Ukraine (MNN) — Nearly 200 Christian leaders from countries all over the former Soviet Union gathered in Irpen, Ukraine to discuss the future of outreach in the region. The International Evangelical Missions Forum sponsored by Russian Ministries attracted 16 missions from people in six countries, following 20 years of freedom and ministry.
The forum was designed to remember ministry of the past, celebrate the present and plan for the future. The forum was formed in response to the crisis facing Christians today in the region.
The two-day forum discussed issues ranging from church planting, social evangelism, missions today and tomorrow, ministry training, and the future of missions in search of new paradigms.
Sergey Rakhuba, Vice President of Russian Ministries, says the crisis is actually a series of issues. "There is a young generation who is looking for spiritual answers for their questions. But unfortunately, traditionalism — legalism — is quite often offered to them that they don't accept."
He says the other crisis relates to religious freedom. "In Belarus there is no freedom anymore. It's almost like back during the former Soviet Union. In Russia, religious freedom is under serious test today. We have brothers from Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. Islamic radicalism is actually blocking all kinds of evangelical activity there."
Rakhuba says Christians must take action. "We have to develop a strategy how not to flee, but how to continue reaching the new generation that actually is ignoring the traditionalism of the Orthodox church and is turning to the evangelical churches and looking for true answers."
Alexei Melnichuk, President of Connect International, says the fighting between traditional and contemporary needs to end. He says the most important thing is that people turn to Christ.
The forum was hosted by Russian Ministries in their new Ukraine Ministry Center in Irpen. The center was dedicated on Day One of the forum. Rakhuba 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."
In the days ahead, we'll be talking with people representing several different organizations working in the CIS to find out if the forum was profitable for their work.