The Christian Church has been growing in Thailand at just under 6% for the past 65 years. Every 13 years the church is twice as big.
What are factors in this growth? As OMF Thailand field director, I see 5 notable factors from a historical perspective.
First, there was a big increase in the number of Christian workers taking the gospel throughout Thailand from 1950-1973. Most of these workers were missionaries. OMF grew from nothing to over 300 missionaries deployed in Thailand during this time. Other agencies grew likewise. Provinces now had a gospel witness. Churches were established.
Second, in the mid-1970s migration patterns changed. Up-country people started to flood into Bangkok. Christians from the north were among them. They shared their faith, made disciples and established new churches. Most of the churches in Bangkok are the fruit of these migrants.
Thirdly, in the 1990s the Hope of Bangkok was a church that was fueled by the openness among Thai-Chinese to the gospel. It had a very strong intention to establish churches in every amphur district of Thailand. While the church did not accomplish this goal before they splintered into lots of sub-groups, they did plant a lot of faith communities across the country.
Fourth, in 1997 there was an economic crisis; this was followed by more political turmoil and social stress. Since then there has been unrest and uncertainty nationwide, but Christians have been there among their families and neighbours, sharing their faith. The Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 and the floods of 2011 were times when we could see this witness and practical help from Thai Christians very clearly.
Finally, because of crisis after crisis the fervency of prayer has increased. Thai Christians are praying for their country like never before. The number of people participating in the 40 days of prayer and fasting each year is an example. There is more discussion and planning across the Thailand Protestant Churches Network about how to reach the whole country.
So five key historic factors stated as principles are:
- Increase the number of Christian workers and deploy them in new areas
- Help Christians migrating to new areas share the gospel, make disciples and start new churches
- Envision leaders with passion to establish new churches
- Equip Christians to witness and serve within crisis
- Fervently pray for the whole nation
Mark and Becky Leighton