IMP Church Planters in Russia
IMP Church Planters in Russia
The Baptists utilize effectively the freedom of worship in the country. The mass evangelism and distribution of tracts aren’t efficient any longer and new methods have to be implemented.
Baptists in Russia trace their history to 1867. Some of the first pioneers of the Gospel were influenced by Gerhard Johan Oncken, the outstanding Baptist evangelist in Europe of the 19th century.
There are now about 80 000 Baptists who worship in 1 750 local churches. Revd Alexey Smirnov, the president of the Baptist Union in Russia says: “the number of Baptist churches in Russia is growing and the most important task of the Union is to train leaders as well as keep the unity. The work with youth and children is particularly vital as it had not been possible during the era of communist regime.”
Revd Ruvim Voloshin, the vice-president of Baptist Union responsible for missionary ministry stresses that about 200 new Baptist congregations are currently being planted all over the vast territory of Russia. Ruvim says that “the Baptists of Russia utilize effectively the freedom of worship in the country. The mass evangelism and distribution of tracts aren’t efficient any longer (in comparison to 10-15 years ago) and the leaders have to find new methods that would be more productive. The personal evangelism is most successful method of mission work. A building and a web site provide credibility to new groups.”
Visit with an indigenous church planter in Tula
The IMP supported church planter in Tula is Stepan. He took me straight to a meeting which he had organized in an old people’s home. About a dozen of elderly people assembled in a TV room. Three other members of the church plant were present there. The missionary team sang several songs and shared testimonies, Christian poems and Bible verses. Stepan explained to me that this is the regular ministry of his group.
Stepan (49) is a retired soldier of the Russian Army who is a gifted evangelist. He has been appointed by the Baptist regional association for planting another church in Tula. Presently there are 2 Baptist congregations in the city and one of them is the mother church for the new church plant. There are only a few Baptist congregations in the Tula region. Stepan is well motivated for the ministry, and he can sing and play a guitar. He has an outgoing personality and easily makes new contacts with people. Tamara, his wife is supportive to Stepan in the church planting ministry.
There are 3 ladies on the church planting team as Stepan is the team leader. Nadya, a middle age woman, being a post person, visits many people in their homes and reads the Bible or converses with those who invite her. Lyuda has the responsibility for the children, for example organizing children camps in summer. One other lady is responsible for the social ministry.
Stepan often repeats that it is naturally easy for him to make new contacts with people. He often gives away tracts or copies of the Gospel of John and sings with the accompaniment of a guitar as well as witnesses verbally for Christ. The people he meets in streets don’t come to the meetings though. The meetings are in his home and only the team members are present regularly there. He would like to start new groups in future and dreams that there will be a meeting place other than his flat.
Stepan shares a story how 2 people became believers last year. One of them, a Turkish man, had found the Christian faith and got baptized before he has gone back to Turkey. Stepan thinks that the people in Russia are not as open to the Gospel any longer as they used to be 10 or 15 years ago. He remembers well that after the fall of Soviet Union there was greater openness in the nation. He adds that the traditional mass evangelistic meetings are no longer effective. It is very difficult to invite strangers to such meetings. He believes that individual evangelism brings much better results.
Visit an indigenous church planter in Dmitrovka
The village Dmitrovka is in the Tambov ‘oblast’ (region). The missionary Alexy lives in the ‘house of prayer’ premises. The missionary family and a few others were busy working and getting ready for the harvest festival when I arrived. They were preparing lots of food and decorating their house of prayer. Some also practiced singing.
The village Dmitrovka is located between the towns: Mitchurinsk and Tambov, the latter being the regional capital. Alexey moved there with his family about 3 years ago, after having completed a Bible school in Kursk. The Silkins have 2 children of their own and one fostered girl who is somehow related to the family. The church plant counts 15 members. The group is fortunate to have a comfortable meeting place. The building has been acquired cheaply and dedicated to the Christian ministry.
The church planting team consists of 3 people, Alexy being its leader. Valya is 23 years old and her particular ministry is the work with children. She leads the Sunday school for the group of 8 (between 4 and 10 years old). Tanya intends to work with youth but there are no regular meetings yet. Both ladies work as volunteers being part of the special program to help missionaries for one or two years.
Alexy is the leader of ministry in Dmitrovka. He leads the services on Sundays, drives some elderly members to church and also visits regularly one family every Sunday afternoon in their home as they live about 10 km away and can’t be present in church regularly. The outreach is done mainly through the local library. The librarian is happy because at least something is going on in the local library. Alexy also regularly visits another congregation that is presently without a pastor.
Alexy says that the local people of Dmitrovka are quite negative towards Baptists. Once there used to be a sign of a cross on the building but Alexy had to take it down because of the vicious reaction of local population. A couple of times the windows were broken and a mission tent that church pitched was mired (covered with dirt) at night.
The mother church is Michurinsk, 25 km away. Some Baptists from Michurinsk regularly visit its mission station, help with summer camps and repairs on the building.
- Pray that the Baptists of Russia will be successful in their program of church planting.
- Pray that the evangelists and church planters will be able to implement the right methods which will be most effective in ministry.
- Pray that the church planters will have the wisdom and strength to persevere in spite of obstacles.
EBF Mission Coordinator
To help planting reproducing churches!
To help growing healthy churches!
For the glory of God!
PS. Church planting, pioneering, emerging church
The Incarnate Network Church Planting next gathering will be on 5-7th April 2011. It is good opportunity for church planters from the UK and Baptist Union's in mainland Europe to come together. There will be possibility to share stories, reflect on missional practice, network, and participate in workshops.
Find out more at www.incarnate-network.eu
Incarnate is the Baptist Union of Great Britain's Church Planting Network.