Christian Leaders Gather in Chennai to Dedicate the Largest Assembly of God Church

Chennai – It was about 30 years ago when Southern Asia Bible School graduate David Mohan set out with a dream to start a new Assemblies of God church in Madras, India. He held his first service with only seven people who responded to his invitation after he had knocked on over 100 house doors. That congregation was called New Life Assembly of God. And, recently, it was reported that the congregation will reach unprecedented heights, as it will seat 55,000 people when completed, thereby making it the largest Assemblies of God church facility in the world.

New Life presently has 30,000 attendees organized into 1,500 care cells. More than 100 associate pastors and ministers oversee those groups. The church has planted about 200 congregations in Madras - now called Chennai - a city with a population of over 10 million.
U.S. Assemblies of God General Superintendent Thomas E. Trask, Eurasia Regional Director Jerry Parsley and Southern Asia Area Director David Grant participated in the dedication ceremony, held in conjunction with the All-India General Council. As 15,000 people watched the firework display overhead, Trask unveiled the building's cornerstone, Parsley ceremonially broke ground and Grant cut a ribbon on the new 40-acre site, dedicating it to the Lord. The land purchase reportedly cost at an estimated $1 million, raised through the sacrificial giving of members who typically earn $150 per month.

It is reported that the construction will take place in phases. A 6,000-seat, tabernacle-style facility will be constructed first. A second phase is to include a training center and hostel. After multiple expansions - expected to take over a period of several years - the church will seat up to 55,000 people in a semi-amphitheater setting.

"This church is the result of prayer and the vision God gave many years ago," Mohan says excitedly. "If we continue in prayer and keep the vision alive, God will bring it to pass."

Currently, New Life's long and narrow building takes up the church's entire 1-acre lot. Ten services are held each Sunday.

U.S. Assembly of God leaders point to several reasons for New Life's remarkable growth: a visionary and dynamic pastor; a congregation girded by around-the-clock, Pentecostal prayer; and an on-site counseling and deliverance ministry.

"It's a modern-day Book of Acts," Trask says. "It's a Pentecostal church that is alive. People are being saved, healed, delivered and baptized in the Spirit each passing moment."

Parsley believes New Life's missionary vision has been a key to church growth. "Before they even had 200 people - when they still had a dirt floor and thatched roof - they were taking missionary offerings," Parsley says. The church has sent out 100 missionaries.
At the fourth All-India General Council, Mohan succeeded longtime India General Superintendent Yesudian Jeyaraj. A dozen years ago Jeyaraj implemented the national conference as a way to bring together the separate south, north and east general councils of the Assembly of God in a country with enormous historic, linguistic, cultural and racial diversity. Although the three Assembly of God regions remain distinct entities, they are under the All-India Council umbrella.

Altogether in India there are 500,000 Assembly of God followers and 4,000 congregations. There are around 40 million Christians in India, but that represents only 4 percent of the population. Christian growth has continued despite implementation in 2002 of draconic anti-conversion law in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu, which has Chennai as its capital.

"We are in the greatest moment in time we've seen in India," Grant says. "Yes, there's persecution, but in the midst of persecution there's an incredible outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Ten years ago we never dreamed this would be possible."

Let us pray that the construction of this Temple of the Lord that will seat thousands of devotees can be completed without any hindrance so that Chennai may be the first place to witness the days of the Pentecost as written in the Bible:

"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." (Acts 2:1-4, NIV)

Surojit Chatterjee
Ecumenical Press