If the apostle Paul was targeting northern India in this generation, his strategy might look a lot like Leanna Cinquanta’s. That’s because Cinquanta’s strategy looks a lot like the missions strategies in the book of Acts.
Under Cinquanta’s leadership, TellAsia Ministries launched the 2020 Network in 2008 with a vision to see the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India rise from 1 percent Christian to 20 percent Christian by 2020. In just four years, the network has grown to more than 2,000 native pastors from all 836 townships in the state.
“The apostle Paul immediately put native first-generation believers into top leadership in the churches he established,” Cinquanta says. “Our strategy is to find these first-generation native believers in the Gangetic plain region who have come out of Hinduism and Islam, to mentor them, and to install them as leaders.”
TellAsia’s God-sized vision is quickly becoming a reality. In 2011, TellAsia planted 4,800 new house-based churches that meet weekly, and 123,000 new believers came into the kingdom through the evangelistic church-planting movement. But Cinquanta and her team of native leaders aren’t resting on their gospel. To see northern India reach the 20 percent Christian mark by 2020, the number of new converts needs to nearly double each year.
Church-growth expert C. Peter Wagner, for one, believes TellAsia’s strategy will bear fruit.
“As I look at the contacts I have made over almost 60 years in the field of missiology, I must say that I have never found a more skillful and productive field missiologist than Leanna Cinquanta,” Wagner says. “She combines theoretical analysis and field application like no other.”
TellAsia’s field application includes outreaches with a strong focus on healing and deliverance ministry. Although Hindus and Muslims agree that the gospel of Jesus Christ is beautiful, Cinquanta says they won’t accept the gospel as truth until they see that Jehovah God is more powerful that their gods.
“It’s all about the demonstration of active participation of God in their lives. When Hindus are desperate, they’ll even go to a mosque,” Cinquanta says. “We hold crusades, but our native leaders also pray for people in house churches, and they get healed and delivered from demons. That gets their attention.”
TellAsia is also meeting the practical needs of northern India’s impoverished communities. The ministry operates an orphanage for 32 children, a school for 500 students in a remote village and sewing classes to help young women escape poverty. TellAsia also runs rural education centers where 23,000 children have learned to read and write, and the ministry provides discipleship and leadership training to thousands of native pastors. TellAsia recently launched a project to rescue children from sex trafficking.
TellAsia’s deliverance thrust—whether deliverance from demons, poverty, sex trafficking or illiteracy—has demanded the attention of principalities and powers in the region. Cinquanta says the persecution—and the spiritual warfare her team faces—is intense.
“The radical Hindus hang out in the bushes with picks and they jump out and attack believers on their way to church,” Cinquanta says. “You never know when persecution will strike. We always pray for believers to be bold and willing to suffer for the gospel.”
Beyond the physical attacks, the spiritual attacks are real. Cinquanta says the spiritual climate in Varanasi, a city on the banks of the Ganges river in Uttar Pradesh, is as close to hell on earth as you can get. She describes the city as the largest Hindu and Buddhist stronghold in the world—the birthplace of both religions.
“This city dates back to Nineveh and Babylon,” Cinquanta says. “You can feel the darkness. The radical Hindus have placed a curse over the city that says, ‘Whoever touches this city will become the demon god Shiva.’ Shiva is another name for Destroyer. Varanasi is the stronghold. That’s why I had to start there and move out from there. We’ve got churches planted all around this city and we’re still trying to break through the walls. But the victory of Jesus over these powers is absolutely clear.”