thailand: A Church
in the hands of Its
In a recent visit to Thailand, one ques- tion kept surfacing to my mind: Why is it that after over 183 years of evangelical missionary work, an investment
of thousands of lives and millions upon
millions of dollars, there are only 370,000
evangelical Christians out of a total population of 65 million? That is only one half
of one percent.
I wanted to hear from Thai Evangelicals about their optimism and hope for
discipleship and church growth.
In 2004 the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation organized a campaign which asked
the Thai people if they found the words
Rev. Dr. Wirachai
Kowae, founder of the
Assemblies of God and
chairman of the Evangelical Fellowship of
Thailand (sister organization of the EFC
in that country), identified a key reason for
optimism in the evangelical church there.
Today, he noted, the Thai church is not run
by foreigners. This vision for the church
was defined back in 1951 by the teaching
of a Chinese Christian leader (part of the
Three Self Patriotic Movement), which included three mandates – self-governance,
self-propagation and self-funding.
Other factors are at work as well. As
more Thais move from rural to urban settings, the old ways made rigid by
On Our Knees
For basic facts about
Thailand and sugges-
tions to incorporate
in your prayers, visit
org and www.persecu-
a lack of education and loyalty to
their religion are shaken. Minds
are opened to other views and sets
of values, including religious.
Wirachai explained that when
David Yonggi Cho, pastor of Yoido
Full Gospel Church in South Korea,
spoke to pastors in the 1980s, the
pastors realized how much they
were limiting what God could do.
Dr. Cho, raised in poverty, had built
the largest church in the world.
Hearing Dr. Cho speak was a seminal moment for the Thai evangelical Church, because they had before them an example of someone
who had built from nothing, as they
must do. This was a wake-up call to the
Thai pastors who did not include parking
lots in their building plans because they
never thought they would have members
Within the broader culture, the Thai government grew to see its need for Christian
support. Killings in three southern provinces by Islamists moved the government to
be more supportive of Christians, no longer
seeing them as a threat to the nation. While
the government’s new view of Christians
did not directly contribute to evangelism,
the new, more positive view within a majority Buddhist country did help.
The current optimism of evangelical
leaders is rooted in their reliance on
indigenous leadership. Thai people are
leading national churches, colleges, seminaries and mission initiatives.
Enoch Yattasak Sirikul is an example.
A former student communist agitator
who was almost killed in the 1977 coup,
he came to faith and today leads a nation-
al movement that links churches, agencies
and missions with a vision to train volun-
teers to disciple others.
BRIAn C. stIllER of newmarket, ont.,
is the global ambassador for The
world Evangelical Alliance.
• DRIME, a ministry of Power to Change, is a street
drama and equipping ministry (disciples ready
in mobile Evangelism) which uses choreographed
drama set to music to share the gospel on city
• OMF works in partnership with the emerging
church so that it becomes self-propagating. other
priorities are leadership training, evangelism,
church planting and discipleship. www.omf.ca/
For more about how EFC affiliates are working in thailand, visit www.theEFC.ca/globalvillage