Christianity first entered Thailand in 1511 when two Dominican priests traveled with a a Portuguese diplomatic mission. The faith did not experience much growth early on, with only 6 churches taking root in the following 300 years. The first Protestant missionaries arrived in 1828, and though they had a little success working with ethnic Chinese groups within the country, it took them 21 years before they actually saw a Thai person become a Christian.
Since this time, the church in Thailand has continued to grow slowly, with only .7% of the population. Many of these Christians are not ethnic Thais, but rather minority indigenous groups in the northern provinces. The slow growth of the Thai church has been puzzling, especially given the fact that there are no anti-conversion laws and there is complete freedom to preach the gospel.
Modern Day Church
In spite of historical difficulties, there are positive signs of growth in recent times:
- The number of Thai churches has doubled every decade during the past century.
- Four new churches spring up every week.
- Since 2007, the church has grown faster than the population.
- The Thai church is working together on a national vision with unprecedented unity. This unity was greatly enhanced by the churches collective response to help the Tsunami victims in 2005.
A coalition of 3 major Protestant denominations met with the intention of creating an evangelism plan to reach the entire nation. The first phase of the plan, Vision 2010, focused on planting a church in each of Thailand’s 926 districts, starting a Christian group (e.g. house church) in all of the 7,415 sub-districts and presenting the gospel in each of Thailand’s 80,000 villages.
Currently, the Thai churches are focusing their efforts on Vision 2015, with the goal of increasing the amount of Christians in Thailand from 400,000, to 1,000,000 by the year 2015. The plan is to empower local pastors and churches with training, technology, teams, tools, and treasure through nine national evangelistic programs over the next several years. Thai believers are being trained and challenged to “be 1 in 100,000 to reach 1,000,000.”
The next phase of the national evangelism plan is to plant a church in every Thai village, totaling over 80,000!