I would like to say how sorry I am for not keeping this blog up-to-date while in Ukraine. The only place I had internet access was at the forum, which ended Saturday. So, I wasn’t able to provide a complete report. However, there will be reports Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday about the forum and how it will affect outreach in the forum Soviet nations.
In the meantime, I’ve uploaded a video so you can see what took place during the historic two day forum.
We began our day with a devotion about prayer. The text was Romans 15 when Paul asked fellow believers to pray for him as he traveled. The speaker used the text to encourage fellow Christians at the forum to pray for each other. He told us it’s important to uphold each other in prayer. He says we tend to focus more on lateral talk with one another, rather than in prayer for each other. Prayer can’t be ignored.
Then Sergey Guts, pastor and president of the Center for Christian Cooperation in Keiv, Ukraine made a presentation about Mission Today and Tomorrow. He said, “While I appreciate funding from America (who manage their money well), but where is the big heart of the people of (the CIS)? While Americans manage money well, we need to do the same. We need to be ready to give own last shirt off our back,” to support missions in the CIS.
Guts says, “We want teachers that are ‘active’ in ministry because if they’re active in what they’re teaching, they’ll be good examples and their ways will be imitated by their students. There are no bad students, only bad teachers.”
Following Gusts, Pastor Andrey Murzin, president of the Center for Christian Cooperation, talked about ministry amidst the Orthodox Church.
Pastor Victory Kulbich, President of the Center for Christian Cooperation in Kiev, talked about outreach to children in the region. He’s encouraging Christians to begin fostering children. He says this is a missions need. As Christians foster these needy children, they’re sharing the Gospel and that’s planting churches. Since 1991, the number of churches has tripled in the region. 70-percent of churches have been planted in rural villages, but not in the major cities. The question is — ‘How can we plant churches in major cities?’ Kulbich says, “We missed th mark. Today we’re focusing on planting churches in major cities.”
According to Kulbich missionaries from Ukraine are working in 17 countries as missionaries. Ministry in Portugal is taking place. Russian speaking workers are in Portugal seeking work. Many of them are street people — unable to find work. Now Russian speaking missionaries are there reaching out to them. New churches are being planted there and they’re being filled by these people seeking work there.
He says another major issue facing Ukraine is prostitution. Kulbich says, “40-percent of Europe’s prostites are coming from Ukraine.” He says Christians need to prevent human trafficking from the CIS. “But, we have been silent on this issue.” The church needs to be connected to this work so these young ladies will come to Christ and prevent them from selling their bodies and from becoming slaves to the prostitution industry.”
Genady Brutsky, Baptist bishop for Minsk region and director for the Association for Spiritual Renewal in Belarus. There are 300 churches and 13,000 members and 7,000 children who attend sunday school classes. However, that’s down from 14,000 because of successful negative media propaganda calling Christians sects and cults. Brutsky says the doors are official closed, but outreach continues with personally one-on-one evangelism.He says, “now we preach the Gospel and sometimes we use words.”
Leonid Biryuk, bishop of the Association of Churches of Christians of the Evangelical Faith (Pentecostal) of Belarus.
Pastor Peter Mitskevitch, President of Moscow Theological Seminary, gave us an update on the realities of what’s happening in Russia. Expatriate missionaries are given three month visas, making it very difficult for foreign workers. Registration, licensing and accrediting their work is required now. All educational institutions may require accreditation, including Christian institutions.
Following a coffee break, Pastor Mikhail Cherenkov, Vice President of the Association for Spiritual Renewal in the CIS, talked about the media — print, broadcasting and internet. He says Christians need to be aware of their audience and assess their work. Some media outlets may believe they’re reaching lost people, when in reality they’re only reaching a Christian audience. i.e. Christians radio stations saying they want to reach non-believers when in reality they’re major demographic is the Christian population.
Cherenkov says,”Relovancy and boldness are issues facing Christians who are using media for ministry.” He says creativity is an issue that’s preventing Christians from reaching out effectively. Many groups will take information and redistribute and repackage the information. “We need professional journalists, who are Christians. We don’t want Christian journalists to talk only about Christian issues.”
Dennis Gorenkov, director of the Association of Christian Students of Ukraine, made a presentation about education. He says if Paul went on his ministry journey, he would probably visit the university campus because they’re the most influetial. He says, “The church doesn’t have any influence on the university.”
About 200 leaders representing 16 mission organizations from six countries gathered this morning for the historic International Evangelical Missions Forum sponsored by Russian Ministries.
The morning started with greetings from the All-Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Christians Baptists, Bible Society of Ukraine, Feollowship of Independent Churches and Missions in Ukraine, Light in the East Mission and others. Without a break, Alexei Melnichuk, President of Connect International, began talking about the need for Christians to stop fighting over traditional and contemporary churches and evangelism. He says, “Coming to Christ is the most important thing. So, we need to stop focusing on who’s right and who’s wrong and go reach the lost where they live.”
Sergei Golovin, President of the Center for Christian Apologetics in Simferopol, Ukraine says the church saw incredible growth when the Soviet Union fell. “It was like a balloon. It was full of air and about to burst. Then Gorbochov broke the balloon and MANYpeople turned to Christ. Because there were few strong believers, the church grew quickly, but not very deep.”
At that break I was able to interview a number of people about the forum. Already, people are blessed by what’s been discussed.
When the forum continued, they continued to talk about experiences and perspectives on missions in the CIS.
Lunch break at 1:51pm.
After lunch the group split up into two different groups — 1. Social Evangelism and 2. Planting New Churches.
I attended the Social Evangelism small group. Many attended this. Because there were so many, we split up into smaller groups to foster more interaction. Here are the top five social issues based on the discussion in the CIS — HIV/AIDS, drug/alcohol abuse, crime, lack of moral values, and the growing orphan population.
The group talked about how the churches can work together to help reach out to these stigmatized segments of society. However, there were not concrete suggestions or proposals about how the organizations can work together. However, I’m told just talking about working together is a step in the right direction. Pray that the evangelical organizations who attended this session will continue talking about partnerships and begin preparing strategies to address these concerns.
Following these small groups, Russian Ministries dedicated their new ministry center, the site of the forum. Russian Ministries Vice President Sergey says this center will be key for outreach. “This has become a ministry nerve center, not just for Ukraine, but for all the former Soviet Union and even farther. I truly believe that this place will be the place for new initiatives to be developed, new vision will be offered and new strategic ministries will be started.”
Organizations that have been involved in ministry in Russia, Ukraine or other former Soviet countries are gathering this weekend for the International Evangelical Missions Forum sponsored by Russian Ministries/Association for Spiritual Renewal on the topic: “Missions Today: History, Analysis, and New Approaches: Perspectives for International Partnerships in Countries of the CIS.”
This Forum will take place at Russian Ministries new training center headquarters located in Irpen (Kiev region), Ukraine on October 24-25, 2008, and will begin with a dedication ceremony for this new facility which is already serving as a national center for our national affiliate, Association for Spiritual Renewal.
During the International Evangelical Missions Forum, leaders and representatives from many different national and international organizations, missiologists and theologians will analyze the experience, results, new opportunities and strategies for ministry in the countries of the CIS. Specific goals of the Forum include:
• To analyze missions during the past 20 years of religious freedom in the CIS;
• To understand the reasons for the crises facing national evangelical churches;
• To outline prospects for partnerships between churches and Christian organizations;
• To study successful models of church growth and effective missions.
I will be there representing Mission Network News and will begin special reports from this historic meeting Friday night, October 24. I’ll be featuring special interviews with mission leaders, videos and lots of photos.
Be praying for what God is going to do through this special forum.