Dr. Jerry Beavan
"Jerry Remembers" ... in which Jerry Beavan, at age 93, recounts events from his experiences in a wide ranging field of endeavors, which include being a college and seminary professor ... a corporate executive in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries ... a federal lobbyist in Washington, DC ... and as Billy Graham described him, "the architect of world evangelism as we know it today."
Now retired and physically handicapped, restricted to a wheel chair, Jerry has been Senior Editor of the weekly American News Commentary, now in its 10th year of publication.
I remember just like it was last year, instead of more than 50 years ago, when Billy Graham and I met with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India in his office in New Delhi in 1955. From this important international leader, who claimed to be an agnostic and an atheist, came one of the clearest statements of the "indigenous" concept as applied to religious belief that I have ever heard.
To begin, indigenous means "belonging to a certain place." It is applied to culture, language, ethnicity, life style and heritage—and in recent years has been applied to Christian ministry. Instead of relying on missionaries from largely Christian nations to establish the Christian faith in non-Christian areas of the world, more and more Christian outreach organizations are turning to the "indigenous" concept, whereby national Christians are trained to spread their faith among their own people.
When Billy Graham raised the question of freedom for Christian missionaries to operate in India, Mr. Nehru said: "Christianity has been extant in India as long as in any place on earth. If Christianity is to be the religion for India, it must stand on its own, and not be propped up by the West."
I have never forgotten that profound statement. He was referring to the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, established by Jesus' Disciple Thomas (sometimes referred to as "doubting Thomas") who established the church that bears his name in 52 AD. After Jesus had risen from the dead, and again met with His followers, He showed Thomas His wounds, and Thomas became a firm believer, saying "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). Thomas sailed to India, to what is now Kerala state, and founded seven churches before being killed by pagan natives. The Mar Thoma Church is still a major religious factor in India, and the Maramon Convention (held just a few days ago) is the largest annual Christian gathering in the world.
The faith of one man, spread by believers throughout this second largest nation on earth is evidence of the power of indigenous Christians. Prime Minister Nehru's assessment may yet be accomplished.