Nepali Church at the Crossroad of Crisis

Bhojraj Bhatta
8 min readMar 18, 2024

The current Nepali Church just turned seventy. And, turning seventy somehow appears to be ominous.

Taken from Bishwasi.com

Bible gives mysterious importance to number seventy. Human life is measured with three scores and ten or twenty years at the most. The Babylonian exile lasted for seventy years. The Jewish Temple came to an end after the seventy years from the birth of Jesus Christ; and, most or all of the New Testament books were written within these first seventy years of Christian history. Theologically speaking, the old Jewish age went under the shadow of the new age, the age of the new covenant under the reign of Christ after the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 AD.

Seventy years period does have a defining element to it. Vladimir Lenin, the father of Russian Revolution of 1917, is believed to have said; “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.” The seventy years of communism and the empire of USSR disappeared in matter of weeks!

Age of Innocence

For the last seven decades, the church in Nepal had been beautifully led by the Holy Spirit even though there were no manmade structures and institutions. Thanks to William Carey and Pastor Ganga Prasad Pradhan, we have had the Bible in our language from the very beginning of the modern church in Nepal. With the help of a handful of western missionaries living in India, some immigrant Nepalese from India crossed the border into Nepal to share the gospel; and an indigenous church was born without much fanfare.

Right from the beginning, these early Nepalese pioneers composed spiritual songs and hymns in Nepali language, giving birth to a very uniquely Nepali style of church worship. They had very minimal theological training in India, and because of that, they were not conditioned by the western theologies and thus, a church like we see in the New Testament was transplanted in Nepal right from its pages. The Holy Spirit was wonderfully guiding this young church with wonderful signs and miracles. Physical healings and casting out of demons were a normal part of church services and evangelism.

Yes, there was persecution and prohibition from the government against the church. But it was not as severe as many of us have made it look like to gain sympathies from our supporters abroad. The second part of the 1980s did see the most imprisonments and court cases against the Christians. Otherwise, as an underground church, we were happy and joyful to worship the Lord in homes and fields if necessary to avoid the attention of the government.

If caught preaching the gospel in those days, one would go to prison for 3 years, if caught baptizing, 6 years, and add to that one year for changing his or her own religion if not born in Christian family.

But such a harsh punishment came to an end in 1990 after the end of the dictatorial monarchy. However, the criminal code remained the same against the Christians. It just was not enforced as before. In fact, the current law is rather severe against the Christians than it was during the dictatorship. In those days, the act was punished. But the current law punishes even the intent of evangelism. In addition to such a draconian law, now, the rise of religious extremism has become a real danger for the welfare of Christians in the nation.

Age of Greed and Division

To make the matters worse, the Nepali church is now divided like never before. In the last seventy years, we have had minimal differences among ourselves. But now, there is an open season going on among the Christians who are taking each other to courts for church properties and positions. Unethical practices and political campaigns are the weapons by which leadership is gained in many of the denominations and mission organizations. Once in the position of leadership, laying hands on the foreign donations appears to be the main purpose of leadership instead of tackling the problems facing the church.

Although there are thousands of churches across the nation, only the handful of leaders who control the power centers of these denominations and organizations managed to live a life of luxury while the innocent pastors and believers in the grass-root level become the target of the government and religious extremists. These innocent pastors and believers serve the Lord faithfully in the midst of a life of poverty and scarcity while still being accused of converting for money. When they are harassed, arrested and put in prison by the anti-Christian elements, there is hardly anyone who speaks on their behalf. The leaders who control much of the church resources keep their peace so that they can continue to live in safety. And, when the news comes out about such persecution taking place in Nepal, it becomes a valuable fodder to feed the donors who fill the coffers of these leaders who present themselves as the custodians of the church in Nepal.

The younger generation seems to provide us some hopeful future. They are theologically trained and missionally ambitious. Many of them have started their own churches and ministries; some of them on their own and others under the existing denominations. They are full of zeal and joy to serve the Lord by using every available tool the current age provides.

But they lack godly mentors who could steer them towards a safe and sound path even as they experience growth and success. The culture of mentorship never developed in Nepal. Mentorship was replaced by financial sponsorship. Church leadership was always a matter of financial transactions rather than the spiritual mentorship. When the flow of money stops, relationship stops. Thus, a hunt for foreign donors is still a matter of prayer and priority for many who want to succeed in the ministry even among the younger generation.

Therefore, the younger generation of church leaders who have managed to forge their own course are doing well in terms of growth and success. But their spiritual formation is still a matter of concern. Some of them are attracted to the prosperity gospel, some are attracted to the African style of spiritism of signs and miracles, some are attracted to prophetic and apostolic movements, and some others are attracted to a hardcore Calvinism that attacks all other forms of church styles and doctrines.

While the older generation of leaders used to fight for the foreign donors, the younger generation of leaders are fighting among themselves for their own style of church government and spiritual practices. One group claims miracles, another group denies miracles. One group claims prosperity, another group claims poverty. One group claims prophets and apostles, another claims they are no longer here. One group claims the baptism of the Holy Spirit, another group denies it. One group claims the operational of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, another claims they have ceased.

The division is so sharp that it is no longer possible for them to come together to worship in one place or in one meeting. While looking at such differences, there are some others who have accepted Catholicism without any objections. Some of the churches have now started to practice a form of idol worship in their services where they bow to the wooden cross and to their human leaders.

After seventy years, Nepali church is truly standing at the crossroad. The hostile government from the outside and irreconcilable differences in the inside, what the future holds is very scary. The leaders at the helms of all the denominations and mission organizations themselves appear to have no idea as how to steady the sinking ship. The anti-Christian sentiment is fueled in the streets from India, the government is progressively coming under the control of the religious extremism, and the western nations are in no position to raise their voice against what India does in Nepal.

Hope for the Future

Therefore, if there is any hope for the future of Nepali church, it is only in the hand of God. It is not in the hand of the older generation of leaders who do not want to suffer in their old age by risking their comfort. It is not in the hand of the younger generation of leaders who are still struggling to find their own identity and spiritual maturity. It is only in the hand of God.

But God does not work without human agency. Man has always been God’s method of bringing his purpose into completion. If that is the case, who then can be the instrument in God’s hand for the future of Nepali Church?

To answer this question, we must look to the scripture and not to some foreign mission agencies. Ezekiel chapter 34 indicts the shepherds who are fattening themselves and mudding the water so that the flock remains sick and weak. God says “Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?” (34:2). Because these shepherds did not take care of the flock, they will have to give an account of their negligence and selfishness; “I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock” says God (34:10).

Not only will he hold the selfish shepherds accountable for their sins, he himself will become the shepherd of his flock; “I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice” (34:15–16).

Jesus takes upon himself this responsibility of shepherding his people by saying “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14–15).

In such a scenario, the future of the Nepali church is in the hands of those sheep who know Jesus as their shepherd. He will use these sheep into making them his under shepherds who will fulfill his will in protecting and prospering his church in Nepal. But those who are motivated by greed will face his wrath.

However, if they repent, his wrath will turn into mercy. Through the prophet Zachariah, God says “Return to me, and I will return to you” (1:3). Psalmist prays a prayer of repentance like this “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you” (130:1–4). “Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption” (130:7).

Risen Lord Jesus speaks to the Ephesians church warning; “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Rev. 2:4–5).

Psalmist believes in God’s mercy and forgiveness resulting in full redemption so that he can serve the Lord again with reverence. Through Zachariah, God promises to return to them if they would return to him. But Jesus gives a chilling warning to the Ephesians that if they do not repent and return to their first love, he will remove their lampstand (church).

The only option before us for a better future is to return to the Lord with repentance, believing in the full redemption Christ offers us in the Cross. The older and the younger generations of leaders need to realize that if we do not repent, neither our foreign donations nor our theological correctness will save us from the coming judgement of God.

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Bhojraj Bhatta

Hindu by Birth. Christian by Choice. Nepalese by Citizenship. Writes About Life, Family, Bible, Church, Missions. Etc. http://youtube.com/brbhatta