U.S./Russia relations could impact Christians

By July 7, 2009

Russia (MNN) — It was the first U.S./Russia summit in seven years. According to both sides, it was designed to "reset" the soured relationship between the two superpowers. According to reports, the two sides have agreed to pursue a new nuclear arms reduction treaty, to cooperate in Afghanistan, and to work together on public health, among other areas.

However, how does this affect Christians in Russia, who have gradually lost religious freedom over the last five years?

Spokesman for the Slavic Gospel Association Joel Griffith is hopeful. "I think any time there is improved relations between Russia and the United States, that can certainly have a positive effect on evangelical churches."

However, there has been a growing anti-American sentiment growing over the past eight years. Griffith says, "I think western missionaries have to be careful–not only when they're in Russia, but in any of the former Soviet republics–about how they conduct themselves and how they support and uphold the national church there. I think the more attention they draw to themselves, there's always the potential for difficulty there."

Good relationships with western governments may not be the answer to evangelical religious freedom, says Griffith. "In some of the former Soviet republics where Islam is strong, you have growing opposition to evangelical churches even though they are national and indigenous.So it's important just to pray that we would have the resources and the open door to continue to assist these churches as they bring the Gospel to their own people."

Griffith says while the people in the major cities of Russia may be resistant to the Gospel, "when you get out to the outlying areas where people do get all that often, the churches still do see a great hunger for the Gospel. Church-planting missionaries working one-on-one with their neighbors and communities, I think, has the most lasting and staying impact."

SGA isn't a missions-sending organization. It's an agency that's supporting national Christians to reach out with the Gospel. That's protected them for the political problems. While that's good news, Griffith says they need prayer. "Pray for SGA that we would be able to be a resource and a service to these churches, because in this economy and especially with a depressed global economy, I think the churches are under increasing pressure from a financial sense."

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