hub for a gospel movement in Hinglish in North India. We think our key strategy is first to see God’s word being preached in Hinglish and then mapping out evangelistic and discipleship pathways for all those who join us.

India, especially North India, has been a focal point for many global mission organisations, as it routinely comes up as one of the most unreached places on Earth.

For centuries people have been wanting to see a movement for the gospel in India.

Our prayer as we launch LIFE Hinglish church is that God may use us to bring this movement now, Amen!

Gladwin Joseph was raised in India and, while studying Biotechnology, he became a Christian and then pursued full-time ministry. He earned a Bachelor of Divinity in Sydney, Australia, at Moore College in 2015. Two years later, he joined DBF Gurgaon Phase-3 English church as a pastor. He is married to Alicia and they have two children.

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