Ukraine: A Baptist Church for Every 5,000 Inhabitants
L v i v – Baptists in the Ukraine want to plant a church in each town with more than 5,000 inhabitants. This plan was presented at the 4th Ukrainian Baptist Congress, August 16-19, in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. The necessity of traveling new paths in order to reach the population with the joyful message of Jesus Christ was the message of the congress, which was attended by 4,000 participants and a further 10,000 who followed the program on the internet via livestream. There are currently 2,500 Baptist churches in the Ukraine, with about 130,000 members. 131 towns with more than 5.000 inhabitants are without a Baptist Church. 150 new churches had been founded since 1990, according to Pawel Troschin (Moskow). In addition to church-planting, there is also reliance on personal relationships between Christians and non-Christians, such as in small home groups. Corresponding training programs were presented. The conclusion of the meeting was that the current use of event-centered evangelization within and outside of Baptist church buildings must be supplemented.
It was further said that Baptists in the Ukraine are also deeply involved in world missions. In the past 20 years, over 500 missionaries have been sent out, especially into central Asian countries, such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as to Azerbaijan and Turkey, and also to Egypt and Portugal, in order to reach Ukrainians living there with the gospel.
Irek Skoczen, a pastor from Tarnow, Poland, and representative of the Polish Baptist Union, asked the Ukrainians to support Baptists in Poland in Evangelization and missions: “Please come and help us, and please send missionaries to Poland, too.” There are 83 Baptists churches with about 5,000 members in Poland, which is overwhelmingly Catholic.
The main speakers at the meeting were the president of the European Baptist Federation, Hans Guderian of Germany (Dallgow near Berlin), the president of Slavic Baptist Churches in the USA, Vitaly Korchevskiy (Brookhaven, Pennsylvania), the president of the Russian Baptist Union, Alexei Smirnov (Moscow), and the president of the Ukrainian Baptist Union, Vyacheslav Nesteruk (Kiev). All spoke of the urgency of evangelization. Because of growing secularization in the Ukraine, fewer and fewer people are interested in God. The consequences for eternity are fatal, for Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Timofiy Kokhan, minister for culture of the Ukraine, brought greetings from Ukraine’s president, Viktor Jaukowitsch (Kiev).
During a discussion group Guderian emphasized the common challenges facing Christians in the West and in the East. Secularism is rising not only in society but also in the churches. At the same time, the significance of various confessions and denominations is decreasing. All churches are challenged to greater concern for ethnic minorities in their countries, to integrate these groups. In missions and evangelization, new paths must be taken in order to reach people. All areas of life must be included and every person taken into account as an individual for whom God’s full love is available.
In talking with the EBPS, Guderian was enthusiastic about the broad musical spectrum represented at the congress, with music ranging from classical to modern pop: “From a symphony orchestra and a brass band to choirs and soloists, everything was represented.” The whole atmosphere of the congress was very relaxed: “We sang a lot and we also laughed a lot.”