What Russia’s election will mean for the church

By March 2, 2012

Russia (MNN) — No one really seems to be arguing the idea that Vladimir Putin will become Russia's next president this Sunday, March 4. Despite numerous protests, most news sources and other Russian insiders have all but declared Putin the winner.

When asked if it was possible that another of the four candidates could take office, Joel Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association replies, "Honestly, I would be really surprised if something like that were to happen."

Regardless of whether or not Putin is who the country wants, the question thus becomes: What will happen when he takes office?

The biggest fear for many Christians in any power change worldwide is that the church might have fewer freedoms. This fear is especially heightened in the former Soviet Union, of which Russia is a part.

"In the former Soviet central Asian countries–like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and the like–we've seen tremendous crackdowns the past few years against religious groups and evangelical churches," says Joel Griffith.

Even more disconcerting is that those crackdowns tend to be somewhat contagious across Central Asia, in particular. When amendments are made to a religion law in one country, similar amendments may follow in a neighboring nation. Russia has been able to stay relatively free, but there is awareness of these goings-on nearby.

"Our prayer is that Russia would certainly not go down that route, but that the churches would remain free and able to worship and proclaim their faith freely," notes Griffith.

The church in Russia is just praying for the best, says Griffith. Many are nervous that religious freedom could be jeopardized, but most choose to lay low on the political scene and maintain an optimistic outlook.

"They typically don't get really exercised about political things. They just do what they do. They remember what it was like to live under communist oppression, and the Lord brought them through that and opened a tremendous door for the Gospel when the wall came down. It's no different now."

It's hard to predict what may happen, and so for now, the church continues on its business as usual. In fact, the distress over the elections for many Russians may even be opening doors to share Christ.

"I think any time of transition and change is an open door for the Gospel because people are really doing a lot of soul searching during these times."

Pray that the result of this election would mainly be opportunities.

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