Q: Briefly tell us about your journey of faith, and describe what led you to surrender your life to Christ as a child.
A: Will God choose a Hindu boy from one billion? That’s what He did for me. Will God choose a boy with stammering lips to be His spokesman? That’s what He asked me to be. It all began when I was lost in this sinful world as a young lad, smoking and gambling even at the early age of 11. My mother used to cry and say, “I shouldn’t have given birth to you; you are a disgrace to our family. There is no God who can change you in this world.” I was hanging on to my life’s rope without hope… then came an evangelist who preached on the streets about Jesus, saying Jesus can change lives if only you try Him. In that desperate condition, I fell on my knees and prayed this simple prayer, “Jesus! Can you change my life by the time I get up from my knees?” On that day, Jesus met me and totally changed life. When I read the Bible for first time in my life, God spoke to me through Jeremiah 1:4-7 which says, “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations… You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.’”
As God spoke to me from His Word, I surrendered my life totally to serve Him and to live for Him. I was just 12 years old when Jesus met me on my knees.
Q: In the beginning of your ministry, you wanted to be a missionary, not a pastor. How did God change your heart?
A: When I was a student, I used to read a lot of missionary biographies like David Livingston, David Brainerd, and Hudson Taylor. These life biographies truly set fire in my bones and spirit. I even wrote in my diary, “Lord! Send me to the darkest spot on this earth as a missionary.” I seasoned my body to be a missionary by sleeping on the floor, eating rice with water, and praying all night outside in cold weather to withstand any situation as a missionary. Even as a student I used to go to villages and preach on the streets, thereby I became a street evangelist travelling from village to village. My only dream and desire was to win souls at any cost. Then suddenly God brought me to Hyderabad for my further studies. From 1991 to 2005, I was an evangelist at large, preaching in Good News festivals and on television. One fine day God spoke to me saying, “I am going to give you the biggest church.” In those days, the biggest church in our country had only 5,000 people. Though I never wanted to be a pastor, I surrendered my life to His will and began Calvary Temple with 25 people in 2005. I never knew that God was going to give me a church of over 200,000 people in just a short span of 14 years. All glory to God.
Q: Today, you are the Senior Pastor of Calvary Temple, which is the largest church in India with the fastest-growing congregation in the world. Describe how God multiplied your membership from 25 people to over 225,000 in just 14 years.
A: Calvary Temple began with 25 people in 2005, but then – as God promised – it started growing by leaps and bounds. In 2006, we had 1,000 members, 2007 – 3,000 members, 2008 – 8,000 members, 2009 – 18,000 members, 2010 – 30,000 members, 2011 – 50,000 members, and from 2012 to 2019 – 225,000 members. Now we have 6 more campus churches. Now Calvary Temple is the fastest growing, and perhaps the largest, church in the world.
Q: In 2012, God spoke to you to build a new facility to seat over 18,000 members. After fasting and prayer, you announced it would be completed in only 52 days! Share the powerful story that inspired you to reach that goal.
A: On June 5, 2011 during the rainy season, I declared forty days of fasting and prayer in the open land that God had given to us. Every day I would teach my congregation from the book of Nehemiah. As we studied Nehemiah’s life, we realized that he prayed for 3 to 4 months before he began rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. So we also fasted and prayed for 4 months. We learned that God miraculously enabled Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in just 52 days. As I was praying, God began speaking to me saying, “If you believe like Nehemiah did, I will repeat the history and will build one of the biggest churches in the world in just 52 days.” Because I know I serve the Lord who is same yesterday, today, and forever, I announced this news in our church with great faith. We laid the foundation stone on November 11, 2012 and by January 1, 2013 – despite many odds and challenges – the world’s third biggest church was built in exactly 52 days. This church was acoustically designed, totally air conditioned, with seating capacity for over 18,000 people.
Q: Through the many ministries of Calvary Temple, communities across India are being transformed. Share an example of how the power of the Gospel is reaching those who feel forgotten, abandoned and alone.
A: I began my ministry as an evangelist with a passion to win souls, but then God asked me to be a pastor. Though I am a pastor, there is an evangelist inside of me that always craves for souls. That’s why I always challenge my church members to reach the lost and bring them to Christ by their personal evangelism. Every member of Calvary Temple is a soul winner. Beside this, I preach in good news festivals and on television trying to reach the lost. Today, my sermons are being translated and broadcast in all the major languages of India, reaching over 300 million people with over 550 satellite television programs every month.
Q: At one point, God encouraged you to start sending birthday cakes to every member of your congregation. Describe how that simple act of love is touching lives.
A: “You can give without loving but you can’t love without giving.” That’s why Calvary Temple is bound to show the love of Jesus Christ through action. Love without action is dead and dangerous. Everyone in our Calvary Temple receives a birthday cake with much love and concern. It is better to have helping hands than praying lips. Beside prayers, we do love people and we show it in action through free food to thousands of people, free Sunday clinic, free medicine, free education to the poor students, and pensions to widows and old, forsaken ones. This love in action has protected our ministry and also expanded beyond boundaries. Glory to God.
Q: This month, Christians around the world will celebrate Easter. At Calvary Temple, over 500,000 are expected for special services with Daystar President and Founder, Marcus Lamb, serving as the guest speaker. Describe what those in attendance can expect to experience.
A: We are so glad that Marcus and Joni are coming to Calvary Temple! On Good Friday, we will have four services with a crucifixion drama being played, and we are planning to have our Easter celebration in a stadium. During this service, we also have a real play on how Jesus Christ came out of the tomb and how He was resurrected. After this sunrise service at the stadium, we do have 3 more Easter services at Calvary Temple. We expect Marcus Lamb to bring the wonderful message from the throne of Grace. Our church members love the Lord and love the Word.
Q: As believers, why is it so important to share the message of the Cross with the world?
A: As I always say, we can go to Heaven without friends, relatives, wealth, and health; but no one can go to Heaven without Jesus. If this is true, then every individual must share the Gospel before it becomes too late. Good news cannot be good news unless it is shared on time.
Q: What role should the Church play when it comes to speaking out against injustice and changing the culture for Christ?
A: The Church has to stand and speak against injustice in society. I do believe that the Church is the answer for all of the problems of the world.
Q: As a young man, did you ever think you would have the worldwide influence God has given you today? Why or why not?
A: I never thought God would make me a pastor to the world’s biggest and fastest growing church, or take me around the world to challenge pastors, leaders, and believers. However, I thank God for His abundant grace upon on this unworthy servant. Yes, today Calvary Temple is influencing the world churches , leaders and pastors. Even the Vice President of the United States of America, Mike Pence, told me that he would love to visit Calvary Temple, it may happen at any time.
Q: India is a culturally rich nation with a wide range of spiritual beliefs. Describe how God moving to draw this nation to Jesus.
A: Indians are a very God-fearing people. We have 29 states, each with their own native language. That’s why through television we are bound to reach every state with the Gospel in their own language. Most of them are in search of truth and eternal life. As someone said, “wise men still search for the Savior.” That’s what is happening. If we can present the Gospel in a simple and acceptable manner, we can reach these millions with Gospel!
Q: What’s next for Calvary Temple? Share what the Lord’s placed on your heart concerning future projects and events.
A: God placed a great burden in my heart to build a stadium which can seat 75,000 members, and also establish 40 more Calvary Temple campuses in 10 years. I’m praying that we can also build an old age home and super specialty hospital for the poor and needy.