By Alexei Salapatov
Published October 1, 1996
What are our priorities?
Some people say that priority number one for the former USSR is still the spread of the Word of God. And I agree 100%. However, we should ask ourselves how we should keep bringing the Gospel to people’s hearts?
Asked this question seven years ago, I would have answered: Print as many Bibles as possible. Make this greatest book available for everybody. I remember my first Bible. I bought it on the black market for 100 rubles when I was 16-years-old. (At that time this was the average monthly salary.) Then God provided a great need for our country, and Bibles soon became available and affordable.
Five years ago, my answer would have been: Go everywhere and preach to young people. Praise God, this has happened too. Almost all the big university campuses, and some high schools were reached by missionaries. Thousands of students were saved and are church members now.
Three years ago, I would have said: the main task is to strengthen churches in large cities and establish new ones in outlying areas.
The logical continuance of this question would be …
What is most important step for the Evangelical Church now?
I believe the church now should became more active to affect the society. We must show the world that we care about people. We should fight atheism, which isn’t gone yet, but has been transformed into modern paganism.
Some people say that it’s not Church’s duty to intrude into the social and political life of the society – “The Church should just preach the Gospel and not mess with secular issues.” Well, such an opinion cannot be applied to the Church in the former Soviet empire. The traditional Evangelical Church here became strong because of continuous persecution.
But with persecution gone, what obstacles does the Church face?
First, atheism in schools, agencies, and government.
As I said earlier atheism or the total denying of God was and is an integral part of Soviet and post-Soviet culture. Of course, not many people now declare their sympathy to communism. However this doesn’t mean they became closer to God.
Even after 11 years of reforms, nobody has tried to change our educational system. Children spend most time at their schools being taught that a man is just a logical step of evolution right after the ape. No moral base is given to kids except to enjoy life for as long as you live. What is the result of such education? It’s not hard to see. There is resulting teen crime and prostitution. Five years ago, kids knew about drugs only from newspapers or TV, now you may buy drugs in most schools for a few dollars.
Ungodly medicine gives us five million officially recorded abortions per year. [The actual number may be even higher than that.] The real number of baby killings is not known because of number of private doctors who don’t report both their incomes and number of eliminated new-born lives. Also, think about thousands of abandoned children, a very small percentage of whom will be ever adopted. Human life has little value now like never before. A person is not treated as God’s creation, but as a colony of cells which try to survive. The result is easily seen.
No doubt that most important problem on the post-Soviet space is lack of wise government that based on any moral statements. After almost a dozen years of “reform,” none of our leaders was a believer or at least a person who admits biblical principles such as: “Thou shalt not kill” or “Thou shalt not steal.”
The Results? Ethnic conflicts and local wars which take thousands of lives. Having received control of the bank system, former democrats who used to suffer from the older communist system, printed more paper money than in all the previous 50 years. This is a direct violence on God’s commandment and a dishonest policy which affects all citizens. The result is an absence of faith in our leaders.
Second, Nationalism and national traditions
One more serious threat is a growing natinalism which also affects freedom of religion. From the very beginning of openness, the Russian Orthodox Church has attempted to prevent western evangelicals to act here. Legislation that would close the country for foreign missionaries is a dream of many ultra-nationalist priests of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The question is: How should the Evangelical Church react on this? To stay “meek” means to approve of actions directed against new and older churches. The popular perception is that freedom of religion costed too much and too many suffered from it. In my opinion, evengelicals, and especially foreign missionaries, should consider the cultural features of Russia. This will help to avoid conflict in the future.
A big fight is coming. Russian Evangelicals ought to be ready. A Russian proverb says: “Silence is a sign of agreement.” I can’t add anything to this. The silence of the church cannot be justified; to remain quiet means to approve these sins.
The church has passed times of persecutions, but times of trials are ahead. Weak and silent churches will turn to religious clubs and only true chlidren of God will pass through this test. Each of us must take the gift given by God and apply it to the society. Thus people will see the Light in us and will come to Christ. This way Church will become stronger and more mature.
P.S. For each minute that passed since you began to read this article, the following happened in the former USSR:
- at least 10 babies were killed by abortion.
- at least one person was murdered or seriously injured by violent crime.
The list can be continued … unfortunately.
Will the Church remain quiet? Who will push it forward to action?
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