Christianity was first brought to Indonesia in 1509 by the Portuguese. Since then, missionaries from around the world have traveled to Indonesia, established missions, and worked to spread the Gospel. Probably the most successful missionary efforts have been in Papua, where many of the people groups there are now followers of Jesus. Also, in North Sumatra missionaries saw many Batak accept Christianity in the early 20th century. Currently, the Batak go to church and practice Christianity; however, nominalism has set into many of the churches. Expatriate workers have found, though, that when Bataks do have a relationship with Christ, they are some of the best Christian workers in Indonesia.
An Increase In Churches
In the last 50 years there has been a great increase in the number of churches in Indonesia. Papua and other islands in the eastern part of Indonesia have seen large numbers come to Christ, as well as the Batak area of North Sumatra. There is also a growing number of Christians in Jakarta. Officially, 15% of the population identifies themselves as Christian. Unofficially, there are probably more Christians. Although the church is growing, many of these churches are large mega-churches in Jakarta that present Western ideas of worship that are not indigenous to Indonesia. These churches have the potential to strengthen or to hinder the church’s growth in Indonesia. In some areas, because the church is growing so rapidly, there is a huge need for discipleship and strong lay-leadership. New believers need to be discipled by other Indonesians so they do not think of Christianity as a Western religion.
Freedom of Religion?
The Indonesian government promises freedom of religion, officially giving Christians the same rights as other religious groups. However, in reality Christians go through many more
obstacles than others. For example, it is more difficult to register a church than it is a mosque. Also, when Muslims come to faith in Christ, they often leave Islam as the religion on their ID card because it is almost impossible to change one’s religious status. If a Muslim decides to follow Christ he most likely will face ostracism from his family. If he is from a traditional neighborhood, the neighbors may also evict him. Yet, while persecution has risen, it has also created greater unity amongst Christians and caused them to depend more on God.
There are currently 128 ethnic groups (with a population numbering between ten thousand and 32 million) that have a Christian population of 1% or less. Sumatra is the largest unevangelized island in the world, with a large majority of these unreached people groups. Sulawesi and Java also have a large number of unreached people. The need is still very great! Join us in a united prayer movement as we ask God for the salvation of every person in Indonesia.
Ask God to strengthen the Church in Indonesia and give courage to the believers. Pray for a prayer group in every neighborhood, linked with a prayer network in every city and province. Pray for Indonesian believers to be set free from tribalism, denominationalism, and local loyalties. And finally, pray for Indonesian Christians to have a burden for the hundreds of unreached people surrounding them.