4/14—BALCONY, BASEMENT AND BEYOND
Jebaraj D. G.
July 11, 2009. Many of the newspapers had one common front page story of three teenagers selected for the J8 Summit. The only girl Sanjukta Pangi, a 4/14er from Orissa, not just shook hands with Presidents Obama and Sarkozy, but impressed on the Indian Prime Minister for rural education and improving transport sector so that she need not be in a hostel.
The Indian population is 115,53,84,465 (Feb. 1, 2010). The official percentage of 3% puts the figure at 3,46,61,534 Christians. Discounting 60% as nominal Christians, the 40% who are committed to making a difference is 1,38,64,614.
For example, beginning January 2010, if 100 people reach 1 person, at the close of December 2010 we would have at least 2,04,800 additional people. If 50% backslide, it will still give us new membership of 1 lakh per year. Calculate the number of years that have gone into presenting the Gospel, resources invested monetarily and otherwise, precious missionary lives lost and ever rising persecution stories: the numbers have not grown proportionately. While some agencies put the Christian population at 6% and few even at 9%, the fact of the matter is we are still struggling with single digit figures.
Where Is The Gap?
Dr. Luis Bush coined the term ‘10/40 window’ sixteen years ago. It meant the regions between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude which contained the world’s largest population of non-Christians. It is the geographical area with the greatest need and opportunity. His revealing findings gave the clarion call to churches to revisit and revitalise their strategies. After 16 years, encouraging indicators denote an annual growth rate of Christ followers inside the 10/40 Window, almost twice of those outside the window. The general population grew at only 1.5% annually, but the population of Christ followers grew at an amazing 5.4%. 70% of the world’s 4-14 year olds (833,378,750 in 2010) live in the 10/40 window.
Dr. Dan Brewster, Advocacy Director with Compassion International, introduced the term ‘4/14 window’. The supporting data based on research by Bryant Myers alluded to the finding, “85% of those who become Christians do so between the ages of 4 and 14. It is also evident that children and young people are indeed ‘the world’s most fruitful field.’” To maximise the impact of churches and mission organisations, there has to be an intersection between the 10/40 and 4/14 windows that will maximise the impact of churches and mission organisations.
Point your kids in the right direction, when they are old they won’t be lost (Pro.22:6).
Roy Zuck in his book Precious in His sight: childhood and children in Bible says there are 1400 references about children in the Bible. While ‘child’ is used 121 times, ‘children’ is used 448 times.
The Bible presents three truths:
- Becoming like children is the gateway to the kingdom of heaven, as they model the essence of faith and discipleship.
- Welcoming a child, accepting as he is, ensuring his dignity, loving and valuing him, is akin to welcoming Christ Himself.
- Despising a child through neglect, abuse or turning away a child from faith, guarantees severe judgment.
Context Physical challenge: Over 10 million children in India go to sleep on the pavement each night hungry and unprotected. 6,000 children die every day—a shocking 3,000 due to malnutrition. A staggering 10,000 babies die every single day from easily preventable causes such as malnutrition and diarrhoea.
Social challenge: Child labour (5–14 years) is 12%. Out of the 13% of all children in South Asia engaged in labour, India hosts more than half. Over 40% of children live in poverty and extreme hardship. While 11.21% work in tea kiosks and restaurants, 7.83% are engaged in bidi rolling and the remaining work in 'other' occupations such as lock making, carpet weaving, construction, shops, artisans, etc.
People group challenge: The Joshua Project states that out of the 2500 people groups in India, 2190 are unreached, that is a whopping 87.6%. Hence more research to intensify efforts in terms of church planting, literature production, translation and various media options is to be pursued.
Ideological challenge: Namesake Christians, exhibiting a power of godliness without power. Well laid ‘Go and tell’ strategies, but dearth of ‘Come and see’ models. Fundamentalism, pluralism and atheism among major religions need creative cum strategic solutions.
Spiritual challenge: Spiritual warfare is comparatively more and invisible in Eastern India. There are invisible giants that torment and tear down anything attempted for Him. Operation world (2001) reports on the major religions in India as Hinduism 80.7%, Islam 13.3%, other small 2.3%, Christianity 2.3%, Buddhism 0.7%, ethnic religion 0.5% and unknown 0.1%.
Prayer: ‘Prayer changes things’ and ‘Prayer changes the world’ are refrains. But how are they in practice? A bishop was heard saying how one of his pastors confessed that he was not able to pray even for 10 minutes. Like brokenness starts with the individual, prayer changes us first and we become agents to change the world. Learning to pray is one thing, but praying effectively is another thing. Prayers are of two types, ritualistic and relationship based. As a teenager, William Carey learnt to pray for the world, ended as the father of modern missions and founded the Baptist Missionary Society. John Wesley committed his life to Christ and founded the Methodist Movement with the theme, “The world is my parish.”
Health: Various child health and development programmes since 1975 initiated by the government and ably complimented by several INGOs have not led to much positive outcome. India has failed its women/children and is snailing towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG).
Education: India has seen a 6% growth in the number of child (less than 14 years) suicides. This translates to an average of 17 every day. Ten years ago, children less than 14 years who committed suicide were between 400–500, today it is 2300. Hemchhaya De in The Telegraph (03.01.2010) notes that West Bengal has become the teen suicide capital of India, with the highest percentage of suicides—16.9% among children aged up to 14 years. While physical hygiene is at least talked about, mental hygiene has been neglected in several schools.
Poverty: For many states, tourism is one of the alternatives to economic growth and development. But children seem to be the casualty in the expanding tourist industry. Many Asian countries have established a link between tourism and child prostitution, and that has even given birth to ‘sex tourism.’ If the church believes in the doctrine of Imago Dei, the mandate is clear.
Governance: While many states have used e-governance to make some aspects accessible to the common man, there is still much to be done. Transparency International places India 84 in the 2009 corruption perception index, surely better compared to some other South Asian nations. It may be worth learning from Bhutan how it stands tall, not just in Gross National Happiness (GNH), but also at No. 49 in the corruption perception index. The Christian community with its educational institutions, hospitals and welfare agencies needs to refocus on the job at hand, rather than taking shortcuts to grease for approvals, accreditations and recognitions.
Media: The Indian Academy of Paediatrics found that, on an average, the Indian child spends 30 hours in a week before the television but only 25 hours in the school. The media, especially the visual media, targets children right from noodles to roof chimneys to detergents. One of the detergent commercials has the tag line, “Dirt is good.” My two daughters get upset with my wife who does not approve of the same. Dr. Ravi Zachariah says, “If we cannot influence our children when they are with us, media will.”
History has reiterated that to ensure its legacy any major movement will consciously target the next generation. Politically Nazism and communism have ensured that children are equipped to continue their fight. Militant groups have trained children to advance its agenda. There are documented instances where Taliban and LTTE involve(d) children. Influence of Naxals in states is getting bigger and murkier. Closer home, child soldiers in the dense jungles of many states have become active participants walking hand in hand with those who do not blink for a second before committing macabre acts.
However, historically it looks like the Christian evangelical movement has continued to give second priority to children who are vital to ensure a sustained healthy church. While children are a crucial part in the Great Commission, sadly they are the great omission. Not just crucial, they are also strategically positioned to ‘rise and shine’ and with age on their side, they could be facilitated to live out their faith and potentially lead the church to the next level.
Rev. Nam Soo Kim, Founder of Promise Ministries in New York, and Dr. Luis Bush, Christian Missiologist, together dreamt of impacting the generation next 4/14ers through the churches. Rev. Kim and his 4000 strong congregation bathed this movement in prayer and mobilised resources for 10 long years which came to fruition when 300 leaders from 70 countries met in New York in September 2009. The maiden launch for East and North East took place in Puri, Orissa on February 17, 2010.
Boon Or Bane: A significant number of 4/14ers are condemned to a life of boredom/serfdom, brutal labour, emotional cum physical abuse and spiritual oppression. They could be termed as the Google generation with an SMS culture. The young people are Orkuters, Facebookers, YouTubers and Twitterers, who give vent to their pent up emotions online to strangers. The 4/14ers are reaping a huge technological advancement compared to any previous generation as they are plugged in 24/7 with information and communication at their beck and call. This, however, is slowly causing to decline, if not eroding the traditional values, and there is a potential danger of societal norms, mores and values in vogue for thousands of years facing displacement overnight, in a single generation. Nevertheless, this very connectedness, access to information and disseminating them instantly is the greatest potential of 4/14ers that needs to be tapped and utilised appropriately—not just that they could be moulded, not just that they are more receptive but because they are the most effective agents.
Like many countries, children’s ministry in India has been confined to Sunday Class, Vacation Bible Class, Bible Clubs and Vocational Moral Schools. Churches invest approximately 15% of their budget allocations to children’s ministry. In a land with lakhs of churches, there are still ample opportunities to build a strong church. Many mission organisations invest less than 10% of their budgets in evangelism and discipleship of children. The 4/14 window is the bull’s eye, the very heart of the harvest. We are called to reach them for the King and His kingdom. When the 4/14ers take the baton and lead from the front, our church pews will be filled with people who will worship in truth and spirit. Our call should be to inform, inspire, influence and impact a generation—from a Google Generation to a Go Forth Generation.