The Bania of India
Merchants: Empty and Unreached
28 Jan 2008
India is a country one-third the size of the United States, but the home of over one billion people. It is the largest democracy of the world.
For the very few, India is a land of riches that goes beyond belief. Yet, it is a place where others toil in the depths of poverty while the growing middle class is continually challenged to just travel to work.
India … a land of contrasts without end … is also a land of millions of gods and hundreds, if not thousands, of religious beliefs. There are the Hindus, the Muslims, the Jains, the Sikhs, and the Christians … all with their varied and often conflicting religious systems. Nevertheless, people work and live side by side in some of the most concentrated masses of humanity on earth. However, India is not a melting pot where diverse lifestyles mix to form a composite structure. Instead, each people group clings tenaciously to their own beliefs, language, customs, dress, and food. It is like each is in a cocoon separating one group from another. They socialize only within their group, their caste, and their beliefs.
Among these groups is the Bania; … a merchant class of people who live throughout India. Most of these 22 million people are in the northern part of the country. However, about one million claim the state of Karnatoka in southern India as their home. A large portion lives in Bangalore, the capital city, with a population exceeding 6.5 million.
Nearly all of the Bania claim Hindu as their religion but, as merchants, they have chosen gods that reflect their profession. In particular, they worship Laxmi, the god of wealth, and Ganesh, the god of good fortune, but many have chosen another god – the god of money. This is a god that they worship; a god that drives their lives … a god that leaves them with an empty heart. Everything depends on acquiring wealth. Their businesses are profitable but spartan. They could afford a car and chauffeur or a bigger house but prefer to make their home in their place of business to save money. Making money supersedes honesty and integrity in the business. It is all focused on acquiring wealth in any way they can.
The Bania will listen to people. They are courteous and hospitable and are often receptive to hearing God’s Word through personal stories. They will listen to how one’s life changed after becoming a follower of Jesus. They follow the story intently … they seek to understand … but it is difficult for them to grasp. They have no concept of sin and, of course, no feeling of guilt or the need for forgiveness. Their hearts and lives remain empty. The Gospel has not reached them.
It is most often too much for them upon the first hearing. Some turn away, some seek more information on follow-up visits and, … eventually, … they may accept Jesus as their Lord and reject their false gods. However, usually, … in keeping with Hinduism, … they will claim Jesus and keep their favorite Hindu gods; gods that have been part of their culture for more than 3000 years.
Overlay: Pray for National Partners
Training these believers to train others to share God’s Word is an essential part of developing a Church Planting Movement. The Bania believers are taught to share their story … and, … in turn, … the process multiplies, as new believers become trainers for trainers.
Overlay: Pray for Trainers for Trainers
Strong family ties are part of the Bania culture. It is these bonds that can be used to facilitate rapidly reproducing churches among the Bania. Pray that entire families come to know Christ and reach out to others to establish new churches.
Overlay: Pray for a Church Planting Movement to Begin
India is a country that is becoming a major political and economic world power. Many of the leaders within this country are Bania. Pray that as India increases its influence in the world, the Bania believers will remain strong in their faith.
Overlay: Pray for the Salvation of India
As Americans, we appear out of place in this culture. We wait in line to take a short ride with those we don’t know and by methods that are strange. In God’s time, the journey is only for a moment, long enough to facilitate the development of rapidly reproducing churches among the Bania. We can then leave knowing that the glory of the Lord will soon reign among the Bania.
Join us in fervent prayer claiming the promise found in Habakkuk 2:14: “For the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord, as the waters of the sea”.
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