Even a first-year missiology student might be inclined to write off predominantly Buddhist Thailand as a basket case. After 150 years of Protestant work and more than 450 years of Roman Catholic effort less than one-half of 1 per cent of the 44 million population in the kingdom is Christian. The total Protestant constituency is well below 100,000, according to mission researchers. One published source lists an estimate of just over 600 congregations with about 550 fulltime pastors.
In a rare display of candor, a recent news release by the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) lamented that twenty-five years of “constant work and witness” by more than 100 OMF missionaries in central Thailand had resulted in only 820 converts. Worse, it noted, fifty-nine people had “turned back from the Christian way” during the past year. (An estimated 700 missionaries from thirty-five agencies are assigned to Thailand.)
Except for some action in northern churches in the early 1970s, most Protestant bodies have shown little growth over the past few decades. Seldom have denominational and mission lines been crossed for fellowship gatherings and cooperative projects. Several church groups, including the 32,000-member Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT)—the largest of the Protestant bodies—have undergone periods of bitter internal dissension recently, adding further to the gloom and isolationism.
“After 150 years of work, our converts are too few,” acknowledged Tongkham Pantupong, 69, moderator and acting general secretary of the CCT (composed largely of churches having Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, Karen Baptist, and Chinese Baptist background). “We have freedom to preach the Gospel in this ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more