Evangelism in Southern Asia

The countries in South Asia have the fastest-growing churches in the world, with some estimates showing a 3.6% annual growth in Asia. Protestant and Independent Christians increased from under four million in 1900 to over 193 million in 2000.1 Yet, this region also faces some of the strongest, most systematic forms of persecution against Christians and against those who engage in evangelistic ministries.

 By the Numbers…

• Over eighty-three percent of the 4.4 billion
non-Christians in the world live in Asia.

• Over eighty-seven percent of the world’s
unevangelised individuals live in Asia.

• Of the fifty-five countries in the world that have
less than ten percent Christian populations,
forty-four are in Asia.

• Asia is the birthplace of two of the major
non-Christian religions: Buddhism and Hinduism, 
and has the largest concentration of Buddhists

• Three of the largest Muslim countries—Indonesia,
Pakistan, and India—are in Asia.

Source: Operation World: 21st Century Edition

With almost half of the world’s poor people living in this region, poverty, deprivation, and marginalisation are key challenges. Many Asian countries are still entrenched in civil or military conflicts, while others are slowly emerging from decades of civil war. This region has huge disparities: some countries are experiencing phenomenal economic growth, while others are mired in weak development strategies and rampant corruption. Civil liberties have been largely overlooked, and many Asians do not enjoy the freedom of speech or of religion.

The Church in Asia serves within this context of great disparities, of widening social and economic divides. Multiple religions, diverse cultures, and hundreds of languages and dialects mean that there is no single strategy for reaching Asia for Christ. There are many different worldviews through which the gospel needs to be preached.

A rising tide of nationalism in many countries across this region has led to Christianity being viewed as a foreign, imperialistic religion being imposed on the locals. The Asian Church has been slow to make Christianity relevant to local culture and social needs. I strongly believe that we—the Asian Church—need to urgently develop evangelistic strategies which are biblically sound, missiologically-focussed, culturally relevant, and sacrificial in love.

Asian churches need to send out their own people as missionaries to reach those who have not yet heard the gospel in Asia. We also need to learn from each other; indeed, there is a rich diversity in culture, language, and history. Asians also share many common characteristics. We need to study church growth patterns and identify trends and learnings which we can share with each other.

The Asian Church needs to strengthen its networks so that we can come alongside each other and strengthen individual churches, Christian leaders, and missionaries to build the Kingdom of God in Asia.


1. “Renewal and Growth: Our Evangelical Pursuit.” Compendium of The Asian Church Congress.

Rev. Adrian de Visser serves as the Lausanne International Deputy Director for South Asia. He is founder and senior pastor of Kithu Sevana Ministries, based in Sri Lanka. De Visser entered Christian ministry in 1979 as the first local-language ministry worker for Youth For Christ, Sri Lanka. His work took him to remote and marginalised communities and gave him a deep conviction and passion for reaching them for Christ. In 2007, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the government of Sri Lanka in 2007 for his social development and community-oriented work for more than two decades and was also awarded the title of Deshabandu by the government of Sri Lanka, one of Sri Lanka’s highest civilian honors, for his work among the poor in Sri Lanka. De Visser is also vice-president for partnership development for Asian Access and a member of the governing board of Colombo Theological Seminary in Sri Lanka.