This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the
Cook School of Intercultural Studies, Biola University
Conversion and Post-Conversion
Experiences of Hindu-Background
Believers with Applications to Local
Church Ministry in Southern California
Evangelical Missiological Society
WCIUPress.org provides purchasing information for this
dissertation, other EMS Dissertation Series titles, and a
variety of other WCIU Press books.
Dr. Asher Mathew is the Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel La Palma, CA. He received his
Th.M. from Evangelical Theological Seminary, Bangalore, India; M.A. in Intercultural
Studies & Doctor of Missiology degrees from Biola University, CA. He and his family
live in Los Angeles, CA.
CONVERSION AND POST-CONVERSION EXPERIENCES OF HINDU-
BACKGROUND BELIEVERS WITH APPLICATIONS TO LOCAL
CHURCH MINISTRY IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
the Faculty of the Cook School of Intercultural Studies
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Doctor of Missiology
© 2011 Asher Mathew
Published by WCIU Press February 2013
EMS Dissertation Series
1539 E. Howard Street
Pasadena, CA 91104
All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013932489
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this dissertation are those of the author and do
not necessarily reflect the belief or position of the Evangelical Missiological Society or William
Carey International University Press.
In order to encourage and make known Evangelical missiological scholarship the
Evangelical Missiological Society (EMS) launched a dissertation series in 2010. In
collaboration with William Carey International University Press, the Society is
publishing up to four dissertations per year that its reviewers have judged as scholarly,
relevant, and timely for advancing the global cause of Christ. We pray you will find this
dissertation informative and stimulating.
Thomas J. Sappington, Editor
EMS Dissertation Series
EMS DISSERTATION SERIES
Series Editor: Tom Sappington
Reviewers for 2012
Mike Barnett, Columbia International University
Bruce Carlton, Oklahoma Baptist University
John Chesworth, University of Oxford
Howard Culbertson, Southern Nazarene University
Cheryl Doss, Andrews University
Robert Gallagher, Wheaton College
Anthony Greenham, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Charles Kraft, Fuller Theological Seminary
Bob Lenz, The Evangelical Alliance Mission
Alan McMahan, Biola University
Garry Morgan, Northwestern College
Harold Netland, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Kyeong-Sook Park, Moody Bible Institute
David Sills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fred Smith, Toccoa Falls College
Beth Snodderly, William Carey International University
Tom Steffen, Biola University
Steve Strauss, Dallas Theological Seminary
CONVERSION AND POST-CONVERSION EXPERIENCES OF HINDU-
BACKGROUND BELIEVERS WITH APPLICATIONS TO LOCAL
CHURCH MINISTRY IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
The motivation for this study was to help Indian churches in Southern California
be more effective in their evangelistic strategies and discipleship efforts in order to
produce new converts who are growing in the Lord. I investigated the conversion and
post-conversion experiences of believers who were born and brought up in the Hindu
religion. Moreover, I discovered the real issues that these converted believers
experienced and, in some cases, are still experiencing. In order to understand their
conversion experiences, I examined their frames of mind and backgrounds of faith in
Hinduism, as well as the role that culture played in preventing them from coming to faith
in Christ. Finally, the 16 participants expressed the expectations they have for their
churches and gave their recommendations for evangelizing Hindus, especially in regard
to cultural barriers.
The central understanding to emerge from the study was that the Hindu-
background believers’ [HBB] conversion and post-conversion adaptations are gradual.
HBBs consider their experiences to be different from those of traditional converts (i.e.,
those who grew up in the Church). Persistence is required on the part of believers to bring
Hindus to Christ. Due to this gradual process, it takes years for Hindus to come to faith in
Christ, which affects the growth of Indian churches in Southern California.
I want to thank some noteworthy people who made such an impact in my life
during my studies and especially to this dissertation.
I am deeply indebted to my chair, Dr. Richard L. Starcher, for his wisdom,
instruction, guidance, and insights as he reflected on my research. His patience,
flexibility, genuine care, and faith in me, which greatly enabled and encouraged me, were
there at all stages of this dissertation. One of his frequent comments was, “Asher, I am
encouraged; I hope you are encouraged as well.” He never compelled or rushed me when
he knew I needed to deal with other priorities. When I was confused and felt ignorant, his
attention and awareness at those stages brought comprehension and understanding.
I am also very grateful to the other members of my dissertation committee, Dr.
Tom A. Steffen and Rev. Dr. N. Jawahar Gnaniah. My academic advisor, Dr. Steffen’s
motivation, grace, humor, and missiological love were endless throughout my doctoral
program. Dr. Gnaniah’s support, contribution, and personal encouragement blessed me
and my work on this dissertation. Moreover, my special thanks to all the faculty members
of the Cook School of Intercultural Studies of Biola University for imparting to me the
knowledge of God’s Word in clarity, truthfulness, and seriousness. I am now better
prepared to teach God’s Word proficiently in cross-cultural settings.
The most important contributors to this whole research project were my family.
Both my parents (Mathew Jacob & Saramma Mathew) and my wife’s parents (Philip &
Mariamma Koshy) helped me in contacting the participants, accompanied me when I
interviewed different participants, and even babysat. All of them were concerned about
my study, as it went on for many years. They were with me through my ups and downs,
despair, and frustrations. It was my parents’ dream for their children to accomplish what
they could not. I am so honored and privileged to bless them with this achievement. Their
prayers moved mountains and have done the impossible! Tenny, my wife, deserves the
highest appreciation. In my laziness, anxieties, and faithless moments she was a rock, a
real helpmeet, and an advisor. I am thankful for her contentment, patience, and for never
having a complaining attitude as I studied with student loans (at times, personal money
for text books and so on) and was unable to financially support my family. I could not
have completed my studies without her intervention in my life. She was also my best
critic to read and edit my work.
In addition, these acknowledgments would not be complete if I did not mention
my children, Charis, Alana, Jeremy and Elisha (7, 5, 3, and 8 months). They were
amazing in their prayers (“Jesus, help Daddy to complete his studies”) and requesting
others (such as school teachers and family members) to pray for their Daddy. I literally
asked them often to pray for me. As I instructed them, they laid their hands on me, my
books, or printed documents, because I believed greatly in their sincere prayers. At times
I had to be away from them to concentrate on my work, which was hard for them and me
There are several brothers in Christ who have impacted my work. My dearest
friend, Dr. Kyosung Keum, who was my classmate and study partner at Biola, was truly a
blessing during this endeavor. Two other brothers’ (Daniel Gera and Daniel Manchala)
love and prayers were a special blessing. I had the great privilege of doing personal
evangelism and Bible studies with Daniel Manchala during 2003 and 2004 in the city of
Torrance among Hindus.
I want to also recognize my church family, Calvary Chapel La Palma, for their
undivided intercession during my studies. Their effectual prayers helped me especially
during the completion of my doctoral program. They were gracious and considerate as I
concentrated on my education.
I am very grateful to the 16 participants I was able to interview. They were
willing to share their life stories. Their testimonies blessed and challenged me personally.
Special thanks go to Kirsten O’Brien, who edited and proofread my dissertation with
keenness and accuracy. Additionally, I want to express my gratitude to Andrea Greene
who did an excellent job in formatting my dissertation.
Above all, I want to give praise, glory, and honor to my Lord who has enabled me
to persevere all through my studies. Psalm 32:8 was my promise verse, “I will instruct
you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” The
following verse, Philippians 1:6, enabled me to press on in this great endeavor, “Being
confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete [it]
until the day of Jesus Christ.” Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:17, “To God who alone is wise,
[be] honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
This dissertation is dedicated to the glory of God to be used to impact the lives of
Hindus for Jesus Christ; additionally, to bless all the Hindu converts who are my brothers
and sisters in the Lord.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES ............................................................................................................. xi
LIST OF FIGURES .......................................................................................................... xii
1. INTRODUCTION .........................................................................................................1
Problem Statement ...................................................................................................4
Purpose Statement ....................................................................................................4
Research Questions ..................................................................................................4
Definition of the Terms ............................................................................................5
Ethical Considerations .............................................................................................7
Ethical Issues ...........................................................................................................8
Significance of the Study .......................................................................................10
2. SUBSTANTIVE LITERATURE REVIEW ON HINDUISM ....................................11
History of Hinduism ..............................................................................................11
Hierarchy of the Caste System ...................................................................14
Belief Systems of Hinduism ..................................................................................15
Gods and Goddesses ..................................................................................17
Sacred Texts ...............................................................................................19
The Vedas and the Puranas ............................................................20
Holy Days ..................................................................................................23
Rites and Ceremonies ................................................................................24
Marriage Rite .................................................................................25
Child Birth .....................................................................................26
Death Rite ......................................................................................27
Principles behind the Exercise of Yoga .........................................29
Purpose of Yoga .............................................................................30
Uniqueness of Naming and Names ........................................................................32
3. SUBSTANTIVE LITERATURE REVIEW ON CONVERSION ..............................34
Research on Conversion: Introduction ...................................................................34
General Understanding of the Topic ......................................................................35
Definition and Meaning of Conversion .................................................................36
Biblical Concept of Conversion .............................................................................38
Christian Tradition and Conversion .......................................................................44
Comparing Other Religions’ Conversion Rates with Christianity ........................47
History of Christianity with an Emphasis on Conversion in Different
Time Periods ................................................................................................47
Theories on Conversion .........................................................................................56
Sudden Conversion ....................................................................................56
Apostle Paul ...................................................................................58
Philippian Jailer .............................................................................59
A Gradual Process......................................................................................61
Conclusion on the Three Theories .............................................................62
Analysis on the Stages of Conversion ...................................................................62
Integration Experience ...........................................................................................73
4. METHODS AND PROCEDURES .............................................................................76
Rationale for Qualitative Research ........................................................................77
Discussion of the Grounded Theory Approach .....................................................79
Origins of the Grounded Theory ................................................................79
Use of Literature in Grounded Theory .......................................................80
Researcher’s Role in Grounded Theory .....................................................82
Grounded Theory: Its Role and Principles .................................................83
Data Collection Procedures in Grounded Theory ..................................................84
Time Frame ................................................................................................86
Sampling Method in Grounded Theory .................................................................89
Data Analysis Strategies in Grounded Theory ......................................................90
Open Coding ..............................................................................................90
Axial Coding ..............................................................................................91
Selective Coding ........................................................................................91
Memo Writing ............................................................................................92
Validation and Verification Strategies ..................................................................92
5. PRE-CONVERSION AND CONVERSION EXPERIENCES ...................................94
The Hindu Frame of Mind: Pre-Conversion ..........................................................94
Blind Dedication ........................................................................................94
Opposition to Christianity ..........................................................................96
A Shift in Axis: the Hindus’ States of Mind ..........................................................97
A Dissatisfied Life .....................................................................................97
A Life of Fear .............................................................................................98
A Life of Requirements ...........................................................................100
A Suppressive Culture .............................................................................101
Abandoned by Hindu Gods ......................................................................102
Main Factors That Tipped the Scale: What Is Gained in Christ? ........................102
Sacrificial Love of Christ .........................................................................103
Reality of Jesus ........................................................................................104
Hope in Christ ..........................................................................................105
Inner Peace in Christ ................................................................................105
Unity in Christ..........................................................................................106
Oneness with Christ .................................................................................107
Words of Christ ........................................................................................107
Only One God to Please ...........................................................................108
The Gradual Process of Conversion ....................................................................109
Influences and Encounters .......................................................................109
Observations and Evaluations ..................................................................110
Convictions and Decisions .......................................................................112
6. POST-CONVERSION EXPERIENCES ...................................................................114
Participants’ Post-conversion Struggles ..............................................................114
Spiritual Battles ........................................................................................115
Haunted by the Enemy .................................................................115
Struggles to Let Go of Hindu Traditions and Responsibilities ....116
A Limited Understanding of God’s Word ...................................117
Emotional Battles .....................................................................................117
Fear and Shame ............................................................................118
Family Tensions ...........................................................................119
Suffering for Faith in Christ .....................................................................120
Physical and Financial Struggles .................................................120
Family Struggles ..........................................................................121
Struggles with Friends .................................................................123
Strength Found in a Relationship with Christ ......................................................124
Strong Commitment .................................................................................124
Value of Prayer ........................................................................................126
Power of God’s Word ..............................................................................127
Transformed Behavior and Character ..................................................................128
Putting Away the Old Nature ...................................................................129
No Turning Back......................................................................................130
Traditions Retained and Rejected .......................................................................131
Five Traditions Retained ..........................................................................131
Respect for Elders ........................................................................131
Cheerful Giving ...........................................................................131
Worship and Prayer Life ..............................................................132
Scripture Reading .........................................................................132
Hindu Names ...............................................................................132
Three Traditions Rejected ........................................................................133
Idol Worship ................................................................................133
Caste System ................................................................................133
Other Rituals ................................................................................134
7. EXPECTATIONS AND SUGGESTIONS OF HINDU-BACKGROUND
Exemplary Living ................................................................................................140
A Passion for Outreach ........................................................................................142
Making Friends ........................................................................................143
Spending Time .........................................................................................143
Exercising Patience ..................................................................................145
Praying Faithfully ....................................................................................145
Sharing Your Testimony ..........................................................................146
Avoiding Pitfalls ......................................................................................146
Chapter Summary ................................................................................................148
8. CONCLUSION: DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS AND
Emergent Grounded Theory ................................................................................151
First Question ...........................................................................................153
Second Question ......................................................................................155
Third Question .........................................................................................156
Fourth Question .......................................................................................156
Outsider Perspectives ...................................................................157
Insider Perspectives .....................................................................157
Fifth Question ..........................................................................................158
Links between Literature and Study Findings .....................................................158
An Extended Journey ...............................................................................158
Vehicles of Communication ....................................................................159
A Legal U-Turn........................................................................................161
Preparation for a New Journey ................................................................163
Implications for Churches ....................................................................................164
Pregnancy to Rebirth................................................................................164
Pray Passionately .........................................................................165
Love by Grace Alone ...................................................................165
Be Genuine Example of God’s Love ...........................................166
Stress Hope ..................................................................................168
Emphasize Inner Peace ................................................................168
Be a Friend ...................................................................................169
Hindus Are Relationship-oriented People ...................................169
Unify Evangelistic Efforts ...........................................................170
Develop Unique Strategies ..........................................................170
Infancy to Adulthood ...............................................................................171
Be There to Support .....................................................................171
Build a Strong Foundation ...........................................................172
Recommendations for Further Research ..............................................................173
Concluding Thoughts ...........................................................................................174
APPENDIX A Informed Consent Form ...............................................................186
APPENDIX B Questionnaire ...............................................................................188
APPENDIX C Hindu Centers and Temples in California ...................................190
APPENDIX D Indian Churches ...........................................................................192
LIST OF TABLES
1. Hesselgrave’s Stages in the Conversion Process .....................................................65
LIST OF FIGURES
1. Hesselgrave’s Decision as Point and Process ..............................................................66
2. Kraft’s Model of the Decision-making Process ...........................................................67
3. Rambo’s A Sequential Stage Model ............................................................................68
4. Engel and Norton’s The Spiritual-Decision Process ...................................................70
5. Steffen’s The Conversion Process ...............................................................................72
6. The Gradual Tipping of the Scales ............................................................................152
I moved to Southern California after I got married. My wife served at two
churches – one large American church and one small Indian church along with her
parents – and my parents attended another Indian church. I had the privilege of visiting
and preaching at these Indian churches. The congregations were similar. Most members
grew up in the church. Many came from nominal Christian backgrounds. Only a handful
were Hindu converts. When I learned that the majority of Indians who immigrated to the
US were Hindus, I was astonished. They continue to remain a majority in the country and
a minority in its churches.
Min (1995) wrote about early Indian immigration: “Although Indians did not
emigrate to the United States in large numbers until 1904, they arrived in North America
as early as 1750” (p. 170). Additionally, Kitano and Daniels (1988) stated:
Statistically significant migration of Indians began just after 1900 . . . they came
on trans-Pacific ships, usually via Hong Kong, since there was no direct passenger
service between India and the West Coast. Although the first sizable group of
Indian immigrants – a few hundred – came to the Pacific Northwest after landing
at Vancouver, British Columbia, California became the goal of most of the early
Indian immigrants (pp. 89-90).
The early Indian immigrants consisted mainly of farmers. After the 1965
Immigration Act, “college-educated, urban, middle-class professional young men and
women of religious, regional, and linguistic diversity” came to the US. “The 1990 census
reported that there were 815,447 Asian Indians in the United States, making it the fourth
largest Asian American group” (Min, 1995, p. 169). By the 2000 census taken by the
United States Census Bureau, Asian Indian Americans had become the third largest
Asian American community in the US with a population of 1,678,765 (US Census,
2000). Of those people, 314,819 lived in California and 60,268 lived in Los Angeles.
Based on my interaction with local churches, I estimate that less than five thousand of
Asian Americans are believers.
Alexander (1997) provided insight as to why it is so hard to convert Hindus:
Hinduism can accommodate any philosophy, and doctrine, or any system under
its broad wings without hurting its own teaching. Hinduism is so complex that it
can take any other religion of the world and make it one of its own sects.
Hinduism teaches that the Lord Jesus and Mohammed are incarnations of God.
Hinduism teaches that there are many ways to Truth and many paths to God. If all
religions lead to God, why a change of religion? That question lingers in the mind
of every Hindu – and this seems legitimate. Most of the educated Hindus believe
that all religions lead to God. This conviction is one of the great challenges the
Church faces among Indian immigrants. (p. 87)
From my personal observations, Indians take pride in their heritage. When they
attend a gathering, they dress in Indian attire and eat Indian food. Although they blend in
with the American culture, there are traditions that they maintain. Marriages are
performed based on customs. In general, Indians frown on intercultural marriages.
However, those living in the US are more accepting of it. Indian immigrants “prefer to
identify themselves as ‘Indian American’ rather than ‘American Indians’” (p. 40),
whereas, Kitano and Daniels (1988) refer to them as “Asian Indians” (p. 89).
Many Christian Indians I have met began immigrating to California in the late
60's. At the time, there were only a handful of Indians, everyone knew everyone else, and
they were usually glad to see one another. All were from different religious backgrounds
and states in India, which means they were from different people groups (i.e., spoke
different languages, wore different clothes, and ate different foods). As the Indian
population increased, separation occurred among ethnic groups, language groups, and
religious backgrounds. As newly immigrated Indians arrived, they associated with their
own kind. This was true of the Christian arena, as well. Churches have tried to evangelize
by distributing gospel tracts, books, or music and inviting Hindus to church, but there are
As a Christian, I had not had the privilege of attending services other than
Protestant worship services. Being required to attend a worship service of a different
religion was a learning experience. My wife said that every pastor should visit
Hollywood at night: It is the only way for them to truly understand how they are to pray
for those in Hollywood. It is one thing to read about a country and another thing to visit
it: I have studied other religions and their practices, but I understood them in a deeper
way by visiting the “holy places” of non-Christians. Several years ago, I took a course in
my master’s program known as World Religions. In that class, I had to visit non-
Christian places of worship. The four places I visited were distinct from one another, yet
the worshipers all seemed the same. All of them were devout, had an understanding of
what was required of them, and spent time and effort in the worship of someone or
Throughout the years, Hindus have converted. These believers went through
difficulties before, during and after their conversion experiences. I had the privilege of
hearing some of their testimonies, though certain issues they went through were too
painful to discuss. One of the major challenges they had to overcome was the fact that the
Diaspora Indian churches lack the tools to assist new Hindu converts as they cope with
the consequences of their conversions. It seemed as if they always struggled alone with
no one to guide or assist them through their experiences of rejection, loneliness,
persecution, and depression. Although they did conquer their battles, it would be of
benefit to know what tools are required in the armory. In order to develop these tools, it is
necessary to better understand Hindu conversion experiences in general and their post-
conversion adjustment issues in particular.
The conversion and post-conversion experiences of Hindu-background believers
[HBBs] who came to Christ after immigrating to Southern California has never been
studied. Hence, their conversion and post-conversion experiences are not clearly
The purpose of this grounded theory study is to understand and explain the
conversion and early post-conversion experiences of HBBs in Southern California with a
view to helping churches become more effective in evangelism and discipleship. For the
purpose of this study, HBBs refers to those who converted to Christianity after being
raised as Hindus.
This study’s central question is this: What are the conversion and post-conversion
experiences of HBBs in Southern California? Its sub-questions are as follows:
1. What prompted the participants to convert to Christianity?
2. How did participants negotiate their cultural identities during their conversion
3. How did participants cope with traditional Hindu cultural practices after
4. How did participants perceive Christians before and after their conversions?
5. What are participants’ perceptions of their integration into local churches?
Definition of the Terms
This study reflects the working definitions of the following terms:
1. Hindus “were the local or indigenous inhabitants who lived in the vicinity of the
Indus River.” Afterward, the word was “gradually extended to include the native
inhabitants of the entire subcontinent” (Frykenberg, 2003, p. 156).
2. Caste is a “Portuguese word, signifying cast, mould, race, kind, and quality”
(Wilkins, 1975, p. 236). It is a class structure in Hindu society.
3. Karma simply means “the fruit of one’s actions, in order to improve one’s future
existence; on another and higher level.” (Embree, 1966, p. 120) or “the
consequences of action” (Fisher, 2002, p. 87). “Like Judaism, Christianity and
Islam, Hinduism believes that life does not end with death. The Hindus hold that
everybody has a chance of being born again to undo the mistakes committed in
past lives. The form of the future life is determined by the actions performed in
previous births” (Chakravarti, 1991, p. 24). In Hinduism, by doing good works,
one gains good karma.
4. Vedas are sacred Hindu writings. “According to orthodox Hindus, Vedas are not
the work of any human. They are the breath of the eternal, as ‘heard’ by the
ancient sages or rishis” (Fisher, 2002, pp. 83-84).
5. Rig Veda is known as “the oldest of the known Vedic Scriptures – and among the
oldest of the world’s existing scriptures” (Fisher, 2002, p. 84). “The Sama Veda . .
. is made up of transposed sections of the Rig Veda, while the Yajur Veda is
concerned with correct sacrificial practice. The last of these Vedas, the Atharva
Veda, which was composed around 900 BC, is more magical in tone and already
displays per-Aryan elements” (Elgood, 1999, p. 5).
6. Varna simply means “a difference in color” (Wilkins, 1975, p. 237). Sharma
explains in slightly more detail that the term does not only refer to color but also
“the characteristic physical differences between the Aryans and the non-Aryans”
(1999, p. 3). Usually, this is used in reference to a person’s skin tone. But Wilkins
(1975) went on to say that this word varna, was used to describe a caste, and
“came to represent not only varieties of race and color, but every original,
hereditary, religious instituted, and conventional distinction which it is possible to
conceive…. [The] laws are framed to regulate the life of its slaves” (p. 237). It
describes a way of living.
7. Sanatana Darma means “eternal religion” (Fisher, 2002, p. 79).
8. Bhagavad Gita is known as the “songs of the Supreme exalted one” (Fisher, 2002,
p. 93). It is not part of the Vedas but considered holy by most Hindus.
9. Theonomous culture can be explained as “one in which the superior law is at the
same time the innermost law of man himself” (Organ, 1974, p. 10).
10. Moksha means “liberation, freedom, release” (Zaehner, 1966, p. 80). It is
considered enlightenment or salvation, a point at which there is no fear of dying.
11. Samskara means “rites of passage” (O’Flaherty, 1980, p.5) or “‘sacrament’ in
reference to those Hindu ceremonials that punctuate the life cycle; also means to
perfect, refine polish, prepare, educate, cultivate, and train” (Mittal & Thursby,
2004, p. 333).
12. Conversion is an internal change, with external manifestations, that occurs when a
person repents and turns to God by placing in faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.
13. Post-conversion refers to believers’ experience following conversion. (See
Research among the HBB is valuable. It has to be done with a welcoming spirit
and a heart to accept them as they are. Identifying with or relating to the participants is
required from the researcher, as well as listening to their issues, attentively, and giving
them time to talk or clarify their doubts. The researcher should never give his participants
the impression that his research is being conducted merely for academic purposes but that
it is intended to benefit them as well as others. Building trust and confidence with the
interviewee should be the underlying goal of such interactions.
It has been a rare practice on the part of believers to study and discover the real
issues these converted believers experienced. The time the researcher spends with the
participant is not a time for him to teach but to learn. It is the researcher’s responsibility
to keep the participants names anonymous and protect their rights by keeping the
interviews confidential. Everything must be done with permission, for as Paul said, “Let
all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40, New King James Version).
“Informed consent” forms were presented prior to the interviews per the PHRRC
guidelines. Giving the researcher’s opinion could be seen as insistent, manipulative, and
impolite. Sometimes, it can make a situation worse by placing the researcher in a
situation he is unable to handle. The researcher must be accompanied during the
interviews, in order to have accountability. Therefore, being a Christian leader, the
researcher must keep himself safe and not give the Devil an opportunity to accuse or
destroy his Christian testimony.
In regard to ethical issues, Creswell (1994) stated that, most importantly, the
researcher had to “respect the rights, needs, values, and desires of the informant(s).”
Several precautions were taken by the researcher to protect the following rights of the
1. The research objectives were articulated verbally and in writing so that they were
clearly understood by the informant.
2. Written permission to proceed with the study as articulated was received from the
informant (pp. 165-166).
3. A research exemption form was filed with the institutional review board (from
Biola University, La Mirada, CA) (Appendix B1 and B2).
4. The informant was informed of all data collection devices and activities.
5. Verbatim transcriptions and written interpretations and reports were made
available to the informant.
6. The informant’s rights, interests, and wishes were considered first when choices
were made regarding reporting the data.
7. The final decision regarding informant anonymity will rest with the informant”
(Creswell, 1994, pp. 165-166).
8. “Subjects’ identities will be protected,” meaning the information collected will
not “embarrass or in other ways harm them.”
9. I am “tell[ing] the truth” as I “write up and report my findings.” “Fabricating data
or distorting data is the ultimate sin of a scientist” (Bodgan & Biklen, 1998, pp.
In conclusion, “to a large extent, concerns about research ethics revolve around
various issues of harm, consent, privacy, and the confidentiality of data” (Berg, 2004, p.
43). It was my aim as a researcher to ensure my interviewees’ rights in all these areas
The field research of this study was conducted in Southern California. I chose
Southern California to make it more practical and not too broad. The reason for the
expansion of this research to Southern California instead of Los Angeles is to get enough
participants for my study. There are only a few converts from Hindu backgrounds in
Indian Protestant churches. It would be hard to conduct enough interviews to come to a
I wanted to include both English speaking and non-English (i.e., Hindi, Gujarathi,
Kanada, Malayalam and Tamil) speaking participants in my interviews; however, my
sixteen participants spoke English. The scope of this study is among the HBBs who
accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord and are currently residing in Southern California.
Additionally, I limited this study to adult Hindu converts who had born-again Christian
The limitations of this research include the following:
1. Not finding a convert from all five castes was a limitation. I was not be able to
interview any Christian converts from a low caste Hindu background, since they
generally have no means of coming to the U.S.
2. Focusing only on adults was a limitation. Most Indian parents are overprotective.
It would be almost impossible to interview a child or teenager who has converted
Significance of the Study
While individual conversion and post-conversion experiences vary greatly,
understanding and describing “typical” challenges that new Hindu converts face fills a
void. This study aims to provide practical information for Hindu-background people who
have converted to Christianity in Southern California. This research may also benefit
non-Hindu converts to Christianity and the churches who evangelize and disciple them.
The study will serve as a supplementary guide to the challenges these new believers may
face, based on what fellow believers prior to them went through when they became
Christians. Additionally, these significant discoveries should help those who are trying to
assist new converts of Hindu origin throughout all of California, the U.S and other parts
of the world.
SUBSTANTIVE LITERATURE REVIEW ON HINDUISM
This literature review is divided into two parts. The first part covers Hinduism's
history, belief system, and practices. The second part deals with conversion.
“Hinduism is not a single belief; it is an amalgamation of sects, deities, sacred
texts, institutions, and cultural practices, some of which have very little in common with
the others” (Alexander, 2004, p. 87). Hinduism is a religion and a culture, or lifestyle,
such as the imposed caste system. According to Lewis’ (2004) research, “India is a
continent where all of these deities dwell and receive worship, whether in some family
house, village shrine, or huge temple; where many forms of belief, ritual, and worship
coexist” (p. 110).
History of Hinduism
Fisher (2002) provided a general understanding of religions in India:
In the Indian subcontinent there has developed a complex variety of religious
paths. Some of these are relatively unified religious systems, such as Buddhism,
Jainism and Sikhism. Most of the other Indian religious ways have been
categorized together as if they were a single tradition named “Hinduism.” This
term does not appear in any of the old texts. It is derived from a name applied by
foreigners to the people living in the region of the Indus River and introduced in
the nineteenth century under colonial British rule as a category for census taking. .
. . According to tradition, there are actually 333 million deities in India. The
feeling is that the divine has countless faces. (p. 79; Lewis, 2004, p. 110)
Elgood’s (1999) explanation was similar to Fisher’s in regard to the origin of the
word “Hinduism.” He clarified that the unique “word ‘Hinduism’ stands for the
civilization of the inhabitants of Hindustan, which literally means the land surrounding
the Indus River.” According to him, the phrase “Hinduism” was not widespread “until
1830” but this word was “used by English writers to refer to the civilization in the Indian
subcontinent, which has gradually evolved from Vedic Brahmanism over the last 2000
years” (p. 2).
According to Matus’ evaluation (1984), the documented history of India
commences with a raid by semi-nomadic and pastoral tribes called Aryans. They were a
warlike people and spoke a form of Sanskrit. Their religious and social cultures are
contained in the four most ancient vedic texts of India known as the Rig-veda, the Sama-
veda, Yajur-veda (pp.18-19) and the Atharva-veda (Elgood, 1999, p. 5). “These Vedas
consist of hymns to various deities (related with natural forces such as fire and storm) and
the Aryan conquest of northwestern India and Pakistan.” The Aryan society consisted of
the Brahman’s (priests), the Ksatriyas (warriors and nobles), the Vaisyas (businessmen),
and the Sudras (slaves). These four groups later formed the basis of the Hindu caste
system (Matus, 1984, pp. 18-19).
Elgood (1999) added to Matus' statement concerning the Aryans heritage:
“Brahmanism was the religion of the ancient Indo-European people, known as the
Aryans, who were perhaps originally from the steppe [grassland/prairie land] country of
Southern Russia and Central Asia, over the last 2000 years” (p. 2). According to Sharma
(1999), they were “tall, fair and long-headed semi-nomadic barbarians” (p. 7).
The religious ideas and practices of modern Hinduism are more than the influence
of the Aryan beliefs and philosophies. Before the Aryans found India in “B.C. 2000 to
2500” (Griswold, 1934, p. 9), a great prehistoric civilization existed: the Indus valley
civilization, “or the Harappan” (Elgood, 1999, p. 4) (Matus, 1984, pp. 19-23).
Sen (1961) commented on the racial differences between the Aryans and the
natives in this manner
[When the] Sanskrit-speaking Aryans . . . [who] conquered most of India did not
seem to have had much respect . . . for the dark skinned natives (“the
Dravidians”). This was not so much because they felt culturally superior, since the
urban Indus valley civilization, with its script, arts, sculpture, town-planning
knowledge, and other crafts, represented a more developed, though less vigorous,
culture than that of the illiterate, sharp-shooting Aryans. (p. 27).
Matus (1984) agreed with Sen that the “Indus valley people were in many ways
more advanced culturally and technologically than the Aryans.” Individuals were
permitted to keep their own religious beliefs, yet they were required to consent to the
authority of the Brahmin priests and the Vedas. Because Buddha challenged the classical
Aryan social and religious structures and doctrines, the Brahmans rejected him. Only
when the first Tantras were seen did the prehistoric religious belief re-emerge. It defied
“Aryanization of the subcontinent where the tantric movement first arose as a kind of
counteroffensive against the Vedic priesthood and the traditional Buddhist instructions”
In regard to the discovery on the “developments” of Hinduism, Organ (1974)
argued that it could be done only through “excavations in the Indus valley.” There are
two aspects “within Hinduism, an Aryan and a non-Aryan commonly called Dravidian. .
. . Indian culture is the product of Aryo-Dravidian synthesis, ethnic, religious and
cultural. . . . Hinduism can perhaps be defined as civilized Aryanism grafted on primitive
Dravidianism. Aspects regarded as subtle, intellectual, or highly developed are Aryan
(noble), whereas aspects magical, superstitious, or animistic are Dravidian” (pp. 40-41).
Hierarchy of the Caste System
Fisher (2002) said it is a fact that India is a country that follows the caste system,
which exploits people and separates them from other human beings as slavery did in the
U.S. Based on the Vedic religion (Vedas are the religious texts of the Aryan invaders,
which are considered to have divine knowledge (2002, p. 80)) and its concepts, society is
divided into four major working groups, which later became known as castes. The human
body is used by Hindus to illustrate the hierarchy of the upper castes (the first three
classes) to the lower castes (the last two classes) as follows:
a. Brahmins (head): The highest class was composed of priests and philosophers.
b. Kshatriyas (arms and shoulders) were kings and warriors. They were the
protectors of society and were expected to be courageous.
c. Vaishyas (belly and thigh) were farmers and merchants.
d. Shudras (feet-clean) were daily laborers and artisans.
e. Harijans (dust) were considered unclean and untouchable. They removed
human waste and dead bodies. They were also street cleaners and leather
workers (Fisher, 2002, p. 87; Sharma, 1999, pp. 17-27). Chakravarti (1991)
recorded that “Mahatma Gandhi tried hard to eradicate the custom and gave
the name ‘Harijans,’ literally, people of God, to the so-called ‘untouchables’”
Wilkins (1975) explained the origin of the Portuguese word for caste, [casta,
which means “pure race” (Organ, 1974, p. 193)]:
[It] was applied originally by the Portuguese, to designate the peculiar system of
religious and social distinctions which they observed among the Hindu people,
particularly as founded on race. The Indian word which partially corresponds with
caste is Jati =gens, and ¸cvos, ‘race or nation’…Gradually these Indian words,
conveniently rendered by caste, have come to represent not only varieties of race
and color, but original hereditary, religious, instituted, and conventional
distinction which is possible to conceive. (pp. 236-237)
In Sharma’s (1999) perceptive, the Portuguese people viewed the caste system as
a focus “to preserve the purity of blood” (p. 4).
Belief Systems of Hinduism
Organ (1974), attempting to understand Hinduism, acknowledged, “Hinduism is a
spectrum of beliefs and practices ranging from the veneration of trees, stones, and
snakes” (p. 1). Renou (1963) considered these practices as “elements typical of a popular
cult,” especially the worship of “special genii.” He argued that these “are often of
demonical nature as in the case of the goddess of smallpox” (p. 34). According to Hindus,
there are no measures in order to ascertain “who is and who is not Hindu. . . . Being a
Hindu appears to be a matter of individual decision” (Organ, 1974, p. 2). I agree with the
following details of how we consider a person to be a Hindu:
It is by birth from Hindu parents, . . . belief in the Vedas, practices of the caste
system, belief in the sanctity of the cow, . . . wearing the sacred thread, observing
special rules concerning diet, belief in Karma and reincarnation, belief in
incarnations of gods, belief in the sacredness of Brahmin priests, holding
restrictions of race and color, and practice of Hindu law! (Organ, 1974, p. 2)
Griswold (1934) built on Organ’s thoughts, above, remarking that “a man is a
Hindu because of two things, birth and conformity, the latter applying to four group
actions: a) marriage, food, occupation, residence; b) domestic ceremonies; c) ancestor
worship; and d) worship of the gods” (p. 13). As far as their theistic belief is concerned,
Organ (1970) interpreted that “Hinduism tends toward pantheism in its emphasis on the
inseparability of God, man, and the world” (p. 248).
The Hindu holy books describe three ways to attain perfection from sufferings:
(1) Karma marga (the way of works), (2) Jnana marga (the path of enlightenment), (3)
Bhakti marga (the path of love and worship) (Organ, 1970, pp. 202-291; Machado, 1985,
p. Abstract). In order to achieve “unity and freedom,” or union with god, Sen (1961) said,
one may try to reach god through action or work (karma), or meditation and
knowledge (jnana), or simply through devotion (bhakti). All [three] are equally
valid . . . since Hinduism denies the existence of any exclusive way of reaching
God, this is only natural. (p. 39)
In relation to Hindu “ritual worship,” Elgood (1999) noted that there are “three
symbolic devices: mantras, yantras and murtis (icons or images).” These three have “a
dynamic relation with one another.” The use of mantras (“repetition of prayers”) helps
one to concentrate, while “the focus on an image helps to prevent fragmentation of
attention and distraction from the state of silent awareness. Initially the image is outside
the worshipper’s attention but gradually it fills the mind of the devotee.” Thus, the deity
that the image represents focuses the worshipper's concentration and guides the way to
“the worshipper’s final object.” The intended goal of the worshipper is to “identify and to
become one” with the worshipped deity as well as to attain “a consciousness beyond the
boundaries of time and space” (pp. 35-36).
Gods and Goddesses
The study of the belief systems of Hindus includes their gods and goddesses.
Even though I learned about it before, Kamat’s (2008) observation on this particular
study provided new understanding. He stated:
In various periods of Hindu history, the different deities have assumed
prominence. For example . . . Lord Brahma is rarely worshipped, while swami
Ayyappa is very popular . . . [Readers must] remember that a deity might be
known by another name or form – like goddess Kali is worshipped as an angry
form of Parvathi; Lord Vishnu is worshipped as both Krishna and Rama. (p. 1)
The following list of gods and goddesses are adopted from Kamat’s article
entitled “Hindu Deities” and are listed according to their rank and popularity:
1. Brahma means “the creator.”
2. Vishnu or Hari (“the root of all avatars”) means “the protector.”
a. Matsyavatara: Vishnu as “a fish.”
b. Kurmavatara: Vishnu as “a tortoise.”
c. Varahavatar: Vishnu as “a boar.”
d. Narasimhavatar: Vishnu as “the lion-man.”
e. Vamanavathar: Vishnu as “the dwarf.”
f. Parasurama: Vishnu as “Rama with an axe.”
g. Rama: Vishnu as “the prince of Ayodhya.”
h. Krishna: Vishnu as the “black tribal.” Ilaiah saw Krishna as “the guru, leader
and war strategist for minority dharma” (1996, p. 82).
i. Buddha: Vishnu as “the completely enlightened one.”
j. Kalki: Vishnu as “the incarnation to come.”
3. Goddess Lakshmi (“Vishnu’s wife”) means “provider.”
4. Shiva (or “Hara, Iswar”) means “the powerful god.”
5. Goddess Parvathi (or “Uma, Shakti, Durga”) means “Shiva’s consort.”
a. Ganesh: the “son of Shiva and Parvathi.”
b. Karthikeya: the “son of Shiva and Parvathi.”
6. Goddess Sraswati (“Sharada”) means “the deity of knowledge and learning.”
7. Indra (aka, “Deevatideeva” [Ilaiah, 1996, p. 73]) means “the administrator in
chief of heaven.”
8. Surya means “the sun god.”
9. Vayu means “the wind” god.
10. Varuna means “the god of rains.”
11. Yama means “the god of death.”
12. Kubera means “the god of material wealth.”
13. Soma means “the moon” god.
14. Vasudeva: vasu means “good” and deva means “deity.”
15. “Kubera – god of wealth; Garuda – god of birds; Himavan – god of mountains;
Anathan – god of snakes; Ganges – goddess of rivers; Hanuman – monkey god”
(Viswanathan, 1992, p. 226).
Among all these gods and goddesses, Viswanathan (1992) observed, Hindus
compare their Trinitarian gods with the God of the Bible. They have three gods in one:
(1) Brahma, (2) Vishnu or Krishna, and (3) Shiva (p. 226). Renou (1963) elaborated that
Hindus acknowledge that everything in the visible world has come from god: Brahma is
the creator of the universe, Vishnu or Krishna is the god of love and “preservation,” and
Shiva is represented as the destroyer in the different cycles of existence (p. 36; Ross,
1966, pp. 56-57).
Organ (1974) expressed the obscurities of Hinduism and the difficulties one has in
understanding it in the following words:
Hinduism is a theonomous culture. Hinduism as a religion and Hinduism as a
culture are so intertwined that we can never be sure whether a certain mode of
behavior is Hindu or Indian. We can never be sure whether a way of behaving is
prescriptively right or descriptively correct, whether it is normative or traditional.
. . . Since Hinduism is not easily divided into the sacred and the profane, a Hindu
will have difficulty in interpreting his religion to a Westerner. Sanskrit has no
word for religion. Words like “devotion” (bhakti), “duty” (dharma), and
“discipline” (yoga) have to suffice. The Hindu will have further complications in
explaining Hinduism when the Westerner asks questions like “What is the Hindu
practice with regard to . . . ?” His difficulty arises from two counts: because
Hinduism is not an independent phenomenon in Indian society, and because it has
so many diverse forms (pp. 10-11).
The practices and beliefs of Hindus reflect the Hindu scriptures. Nichols (as cited
in McDowell & Stewart, 1982) asserted that Hindu scriptures could be classified into two
sections: sruti and smriti. Sruti scriptures are considered to be of divine origin and,
therefore, authoritative. A part of the sruti scriptures are Vedas [hymns, formulas and
incantations]. The ancient rishis (composers of hymns) heard the “entirety of eternal
truth” as direct revelation. These rishis’ disciples determined that these “truth[s] and the
record of it are known as the Vedas” (p. 19). The smriti (or “what is remembered”)
“possess a secondary authority, deriving their authority from the sruti whose principles
they seek to expand. As recollections they contain all the sacred texts other than the
Vedas” (p. 19). These books are the “great two epics, the Ramayan and Mahabharata and
the Puranas, which are largely collections of myths, stories, legends and chronicles of
great events” (p. 19).
The Vedas and the Puranas. These texts are divided into four categories. They
are “Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva.” Rig, Yajur, and Sama “agree not only in their name,
form and language, but in their contents also.” Based on scholars’ understanding, “Rig-
Veda is chief” (Radhakrishnan, 1966, p. 64). The etymological understanding of Veda is
divine “wisdom or knowledge.” These are the primary sacred texts of the Hindus. “The
Vedas contain hymns, prayers and rituals texts composed over a pried of one thousand
years, beginning about 1400 B.C.” (McDowell & Stewart, 1982, p. 20).
In regard to the Puranas, or post-Vedic texts, McDowell and Stewart stated:
The Puranas are a very important source for the understanding of Hinduism.
They include legends of gods, goddesses, demons and ancestors. They describe
pilgrimages and rituals to demonstrate the importance of bhakti, caste and
dharma. This collection of myths and legends, in which the heroes display all the
desirable virtues, has made a significant contribution to the formation of Hindu
moral codes. (1982, p. 23)
Ramayana. This epic “in 24, 000 verses” (Renou, 1963, p. 155) was written by
Maharishi Valmiki, a Hindu sage. According to the Scholars, “it was written in Sanskrit”
and compiled “perhaps as early as third century B.C.” It has been “rewritten with large
scale adaptation into numerous vernacular languages.” It is based on the life of Rama
(“adventures of Rama” [Mittal & Thursby, 2004, p. 75]), who was said to be the “seventh
incarnation of god Vishnu” (Richard, 2007, p. 23). As Kinsley (1982) asserted:
The central narrative of the Ramayana [it is written as “a poem” or “kavya”
(Bharati, 2005, p. 100)] concerns a cosmic battle between Rama, the son of the
king of Ayodhya, a city in North India, and Ravana, the demon king of the island
of Lanka. In the Ramayana this battle is presented as a typical example of Lord
Vishnu’s ongoing struggle with the forces of disorder and irreligion. . . . The
Ramayana, then, is cast in a familiar structure and reflects in theme and detail the
recurrent truths of Vishnu theology (p. 25).
Mahabharata. Another epic tale of the Hindus, this major text is “considered as
itihasa (legendary traditions)” of Hindus (Bharati, 2005, p. 100). It tells the deeds of the
Aryan clans (“relatives” or cousins), who were “rivals” in North India. Based on
Kinsley’s (1982) interpretation, “The issues that divided them have to do primarily with
rules of inheritance, and the great battle that eventually is fought between the two clans
and their allies.” These events happened “a long time after the events of Ramayana” (p.
30). “The heroes of the Mahabharata are five brothers, the Pandavas.” This book
contains philosophical dialogue between the warrior Arjun and the lord Krishana (“main
hero” [Bharati, 2005, p. 100]). The theme that stands out in this book is “that each person
has a double responsibility: (1) responsibility to maintain social order and (2)
responsibility to seek individual liberation from karma and samsara” (Kinsley, 1982, pp.
32, 34). As Richard (2007) asserted, it is not attributed to one single person, but is
considered “an encyclopedia . . . on a wide range of subjects from a wide range of people
over a significant period of time. It is the longest epic poem in the world, with 110,000
couplets” (p. 25).
From its very beginnings the Mahabharata has played a fundamental role as a
sacred “scripture” in defining the Hindu world. Countless times it has been, and
still is, dramatized by actors, puppets, and dancers for the entertainment of
edification of audiences or as part of rituals or festivals. (Mittal & Thursby, 2004,
Bhagavad-Gita. This is the most read and famous Hindu sacred text. Herman W.
Tull, whose article appeared in the book, The Hindu World (2004), confirmed the
circulation of the Bhagavad-Gita (“the lord’s song”) as “the most widely disseminated
and certainly the single most influential Hindu text in India.” The main reason for this is
that it deals with a person’s “social responsibilities” to his family and neighbors, which
ultimately supports the existence of his society (Mittal & Thursby, 2004, p. 322).
Richard’s (2007) research provided a unique understanding of the Bhagavad-Gita
in the following quote:
Various digressions covering a wide range of themes make up the largest part of
Mahabharata. The most famous of these digressions from the war story is the
brilliant philosophical exposition known as the Bhagavad-Gita. The Bhagavad-
Gita is often printed as a separate book, yet is also one section of the great
Mahabharata epic. Technically the Gita is not a Vedic scripture, so is not of the
highest authority. Traditionally, however, it is accepted as a systematic
summation of all that is best in the Vedic literature. In practice it is the central
Scripture for understanding the rudiments of Hindu philosophy. (p. 25)
Based on Radhakrishnan’s (1965) study, “the Bhagavadgita is primarily a yoga
sastra giving us the chief means by which we can attain the truly religious life. They
form together the absolute standard for the Hindu religion” (p. 18).
Organ asserted that Hinduism “focused essentially and existentially on the
fundamental human problem: the problem of being human” (Organ, 1974, p. 15). He
added that, “Hinduism is not a god-oriented religion” (1974, p. 24). Renou (1961), on the
other hand, maintained that Hinduism “could, in fact, be considered saturated with the
divine . . . with an undeniable tendency toward pantheism or, as has been suggested,
toward pan-en-theism” (p. 36). Based on my personal understanding and observation, I
am inclined to agree with Renou's view that Hindus’ lives are built on and surrounded by
gods and goddesses. Moreover, I can identify a Hindu quickly. They mark their foreheads
with chanthanam (sandal wood paste), which Chakravarti (1991) described as “an
indispensable item for any Hindu ceremony” (p. 33). Every house has a puja (prayer)
room where they house their idols, a huge photo of their deity in the living room, a
Nillavilakku (oil lamp stand) that they light at night when they say their evening prayer,
and a kavu (shrine) outside under a tree. There are temples nearby in which they worship.
Most of the women go to their temples in the early morning, after a bath, to worship and
pray. Men and children visit their temples in the evenings or on weekends due to their
work and school schedules.
Sen (1961) said that “religious duties,” including the rituals mentioned above, are
required for the “high-caste Hindu . . . to fulfill everyday.” Sen agreed that most of these
rituals “are performed at home,” but he commented that only a very small percentage of
Hindus visit their temples “daily, some less frequently, and some never at all.” The
reason is that “Hinduism accepts the existence of many ways of reaching the Supreme,
[so] no particular practice is compulsory for everybody” (p. 32).
Each Hindu temple has a different name. Renou (1961) commented:
The temple is dedicated to a particular god. The image of this god is accompanied
by a particular attribute, which can become autonomous. In the Shivite context,
for example, this attribute is often a linga, a phallic emblem, which is perhaps of
distant non-Aryan origin. The linga is a short pillar of black stone, bare or
engraved, around which is performed puja of a votive character. (p. 31)
Dallapiccola (2003) connected his thoughts to Renou's concerning the linga in
that it “is traditionally set in a pedestal symbolizing the yoni or female generative organ”
(p. 11). An accepted belief that Elgood (1999) added to Renou’s contribution is that
Shiva lingas “have emerged naturally out of the ground, ‘self-existent’ and already full of
divine power” (p. 46).
There are several “holy days and religious festivals” in India for the Hindus.
Among them two holy days are very famous and “most universal.” The first is Dipavali
(or Divali) and the second is Holi. The celebration of Dipavali (“festival of lights”
[Renou, 1961, p. 34]) lasts for five days. This takes place in “October-November, which
in reality is five festivals rolled into one.” These five days are devoted to different deities
(Organ, 1974, p. 208).
Organ (1974) detailed the reasons for celebrating each day of the Dipavali
festivals along the following lines:
The first day is dedicated to Lakshmi and Parvati, the second to Shiva and Parvati,
the third commemorates the victory of Vishnu over the demon Bali, the fourth
recalls the return of Rama to Ayodhya and his coronation, and the fifth
remembers Yama’s visit to the home of his sister. On the evening of the third day
of Dipavali, small bowls of oil are lighted and placed throughout the house and
yard to express joy in the victory of good or evil. (p. 208)
The celebration of Holi (“the spring festival in honor of Krishna” [Renou, 1961,
p. 34]) is three to four days long “in February-March, which began as a fertility festival
and includes the lighting of bonfires, the erection of a pole and dancing around it, the
making of loud noises, and the throwing of colored water, mud, and refuse at passerby”
(Organ, 1974, pp. 208-209).
A special festival, known as Raksha Bandhana, is celebrated in the month of
“July-August. This is a Hindu sister’s day, which falls on the full moon of Sharavan.” At
this event, “the sister ties a sacred thread around her brother’s wrist wishing him
protection against any evil. The brother offers . . . [his sister] his respect and love”
(Chakravarti, 1991, p. 37).
Rites and Ceremonies
The following are some of the important rites and ceremonies that Hindus follow
on the basis of their religious teachings, both in personal and religious contexts.
Marriage rite. The vernacular word for marriage is vivaha, which unites a man
and woman “into householdership and its respective duties and responsibilities” (Mittal
& Thursby, 2004, p. 348). In The Hindu World (edited by Sushil Mittal & Gene
Thursby), Mary Mc Gee (2004) expresses the sentiments of Hindu parents in regard to
their child's wedding:
The fertility and prosperity of the marriage union has always been of great
importance in Hindu culture. Therefore families take great care in their selection
of marriage partners for their sons and daughters. Family priests and astrologers
are consulted, family lineages examined, natal horoscopes of potential partners
compared, and the physical characteristics of the prospective bride and groom are
scrutinized by potential in-laws. Families traditionally based their assessment of
the compatibility of the bride and groom on their examination of class, caste,
horoscope, and family. The main guideline in selecting a marriage partner,
according to Hindu law, is to marry someone of the same class (p. 349).
The actual ceremony begins with the “giving away of the bride by her parents to
the groom.” As the couple stands before the “sacred fire,” they recite their “vows and
joint dharma” (responsibilities), then the bride puts “grain and ghi” (butter) into the fire
as her “sacrificial offerings,” which represent “prosperity and fertility of this union”
(Mittal & Thursby, 2004, p. 350). Chakravarti (1991) added, “Marriage is performed
when the bride and the groom walk around the sacrificial fire seven steps together. Fire is
looked upon as pure, because it cleans, and the light emanating from it is symbolic of
wisdom that dispels the darkness of the mind” (p. 30).
The most unique and significant rite at the wedding is “tying the thread of
auspiciousness” (“the rite of . . . tali-bandhana”). It is “as simple as a cotton thread
soaked in turmeric until it attains a golden hue, as ornate as a solid gold necklace, or as
intricate as a black string threaded with heirloom gold ornaments and black beads. As one
of the final rites of the marriage ceremony, the groom places the mangalasutra around his
wife’s neck, symbolizing her good fortune and her auspicious status and prestige as a
wife” (Mittal & Thursby, 2004, pp. 350-351).
Child birth. Wilkins (1975) found it fascinating that “before a child is ushered
into the world certain ceremonies should be performed on its behalf” (p. 3). All these
special occasions are fixed with the consent of an astrologer. One is known as “uncooked
food ceremony,” which takes place four months prior to a baby’s birth. There will be
certain restrictions regarding food for the mother, which must be seriously observed.
“She is permitted to eat fruits, preserves, [and] pickles” (p. 3). When she is two months
closer to her due date, she is “permitted to eat parched peas, rice, and cooked
sweetmeats” with her female friends. When she is a month away from her delivery, they
celebrate the Panchamrita festival. “This name is given to it because the five delicacies
are supposed to form the food of the gods, viz. milk, ghee [butter], curds [yogurt], honey,
and cow-dung” (pp. 3-4). It will be conducted by a priest and she will be fed with only
“fruits and sweetmeats.” Once again, all “the lady relatives of the family are invited, and
a liberal supply of food provided.” The addition of dancing to this event enhances the
joyousness of the occasion. The pregnant woman will be dressed in a colorful dress,
“adorned with jewels,” and placed in the center of the festivities. “A light burns in front
of her, the sacred conch shell is sounded, and a rupee, which had touched her forehead, is
offered to the gods on her behalf to ensure a safe issue from her coming trouble. . . . So
great is the mortality of Hindu women at child birth” (pp. 3-5).
Traditionally, mothers are considered “ceremonially unclean” for three weeks if
their infant is a boy and a month if it is a girl (pp. 3-5). Wilkins (1975) compared and
contrasted the birth of sons and daughters:
The earnest desire of every Hindu wife is that the she may have a son. According
to the popular idea, whilst daughters are a source of anxiety and expense to their
parents, sons form their strength and support. One of their proverbs expresses this
very clearly, “Blind sons support their parents, but a prince’s daughters exhort
money from them.” The deepest root of this desire is the fact that the last religious
rites can be most successfully performed by their male descendants. . . . On the
birth of a son the conch shell . . . invites the neighbors to rejoice with the happy
parents; whereas when a daughter is born it is silent, and, instead of
congratulation, condolences are offered (pp 8-9).
Death rite. In regard to social action and social structure, Mary MacGee (2004)
described the death rite in rich detail. She states that, according to Hindu custom, it
represents the “last sacrifice.” This last sacrament is also known as “antyakarma . . . the
“last rite.” After a person’s death, the dead body is cremated. A series of preparations for
cremation require that the dead body must be “ritually washed by members of the same
sex, anointed, and wrapped in a new white shroud; the corpse of a male is shaved.” The
eldest son or nearest male (“the chief mourner”) “leads the funeral procession from the
home of the deceased to the cremation ground.” Women, based on their family tradition,
rarely attend the cremation ceremony, since the cremation place is “typically associated
with inauspiciousness and impurity” (p. 252).
Mary MacGee (2004) went on to say, the leading mourner sprays sacred water on
the cremation ground “to drive away any evil or unsettled spirit that may linger in the
area. The body is placed on the funeral pyre, on a north/south axis, lined up toward the
southern world of Yama, god of death.” Then the clothes, adornment, covering, “sacred
thread, [and] jewelry” are removed. The thought behind this is “that a body should depart
this world just as it came into this world. . . . The chief mourner circles the fire three
times before lighting the pyre” while he utters a prayer (Mittal & Thursby, 2004, pp. 352-
353). Chakravarti (1991) observed that it is expected from those “men attending the
funeral” that they wear white clothes and have a white flower because white represents
“peace and purity” (p.31).
The following details conclude the death rite:
After the cremation, the chief mourner is shaved (head, beard, nails pared), dons
new clothes and observes a period of mourning during which celibacy and other
austerities are observed for the next ten days, depending on the family’s tradition.
Close relatives of the deceased are affected by a period of ritual impurity
following the death, which entails a period of social segregation as well as various
restrictions in dress, diet, and interaction. . . . Offering of water to cool the dead
after the cremation process are accompanied by mantras. Water is also used to
purify family relatives of the deceased who have become temporarily polluted by
the death. Within three days of the cremation, the remaining bones and ashes are
collected by the chief mourner and are either buried in an urn and commended to
Mother Earth or are cast into the flowing water of a river. Following this rite, the
chief mourners undergo yet another purification rite with ablutions. (Mittal &
Thursby, 2004, p. 353)
Chakravarti (1991) explained that the practice of scattering the ashes in “a river,
lake or sea” is based on the expectation that the body will return “to the elements it had
originated from.” He made a significant point that, after death and cremation, the
scattering of the ashes is connected to the Hindu belief in karma (life after death) (p. 31).
McNeill & Sedlar (1969) interpreted Yoga as a Hindu theistic philosophy. Yoga
teaches the suppression of all activity of body and soul (mind, will, and emotions) so that
“self” can become conscious of its distinction from the body and soul and then achieve
independence (p. 197). Its root word is related to the English word “yoke” (Merriam-
Webster, 2003, p. 1453). In Sanskrit, yunakti means “he yokes” (McNeill & Sedlar, 1969,
p. 197). In a division of the Hindu Holy Book, the Mahabharata (ca. 500-400 B. C), the
Bhagavad-Gita, (The Lord’s song) the word “yoga” is mentioned frequently (Scott, 2001,
Over five thousand years ago, a learned aristocratic society of philosophers,
scholars, and warriors in North India started the tradition of yoga. They evaluated the
fleeting quality of life, with all its tragedy and suffering, and desired to infuse it with
significance and purpose. The developed ideology became a custom through exercise and
tradition. Patanjali, in the second century A.D., made yoga a “science of physical and
mental health” (Carr, 1972, p. 15). Organ (1974) pointed out that Patanjali’s portrayal of
yoga “in the Yoga Sutras” does not belong to him: His role was merely as an editor. In
reality, the “Yoga Sutras” were “an emendation of Patanjali’s original work” (p. 227). In
the second century A.D., the Brahmins (the Hindu priestly caste) adopted the philosophy
of yoga. It eventually became a part of the Hindu faith and was incorporated into their
holy book. The gods are said to practice it and, in Hindu mythology, Shiva is said to be
its founder (Carr, 1972, p. 15).
In regard to achieving oneness through this physical exercise and chanting, Pavlik
Even chanting “Om” during meditation is meant to unite your spirit with the
Universal Soul; “Om” is a sacred Hindu sound symbolizing the “Absolute.”
According to eastern religious thought, once you’ve mastered these elements,
your spirit is no longer bound to your body; it's free to roam the netherworld,
guided by a spiritual entity. It’s then, according to cult expert Bob Larson, that
practitioners believe they “possess all powers, psychic abilities, and sinless
perfection.” The breathing exercises (pranayamas) are also said to promote
psychic abilities (p. 50).
Principles behind the exercise of Yoga. Yoga cannot be considered merely
physical exercise, as it is inseparable from its spiritual, “Hinduistic” purposes. Here in the
US, when yoga is initially taught, instructors do not necessarily reveal its basis in such a
way that it repels the listener. Some instructors (especially Christians) only have a
superficial knowledge of yoga, as they have not taken the time to do an in-depth study of
what they are teaching. Russell (2004) detailed the seriousness of the practice as follows:
It teaches that there are some seventy two thousand invisible psychic channels,
which comprise another dimensional body. This “subtle” body is claimed to
connect to the real body in seven predominant places. It is ranging from the base
of the spine to the top of the head. The teachings of Hatha (physical) yoga teach
that at the base of the spines lies twisted a great serpent power called Kundalini.
Kundalini (literally-coiled) is the name of a goddess symbolized by a serpent with
three and one half coils and sleeping with its tail in its mouth. This goddess or
serpent of life, fire, and wisdom evidently resides in a man near the base of the
spine. Kundalini will produce supernatural psychic powers, which are from
demonic beings and will ultimately lead to moral, spiritual, and physical
destruction. However, through this Kundalini power meditation and yoga are
designed to arouse and control. (p. 21)
As Russell (2004) concluded, all the postures of yoga are intended to arouse this
force to uncoil itself and go up through the nerve centers in the spine. It is closely
connected to the endocrine glands and lastly arrives at the pituitary gland, which is the
thousand-petal lotus. After extensive and regimented practice, a participant will achieve
perfect enlightenment (p. 22).
Purpose of Yoga. The key intention of yoga exercise according to Scott (2001) is
to align the delicate body with the “real one” and to transform the consciousness of the
participant in a specific manner. To learn the wisdom of yoga, one begins by placing the
body in the yoga postures, which is said to unlock ones “feelings.” As a person does
physical yoga exercises, he is requested to rehearse the meditation along with the
postures. A session of yoga begins with the emptying of the mind of all thought, and then
progresses to true Hindu meditation. The ultimate objective is to obtain the perfect union
with self and Brahman. Through meditation, the disciple is to restrain the vital force
(prana), senses, and mind. This experience will cause ignorance to be shattered and
enable him to rise above his karma (p. 1).
As Zacharias and Geisler (2003) explained, the word “yoga” is used generally and
interchangeably to explain certain techniques and exercises that are both physical and
mental. Yoga is designed to help one help open come into an awareness of the union that
exists between the finite and the infinite, which is normally concealed due to a force of
illusion called maya. This means that one comes to the realization of the union by
recognizing it as something that already exists. To reach this understanding, a sequence
of physical meditation techniques is recommended and begins with a form of physical
exercises (p. 168). “In some cases it may involve worship of the sun or the lotus form, the
flower, which is the dwelling place of the goddess of wealth, ‘Lakshmi’” (p. 168). Who
or what is worshipped depends on the theological preferences of the Hindu schools that
advocate yoga (p. 168).
Consequently, Zacharias and Geisler (2003) said that when someone progresses in
the exercise of yoga, it involves meditation and the evacuation of the mind. They also
reported that in the July 16, 2001 issue of Time magazine, Hindu guru Bharat Thakur
mocked at the Western philosophy that regards yoga as merely a form of physical health.
Thakur said that Eastern yoga has two divisions: external and internal. He argued that
“yoga is a complete package and there is no option to separate the two.” The internal
comes only because of the help of a true master who leads a person into spiritual yoga. It
begins with a question: “You have known the body, you have known your breath, your
mind, so what after that?” This is when one’s journey to the unknown begins and the
master (guru) helps the student to gradually become aware of every stage, until one is no
longer conscious of the body or mind. This is when one receives the first taste of moksha,
which is salvation or enlightenment. It opens the sense of silence when one is freed from
oneself with great happiness. One feels as if they no longer exist because one has walked
into the valley of death. The more one walks in this valley, the freer one becomes. “It is a
journey from the known to unknown.” At this stage, one is totally free from fear or death.
This is what yoga means in India (pp. 168-170).
Uniqueness of Naming and Names
Naming a child in the Hindu custom is quite different from the West and other
cultures. In the Hindu culture, a child, especially a boy, is officially named when he turns
six months old (Wilkins, 1975, p. 12). However, according to Chakravarti (1991) the
name-giving ceremony is “on the tenth or the eleventh day after the birth of a child.” On
this occasion, the priest carries out this ritual and prays for god’s blessings on the child
(p. 29). There is a feast involved with this celebration, which is known as Annaprasan.
On that morning, the particular boy child “is brought into the guest-chamber, and a few
grains of cooked rice are put into his mouth.” Sometimes “the rice used on these
occasions is purchased from one of the great temples. . . . At this feast, the father presents
a little food for the benefit of his ancestors as a thank offering.” But the important part is
“the name-giving.” The boy’s father will announce the official name, even though “it is
generally the mother who chooses it” (Wilkins, 1975, pp. 12-13).
Based on the etymology of these names, Wilkins (1975) gave this background:
As a rule the names are those of some of the deities, or the deified heroes whose
deeds of prowess are written in the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Sometimes the
humility of the parents is seen as they call their children the servants of some of
the foods or goddesses, as, Durga Dass, [or] Kali Dass. A child never bears the
same name as his father. Girls are named after goddesses, as Lakshmi, Ganga,
etc.; or after flowers, as Padma (a lotus) and Kamini. . . In addition to the name
chosen by the parents, another is selected by the astrologer, which has as its initial
a letter from the particular star that ruled at the hour of its birth. A child, e.g., born
in the last division of Virgo’s rule, whose ordinary name is Gopal, appears in
ceremonial documents, say, as Thakur Dass, because this is the last letter of the
Sanskrit word for Virgo. Whilst speaking of names, it may be stated that though
Hindus bear a family name in addition to those given, they are not generally
known by it. . . . Perhaps the most important ceremony connected with the birth of
a Hindu child is the preparation of his horoscope. The moment of birth is
carefully noted, and from this the astrologer prepares a more or less elaborate
forecast of the child’s fate. (pp. 13-15)
This chapter provided insight into Hinduism by its description of its history,
beliefs and practices to allow readers to gain a better understanding of what the
participants in this study converted from. The following chapter offers a deeper
understanding of the word conversion.
SUBSTANTIVE LITERATURE REVIEW ON CONVERSION
This literature review on conversion includes a general understanding of
conversion, definitions, and meanings. It further deals with the biblical concept of
conversion within Christian tradition and throughout history. Furthermore, it discusses
theories, stages, and integration experiences.
Research on Conversion: Introduction
The aim of this study is to identify the effect of conversion on the lives of
individuals from Hindu backgrounds and their experiences with the outside world. As
Steffen (1996) confirmed, this knowledge should produce “certain kinetics and
intonations that will become benchmarks to qualify future members” (p. 88), as well as
having an “electrifying impact on their hearers” (p. 86).
This part of the chapter asks the question, “What is conversion?” or “What is my
understanding of conversion?” Even though the subject of conversion “is a central part of
the Christian experience, not all conversion experiences take place within a Christian
context” (Holte, 1992, p. x). The birth of religions itself proclaims a concept of
conversion. Misaka (1992), in his understanding of this subject, has concluded, “This
complex phenomenon has been a controversy in itself [and] there has been no universal
agreement on a definition for a religious convert” (p. 7). Kerr and Mulder (1983), along
with Misaka, acknowledged that conversion is difficult to describe “to others.” The
rationale is “conversion involves complex questions of theology, psychology, and
sociology” (p. xii).
William James (1902), an American philosopher and psychologist, described
conversion in a broad sense:
To be converted, to be regenerated, to receive grace, to experience religion, to
gain an assurance, are so many phrases which denote the process, gradual or
sudden, by which a self hitherto divided and consciously wrong, inferior and
unhappy, becomes unified and consciously right superior and happy, in
consequences of its firmer hold upon religious realities (p. 189).
In regard to religious conversion, there is a “feeling of joy and release from the
burden of self-hatred”; but, on the other hand, we can scrutinize the understanding of
conversion in a “religious context” (Bryant & Lamb, 1999, pp 15-16).
General Understanding of the Topic
Generally speaking, conversion can be the mingling of two religious groups or
members within a religious community. The general public commonly understands
conversion non-spiritually as a “personal transformation and growth.” Some see “their
movement into feminism as a conversion.” Men and women “who have ‘come out’ in
relation to their gay or lesbian nature have also spoken about that in terms of
‘conversion’” (Bryant & Lamb, 1999, pp. 15-16). Researchers like Gail Ironson,
Heidemarie Kremer, and Dale S. Ironson see conversion in three contexts: “(1)
Conversion from a religious tradition to spirituality . . . (2) conversion from one religious
tradition to another and (3) conversion from spirituality . . . to religion” (Koss-Chioino &
Hefner, 2006, pp. 250-251). In this study, my concentration is on the first type and, more
specifically, conversion of a person from a Hindu background to a born-again experience
with Jesus Christ (Christianity). An example of what I stated regarding a Hindus
convert’s experience in Christ is comparable to what Richard Peace (1999) shared
concerning the “first century Jews (such as Paul and the Twelve) who became Christians”
William James (1902) asserted that as a person gets closer to the conversion
process, two important things must be dealt with: “First the present incompleteness or
wrongness, the ‘sin’ which he is eager to escape from; and, second, the positive ideal
which he longs to compass.” He added one unique concept; that is, in most cases the sin
issue anyone faces can hold their attention, “so that conversion is ‘a process of struggling
away from sin rather than of striving towards righteousness’” (p. 209).
Definition and Meaning of Conversion
The simple process of conversion according to Rambo (1993) “indicates a radical
call to reject evil and embrace a relationship with God through faith” (p. 5). Scripture
states, “Therefore, if anyone [is] in Christ, [he is] a new creation; old things have passed
away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17, NKJV). Bebbington (1992)
quoted Jonathan Edwards from A Narrative of Surprising Conversions: “Conversion is a
great and glorious work of God’s power . . . at once changing the heart, and infusing life
into the dead soul” (p. 7). Brusco (1995) was not surprised to see the conversion within
the Colombian community because a physical healing could transform a person’s
spiritual life. The report he gave comes from the life of Colombian men:
A series of visits to doctors, expensive X-rays and treatments without results, and
continuing affliction. When nothing else . . . seemed to work, they agree to attend
an evangelical service, usually at the invitation of their wife, or another relative.
Two things usually happen: they are healed of their illness, and they convert out
of gratitude. They report that that night “the Lord spoke to my heart,” so they are
open to the evangelical message and become curious about it (p. 117).
Hefner (1993) portrayed conversion as a “self-conscious change in more or less
enduring religious belief and affiliation from one religious system to another.” To clarify
what he saw as a “religious system,” he stated that it is like a network “of belief[s] and a
social structure of believers.” He narrowed it down further to “an individual activity, at
least analytically. . . . The definition in itself says nothing about the motivations for the
change – it is a change, [its] not [a] matter [of] how motivated, and it says nothing about
the extent of the change.” Based on the definition above, we can perceive conversion
“just as much as switching from Hinduism to Islam” (pp. 285-286). Gelpi (1998) came to
the same conclusion because conversion “involves a turning from and a turning to . . .
[and] irresponsible to responsible living in some realm of experience.” However, he
understood that, except for Islam and Christianity, other religions do not “stress
conversion with the same urgency” (p. 26).
The term “conversion experience” is sometimes equated with spiritual
transformation, according Schwartz (2000, p. 5). Kenneth I. Pargament (2006) dealt with
conversion in a similar manner in his book entitled Spiritual Transformation and
Healing. He wrote:
In the classic scenario . . . the individual experiences a shift from self-centered
strivings to God-centered strivings. Other forms of spiritual conversion are also
possible . . . the classic form of conversion is particularly applicable to people
“caught up in the trap of pride” who replace self-exaltation with self-sacrificial
love. They contrast the traditional conversion model with the feminist model in
which an abdication of personal dignity rather than excessive pride sets the stage
for transformation: “Conversion from self-abnegation . . . involves learning self-
affirmation in union with God and compassionate love. (p. 18)
In the same book, Karl E. Peters (2006) describes “spiritual transformation [as]
‘dramatic changes in world and self views, purposes, religious beliefs, attitudes, and
behavior’” (p. 135).
Biblical Concept of Conversion
According to biblical theology, there are two sides to conversion. The first is
divine; the second is human. Daniel L. Akin (2003) argued that conversion “represents
the infusion of divine grace into human life and a resurrection from spiritual death to
eternal life. We can turn only through the power of God’s grace and the calling of the
Holy Spirit. Conversion is an event that initiates a process; it signifies the moment in time
we are moved to respond to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith” (p. 336).
Fleming (1990) claimed that the concept of conversion is very evident in the
Bible, even though “the word ‘conversion’ may be rare” (p. 74). He further explained that
conversion occurs when a person “turns from darkness to light, from Satan to God, from
dead idols to the living Christ (Acts 15:3; 26:18; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; Matt. 13:15; 2 Cor.
3:16).” Fleming saw this as an “outward” expression of an “inward” reality. The Holy
Bible calls this phenomenon “repentance” (Acts 3:19) (p. 74). Bryant and Lamb (1999)
clearly stated that “conversion involves not only an inner event but it often involves a
move from one religious community to another” (p. 2). Rambo (1993) noted, “In the
Judeo-Christian Scriptures, the Hebrew and Greek words generally equated with
conversion are words that literally mean to turn or return. The precise meaning of the
turning or returning is contextually determined” (p. 3). Matthew 23:15 speaks of
proselyte converts to Judaism, though this is not spiritual conversion as believers see it.
Romans 16:5 calls the conversion of Epaenetus “the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ.” This
refers to a true conversion. Another example can be found in Acts 15:3, which states, “So
being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria,
describing the conversion of the Gentiles” (Concordance, 1990, p. 230).
The word conversion in Latin is conversio, “a turning back.” In Greek, there are
two words for conversion: meta-noia (µctovoio) means “change of mentality” and epi-
strepho (ctiotµc|e), which is used in Acts 15:3 (Leon-Dufour, 1980, p. 146). Epi-
strepho can be identified as two words that are joined together. According to Danker
(2000), the first part, epi, means “toward, at, with verbs of motion, from one point to
another” (p. 364) and strepho means “turn around, turn toward, to turn away so as to
dissociate oneself, [and] to experience an inward change” (p. 948). Thus, the first-century
perception of conversion was a motion of turning around. In Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
(1996), the word epi-strepho means “conversion of Gentiles from idolatry to the true
God” (p. 244). Kerr and Mulder (1983) suggested, “to be converted is like making a ‘U-
turn.’” It is “starting at square one once again” (p. ix).
In the Dictionary of the New Testament Theology, Brown (1986) recorded that the
Hebrew word shub “occurs 1050 times in the OT and means turn around, return (qal),
[and] bring back.” He also drew attention to the Qumran community. This community
made conversion “a prior condition for admittance.” In order for a person to gain entry
into the community, they must choose “turning from all evil and turning to the Law of
Moses. The members of the community called themselves ‘those who had turned from
transgression or the converts of conversion. ’” (pp. 354-355). In his research on “Spiritual
transformation,” Schwartz (2000) discovered, “In rabbinic literature a banal teshuvah is
literally a “master of return” or “master of repentance.” For example, each year at Yom
Kippur every Jew is expected to become a ba’al teshuvah, a person who “returns” to
God. It is significant that the contemporary “return” of secular Jews to Orthodox Judaism
has been called the “ba’al teshuvah movement” (p. 4).
In keeping with the idea of repentance as a change of mind, Kittel (1967)
explored the Greek word µctovoce ( meta-noeo) and its usage:
In pre-biblical and extra-biblical usage µctovoce and µctovoio are not firmly
related to any specific concepts. At the first stage, they bear the intellectual sense
of “subsequent knowledge.” With further development both verb and noun then
come to mean “change of mind,” “repentance,” in an emotional and volitional
sense as well. . . . For Greeks µctovoio never suggests an alteration in the total
moral attitude, a profound change in life’s direction, a conversion which affects
the whole of conduct. Before himself and before the gods the Greek can
µctovociv a sin in actu, but he has no knowledge of µctovoio as repentance or
conversion in the sense found in the OT and NT. . . . There is in the OT no special
. . . [terms] for “repentance” or “to repent.” But the concept is by no means
absent. It is found in two forms. On the one side is the cultic and ritual form,
where the religion of Israel makes use of elements found elsewhere. On the other
side is the prophetic form, namely, the concept of conversion. This developed out
of the prophetic view of the relation between God and man, which is peculiar to
the OT, and which is particularly significant inasmuch as it corresponds to and
prepares the way for the µctovociv of the NT (pp. 979-980).
In the New Testament, the requirement is a “new turning of the human will to
[The NT also uses] metanoeo to express the force of sub, turn around. This
change in meaning was prepared for by other Greek translations of the OT and in
Hellenistic Judaism. The change in the choice of words – metanoeo instead of
epistrepho – shows that the NT does not stress the concrete, physical concept
implied in the OT use of sub, but rather the thought, the will, the nous. The ideas
of repent, be converted, come to the fore. Correspondingly (only in Rom. 2:5)
means impenitent. For all that, the change of words has not merely
intellectualized the concept of sub. In fact the predominantly intellectual
understanding of metanoia as change of mind plays very little part in the NT.
Rather the decision by the whole man to turn round is stressed. It is clear that we
are concerned neither with a purely outward turning nor with a merely intellectual
change of ideas (Brown, 1986, pp. 357-358).
Throughout the New Testament, especially during the time of Christ, one could
see the main theme of repentance, as in John the Baptist’s exhortation, “Repent for the
kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). For the last two thousand years,
Christianity has emphasized the themes of repentance and new birth in their church
settings, as well as in their evangelism settings. Jesus made an emphatic statement, “I am
the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John
14:6, NKJV). This verse clearly states what one must believe in order to be changed
spiritually. The founders of other world religions never made such powerful statements.
Those founders left messages to their followers but “there is a noticeable absence of a
strong mission or proselytizing tendency in these traditions” (Bryant & Lamb, 1999, pp.
A good model for one to understand new birth or the born-again concept can be
traced from Jesus’ conversation of Nicodemus in John 3:1-16 (NKJV):
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This
man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a
teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is
with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless
one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him,
“How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his
mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is
spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind
blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it
comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus
answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these
things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what
We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly
things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the
Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the
wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in
Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He
gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but
have everlasting life.
This passage shows how God expects such “a change in a man’s inner life that it
could be described as a new birth” (Barclay, 1975, p. 124). In addition, Smith Jr. (1999)
observed that Jesus clearly lays “out the anthropology of salvation, the regeneration of
persons, and ends with the explanation of how that regeneration is manifest in their actual
living: they do what is true and come to the light” (p. 102). Barclay (1975) described the
idea of new birth in a straightforward way:
This phrase born anew, this idea of rebirth, runs all through the New Testament.
Peter speaks of being born anew by God’s great mercy (1 Peter 1:3); he talks
about being born anew not of perishable seed, but of imperishable (1 Peter 1:22,
23). James speaks of God bringing us forth by the word of truth (James 1:18). The
Letter to Titus speaks of the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5). Sometimes this
same idea is spoken of as a death followed by a resurrection or a re-creation. Paul
speaks of the Christian as dying with Christ and then rising to life anew (Rom.
6:1-11). He speaks of those who have lately come into the Christian faith as babes
in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1, 2). If any man is in Christ it is as if he had been created all
over again (2 Cor. 5:17). In Christ there is a new creation (Gal. 6:15). The new
man is created after God in righteousness (Eph. 4:22-24). The person who is at the
first beginnings of the Christian faith is a child (Heb. 5:12-14). All over the New
Testament this idea of rebirth, re-creation occurs (pp. 125-126).
Another example is Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Apostle Paul details God’s
eternal plan for sinners and how He ordained their salvation. Even though they deserved
“death, slavery and condemnation” (Arnold, 2002, p. 14), God’s grace (vv. 8-9) and love
reached toward them. God gave them an opportunity to change from their evil ways and
lifestyle “into a close relationship with Christ and a solidarity with the events of the
cross” (Arnold, p. 16). Ephesians 2:1-13 (NKJV) states:
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once
walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power
of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom
also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires
of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the
others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He
loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with
Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised [us] up together, and made [us]
sit together in the heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He
might show the exceeding riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in
Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves; [it is] the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we
are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God
prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Therefore remember that you,
once Gentiles in the flesh – who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the
Circumcision made in the flesh by hands – that at that time you were without
Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the
covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in
Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of
Here in Ephesians, the Apostle Paul discussed God’s eternal plan for transforming
sinners into saints in Christ based on His grace. MacArthur (1986) said this is “the act
and process of salvation” (p. 52) as humans are saved from sin. Charles Kraft (1979)
argued that humans are “pervasively infected by sin. This means that the use humans
make of the cultural forms, patterns and processes at their disposal is always affected by
sin” (p. 114). The enemy has blinded the eyes of people from capturing or understanding
the truths of God. Sherwood Lingenfelter (1998) went one step further and stated that
culture stands in the way as a “prison of disobedience” (p. 19). This disobedience is due
to sin entering into the world through the craftiness of the devil. His influence corrupted
all of mankind, and their systems. At this point, Paul Hiebert (1994) exposed an
“uncritical” method that “has a weak view of sin” because “it tends to affirm human
social organizations and cultures as essentially good” (p. 86). In order to defend God’s
Word, Heibert clarified, “There is a need . . . to take a stand against corporate evil as well
as against individual sin.” Therefore, the gospel offends and “it is supposed to offend,
and we dare not weaken its offense. . . . It must stand in judgment of what is evil in all
cultures as well as in all persons” (p. 86).
Even though human beings are spiritually blind, Kraft (1979) considered them
“redeemable.” He added that through redemption they will “do things differently, they
change their usage of the cultural forms, patterns, and processes at their disposal. . . .
Redeemed persons live pretty much according to the same patterns and processes as
before they became Christians, but now they use them with a new allegiance, for the sake
of a new master” (p. 114). Lingenfelter (1998) agreed with Kraft and declared that these
transformations will continue to occur if God’s people can “live in the fear of the Lord
and walk in the light of God’s Word” (p. 179).
Christian Tradition and Conversion
The reason I emphasize Christian conversion (or the born-again experience in
Christ) is “because it is the tradition in which ‘conversion’ has loomed largest” (Bryant &
Lamb, 1999, p. 17). Peace (1999) explained:
Conversion is a form of transformation that seems, at first glance, to promise
complete reformation brought about by the work of God . . . all a person has to do
is to open his or her life to God by trusting in the redeeming power of Jesus’ work
on the cross, and he or she becomes a new creature (pp. 2-3).
This tradition began during the time of the New Testament (der Veer, 1996, p.
47), when the twelve disciples of Jesus found their “new” faith in Jesus. As Peace (1999)
commented, this “act of joining Jesus’ apostolic band was equivalent to their conversion”
(p. 12). The gospels describe a great number of conversions through the ministry of Jesus
while He was on Earth. Then the task was handed over to His disciples, as referenced in
Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV):
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me
in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with
you always, [even] to the end of the age.” Amen.
Under the evangelization of Jesus’ disciples, we see great and unique conversions
“throughout the Roman world” (MacArthur, 1997, p. 1). These historical incidents, such
as “its explosive beginning on the Day of Pentecost to the imprisonment at Rome of its
greatest missionary” are recorded in the book of Acts. This book opens up with the
“ministry of Peter, then of Paul. From it we learn principles for discipling believers,
building the church, and evangelizing the world” (p. 1). Stott (1990) pointed out that “the
transition stage in which the foundations were laid for the Gentile mission by Stephen’s
martyrdom and Philip’s evangelism, the conversion of Saul and Cornelius, and the
founding of the first Greek Church in Antioch. From this international city . . . the world-
wide Christian mission was launched” by the church (p. 9). Steffen (1996) confirmed the
above details and concluded that the “first century believers valued the power of
personal/collective faith stories. They relied on such pictorial stories to turn the then-
known world upside down, expanding the Kingdom of God” (p. 86).
Based on Luke 4:18-19, Kraft (2002) made it clear that the word “freedom”
means not just “freedom from sin.” He believed that Jesus “definitely had more than just
conversion in mind. He foresaw a prolonged process of reaching and learning – a process
. . . [that] involves coming into the full freedom Jesus promises to those who come to
Him with heavy loads (Matt. 11:28)” (p. 138). Kraft explained that the devil always plans
“a scheme . . . whereby he moves new converts right into prisoner-of-war camps to keep
them from interfering with his activities. It is from such camps that Jesus wants to free
us” (p. 138).
Bryant and Lamb (1999) informed us that today the Pentecostal mission is
“sweeping across Latin America and is drawing most of its ‘converts’ from nominal
Catholics” (p. 17). They explained that the tradition of conversion is “found in all streams
of Christianity, there is a marked difference in the understanding of conversion between
the more sacramental and evangelical streams of Christianity” (p. 18). “In the
sacramental traditions (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran) the conversion
process is through participation in the sacraments of baptism (a dying and rising with
Christ), Eucharist, confirmation.” For them, the Catholic Church, liturgies, and priests
play a unique role in the process of salvation (Bryant & Lamb, 1999, p. 18).
In regard to the Protestant tradition, they “judged a person as saved or not by his
commitment to Jesus as Savior. This is to put it at its simplest. The picture is more
complex and complicated when conversion is perceived as a calling” (Bryant & Lamb,
1999, p. 18).
I perceive that everyone expects others to be either like them or evaluate others
based on their conviction and/or Christian standard. Within the evangelical tradition,
which is my background, conversion is a very personal decision or “experience of giving
your life to Jesus or being baptized in the Spirit, or the experience of being born again”
(Bryant & Lamb, 1999, p. 18). The decision to follow Christ is based solely on the
conviction of one’s own sin, repentance, and response to Jesus’ offering of salvation
Comparing Other Religions’ Conversion Rates with Christianity
When placing Christianity in history and by comparing it with other world
religions, “only a few religions have shown great success in propagating themselves over
time and space” (Hefner, 1993, p. 4). In addition to that, Neill (1964) compared and
contrasted Christianity with other religions of the world. He stated:
Buddhism . . . has always been an eastern religion; having died out in its
homeland, India, it has spread to north and east and south only in recent years to
the west. Islam was and is a religion of the desert and the Middle East, with
outliers in all directions; it stretches today from Morocco to western China, from
Albania to Indonesia, and is making ever increasingly successful inroads into
tropical Africa. With modern emigration it reached Europe and America.
Christianity alone has succeeded in making itself a universal religion. This does
not . . . mean that everyone in the world has become Christian. Yet it is a fact that
this Levantine form of religion, stamped with the marks of its origin in the eastern
Mediterranean, has now found a home in almost every country in the world; it has
adherents among all the races of men, from the most sophisticated of westerners
to the aborigines of the in-hospitable deserts of Australia; and there is no religion
of the world which has not yielded a certain number of converts to it. (p. 14)
Hefner’s (1993) anthropological research on Christianity, reviewed in Frontiers of
Christian Evangelism, stated that “recent anthropological work has emphasized that
Christianity in a cross-cultural context is far less socially and ideologically monolithic
than the ‘Salvationist orthodoxy’ often attributed to it.” However, if one evaluated
Christianity, one could see that they displayed outstanding skills (e.g., emphasis on
“individual salvation”) throughout different periods and in different cultural settings (p.
5; Kim, 2003, p.3).
History of Christianity with an Emphasis on Conversion in Different Time Periods
Since Jesus’ time, Christians have existed. The first followers of Jesus were His
disciples. The conversion experience began with them. In an overview of the history of
conversion, Bryant and Lamb (1999) pointed out that Christianity is a “missionary
religion.” Christianity made its appearance “within the Jewish tradition and its missionary
activity among Gentiles . . . it seeks to bring people from all ‘tribes and nations’” to
communicate the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ (p. 177). In regard to the spreading
of the gospel or propagation of faith, Bryant stated:
During the first three centuries of the Christian era, the early Christian community
moved from its origins as a Jewish sect to an outlawed religion in the Roman
Empire to its status as the “official religion of the Empire” under the Emperor
Constantine in CE 325. Christianity also went south into Africa (Egypt and
Ethiopia) and east into the Middle East and . . . as far east as India. . . . [through
Saint Thomas in “52 A.D” and still Saint “Thomas Christians exist in India”
(Lewis, 2004, pp. 115-116). They are known as “Thomas” (or “Syrian”)
Christians (Frykenberg, 2003, p. 34)]…After CE 325 Christianity was, in the
West, linked to the state and its imperial ambitions. Thus after the internal
conversion of Roman society, largely through female converts to Christianity, and
the “external” conversion of Constantine in his successful battle at the Milvian
Bridge, the “conversion” of European peoples was partly through missionary
efforts (Ireland) and partly through conquest (German peoples) (p. 117).
Neill (1964) laid out certain incidents from the first five centuries of the Christian
church. Out of this detailed information, I was interested to see what prompted them to
bring souls to Christ. God gave increase to His Church in “a notable fashion.” The
following reasons impacted the conversion and the growth of the Church: (1) There was a
“burning conviction” that fell on them regarding the lost world and the urgency to save
others; (2) they possessed boldness because they were eye-witnesses of Christ’s ministry,
death, and resurrection; (3) they upheld purity as a Christian virtue; (4) they developed a
deep “sense of community and . . . mutual loyalty among them; (5) they had a strong
doctrinal understanding (“One Lord, one faith, one baptism, bound [them] together”); (6)
their hearts were inclined towards “charitable service,” which motivated them to “care
[for the] orphans . . . widows . . . prisoners . . . [and] travelers; (7) lastly, they exemplified
their love for one another, which was evident and attracted many to convert to
Christianity (pp. 35-37). The most outstanding effect was on the Church of Rome: It grew
largely by its conversion.
The close of the fifth century ushered in the fall of the Roman Empire (Kuiper,
1964, p. 50) and “Greco-Roman culture” (Latourette, 1975, p. 269). Nevertheless, the
hand of God was supporting His Church through people such as “John Chrysostom,” who
He used mightily (pp 29-30), and events such as the conversion of Augustine of Hippo in
the region of North Africa (Bryant, 1999, p. 181). In addition, an early example of
historical mass conversion was that of the “Barbarians” (Kuiper, 1964, p. 50). Based on
Neill’s (1964) understanding, most of these Barbarian converts were “Arians” (p. 51). He
also included “the unending battle” between the Barbarians and Islam (p. 53), which
began at “the rise of Mohammedan power” in the beginning of the seventh century.
Hurlbut (1933) noted that this religion flourished massively (compared to Christianity)
even after thirteen centuries (p. 117). Islam began to conquer the world, which was a
“major disaster for the Christian world” (Neill, 1964, p. 55). “Palestine and Syria were
soon conquered; the holy places of Christianity fell under the power of Islam” (Hurlbut,
1933, p. 117). The world was filled with “Barbarian kingdoms,” which were “ignorant,
uneducated and uncultured” (Kuiper, 1964, p. 53). “The Church once more, as in its
beginning, faced a heathen world. . . . And so the Church, standing at the beginning of the
Middle Ages, saw set before it a twofold task: that of Christianizing and that of educating
the new nations.” Indeed, towards the end of the tenth century, “all the new nations of
Europe had been Christianized” (p. 53).
Neill (1964) observed that in the tenth century a “widespread fear and anxiety”
fell upon Christians all throughout the world based on an extensive belief that “the period
of the Church was to last just one thousand years . . . according to the calculations of
Dionysis Exiguus in the sixth century,” who thought the period of the Church would
come to an end (p. 85). Today, Christians realize that the book of Acts furnishes evidence
that the Church was inaugurated by the Holy Spirit, and Christ Himself said, “I will build
my Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18, NKJV).
The beginning of the Middle Ages (1066-1485) led to an unforeseen situation:
“There was now in the West a church with a Latin language and literature, but with the
majority of its members belonging to the Germanic race. The Germanizing of the Church
marks a major turn in the Church’s history.” However, the Church in the East used Greek
as its language. Until this time, “the Church had been one” and “in 1054” the Church was
divided into the “Greek Eastern” (or orthodox) church, which was “oriental in character,”
and the “Latin Western” (or papal) church (Kuiper, 1964, pp. 88-89; Hurlbut, 1933, p.
125). Eventually, there were doctrinal differences, such as the issues of “priestly marriage
. . . adoration of images . . . [and] wafer and Bread” (Hurlbut, 1933, p. 126). As they
concentrated on these issues, they placed less emphasis on the gospel and bringing people
In the middle of the fourteenth century, “the Brethren of the Common Life” arose
and the result was a great revival as they “were strong believers in Christian education.”
Erasmus was one of the many prominent men among them (Kuiper, 1964, p. 151).
Neill (1964) writes that the fifteenth century designated the “Age of Exploration”
or the “Age of Discovery.” During this period, many new lands were discovered, such as
the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and the arrival in India
of Portuguese traveler Vasco da Gama in 1497.
In the sixteenth century, the “conversion of daimyos” took place in Japan by
Jesuit missionaries (pp.120, 134), while the Portuguese invasion of Goa, India brought
about “imposed conversion” in that region. However, in the latter case, Robinson and
Clarke (2003) claimed “the conversion arose out of true commitment to the faith, [and]
not out of force or out of a desire to gain material benefits . . . the Portuguese used two
methods of conversion: taking over the care of orphans and using a system of privileges
to attract adherents to the faith” (pp. 302-302). In Madurai, India, conversions took place
because of a Jesuit named Roberto Nobili (Lewis, 2004, p. 117). It is also reported that a
massive conversion of “300,000” souls took place in Vietnam through a Jesuit named
Alexander de Rhodes (Neill, 1964, pp. 156, 167).
The seventeenth century understanding of conversion in France was at risk
“because of the side-by-side existence of competing faiths – Catholic and Protestants.”
Both groups had their own explanation for the meaning of conversion. Protestants
defined conversion “as a profound inner transformation worked by God,” while Catholics
argued that it was “also a submission to an institution that represented” God (der Veer,
1996, p. 25). Neill (1964) conveyed the commitment of Bartholomew Ziegenbalg, a
European missionary to India, who emphasized “a definite and personal conversion”
during this period.
Lewis (2004) saw a great deal of struggle regarding the conversion in India during
the seventeenth century. He explained:
Conversion, understandably, has become a bone of contention in India. For many
Hindus, it is a “bogey” – a cause for “national” concern and a fear or threat. It
represents something alien and hostile: a malignant and polluting virus from
“outside” India; a “foreign hand” disrupting and destroying the achievements and
benefits refined by a great and ancient civilization. It is a blow to “Hindu” pride:
against family and against heart and home. For many Hindus, conversion is seen
only as “forced”: as a result of coercion, enticement, intimidation and
proselytization. If conversion is needed as a consequence of neo-colonial
globalization, Hindu concerns are understandable. (p. 119)
Towards the end of the eighteenth century, through missionary activities in
Moscow, the converted population in India amounted to about “10,000” persons (Lewis,
2004, pp. 187, 196). In Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, Bebbington (1992) evaluated
the eighteenth century as the “rise of evangelicalism” (p. 2). The Great Awakening,
which took place mid-century brought many souls to Christ, due to the efforts of Charles
Wesley and George Whitefield “both in England and America.” (Hurlbut, 1933, p. 179).
This revival was distinguished by several key factors. Bebbington wrote that
evangelical identity was accompanied by “the four . . . marks of evangelical religion:
‘conversionism, the belief that lives needed to be changed; activism, the expression of the
gospel in effort; biblicalism, a particular regard for the Bible; and what may be called
crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross’” (1992, pp. 2-3). These
four characteristics, I believe, became the foundation not only of eighteenth century
Protestantism but also of nineteenth- and the twentieth century Christianity.
Bebbington (1992) explained “conversionism” in the following words:
The call to conversion has been the content of the gospel. Preachers urged their
hearers to turn away from their sins in repentance and to Christ in faith. G.W.
McCree, a London Baptist minister of the mid-nineteenth century, was typical in
holding [believing] “that conversion was far above, and of greater importance
than, any denominational differences of whatever kind” . . . Conversionism was
the goal of personal effort, the collective aim of churches, the theme of
Evangelical literature. . . . Conversions not only bring prosperity to the Church . . .
[but also] solve the social problem (p. 5).
Based on Kuiper’s (1964) understanding, the Church's main concern at the
beginning of the nineteenth century was to share the gospel with others and preserve the
value and richness of its message. However, as Christians increased in wealth, they
became distracted from the “central purpose . . . of salvation by faith.” In present-day
society, there are many people whose claims of Christianity are contradicted by lifestyles
that do not reflect a right relationship with God and are, moreover, a hindrance to other's
salvation (p. 324). While this is indeed a cause for concern, I am comforted by the fact
that Jesus said, “I will build my Church” (Matt. 16:18, NKJV). This truth is reflected in
the account of Nehemiah Goreh, “[a] convert from Brahminism” from the northern part
of India (Oddie, 1997, p. 23).
In the nineteenth century, Christians expected conversion based on “theological
conviction.” Christian parents “looked anxiously for signs [outward evidence] . . . in their
growing children. . . . Conversion was most common among teenagers, but the average
age at the [conversion] experience seems to have fallen during the nineteenth century.”
The orthodox group taught that true conversion experience is “the work of the Holy Spirit
. . . [but] enthusiastic evangelicals” argued that “the crucial factor is a person’s will to be
saved. . . . R.F. Horton, an eminent Congregationalist . . . reached the identical conclusion
that a person may exercise his will in order to be converted” (Bebbington, 1992, pp. 8-
Another major issue the Church faced in the “early and mid-nineteenth century”
was conversion through “infant baptism,” which is still argued today. C. H. Spurgeon
vigorously stood against this issue in the nineteenth century and, even today, evangelicals
(including myself) highly regard and emphasize the cardinal doctrine that “only through
conversion does a person become a Christian” (Bebbington, 1992, pp. 8-10). In
Ephesians 2:8, the Apostle Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves; [it is] the gift of God” (NKJV). Being an evangelical believer
and based on the Scriptures, I endorse that conversion is by faith in Christ alone. It cannot
be achieved through any other means, except through the blood of Jesus Christ, the
second person of the Trinity. A person converts not to Christianity but to Christ, who is
the bridegroom of the Church.
The task of missionaries and their organizations in the twentieth century was the
evangelization of the world, a desire to fulfill the Great Commission of the Lord (Matt.
28:18-20). It is noted by Lewis (2004) that a “Great Revival” took place within the
“Protestant churches in Korea” (“1907”) and “by 1910 there were 200,000 Protestant
adherents in the country.” Based on “the commission 1 report, ‘[It] presents the most
striking example of a whole nation being moved by the Holy Spirit’” (pp. 56-57).
Catholic and Protestant missionaries went to all parts of the world, and the United States
became first country to send missionaries into the field. Surprisingly, “the emergence of
the Pentecostal churches and their mission” occurred in the twentieth century. Another
major turn was in India “between 1914 and the present day . . . mass conversions” took
place and it was a ceaseless happening among “the depressed class” (Neill, 1964, pp.
Lewis (2004) detailed the “concern and complication” of the expansion of gospel
in India as follows: “Christian communities in India have grown and as new movements
have proliferated at an ever-accelerating rate, complexities of culture, doctrine, and style
have also increased.” “Radical changes have brought forms and styles undreamed and
unheard of in previous centuries,” which has upset “ordinary Hindus” (p. 123). Lewis
quoted China’s conversion statistics from The Apostolic Church: A Case study of a
House Church in Rural China:
In 1949 the number of Christian communicants in China was estimated at about a
million. According to Jonathan Chao, there were 834,000 communicants, 5000
missionaries, 8,500 unordained preachers, 3,500 women preachers, 2,150
ordained pastors and over 2,000 churches. All other historians seem to agree with
the estimate of around one million Protestant Christians in China before the
Communist Revolution of 1949. (p. 100)
It was evident in the twentieth century that “the psychological approach to
conversion has remained central to the study of conversion,” but later studies exposed
that the “phenomenon has regarded it in more sociological terms” through the
“theoretical contribution of Lewis Rambo and Charles Farhadian” (Bryant & Lamb,
1999, p. 2). Neill (1964) added that the accepted term in the twentieth century was
“tolerance,” and “conversion” was looked on as “one phenomenon of religious
experience” (p. 419).
In the twenty-first century, the challenge is to motivate believers. Many are
content with giving money so someone else can go and share the gospel in a foreign part
of the world, rather than taking the time to minister and lead people to Christ themselves.
We consider Jesus our “Sunday God” and the rest of the week is devoted to materialism.
The enemy the first century Christians faced was “pagan religions” (Peake & Parson,
1926, p. xx). Today, even though the pagan world still affects us greatly, the wayward
lives of Christians and Christian nations are the real enemies. Latourette (1975, Vol.2)
commented that there is no actual distinction between “nominal Christian nations and
non-Christian nations.” He added that “Christianity has little power to contribute to the
larger human community, and its lukewarm witness in some cases even contributed to its
own decline” (p. 1506).
Throughout history, we have seen committed Christian believers enthusiastically
share their passion for the gospel of Christ. Because of them, Christianity continues to
spread to every tribe in the world, and conversions to Christianity will continue until the
Lord comes. Peake and Parsons (1926) challenged today’s Christians by stating that if the
Church “ever recovers the vigor it had in the first century it will fling itself against” any
obstacles and conquer them (pp. xx).
Theories on Conversion
By looking into Christian history, we can categorize conversion experiences
according to several theories. Watts in the book Spiritual Transformation and Healing,
gave his opinion concerning the origin of the dissimilarity between “sudden and gradual
conversion.” He said that it “goes back to the early days of the psychology of religion and
has stood the test of time” (Koss-Chioino & Hefner, 2006, p. 156). James (1902)
remarked on Professor Starbuck of California, who did his work in the Psychology of
Religion. In history, there are “two types” of conversion. The first is “the volitional type”
and second is “the type by self-surrender.” The volitional type is defined as “the
regenerative change [which] is usually gradual, and consists in the building up, piece by
piece, of a new set of moral and spiritual habits.” The self-surrender type is where the
“subconscious effects are more abundant and often startling.” In his evaluation, James
said that there is no drastic distinction between the two because “even in the most
voluntarily built-up sort of regeneration there are passages of partial self-surrender
interposed.” Therefore, “self surrender becomes . . . indispensable” (pp. 207-208).
In regard to categorizing converts into different types, Misaka (1992) saw
people’s sudden or dramatic conversions as “a radical change in their belief system, life
style, and emotional experience.” Based on his findings, most of the converts grew up in
“non-religious homes” (p. 7; Buckser & Glazier, 2003, p.213).
The believers in the non-natural character of sudden conversion have had
practically to admit that there is no unmistakable class-mark distinctive of all true
converts. The super-normal incidents, such as voices and visions and
overpowering impressions of the meaning of suddenly presented scripture texts,
the melting emotions and tumultuous affections connected with the crisis of
change, may all come by way of nature, or worse still, be counterfeited by Satan.
(James, 1902, p. 238)
James Engel’s (1990) perception on this view is that these converts confessed “no
prior thought, recognition of personal needs, or particular religious interest but
nonetheless experience conversion, often, in a mass evangelism setting.” In addition,
Engel reported that this is what actually happened during “the ministry of Hudson Taylor
on his initial venture into the interior of China.” Some of the incidents were “theophanies
and other forms of miraculous intervention which appear to circumvent conscious
reasoning.” Engel questioned that if conversion can happen this way, “it is not
commonplace or normative” (p. 184).
Even though sudden conversions do happen, Fraser Watts (2006) saw them a bit
differently. According to him there is a chance for:
. . . a gradual period of gestation leading up to the decisive moment. Conversion
needs to be understood psychologically in terms of a preparatory period leading
up to conversion and of a subsequent period in which the implications of
conversion are assimilated. Understood in this way, religious conversions may be
less unusual in its suddenness than as first appears. The distinction may not be so
much about whether or not there has been a long period of preparation, but about
whether or not that period of preparation reaches a specific and dramatic climax
in one particular event or encounter. (pp. 156-157)
Examples of sudden or dramatic conversions can be seen in the lives of the
Apostle Paul and the Philippian jailer, as follows:
Apostle Paul. One of the best examples of instant conversion is the conversion of
Saul, who was later known as Paul. His story is recorded in Acts 9:5-18. William James
(1902) defined this as a “striking instantaneous instance” during which Paul became the
“most eminent. . . . Often amid tremendous emotional excitement or perturbation of the
sense, a complete division is established in the twinkling of an eye between the old life
and the new” (p. 217). The actual event is described in Acts 9:3-18 (NKJV):
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him
from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul,
Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the
Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It [is] hard for you to kick
against the goads." So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You
want me to do?" Then the Lord [said] to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you
will be told what you must do." And the men who journeyed with him stood
speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground,
and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and
brought [him] into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither
ate nor drank. Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and
to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." So
the Lord [said] to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at
the house of Judas for [one] called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And
in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting [his] hand on
him, so that he might receive his sight." Then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have
heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in
Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on
Your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to
bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show
him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." And Ananias went his
way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul,
the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that
you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately there
fell from his eyes [something] like scales, and he received his sight at once; and
he arose and was baptized.
The “dramatic version” of Paul’s conversion, according to Bryant (1999), is
portrayed through the “basic metaphor of an old and new life, a radical disjunction
between the past and the present.” This sudden conversion changed his “religious
beliefs,” a transfer from his “Pharisaic Jewish world” to “Gentile Jewish community” and
a change of “vocation” from a Roman soldier (persecutor) to a soldier of Jesus Christ
(preacher). This change occurred through “divine intervention” (p. 181).
Philippian Jailer. This sudden conversion took place in Philippi, where Paul and
Silas were bound in a Roman prison. The Philippian jailer experienced the terrifying hand
of God, which led him to ask the question, “What must I do to be saved?” Luke, a
historian, relates the incident in Acts 16:25-33 (NKJV):
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the
prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that
the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were
opened and everyone's chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking
from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled,
drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice,
saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here." Then he called for a light, ran
in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and
said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Then they spoke the
word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the
same hour of the night and washed [their] stripes. And immediately he and all his
family were baptized.
The above scriptural account portrayed that the praise songs of Paul and Silas
were heard by everyone in the prison including the guards. When their praises went up,
God’s power was manifested on Paul and Silas’s behalf by the shaking of the prison
foundations, the destroying of the prison doors, and the loosing of chains. As I evaluated
this situation, the jailer, who disregarded the praise songs, was moved by these dramatic
events. This unusual experience scared him into almost taking his life for fear of Roman
military punishment, instead of into chasing the prisoners. The turning point happened
when Paul stopped him and clarified the situation. I personally believe, except for Paul
and Silas, everyone in that prison was afraid. The jailer not only saw the power of God
and His power within them but also their submission to his authority as the jailer. This
trembling event wrought a sudden change in him and in his attitude toward these men. He
asked them to share the gospel message. Paul and Silas were able to lead him to Jesus,
the Savior of the world.
Psychiatrist William Sargant (1961) suggested that when brainwashing people,
the “important part of the process is the stimulation of fear and doubt.” He further stated
that the person who is going through this process “has to wrestle silently and alone with
all these anxieties and conflicts, until he finally breaks down and decides to confess all”
(p. 157). In order to clarify the point, Sargant traced the “Spanish Inquisition in the
sixteenth and seventeenth century” as the outcome of this method (p. 134). Engel and
Norton (1975) agreed with Sargant’s view and explained the process of fear in detail.
“The adaptive strategy is little more than Madison Avenue manipulations. The fear
frequently voiced that a focus on the audience will give the communicator an ability to
control the mind of the recipient of the message and somehow circumvent logical thought
patterns” (p. 40).
Bryant and Lamb (1999) wrote that critics of “evangelical conversion” consider
the mass evangelism associated with evangelical crusades a form of brainwashing.
[These are] . . . manipulated events, orchestrated by [the preachers] effective
preaching and the music, that lead the one who comes forward at the “altar call”
to a very temporary state of remorse about his or her life and a temporary
commitment to Jesus as their personal Savior. But the next day, the moment has
passed and the “convert” quickly returns to his pre-conversion life. In this view,
conversion is not a deep turning of the human being to God, but a superficial
manipulation of people’s emotions. (p. 17)
Holte (1992) said, “The growing popularity of such groups as the Unification
Church, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, and the New Age movement
has made some people see conversion as a form of psychological manipulation or brain
washing.” The same kind of approach can be traced in other religious communities,
because the study of conversion or the “emphasis on [the] born-again experience” is a
major topic today (p. xi).
A Gradual Process
Those who experience conversion as a gradual process mostly come from
“religious homes.” Their conversion experiences range “from shallow to deep but on a
more gradual basis, in terms of time.” Misaka (1992) pointed out that this process may
take anywhere “from a few years to a lifetime.” According to him, “a subset of gradual
converts are the unconscious converts” (pp. 8, 52). Engel (1990) agreed with this thought
and believes that “it can extend over quite a period of time and encompass a progressive
change from rejection of Christianity to acceptance.” Based on its “climax,” one may
sometimes call it a sudden conversion, “but the act of turning or decision is secondary to
the process itself.” Engel calls it “extended problem solving,” which “needs activation
search for new information evaluation of alternatives commitment reevaluation”
(pp. 184-185). Similarly, Tippet (1969) put the process of conversion into three stages:
“period of awareness, period of decision and period of incorporation” (p. 101).
Peace’s (1999) research on the gospel of Mark gave us an understanding of
the step-by-step story of how the disciples come to understand who Jesus actually
is. . . . The central focus of the Second Gospel is on the turning aspect of
conversion. It described the slow, step-by-step turning of the Twelve from a
misunderstanding of Jesus to a full and radical new understanding of who He is
Another good example of the gradual process of conversion is drawn from the life
of Cornelius, who is mentioned in Acts 10. He was a Roman centurion and a Gentile
whose conversion experience was gradual. Scripture itself testifies that he was “pious and
feared God” (v. 10). His prayers moved God to give him a vision, which prompted
Cornelius to send for Peter, a Jew and Apostle of Jesus. At the same time, the Lord
dramatically prepared Peter to meet Cornelius and used him to lead Cornelius and his
household to Jesus Christ.
Conclusion on the Three Theories
As I evaluate these three theories (sudden conversion, brainwashing, and gradual
conversion), I am convinced that it is God who is at work. He chose to work a sudden
conversion in the life of Saul (who was later known as Paul), as well as in the life of the
Philippian jailer. God used this means to accomplish His purpose. At the same time, He,
either suddenly or gradually, convinced us and millions in the pagan world to believe in
Christ, the Savior. Though the critics have a different take on Christian evangelical
crusades, I believe God knows His own, and only He can see into the hearts of those who
profess to be Christians. Those who presume to judge others usurp God’s position. As
Joseph asked his brothers in Genesis 50:19 (NKJV), “Am I in the place of God to judge
Analysis of the Stages of Conversion
In this section, I analyzed the view of various Christian thinkers on the stages or
steps of conversion, which is the main thrust of this study. Hefner (1993) pointed out that
“the process of conversion” stood out in his research among the Muslim Javanese (p.
118). Similarly, I will be concentrating my field research on both pre- and post-Christian
experiences of Hindu converts. As Lewis Rambo (1993) observed, conversion is the
name for all forms of “religious change.” Some of these changes, he observed, are “new
life, new love, new beginnings . . . [and new] hope” (pp. 4-5). I would add that there is
new faith, new challenges, and new perceptions. From Rambo's viewpoint, “most studies
of conversion . . . have been too narrow in orientation, employing theories [that are] too
restrictive in disciplinary perspective and assumption[s] too deeply rooted in religious
traditions” (p. 4).
Alan Tippet (1970), a missiologist and professor of missionary anthropology,
clearly stated that a person becomes “a Christian by the act of conversion.” Using the
Holy Bible for support, he argued that the process of conversion “is an act of God. God,
through His Spirit, strives with man, convicts him of sin, and assures him of salvation.”
Moreover, he indicated that each convert has to participate or have “responsibility for
decision” making. According to his perspective, there are four stages to the “human
aspect of conversion”: (1) “turning to the Lord,” (2) “repenting,” (3) “confessing,” and
(4) “believing” (pp. 19-20). In addition to his thoughts, I want to include that unless a
person comes to an understanding of the necessity for salvation, he may not be able to
incorporate these four stages into his life.
Tippet (1969) believed that “the process of conversion can be schematized in
terms of periods and points of time” (p. 101). David Hesselgrave (1991), a leading
missiologist like Tippet, argued for giving individuals “ample time” for their decision,
which occurs “at a point of time.” He supported his opinion with 2 Corinthians 6:2,
which says, “Behold, now [is] the accepted time; behold, now [is] the day of salvation.”
(p. 617). Hesselgrave agreed with Tippet that only through “new birth” in Christ could a
person become a Christian. Besides the “point of time” of one's conversion, he observed
that there is a “process” involved. Based on this process, “we urge our respondents to be
decisive,” as Peter (2 Peter 1:10, NKJV) challenged others to make their calling and
election sure. The reason for this urging, according to Hesselgrave, is not to “delay the
ultimate decision . . . [since it] requires both participation and follow-through” (p. 617).
Hesselgrave’s (1991) stages of the conversion process (see Table 1) and decision
as point and process (see Figure 1) are based on 1 Thessalonians 1:9 (NKJV): “For they
themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you
turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” His remarks are based on the
missionary literature that they do “not give much attention to pre-evangelism and the
stages of discovery and deliberation in decision making” (p. 619). The consequence of
this is disastrous because “the oversight has resulted in a short-circuiting of the decision-
making process and in multiplied thousands of premature determinations to ‘believe in
Christ’” (pp. 619-620)
Hesselgrave’s Stages in the Conversion Process
Stage Label Definition
There is a person Christ whom the true God is said
to have sent into the world to be the Savior and
Lord of mankind.
There is a possibility that I (we) should forsake the
old ways and follow Christ.
Three Determination I (we) will repent and believe in Christ.
Shall I (we) resist the forces that draw me (us) back
to the old ways, and continue to follow Christ in
spite of Present difficulties?
I (we) will identify with the people of Christ in His
church and live in submission to His lordship and
Hesselgrave, 1991, p. 618. Adapted with permission.
Figure 1. Hesselgrave’s decision as point and process.
Hesselgrave, 1991, p. 619. Adapted with permission.
Charles Kraft (1979) pointed to “the decision-making process that human beings
employ and [that] God works with in his interaction with people.” Even though Kraft
reflected on Alan Tippett’s (1970) model of “turning . . . repenting, confessing, and
believing” (p. 20), there is a clear distinction in what he stresses here. Kraft concentrated
on the reality that the process of conversion involved “a multitude of decisions by human
beings interaction with God.” He also discussed that “each of these decisions may be
conceived as the result of a process involving points of stimulus, realization, decision,
and “new-habit,” interspersed with periods of developing awareness, consideration, and
incorporation” (p. 335) (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. Kraft’s model of the decision-making process.
Kraft, 1979, p. 336. Adapted with permission.
Moreover, Kraft (1979) agreed with Tippet on the fact that “God is active in
influencing human beings to decide for him.” In regard to “process,” he said:
[It] starts prior to the specific decision that one might label the point of conversion
and that normally continues well after that point. That process consists of a large
number of discrete decisions, many of which precede the point of conversion and
lead up to it. Many of these decisions, however, follow that point and build upon
it. And one decision may be identifiable as the one that initiated the turning that
we call the conversion point. (p. 337)
Rambo’s (1993) model of conversion is “a complex, multifaceted process
involving personal, cultural, social, and religious dimensions” (p. 165). However, in
chapter one, he emphasized conversion as a process: “a process of change over time,
generally exhibiting a sequence of processes . . . a going back and forth between stages”.
His “sequential stage model” of conversion (see Figure 3) is both “multidimensional and
Figure 3. Rambo’s a sequential stage model.
Rambo, 1993, p. 17. Adapted with permission.
One of the principal issues that Rambo (1993) discussed in relation to response
style is “whether the convert is active or passive” in his/her conversion process. As he
understands it, a “potential convert” can be passive based on their “lack of knowledge
and power.” However, in very unusual situations “the potential convert does retain some
power, expressed primarily in the way he or she responds to and assimilates the new
faith. The power to say no is the ultimate control” (p. 45). Though, in reality, “some
people are passive and others are active,” Rambo leaned towards the active nature of a
convert because he understands and is capable of making the appropriate decision for
himself (p. 59). Engel (1990), a renowned communication strategist, commented on the
active nature of a convert in that he must actively sense the “conviction” of his sin or
“lostness” and the Good News of Jesus. Without this step, a person cannot “cognitively
grasp of the plan of salvation” (p. 189). Based on Psalm 107:2, “Let the redeemed of the
Lord say so,” Tippet (1969) argued that true conviction moves a person to “testify the
truth” and to suffer for Christ as a “martyr.” He added, “thus by witness-bearing the
Church should be growing” through “conversions” (p. 59).
Engel and Norton (1975) gave the evangelical world their combined views on the
Great Commission. Like Kraft, they emphasized communication but placed a different
concentration on “the interactive role of both God and the human communicator.” An
evangelist’s role is to expose the Good News of Jesus but more importantly to “persuade”
them to become a child of God, which is followed by sound teaching from God’s Word.
This process of communication is given in a chart format, which was popularized and
known as Engel’s Scale (p. 44) (see Figure 4).
-8 Awareness of Supreme Being but no
Effective Knowledge of Gospel
-7 Initial Awareness of Gospel
-6 Awareness of Fundamentals of Gospel
-5 Grasp of Implications of Gospel
-4 Positive Attitude Toward Gospel
-3 Personal Problem Recognition
-2 DECISION TO ACT
-1 Repentance and Faith in Christ
REGENERATION NEW CREATURE
+1 Post-Decision Evaluation
+2 Incorporation Into Body
+3 Conceptual and Behavioral Growth
+4 Communion with God
- Internally (gifts, etc.)
- Externally (witness, social action, etc.)
Figure 4. Engel and Norton’s the spiritual-decision process.
Engel and Norton, 1975, p. 45. Adapted with permission.
Steffen (1993) – a missionary in the Philippines, as well as a biblical missiologist
and a professor – evaluated the chart and saw a disconnection in certain aspects of
conversion. Steffen also commented that in regard to personal growth it “rarely follows
such a manicured sequence” (pp. 137-138). Based on his understanding on conversion, he
Before people change their faith-allegiance, most will make multiple decisions
that move in that direction. Which decision moves an individual across the line
(from an enemy of God to a friend) is very difficult to determine. The Bible seems
to offer little help in this area. No record exists of individuals praying to receive
Christ, walking an aisle, or asking Christ into their hearts. On the other hand, the
Bible does expect all true believers to evidence renewed minds and transformed
behavior. (p. 138)
After seeing the deficiencies of Engel and Norton’s chart entitled The Spiritual-
Decision Process, Steffen (1997) created his own chart (Figure 5), which included several
areas other missiologists and church planters did not cover. The areas he covered were
God’s role, the evangelist’s role, the sinner’s role, the sinner’s personal spiritual growth
after conversion, and the sinner’s blessed hope in the Lord (p. 259)
Figure 5. Steffen’s the conversion process.
Steffen, 1993, p. 259. Adapted with permission.
After a long process of discovery, Gelpi (1998, p. 42) identified seven dynamics
in the process of conversion. These are:
1. Affective conversion “concerns itself with healthy intuitive perceptions of
reality.” Therefore, it has the “capacity to animate the other forms of conversion”
Church planter’s role:
- Establish redemptive
- Church planting
- God/Satan conflict
- Humanity’s dilemma
- God’s solution for
humanity and cosmos
- Resident Advisor
- Itinerant Advisor
- Absent Advisor
- Gifts Utilized
- Responds (personal
2) Faith-allegiance to
God through Christ
3) Wait and See
-6 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6
2. Intellectual conversion “recognizes that each human mind needs to take
responsibility for validating true beliefs and for invalidating false and misleading
ones” (p. 47).
3. Personal and moral conversion: This process directs a person “toward realities
and values that claim one absolutely and ultimately” (p. 49).
4. Authenticate Socio-Political conversion: This process supply “norms for judging
the justice or injustice of human institutions” (p. 42).
5. Socio-Political conversion: This method “de-privatizes the other forms of
conversion.” It does this in two ways. First, “it commits one to the public struggle
for a just social order. Second, it “demands that the other forms of conversion
advance in public confrontation with the ‘Other’” (pp. 54-55).
6. Initial Christian conversion “transforms both affective and moral conversion” into
“repentance” (p. 106).
Ongoing Christian conversion “transvalues the other four forms of conversion and
sanctifies the convert through growth in hope, faith, charity, and Christian search for a
just social order.” Therefore, these last two ‘Christian dynamics of conversion’
“contribute to the total process of conversion” (p. 115).
David Allen Hogue (2006) suggested that spiritual transformation involves “a
shift from one formed state to another, or from an unformed state to a formed state.” A
person’s integration experience consists of “both personal and corporative activities.” A
person integrates into his private life a time of prayer, meditation, and other spiritual
activities in order to conform to his life and faith. At the same time, this same person is
involved in “communal religious activities” that help him share or integrate his “faith
commitments, worldviews . . . history . . . [and] worship.” Hogue recommends this
approach because the spiritual community graciously supplies or imparts “counseling,
spiritual direction, and other forms of direct care to members” who need help integrating
their newfound faith. Something unique in the corporate gathering helps people from
other “religious communities” get all the necessary physical care, which I believe will
gradually lead them to a conversion point (pp. 233-234). “Spirituality is frequently
considered an individual and private matter. Indeed, spiritual transformation involves
deeply personal experiences and can produce changes in the individual” (p. 236).
Holte (1992) saw a “predicable three-part structure” connected with the majority of
conversion accounts: (1) “early sinful life, (2) “the conversion experience,” and (3) “life
and works after conversion” (p. vii). God uses His servants as agents of transformation.
They act as channels to bring the Good News of Jesus to their friends, families, and
strangers. God’s message enables people to accept Christ as their Savior and continues to
transform them until they grow into the full stature of Jesus. Lingenfelter (1996) said,
“The outcome of this process should . . . be . . . the establishing of vital and dynamic
indigenous communities of faith that exert a positive effect on the . . . culture” (p. 9).
The conversion experience is distinct for each individual. Many have tried to
describe the key points. As I evaluated and researched various contemporary perspectives
on the conversion process, one thing stood out to me: None of the evangelical
missiologists and researchers included the struggles that convert face in their pre- and
post-conversion processes (such as identity issues, family issues, name issues, etc.)
Although, the role of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the evangelist are considered
the key factors in this process, my field research among HBBs revealed what it was that
compelled them to convert (reach the breaking point), despite the potential danger
involved in becoming born-again Christians.
METHODS AND PROCEDURES
Strauss and Corbin (1998) described the difference between methodology and
methods. Methodology is “a way of thinking about and studying social reality,” while
methods are “a set of procedures and techniques for gathering and analyzing data” (p. 3).
In a similar vein, Bogdan and Biklen (1998) wrote:
People often use the words methods and methodology synonymously or confuse
the two. Methodology is a more generic term that refers to the general logic and
theoretical perspective for a research project. Method is a term that refers to the
specific techniques you use, such as surveys, interviews, observation – the more
technical aspects of the research. In good research, methods are consistent with
the logic embodied in the methodology. (p. 31)
Qualitative methods helped researchers like me to find and analyze data with
“satisfactory results” and “can be used to uncover and understand what lie[s] behind any
phenomenon about which little is yet known.” Qualitative methods open doors to get to
know people from the inside out; this ultimately helps one to learn how “they are
developing their own definition of the world.” It also creates an opportunity to
“experience what they experience in their daily struggles with their life circumstances
and situation.” Again, qualitative methods allow “us to explore concepts whose essence is
lost in other research approaches” (Bodgan & Taylor, 1975, pp. 4-5).
Rationale for Qualitative Research
Krathwohl (1998) said the most important purpose of qualitative research is to
“inductively develop an explanation from [the] data” (p. 22). Creswell (2007) pointed out
that “qualitative research has become more accepted as a legitimate mode of inquiry in
the social behavioral and health sciences than it was 10 years ago” (p. 2). A simple
understanding of qualitative research based on Krathwohl is “research that describes
phenomena in words instead of numbers or measures” (Krathwohl, 1998, p. 690).
Hindu converts face more challenges than any other religious group in India. My
approach to data collection involved interviewing and interacting with these converts in
regard to their conversion and post-conversion experiences. “We conduct qualitative
research because we want to understand the contexts or settings in which participants in a
study address a problem or issue” (Creswell, 2007, p. 40). If we want to discover
something new, we do not depend on “predetermined information from the literature” but
“conduct qualitative research because we need a complex, detailed understanding of the
issue” (p. 40).
In order to collect my data during my “in-depth interview[s],” I implemented
Bogdan and Biklan’s (1998, pp 4-7) features of qualitative research, as follows:
1. Naturalistic settings are preferred “because they are concerned with context.”
Researchers want to discover “the historical context” and “historical
circumstances” behind a situation. Creswell (2007) added, “In the natural setting,
the researchers have face-to-face interaction over time” (p. 37).
2. Descriptive data: The study is intended to be descriptive. The findings of the
research contain “interview transcripts, fieldnotes. . . Qualitative researchers do
not reduce pages of narration and other data to numerical symbols.” A caution in
this kind of research is not to overlook anything – any person or information:
Everything must be considered.
3. Understanding the process: “Qualitative researchers are concerned with process
rather than simply the outcomes or products.” As a qualitative researcher, I
interviewed individuals from Hindu backgrounds who shared “specific stories
about their struggles over the course of their” conversion and post-conversion
experiences. This process will encourage Indian churches to shift their focus to
discipleship programs and evangelism techniques.
4. Inductively analyzing the data: Qualitative researchers “do not search out data or
evidence to prove or disprove hypotheses they hold before entering the study” but
concepts or ideas are developed as they engage with their participants. Creswell
pointed out that “this inductive process involves researchers working back and
forth between the themes and the database until they establish a comprehensive
set of themes” (2007, p. 39).
5. Meaning “is an essential concern to the qualitative approach.” The intention
behind this approach is to uncover “how the participants in [the] study make sense
of these, and how their understanding influences their behavior” (Bickman &
Rog, 1998, p. 750). In order to discover this, qualitative researchers decided to
“capture perspectives accurately.”
Creswell (2007) portrayed five major types of qualitative approaches for
conducting research: narrative, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and case
study (p. 10). Among these, I focused on the grounded theory approach to collect and
analyze my data and am finally presenting my findings of the conversion and post-
conversion experiences of HBBs in order to benefit Indian churches.
Discussion of the Grounded Theory Approach
There are several approaches found in the qualitative research method. Grounded
theory is one of them. Taylor and Bodgan (1998) state that defining the term “grounded
theory” is “to refer to the inductive theorizing process involved in qualitative research. A
theory may be said to be grounded to the extent that it is derived from and based on the
data themselves” (p. 7). Strauss and Corbin (1990) clarified the concept in detail:
A grounded theory is one that is inductively derived from the study of the
phenomenon it represents. That is, it is discovered, developed, and provisionally
verified through systematic data collection and analysis of data pertaining to that
phenomenon. Therefore, data collection, analysis, and theory stand in reciprocal
relationship with each other. One does not begin with a theory, then prove it.
Rather, one begins with an area of study and what is relevant to that area is
allowed to emerge. (p. 23)
Charmaz perceived “grounded theory methods as a set of principles and practices,
not as prescriptions or packages” (2006, p. 9). The intention behind the grounded theory
approach is to develop a theory that brings clarity to the research under investigation.
Investigators who focus on this methodology look ahead to ascertain that their theories
will eventually “relate to others within their respective disciplines in a cumulative
fashion, and that the theory’s implications will have useful application” (Strauss &
Corbin, 1990, p. 24).
Origins of the Grounded Theory
Sociologists Glaser and Strauss (1967) coined the term “grounded theory,”
meaning, “the discovery of theory from data” (p. 1). According to Goulding, the roots of
grounded theory “can be traced back to a movement known as symbolic interactionism.”
Its purpose requires the researcher to carefully “observe the subject’s environment and
the interactions and interpretations that occur” in the field. “The researcher engaged in
symbolic interaction is expected to interpret actions, transcend rich description and
develop a theory which incorporates concepts of ‘self, language, social setting and social
object.’” Symbolic interactionism is considered as “a theory of human behavior and an
approach of enquiry about human conduct and group behavior” (p. 40). Glaser & Strauss
(1967) utilized the fundamental values of symbolic interactionism to “set out to develop a
more defined and systematic procedure for collecting and analyzing qualitative data. The
particular form that they developed is known as “grounded theory” (pp. 39-40). It is used
as a “major task” to challenge sociology (Glaser & Strauss, 1967, p. 1).
The development of grounded theory was an attempt to avoid highly abstract
sociology and was part of an important growth in qualitative analysis in the 1960s
and 1970s. . . . Grounded theory therefore was intended as a methodology for
developing theory that is grounded in data which are systematically gathered and
analyzed. The theory evolved during the research process itself and is a product of
continuous interplay between analysis and data collection. . . . With grounded
theory the researcher must work in the actual environments in which the actions
take place, in natural situations, in order to analytically relate informants’
perspectives to the environments through with they emerge. (Goulding, 2002, pp.
This methodology helped me to focus my research on Hindu converts who
actively participated and shared their unique conversion and post-conversion experiences.
Utilizing this theory, I was able to categorize similarities and differences clearly and
Use of Literature in Grounded Theory
Based on Strauss and Corbin (1990), literature “plays such an important and
varied role in grounded theory” in that, first, the use of literature can “stimulate
theoretical sensitivity by providing concepts and relationships that are checked out
against actual data.” Some researchers may enter into the field with different kinds of
concepts because they all seem important, but Strauss and Corbin cautioned me, as a
researcher, not to go with “an entire list.” As I spent time in the field, I tried to see
whether these concepts and relationships could be applied to the area of my study.
Usually, literature provides very “accurate descriptions of reality” by having a small
amount of interpretation based on “a few themes.” A second reason was to “stimulate
questions.” The literature guided me to develop questions, which steered me during the
initial stages of my work. It even helped in the data analysis process. Third, it guided me
to “uncover [new] phenomena important to the development of [my] theory.” Finally,
literature was used to validate the “accuracy of [my] findings” (pp. 50-52). However,
Becker warned researchers:
The existing research, and the assumptions embedded in it, can deform the way
you frame your research, causing you to overlook important ways of
conceptualizing your study or key implications of your results. The literature has
the advantage of what he calls “ideological hegemony,” making it difficult for
you to see any phenomenon in ways that are different from those that are
prevalent in the literature. Trying to fit your insights into this established
framework can deform your argument, weakening its logic and making it harder
for you to see what this new way of framing the phenomenon might contribute.
(Cited in Bickman & Rog, 1998, pp. 78-79)
Creswell (1994) commented that literature should be used in an inductive manner.
Thus, “it does not direct the questions asked by the researcher.” One of the major reasons
for adopting a qualitative approach is to conduct an explorative study in which “not much
has been written about the topic or population” (p. 21). From my search of literature, it
appears no studies were conducted on the conversion and post-conversion experiences of
In addition, Creswell (1994) recommended one of “three placement locations” for
literature review in a study. The associated literature may be located: (1) in the
introduction with the intention of identifying “who has written about it, who has studied
it, [and] who has indicated the importance of studying the issue”; (2) in a “separate
section”; or (3) integrated into the “final section of the study.” This third placement is
highly recommended for grounded theory studies, because it highlights the similarities
and differences between the literature and the empirical findings. However, at the
beginning of my study, I used Strauss (1994) and Corbin’s (1990) recommendation for
reviewing the literature in order to “stimulate [my] theoretical sensitivity” and to “grasp
to relevant works” (Charmaz, 2006, p. 168). As I reviewed the literature, I tried to
connect “the ideas and research in the areas” that the study addressed. After analyzing the
data, I evaluated the subsequent findings of my study by comparing and contrasting with
the available literature (Creswell, 1994, p. 22).
Researcher’s Role in Grounded Theory
Qualitative research “is interpretive research. As such, the biases, values, and
judgment of the researcher become stated explicitly in the research report” (Creswell,
1994, p. 147). The position of a qualitative researcher “is necessarily involved in the lives
of the subjects. . . . And even more than this involvement, the researcher must identify
and empathize with his or her subjects in order to understand them from their own frames
of reference” (Bogdan & Taylor, 1975, p. 8). Borg and Gall (1993) explained that the
researcher is “the primary instrument of data collection.” As such, I had to become like a
strainer or sifter in order to collect and analyze the qualitative data from my participants
(Bogdan & Taylor, 1975, p. 12). It was my duty as the researcher to personally observe
and interview participants with the purpose of collecting extensive data (Borg & Gall,
1993, p. 214).
It was important for me to jot down what I observed. Once I learned something
through observation, I had to make sure to understand the actual situation behind it
(context) through serious conversations and interviews. Like a camera captures people’s
images, I was able to capture my participants’ “perspectives accurately” (Bogdan &
Biklen, 1998, p. 7). I chose to be a non-participating observer (or “outsider”) rather than a
participating observer who engages in activities in the field (although I could have used
both methods to gather detailed information) (Creswell, 2002, pp. 197, 200).
Grounded Theory: Its Role and Principles
Based on the understanding of Strauss and Corbin (1998), grounded theory “was
derived from data, systematically gathered and analyzed through the research process. In
this method, data collection, analysis, and eventually theory stand in close relationship to
one another” (p. 12). For instance, Creswell (1994) said that only grounded theorists use
“theory,” and the grounded theory study is “an outcome of their studies” (p. 93). In
regard to its emerging design, Creswell explained:
A theory may not be a “container” because it does not fit a particular situation, or
it inadequately explains what is occurring naturally in a situation. One needs to
build a new theory by using an inductive model of thinking or logic. . . . The
researcher begins by gathering detailed information and forms categories or
themes until a theory or pattern emerges. (1994, p. 95)
There are two different “levels of theory building.” Glaser and Strauss divided
grounded theory into two major groups: substantive and formal. In regard to substantive
theory, it “is grounded in research on one particular area, it might be taken to apply only
to that specific area. . . . [However] it is difficult to find a grounded formal theory that
was not in some way stimulated by a substantive theory” (1967, p. 79). On the other
hand, “Formal theory is usually the end product of longitudinal research, normally on the
part of a team of researchers engaged in the collection of data across a range of situations
and location.” Goulding (2002) stated that “owing to the time, expenses and high levels
of abstraction, most researchers tend to avoid constructing formal theory, preferring to
remain at the substantive level” (p. 46). In conducting my research on the conversion and
post-conversion experiences of HBBs, I chose to use the substantive theory to analyze my
The fact that researchers are “concerned with building theory” is addressed by
Strauss and Corbin (1990) in the following comment:
A well-constructed grounded theory will meet four central criteria for judging the
applicability of theory to a phenomenon: fit, understanding, generality and
control. If theory is faithful to the everyday reality of the substantive area and
carefully induced from diverse data, then it should fit that substantive area.
Because it represents that reality, it should also be comprehensive and make sense
both to the persons who were studied and to those practicing in that area. If the
data upon which it is based are comprehensive and the interpretations conceptual
and broad, then the theory should be abstract enough and include sufficient
variation to make it applicable to a variety of contexts related to that phenomenon.
Finally, the theory should provide control with regard to action toward the
phenomenon. This is because the hypotheses proposing relationships among
concepts – which later may be used to guide action – are systematically derived
from actual date related to that (and only that) phenomenon. Furthermore, the
conditions to which it applies should be clearly spelled out. Therefore, the
conditions should apply specifically to a given situation. (pp. 22-23)
Data Collection Procedures in Grounded Theory
There are various sources available for a researcher to collect data using the
qualitative approach. Creswell (2007) pointed out several from which researchers may
choose. He said it is up to the researcher to decide which will become the appropriate
data collection approach for his study. The first procedure is observation. There are
various types of observation: One can be a participant, or one can be an outsider and then
become an insider in order to observe. Second, interviews can be unstructured,
semistructured, or conducted in groups. Other types of interviews can take place through
“e-mail, face-to-face, focus group, online focus group, and telephone.” Third, documents
may be acquired from various sources – such as journals, personal letters, public
documents (ex. “official memos, minutes, records, archival material”), chart audits, and
medical records. Finally, there are audiovisual materials that may be available. These can
serve as “physical evidence” (ex. “footprints in the snow”). One can “videotape or film a
social situation, examine photographs, collect sounds (ex. “musical sounds, a child’s
laughter, car horn honking”), e-mails or electronic messages, phone text messages, and
possessions or ritual objects” (p. 130).
I conducted all sixteen of my interviews in Southern California, mainly in the
participants’ homes, but three in churches and another three over the phone. I allowed the
participants to choose the time and location of the interview with the intention of making
them feel comfortable enough to share their stories. Based on my research topic, I utilized
open-ended questions [see Appendix B for interview guide] and “semi-structured”
interviews to collect rich and detailed data. Charmaz (2006) commented on the
importance of collecting such data in one’s fieldwork:
Gathering rich data will give you solid material for building a significant analysis.
Rich data are detailed, focused, and full. They reveal participants' views, feelings,
intentions, and actions as well as the contexts and structures of their lives.
Obtaining rich data means seeking “thick” description, such as writing extensive
fieldnotes of observations, collecting respondants’ written personal accounts,
and/or compiling detailed narratives (such as from transcribed tapes of
interviews). The depth and scope of the data make a difference. A study based
upon rich, substantial, and relevant data stands out. (pp. 14, 18)
I began collecting data in January 2010, which included “one-on-one” (i.e., “face-
to-face”) recorded and unrecorded interviews with participants, as well as telephone
interviews (Creswell, 1994, p. 166). I made phone calls and used mutual contacts to set
up appointments to interview the participants, which enabled me to inform them of the
topic and its importance ahead of time. I followed up with questions for further
clarification in person, as well as by sending out emails and conducting participant
observations among HBBs to further enrich my data.
Properly conducting a qualitative research “requires a strong commitment to study
a problem and demands time and resources” (Creswell, 2007, p. 40). Creswell
recommends researchers to pledge “extensive time in the field.” The reason for this long
period of time is to get enough data and deal with issues that come up in order to “gain
access, rapport, and an “insider perspective.” He calls it a “time-consuming process.” For
me, it was mostly a “lonely, isolated time of struggling with the data” (2007, p. 41).
When I began my research, I was unable to establish an exact timeframe, but it has taken
me over a year to complete it. My research was ongoing until I collected enough rich,
In grounded theory procedure, interviews play a major role in collecting the
majority of the data (Creswell, 2007, p. 131) and are considered an excellent technique.
Regarding interviews, Bogdan and Biklen (1998) stated:
An interview is a purposeful conversation, usually between two people but
sometimes involving more, that is directed by one in order to get information
from the other. In the hands of the qualitative researcher, the interview takes a
shape of its own. In qualitative research, interviews may be used in two ways.
They may be the dominant strategy for data collection, or they may be employed
in conjunction with participant observation, document analysis, or other
techniques. In all of these situations the interview is used to gather descriptive
data in the subjects’ own words so that the researcher can develop insights on how
subjects interpret some piece of the world. (pp. 93 94)
Adaptability is considered to be the foremost benefit for interviews in qualitative
research (Borg & Gall, 1993, p. 113). As the researcher, it was my responsibility to guide
my participants through the face-to-face interviews, as well as to change the
circumstances or context of the interviews for the purpose of gaining richer responses
from my interviewees (Berg, 2004, p. 77). For instance, based on the comments of one
interviewee, I was able to “ask a follow-up question on the spot.” Sometimes, the
individuals became emotional. During those situations, “[I] . . . interrupt[ed] the
questioning sequence to put [them] at ease. Another advantage of interviews is that they
elicit data of much greater depth than is possible with other measurement techniques.” A
skilled interviewer is able to “create a climate of rapport and trust that allows them to
obtain information that the individual probably would not reveal under other
circumstances” (ex. “perceptions about negative aspects of the self or negative feelings
toward others”) (Borg & Gall, 1993, p. 113).
To complete my research, I had to gain the participants trust and confidence by
letting them know the purpose behind my research. My purpose was not to expose their
names but to benefit other converted Christians, as well as Indian churches. I primarily
did “one-on-one” or “face-to-face” (Creswell, 2007) interviews, which enabled them to
give their unique conversion and post-conversion experiences without interruption.
Bernard (2000) outlined several methods for conducting effective interviews. He believed
“these different types of interviews produce different types of data that are useful for
different types of research projects and that appeal to different types of researchers.”
According to Bernard, the four main types of interviews are “informal, unstructured,
semistructured, and structured” (p. 190). Based on my understanding of these different
types of interviews, I chose to conduct semi-structured interviews for the following
[It is] . . . based on the use of an interview guide. This is a written list of questions
and topics that need to be covered in a particular order. . . . It demonstrates that
you are fully in control of what you want from an interview but leaves both the
interviewer and respondent to follow new leads. It shows that you are prepared
and competent but that you are not trying to exercise excessive control over the
respondent (Bernard, 2000, p. 191).
Starcher recommends this type of interview because he believes that by asking
broad, open-ended questions (see Appendix B) and guiding the interviewee, the
researcher will gain detailed and productive data.
Interview participants, locations, and lengths were decided as research demanded,
based on each participant’s availability and willingness. Furthermore, these details were
determined only after receiving permission from appropriate church leaders.
Qualitative researchers use “data recording protocols” for the purpose of
gathering or recording data in the course of “observations and interviews.” At the time of
interviewing participants, it is necessary for researchers to record details from interviews
by taking careful notes (Creswell, 2002, p. 211), videos, or audio recordings. The
advantage of having an audio or video recording is that it allows “the interviewer to
capture more than he or she could by relying on memory. The interviewer’s data consist
almost entirely of words” (Taylor & Bodgan, 1998, p. 112). Creswell (1994) recommends
researchers use “one audiotape” for “each interview and then transcribe the interview
later.” He also highly recommends that the researcher compel himself to take handwritten
notes in the event that the recording device fails (p. 152). In this study, I followed
Sampling Method in Grounded Theory
This particular phrase in the qualitative sampling procedure is known as
“purposeful sampling.” In this method, “researchers intentionally select individuals and
sites to learn or understand the central phenomenon” (Creswell, 2002, p. 194).
“Decision[s] need to be made about who or what should be sampled, what form the
sampling will take, and how many people or sites need to be sampled” (Creswell, 2007,
p. 125). Researchers “wish to generate what is sometimes called ‘thick’ description,
rather than precise statistics calculated on scores, yielded by tests, attitude scales, and
other objective fact; some qualitative studies report findings for just one case” (ex. “one
teacher, one child, [and] one schoolband”) (Borg & Gall, 1993, p. 101).
According to Goulding’s (2002) explanation, sampling has great impact on the
“quality” of the research. He described what drives sampling in grounded theory along
the following lines:
With grounded theory sampling is directed by theory. It is an ongoing part of the
process of data collection and analysis which in turn directs the researcher to
further samples. Some might argue that all sampling in qualitative research is to a
degree selective. However, while a qualitative project may contain both
purposeful and theoretical sampling, purposeful sampling is not always
theoretical. Theoretical sampling is the purposeful selection of a sample according
to the developing categories and emerging theory. . . . The analyst who uses
theoretical sampling cannot know in advance what to sample for and where it will
lead. With grounded theory, groups are chosen when they are needed rather than
before the research. Initially, the researcher will go to the most obvious places and
the most likely informants in search of information. However, as concepts are
identified and the theory starts to develop, further individuals, situations and
places may need to be incorporated in order to strengthen the findings. This is
known as theoretical sampling. (pp. 66-67)
In addition, Creswell (2007) believed it is the researcher who selects the
appropriate participants who are able to “contribute to the ‘development of the theory.’” I
followed such guidelines “to develop a well-saturated theory” (pp. 126, 128) and chose
sixteen participants from Hindu backgrounds to do purposeful sampling.
Data Analysis Strategies in Grounded Theory
The primary step in qualitative analysis is coding. It is the systematic “process of
breaking down interviews, observations and other forms of appropriate data into distinct
units of meaning which are labeled to generate concepts. These concepts are initially
clustered into descriptive categories” (Goulding, 2002, p. 74). Maxwell (1996) asserted,
“The goal of coding is not to produce counts of things, but to ‘fracture’ the data and
rearrange it into categories.” An alternative method of classifying analysis includes
“sorting the data into broader themes and issues” (pp. 78-79). In order to accomplish this,
a qualitative researcher must read the data several times to “make sense” of it (Creswell,
2002, p. 258). For instance, coding is “sifting relevant materials from a larger corpus . . .
[or] a form of data reduction; it is a preliminary that facilitates analysis” (Yardley, 2003,
p. 83). According to Strauss and Corbin (1990), there are three important types of coding
in grounded theory: (1) “open coding,” (2) “axial coding,” and (3) “selective coding” (p.
58). I transcribed the recorded, as well as the unrecorded interviews and analyzed them
based on all the following methods:
Charmaz (2006) calls open coding as “initial coding” in the grounded theory
approach. Here a researcher will “study fragments of data – words, lines, segments, and
incidents – closely for their analytic import.” The main purpose here is to keep ourselves
open to all “possible theoretical directions” specified by our understanding of the data
(pp. 42, 46). A researcher must categorize themes and concepts that are developed from
the data and then label it (10/21/08 class notes). This type of coding is for “verification,
correction and the opportunity for saturation” (Goulding, 2002, p. 770).
Axial coding “involves moving [from open coding] to a higher level of
abstraction” (Goulding, 2002, p. 78). Charmaz says it as “building ‘a dense texture of
relationships around the ‘axis’ of a category’” (2006, p. 60). Strauss and Corbin (1990)
compared and contrasted both open and axial coding, saying, “Open coding fractures the
data and allows one to identify some categories, their properties, and dimensional
locations.” On the other hand, “axial coding puts those data back together in new ways by
making connections between a category and its subcategories” (p. 97). In essence, axial
coding provides a context in which a particular piece of data can relate to itself and other
collected data. During both the open and axial coding procedures, I was able to discover
and compare main categories and sub-categories.
Another step in grounded theory analysis, whose foundation is “developed” in
axial coding, is selective coding. It is known for its “process of integrating and refining”
(Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 143) a researcher’s recognized categories to develop a
grounded theory (1990, p. 116). “Categories are organized around a central explanatory
concept” (1998, p. 161). In addition, Creswell (2007), quoting Strauss and Corbin (1990),
said that it “helps the researcher visualize the wide range of conditions and consequences
(e.g., society, world) related to the central phenomenon” (p. 161).
Memo writing “is a widely used method for recording relations among themes.”
In memo writing, a researcher constantly writes down his ideas concerning his reading.
These ideas “become information on which to develop theory. Memoing is taking field
notes on observations about texts” (Bernard, 2000, p. 450). I found that the process of
memo writing triggered new thoughts and ideas that were missed while interviewing.
Charmaz (2006) said that memo writing establishes a “crucial method” in grounded
theory. The advantages of writing memos are as follows:
Memos catch your thoughts, capture the comparisons and connections you make,
and crystallize questions and directions for you to pursue. Through conversing
with yourself while memo-writing, new ideas and insights arise during the act of
writing. Putting things down on paper makes the work concrete and manageable –
and exciting. Once you have written a memo, you can use it now or store it for
later retrieval. In short, memo-writing provides a space to become actively
engaged in your materials, to develop your ideas, and to fine-tune your
subsequent data-gathering. (p. 72)
Validation and Verification Strategies
Throughout the interviews I conducted, I established “trustworthiness,”
“credibility,” “authenticity,” and “reliability” by building trust with participants and using
the strategy of triangulation (Creswell, 2007, p. 202). Other validation strategies include:
1. Peer review: I spoke to several of my peers regarding my findings. Their feedback
focused on the deficiencies found in Indian churches by HBBs and the sacrifices
of the HBBs themselves.
2. Rich, thick description: This “allows readers to make decisions regarding
transferability because the writer describes in detail the participants or setting
under study. With such detailed description, the researcher enables readers to
transfer information to other settings and to determine whether the findings can be
transferred ‘because of shared characteristics’” (Creswell, 2007, pp. 207-208).
3. Audit trail: I requested someone who has no connection with my study to evaluate
the process and procedures I used to collect my unprocessed data and to express
their observations (Starcher, 2010, p. 69).
By using these described methods, it was my privilege to gather, analyze, and
present research that can withstand the test of time, as well as identify with my
participants and bless those going through the same struggles.
PRE-CONVERSION AND CONVERSION EXPERIENCES
This chapter records my findings concerning the participants’ pre-conversion
frames of mind, as well as their actual conversion experiences.
The Hindu Frame of Mind: Pre-Conversion
I interviewed sixteen people from Hindu backgrounds who were dedicated to
Hinduism at one time. Two important themes emerged: blind dedication and opposition
The study participants were all born into Hindu families, taught family traditions,
and followed them blindly as a part of their Hindu lifestyle. One interviewee said, “We
were born into this family and culture and that made us Hindus.”
Hindus have 33 million gods. According to HBBs they can choose their own
gods, yet have no understanding of why there are so many of them. I observed that they
never doubted nor questioned why their forefathers had worshipped man-made images
from wood, stone, and metal. Most considered themselves devout. Their deep
involvement included the public reading of holy books, preparing for rituals at home
(placing flowers around a shrine and lighting candles), fasting, participating in prayers,
regularly visiting temples, worshipping idols (pujas), and eating food offered to idols.
Yet, even as they did these things, there was no guarantee that their desires to be still
more religious and spiritual would be fulfilled.
Fear of their gods fueled their blind dedication. They were taught that in order to
go to heaven they were required to do good works and give money to their gods. If any of
the 33 million gods were not pleased, they would not go to heaven because they were
wicked and would end up being re-incarnated (reborn) as a lower being: animals. Fear
also motivated them to follow the customs of their ancestors without question, even
though most of them experienced unanswered prayers, had no satisfaction in the rituals
they participated in, and lacked peace or hope. Some of the participants became radical
Hindus through the influence of their family members, which also led them to blindly
follow their religious beliefs.
Divisions between the castes were also noted by all that were interviewed. Based
on the caste a person was born into, their connection with Hinduism varied. Those who
were born into the upper priestly caste of Brahmins were more ritualistic than those born
into the lower castes.
The participants reflected no consistent teaching of the Hindu religion. “One of
the Hindu teachers named Swami Vivekananda taught us that Hinduism is a self-centered
religion,” a participant shared. Hinduism believes that “everything depends on you,” so
one has to make up one's own mind and decide how to succeed in life. This idea is
comparable to saying, “You decide your own destiny.”
Opposition to Christianity
From my conversations with these HBBs, I learned that Hindus have a
misunderstanding of Christianity. There are several reasons for this misconception. First,
a rumor has been passed down through the years that Christians bribe Hindus to change
their religion. A participant said, “I did not like Christians before. I spoke to pastors
harshly. I felt like they came [to] bribe poor Hindus and take them to their church or [to]
convert them to Christianity.” Many Christians’ efforts to reach Hindus are thwarted due
to this misunderstanding. Second, Hindus are antagonistic toward Christians due to their
consumption of beef. Hindus consider cows their most sacred animal. Christians’ practice
of killing cows and eating beef wounds them because, to them, cows represent a “symbol
of life.” One of my participants stated:
We used to worship cows, and we thought that those who ate [cows] were unholy.
That’s why we stood against Christians. My culture was against eating beef
because we worshiped cows. We took care of cows and fed it instead of harming
it. Christians love to kill and eat beef and pork. They were unholy for us. This is
why most of the Hindus hate Christians: because they kill Hindus gods.
Participants also believed that a family member could have been re-incarnated in
the form of an animal.
Another cause of animosity is that most Hindus view Christianity as a Western,
not an Indian, religion. Several of the participants communicated that this understanding
resulted from British rule and dominance in India. They thought that the British tried to
convert people by compulsion, which gave them a negative impression. They felt that the
British deceived and robbed Indians and ruined their lives and culture. They believed that
the suppression of Indians showed a lack of God’s love in doing things and did not help
the view of Christians or Christianity. One participant said:
I had this foreign God feeling. It was due to the British dominance in India. Lots
of Hindus became Christians through them. Moguls came and ruled India and lots
of people became Muslims. So, my conclusion was the only true and good
religion is Hinduism, because they do not go to anyone and ask them to be a
Hinduism is perceived as “Indian,” while other religions are considered “foreign”
according to these participants.
A male participant conveyed the perception of Hindus that India belonged to them
and no one else. He said, several years ago, there was a tremendous effort by radical
Hindus to establish India as a Hindu nation. One had to become a Hindu to live or die.
According to another participant, he was raised in a “fanatic” environment, which created
a sense of “hatred toward Christians.” Thus, he concluded, “all the Christians should go
to Europe or America.” They considered Christians to be a bad influence on “Indian
culture and practices.” The end result of all of this was “hostility and hatred toward
Christianity.” At the same time, one of the participants reflected that “most Hindus would
much rather send their children to Christian schools for them to get a better education and
learn good morals or have surgery at a Christian hospital to receive better treatment,”
even if they were poor.
A Shift in Axis: The Hindus’ States of Mind
What made these staunch Hindus consider Christianity after identifying their deep
rooted hate and dislike for this foreign religion? This section explores major shift in axis
and outlines the HBBs’ breaking points, based on their consideration, as follows:
A Dissatisfied Life
Hindus show outward happiness due to power, position, family relations, and
material things, but this facade did not reflect the inward state of the HBBs I interviewed.
One participant shared that “I felt good, outwardly, because I was happy – had cars and
money – but, inwardly, something was missing or lacking or not satisfied.” It never
occurred to him that this dissatisfaction was related to his spiritual life (a spiritual
Hindus live their lives according to their traditions, never questioning or seeking
to validate what is true. The study participants shared that even though they worshipped
Hindu gods, they felt no satisfaction in what they believed or the rituals they were
performing. In order to get self-satisfaction, they tried horoscopes, witchcraft, gambling,
taking oaths to make sacrifices, and so on. One female participant confessed, “There was
no satisfaction in Hindu practices, and I was not happy at all.”
The participants saw their inability to satisfy millions of idols. Doing pujas,
faithfully participating in rituals, and fasting were all done to please these Hindu gods.
One of them said, “Whatever the Hindu religion said [dictated], I desired to do it.” The
expectation was to get a small amount of satisfaction or contentment. All the avenues
these study participants attempted ended in failure or disappointment. This created
anxiety, frustration, and confusion, which led them to the decision to cease everything
they had been trusting in all their lives.
A Life of Fear
Most of the interviewees said they served the Hindu gods out of fear rather than
love. One of them said, “I compared my gods to theirs [Christians’] and my life with their
life. My gods were cruel and never exemplified love or affection.” This fear was not
reverence. It was a life filled with trepidation. To HBBs, the difference between fearing
gods and the fear of God is significant. One participant explained:
In [the] Bhagavad-Gita, it is god [that] came to this world to kill all the wicked
people and to save the righteous people, but in Christianity, Jesus came to save
sinners, [the] wicked . . . and bad people, not the righteous. Then I began to think,
based on [the] Bhagavad-Gita, “There are no righteous ones in my family, village,
or even in the world. That means we will be killed by our Hindu gods, since all
are bad. In that case, why should I follow the Hindu god, who is not going to save
me? But Jesus is interesting: He came to save a bad man like me, sinners, and
wicked people.” These things made me decide wholeheartedly.
Participants shared that they had not experienced the power of prayer in their life.
One of the ladies knew her prayers would not be answered. She said, “I never believed
that these Hindu gods were able to answer [prayers]. This was out of my common sense:
How can this idol answer prayers?” When they realized that there was no life or power in
their idols, some participants sought a living God who could answer their prayers and
perform miracles. Six participants came to faith in Christ because they experienced the
power of the God of the Bible. One of the men said that when his mother was seriously
ill, they tried everything they could through Hinduism, but all their gods and rituals were
unsuccessful to bring healing. In this situation, they were invited to attend a prayer
meeting where they were asked to believe in Jesus for her healing, and she was
miraculously restored to health. This experience drew them to Christ. Another
interviewee shared her experience in prayer and how much she expected of her god:
The only god I liked in Hinduism was “Ganapathi,” a prayer-answering god. It
was not because he answered prayer [but] because of this title [“a prayer-
answering god”]. . . . I was attracted and moved by Jesus because He answers
prayers. . . . Now I have more faith in Jesus compared to my Hindu gods.
The amazing power of answered prayer gives reassurance and validity to one’s
beliefs, which the participants did not have in their gods. One gentleman I interviewed
went through physical hardship. His doctor found that 30 percent of the blood in his heart
was going into the wrong chamber. The valve was damaged and the doctor told him he
needed a new one. It was going to be a major surgery, and he needed God’s help. His
brother, a Christian, told him and his wife that he would be praying for the procedure.
The word of encouragement his brother gave to him was that he would be in God’s hands
and nothing would happen to him. After seven hours, he came out of a successful
surgery. He then realized the power of his brother’s God and gave credit to his brother’s
These participants shared experiences of the One true and most powerful
Christian God. One participant added that he knew, along with his parents, “what [the]
Christian’s God can do,” after experiencing the healing hand of God. A female
participant said, “For 20 years, I had severe cramps in my stomach, and only Jesus was
able to heal me. I do not need to trust in medicine because all these years I was on severe
medication, but this Jesus took it off instantly and completely. I cannot stop thanking
They began to see the greatness of the God of the Christians and the nothingness
of the Hindu gods. These types of experiences automatically produce faith and
confidence in God and a desire to want to know more about Him.
A Life of Requirements
All of the participants unanimously expressed how much they were required to do
to please their Hindu gods in order to get to heaven. They had to perform numerous
rituals and good deeds, in addition to giving monetarily, in order to avoid becoming a
lower being in the next life. Their religion placed “burdens” and “requirements” on them,
which all the participants felt was “bondage.” They knew there was no means to evade
these requirements without looking outside of their religion. This knowledge helped them
to see the difference Christians experienced in their life through Jesus Christ. One
participant put it this way, “In Christ, everything is free because Jesus sacrificed His life
for others by shedding His blood. All I have to do is to believe in Him.” One of the men,
who compared Jesus with his Hindu gods, saw this major difference: “Jesus sacrificed
everything for His people. He never required anything from their part except to believe in
Him and in His free gift of salvation.” God’s grace amazed these participants as they
experienced it personally.
A Suppressive Culture
Most of the participants were from various lower Hindu castes, except for three
from the priestly caste (Brahmins). The caste system affected their love and trust of the
Hindu religion. One participant said it troubled him very much when he considered that
“all human beings are one, but, in Hinduism, they have this five caste system.” One
participant called the caste system exploitive and brutal because it does not allow a
person to progress in life. For example, only a Brahmin (a priest from the highest caste) is
allowed to serve or work in the temple. Even if a person wanted to succeed in life,
participants saw the obstacles they needed to overcome with their caste identity, which
prevented them from creating a better future. One participant noted the prohibition of
marriage between a higher caste member and a lower caste member due to social stigma.
The same participant said, “Those who go against these norms will be kicked out of the
family forever and most of them live in isolation.”
According to a female participant, the “upper castes have more opportunities to
prosper in life, but they were never bothered to [inquire about]” the suppression of the
lower castes. As a result, “The Hindu religion promotes separatism and division” through
the different castes, among which there is no compassion. Participants saw these types of
hierarchical differences as oppression and questioned the suppressive nature of Hinduism
in their hearts.
Abandoned by Hindu Gods
Participants said Hindus believe in so many gods that it is difficult to figure out
which god could help them in each circumstance. A participant said:
We have different gods, and with different gods, you have to worship in different
ways [because] each god is designated for each need. For example, the goddess
Lakshmi: We worshipped her for getting money. . . . [We] visited lots of temples
and prayed to Hindu gods – offered money.
He felt as if his family was ignored and neglected by these gods. Another
participant expressed, “I asked for guidance. I was looking, seeking, and constantly
asking for an answer, but I was not seeing or hearing. There were no signs from these
Hindu gods.” She felt abandoned after following those gods for so many years. Asking
the Hindu gods to reveal themselves was an unsuccessful pursuit for these participants.
Instead of establishing a personal relationship, they ended up becoming “losers.” Most of
them wanted to know their god personally and to experience blessings. One of them said,
“I did not like my Hindu gods [since] they couldn’t do anything [to protect us from]
British Christianity.” They were hoping their god would be one who knows, cares, sees,
and hears, but felt deserted, unnoticed, frustrated because their gods had abandoned them.
Main Factors That Tipped the Scale: What Is Gained in Christ?
Eight factors tipped the scale in favor of Christianity for the participants: (1) the
sacrificial love of Christ, (2) the reality of Jesus, (3) hope in Christ, (4) inner peace in
Christ, (5) unity in Christ, (6) oneness with Christ, (7) the words of Christ, and (8) having
only one loving God to please.
Sacrificial Love of Christ
The sacrificial love of Christ was one of the major themes that stood out in the
data analysis. The participants compared it to the lack of love of their own gods. Then,
when they took a step further to see the uniqueness of Jesus, they were moved by His
sacrifices. One of them said, “[The] sacrificial love of Christ attracted me [and] Christ’s
love touched me. . . . Jesus is sinless, holy and loving. He is the perfect role model.” They
saw a major contrast as they evaluated the love of Christ with their Hindu gods. One
participant said, “In Christianity, Jesus came to save sinners – [the] wicked and bad
people – not the righteous.” HBBs were moved by this kindness Jesus had toward sinners
and wicked men, like them. Against the backdrop of the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita,
this truth opened the participants’ eyes. One testified that his life was turned around when
he realized Jesus “died for my personal sins. He sacrificed everything just for me.” The
same man said, “I ended up in accepting Jesus as my Savior. I was so amazed by the
greatness and love of Jesus toward humanity.” They were attracted to Christ’s message of
love, compared to Hindu gods.
The participants know that the greatness of Jesus is exemplified in His love for
humanity. One of the female interviewees said, “I got more interest[ted] in Christ, [and] I
got more faith [in Him].” Another female participant said, “He did it all for me, so that I
do not have to do anything. All I have to do is to believe in Him.” One male participant
said, “I was moved by Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Dying for our sins – wow! . . . I gave my
life to Jesus. I accepted Him as my Savior.”
These participants experienced new life through Christ’s sacrificial love because
He always stands above all other gods and goddesses. “Jesus is the only true Savior.”
Reality of Jesus
The participants experienced and enjoyed the reality of Jesus. The first reality
they understood concerned His existence (Jesus is alive). One of the men said, “It is the
truth and reality that He is alive . . . watching and caring for me.” Another commented:
I came to the conclusion [that our Hindu gods] are made out of stones and mud
and made by man. These idols had no life, and there was no meaning or value in
following them. But Jesus is real: there, is value and meaning. He hears my
prayers, listens to my problems. He sees me, watches over me. He feels our love
and answers my prayers. The peace Jesus gives is so effective in my life.
One HBB said, “since this Jesus loves me and tells me who He is and that He is
for me, I must live for Him.” Another participant shared, “Only Jesus came down from
heaven because of His love for the people, then died and [was] resurrected.”
The second reality regarded the power of Jesus. Before her salvation, one
participant heard a statement that stuck with her: “‘God is the most powerful one.’ That
thought began to grow in my heart.” Another participant stated that when he compared
Jesus with Hindu gods, “the reality and the power of Jesus were greater.” The excellence
they saw in Jesus compelled them to have a thankful heart, which motivated them to “get
closer to Jesus each and every day. The more you seek, the more you find Him. He is in
me forever. . . . He brought meaning into my life.”
In these participants’ experience, a closer walk with Jesus fills life with meaning
and value. In my interviews, I understood that the greatness they saw in Jesus was
derived from His awesome promises and the life-giving power that proceeds from it. It is
the truth and power of Jesus that these participants experienced.
Hope in Christ
As my participants compared Hinduism to Christianity, they perceived a lack of
hope in Hinduism. One interviewee said, “I was in need of hope. . . . I wanted to go to
heaven.” He knew that he would never attain heaven through Hinduism. He understood
that life-after-death is the same for everyone who is in Christ and requires no good works,
in contrast to the Hindu teachings of re-incarnation. One participant testified:
I found out that Hinduism does not offer hope for the future. Hindu books do not
mention anywhere in them “hope for the future.” It is filled with wars, curses, and
life issues. But [the] Bible talks about God’s love and hope for . . . people. Jesus
offers hope and a future heaven.
One female participant said, “[The] promises [of the Bible] were outstanding – so
powerful. It gave me hope and peace.” These participants had never experienced anything
of this nature in Hinduism. One participant added what made Christians different is that
“they have faith [or] trust in the Lord. They live with the hope of His coming.”
Inner Peace in Christ
Most of those I interviewed acknowledged they had no peace and had to search
for it. One participant said, “I always looked for eternal peace.” Another one shared that
from the time he was a child, his mother encouraged him to search for peace and to live
in peace. The question these participants asked themselves was, “Where does this peace
come from, and how can I get it?”
It was a challenge for them to search for peace. They tried all the different ways
they could in Hinduism (good works, offering money, sacrifices through fasting and
praying for many days, etc.) to obtain it. One of them said, “I searched into gods, sports,
soccer, [and] swimming to find peace, but I failed.” It bothered the participants very
much when nothing they did helped them to have this inner peace. Some compared their
lack of peace to that of Christians. Some were challenged by Christians to find out for
themselves if they could gain this peace. When they took the time to find out what they
were lacking, they saw that there were issues (such as an “untruthful life, problems, and
no peace”) that created a vast difference between them and Christians. This difference
motivated them to find the same peace that Christians were enjoying. They also observed
that this peace had the power to cover every situation and circumstance in their lives.
When heard about heavenly peace that money could not buy, some were moved to
try it for themselves. When it met their expectations (i.e., God granted them what they
needed for their sakes), they wanted more. This experience moved some to trust in the
Lord for salvation. Their reliance on God, His promises, and this divine peace
overwhelmed them. One of the interviewee’s said that one particular promise of Jesus –
“I am with you” (Matt. 28:20; Isa. 41:10; Jer. 1:8) – gave her so much peace in her
turmoil. She added, “I never read [anything like that] in any of the Hindu books. These
promises were outstanding and so powerful. It gave me . . . peace.”
These participants perceived Jesus filling void in their lives by offering peace,
after they were unable to attain what they sought through many years of Hindu devotion.
Unity in Christ
The participants appreciated the Christian concept of unity in Christ. A Brahmin
(highest caste) HBB commented, “There was no unity or uniformity [due to caste system]
within Hinduism. [It was] full of variations, partiality, and differences. Nothing unites the
Hindus together in regard to gods.” Though the participants know this principle holds
believers together, it is a foreign concept in Hindu teachings. A different participant
compared the five-caste system to “our five fingers.” “[There is a] hierarchical difference
[in the castes]; but in Christianity, there is no difference among them. All are one in
Most participants conveyed that being “one in Christ” has blessed them because
they enjoy the privilege of being on the same level with others. As they examined this
concept, it increased their curiosity to know more about the Christian God. They desired
to receive the same benefits of unity that Christians experienced by turning to Jesus for
Oneness with Christ
Oneness with Christ was another aspect of Christianity that attracted the
participants. One interviewee said that when you are a genuine Christian, the “Holy Spirit
[lives] in you. In Hinduism . . . [there is] nothing of that sort. Hindu gods will be in pillars
and wood, not in [a] human being . . . [but] God lives in us.” He added, “[Hinduism
teaches that there is a] god present everywhere . . . [but the Bible teaches that] wherever
we go God is with us.” Participants appreciated the fact that Christian believers can
wholeheartedly affirm that their God lives in them. According to one participant’s view:
All of the Hindu traditions are based on superstitions . . . vague myths and beliefs.
I do not follow any of those: None of them have I retained. But I hold on to this
precious verse, that in Christ I am a new creation [and] all the former things have
passed away . . . [although], since I am an Indian, the food, clothing, and the
respect factor still remains the same.
Words of Christ
In regard to the promises of Jesus that helped the participants in various situations
of life, one lady said that all she had were the promises of God in the midst of all her
trials. She said, “I remembered the promise Jesus [made], ‘I will never leave you, nor
forsake you.’” Another woman said, “It moved me when Jesus said, ‘I am with you.’ I
[had] never read anything [comparable to this] in any of the Hindu books.” According to
one participant, the Bible is filled with “awesome promises, kind and gracious words, and
at times, corrections.” Even before these participants became followers of Christ, they
sensed peace and comfort in these biblical statements. A different participant mentioned
that it seemed as if there was life in those verses and its uniqueness touched his heart and
never left them. The power of the Word of God began to work in them until they were
changed. A male participant said, “We never studied or heard anything this authoritative
in Hinduism. We felt the truth, genuiness, authority, might, and depth behind it because it
was not human but divine.”
Only One God to Please
“In Christianity, there is only one God,” a participant said, but this is not the case
in Hinduism. Five participants stated that Hindus have “millions of gods” to please, and
they were moved by the Christian concept of one God. They got tired of trying to please
millions of gods, especially when they gave them no answers. As one participant
commented, “I tried to compare all the multiple gods of [the] Hindus and see what they
[were] and what they [could] do for me.” His evaluation of them revealed that these gods
were not satisfied with his performance and there was no love involved in their
assessment of him. One female participant said, “I compared my gods [to the Christian
God] . . . My gods were cruel.” These participants saw the Christian God as a God of love
who came to save sinners, the downtrodden, and the abandoned. Now they enjoy being
the recipients of God’s love and have the privilege of pleasing only one God, who is a
God of love and not a god of judgment.
HBBs expressed that they followed their gods out of fear, duty, and compulsion
rather than out of love. One of the HBBs said, “I looked for a loving God who [could]
help me in my situation.” This personal love experience with the God of the heavens and
the earth is not one that is shared by Hindus. One of them added, “I gave my life to Jesus
for loving me, dying for my sins on the cross, [and] all the sacrifices He made to rescue
me.” This is a true commitment to follow God and please Him.
The Gradual Process of Conversion
It was not a simple decision for any of the sixteen participants to become
Christians. In most instances, it took years. In addition, it was hard for them to pinpoint
the exact date of their conversion. One female participant mentioned, “It [was] not a
short-term process but a long-term decision.” They were confused as to what was right
and wrong and also as to whom they should be devoted. The reasons for this long-term
struggle are varied and distinct and include a variety of influences, encounters,
observations, evaluations, convictions, and decisions.
Influences and Encounters
Influences and encounters were not a pleasant part of the process. Prior to their
conversions, the participants were deeply involved in idol worship and other Hindu
practices. The process of conversion began through the influence of family, friends, and
even strangers. In many cases, family members and friends prayed for them for years
before they came to Christ. One participant said that his brother never gave up on him but
prayed, shared, and waited patiently for many years for him to accept Christ. He said,
“Many times, he shared about Jesus, but I never cared. . . . My brother told me once,
‘You need [the] salvation that Jesus offers.’ Then my question was, ‘Salvation for what?’
And I argued with him. I told him, ‘Do good deeds and you will be in heaven.’”
Another man was heavily influenced by his older sister and mother, but he
ignored them for five years. He said, “I did not want to be a Christian.” He feared being
shamed by friends and other relatives. In other cases, it was the persistent prayers and
loving spirits of friends that influenced the participants to come to Christ. One participant
said he was influenced by many Christian friends, as well as a Christian girlfriend at
school. Many participants, as they were influenced, were not pleased by the encounters
because they did not want anything forced on them. In fact, it irritated and disturbed
them, which caused some of them to hate Christians. One man said that he made “an
agreement [with Christian friends] not to force . . . anything” on him when he was around
them or when he accepted their invitations to visit their churches. Participants said that
Christians sent the wrong message when they pushed them. They felt that Christians
demeaned their gods or were trying to convert them for materialistic reasons. As a result
of this approach, they ended up rejecting Christ. All of those interviewed agreed that
forcing the issue is not the way to win people to Christianity, since force does not
exemplify the likeness of Christ.
Observations and Evaluations
Another part of the process took place in the minds and hearts of the participants
based on what they saw and heard. A male participant stated, “I was like an observer who
watched and evaluated what my family was doing. After several months, I saw [that] my
family [had] removed all the idols and the pictures of Hindu gods. I understood that they
were getting more serious and saw a real commitment in them toward Jesus.” When the
participants observed and evaluated Christians, they tried to verify whether their words
matched their actions. One of the participant’s said, “Actions speak louder than words.”
When they witnessed examples of joyful, loving, caring, sacrificial spirits and the
differences (from other religions) of Christian conduct and attitudes toward others, it
drew them into the observation and evaluation process. At the same time, some
participants observed believers whose lives were less than exemplary. One of them said,
“They were working for money, [had] no values in life, [and took] things for granted,
without caring, as if Jesus [was] not their Lord.” It took all the participant’s years to
overcome this serious misrepresentation of Jesus. However, they are thankful that they
reconsidered knowing Christ.
There were also a few cases that were different because they evaluated what they
learned from preachers by what they already knew of Hinduism. Based on the fact that
“Jesus . . . judge[s] those who do not believe in Him,” they were challenged by the
question of what would happen to them if the world came to an end. After hearing this,
they began to evaluate why their Hindu gods did not say anything about “sins or salvation
or [the] future [heaven].” When they evaluated their life according to Hinduism, the fear
of missing heaven became a burden. For them, it was a difficult decision not to worship
idols because they had practiced it from childhood. The more they evaluated the truth the
more convincing it was, but thinking of the changes they had to make – forgetting their
Hindu traditions and choosing to become a follower of Christ – was a huge struggle for
these participants, and it took them awhile to fully understand the concepts of
Convictions and Decisions
Another part of the process involved a long internal struggle with myths and facts.
These participants went through personal difficulties (e.g., shame of abandonment, guilt
of denying Hinduism, criticism from friends and families, being ostracized) knowing that
their new convictions would put both them and their families in jeopardy. One participant
said, “I felt the challenge [of] whether to go for it [belief in Jesus] or to stay back with all
these gods who were with me all these years.” These participants valued their family and
friends highly and had a great fear of being ostracized by their loved ones. This made
them hesitant to submit to the convincing truth of God’s Word. However, whenever they
focused on what Jesus had done for them, they were moved by His sacrificial love. The
more they looked at Jesus and His promises the more the scale tipped toward conversion.
Gradually, through understanding the intensity of God’s love, they placed Christ in front
of all their struggles and began to notice His hand and faithfulness in their lives, which
helped them to rely on Him completely. Nevertheless, it was difficult for them to break
all the commitments they had to Hinduism.
It was not a sharp “U-turn” for Christ. They put in a great deal of effort from the
time they were first influenced until the time they made their final decisions. Again, it
was not an instant process, and it was hard for them to identify a specific date of
conversion because they drew closer to Christ little by little. However, once they were
fully committed, nothing stopped or confused them again. The Hindu converts I had the
privilege to interview were strong Christians. Unlike many of those who have grown up
in the church, they know what they believe and why they believe it.
This chapter spoke of HBBs transition from Hinduism to Christianity. The next
chapter describes the difficulties the HBBs faced in their transition to Christian living.
Many people go through struggles when they accept Christ. However, the
participants of this study went through some unique and distinct struggles during their
post-conversion experiences. Many struggled for years while others continue to do so.
Nevertheless, they found strength in their personal relationships with Jesus Christ, which
expressed itself in strong commitment, an appreciation for the value of prayer, confidence
in the power of God’s word, and transformed behavior and character. They expressed this
transformation in terms of “putting away the old nature” and “no turning back.” In
addition, they shared their decisions regarding Hindu traditions that they retained and
Participants’ Post-conversion Struggles
As these participants gave me insights, the findings were eye opening and, at the
same time, heartbreaking to hear. None of those I interviewed had a smooth transition
into Christian living: All of them faced battles from the point of conversion. They did not
have breathing room between the time of their conversion to the beginning of their
struggles. The tensions they faced were instantaneous. I found these men and women
commendable as they stood for their faith in Christ. Participants agreed that it was
because of the grace of God that they were able to overcome what they faced in their
Christian walk. The battles these newly converted believers fought were spiritual,
emotional, and involved suffering.
Participants understood that the enemy was the author of spiritual battles,
especially as they began their Christian journey. The enemy attacked these newborn
babes in Christ in order to scare them away, cause them to stumble, and take advantage of
their ignorance of the things of God. After his interview, one participant shared what he
had heard about other Hindu converts, who had to externally leave their Christian faith
due to threats to their own lives, as well as the lives of their family members. Although
none of my participants were threatened to that extreme, it was a struggle for them to face
the Enemy because he inflicted them with challenges in life that they did not know how
Haunted by the Enemy. When they accepted Christ, these participants became
the children of God but evidently the enemies of Satan. As a result, evil thoughts
destroyed their peace. One participant said that his brother died in the same month he
accepted Christ, and the “Devil brought this thought to me that it was because of me and
the decision to follow Christ.” Eight of the participants testified that they were attacked
by the Enemy because they “sold out” their Hindu religion. They were accused of
abandoning their Hindu faith, religion, traditions, family for accepting a new faith. This
troubled the participants deeply and they began to question the choices they had made.
They recollected this time in their lives as one of wavering, when they were often
overcome by feelings of guilt. They considered these “mental persecution[s]” or “mental
struggles” to be direct and (when others were involved) indirect attacks of the Enemy.
One participant's struggle to live a completely surrendered life was more personal
than corporate. She dealt with the “lust of the flesh [and] worldly desires and passions.”
While she desired to be more like Jesus, the enemy pricked her conscience with guilt that
she was a pretender. This constant attack by the Enemy on her mind caused her to
develop an inferiority complex and be unable to capture her thoughts. The Enemy used
the circumstances and unsaved friends of these participants to hinder their spiritual
growth, keep them in his stronghold, and prevent them from experiencing the freedom of
knowing more about Christ.
Struggling to let go of Hindu traditions and responsibilities. In the initial
stages of their post-conversion, it was a struggle to disengage themselves from certain
traditions and responsibilities. They stated that during festivals and celebrations, their
families would get together and each member would assist in preparing for the festivities,
but as new Christians, it was hard for them to participate or enjoy it. During the early
stages of their conversion, before they revealed their new Christian identity to their
family members, they chose to respect their families’ wishes to attend the festivities but
stayed away from being involved in it (such as not eating food offered to idols).
These HBBs often struggled to make excuses. There were even times when they had to
purposely isolate themselves in order to avoid compromising situations. This type of
segregation was hard for the participants but they had to make a choice between placing
themselves under tremendous pressure and avoiding unpleasant situations. Either way,
their families took their behavior personally. These steps of letting go of these practices
made them appear strange to their Hindu families. Family and friends criticized and
treated them differently. They were condemned and blamed for disrespecting family
functions by not being there in person, even after the passing of several years. When they
look back, they are amazed at the hand of God as He helped them through their struggles.
A limited understanding of God’s Word. One of the devises the Enemy used
was to keep these Hindu converts from learning and understanding more about the Word
of God. The participants found themselves spiritually deficient, which resulted in an
unhealthy spiritual life and slowed the process of their spiritual growth. One female
participant said, “When I started to learn and understand more, the devil put more hurdles
before me . . . [at] certain times it was discouraging to see my helplessness.” As this
woman experienced in her walk with the Lord, “[Non-Christian] friends could be an issue
[since] they were not walking with the Lord. [Now] I try to surround my life with
believers.” Later in her life, she understood that the Enemy's purpose behind this tactic
was to dampen believers’ excitement and turn them away from God. These participants
experienced the truth, but, when they faced doubts and problems in life, their roots in
God’s Word were not deep enough to understand the purpose of their struggles as God’s
The participants of this study suffered a great deal emotionally when they made
firm decisions to follow Christ. It cost them relationships with family members. Then
worry and anxiety took over their lives as their family and friends tried to turn them from
the “wrong path and wrong lifestyle” they had chosen. One male participant said, “I faced
battles mostly emotionally with my family . . . [the] main factor was my mother. . . . The
emotional dramas were huge, which affected me physically.” A female participant said,
“I lost everyone, and everyone made fun of me.” These types of issues created
depression, mood swings, and a desire to be alone. While the effects varied among the
participants, they all lost their equilibrium due to (1) fear and shame and (2) family
Fear and shame. Participants had shocking experiences that resulted in the fear
of people and their circumstances. This fear was the outcome of confrontations with
family and friends. For example, one participant said that her husband threatened to
divorce her. Another female participant said, “I feared everyone. [I was] full of shame,
[experienced] threats, [and] I felt enmity.” They felt intimidated by people they least
expected. The hierarchical practices of the Hindu culture expect one to show the utmost
respect to ones elders because elders and parents control the family. One male participant
commented, “[I had] so much respect [for my] parents, and I feared them. I never tried to
stand against my parents.”
The Hindu culture produces fear and shame, participants say, especially when one
goes out of line or goes against what the family practices. Another male participant had
terrifying thoughts that produced “shame and fear” because he was worried about what
society thought of him. These new believers understood that since they denied their
Hindu faith, they would be accused of accepting bribes from Christians, which had
compelled them to convert. They felt that these types of issues were ongoing for a long
period of time. A few participants shared that they did not care what others (e.g., friends)
thought, but most felt incapable of standing on their own as this fear and shame
controlled them, until they learned to overcome it.
Family tensions. The conversions of the participants created enormous tensions
within their families. There were tensions between husbands and wives, parents and
children, in-laws, and various relatives. One female participant wished and prayed for
freedom from her situation. She said, “My husband was very angry, and I went through
lots of tension. . . . [I wanted to] be freed from all these pressures, temptations, and
tensions from family and friends.” Their family members and relatives accused them of
destroying their family traditions and cultural practices. Parents felt rejected by their own
children. For some, these tensions continued until family members come to Christ or
passed away. Sometimes these conflicts created a sense of guilt in these believers. As one
of them stated, “I do not want my family to be ashamed [of me].” Because of their
continued love, they did not want to see their families lose face before others.
All the female participants shared that they were pressured to marry Hindu men to
prevent them from falling in love with and marrying Christians or from making their own
marital arrangements. Three women gave in and married Hindus. Clearly, family was the
biggest challenge for these participants. These tensions and pressures compelled them to
avoid family get-togethers and Hindu functions to which they were invited by their
relatives and longtime friends. They were emotionally drained and discouraged by family
tensions, which also created separation. However, most did not compromise their faith in
Christ, even though they were helpless in certain situations.
Suffering for Faith in Christ
HBB participants had to experience (and some continue to experience)
intimidation, harassment, and attacks from family and friends. They considered standing
for their faith in Jesus Christ “suffering.” The core issue involved had to do with
disowning the Hindu faith.
Physical and financial struggles. As they began their journey with Christ, they
were stricken with problems in their health and finances. This was another type of
suffering that created doubts and caused them to question their new faith. One participant
said that he and his wife asked themselves, “Why did we follow this Jesus?” His wife got
into an accident during that time. Their parents from India questioned this man, asking,
“Why are you not flourishing after you met your God?” A female participant’s child had
seizures due to brain problems, and she thought he would die. During those struggles, it
was hard for the participants to answer the type of questions they were asked. Later, as
they looked back at everything they had to go through; they realized it was part of their
growing pains. Two participants who lost their jobs in the initial stages of their post-
conversion experience were comforted by other believers. One of them shared, “People in
this American church told me this happened because of following the Lord. It was hard to
understand, but they said, ‘When you do the right things, Satan who stands against Jesus,
will harm those who live for Him.’”
All these believers suffered and felt like their Hindu gods were angry and chasing
after them by imposing problems on their lives. Physical and financial struggles affected
their survival needs. One participant said he had to sell his valuable possessions to
survive. Through these times, God cared for them by sending godly believers into their
lives. A different participant stated:
[At] that time I met your father [my father]. He helped me a lot in [my] prayer
life, fasting, and [the] studying of God’s Word. The Lord helped us survive. Then
my wife got a job and we were able to survive. I experienced the Lord’s goodness
in my initial year of salvation.
Family struggles. HBBs were hesitant to convey to family and friends their
newfound faith, but, with much prayer, twelve participant’s ended up sharing with those
who were close to them. However, the reactions of family and friends were discouraging.
One participant shared that his brother threatened him when he heard the news of his
conversion. This threat involved being excommunicated by family and friends. His
brother asked him to “make up [his] mind.” At the initial stage, it was hard for the
participants to accept being outcasts from their families. A female participant shared:
My nieces and nephews mocked me. . . . Along with my parents, my relatives
planned my wedding to a very strong Hindu man. I was compelled to marry a
Hindu, and I tried to satisfy my parents by agreeing to their decision. I thought,
“Even though I marry a Hindu, I will pray to Jesus and read the Bible.” But I
received opposition from my husband and his family. After the marriage, a
woman has to live with her husband’s family. I continued as a secret Christian
even after marriage. My husband went to work, but I couldn’t pray or read the
Bible because of his mother. I stopped reading [the] Bible. No more church
services and prayer. I was in lot of stress because of that. Then, one day, he came
back from work early and he caught me reading [the] Bible. I was in big trouble,
and he yelled at me. He threw my Bible away. I had a wooden cross. He took it
and threw it at me, and it hit my neck bone. He was so angry! And he tore [up] all
my Christian newsletters, magazines, and gospel tracts. Then he threatened me. . .
. He was going to send me back to my house for cheating . . . [behind] his back.
One day, I thought I would share my Christian conviction . . . [with] my husband,
and I did. The result was [that] he made a lot of restrictions in my life . . . [and] I
ended up in more trouble.
Another participant related that when he visited his parents’ house in India, some
local believers who knew about his arrival came to visit him. Until this point, his
conversion had been a secret, but his new identity in Christ was revealed through the visit
of these believers. This created a huge issue at his house. He shared:
My mom was so angry and began to question me. She said, “You, being the
oldest, [are] trying to stand against your religion and family? You are becoming a
bad example to your brother and sister. You will be . . . [excommunicated] by
everyone in this village.” [Then] she asked me to get out of her house. . . . She
threw my bag [out in] to the front yard and took the Bible to put it inside the fire –
cursed the day I was born. She had something in her hand [and] with that, she
slapped my face.
This encounter brought a great dilemma in his life. Although he did not know
how to handle it, the following words show his strong conviction. He said, “My faith was
little and I did not know much about the Bible. All these things happened unexpectedly
and quickly. . . . I told the Lord, ‘If you are with me, that is all I need.’ I [came] back [to
the US] . . . and until today the Lord has been good to me, and I am so happy.”
Almost every participant communicated that they felt safe being in the US, where
the confrontations were fewer or less intense due to the absence of their relatives, and
they were afraid to visit family and friends in India. A female participant said,
“Whenever I am in India, I have to go with my family [to the temple]. It is a hard thing…
But, when I am here, I enjoy every bit of freedom. I can go to church when he [my
husband] is not here.” Another female participant said, “The good thing is [that] I am in
the US. I do not know what will happen when I visit my family.” Others went through
severe challenges when they visited their families. One was forced to participate in
special pujas, temple visits, and celebrations. A converted family suffered when their in-
laws pressured them into conducting a Hindu naming ceremony for their child.
These types of family struggles created great affliction as it severed relationships
in a dramatic way. A few participants still remain secret Christians in the US due to the
fear of consequences (i.e., losing family ties). They fear that, if they expose their faith, it
will result in “lots of restrictions . . . [and] more trouble.” One female participant shared
the reason she did not make her conversion public: “My husband told me once that,
according to the Hindu marriage act, the day you [announce] you are a Christian, I can
divorce you. No one will question me because that is the right thing to do.” She remains
scared of losing her family and disrupting her children’s lives. She is only able to be a
Struggles with friends. Troubles occurred to these believers one right after
another as they took baby steps in their Christian journey. It was painful for these
participants to experience the loss of loving friends. One man said, “My friends
abandoned me. They stopped visiting me [and there was] no more getting together.”
Another male participant said:
My friends offered their food to Hindu gods and then offered it to me. They will
say, “We are Indians and why are you so different? Did your God tell you not to
eat from us?” They critiqued me. It was so hard. They used to say different things
about me. . . . [Finally,] they isolated me completely. It was so painful, especially
when we are away from our country and family.
All HBBS I interviewed suffered a loss of relationship due to their faith in Christ.
Such severing of friendships seemed all the more terrible within the relational Indian
culture. Instead of befriending, participants’ friends began to attack their beliefs. One
interviewee admitted, “I stopped friendships with those who mocked me. I avoided them
because I became their topic of fun.” The initial years after their conversions were
difficult, but the eventual result was “a new life, new family, and new friends.” Through
these trials, they learned the cost of discipleship. One participant said he prayed that he
wanted to be “more like Jesus” but never imagined his commitment would be put to such
a test. One participant called it “[the] hard way of learning. . . . Now I tell others [that]
there will be consequences if you want to live for Christ. Some will be able to handle it,
and some others may not.”
Strength Found in a Relationship with Christ
The trials faced by these participants could have caused them to consider options
other than Jesus, but the grace of God enabled them to stand strong and to prove their true
dedication to Christ. These relationships with Christ strengthened them to stay on course.
Through these relationships, their faith was enlarged and they counted the cost as this
spiritual rebirth brought so much meaning and value in their lives.
I asked my participants why they have such strong commitments and there were
several responses. One said, “Jesus forgave my sins. Jesus made me a new person
because I began to love people.” Another replied:
I am truly committed because I evaluated . . . [my choices] and saw the love and
sacrifice of Jesus. . . . I began to avoid Hindu functions but certain families I
couldn’t avoid because they may be my uncle’s family. We go there just for
formality or to respect them. . . . It was a true commitment. When I go back to
India, I have to face all these things, but now we are very strong.
One male participant stated:
Before I worshipped the Devil, and when I knew the truth, I wholeheartedly
believed. I was bold to make my stand. I did not have to answer anyone, since my
parents are in India. . . . I told my parents when I visited India. I am very
outspoken and not ashamed to tell anyone my convictions. . . . I asked my wife to
throw away everything and anything that belonged to Hindus. She trashed
A female participant mentioned that even after her strong decision, the Enemy
tried in numerous ways to discourage her from her commitment and to drag her back to
his camp. She said:
My husband and his younger brother . . . brought a strong Hindu teacher to
change my opinion about Jesus . . . but none of these things changed my decision
or this experience with Jesus. . . . The commitment with Jesus made me strong. I
may go with them [my husband and children], but my heart is truly not there. I see
their idols as just clay, wood, and pujas-related things just as regular crockery.
Another woman declared:
My decision to follow Jesus is so strong and committed. I will never compromise
and bow my head before anyone to deny Jesus. I firmly said no to all celebrations
because I took Jesus in my heart seriously. For me, I completely rejected
everything because there is no meaning in that. Initially, it was very hard to make
proper decisions because I grew up in that tradition and enjoyed every bit of it
until I met Christ. For me, personally, everything changed. . . . I am committed,
and God’s grace is upon me.
One woman said that her “commitment with Jesus made her strong.” A different
lady said that her commitment got stronger when she came across Jesus’ promise, “I will
never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). These participants experienced the love of
Christ and exemplified it in their lives, which spoke loudly. One male participant shared
that he forsook his “old ways.” Similarly, another male participant took a firm stand for
the Lord when his mother died. Being the oldest, he was obliged to perform certain
rituals, but he refused.
When my mother died in 2007, I went to India to attend the funeral. They knew I
wouldn’t do the death rites, so they appointed a priest in my name, and he did all
the rites. . . . I was surrounded by all the families and friends who could have
reacted differently with me, but the Lord even took care of that. Now, nothing
bothers me in regard to celebrations and festivals.
In time, after challenging them very seriously, the people who mocked these
HBBs came to understand that their decisions were irrevocable and their commitments
Value of Prayer
Prayer was very significant to these participants. All of them mentioned that
before their conversions, they looked for a prayer-answering God. When they found Jesus
and experienced His power, their faith and prayer lives greatly increased. A female
participant declared, “I put Christ in front of all my problems and I see and enjoy His
hand and faithfulness. He [is] a prayer-answering God. . . . He put everything in place for
me. He moved all mountains of difficulties and impossibilities.” When they were
discouraged or helpless, they relied on Jesus through prayer. Another female participant,
who was restricted heavily and put down by her husband, prayed for a long period of
time and saw the miracle of him coming to the Lord. One day, he told her, “I need your
Jesus.” She was persistent in her prayer life and never gave up her hope in prayer. She
attributed the development and growth of her husband’s faith to her own faithfulness in
prayer. She said that, together, they are now able to pray for their children, who are
walking with the Lord.
Likewise, another female participant mentioned how prayer was instrumental
when she didn’t know what to do or how to face challenges. She said that she received
good advice to pray, and she applied it when she was forced to bow before idols when
she visited India.
My mom forcefully took me to the temple. . . . I made up my mind that I was not
bowing down to an idol or their gods but to Jesus alone. . . . What I learned from
my pastors was that during those seasons pray harder and remember that the Lord
enjoys your company as you pray and He values your sacrifices.
Another three participants shared that they experienced the power of prayer when
financial crisis occurred in their lives. Even though their faith was challenged, they saw
and experienced the miraculous hand of God. One male participant said that without a job
and no means to survive, it affected him, but the Lord provided for his basic needs when
he relied on the power of prayer. Another man said, “I fasted and prayed. . . . The Lord
helped us survive. . . . I developed a habit of prayer . . . which might have helped me to
rely on God.”
One female participant shared that by knowing the difficulties ahead of her, she
prepared herself through prayer. When she visits her family in India, she faces troubles,
“such as food offered to idols, visiting temples, Hindu prayers in the family, [and] no
opportunity to go to church on Sundays.” Therefore, she prays for her own strength and
“for them [her parents] to come to the Lord.” Similarly, another woman said that she was
also going through many struggles because of her husband and that, without her prayer
life, she would not find peace or confidence. She also experienced the power of prayer
for her son, who was healed as a child. She said, “I believe the God of the Bible. . . . This
God cares for me. . . . [He is] a God who does miracles.” Now she is praying for another
miracle: her husband’s salvation. She said, “Even my husband challenged me, ‘You pray
as much as you want [and] request others to pray for my change, but until death, I will
not change.’ I took that as a challenge and [am] praying very earnestly. ” She has been
asking God to remove her circumstances in life for His glory. At the same time, she has
wholehearted faith that God will answer her prayers and continues to wait for a miracle.
These believers are very strong in their faith and prayer lives.
Power of God’s Word
I observed in my interviews that every participant mentioned either the words of
Christ, the promises of Christ, or the Word of God as a whole and its importance. They
have seen the life-changing power of the Word of God. One man stated, “The Word of
God is powerful and it transformed me. I am encouraging others to read the Word more
than novels or books related to [the] Bible. [The] Bible is God’s Word and it can change
anyone.” Another male participant shared how the Word of God impacted his life. He
said that “all the daily routines of [his] life” were changed, which helped him in his
Christian walk. In the same way, a different participant said that Bible studies and the
personal reading of God’s Word changed his attitude toward those who evaluate or
compare his spirituality to theirs.
In addition, a female participant said that the Word of God gave her “comfort and
peace” in all her circumstances with her parents, husband, and her husband's family. It
changed the outlook of her life. A male participant said that when he accepted Christ, the
“reading, memorizing, and learning” of God’s Word (there was no one to disciple him)
produced a passion in him to serve God. All these HBBs expressed that the power of
God’s Word can impact anyone if they are willing to take the time. One of them said,
“It’s full of life-changing wisdom.” In addition, a woman asserted, “People who do not
believe in His Word, [it] is foolishness to them . . . [but] I will be able to use it and stand
for the Lord before all my family and friends and defend the truth” because of its power.
Likewise, one man said that the truths of God changed him, and he will never be ashamed
to share the gospel and its power. These HBBs concluded that the Bible is not like any
other book in the world and, as such, beyond comparison.
Transformed Behavior and Character
The themes “putting away the old nature” and “no turning back” emerged out of
the participants’ desires to put their former selves into custody with the Lord’s help.
Additionally, they yearned to please Him completely.
Putting Away the Old Nature
Putting away the old nature impacted both their outward behavior and their
inward character, which all the participants expressed as a need when they became
Christians. Some of the expressions that participants used were “I forsook my old ways,”
“I totally understood what I did was wrong,” “no more compromises,” “I am a new
person,” “My heart is truly not there [with Hinduism],” “I stopped all my bad ways, such
as smoking, drinking, [and] going for movies with bad friends,” “I changed my lifestyles
[from] magic or tricks, witchcraft, and sorcery (that is invoking the dead spirit),” “I
withheld myself from wrong friends,” “I will never compromise. . . . I completely
rejected everything,” and “I am hardcore for Jesus.” One participant’s inward and
outward changes are noteworthy:
I saw lots of changes in my life. Before I was very aggressive and never respected
elders in my life. I obeyed my parents hesitantly. I did what I liked, the way I
liked. . . . [After conversion,] I became more gentle, began to respect others, and
felt so good. Even if I get upset with someone, I get guilty for what I said or did.
It never happened to me before. Then I will tell them that I am sorry. I slowly
understood what Jesus does in the lives of people. He was able to change me. I
was naughty, arrogant, and wicked. . . . I became a good student, got [a] great
dream for [my] future, and, finally, the Lord helped me to become a software
A female participant, who accepted Christ a few years ago, described her inward
and outward changes as follows:
Many changes took place, and some are still in progress. The first most prominent
factor that happened was . . . the zeal and passion about telling every[one] about
the Good News of the gospel. It started with my family members first. Then all of
those who came across my path. Secondly, I have this great hunger and thirst
about knowing the deep revelations and the very nature of the Lord – for example,
His love, His mercies, His anger, His wrath, and much more – although the Word
says, “Who knows the heart of God?” Inwardly, everything changed. I came to
know the very purpose of me being born. The joy of the Lord became my
strength. I immersed my thinking and attitude to have Christ-like perception. It is
very hard at times, but the Lord sent me the Holy Spirit, who guides me and
guards my heart and lips also. Now I came to know the truth and the Bible says
that the truth shall set us free. All my previous ways of living [were] transformed
into victorious Christian living. Each day, I thank the Lord for my salvation and
for answering my prayers. I learned to live for others. Previously, it was not like
that. I learned to give freely and generously and in everything . . . [through]
prayer and petition. I pray fervently for them. I try to keep the Lord first in my
life. I pray for the rulers and authorities and government leaders of the nation [of]
Israel and all the nations of the world. I have got the keys of prosperity through
tithing and offerings and a prayerful attitude towards all those who I don’t get
along with. I try to return evil with good and try to bring holiness in[to]
everything. I do [all this] by letting the Lord rule over my life and every second of
No Turning Back
This same female participant described her commitment in terms of “no turning
My kids sometime blame me that they cannot speak normally to me because in
everything I bring the Lord in between. My husband tells me that I watch too
much Christian channels and that I am too particular about church going. I dwell
in the secret place of the Most High, and the Lord sends His angels to protect me
and provide for me. His peace, beyond understanding, rules my heart. His
forgiveness cleanses me like a mighty waterfall, making me fresh each day. So,
on the inside I have this [and] it reflects my outward personality too. I am very
thankful and grateful to the Lord for changing my very being. I desire to achieve
everything the Lord has planned for my life and that the Lord should find me
worthy of the call. . . . For me, [there is] no turning back.
Another female participant, even though she was threatened with divorce and had
restrictions imposed on her, expressed the love of God through her character and attitude
toward her husband. “I obeyed my husband. . . . I tried to please him and not to upset
him.” Her submission to God helped her in her “obedience to [her] husband. . . . Jesus
wants only our life as an offering. . . . This is to serve and please Him in everything.” She
did not want to be a pretender. She saw Christians who were “not totally committed for
Jesus. . . . They kind of compromised . . . their belief. They are not all the way for Jesus,
and they are in the middle.” These HBBs expressed that they were changed and totally
committed in their walk and will never turn their backs on Jesus.
Traditions Retained and Rejected
Prior to their conversion experiences, the HBBs had a long tradition that included
things they learned orally through parents and grandparents, observed practices, and
traditional belief systems. However, they vigorously evaluated their traditions and
decided which traditions to retain and which to reject as faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
Five traditions emerged as compatible with their new Christian faith and three as
Five Traditions Retained
The five traditions mentioned below represented important aspects of the
participants’ lives while they were still devoted to Hinduism. They saw no reason to
abandon them as Christians.
Respect for elders. All sixteen of the participants agreed on the importance of
showing respect for elders because their parents had taught it. One female participant
said, “I will keep it and maintain it.” Another participant stated that we should do it “at
any cost.” In addition, respect should be given based “on their age, not status.” A
different participant shared, “Even though they accused me and persecuted me, I did not
Cheerful giving. These participants now see this as their first fruits to the Lord.
One male participant said, “[Now I am] giving to the Lord’s work out of love and
gratitude, but in Hinduism, it is to get something.” Another participant said, “[In
Hinduism,] you give an offering to the priests . . . like tips for his service. You are
committed to give out of duty, not out of love, so it was a challenge for me to make that
proper decision to give out of love, instead [of] a tip to the church.” A different man’s
view was “I sacrificed my life for God” as an offering.
Worship and prayer life. One HBB affirmed, “I learned [from] the prayer life of
my [Hindu] father (early morning and evening). This attracted me. [It is] a discipline and
devotion to the Lord.” Another man said, “[Hindu] worship was done very seriously. . . .
I kept the worship. . . . I developed a habit of prayer. [My] prayer life shows great
dependence on God.” A woman said that she gives her “devotion and reverence” to Jesus
in worship. According to another participant, the fear of God helps him worship.
Scripture reading. Scripture reading emerged as being very important to these
HBBs. They used to read the Hindus holy books. Now, as their devotion changed to the
true and living God, it blesses them to read the holy scriptures. They count it as the
source of authority. As one of them said, “[The] Word of God should be our basis.”
Hindu names. Participants had no issue with keeping their names. Three of the
participants mentioned that only Christians have bothered them for not changing their
names. One of them shared a discouraging statement:
Lots of Christians and some pastors told me that I should change my name, since I
[became] a Christian. But my point was the Lord changed me from the inside so
that I do not have to worry about my name. There is no problem in this name, and
I have not read anywhere in the Bible asking me to do that [change my name]
A female participant added to the above thoughts, “My relationship with Christ is
more important than changing the [my] name outwardly.” On the other hand, all of them
unanimously conveyed that keeping their Hindu name has a purpose. The following
participant shared it clearly: “The reason I am keeping it [is because] it gives me an
opportunity to share Jesus with others.” A female participant stated, “When a Hindu sees
me, they know that I am not a Hindu, but when they ask my name, it is still a Hindu
name. Then they wonder what happened to me and I’ll use [that] as an opportunity to
share the gospel with others.” These believers are using their circumstances as an
opportunity to share their living testimonies (life stories) with others. One young male
participant said, “I am strong in [my decision]. I am ready to die for Jesus.”
Three Traditions Rejected
Participants found three traditions incompatible with their new faith in Christ.
They vigorously rejected the three practices or rituals described below.
Idol worship. This is the first thing all participants mentioned in their rejection of
traditions. One of them said, “Idols and related things like pujas, food offered to idols,
photos, [and] Bindi” were rejected by the HBBs. Two participants argued that Catholics
are idol worshippers because they have images in their churches. Another thing all the
female HBBs discarded in relation to idols is a powder known as “Bindi.” Hindu women
put it on their forehead (“between [the] eyebrows”) after it has been “dedicated by Hindu
pujaris” (priests). Since it is offered to the idols, “It may have demonic power behind it,”
according to one woman’s belief. The reason why Hindu women wear it is because “it is
a symbol of womanhood. Married women wear a holy powder that is . . . [a] red color.
[Being a believer], I do not want anything to do with what’s connected to Hinduism.”
The Caste system. All the participants rejected the differences between people
and the restrictions imposed by the caste system. One participant, who was once a
Brahmin (highest caste), explained, “The low caste must respect and honor the high caste
all the time. . . . It’s kind of [similar to] serving like a slave. I hate that now. Then all the
poor has to respect the rich. Again, [it is like] a slavery mentality. They [Hindus also]
have taught that the rich are good and the poor are nothing.” Seven of the HBBs
acknowledged there is unity in Christianity but discord in Hinduism due to the caste
system. A male participant pointed out, “This [caste system] is even against the
constitution of India.”
Other rituals. Participants emerged very strong in their commitment to reject
certain practices and rituals. One woman stated, “Astrology: I rejected it because it is
satanic. Horoscope: I used to read [it] in the newspaper every day or week to know my
luck. We are not lucky, but we are blessed. I [even] threw [away] all the incense I had for
worship. ” One male participant explained that as a child of God he had to reject “magic,
witchcraft, sorcery, [and] good deeds for salvation.” A female participant claimed she felt
“bad for . . . [her] Hindu friends and family who are enjoying that lifestyle. My faith is
strong.” A male participant said, “After my salvation . . . I avoided everything
(celebrations and festivals). . . . [But] nothing bothers me now [in regard to practices and
These HBBs are totally against the practices and beliefs to which they were once
committed. Returning to these rituals and practices would be tantamount to turning their
backs on Jesus.
This chapter shared participants’ post-conversion experiences. In the following
chapter they make some recommendations for the body of Christ based on their
conversion and post-conversion experiences.
EXPECTATIONS AND SUGGESTIONS OF HINDU-BACKGROUND
This chapter discusses concerns and suggestions that the study’s sixteen
participants had for churches with respect to facilitating spiritual growth among Hindu
converts in Southern California. As one participant said, “From my perspective, there is
so much lacking in the church in regards to taking care of Hindu converts.” The areas of
concern involve (1) discipleship, (2) friendship, (3) relationships, (4) exemplary living,
and (5) outreach.
The study’s contributors spoke of a lack of discipleship (proper direction) for their
spiritual growth in their local Indian churches. As one of them expressed regarding his
initial growth as a Christian, “There [is] no right help from churches.” A woman shared
her experience of learning God’s Word, as follows:
When I became a believer, I did not know anything. There was no Bible study
geared toward Hindu converts. These converts need [a] special Bible study [to
learn the] basics of the Bible because they are like children going to Sunday
school. Sometimes I feel like I am ignored [and have an] inferiority complex
because others know everything except me. Believers like me need strength to
move on in this struggle. . . . [The] Devil stands against us, especially [because we
are] living for Christ. I never understood anything clearly. For the women, [a]
pastor’s wife or a woman who is committed should lead the ministry [the Bible
study]. For the men, it should be either the pastor or one [of] his elders should
teach [the Bible study].
A different participant added, “They [the Church] should focus on the Word of
God more.” Another interviewee said, “Teach the Word of God in a way they [a new
HBB] can understand.” A male participant stated, “Negligence from church leaders
should be taken very seriously.” Another woman expressed a similar concern as follows:
Our duty is not to show off what we know but to help them [others] grow and to
be a blessing, sharing the truth – [the] depths and heights of Christ’s love. Since I
do not get a chance to go to church regularly, I am lacking in . . . [biblical]
knowledge, which affects me [as I] face issues, trials, and problems. My only
comfort is in reading . . . God’s Word and prayer.
Another participant suggested:
We should teach the Word at their level. Do not give our advice or knowledge to
anyone. We need to explain it [the Bible] clearly – clear their doubts – so we need
to have a clear teaching of God’s Word in the church, not only just from the pulpit
but [in] separate teachings for Hindus. For [that,] someone needs to be willing and
have the knowledge of the Word to teach. [The] Word of God should be our basis.
A different participant expressed a similar opinion:
Apart from Sunday sermons and prayer meetings, they [HBBs] need good
discipleship. Someone in the church should teach them either through an adult
Sunday school or home Bible study. I would like to add: Do not take them or refer
them to a church that does not have a good Bible teaching. The problem is [that]
they can easily backslide. . . . [There should be] personal discipleship . . .
[because] it will help them to open up and clear their doubts.
Another male participant added, “They [HBBs] have questions. We need to teach
the basic things of the Lord [and] coach them. . . . If you have no care for them, then you
will not do anything. It is lacking [and] it was hard for me.” According to one woman,
“They [HBBs] need a proper foundation.” Additionally, a male participant stated, “They
[HBBs] are baby Christians and [in] need of proper spiritual food. It would be hard for
them to learn by themselves. They need someone to guide them, direct them, and clarify
things.” At the same time, “believers should not push them [HBBs] to make any
commitments in the church. Do not ask them to take any responsibilities. You can scare
The participants in the study unanimously agreed on the importance of friendship.
Theirs “is a difficult journey,” so they need true friends. The participants perceived this
as a major lack in the churches they attended. A female interviewee mentioned the need
for people in the church to “call and check up” on HBBs. The partakers in this study
believe that the church needs to be there in times of need. One female participant advised:
When they [HBBs] are new, show them care. They should feel that we are there
for them. Offer help. . . . They need someone to make friendship. They need help,
as they are new to your church. Here [in the US] they will feel abandoned as they
are away from their families.
In line with this thought, another participant commented, “We should become
their family. Pray with them, and pray for them in your personal prayers. They should
feel the worth in following the Lord. Sometimes we can become a stumbling block in
their Christian growth.” The following interviewee’s heart can be seen in his following
statement: “As a six-year-old believer, now, I pray for them, help them, spend time with
them, and advise those new believers.” As a sign of friendship, one participant said, “[We
should] be willing to offer help, which will encourage and strengthen them.”
All participants had mixed feelings toward non-HBBs in their church. “The
moment you go to a church, they will show their love and kindness . . . [but] after some
time, no one cares – no phone calls and no encouragement.” A male HBB said, “[The]
first two weeks [we] got [a] warm welcome and [the] VIP treatment. Then [there was] no
love, no commitment.” One contributor added:
We need to have special get together, where you can sing songs; read God’s
Word; answer questions; share testimonies and good fellowship, weekly, other
than [in a] regular church service. This will build up strong friendships, and
Hindu converts will feel comfortable. . . . My point is that as a mature believer, I
should take the initiative in talking to people, inviting [them], or just letting them
know that I love them.
A different participant shared:
In the Church, the care we give to a Hindu convert is very [little]. Not knowing…
what is happening with the other person is a sad thing. Find out [about] their
spiritual life, emotional, [and] mental life. They [HBBs] are forsaken by parents,
friends, [and] relatives and going through hard times in life. They have no one to
talk [to or] share [with]. They need comfort, especially here [in the US]. During
those times, [the] Church must support them to stand for Jesus. Fellowship is
lacking . . . [between] brothers and sisters in Christ.
One female participant added:
We need to support them [HBBs] in all their circumstances. There are lots of
adversities they face as a human and as a converted believer. Everyday, [they
face] thorns . . . discouragement, suffering, [and] mocking from family and
friends from overseas. They [HBBs] face tough questions in life that they may not
have a proper answer [to].
This participant also advised:
[We need to have] constant interaction, not just on weekends but [also] during the
week. A phone call, email, [or] personal visit will help him [an HBB] . . . to come
out of any inferiority complex. . . . If they stop coming to church, do not ignore
them, make sure that they are okay. Sometimes they need some good
encouragement. They may need your help. They can realize easily when you
don’t care for them. If you really missed them, let them know that. This gives
self-esteem and confidence.
A male participant pointed out:
Lack of interaction [is not a good thing]. . . . Hindu converts should not be left
behind in your conversations and planning. Make them a part of you. That will
strengthen them. Give them opportunities [to serve]. Include and involve them in
the church [activities]. More involvement is needed. Otherwise, they can be
isolated. If they are good at something, give them opportunities. My wife loves to
teach . . . children but never got an opportunity. . . . Caring is always needed
[because] . . . they want somebody to be their family.
One female participant lamented, “I wish I will someday get the care of believers
regularly and freely to worship the Lord.”
One participant experienced empathetic identification:
If they [HBBs] need transportation to church, someone should offer that. I had
this problem when I came to LA. One [family was] gracious [enough] to help me
out. You need to connect them with other Hindu converts who came to Christ
before. The point is to give them enough moral support because [we] need
spiritual fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and friends. Give them unconditional
love as Christ gave.
A male participant expressed his appreciation towards a man of God who was
willing to sacrifice his time:
For me, personally, I did not have much interaction with other believers or Bible
studies. . . . Once I met a pastor from a Hindu background and shared my
problems and he told me that he will visit me, which blessed me. This pastor was
willing to come and spent his time with my family. [He was the] first believer
[who] visited my house. He came and prayed and advised [me] to be with people
who are speaking my language to get along. His purpose was to make it more
comfortable for me. This man of God was willing to sacrifice his time [and]
schedule to come and pray with us. I highly valued that.
One of them shared a practical suggestion. That is, if we know HBBs already, we
should “sit with them in . . . church [and] help them to turn the Bible to the right passage,
so they can follow the teaching of God’s Word. [This is] trying to be at their level.”
Likewise, another believer said that, as Christians, we should “do everything we can.
Talk to everyone, especially if someone is new. Spend time with them instead of
spending time with the people you know already.” Another believer suffered when he
became a new believer and knows the dilemma of a new Hindu convert. He suggests:
When you take them to church, do not push them to sit in the front and you sit in
the back. You should sit with . . . [them] to make . . . [them] comfortable or [to
make them] feel at home. [Help them by] maintaining a good balance in giving
attention to . . . [them] and introducing . . . [them] to others. Do not leave them
alone . . . [while] you interact separately with your friends in . . . church.
It is easy to exclude HBBs, if we are not careful. As a participant stated,
“Sometimes I see cultural differences. . . . People tend to make groups within the church.
This will affect new converts, if we do not make them part of our groups.” According to
another participant, if there are “differences between traditional believers and newly
converted believers, it can hurt the new ones. We should include them in everything [and]
accept them with a heart that we are one in Christ. . . . They should never feel that they
are strangers.” Recognizing HBBs’ need to learn God’s Word, one male participant
commented, “We need to get down to the new believers’ level to make them understand
the things about the Lord. We need to identify with them in regard to that. Church is not
the place to show off anything.”
Another participant recommended avoiding “Christian terminologies” that newly
converted HBBs cannot understand. “Talk to them in a way they can follow you. . . .
Remember, Jesus came down to our level from heaven. . . . [But] do not compromise
your faith and conviction as you are trying to identify with them.”
One female participant described exemplary Christians as follows:
[Those who] are walking in faith and growing in the grace of the Lord, so that I
can grow in my spiritual walk. . . . Being a converted believer, [I] keep these dear
ones as models. It [their example] encourages me a lot as I learn great things from
them. I want to win the race until the end. It is a blessing to walk as the Lord
commands. I hope and pray that everyone will submit their lives to the Lord.
Another female interviewee stated, “We need to live a good exemplary life. . . .
One thing for a Hindu and Hindu convert is our sacrifices. Since our God did [sacrifice],
we need to do the same. If we are committed and have a desire to save others, we need to
sacrifice our time, money, [and] energy.” HBBs are very particular about a believer’s
walk with the Lord. For them, it is important to set a good, exemplary life, especially in
mature believers. They know from life experience how a Hindu evaluates Christians
before coming to the Lord.
One male participant shared, “Show our life as an example. First, others want to
see from our lives. I was moved by my friend’s life.” One female participant remarked
that when Hindus look at “your life and successful Christian life, [it] will attract Hindus
to Jesus.” Similarly, a participant stated that Hindus also observe how Christians react to
situations in life. Hence, we have to be “careful about these things. We are human beings.
Sometimes we may make mistakes, but it can become a stumbling block to them [non-
believers].” Regarding a Christian’s character, one participant remarked, “Based on the
Bible, we should be gentle as a dove and shrewd as a snake. . . . We need to be gentler.”
Accordingly, based on one participant’s evaluation, Hindus learn “90 percent from your
practical life and 10 percent from your words, testimony, [and] preaching.”
Another participant spoke about the importance of a committed walk with the
Lord: “Lead an exemplary life before them [HBBs]. Show respect [and] care for them.
They should never feel abandoned.” Some HBBs perceive traditional believers to be
hypocrites. One male participant claimed, “They say things well but don’t practice it in
their life.” Another commented, “These days, pastors tell great things about themselves,
their ministry, family, [and] how many got saved . . . [in] their preaching. That is
boasting. Through this, you are being a bad witness.” A female participant similarly
stated, “Sometimes I see they are only outwardly Christians. They do not act like Jesus.
They do not follow the Bible. So, sad to say, many of them are hypocrites. Some have
relationships outside of their marriage. Some Christians are not committed. ”
One participant commented, “Believers should not act like perfect [people]. [A]
Christian’s lifestyle and behavior are the biggest stumbling block for other [believers].”
A male participant challenged everyone to “stay in the Word [and the] need [of] a good
prayer life . . . [Also,] we need to act like Christ or imitate Christ.” Another male
participant said, “[It is important to] be more useful to the Lord and to others . . . in
Christ’s family, [because] it’s a big family.”
A Passion for Outreach
All the sixteen participants were concerned about the need for greater
evangelization in Southern California. One said, “We need a passion and real burden to
win souls for Christ.” They felt the urgency but perceived that most Christians in their
churches either have no commitment for it or no understanding of how to reach Hindus
for Jesus. One participant commented on having a true commitment, “[We need to] take
the initiative to share the gospel.” Being a converted believer for quite sometime, one
male participant asserted, “We need the zeal to share the gospel. [We should] not do it
just out of our duty [but] out of love.” These believers wished that every Indian church
had a burning desire and heart to do more to bring the gospel to the Indian community in
Southern California. Several themes emerged in regard to evangelizing Hindus: (1)
making friends, (2) spending time, (3) listening, (4) exercising patience, (5) praying
faithfully, (6) sharing your testimony, and (7) avoiding pitfalls.
Participants had no doubts concerning the value of becoming friends with Hindus
in order to win them to Christ. They see friendship as the key to witnessing in the future
with no reservations. “Without making friendship, how can we share [the gospel]?” A
participant commented that “developing friendships [will] give them a chance to get to
know you.” According to one interviewee, “Hindus won’t be interested to communicate
[about themselves] with a stranger.” Another participant advised, “Make good
friendships, share . . . their joys, happiness, and even sorrows . . . [and] your friendships
will become a blessing to them.” One participant explained the value of utilizing
friendship as follows:
Sometimes we may have the right motive, but that won’t work. We need the right
approach to reach them with the gospel. I have been taking my Hindu friends who
are working with me in Torrance to church. We stay together. I usually do not talk
to them about Christianity. If I compel them, they will stop their friendships, and
they may even cut me off from their life. So, my personal approach is to develop
good friendship[s] and invite them to special functions like Christmas program[s]
or some other important events in the church. . . . My friends come with me to
special functions because they have great confidence in me. . . . We should also
live a life that is attractive and [an] example to them.
Another participant shared, “They [Hindus] will learn the differences between
Hinduism and Christianity through our lives. This will open up questions.” As a result,
“[We can] share the love of Jesus.”
The participants highly recommend that friendship is the secret to outreach
because it is the first step to comfortably sharing about Jesus.
Participants pointed out the need to have an understanding of Hindus in regard to
their family and social settings if believer’s plan is to impact them for Jesus. One
participant shared, “Hindus are very family-oriented, and they like people who lead a
good family life, [have] good behaviors, respect, [and make] sacrifices.” For this reason,
participants believe that the next step in outreach is inviting new converts to your get-
togethers. According to HBBs, Hindus like family gatherings and special functions. This
helps one to spend time with them. One interviewee shared that when you invite them to
special family occasions, “[You are] making them part of your family.”
A participant said the importance of sending invitations to functions is that it
“increases their friendship” and enables them to feel close to you and to your family.
Everyone I interviewed had the same opinion: Spending time helps to identify with
Hindus, and it shows you value them. One participant suggested, “When you invite
Hindus to your family, and if they do not eat meat, you should not eat meat either. . . .
This is a very good approach to get their attention.” Having been through the process of
conversion themselves, these HBBs understood the importance of spending time with
Hindus in order to create more opportunities for evangelism.
All the study participants felt mainstream Christians lacked listening skills. Based
on one participant’s experience, “A listening ability is required. Listen to their problems,
needs, wants and desires and dreams.” A concern that HBBs shared was that believers
need a listening heart in order to understand a Hindu’s unspoken needs. One interviewee
said that believers have a tendency to care for their own needs and forget to keep up with
the Hindus they are trying to reach. To such believers, he says, “They [Hindus] should
not feel neglected. . . . They want someone to listen to them.” Another participant said
that “a proper care is required, so being Christians we have so much to do for others.
Pour out your love, so they can come out of their shell.” One participant shared,
“[Hindus] pretend to be okay outwardly, even if they are not.” He explained:
If we visit a Hindu family, we will see their joy and happiness. [In] one way, they
are telling us that they are well and have no problems. They want us to know that
their god is great, who brought them here [to the US] and . . . [provided] a good
life for their children, good education, and money. Even if they have problems,
they do not want us to know, unless we are so close family and friends.
According to one participant, who understands Hindu natures, “Hindus are
usually shy and timid and reserved. They need time. Give them confidence. Talk to
them.” A female participant said, “We should wait until they feel the need of Jesus.” A
male participant stated, “Patience is required. It took seven months for me to understand
the truth.” Another participant said, “Do not expect miracles overnight. Be patient.” An
interviewee stated, “It is not a project but a lifelong commitment. You cannot win anyone
overnight. You need lots of love and patience.”
One participant said, “Prayer is a great weapon we have as Christians because we
have a prayer-answering God.” A young male participant said, “Pray for them. That is
more powerful. God convinced me of this fact. More than what I can tell or convince
them, God can, and He is able to change them. I believe it was the prayer of [others] that
I came to the Lord.” Another participant advised, “Hindus love prayers, so pray for them
when you get a chance, personally.” A different participant added, “Don’t give up. Trust
in the Lord as you share.” Therefore, HBBs encourage other believers to pray regularly
for the Hindus they are trying to reach.
Sharing Your Testimony
Five participants spoke of the importance of sharing one’s testimony. People love
to hear stories of miraculous events. According to one participant, “Sharing one’s
testimony is very important. This will speak to them in a profound way.” Another female
participant advised, “[Don’t talk] about Christianity. Share your testimony because it is
powerful.” Another woman stated that testimonies help them to “share their problems in
life [and] the hardships they went through because many of the Hindus sell everything
they have to offer money to meet their needs or [to] get peace. So, they will listen to
[your testimony] and see the truth.”
After expressing their heartfelt concerns and advice about reaching out to Hindus,
participants shared several pitfalls to avoid in sharing the gospel. HBBs believe the
following suggestions will help Indian churches avoid the wrong approach as they reach
out to Hindus: First, participants warned Christians not to talk about Christianity to
Hindus because doing so will give the impression that Christians are boasting about their
religion. As mentioned above, a Hindu’s general impression of Christians and their
lifestyles is not positive. “Cheap,” “hypocrites,” “unfaithful,” and “not committed” are
only a few of the terms they apply to them. The participants believe that a “boastful”
approach with Hindus will the close doors to evangelism. Instead, as one of them
suggested, “only introduce . . . our good Lord.” In lieu of talking about Christianity,
another one said, “Only share . . . the truth about Jesus, [and] they will listen.” Another
participant’s advice was to share the “uniqueness of Jesus and the importance of Jesus.
Also, share the love of Jesus through our life.”
One male participant said, “In your conversation give hope to comfort them –
hopeful words and statements they can remember. Also, tell them that our God is able to
help them in a particular situation they are in.” Participants felt that Hindus would
automatically compare their gods with the Christian God when problems arose in their
lives. They would know that only the Christians’ God can help them. One participant
suggested asking them to test our God in their lives. According to these participants,
sharing the greatness of Christ is of the greatest value.
Second, participants shared that the most important thing when sharing the gospel
is to avoid offending Hindus in any respect, especially concerning their religion or gods
(e.g., “their god is bad, not good” or “not a god at all”). Such criticism will be taken
negatively, and as one participant shared, it can lead to arguments and debates. Even the
word “conversion” can cause a lot of commotion. One female participant confided, “They
are against this particular word. It is like fire to them.” A male participant said, “Telling
this [to] their face bluntly is not a good [idea]. We should not [compare] our lives with
theirs or their gods with our God.” One female participant shared a personal example of
One [Caucasian] American pastor came to my house and directly told my husband
without any respect that “your god is not a god.” I think it was rude. But, thank
God, my husband did not say anything because this pastor was a guest . . . [in] our
house. That was a bad experience, so never say [anything] bad about a Hindu god.
That [in] itself will shut the door of evangelism. Then, it affected me as well. I
had to hear his [her husband’s] hurt feelings and . . . [it led to] more restrictions.
So, not just the Indians [Indian Christians]. Everyone should understand that
whenever believers meet an unbeliever from any faith, do not degrade their gods
and religion. Do not offend others feeling’s.
Third, participants counseled, do not try to coerce Hindus into becoming
Christians. “[The more we push,] the more they will move away from you.” One of the
participants sadly shared that somebody forced Christianity on him, and he still feels the
aftereffects of that experience in that he still has bad feelings towards them. Another
interviewee said that due to this compulsion, “we have less converts” in churches.
Participants complained that Christians compel Hindus to convert by stating that “all their
problems will be gone” when they come to Christ.
HBBs recommend that Christians be sensible, respectful, and remember to
magnify the nature and love of Jesus Christ. According to these participants, it is vital
that Christians be transparent and truthful in their witnessing because their listeners will
catch the lies (e.g. “following Jesus is not for wealth . . . that is not the truth”). A male
participant advised that Christians should “never fight [or] argue, [but] instead, we should
be gentle and kind.”
HBBs counsel that every Christian should avoid negative characterization from
their outreach behavior because it does not do any good to Hindus. Instead, it only creates
problems. One male participant made a valuable suggestion to connect with Hindus, “Tell
them, ‘I have Hindu holy books [assuming you do], do you have ours?’” His purpose was
to request a Hindu to read the Bible because “the Word [of God] will talk to them.”
These believers offered the suggestions, above, based on what they experienced,
observed, evaluated, and concluded. Churches need to be sensitive to HBBs’
backgrounds and their special needs when discipling. Sermons preached in worship
services are not enough, nor are Bible studies that cater to those with strong Christian
backgrounds. Serious discipleship of HBBs requires instruction tailored to their needs.
Churches should start developing their discipleship programs by mentoring these
believers. Through these efforts, churches can monitor these believers’ spiritual growth.
We have a responsibility to do this. If believers are willing to live an exemplary life, it
will help a new converted believer as he or she observes mature Christians in their
When it comes to having a passion for evangelism, participants were very
concerned about the lethargy they saw in their churches in regard to reaching Hindus with
the gospel. According to one of their suggestions, if churches are lacking tools to
creatively evangelize, “All the churches should get together and plan and develop a way
to reach Hindus. Church websites should be updated with [the] gospel message.” HBBs
hope that Indian churches in Southern California will unite with the single purpose of
evangelizing to Hindus for Jesus. One of the participants asked a straightforward
question: “[Why is it that] believers do not have that much burden to evangelize?” He
thinks the blame should fall on pastors. “Pastors have a responsibility in teaching them
[believers] the importance of this and sharing this burden with other believers. . . . The
love of God should compel us” to evangelize to Hindus in Southern California. This
participant states that once we are aware of the need, we should be willing to “develop
friendship[s], help them when they are in need, spend time with them, and listen to
them.” In short, display the love of Jesus Christ to share the gospel and nothing else.
In regard to befriending Hindus, they tend to study everything about you and your
family, thoroughly, before they make a commitment to become your friend. Until you
become an insider, they will treat you as a stranger, and you will get nothing but
The need for discipleship, the value of friendship, the importance of
identification, the significance of exemplary living, and having a passion for evangelism
are the concerns that HBBs stressed in reaching Hindus and helping them to grow in the
knowledge of God.
CONCLUSION: DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS, AND
In this chapter, I conclude my research findings as follows: (1) summarize the
theory that emerged from the data analysis, which addressed the central question, “What
are the conversion and post-conversion experiences of HBBs?”; (2) explore answers to
the research sub-questions from chapter one, discussing them in light of biblical teaching
and relevant literature and revealing some implications for church practice; and (3)
present some recommendations for further study.
Emergent Grounded Theory
This study was about the conversion and post-conversion experiences of HBBs
with application to local church ministry in Southern California. The dominant theme to
emerge from the data that was gathered and analyzed indicates that the essence of the
HBBs’ conversion and post-conversion adaptations was “gradual.” HBBs consider their
experiences to be different from those of traditional converts (i.e., those who grew up in
the Church). Furthermore, they feel that their conversion experiences were a unique
process (see Figure 6). Due to this “gradual process,” it takes years for Hindus to come to
faith in Christ, which affects the growth of the Indian churches in Southern California.
Figure 6. The gradual tipping of the scales.
HBBs, who were often devoted practitioners of the Hindu religion, had a negative
perception of Christianity. At the same time, they were dissatisfied with their religious
lives and found certain tenets of the Christian faith attractive. God's intervention or
encounters with engaged Christians brought many of them to a place of openness.
However, the conversion of HBBs is a gradual process, resulting in a strong commitment
to Christ. After conversion, many struggle to understand and live out the implications of
their new faith. HBBs are passionate about evangelism, focused on Christ (eternal things)
rather than on the church they attend, understand the seriousness of following Jesus
Christ, and know why they believe in Jesus.
In this section, I return to the five sub-questions posed in chapter one and provide
answers based on the research findings. At the same time, I support those answers with
God & Believers
passages of scripture and the writings of missiologists, as well as outline the implications
that the data has in regard to ministry among Hindus in Southern California.
What Prompted the Participants to Convert to Christianity? Although they were
committed or dedicated to Hinduism and expected to be blessed by their gods, they began
to see the ineffectiveness of their religion and gods as the “bottom fell out” of various
circumstances in their lives. As they evaluated, compared, and questioned themselves,
they experienced dissatisfaction with their life and gods. They felt abandoned by their
gods most of the time and lacked contentment, which generated a sense of failure. Hindus
who were attracted to Christianity desired to understand more about the God of the
Christians. The love, care, and sacrifices of the Christian God moved them. When HBBs
compared their Hindu gods to Jesus, their evaluation authenticated the greatness of Jesus
and the nothingness of Hindu gods. Hindus love the fact that Jesus offered forgiveness
through His sacrifice on the cross.
Hindus often live their whole lives in fear because trying to satisfy several million
gods is impossible for anyone. They sometimes wonder how their priests can expect their
devotees to please all the gods. One question all participants asked themselves was,
“Why would god ask us the impossible [to please all the gods] to get to heaven, knowing
that we cannot satisfy them?” Participants unanimously agreed that some of the Hindu
gods were cruel and looked frightening. HBBs lived in fear, which caused them to do
things out of obligation instead of a willing or cheerful heart.
In addition to fear, HBBs also lacked peace because they knew that all their good
works would still result in condemnation. No matter how much effort they made, there
was no guarantee that their prayers would be answered or that they would have a better
As Hindus, the participants of this study never experience the true power of
prayer. Outwardly, they did all they could (good works and rituals), but their interactions
with their gods was crippled by doubt. Hindus consult priests about their circumstances
and seek their counsel as to what offerings and sacrifices are required to fix their
situations. For most of this study’s participants, their situations were not resolved, which
caused frustration. When they heard the claims of Christians concerning how powerful
their God was to answer prayers, it aroused their curiosity and planted a seed of faith. As
they experienced the power of prayer, they were amazed to discover that the Christian
God was concerned about the details of their lives.
All participants felt the Hindu religion was a burden, as they were required to do
so much. It was a heavy yoke on them, and they were easily burned out as a result. Jesus
offered the perfect sacrifice on the cross and did not expect anything from those who
followed Him. This sentiment amazes Hindu people.
Participants experienced a suppressive caste system that separated its followers
from one another, fostering shame, hierarchy, division, and disunity among them.
Participants considered this part of the Hindu religion to be brutal and dictatorial. As they
compared this oppressiveness with what Christians experienced, they coveted Christian
I learned from the study’s participants that they lived and acted without hope, yet
they were concerned about their future and heaven. There was no assurance that all the
work they were doing would give them a better life. Their religion and gods were unable
to fulfill this expectation. However, they found hope in Jesus Christ. This life-after-death
is the same for everyone who is in Christ in contrast to the Hindu teachings of re-
These factors prompted the participants to test Christians and gave them a desire
to experience it personally.
How Did Participants Negotiate Their Cultural Identity during Their Conversion
Experiences? Because their decisions were not sudden, but gradual, participants were
able to grasp (or prepare their minds for) the changes they had to make. They
distinguished between Hindu culture and Christian identity.
HBBs had to make difficult choices. They disassociated themselves from most
cultural festivities because of its connection with Hinduism. In chapter two, I mentioned
that Hinduism is “intertwined” with culture (Organ, 1974). Similarly, Beaver (1982)
wrote, “Radhakrishnan, a former president of India, once remarked: ‘Hinduism is more a
culture than a creed’” (p. 170). Hinduism is a way of life that permeates every area of a
person’s existence. For instance, a typical Hindu family has daily morning prayers and
eats food that was dedicated to idols. Therefore, it was a difficult process for Hindus to
convert because accepting Christ felt to them like rejecting their culture.
With the Lord’s help, the participants were able to let go of all the bonds they had
with Hinduism (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually), which even included
family ties. They understood that their new identity was in Christ and their commitment
had to be strong, holy and pure not lukewarm. Some participants expected trials and
mental struggles when they accepted Christ and some did not. Regardless, they were able
to stand firm in Christ.
How Did Participants Cope with Traditional Hindu Cultural Practices after
Conversion? Because everything was tied to family relationships, dealing with Hindu
cultural practices was a difficult, hurtful, and slow process. Study participants were
criticized and mistreated because of their stand. At times, they felt guilty for not being
there for the family and not participating in Hindu cultural practices. Family and friends
would not permit them to withdraw from Hindu traditions with ease. Yet, their
consciences were pricked at the thought of compromising their commitments to Christ.
Once Hindus convert, they understand they should separate themselves from the
world. At the same time, they experience certain voids. To fill these voids, especially
during the time of festivals, I suggest gathering with family and friends to celebrate the
Lord’s goodness. An example of this is similar to the “harvest festivals” that many
churches host on October 31. HBBs can celebrate the Light of the World when Hindus
celebrate the Festival of Lights.
How Did Participants Perceive Christians before and after Their Conversions?
Participants’ perceptions of Christians varied, both before and after their conversions.
First, I address their perceptions as “outsiders,” followed by their perceptions as
Outsider Perspectives. Six of the sixteen participants had a good opinion of
Christians before their conversion. These participants were influenced by Christians,
which ultimately helped them discover more about their newfound faith and
commitments. The remaining ten participants did not have good opinions of Christians.
Two factors, in particular, formed their opinions: (1) the fanatic teachings of Hinduism
and the negative perception their teachers passed on to them, and (2) encounters with
Christians whose lifestyles did not reflect Christ’s teachings. As Adrian Rogers in his
sermon (2011) said, “Lukewarm Christians are the alibi of sinners.”
Insider Perspectives. All sixteen participants shared their observations regarding
believers after they became Christians (being an insider). In this case, ten participants
found that believers were committed in their walks with the Lord. They felt comfortable
with traditional believers and their lifestyles. They were moved by Christians’ love for
the Lord, heart for missionaries around the world, intensive prayer life, and hope of
Christ’s coming. Traditional believers taught them to hold on to the promises of God
without doubting. The remaining six participants had a different perception. Based on
their understanding of the Word of God, they saw Christians leading uncommitted lives
that were attracted to wealth and position, which hindered their involvement in the lives
of those below their financial statuses. These participants concluded that this diminished
love for others was the result of a diminished love for and commitment to the Lord and
What are the participants’ perceptions of their integrations into their local
churches? Participants reported suffering in two ways as they sought to integrate into a
local Indian congregation in Southern California. First and foremost, they expected local
church believers to identify with them in their problems and their lives. When this need
was not recognized, they felt uncomfortable and intimidated. They felt neglected by
traditional believers who seemed to care only for themselves and their families. These
new HBBs longed to see a heart that loved in spite of every kind of difference that
mankind could devise. Second, they were disappointed in their expectations that local
churches would exemplify unity and equality, to which they were highly sensitive due to
experiencing divisiveness in Hinduism (i.e., hierarchy in the caste system).
Links Between Literature and Study Findings
There are certain points that connect the findings of this study with literature.
Those themes are the following: (1) an extended journey, (2) vehicles of communication,
(3) a legal U-turn, (4) and preparation for a new journey.
An Extended Journey
Based on the testimonies of all the sixteen participants, they confirmed that the
conversion process was slow and lengthy. There were several factors involved in the
HBBs’ conversion processes; Rambo (1993) says those are cultural, social, personal and
religious. Both Engle (1990) and Tippet (1969) are in agreement regarding the timeline
for the conversion of HBBs. They have to go through a phase. According to Misaka
(1992), it takes “from a few years to a lifetime” (p. 8) for participants to fully commit to
Christ. Additionally, Kraft’s (1979) point is reflected in this study in that it took a lot of
thinking and processing for the study’s participants to come to their final decisions to
The twelve disciples and Cornelius are the biblical examples of this long process
of conversion. In chapter three, I wrote extensively regarding this. Tippet (1969) added
that we should not rush Hindus into accepting Christ but, instead, give them enough time
to respond (p. 617), which was recommended by all the participants. Although the
contributions of many scholars formed various aspects of this study, I observed from my
findings that the best fit is Steffen’s (1997) “conversion process” chart (p. 259).
Vehicles of Communication
In order for these HBBs to come to faith in Christ, there were both divine and
human factors involved. God speaks through His Word, through His Spirit, and through
the examples of believers who share their life stories in order to bring someone to Christ.
Most of the participants agreed that there was divine involvement in their
conversion experiences. When HBBs heard or read God’s Word, they discovered it was
true and that “His truth is marching on.” The prophet Isaiah prophesied about the power
and reality behind God’s Word when he proclaimed, “My Word be that goes forth from
My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it
shall prosper [in the thing] for which I sent it” (55:11; Heb. 4:12, NKJV). Additionally,
we see the work of the Spirit before one’s conversion. Smith (2000) clarifies regarding
this, “[The Holy Spirit] is the One who convicts him [a person] of his sin, convincing him
that Jesus Christ is the only answer. The Holy Spirit constantly testifies of sin,
righteousness and judgment to come” (p. 32). Even after one’s conversion, the
involvement of the Spirit is very relevant in the life of a believer. Lingenfelter (1992)
points out “the struggle with sin is an ongoing battle for believers (Rom. 7:7-25) and
victory comes only by the gift of the Spirit who provides new life in Christ (Rom. 8:1-4)”
On the other hand, God uses human involvement, as well. Five HBBs were drawn
by the exemplary living of Christians. God’s Word teaches us regarding the importance
of being a light in this dark world. Jesus said in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the
world,” and the Apostle Paul, who was led by the Holy Spirit wrote, “You are light in the
Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). Both Lingenfelter (1998) and Kraft (1979)
agree as to the importance of believers leading a godly life (displaying the fear of God
and walking worthy of the Word). The Apostle Paul challenged believers at Colossae to
“walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing [Him], being fruitful in every good work and
increasing in the knowledge of God” (1:10; Eph. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:12, NKJV).
In addition to the above, several study’s participants and modern scholars agreed
that God uses life-changing testimonies and experiences of other converted believers to
attract non-Christians (Hindus) to the saving knowledge of Christ (Bradt, 1997; Ryken,
1984; Steffen, 1996). In regard to the value of sharing life-changing stories with non-
believers, Ford (1994) explains, “Narrative evangelism is an evangelism for the times we
live in – a postmodern, anti-rational, deconstructed age” (p. 77). Steffen (2005) says that
testimonies or life stories often create “friendship . . . as well as friendship with Jesus
Christ” (p. 144). In general, all believers, including HBBs, must be agents of
transformation (Lingenfelter, 1996) in order to impact lives for Jesus.
A Legal U-Turn
The findings from the interviews with HBBs show that there was a true “turning
away” from idol worship to the worship of the true and living God, from a sinful life to a
life of holiness that the Bible teaches. Gelpi (1998) and Hefner (1993) came to the same
conclusion: that a genuine change occurred in the hearts of HBBs. Jesus’ words are
significant here, as they are recorded in John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,
and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (NKJV). Paul’s distinction of “flesh” verses
“spirit” is recorded in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit
against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things
that you wish” (NKJV).
In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he wrote about the sharp turn the
Thessalonians made regarding their faith in Christ, “You turned to God from idols to
serve the living and true God” (1:9b, NKJV). According to Strauss (1979), the changes
that took place are a “new identity, conduct, forms of subjective experience and grounds
of meaning ascribe to conversion” (p. 163). The turning away is true to what Fleming
(1990) explains in his book, Outward Changes of Inward Realities (p. 74; Smith Jr.,
1999). Even though this is true, their previous faith and its system were hostile to
Christianity, particularly to the changes that came to their loved ones when they accepted
All Hindu converts, like my study’s participants, had to make a huge leap socially
and culturally in order to identify with their newfound faith in Christ and other believers.
Lingenfelter’s (1996) perception of culture as “prisons of disobedience” is very relevant
here because, in this instance, it blinds people from the truth of the gospel. Certain
cultures can be very lawless when they argue and defend tolerance. I believe that it can
sometimes be a prison when one has to submit to its authorities and practices. Before
their conversions, these HBBs faced huge barriers that prevented them from exposing
themselves to the truths of God. Scripture expounds it well: “And you shall know the
truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
One example of a wall to Christianity that was overcome concerns the concept of
being forgiven. Hinduism does not offer forgiveness to its followers; the HBBs were
moved by the message of Christ. Hesselgrave (1978) included the words of Bakht Singh
(a Hindu convert) concerning forgiveness:
I have never yet failed to get a hearing if I talk to them about forgiveness of sins
and peace and rest in your heart. That’s the product that sells well. Soon they ask
me how they can get it. Having won their hearing, I lead them on to the Savior
who alone can meet their deepest needs (p. 169).
Professor Dr. Purushotman Krishna once said, “the Indian is attracted to the
person and teaching of Christ, especially such teachings as those contained in the Sermon
on the Mount” (Hesselgrave, 1978:168-169). The Apostle Paul’s words epitomize this
sentiment. Even though he was a persecutor and murderer, he experienced the love of
Christ and penned these famous lines in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into the
world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Lingenfelter (1996) points out “we must be
delivered from the communities of the flesh into the “community of [the] spirit.” The
community of the spirit is the community of faith formed by those who are followers of
the Lord Jesus Christ” (p. 10). Every participant shared that there was a complete
Preparation for a New Journey
The participants were very keen about learning God’s Word. They desire to be
committed followers in their Christian walk and obedient to the call they received.
Lingenfelter (1992) elucidates the concept as follows:
Believers must commit themselves to a lifelong engagement with the Word of
God and the gospel. It is the living Word, “the words of life” (John 6:63-68),
which free new believers from the bondage of their old worldview and bring them
into a living, vital relationship with Christ. Becoming a disciple is a personal
process. Individuals receive the gospel, respond by the work of the Holy Spirit,
and are nurtured in the Word of Christ so that they become his companions and
followers. The church must be based upon people who are committed to
becoming Christ’s disciples, and who recognize that such a commitment requires
rethinking basic assumptions about life, and interpreting them to form a biblically
based, Christ-centered worldview (p. 211).
Jesus articulated the importance of discipleship in Luke 9:23, “If anyone desires
to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
Swindoll (1990) states:
Deny means “to say no to something” and, in some instances, “to refuse
someone.”. . . the cross was a symbol of death and that Jesus was asking them to
daily put to death their own selfish desires and wills and to live only to
accomplish His will [and] . . . “follow Me” [this gives] . . . the idea of obedience
Additionally, discipleship helps HBBs interact with their mentors in order to
clarify any confusion that might arise from their personal Bible studies or sermons that do
not incline to their knowledge of the Bible. Kraft (1979) explains it in the following
manner: “‘Give me an illustration, ’” our students say in an attempt to get us to bring the
teaching down to earth for them. And when we do, the teaching gets across, because they
are then equipped to start with specifics rather than simply with generalizations” (p. 199).
The goal of discipleship according to Petersen (1993) is “to see the discipled person
rooted and built up in Christ. . . . The truths of Christ need to become active agents within
us, instructing, correcting, and empowering us” (p. 50). Swindoll (1990) describes the
practical effect of discipleship, which helps both the new and the matured believer:
Members of the body of Christ, [are] called to touch each others’ lives and
stimulate mutual growth. This is commonly referred to as discipleship, a term
used to describe the process of building up one another in the faith. When kept in
proper balance, it can be extremely effective in helping others grow toward
maturity. (p. introduction)
Petersen’s (1993) and Swindoll’s (1990) words are the expectation of every
Hindu convert and must be the goal of every Indian church. God wants us not only to
lead people to Christ but also to build them up so they can lead others to Christ, which is
the result of discipleship.
Implications for Churches
This study suggests some implications for Indian believers in Southern California
who are trying to reach Hindus. The results of interviewing sixteen HBBs show several
First, the Church (see Appendix D) should depend on the Holy Spirit to be our
unseen help. God can soften hearts and clear pre-occupied mindsets to accept the truths
of the Bible. As scripture says, our efforts are “not by might nor by power, but by My
Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 4:6, NKJV). Let us look at some ways that we can
connect with Hindus as individuals and some helpful efforts that Indian churches can
make to develop new-born believers into mature Christians.
Pregnancy to Rebirth
It is a miraculous process that takes some cells and creates a child in a womb.
Although it may not seem like a miracle for a Hindu to come to Christ, it is. It takes time
and effort to give birth to an HBB. The church plays a vital role in the development of
this spiritual fetus.
Pray Passionately. If the church really wants to see Hindus come to Christ, it
needs to begin with prayer. Most importantly, the task of reaching out to Hindus in
Southern California should begin with prayer. In Jeremiah 33:3, we read, “Call to Me,
and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know”
(NKJV). This is one of the promises of God that gives great assurance for those who
believe, yet this concept is missing among Hindus. Many Hindus like it when we pray
with them to Jesus, especially for their needs and concerns. Hindus evaluate truth based
on experiences. When they see tangible results through prayer or experience a dream or
vision, Hindus are more likely to come to Christ.
Love by Grace Alone. Hinduism stresses works to try to get to heaven. There is
an example of this in Acts 15:1: A certain men came down from Judea and taught the
believers that they could not be saved unless they are circumcised according to the
manner prescribed by Moses. However, Paul declared the truth in Ephesians 2:8-9
(NKJV), “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; [it
is] the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” The church should focus on
sharing that salvation is through Christ alone. He sacrificed His life for all who sinned.
His love is so deep that it changes people every day. “Greater love has no one than this,
than to lay down one's life for his friends” (John 15:13, NKJV). Jesus came to “give His
life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28, NKJV). We must ponder with Hindus the sacrifices
Jesus made on the cross for us. Elvina M. Hall (c. 1865) wrote a hymn based on 1
Corinthians 6:19-20 (NKJV): “Jesus paid it all,/All to Him I owe;/Sin had left a crimson
stain,/He washed it white as snow.” In Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV), Jesus said: “Come to
Me, all [you] who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke
upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for
your souls. For My yoke [is] easy and My burden is light.” A believer has the assurance
of going to heaven, because of the grace of the living God. The love and grace of the
living God are incomparable and should be shared.
Be a Genuine Example of God’s Love. The Church needs to be a witness of
God’s love before others, not just in words but in deeds. Horizontal love and commitment
begin only when believers maintain their vertical relationships with God. It was a sad
experience for several HBBs to come across Christians who were not living lives that
were well-pleasing to the Lord. Christ occupies us, and His presence resides in the lives
of believers. Jesus becomes the Lord of our lives when we accept Him. God's will, not
our own, should always be seen. When I interviewed HBBs, I noticed Christ-like
behavior and the fullness of the Spirit in their words and actions. There was kindness in
their interactions with both their family members and with me.
A person who does not walk with Christ is a bad example for Him. Behaviors
such as pride, gossip, not forgiving, and promoting disunity cause a serious
misrepresentation of Christianity. There are several passages that speak to Christians in
regard to their moral lives. The Apostle Paul confronted believers through Colossians
3:1-10 (see Eph. 4:22, 24):
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where
Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on
things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication,
uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of
these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which
you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are
to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your
mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his
deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to
the image of Him who created him (NKJV).
The application of this passage should be seen in every area of a believer’s life. If
Christ lives in us, then according to Matthew 6:33, seeking God’s kingdom is of primary
importance. We need to be an example for others in order to impact God’s kingdom. The
body of Christ should function in oneness as it states in Ephesians 4:4-6, “[There is] one
body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one
faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in
you all” (NKJV).
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians regarding this phenomenon, saying,
“There should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care
for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one
member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:25-26, NKJV)).
When there is a disparity shown among believers, a non-believer will immediately
feel it. The unity and equality that Christ offered was one of the factors that motivated the
HBBs to become Christians. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor
Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one
in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, NKJV)). There are no distinctions in the body of Christ,
which should be maintained by all. Apostle Paul challenged Timothy with the following
words, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in
conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12, NKJV)).
Stress Hope. There is no certainty of a better life within Hinduism. It is the
Church’s responsibility to stress the hope that is offered in Jesus Christ. Human beings
always long for hope because it is necessary for survival. People suffer when they have
no hope, which makes them unhappy. However, few acknowledge the availability of
hope in Christ with an open mind. Hope in Christ allows believers to stay strong. Without
hope, it is hard to press on. Edward Mote (c.1834) penned these words, “My hope is built
on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Jesus gives eternal hope, “not as
the world gives.” In 1 Corinthians 15:19a, Paul wrote, “In this life only we have hope in
Christ” (NKJV). This hope in Christ guides us through all life’s problems. The blessed
hope of believers is to long for the glorious appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess.
4:13ff, NKJV). “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured
out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5 NKJV).
Emphasize Inner Peace. Most Hindus do not realize they lack inner peace, but
they are no different from all who do not know Christ. The Bible gives eternal peace and
it is actively seen in the lives of God’s people. When you live in fear, you lack peace. I
have seen many repulsive looking idols and masks on temple buildings and homes whose
purpose is to scare away evil spirits and protect people from getting the evil eye.
However, the Bible says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear,
because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1
John 4:18, NKJV). The Apostle Paul declares in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given
us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV). The God of
the Bible offers peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7, NKJV). Nevertheless,
certain types of fear can work to a Christian’s advantage. As one male participant said,
his persecutors “were fearful of Jesus.” This is good fear: the fear of God.
Instead of dwelling on fear, which is the problem of HBBs, we need to highlight
the solution, which can only be found in Jesus Christ.
Be a Friend. The Church can make excuses and say that we have busy lives, but
that is what Satan wants. We need to make an effort to build relationships with Hindus by
spending time with them, listening to them, and waiting patiently for them to come to
Christ. This can only be done by going the extra mile to be their true friends, perhaps by
listening to them; learning about their families, their past school lives, their long-term
goals, their careers, their interests, their beliefs, and their plans for the future; greeting
them every time you see them; and inquiring after their well-being and that of their
family. Within reason, we should also be willing to help them at home or at work.
Relationships can also be built through activities such as going on picnics or attending
Christian concerts or sporting events, all the while presenting ourselves as living
testimonies of God’s love, peace, and joy in our daily lives, despite situations that arise.
Hindus are Relationship-oriented People. For example, one way to connect
with them is to invite them to a restaurant or to your home for a family dinner. I believe
this will help them to understand the family unity and happiness that only God can give.
More over that, good friendships with Hindus can begin slowly. They give vital
importance to family and culture, and we should utilize that opportunity. We should
listen to their joys, sorrows, and longings. They should feel through our conversations
and interactions that we are trustworthy. Once they have confidence in us, we can slowly
begin to share our faith. Another way to build relationships is to share our testimonies in
such a way that they convey our everyday struggles, sinful paths, and the ordinary,
relatable aspects of our lives. Churches can help by connecting Hindus with HBBs.
Unify Evangelistic Efforts. Individual attempts are commendable but a collective
approach that puts aside all denominational differences will be more effective for the
kingdom of God. This is one of the desires that the HBBs mentioned. In order to do that,
I believe the churches must be willing to make sacrifices and contribute all their
resources. To reach that point, the pastors and leaders of these churches should organize
meetings to plan, prepare, and then pray (announce fasting and prayer in their churches)
for a massive outreach and revival in Southern California. Hindus are more devoted to
Hinduism when they are in a foreign country. Therefore, much more dedication and
commitment are required on the part of Indian believers (Jesus said, “You are the light of
the world” John 5:14, NKJV)) to save souls from hell’s eternal fire (“save with fear,
pulling them out of the fire” Jude 1:23, NKJV)).
Develop Unique Strategies. The leaders of the Indian churches should evaluate
their present strategies based on the participants’ recommendations for effectively
communicating the love of Christ. Therefore, Indian churches should develop their own
unique methods or “ethnotheology” (Kraft, 1979, p. 292), based on their cultural
contexts. An example of this would be to hold a concert with Christian Bhajan music
(“Yeshu Satsang”). This would help Hindus to feel comfortable while seeds are being
God works through every strategy that we use. Therefore, we must rely on Him
alone. It must also be understood that evangelism is His work and, above everything, He
uses His words to penetrate people’s hearts and transform their lives. Jesus made a
profound statement regarding the building of His church, “I will build my Church and the
gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18, NKJV).
Infancy to Adulthood
Once a baby is born, the real work begins. As I evaluated the outward changes of
the HBBs’ conversion experiences, I was challenged. Their convictions in what they
believed had been scrutinized so much that they stood on solid ground when they were
questioned. They were not like the “chaff” the wind blows away. All of them could say,
“The world behind me, the cross before me,/No turning back, no turning back” (Sundar
Singh, no date). Their decisions were strong enough to refuse certain practices, rituals,
and beliefs – such as idol worship – that were not in line with the Word of God. For
example, once they realized the worthlessness of their idols, many of them said they
burned them, without hesitation. As I visited these participants’ homes, I did not see any
visible signs that pertained to their old religious connections. They were courageous in
their decision-making. However, they still needed assistance from the Church.
Be There to Support. The Church should help to strengthen new HBBs as they
face transitional difficulties. Pray for them, warn them, and encourage them during this
time. Dealing with the Hindu cultural practices after conversion was not an easy
transition for these participants. Family relationships were strained. Some converts
struggled with this for decades. This was due to family members who lived with them or
expected them to visit or call during certain times of the year when there was a festival or
celebration, similar to the practice of calling family during Christmastime. Some HBBs
were cut off from all family members, and it was painful for the participants to remember
this period of excommunication. Being separated from the people they loved was a
difficult experience, but they say the struggle was incomparable to the privilege of being
a child of Christ. This is where their spiritual family filled their relational void and
Build a Strong Foundation. HBBs must only be transformed to Christ, not to
what they see and learn from other Christians and their practices. For that, they must be
grounded in the Word of God, develop a prayer life, attend church to be in fellowship
with other believers, and be an example to other believers by obedience to God’s Word.
The Church should assist in their understanding of the Word of God, which will give
them specific insights and illuminations into their unique situations in life. God’s Word
will become “a lamp to their feet and a light to their paths” (Ps. 119:105, NKJV). Mature
Christians must become facilitators, not stumbling blocks, in the walk of newly converted
HBBs (1 Cor. 2:15).
When believers are in the Word, their lives will be transformed through the power
of God’s Word. The following Scripture elucidates that “All Scripture . . . [is] profitable
for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of
God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17,
NKJV). Their dependence should be on the Word of God. In Psalm 119:89 (NKJV), we
learn that the promises of God are established in heaven: “Forever, O Lord, Your word is
settled in heaven” (Luke 21:33; 2 Cor. 1:20). Paul describes the validity of God’s
promises based on who God is. Accordingly, he wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “All the
promises of God in Him [are] Yes, and in Him Amen” (NKJV). Reading, meditating and
memorizing scripture will enable HBBs to use the sword of the Spirit in battle.
In addition to studying the Bible, developing a strong prayer life is important.
Prayer to an idol (i.e., something physical to look at) that is done in a certain location is
different from being able to pray anywhere at any time.
Building strong friendships with other believer’s who can hold them accountable
is crucial in strengthening HBBs. This will create a desire in new believers to come to
church and be in fellowship with the brethren. Participants shared that they were taught
by matured believers not to give up when problems arise. These HBBs faced and suffered
many difficulties and troubles, and each one handled it differently, but there were also
many positive changes (i.e., in “lifestyle,” friendship and fellowship with the world, etc.)
that occurred when they decided to place their trust in Jesus.
The Church’s responsibility is demanding, but these are the things we have been
called to do according to Matthew 28:19-20.
Recommendations for Further Research
This study focused on the conversion and post-conversion experiences of HBBs.
Nevertheless, certain themes that emerged from this research were not fully developed
and may be utilized for further study.
First, insights gathered from Indian pastors on developing partnerships for the
evangelization of Hindus in California could be very helpful. Such a study should
include, (1) why the partnership between churches and pastors is important, (2) what the
difficulties are that prevent this, (3) how they can overcome them, and (4) the benefits of
doing so. Such a study would help interested parties discover their passions and creative
approaches to reaching Hindus with the gospel. It would challenge, convince, and
encourage everyone equally.
Second, a study could be conducted on practicing Hindus’ perceptions of Indian
Christians in the Southern California area. Such a study would grant Christians a better
understanding of their Hindu neighbors, allowing for more effective dialoguing and
enabling them to develop better evangelistic methods. Another concentration would be to
do a comparative study of Hindus living in Southern California verses Hindus living in
Third, a study similar to the one I conducted could be carried out among Sikh
background believers. This study may need to be broadened to include the whole of
California in order to find enough participants. In addition to informing outreach efforts,
such a study would allow missiologists to compare and contrast the experiences of Sikh
back ground believers with HBBs.
Fourth, one can study the implications of the Hindu sacred texts and its literary
genres to develop ways to evangelize and disciple. Instead of using what is familiar to
Christians, identify what is very familiar to Hindus and create a form of evangelism
based on something recognizable.
Among the things I gained from conducting these interviews was a greater respect
and appreciation for HBBs. It is challenging to see the HBBs’ love for their Savior. In
spite of all the pressures and trials, they stand firm. Along with these songwriters (c. 2001
Keith Getty and Stuart Townend HBBs can say (Phil. 3:7-11):
In Christ alone my hope is found;/He is my light, my strength, my song;/This
cornerstone, this solid ground,/Firm through the fiercest drought and storm./What
heights of love, what depths of peace,/When fears are stilled, when strivings
cease!/My comforter, my all in all –/Here in the love of Christ I stand.
Alexander, George P. (1997). New Americans: The progress of Asian Indians in America.
Cypress, CA: P&P Enterprises.
Alexander, George P. (2004). New Americans: The progress of Asian Indians in America.
Chandigarh, India: Azad Hind Press.
Arnold, Clinton E. (2002). Zondervan illustrated Bible backgrounds commentary:
Ephesians Philippians Colossians Philemon. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Barclay, William. (1975). The gospel of John (Vol. 1). Philadelphia, PA: The
Bebbington, David W. (1992). Evangelicalism in modern Britain: A history from the
1730s to the 1980s. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
Berg, Bruce L. (2004). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences. Boston,
MA: Pearson Education.
Bernard, Harvey R. (2000). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative
approaches. Thousand Oaks: CA: Sage.
Beaver, Robert P. (1982). Eerdman’s handbook to the world religions. Grand Rapids:
MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans.
Bharati, Dayanad. (2005). Understanding Hinduism. New Delhi, India: Munshiram
Bickman, Leonard, & Rog, Debra J. (1998). Handbook of applied social research
methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Bogdan, Robert C., & Biklen, Sari K. (1998). Qualitative research for education: An
introduction to theory and methods (3rd ed). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and
Bodgan, Robert, & Taylor, Steven J. (1975). Introduction to qualitative research
methods: A phenomenological approach to the social sciences. New York, NY: A
Borg, Walter R., & Gall, Joyce P., & Gall, Meredith D. (1993). Applying educational
research: A practical guide (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Longman.
Bradt, Kevin M. (1997). Story as a way of knowing. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward.
Bryant, M. Darrel, & Lamb, Christopher. (1999). Religious conversion: Contemporary
practices and controversies. London, England: Cassell.
Brown, Colin. (1996). The new international dictionary of New Testament theology.
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Buckser, Andrew & Glazier, Stephen D. (2003). The Anthropology of religious
conversion. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefiel.
Brusco, Elizabeth E. (1995). The Reformation of Machismo: Evangelical conversion and
gender in Colombia. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Butler, Trent C. (editor). (2003). Holman’s illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN:
Carr, Rachel E. (1972). Yoga for all ages. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Chakravarti, Sitansu S. (1991). Hinduism, a way of life. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass.
Charmaz, Kathy. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through
qualitative analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Creswell, John W. (1994). Research design: qualitative & quantitative approaches.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Creswell, John W. (2002). Educational research: planning, conducting, and evaluating
quantitative and qualitative research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Creswell, John W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among
ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Creswell, John W. (2009). Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods
approaches. (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Dallapiccola, Anna L. (2003). Hindu myths. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Danker, Frederick W. (2000). A greek-english lexicon of the New Testament and other
early Christian literature (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Der Veer, Peter V. (1996). Conversion to modernities: The globalization of Christianity.
New York, NY: Routledge.
Embree, Ainslie T. (1966). The hindu tradition. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
Elgood, Heather. (1999). Hinduism and the religious arts. London, England: Cassell.
Engel, James F. (April 1990). The road to conversion: The latest research insights in
Evangelical Missions Quarterly 26(2): 184-192.
Engel, James F., & Norton, H. Wilbert. (1975). What’s gone wrong with the harvest: A
communication strategy for the Church and world evangelization. Grand Rapids,
Fisher, Mary P. (2002). Living religions (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Fleming, Don. (1990). Bible knowledge dictionary. Brisbane, Australia: Pilot Books.
Ford, Leighton. (1994). The power of story: Rediscovering the oldest, most natural way
to reach people for Christ. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
Frykenberg, Robert E. (2003). Christians and missionaries in India: Cross-cultural
communication since 1500. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans.
Gelpi, Donald L. (1998). The conversion experience: A reflective process for RCIA
participants and others. New York, NY: Paulist Press.
Getty, Keith & Townend, Stuart (2001). Hymn: In Christ alone. Brentwood, TN:
Glaser, Barney G., & Strauss, Anselm L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory:
Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago, IL: Aldine.
Goulding, Christina. (2002). Grounded theory: A practical guide for management,
business and market researchers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Goodrick, Edward W., & Kohlenberger lll, Jojn R. (1999). Zondervan exhaustive
concordance. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Griswold, Hervey D. (1934). Insights into modern hinduism. New York, NY: H. Holt &
Hall, Elvina. M. (1865). Hymn: Jesus paid it all. Roswell, GA: Public Domain.
Hefner, Robert W. (1993). Conversion to Christianity: Historical and anthropological
perspectives on a great transformation. Berkeley, CA: University of California
Heibert, Paul G. (1994). Anthropological reflections on missiological issues. Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Hesselgrave, David J. (1978). Communicating Christ cross-culturally. Grand Rapids, MI:
Hesselgrave, David J. (1991). Communicating Christ cross-culturally: An introduction to
missionary communication. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Hurlbut, Jesse L. (1933). The story of the Christian church. Toronto, Canada: The John
Holte, James C. (1992). The conversion experience in America: a sourcebook on
religious conversion autobiography. New York, NY: Greenwood Press.
Ilaiah, Kancha. (1996). Why I am not a hindu: A sudra critique of hindutva, philosophy,
culture, and political economy. Bombay: Distributed by Bhatkal Books
James, William. (1902). Varieties of religious experience: A study in human nature.
London, England: Longmans, Green, And Co.
Kamat, Vikas. (2008). Kamat’s potpourri: The hindu deities.
http://www.kamat.com/indica/faiths/gods/list.htm. Retrieved on March 9, 2009.
Kerr, Hugh T., & Mulder, John M. (1983). Conversions: The Christian experience.
Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.
Kim, Sebastian C. (2003). In Search of identity: Debates on religious conversion in
India. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.
Kinsley, David R. (1982). Hinduism, a cultural perspective. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Kitano, Harry H. L., & Daniels, Roger. (1988). Asian Americans: Emerging minorities.
Englewood, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Kittel, Gerhard. (1967). Theological dictionary of the new testament. Vol. IV. Grand
Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans.
Koss-Chioino, Joan D., & Hefner, Philip. (2006). Spiritual transformation and healing:
Anthropological, theological, neuroscientific, and clinical perspectives. Lanham,
MD: Altamira Press.
Kraft, Charles. H. (1979). Christianity in culture: A study in dynamic biblical
theologizing in cross-cultural perspective. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
Kraft, Charles. H. (2002). Confronting powerless Christianity: evangelicals and the
missing dimension. Grand Rapids, MI: Choose Books.
Krathwohl, David R. (1998). Methods of educational & social science research: An
integrated approach. New York, NY: Longman.
Kuiper, Barend K. (1964). The Church in history. Grand Rapids, MI: William B.
Latourette, Kenneth S. (1975). A history of Christianity: 1 to A.D. 1500. Vol.1. New
York, NY: Harper & Row.
Latourette, Kenneth S. (1975). A history of Christianity: Reformation to the present.
vol.2. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
Leon-Dufour, Xavier. (1980). Dictionary of the new testament. San Francisco, CA:
Harper & Row.
Lewis, Donald M. (2004). Christianity reborn: The global expansion of evangelicalism in
the twentieth century. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.
Lingenfelter, Sherwood. (1992). Transforming culture: A challenge for Christian
mission. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
Lingenfelter, Sherwood. (1996). Agents of transformation: A guide for effective cross-
cultural ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Lingenfelter, Sherwood. (1998). Transforming culture: A challenge for Christian
mission. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
MacArthur, John. (1986). The MacArthur New Testament commentary: Ephesians.
Chicago, IL: Moody Bible Institute.
MacArthur, John. (1997). The MacArthur New Testament commentary: Acts1-12.
Chicago, IL: The Moody Bible Institute.
Machado, Felix A. (1985). Jnanesvar’s theology of the three paths to liberation (bhakti,
mysticism, hinduism, dialogue, India). Doctor of Philosophy Dissertation. New
York, NY: Fordham University.
Matus, Thomas. (1984). Yoga and the Jesus prayer tradition-an experiment in faith.
Ramsey, NJ: Paulist Press.
Maxwell, Joseph. A. (1996). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
McDowell, Josh, & Stewart, Don. (1982). Understanding non-Christian religions. San
Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life.
McNeill, William H., & Sedlar, Jean W. (eds). (1969). Classical India: Readings in
world history. Vol. 4. London, England: Oxford University Press.
Merriam-Webster. (2003). Collegiate dictionary. 11th ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-
Miles, Mathew B., & Huberman, A. Michael. (1994). Qualitative data analysis. 2nd ed.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Min, Pyong G. (1995). Asian Americans: contemporary trends and issues. Thousand
Oaks, CA: Sage.
Misaka, Brian A. (1992). Religious conversion: A review of the literature. Doctor of
Psychology Dissertation. La Mirada, CA: Biola University.
Mittal, Sushil, & Thursby, Gene, eds. (2004). The hindu world. New York, NY:
Mote, Edward. (1834). Hymn: The solid rock. Roswell, GA: Public Domain.
Neill, Stephen. (1964). A history of Christian missions. London, England: Penguin
Oddie, Geoffrey A. (1997). Religious conversion movements in south Asia. Surrey,
England: Curzon Press.
O’Flaherty, Wendy D. (1980). Karma and rebirth in classical Indian traditions. Berkley,
CA: University of California Press.
Organ, Troy W. (1974). Hinduism: its historical development. Woodbury, NY: Barron's
Organ, Troy W. (1970). The hindu quest for the perfection of man. Athens, OH: Ohio
Pavlik, Sarah E. (2001). Is yoga really bad? the truth behind this exercise sensation.
September/October 2001, Vol. 23, No. 5. Retrieved November 8, 2007, from
http://www.christianitytoday.com/tcw/2001/sepoct/3. 50. html?start=2.
Peace, Richard V. (1999). Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the twelve. Grand
Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.
Peake, A. S., & Parsons, R. G. (1926). An outline of Christianity: The story of our
civilization. Vol. 5. London: The Waverley Book.
Petersen, Jim. (1993). Lifestyle discipleship: The challenge of following Jesus in today’s
world. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress.
Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. (1965). The hindu view of life. New York, NY: Macmillan.
Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. (1966). Indian philosophy. London, England: George Allen &
Radmacher, Earl D. (2007). NKJV study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Rambo, Lewis R. (1993). Understanding religious conversion. New Haven, CT: Yale
Rambo, Lewis R. (1999). Theories of conversion: Understanding and interpreting
religious change. Social Compass 46: 259-271.
Renou, Louis. (1963). Hinduism. New York, NY: Washington Square Press.
Richard, H. L. (2007). Hinduism: a brief look at the theology, scriptures, and social
system, with comments on the gospel. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.
Robinson, Rowena, & Clarke, Sathianathan. (2003). Religious conversion in India:
Modes, motivations and meanings. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.
Ross, Nancy. W. (1966). Three ways of Asian wisdom: Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen and
their significance for the west. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Russell, Eddie. (April 2004). Blaze magazine. Retrieved March 17, 2009, from
Ryken, Leland. (1984). How to read the Bible as literature. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Sargant, William W. (1961). Battle for the mind: A physiology of conversion and brain-
washing. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books.
Schwartz, Arthur J. (2000). The nature of spiritual transformation: A review of the
literature (Metanexus Institute). Retrieved on March 13, 2009 from
Scott, Brad. (2001). Yoga: exercise or religion? In Watchman Expositor, 18(2), Retrieved
March 8, 2009, from http://www.apologeticsindex.org/y06.html.
Sen, Kshiti M. (1961). Hinduism: the world’s oldest faith. Baltimore, MD: Penguin
Sharma, Bal K. (1999). The origin of caste system in Hinduism and its relevance in the
present context. New Delhi, India & Nepal: Indian Society for Promoting
Christian Knowledge & Samdan.
Singh, Sadhu. S. (n.d). Song: I have decided to follow Jesus. Roswell, GA: Public
Smith, Chuck. (2000) Calvary chapel distinctives. Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today.
Smith Jr., D. Moody. (1999). Abingdon new testament commentaries: John. Nashville,
TN: Abingdon Press.
Starcher, Richard L. (2010). Africans in pursuit of a theological doctorate: Doctoral
program design in a non-Western context. La Vergne, TN: LAP Lambert
Steffen, Tom A. (1993). Passing the baton: Church planting that empowers. La Habra,
CA: Center for Organizational & Ministry Development.
Steffen, Tom A. (1996). Reconnecting God’s story to ministry: Crosscultural storytelling
at home and abroad. La Habra, CA: Center for Organizational & Ministry
Steffen, Tom A. (2005). Reconnecting God’s story to ministry: Crosscultural storytelling
at home and abroad. Waynesboro, GA: Authentic Media.
Steffen, Tom A. (1997). Passing the baton: Church planting that empowers. La Habra,
CA: Center for Organizational & Ministry Development.
Stott, John R. W. (1990). The message of Acts: To the ends of the earth. Leicester,
England: InterVarsity Press.
Strauss, Anselm, & Corbin, Juliet. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded
theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Strauss, Anselm, & Corbin, Juliet. (1997). Grounded theory in practice. Thousand Oaks,
Strauss, Anselm, & Corbin, Juliet. (1998). Basic Qualitative Research: Techniques and
procedures for developing grounded theory, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Strauss, Roger. (1979). Religious conversion as a personal and collective
accomplishment. Sociological Analysis, 40(2), pp.158-165.
Swindoll, Charles. (1990). Discipleship: Ministry up close and personal. Fullerton, CA:
Insight For Living.
Taylor, Steven J., & Bodgan, Robert. (1998). Introduction to qualitative research
methods: A guidebook and resource 3rd ed. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Thayer, Joseph H. (1996). Thayer’s greek-english lexicon of the New Testament.
Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
Tippet, Allen R. (1969). Verdict theology in missionary theory. Lincoln, IL: Lincoln
Christian College Press.
Tippet, Allen R. (1970). Church growth and the word of God: The biblical basis of the
Church growth viewpoint. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.
U.S. Census Bureau. (census 2000). US population. Summary file 1, Matrices P1, P3, P4,
P8, P9, P12, P13, P,17, P18, P19, P20, P23, P27, P28, P33, PCT5, PCT8, PCT11,
PCT15, H1, H3, H4, H5, H11, and H12. Retrieved on 4/1/2009 from
U.S. Census Bureau. (census 2000) California population. Summary file 1, Matrices
PCT4, PCT5, PCT6, PCT7, PCT8, PCT9, and PCT10. Retrieved on 4/1/2009
U.S. Census Bureau. (census 2000). Los Angeles county population. Summary file 1,
Matrices P3, P4, PCT4, PCT5, PCT8, and PCT11. Retrieved on 4/1/2009 from
Viswanathan, Edakkandiyil. (1992). Am I a Hindu: The Hinduism primer. San Francisco,
CA: Halo Books.
Wilkins, William J. (1975). Modern hinduism: An account of the religion and life of the
hindus in northern India. London, England: Curzon Press.
Yardley, Lucy. (2003). Qualitative research in psychology: Expanding perspectives in
methodology and design. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Zacharias, Ravi, & Geisler, Norman, eds. (2003). Who made God? And answers to over
100 other tough questions of faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Zaehner, Robert C. (1966). Hinduism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
INFORMED CONSENT FORM
Participant's name: _______________________________________________
I authorize Asher Mathew of Cook School of Intercultural Studies, Biola
University, La Mirada, California, to gather information from me on the topic of my
conversion and post conversion experiences from my Hindu background.
I understand that the general purposes of the research are to find the common
experiences of the Hindu converts and with a view to help churches to be more effective
in evangelism and discipleship, that I will be asked to (e.g., answering questionnaires,
interviewing), and that the approximate total time of my involvement will be 2 hours.
I am aware that I may choose not to answer any questions that I find embarrassing
I understand that my participation is voluntary and that I may refuse to participate
or discontinue my participation at any time without penalty or loss of benefits to which I
am otherwise entitled.
I understand that if, after my participation, I experience any undue anxiety or
stress or have questions about the research or my rights as a participant, that may have
been provoked by the experience, Asher Mathew will be available for consultation, and
will also be available to provide direction regarding medical assistance in the unlikely
event of physical injury incurred during participation in the research.
Confidentiality of research results will be maintained by the researcher. My
individual results will not be released without my written consent. The potential benefits
of the study are: This study aims to provide practical information for HIndu-background
people who have converted to Christianity in Southern California. This research may also
benefit non-Hindu converts to Christianity, and those churches who evangelize and
disciple them. The study will serve as a supplementary guide to these new believers on
the challenges they may face, based on what fellow believers previous to them went
through when they became Christians.
______________________________ ______________ ______________
Signature Date Starting Time
1. How dedicated were you to Hinduism prior to your conversion?
2. What drew you to Christ?
3. Did you have any battles you faced while you were deciding to convert?
4. What were the challenges you faced prior to choosing to become a Christian?
5. What was the main thing that made you decide to become a Christian?
6. What difficulties did you face initially face after you decided to become a Christian?
7. What part did cultural pressure play in your conversion experience?
8. How do you deal with the religious connotation of your name?
9. How do you cope with Hindu cultural practices that you use to partake in or are to
partake in? (Hindu birth and death rites, yoga)
10. What do you do during religious holidays you use to celebrate?
11. How did you decide which traditions to retain or reject?
12. How did you look at Christians before and after your conversion?
13. What recommendations do you have for believer’s who are trying to reach Hindu’s?
What do you think would be helpful for new Hindu converts that is lacking in the church?
15. What is the difference in opinion you have towards the local church as a new believer
and now as a matured believer?
HINDU CENTERS AND TEMPLES IN CALIFORNAIA
1. Sanatan Dharma Temple, 15311 Pioneer Blvd, Norwalk, CA 90650 (562) 484-0822.
2. Shree Swaminarayan Temple, 15213 Pioneer Blvd, Norwalk, CA 90650 (562) 864-
3. Vedanta Society of Southern California, 1946 Vedanta Place, Hollywood, California
90068 (213) 465-7114.
4. International Society for Krishna Consciousness of Los Angeles, 3764 Watseka Ave
#3, Los Angeles - (310) 836-2676.
5. Ma Durga Temple, 2007 East Foothill Boulevard, Pasadena - (626) 578-9009.
6. Malibu Hindu Temple, 1600 Las Virgenes Canyon Road, Calabasas - (818) 880-
7. Vedanta Society of Southern California, 927 Ladera Lane, Santa Barbara, California
933108 (805) 969-2903.
8. Vedanta Society of Berkley, 2455 Bowditch Street, Berkley, California 94704 (415)
9. Vedanta Society of Sacramento, 1337 Mission Avenue, Carmichael, California
95608 (916) 489-5137
10. Vedanta Society of Northern California, 2323 Vallejo Street, San Francisco,
California 94123 (415) 922-2323
INDIAN CHURCHES AND FELLOWSHIPS IN SOUTHERN
CHURCH PASTOR LOCATION PHONE
Christian Family F’ship Int’l
Manuel Fernando Lake Forest 949-768-4665
East-West Community Church
N. J. Gnaniah Anaheim 714-828-3181
Shalom United Methodist Ch.
Shantilal Gohil Orange 562-468-1121
Sudharshan Nunna Norwalk 805-404-0597
India Christian Assembly
Alexander John Norwalk 562-824-0137
Church of India
Parimal Roy Alhambra 626-793-7954
Pankaj Macwan Claremont 626-252-0275
Assembly of Believers Church
Pramesh Singh Tarzana 818-457-2507
India Pentecostal Church
K.M. Varghese Norwalk 562-929-7215
Hemant Kumar Cypress 714-356-0402
Nitin Prasad Culver City 310-738-1464
Rock of the Nations
Siyon House of Prayer
CHURCH PASTOR LOCATION PHONE
United Church of India
Archana Carey Anaheim 626-286-2276
United Methodist Church
Lemuel Jacob Sepulveda 818-341-6434
East-West Ch. of Valley
Ryder Kumar Canoga Park 818-326-7041
Artesia Community Church
Wallace Williams Artesia 562-508-5534
Hosanna Punjabi Church
David Masih Norwalk 562-746-2645
Fiji Indian Church David Sukal LA 310-398-9158
Simon Gounder Artesia 310-980-4254
NAME Asher Mathew
Biola University Doctorate
Department of Missiology, Anthropology and Intercultural Studies, Cook
School of Intercultural Studies
Biola University M.A.
Department of Anthropology and Intercultural Studies, Cook School of
Asian Christian Academy, India Th.M.
Department of Systematic Theology and Bible Exposition, Evangelical
South India Baptist Bible College & Seminary, India B. Div.
Department of Language Studies
South India Baptist Bible College & Seminary, India B.Th.
Department of Systematic Theology
Calvary Chapel La Palma 2009-Present
Gracious Ark (Korean) Youth Church, 2007- 2008
Calvary Chapel La Mirada Bible Ministry School 2005-2008
Kerala Baptist Bible College, India 2002-2003
Trivandrum Bible College, India 2001-2002
2011 Dissertation: “Conversion and Post-Conversion Experiences of Hindu
Background Believers in Southern California with Application to Local
2004 Atricle: “The End of the Neo-Babylonian Empire (Part-1)” 1:27
2001 Thesis: “An interpretation of Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 & 25”
1998 Thesis: “Trinity”