Francis Sunderaraj, India Evangelical Fellowship Leader Who Encouraged Education

His popular Sunday school curriculum was translated into 32 languages and dialects.

Francis Sunderaraj, an evangelical leader in India who prioritized spiritual education and ministry to lay Christians, died last month at 85.

As head of the Christian education department of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), Sunderaraj developed the most popular Sunday school curriculum in India. It has been translated into 32 languages and dialects.

He believed that “training laypeople to be the Lord’s workers in society at large is a greatly productive ministry,” said longtime friend Saphir Athyal.

The curriculum is also credited with fostering a sense of unified evangelical identity in India. It distinguished evangelicals from liberal Christians and gave them direction and focus.

“Education is absolutely vital for the growth of the Church,” Sunderaraj wrote. “Our focus must always be building up the Kingdom of God.”

Sunderaraj was born to a middle-class Anglican family in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, on April 7, 1937. He sang in the choir and served as an altar boy but struggled to live out his faith as seriously as he wanted.

When Sunderaraj was 17, he attended a Youth for Christ meeting where a visiting priest from England shared the gospel. Sunderaraj was convicted and gave himself to Christ, believing Jesus “could make my life meaningful in this world, if only in faith I surrendered myself to him.”

Despite his conversion experience, Sunderaraj continued to struggle into his 20s.

“Though I was outwardly participating in the worship service, deep inside I was in a desperate condition,” he later wrote. “Desperate because of the frustrating inconsistency I was going through in my spiritual life and the sense of lack of direction concerning my future.” …

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