Died: Gospel for Asia Founder Athanasius Yohannan

The champion of “native missions” trained more than 100,000 evangelists but got in trouble for financial mismanagement.

Athanasius Yohannan, who built one of the world’s largest mission organizations on the idea that Western Christians should support “native missionaries” but got in trouble for financial irregularities and dishonest fundraising, died on May 8. He was 74 and got hit by a car while walking along the road near his ministry headquarters in Texas.

Born Kadapilaril Punnoose Yohannan and known for most of his ministry as K. P., Yohannan founded Gospel for Asia in 1979. Over the next 45 years, the organization trained more than 100,000 people to preach the gospel and plant and pastor churches in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and other places in Southeast Asia, according to a recent ministry report. Gospel for Asia raised as much as $93 million in a year and in 2005 reported it was supporting about 14,500 indigenous evangelists and pastors in same-culture and near-culture ministry. Christians in the US were asked to give $30 per month to support them.

“If we evangelize the world’s lost billions … it will be through native missions,” Yohannan wrote for CT. “The native missionary is far more effective than the expatriate. The national already knows the language and is already part of the culture. In many instances, he or she can go places where outsiders cannot go.”

Yohannan’s death was mourned by Gospel for Asia, the church that he started and served as metropolitan bishop, and prominent political leaders in India.

“He will be remembered for his service to society and emphasis on improving the quality of life of the downtrodden,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on social media. “May his soul rest in peace.”

Both the governor of Kerala and the …

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