This post consists of excerpts from the book by T. E. Koshy on Bakht Singh. Bakht Singh has been called the greatest church planter of India of the 20th century. Here I have only pulled out remarks that relate to Bakht Singh’s Church Planting philosophy and indigenous church planting practices.
I recommend you order and read the entire book which can be ordered at:
EXCERPTS FROM “BROTHER BAKHT SINGH INDIA”
“An Account of 20th Century Apostolic Revival”
By T. E. Koshy
Notes excerpts compiled by BDB
A Note from the Publishers
Page 7: His undivided focus on preaching the word of God, and starting new churches where positive responses were marked are highly exemplary. Not only the churches attached to the assemblies he started, but scores of other churches, barring denominational differences, which are also influenced by his style and results of ministry.
Page 17: Indeed he was India’s foremost evangelist and indigenous church planter of world renown.
Page 19: “…for India has thought that if she took one she would have to take both – Christ and Western civilization went together.”
Page 20: “Many seriously ill were healed when Bakht Singh prayed for them, even deaf and dumb began to hear and speak.”
He noticed that even the churches were not free from segregation and discrimination based on caste.
He preached and practiced the priesthood of all believers, regardless of their status in life.
Page 21: He encouraged his listeners to pray that the Lord would raise up people like Hannah, Samuel, David, and Solomon so that God’s glory would fill the church. His vision of the church came out of his vision of the Living Lord Jesus Christ. The church consists of the redeemed people of God, which is expressed locally as a local church.
The purpose of the church is to express the Living Christ, in obedience to the Word of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit of God, that in all things He (Christ) might have the preeminence. This reality has to be expressed within the cultural and linguistic background of the people so that the “foreignness” of the church may be removed, without changing the distinctiveness of the church.
This distinctiveness makes the church all inclusive of all believers, of all backgrounds, all taking their part in the building up of the local church without having any distinction of clergy or laity. This led him to plant indigenous churches on the basis of New Testament Principles practiced by the early apostles and disciples. His desire was to do God’s work in God’s way.
Page 22: He also started an ‘open’ Lord’s table to which every believer was welcomed. He believed and practiced that all truly born-again believers are part of the Universal body of Christ and welcomed all believers to the Table of the Lord without any question being asked. Bakht Singh also began Holy Convocations, nine-day family gatherings where people from cities, towns, and villages, with various ethnic, caste and color backgrounds, converged together, living, eating, meeting, fellowshipping and praising God together.
Page 23: Bakht Singh believed that the living Christ was the Head of the Church and therefore in everything he acknowledged His ways rather than doing things based on human traditions or culture.
Page 24: He taught believers in the local assemblies the importance of tithing.
Page 26: In 1956 Dr. Billy Graham invited Bakht Singh to open his Madras Crusade with prayer.
Chapter 1: Bakht Singh Goes to Glory: The Home-Call of a Man of God
Page 57: “In all my missionary experience I think these churches on their New Testament foundations are the nearest I have seen to a replica of the early church and pattern for the birth and growth of the young churches in all the countries which we used to talk about as the mission fields.” (Norman Grubb)
The early years of his ministry were marked by mighty miracles and wonders, including physical healings and great revivals. People fell to the ground crying out for God’s mercy. After serving for seven years as an itinerant evangelist and revivalist in British India from Karachi in the North to Kerala in the south, and in the East from Calcutta to Cape Comorin in the Southwest, the Lord constrained him to launch an indigenous New Testament church plating movement that eventually saw hundreds of local churches planted throughout India, Pakistan, and parts of Sri Lanka.
Because of what the Lord has accomplished through him, particularly in planting indigenous churches based on New Testament principles, he can rightly be called the father of the indigenous church movement in the post-independent India.
Chapter 3: Bakht Singh Goes to the West
Page 86: I have no ambition for any other experience. The longing of my soul is that You should speak to me and show me Thy way day by day.
Chapter 4: One Body; One Spirit
Page 89: God alone knows the role the Global Church plays in relation to every believer – both born and unborn.
Page 90: In India at the turn of the 20th century the Lord burdened men like praying Hyde and other to pray without ceasing for revival in the Punjab.
Page 92: Twice a week, over one hundred of the saints were on their knees praying for something that would glorify the Lord in India.
Page 93: She (Lady Ogle) also felt that Bakht Singh was the man of God He had chosen to bring back His glory to the church in India.
In 1941, when Bakht Singh went to Coonoor to spend time in prayer to know the mind of God regarding His will for the future of the work, these men also joined him; they sought the Lord’s mind together for the future ministry in India.
Page 94: Bro. Durham could not be confined to the limits of missionary imperialism; he was ready for the advent of an Indian brother, called of God, and who would fit the true apostolic features of the book of Acts.
Page 95: It was through the publication of these books that the name and the work of Bakht Singh spread so widely, not only in India, but gradually throughout the world, because of the GLS marketing facilities far beyond the shores of India.
End notes: J. Edwin Orr, Evangelical Awakenings in Southern Asia (Minneapolis, MN:Bethany Fellowship, Inc. 1975)
Chapter 5: A Chosen Vessel for God’s Glory
Page 97: Following his conversion, God enrolled Bakht Singh into His school of suffering to prepare him to be the kind of vessel He wanted him to be.
Page 102: He became the greatest evangelist and church-planter in India in the 20th century. Here again, we see the important role of Christian homes in discipling and preparing new Christians as effective witnesses for the Lord.
Page 104: But because of Sadhu Sunder Singh’s reputation, they thought Bakht Singh also was a preacher.
Page 105: He realized that God was speaking to him through the onions, chillies, and other ingredients. The thought came to him that believers are like onions or other ingredients used in cooking. Some are hot like chillies, others are strong-smelling like onions, and others are fragrant like spices, but when all are ‘mixed’ and ‘cooked’ by the Holy Spirit, then a sweet smelling aroma of divine love will be emitted.
Page 108: “If I am suffering now, it must be for some divine plan known to God.” He thus learned to trust God completely.
Chapter 7: The Place of Glory: Martinpur and Beyond
Page 152: From 1936 onwards, the Lord brought about mighty revivals in many villages, towns and cities. From the north of India, Punjab (now part of Pakistan) to Kerala in the south, the fire of revival broke out and spread to more than 70 places in the course of ten years. The Lord began answering the prayers of many of His servants who loved and prayed for the people of India, such as Praying Hyde in the North.
Chapter 8: Revival that Swept Across the Sub-Continent
Page 194-195: One of the characteristics of his ministry was the all-night prayer meetings. It was arranged in a bungalow by Red Hills Lake, near Purushawalkam, and several hundred attended.
For example, most denominations where he spoke did not practice “believer’s baptism” as taught in the Word of God, so he began to emphasize the importance of believer’s baptism.
One day, a Hindu girl who had given her heart to the Lord, approached Bakht Singh asking for baptism. This created a new situation, as neither Bakht Singh nor his team members had baptized anyone. Moreover, denominational leaders were opposed to believer’s Baptist, so he sought the counsel of his fellow workers.
It was agreed eventually and they all including the girl be baptized, at the Cooks Road Baptist Church, Madras.
Page 196: Bakht Singh felt that wearing jewellery and showy, colourful, expensive clothes were signs of worldliness. When Bakht Singh came and saw the wife’s jewellery, he told her unless she removed it all he would not take food in her house.
Page 199: After the message, the Lord’s supper was served to the large audience.
Page 201: End Notes – (4) There were many, particularly the liberal theology of German theologian Rudolf Bultman’s book, “New Testament and Mythology” (1941) heralded the beginning.
Chapter 9: Jehovah Shammah: A new Beginning
Page 205: The great commission includes the planting of New Testament Churches.
Page 206: A few of the denominational leaders became alienated from the gathering of these new believers because of jealousy and suspicion, as these leaders began to feel that something was happening which was not under their control, and they were afraid. ——
And some of the liberal, western missionaries that their position and authority were being undermined.
Page 207: They unitedly closed the doors of all their churches to Bakht Singh’s ministry.
Page 208: —-to go to Coonoor, South India. After much prayer, he decided to go in May 1941, for an extended time of rest and waiting upon the Lord to know His will regarding his future ministry.
Page 210: He did not mention anything about starting new work nor did he encourage them to come out from the denominational churches. In fact, he had no intention of starting another church to meet the spiritual needs of the believers who were like sheep without a shepherd. He departed for the Nilgiris, leaving the brethren confused in heart.
—mountains of Nilgiris. (Nilgiri means blue mountains.) This was going to be his “Mount Sinai,” where he, along with his team members, would be waiting on God for the next forty days or so to know God’s will, and plan for future ministry.
Page 211: Brothers Flack and Golsworthy. The Lord used them greatly to help him understand some of the deeper things of God, particularly the church and body life, including the controversial practice of laying-on-of-hands. The time they spent together in Coonoor was a real turning point in the history of the Lord’s work, both in India and abroad.
Page 212: During the ten years that Bakht Singh had been serving the Lord in India, beginning in 1933, he had seen large numbers of new converts backslide within a few months of conversion.
Page 213: However, what was bothering him was that he could not see much lasting blessing. —went back to visit perhaps a year later, much of the blessings had leaked away, and the new converts were hardly to be seen.
Page 214:—ought not to spend any more time discussing their problems, knowing that too much discussion often prevents them from finding God’s will.
Page 215:—such as Brothers Flack and Golsworthy who had been greatly used of the Lord in follow-up Bible studies in different places and denominations following his campaigns.
Pages 217-218: Would they be accused of being schismatic or making division? Would they be shut out of all the churches in Madras? Almost certainly. But they must be faithful to the Lord, to His Word, and to His people. Their primary consideration therefore was that they should not be “Disobedient to the heavenly Vision.” Fundamentally, it was not circumstances, nor the fears and prejudices of men that had brought them to that. Nor was it the Christian pastors; they did not blame them.
Rather, it was the rigidity of lifeless, sectarian Christianity which resisted the Word of God and its ever-renewing work that led to the crises. It was the message of the spiritual and heavenly nature of the church which provoked resistance and opposition leading to the crisis. When they reached Madras Central Station, the so-called church came with posters, “Bakht Singh go back.” What an irony!
Page 219: One of the brethren located an old, dilapidated building in a Muslim cemetery on Pallavaram Hill near St. Thomas Mount for the night of corporate prayer.
Page 222: Human and artificial “lights” were being gradually extinguished, and a “Greater Light” was about to rise, – The Living CHRIST Himself! “He shall be as the Light of the Morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds.” (2 Samuel 23:4)
Page 224: As mentioned in Acts 2:41, they first had a baptismal service where sixteen believers, both men and women, were baptized in a small tank adjoining the school. After the tank was filled and before the baptism, Bakht Singh gave a message on baptism explaining its significance and importance. He also explained the importance of the laying on of hands. He was the first to enter into the tank and, with his face shining, he baptized them.
Page 226: It was on that day that the Assembly we now know as Jehovah-Shammah was born through the travailing prayers and obedience of His people.
Chapter 10: Jehovah Shammah: To the Praise of God’s Glory
Page 230: “Jehovah-Shammah”, which means “The LORD is there.”
Page 231: Bakht Singh stated this in his own words, “That which would now develop should not be another exclusive body or sect of Christian people, another denomination. It was to be an expression of the heavenly and universal Church in its unity and calling.
The first thing to be avoided, then, was a distinguishing name. When regenerated by the Holy Spirit they are at the same time ‘baptized by one Spirit into one Body.’ “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all members of that one body, benign many, are one body: so also is Christ. (I Cor. 12:12)
Page 232: —-every believer, regardless of his background, however insignificant or influential in society, is equally precious, equally important and equally necessary to the body of believers.
Page 249: —-for God’s work through the House of God and were sent out for ministry from the House of God.
Page 251: —-They came to ask why he was baptizing since he was not ordained to do so, and moreover, why he had now started another church in Madras.
Page 252: —-Jehovah Shammah was not a church. It was a place they used for gathering the local church, and for the boarding and training of believers.
Page 257: —-Again, they saw that communion service must be expressive of the church as one body. They were convinced that they must welcome all true children of God to partake with them at His Table without reference to any caste or colour, nationality or sectarian label which they might have. If they were born of God, then they were in the same family and should be welcomed equally.
One of the brethren would open the service with prayer followed by songs of praise and worship. Most of these songs were composed by Indians set to Indian melody. Psalms were made into beautiful songs
of worship, set to Indian tunes and in local languages.
Page 258: —was given for spontaneous worship, during which time any brother or sister, constrained by the Spirit, was free to worship the Lord in his own language with no petitions but only expressing praise and adoration.
Page 260: Bakht Singh did not believe in any form of membership per se. Membership into the Body of Christians was by the new birth, not a formality of joining a local body of believers as is practised in denominational churches. Thus believers were invited to come forward singing and put their offering in the box provided in the hall.
Brahmins, high-caste, low-caste, and out-castes would sit down together to eat a communal meal prepared by His people in Jehovah-Shammah’s kitchen. The love feast helped greatly to break down the wall of caste or social separation which was a major problem even among Christians, especially at that time.
Page 261: On some Sundays, the day would begin with baptisms before the sun became too hot for the open-air baptistery. Music too, had its part to play as the believers sang to the accompaniment of a harmonium and tablas, tambourines and other instruments commonly used in India. The halls echoed with the songs of the redeemed.
Page 265: After much prayer, Bakht Singh named Khadija Esther, and Miriam he named Ruth. In 1950 Esther was married to Jordan Khan and Miriam was married to S. Martin, co-workers of Bakht Singh.
Page 266: According to the Scriptures the elders are the ones who should take the spiritual lead in the life of the local church. For months, prayers went up to God that He would in due time, show His choice of elders.
Page 267: Holy Convocations – based on the account in Leviticus chapter 23 concerning the seven feast of Jehovah.
Page 270: But as believers return to their homes throughout the hole of India with a deep and satisfying work in themselves, you can imagine how the work will multiply as these go from town to town and village to village and tell what God has done. In 1943, they began a door-campaign, or door-to-door evangelism.
Page 271: —-“Gospel raids.” After much prayer—–would travel together for a visit of several days to places at a distance from Madras. Their aim was to spread the gospel and at the same time to strengthen and encourage the local believers in their won witness.
Chapter 11: Andhra Pradesh and Beyond
Pages 275-276: —spread of the New Testament Assemblies in Andhra Pradesh was astronomical. —-beginning on September 25, 1950, the Lord had raised up literally hundreds of local churches in Andhra and other places across India and abroad through the ministry of Bakht Singh—-. ——the Assemblies founded by Bakht Singh and his team were the fastest growing churches in India, particularly in Andhra. “Tell me what is your secret or strategy?” He then replied that he had no strategy or method.
He and his co-workers had no extra qualifications but were simple people without much education. They simply decided to all things by prayer and oneness and total obedience to the Word of God, without any compromise.
“The Lord works if we honour God’s Word.” Many students were born again—–Andhra Christian College, Guntur.
Page 278: —-the actual church planting ministry in Andhra began with the establishing of an Assembly in Cuddapah in 1945.
Page 280: —-so they sent a circular letter around warning all their people that Bakht Singh was coming and that they should boycott his meetings.
Page 281: It was if they were being carried along on a strong current of God’s moving, as they served Him in what was chiefly an evangelistic ministry from 1943 to 1950.
Page 282: They had accepted Him as their Saviour, and all eight members wanted to be baptized.
Page 283: Then he asked them, “What about you? If you bury in baptism those who in fact have not died to sin, how do you think that you can justify yourselves?”
Page 297: How exactly has this multiplication of churches taken place? Were they personally responsible? Of course, there have been many to blame and criticize, accusing them by saying, “Starting new churches everywhere!” – That was the charge! Well, of course, they were not responsible for much that has happened, but it was the work of the Lord. —-MESSAGE of THE WORD OF GOD, and not the personal efforts of Bakht Singh or any of his co-workers.
In most cases they were not on the scene when the crucial developments were taking place. They would come to know about them afterwards. And even then, their policy had been not to interfere but to let the Lord work things out.
Page 298: Many of the churches to be found throughout the land have come into being through a few believers from a town or a village attending one of the Holy Convocations and seeing the ‘House of God’ being expressed, tasting of its joys and seeing its responsibilities.
While they returned to their own places, the time would come when they could no longer tolerate the old – the dead denominational system with its spiritual bankruptcy, it politics, carnal divisions and strife. Usually they would find the “old” skin so rigid and inflexible that any “new wine” simply could not be contained therein, and in the end there would be a “bursting”, As Bakht Singh said: “We never preached or taught that the believers should in any way seek to precipitate a “bursting” or separation, but just as people never build houses in graveyards, so the living cannot abide with the dead. —-into a “new skin”.
It has not come about on any one’s instigation, but rather it has been the spontaneous result of “new life” being experienced and new “vision” being granted. The new life has been so vital and the new vision so compelling that things took their own course locally without our intervention.”
But in other cases, perhaps more particularly in the cities and larger towns which have strategic value for the spread of the gospel, the beginning and the development of the work has been the direct result of their labours. The Assemblies in such places as New Delhi, Agra, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Vellore, Guntur, Hyderabad and many other places across India are the result of their direct and continuous labours.
Page 299: According to the need and as led by the Lord, Bakht Singh would send a brother or two, like Paul sent Timothy or Titus, to take care of the newly formed fellowships. He then kept transferring these brethren, who were known as “God’s servants,” within two or three years to other areas or places where their ministry was needed for strengthening believers and establishing new Assemblies.
These appointments were not meant to be permanent, but unfortunately some of the God’s servants have been reluctant to move on to new places, and this has caused much spiritual loss and strife in a number of Assemblies, particularly in Andhra Pradesh.
Pages 306-307: Until mid 80s, Nepal was closed for the gospel. In 1956 they sent a group from Kalimpong to permanently reside at Katmandu. This is the method employed by both Bakht Singh and Jordan Khan. It provides a focal point of fellowship for the new converts, as well as being an avenue of strength and encouragement.
There is a vibrant Assembly in Katmandu and thirty or more parts of Nepal. There are now hundreds of functional local churches or assemblies in Kalimpong and Darjeeling districts, Skkim and Nepal and in other North Eastern parts of India.
Chapter 12: The Riches of God’s Glory: Worldwide Impact
Page 311: The Lord brought about unusual spiritual awakenings which swept across various cities, towns and villages from Karachi in the North-West to Kerala in the South-West.
Page 315: I have been praying for somebody who knows Hindi because we want to record messages for those Indians in South America.
Page 320: “Our responsibility is not only to see that men and women come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, but also to disciple them and to teach them the whole counsel of God through the local expression of the Body of Christ, which is the church.” —-newly converted international students the concept of the New Testament Church so that when they go back home they can apply these New Testament principles within their own cultural background and thus increase the body of Christ in other parts of the world. —-Apostle Peter were baptized and “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and in fellowship, in breaking of bread and prayers.” (Acts 2:41,42)
So Bakht Singh encouraged this author to start a house church based on New Testament principles in orders to disciple and equip the newly converted international students.
Page 321: A large number of believers have begun to gather in various homes with a sincere longing to worship God in Spirit and in truth. There are many who have been seeing to understand God’s order for His Church,—–.
Page 323: While he was with us, he again emphasized the importance of starting a house church based on New Testament principles on the basis of Acts 2:42.
Page 354: —-on July 12, 1941 there came a paradigm shift in his vision and mission. He began emphasizing the important of local churches that would function under the Headship of Christ.
Page 359: —-‘right hand of fellowship’ (Gal. 2:9) into the local church where I was baptized. Brother Bakht Singh was happy about this, recognizing that in both practices the intention was to express the identification of the local church with the person being welcomed in.
Chapter 14: Salient Features of Bakht Singh’s Life and Ministry in Relation to the Church
Page 431: 1. The concept of the Church: The Church is a spiritual community of the redeemed people of God of all classes and castes and nationalities.
Page 432: It is the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Head of the living Church. It is all inclusive in the sense that it includes all the believers in Christ Jesus. According to the new Testament, the Church includes only those men and women who receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord.
We can see this from Acts 2:47 where the Lord added souls daily to the Church – not to a building, but to a group of people who believed in the Lord Jesus and had received His Holy Spirit.
Through the reading of the Scriptures, Bakht Singh identified the two major aspects of the church, one local (visible) and the other universal (invisible).
Page 433: Every local church should be administered by elders as we see in Acts. “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord on whom they believed.” (Acts 14.32) “The provision or appointment of elders in all the churches appears vital to their constitution as a local church.”
Bakht Singh rejected ecclesiastical order on the basis of the Word of God. He rejected the distinction between clergy and laity, and preached and practised the priesthood of all believers.
He emphasized the function of the body of Christ of fulfilling the purpose of Christ to show forth the four-fold purposes of the Church: 1) His fullness (Eph. 1:23); “Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all;” 2) unity of all believers (Eph 2:15); “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Eph 2:22; 3) His wisdom (Eph 3:9-10), “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God,
Page 434: —-and 4) His glory (Ep 3:21), “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.” Bakht Singh did not believe in church membership per se, but only recognized that membership which was based on new birth when such are united to the Body of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
He emphasized the functions of the church based on Acts 2;41-47 which include: baptism of new believers; teaching of the Word; fellowship, and the Lord’s Table, as well as prayers and worship on a weekly basis at least. He taught and practised that the church as a corporate body must be actively involved in evangelism, discipleship, planting of new, living assemblies and ministering to the needs of both believers and non-believers.
Page 435: (a) Baptism: Baptism must follow repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; it cannot precede it in any form. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom 6:3,4) Thus the Scriptures are clear: water baptism was not to be made a means of salvation or a method whereby people joined the Church or became recognized as members of the Church. (b) Laying on of hands: Bakht Singh practised the laying on of hands following baptism. “We saw also from the Word of God that ‘laying on of hands’ was associated with baptism, usually after (but) sometimes before; for example, Acts 19:5-6.
Pages 437-438: In this fallen world where the Body of Christ is divided by so many natural and human factors, the laying on of hands can be a beautiful symbolic expression of our relationship and oneness in the Body of Christ, provided it is done in love and in the Spirit of Christ.
This is all the more true and significant in a country like India where believers range from high-caste to outcaste, and they avoid each other like the plague. Bakht Singh, with the help of the Lord and in the light of the Scriptures, succeeded in breaking down such barriers and helping the believers to realize that in Christ, regardless of their place or position in society, they are equally precious equally important and equally necessary in the sight of the Lord and in the Body of Christ.
Pages 438-439: The Lord’s Table: Bakht Singh believed in and thus practised the weekly observance of THE LORD’S TABLE in obedience to the Lord’s command, Who said, “this do in remembrance of me.” (I Cor 11:24) The Table was open to all true believers regardless of their nationality, colour, caste and status, but believers were advised to partake of it worthily. (d) Praying for the Sick: Bakht Singh believed in the gifts and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
He also believed in praying for the sick, based on such scriptures as Mark 16:18, “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
Page 439: Choosing of Speakers: Bakht Singh did not believe in “pre-arranged” ministry, meaning that he did not plan or arrange before hand who should be the speaker or preacher at any particular meeting. This way, he felt that the Lord’s man with His message for His people would speak under the anointing of the Holy Spirit of God.
The only exception to this was when they were lead of the Lord to invite one of His servants to conduct a series of meetings.
Page 440: The Body Life: Bakht Singh believed that the living Christ is the head of the Church and that He should be in charge of all the affairs of the local church, which is his Body and through which he functions in the light of God’s Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, everything should be done for the edification of individual and collective members of the Body, and for the extension of His Kingdom, for the glory of God.
Page 441: Many local churches throughout India and Pakistan came into being in one of three ways. In the cities and larger towns, the beginning and development of the work had been the direct result of the labours of Bakht Singh and his team.
Secondly, in many other places, particularly in villages, the Assemblies were the result of the labours of the ordinary believers who were greatly influenced and challenged as they saw the living reality of the Church in action by attending the Holy Convocations and other services.
Thirdly, Assemblies were established through the labours of men of vision, and commitment, who, while they were gainfully employed, set their priorities to found living local Assemblies. For example, George Rajaratnam of Madras was used of the Lord to begin Assemblies in Madurai and many other places. C. D. Benjamin of Hyderabad, was used by the Lord to start more than 30 Assemblies in various parts of India, including Kothagudem and the neighboring areas, while serving as an engineer. Similarly the Lord used scores and scores of others to found living groups of believers.
Page 442: One of the great secrets of the expansion of the work of the Assemblies in connection with Bakht Singh was the corporate functioning of believers employed in secular jobs or full-time workers giving themselves wholly to the work of the Lord to fulfill the Great Commission to build His Church.
The Provision of Shepherds: As Assemblies began to multiply, the need for shepherds after God’s own heart became a pressing necessity. The Lord answered their prayers for the need of shepherds in two ways. There were small groups of local churches which had come into being through the labours of one or two brethren living there who, by preaching the gospel and expounding the Word, had brought souls together and built them up and they gave the necessary shepherding. —who had a shepherd’s heart to care for and to feed the flock of God.
But then there were other places where a few believers had begun to seek the Lord together, but with no manifest gifts for shepherding or ministering present among them. Such had appealed to Bakht Singh saying, “Please send us someone to help us.”
They asked the Lord to call and set apart for His service those who could, for a short or long period of time meet the need of these churches where there was no evidence of local gifts present. The Lord again had been faithful in providing such servants and had sent them to meet the need in many places.
Pages 443-444: 2. God’s servants or Full-time workers: From the earliest days in Madras, there had been those who had left all because they felt a call to serve the Lord full-time.
Some of them seemed very unpromising for such important or responsible work, being often young and immature. —-help the local believers to become mature in the Lord, so that local leadership, as elders and deacons can be chosen from among them to carry on the work. Just as the Apostle Paul sent Timothy, Titus and others for a period of time to strengthen the believers, Bakht Singh, too, practiced the same principle by sending God’s servants wherever their help and ministry were needed.
The usually practice was that those men were transferred from Assembly to Assembly within three to four years with a few exceptions where some of them stayed on for a longer period. His transferring God’s servants was very unique. Every year following the Holy Convocation in ‘Hebron’, he would hold two days of workers’ meeting. During the meeting he would pray and seek the Lord’s mind about the transfer.
Then at the close fo the meeting, he would mention the names of the brethren and the places of their transfer in his prayer. That was how the brothers were informed where and when they were transferred to. From the late ‘70s onwards, however, as Bakht Singh became extremely busy with the work worldwide, he did not have sufficient time to insist on the transferring of God’s servants periodically as he should have done.
As a result, in a number of Assemblies God’s servants stayed on and began to “lord it over” the flock like some denominational pastors.
Page 445: Sisters also have been a part of the work over the years, particularly those who came to Bakht Singh and elders expressing a desire to serve the Lord full-time. They, too, had a share in various aspects of the ministry, namely VBS, the Hebron Messenger, Bible correspondence courses, the outreach ministry, visitation, and kitchen duty and in so many other areas of work – in relation to ‘Hebron’ as well as other Assemblies.
Bakht Singh taught believers to contribute generously and joyfully to the work of the Lord.
Page 446: 3. The training of workers: Bakht Singh did not believe in any formal Bible school or seminary training as a prerequisite to the work or the ministry of the Lord.
Page 447: 4. Indigenisation of the new Testament principles in the local churches:
Bakht Singh was not after any national church. He believed in only one Church which is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ as expressed locally, nationally and internationally. He repeatedly said that there is no Indian Church or Chinese church or American Church, but only one universal Church, which is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He believed that sectarian divisions, i.e. denominationalism, defeat these high and holy ends, for one group excludes another group. Indigenization is not Indianisation. It simply means applying the New Testament principles of the Church within the cultural background of the people without compromising the Word of God. It also means self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating fellowships under the Headship, Lordship and Kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ and and under the direction of the Holy Spirit in the light of the Word of God.
Page 448: George Verwer, who worked in ‘Hebron’, Hyderabad, in close fellowship with Bakht Singh made the following observation about his ministry: “Bakht Singh’s ministry is a phenomenal example of contextualization in its earliest days without compromising the Word of God. He liked the simple and old gospel mats on the floor with their chappals or shoes off, singing authentically Indian music with Indian musical instruments.
His messages were long, simple, filled with Scriptures and with appropriate witnessing stories and explanations. He was humorous and a man of great chrisma. Following the worship service on Sundays people sat on the mats on the floor and had meals together – love-feast, fellowshipping with one another.
Page 455: Bakht Singh’s vision of the Church was to have local churches that were free of denominationalism and sectarianism in order to show forth the fullness of Christ. After much prayer and fasting, the Lord led him and his co-workers to establish local churches which met not in ‘expensive church buildings’ but in simple inexpensive halls or houses. Believers were encouraged to sit on mats on the floor with the men on one side and women on the other.
Page 456: They sat with their shoes off. The gifted men of God composed songs of praise and worship using Indian melodies and Indian instruments. Bakht Singh believed in the priesthood of all believers based on the Word of God (I Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6) and the Assemblies were led by godly men rather than ‘ordained ministers.’ It was indeed a real breakthrough.
Many who came in contact with these Assemblies felt at home, realizing that one can be a Christian and also at the same time an Indian. Writing about Bakht Singh’s life and ministry, Dr. Robert Finley of Christian Aid Mission, who knew him better than most people in the West, wrote the following: “As a planter of churches among many nations, Bakht Singh exemplified God’s purpose for His Kingdom as clearly as any man in church history.
Page 457: These Assemblies established by Bkaht Singh and his co-workers were self-propagating and self-governing in the sense that Bakht Singh taught, prayed and mobilized the local churches to evangelism the un-evangelized people, people reaching people. He taught from the Scriptures that their responsibility was to give generously and cheerfully for the work of the Lord, which they gladly did so that there was no lack of finance for the work of the Lord.
At local assembly meetings on Sundays, a large box or basket was place on a table and believers were given opportunity to go forward and place their offerings in the box as part of their worship.
Page 458: 5. Place of worship: From the very beginning, the Assemblies had met together in rented houses for worship and weekly activities like in ‘Jehovah-Shammah,’ Chennai. They felt they should not spend too much money on physical buildings for the service of the lord. Whenever the houses became too small for the gathering, they built tent-like halls (or pandals) for the gatherings.
Page 463: Every local church took the initiative to construct an appropriate facility within their means. He believed that every local church was autonomous and therefore every local church should be self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating.
Bakht Singh did not believe in centralized control or the federation of churches. He believed in the spiritual unity and fellowship of all the scattered Assemblies both in India and abroad.
Page 473: 7. Seeking the Lord’s will corporatively and individually: Thus the speakers for each meeting were selected not by prior assignment but by corporately waiting and seeking the mind of God. George Verwer was amused and surprised by this practice of selecting speakers at the last minutes before the meetings. “To me, as a Westerner so well organized, we had to know months in advance who is going to speak. In contract to that, Bakht Singh would wait upon God and often even he did not know who was going to minister in the evening meeting until about the time it came just before the meeting.”
Page 476: 8. He discovered and practiced Biblical worship, and encouraged all the saints both male and female to worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth: Through the revelation from the Word of God, Bakht Singh realized that God created us and redeemed us to worship Him.
Page 478: “At ‘Hebron’, Hyderabad, one Lord’s day the worship went on from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and even then the worship was cut off when it was most strong and vigorous…the time given to pure worship on the Lord’s Day mornings is a secret of growth hidden for centuries.
Page 479: 9. He encouraged fellowship among the saints by introducing the love-feast: One of the salient features of the Assemblies has been the ‘love-feast’ following the Sunday Worship service. Some Assemblies prepare all the food themselves for all those who would come.
Page 482: 10. One of Bakht Singh’s salient contributions was re-introducing the “Holy Convocations”: We read about these Holy Convocations in the Old Testament, particularly in Exodus and in Leviticus chapter 23.
Page 483: These Holy convocations have been one of the hallmarks of Bakht Singh’s work and ministry.
Page 491: 11. He had passion for God and compassion for souls-Evangelism and Gospel raids: Bakht Singh preached a Biblical gospel for salvation particularly at a time when it was not popular to preach the Old Gospel. “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.” (I Cor 15:3-5) “Neither is there salvation in any other : For there is non other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
His life and ministry demonstrated that he had a deep love and passion for the Lord which was expressed outwardly as he was moved with compassion for the souls of men and women whom the Lord loved and died for.
Chapter 16: Conclusion
Page 536: As Bob Finley pointed out: “As a planter of churches among many nations, Bakht Singh exemplified God’s purpose for His kingdom as clearly as any man in church history. In the Book of Acts, our Lord revealed a pattern by which His kingdom eventually spread in every people, tongue, tribe and nation. Clear examples were demonstrated in the lives of Barnabas of Cyprus and Saul of Tarsus. In the Twentieth Century the pattern was duplicated in the life and ministry of Bkaht Singh of India, who went home to glory on September 17, 2000 at age 97.
In his auto-biography Norman Grubb wrote: “But in all my missionary experience I think these churches on their New Testament foundations are the nearest I have seen to a replica of the early church, and a pattern for the birth and growth of the young churches in all the countries which we used to talk about as the mission fields.”
Page 537: Dr. Kinnear: “Some of the special features of these Assemblies (local churches) were first of all, simplicity – it was going back to simple procedures, based on prayer, based on the Word of God, based on corporate worship of the Lord’s people; secondly, the fact that it was scriptural and was Indian, free from the restrictions and limitations created by foreign institutions, missions or denominations. There was liberty and freedom to follow the Lord as the Lord led.