Vol. 17, No. 2
International Evangelical Mission Forum, Irpen, Ukraine
Sergey Rakhuba, Mikhail Cherenkov, Alexei Melnichuk, and Sergey GolovinAn International Evangelical Mission Forum washed in the Ministry Center of the Association for Spiritual Renewal, Ripen, Ukraine, 24-25 October2008. Some 250 representatives from 100 missions and Christian organizations working in the former Soviet Union marked a new stage in the developing discussion of a crisis in the evangelical movement and its prospects for renewal.
Participants in the Forum identified several key areas for the development of mission work in the former Soviet Union. These included social evangelism (being open to society and its needs), informal approaches to education (that would motivate and train young believers without taking them away from their ministry),planting new churches (rather than giving old ones makeovers), and creating a new missiology (harnessing creativity for self-examination and strategic planning).
Social Evangelism and Church Planting
Social evangelism assumes a connection between witness and good works, Christian culture and enlightenment. In the former Soviet Union a cultural barrier exists between evangelical and Orthodox believers and between Christians and Muslims. It is imperative to have local models of enculturation, with sermons contextualized for various national cultures. Planting new churches remains a priority omission work. Instead of focusing all efforts on changing traditions and remaking the composition of communities, it is important to plant new churches with new forms of ministry and new methods of mission work. The experience of missions such as Light of the Gospel, Good News, and the Association for Spiritual Renewal is evidence that a new generation of Christian leaders and a more effective model of church ministry has been developed in some missionary churches.
The most urgent task facing evangelical churches in the region remains the preparation of ministry leaders who, during a global crisis, are able to continue mission work responsibly and competently. This call must be answered by Christian educational programs which are directly connected to missions and have practical application. At the same time, the need for quality academic preparation of ministry leaders, systematic theology, and multi-faceted analysis has become apparent. Education has become the meeting place of secular scholars and theologians, students of secular and Christian schools – a new and untapped mission field. This work requires not only theological competence, but also professional preparation
New Missiological Paradigm
Effective partnership between churches and missions requires reevaluating the principles of cooperation and transparency, with missions adapting their work to the needs of local churches and local mission strategies. A new missiological paradigm must include the following elements:
1) Christ-centeredness: Conformity of a mission’s activities to its goal under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Missionaries should have maximum freedom to make decisions on the spot, as only they are familiar with their situation. Insuring accountability and integrity is essential, but this goal should not impose bureaucratic regulations and pre-planned methods in ways that ignore cultural realities.
2) Accessible infrastructure: One or two mission coordinators should represent each missionary in supporting churches. The duties of these coordinators would include regularly reminding churches of the importance of supporting the missionary in prayer; making sure the missionary receives pastoral care; organizing visits to the missionary by church members(short-term mission trips); and providing financial support and financial accountability for the missionary.
3) Calling vs. education: Missionaries are not those who have a degree in missions, but those whom God has called to ministry. They must have the freedom to part with the past (experience, problems, projects) forth sake of the future. They must have the ability to communicate effectively, using appropriate technology and an understanding of the mindset of nonbelievers. Finally, they must be rooted in a local church and be accountable to a local body of believers on the field.
4) An orientation towards the “ordinary” person: While ministry to people in crisis should be a major emphasis of missions (drug addicts, the homeless, prisoners), it should not exclude those who are not experiencing a particular crisis, but who need to know Christ, such as students, workers, military personnel, and those working in small businesses.
Sergey Rakhuba is president of the Association for Spiritual Renewal, Moscow, Russia, and senior vice president of ASR’s U.S. counterpart, Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries, Wheaton, Illinois;
MikhailCherenkov is vice president of the Association for Spiritual Renewal, Moscow, Russia; Alexei Melnichukis president of Connect International, Sacramento, California; Sergey Golovin is president of the Center for Christian Apologetics, Simferopol, Ukraine.