You may well be asking - Nagaland? Where on earth is that? Nagaland is the most easterly state of India covering 16600 square kilometres.
Although bureaucratically part of India, it is completely different from all the other Indian states ethnically, culturally, spiritually and economically.
Its population of approx. 1.5 million people are divided into 16 major tribes and a number of smaller tribal groupings. Its people are extremely warm and hospitable, generous and cheerful with a great sense of humour and a deep sense of community.
Nagaland is the Switzerland of the East with exquisitely picturesque landscapes, the vibrantly colourful sunrise and sunset, lush and verdant flora - this is a land that represents unimaginable beauty, moulded perfectly for a breathtaking experience.
What about Christianity in Nagaland?
The Americans were the first to bring the Gospel to the country in the 1870’s. Dr. Clark, the first American Baptist missionary, arrived in 1876. Literally risking life and limb, he lived among the Ao tribe sharing the Gospel with them. At that time, all the Naga tribes were known to be head-hunters, a practice which brought great prestige and social standing in the community. The story of this pioneering missionary work is inspiring and deeply challenging and it resulted in the Ao people being the first to accept the Gospel and then help in spreading it to all the other tribes without exception.
Today, 130 years on , 85% of the population profess to be Christians. The practice of head-hunting died out largely in the 1900s as a direct result of missionary witness. Christianity is seen in a large number of churches even in rural areas. The many theological colleges, influence Nagaland’s social and political matters. Sunday trading and consumption of alcohol are both forbidden and Bible texts and posters abound everywhere.
The Nagaland Church Today
Clearly there are great strengths in the Naga church today which can be built upon.
- Sincere, devoted people.
- Very high church attendance.
- Large numbers of people theologically trained.
- A vision for ministry.
- Strong network among Baptists.
- Strong Church unity - all tribes working together well.
- Plenty of Church buildings suitable for venues for meetings
- With the departure of the Americans, the church was left in the hands of the fledgling Ao church, severely limited in its resources with very little contact with the outside world even today. Thus, despite doing a fine job of evangelism, there would seem to be needs in the area of deeper spiritual teaching and application of the Gospel in its entirety.
- With little outside contact and stimulus, the church has got somewhat stuck in a traditional mould and would benefit from new resources and new approaches.
- There are growing numbers of school drop outs, drug addicts, people involved in the underground movement even among professing Christians. Unless the church is strengthened, the danger is that the influence of the Gospel will decline in years to come as has happened in the UK.
- Severe lack of financial resources means that the church is hampered in its ministry and missionary activity.
- Although many Christians are theologically trained, comparatively few are active in using their training within the Church and have little vision of how to pioneer new ventures.