Baptists in Russia are refocusing the outreach efforts

By March 24, 2006

Russia (MNN/BP) — Russian Baptists have set a course for the future with the help of Empowering Kingdom Growth, a new Southern Baptist initiative focused on the kingdom of God. While it is a program used by the International Mission Board , it’s something that is customized for each cultural setting. That’s exactly what’s been done in Russia.

EKG combines a biblical focus on the kingdom of God with planning tools to help congregations discover their vision, mission and values. The IMB held an EKG conference in Moscow recently, as part of the 51st meeting of the Euro-Asiatic Federation of Evangelical Christians-Baptist.

As a result of praying and working through the EKG process, Russian Baptist leaders adopted a purpose statement for their union: To serve churches for the establishment and expansion of the kingdom of God on earth.

Fiodor Baraniuk, director of the Sunday School Department for the RUECB, says it’s important that this program isn’t viewed as another idea from the West. “It should not come to our churches as another foreign program,” Baraniuk warned. “Our people are tired of hearing what we are doing wrong in the church.” He says focusing the union’s work on God’s kingdom is “a biblical concept we have ignored for too long.” But he adds that church leaders should not see EKG as just a tool for organizational growth.

President of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians Baptist Yuri Sipko says one of the major challenges is ministering in an environment where people often live with a sense of despair. He hopes Russian Baptists can change that by starting new churches and strengthening existing ones.

Sipko says, “What I see in the future are churches who have endured through our history moving to a point of fruitfulness and joyfulness so we can share the Gospel with all people. I see a future of Christianity that is a calling to God’s presence, helping us in evangelizing and allowing our churches to become more like what we see in Acts 2.”

The Russian Baptist Union listed nine values to guide them in their efforts: focusing on the local, considering every person important to God, unity and cooperation of churches, faithfulness to the Bible, prayer, evangelistically proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed, training ministers, the ability to change for greater effectiveness and righteousness in living.

Southern Baptist leaders and International Mission Board representatives introduced EKG to Russian Baptists’ key leaders three years ago during a leadership retreat. The Russians embraced the initiative as a national ministry focus after an extended session of Scripture praying and prayer about its use among the union’s approximately 1,400 churches. Baraniuk says, “In the last few years there’s (been) almost a sense of being lost. EKG has helped our churches have a clear sense of determining where we should go,” he said. “We are trying to filter everything we do through the eyes of the kingdom of God.

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