Russia (MNN) — Over the past year, Russian law regarding foreign missionary presence has threatened to tighten. Pressure from Muslims and from the Orthodox church has also weighed on evangelicals, making it difficult for expatriates to remain in Russia.
Many have feared that harsher religious laws combined with religious opposition would disband and disrupt ministry. Amazingly, though, the pressure actually seems to have brought about some good.
Jack Elwood, president of Avant Ministries, says the church has been experiencing growth despite opposition. He says this pressure has in some ways forced the church to become less and less dependent on external ministries.
"[This situation] empowers the local believers. It enables them not to be dependent on outside resources or people. It enables them to really take hold of it themselves."
The growing pressure has made Avant's ministry increasingly important. Their attention is on training Russian nationals with resources like the Vulgograd Bible College to take the lead in church planting and discipleship. Training Russian nationals also helps keep the Russian church from becoming dependent on Avant.
As more national leaders are trained and built up, Elwood says they are indeed becoming less dependent. More leaders are needed, but the church is in better shape than it has been.
Increased pressure on evangelicals in Russia has also served evangelistic purposes. The church has not only grown spiritually but has also grown in number, partially, says Elwood, as a result of this heightened pressure.
"It's also helping them to realize that when there's significant opposition, often there's something important behind it. Many people realize that when there's a cost to pay for truly identifying themselves as Christ followers, somehow it begins to purify and motivate the church on a whole new level."
The church in Russia has grown, and there is more growth ahead. The good news is that there is an increased motivation to push forward. Pray for the national church as they continue to reach out and multiply.
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