TYPICAL INDIAN CHURCH SERVICEIf there is no such thing as a typical Indian village pastor, there certainly is no such thing as a typical Indian church service. Nevertheless I will tell you what a typical worship service, as best as I know. I have spent almost 30 Sundays in India, attending multiple services each Sunday. Many times during the week we participate in services as well. Regular services are held on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Some are for prayer and others for Bible Study, but the main worship service is on Sunday.
The people always take their sandals off before entering the place or worship. Women cover their heads with part of their sari. All but the old and infirm sit on the floor cross-legged, women on one side and men on the other. Children go back and forth between parents. It amazes me how they can sit cross-legged for 3 hours! I used to sit on the floor with them but now I gladly take the chair they offer me.
In most Indian churches women outnumber men about 5 to one. Being a Christian brings great rejection and that seems to be harder on male pride than on the women, who have each other for fellowship.
Services start when a few people start arriving. Time in India isn’t like the USA. We tell pastors our conference starts at 9 so that 2 or 3 will be there by 10. We start singing at 10:30 with a dozen, then when I start my first session 20 are there. By the time the 2nd session is finished and it is time to eat we are close to 100. Such is ‘time’ in India!
Services start with singing, with musical accompaniment on bongo-like drums. The players are quite skillful and it is a joy to watch and hear them. Singing can go on for 45 minutes, until a decent sized group is present. Then prayer time begins, some times with testimonies. Individuals pray out loud, one at a time, with great fervor and at some length. They are in no hurry to end this part of the service and it can go 20 to 30 minutes.
The pastor then begins the more formal part of worship. Everyone is welcomed and a few comments are made. Good news is shared and testimonies may be given. If the electricity is working they use a mike to amplify everything to an ear-splitting level. If the electricity isn’t working they hook up their PA system to a large battery, like would be used in a car, and keep going. There is always a speaker or two to blast every word and note to the whole neighborhood, if they like it or not. Muslims and Hindus do the same thing and nobody complains.
Some of the large churches will have a short sermon (30 min) to start the service, then later the main sermon (45 min to an hour). Most churches just have one long message, though. People listen carefully to all that is said. Children of all ages sit with parents, there is no nursery and only the largest churches have a program for children during this time. All churches with children will have a Sunday School teaching time before the worship service.
The Lord’s Supper is celebrated monthly or weekly. Some do it very much as we do in the USA, others pass one cup of juice which everyone sips, and still others will file past the elements and take one as they pass. An offering is always taken and everyone seems to give something, no matter how poor. Many people have no money so bring a cup of rice instead. To me, watching the people give is one of the most moving parts of the service. The service then closes with announcements and prayers, about 3 hours after it started.
Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Pray for the churches in India, that God would keep them strong and help them increase. Pray there would more men would come and they would bring other men so the church and families could be strengthened.