Christianity in Pakistan is mainly considered as a Western or foreign religion, as British colony there were many churches which were left in the hands of local people after the World War II when British government left this Subcontinent. These local Church leaders ran them in the same fashion as British without, making much change. As a result there were no indigenous churches as such in Pakistan. Brother Bakht Singh pioneered in this area and brought a deep and lasting change in the history of church planting by establishing Brethren assemblies in Pakistan before partition which continued even after the partition.
Bakht Singh was born in Joiya near Manwal, Punjab which is now part of Pakistan on 6th June 1903, in a Hindu family who were devotees of Sikhism. He was also a staunch Sikh and even though he studied in Presbyterian mission school at Gujranwala, near Lahore city (now part of Pakistan). When he passed intermediate level of education he received bible as a gift but he torn the bible. He got married in 1915 when he was young boy. He went to England to study agricultural engineering in 1926, there he adapted the modern life style of his time, but he was not happy with his life. (Koshy T.E, ‘Brother Bakht Singh of India)
While he was in England Lord has started working in his life, he experienced the presence of Jesus Christ during his travel on a ship in 1928. When he was staying in Canada for holidays with a Christian family they engaged him in family devotions every night. There he came to know more about Christ and later accepted Him as his personal Lord and Savior in Dec 16, 1929. He was baptized in 1932 and returned to Bombay in April 1933. At that time, India was not divided. He had ministry not only in Pakistan but in many other countries. Bakht Singh died on 17th September 2000. (Koshy T.E , ‘Brother Bakht Singh of India)
After his conversion there was a drastic change in his life he arrived in Pakistan in 1933 and he went to Karachi. He started his Evangelistic ministry by working among the sweepers and lepers. His ministry was in different areas in Pakistan in the regions of Sindh, he also worked in Quetta city in Baluchistan and in Punjab: Lahore, Sialkot, Multan, Faisalabad, Martinpur, Youngsonabad, Sangla Hill, Shantinagar, Kala Pathana, 92 Chak (Village name), Rawalpindi, Sargodha and other remote villiages.
T E Koshy in his book “Brother Bakht Singh of India” gives the strategy of his ministry:
“The Lord accepted him for his ministry on three conditions:
1. Do not join any organizations— serve all equally.
2. Do not make your own plan. Let me guide you and lead you every step of the way.
3. Do not make your needs known to any human being. Ask me only and I shall provide for your needs.”
First he worked with different denominations but later he felt the need and started indigenous Brethren Assemblies with unique features. He was the man of prayer, a teacher, itinerary preacher (preacher traveling place to place), evangelist, healer and church planter. The Lord raised up several Brethren Assemblies during 1942 – 1960 based on New Testament Principles, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”Acts 2:42 (Koshy T.E , ‘Brother Bakht Singh of India)
His burden was to see people receive Christ as their Savior and Lord and live in obedience to the will of God. He shared the Gospel boldly; his ministry was among nominal Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. His ministry was so fruitful that soon many churches were planted in the province of Sindh and Punjab. (Koshy T.E , ‘Brother Bakht Singh of India)
Western scholars asked him how he knew so much about the Bible and he replied that he meditates on the Bible on his knees. He did his ministry with fasting and prayer, his ministry was always extraordinary with great impact and life changing.
A. Indigenous churches
Due to a British colony there were churches planted by overseas missionaries. Bakht Singh planted Indigenous churches with a desire to grow its roots deeper in the culture and hearts of the people. The local assemblies in Pakistan are known as “Brethren Churches”.
B. Unique structure:
Assemblies in Pakistan were not brethren as so-called denominational but when the first leaders were baptized Bakht Singh called them brother. However later some missionaries joined the work but its structure remains the same until this day.
All the Brethren assemblies started by man of God had one pattern and therefore one national body came into being. In India and other countries, Brethren have their own separate local churches and missions but in Pakistan, they work in unity with the Brethren Assemblies related to Bakht Singh with different dynamics.
The End of his Ministry in Pakistan
He had to leave Pakistan in 1963, when he was ministering in Shantinagar. Some nominal Christians out of jealousy reported against Bakhat Singh because of that report without any further enquiry he was deported from Pakistan, and was never able to come again.
Because of this sudden departure, Evangelism work in Pakistan and Brethren Assemblies suffered because of the absence of great leader and man of God. But the work he started continued flourishing and advancing by the grace of God.
Lessons we can learn from the life and ministry of this great leader and man of God are:
He did not have any worldly luxuries. He had ministry throughout the subcontinent however, he did not feel the need of a car, bicycle or even his own bullock-cart. He traveled by any source available at that time which was most of the time on foot. He lived a very simple life without any bank balance, for he loved the Lord more than anything in this world.
Holistic ministry and Bible Based
Teaching, preaching, ministers in people’s needs evangelizing mentoring, counseling and Church planting were all part of his ministry. The churches, he planted were based in Scriptures. Every single tradition was taken from the Bible. Like laying hands upon brothers to dedicate them for the work of the Lord, Holy convocation and the church service everything was Bible based. These characteristics of his ministry made him a legend in the history indigenous church in the Indian subcontinent.
Brother Bakht Singh was great a man of the Lord because he emptied himself and gave up everything as a sign of total obedience and dependence upon the Lord. He took the word of God like a lamp to guide his way. That is why even though he had not much resources, like we have today yet he made a great impact and significant role in developing indigenous churches in Pakistan. God has chosen us too. If we follow him and depend upon him totally, He can use us to bring a great difference in the lives of individuals and the church as a whole.
References: Koshy T.E, ‘Brother Bakht Singh of India’: An Account of 20th Century Apostolic Revival.OM books. Secunderabad, India. 2003.