By Justin Horey
How can Christians reach the 642 million Hindi-speaking people in the world with the gospel? It’s an enormous task, and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 at first seemed to make the challenge more difficult. But that year, Ajai Lall and Central India Christian Mission (CICM) did what many other Christian churches and ministries did at that time—they started an online worship service.
Church planting has been a central component of CICM’s ministry in Southeast Asia. The organization normally provides training and financial support to leaders who start new congregations throughout India.
“During COVID, a lot of things changed,” Lall remembers. “We had a lockdown all over India.” CICM needed a new model to continue its ministry.
CICM responded by quickly creating an online church service for Hindi speakers. On March 19, 2020, the fledgling Hindi Church Online broadcast its first worship service. There were 266 viewers.
During that first month, Lall said, Hindi Church Online experienced “unbelievable growth.” By April 2020, the online church had grown tenfold, attracting roughly 2,000 viewers per week. In August 2020, less than six months after launching, Hindi Church Online was reaching 800,000 people.
For two years now, Hindi Church Online has continued to grow and expand. By April 2021, roughly one year after launching, the service was attracting 3.2 million viewers from 60 countries. As of February 2022, that number had grown to 7.5 million weekly viewers from 86 countries—on social media alone.
Each church service is very concise—just 45 minutes in length—making it easy for individuals, families, and groups to watch. CICM produces each video in partnership with Good News Productions International, whose studio is located next to CICM’s office. The production team at Mid India Christian Mission also assists with the broadcasts.
Every Hindi Church Online service is available to stream online at facebook.com/hindichurchlive. Services are also broadcast on television by several district cable networks in India. Through his work with CICM, Lall has become acquainted with many individuals who work with these local television broadcasters.
The first district cable network to broadcast Hindi Church Online in India is run by a friend of Lall. Initially, he agreed to broadcast the services on Sundays, once in the morning and once in the evening. Three weeks later, that friend offered to continue the broadcast for a year—free of charge. That network alone is reaching 65,000 to 70,000 homes, and Lall estimates that 30,000 people are watching. Since that first district cable network began broadcasting the worship services, many others have followed. Most did not charge anything for the airtime.
Hindi Church Online services are streamed not just by individuals or families in their homes. Lall reports that 918 church campuses in India use the broadcasts for their Sunday gatherings because they don’t have well-trained preachers available to deliver sermons in person.
Some of the largest groups gathering to watch Hindi Church Online are in India’s larger cities—what Lall calls “wealthy, high-caste places.” The state of Gujarat is believed to be just 0.3 percent Christian, but 38 groups there watch the services every week.
Many new groups of Hindi-speaking people are also gathering to watch in Middle Eastern countries. Dubai (in the United Arab Emirates), Iran, and Iraq are just a few of the growing number of places where believers are gathering, enjoying fellowship, and watching the service together.
‘ONLY GOD . . .’
Hindi Church Online’s weekly worship service is just one component of CICM’s ministry to Hindi speakers. Since many of the groups who rely on the broadcast lack trained local leaders, CICM recently started a 24-hour telephone service to answer questions from viewers who want to learn more about what they have seen and heard in the broadcasts. Many viewers also contact their local churches to follow up. Christian churches in 13 Indian states have reported receiving such calls.
At the urging of Ajai Lall’s wife, Indu, the team behind Hindi Church Online is also working to reach children with its broadcasts. Because many Indian churches lack Sunday school programs, CICM launched Hindi Sunday School Online late last year. In just six months, that program is reaching almost 500,000 weekly viewers. Hindi Sunday School Online has content for five different age groups, with more planned for the near future.
With more than a half-billion Hindi-speaking people in the world, evangelism and discipleship is an enormous task. But Hindi Church Online has proven to be an effective tool as it continues to grow and expand its reach.
“What is happening now, only God can do,” Lall said.
Justin Horey is a writer, musician, and the founder of Livingstone Marketing. He lives in Southern California.