East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 3, No. 1, Winter 1995, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe

An Open Letter to Christians of the World

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We are very thankful for your prayer and financial support, for the help Western, and especially American, believers, Christian missions and missionaries rendered to our long-suffering Motherland through this time of hardship. With all our hearts we are seeking to help you be most effective in our country. We also want you to understand the real situation in our country and churches.

At present our country is going through an extremely difficult period. The political situation is unstable. Because of the lack of a wise ruler, the country became the object of plunder. Corruption has spread to all areas of our life, including governmental agencies. This has led to chaos and inflation in the country's economy.

Spiritually the nation is also living through a crisis. Like all our society, the church is in need of a spiritual revival. The Russian Orthodox Church is collaborating with the government. Various sects and occult religions are most active. There is no unity among Christians. The people are losing interest in spiritual matters. At the same time national and religious hatred is building up.

In spite of the fact that we received from foreign Christians most of the Bibles and other Christian literature we have in Russia, as well as the majority of humanitarian aid, the Russian Orthodox Church and various nationalistic organizations are actively opposing Western, and especially American, Christian missions. A great number of leaflets, brochures, and booklets accuse Western Christians of seeking to enslave the minds and hearts of Russian people and aim at spiritual usurpation of Russia.

That is why we address all Western Christian missions and missionaries willing to work in Russia:

Realize that Russia is in agony trying to find its own way.

We appreciate the experience of other countries, but...Western patterns cannot be directly implemented in Russia without proper adaptation.

The existing traditional church, the Protestant one in particular, is not meeting the needs of today. It's the salt that has lost its savor, it's the "old wineskin," the lamp placed under the bushel. We really need the rich spiritual experience of Western churches, but we need the best part of it adapted to the specific conditions of Russia--everything that applies to us.

Today we critically need Western missions' and missionaries' support, but Russia needs Western Christians who are strong in the Spirit and capable to serve in spite of economic and political hardships. We need people who are immediately ready to serve rather than those who spend 3-5 years studying the Russian language and culture. We can provide translation for immediate and effective service.

In the first place, we need specialists who not only know how to do things, but also have their own rich, practical experience in planting, developing, and strengthening churches. Second, we need youth and music leaders who are able to raise the ministry for our young Christians to a higher level. Third, we need people who not only come to teach for short terms, but who are ready to serve in Russian churches for five years or more.

The Orthodox Church receives from the government all kinds of privileges to use mass media for its propaganda, to buy land and build churches and seminary facilities, while the Protestants face nothing but limitations. Protestant churches pay primary attention to salvation and to winning souls for Christ rather than building churches and training Christian workers. The President's decree banning the use of public buildings and schools for worship services and religious activity is already in force. Very soon the majority of Protestant churches, having no facilities of their own, may find themselves in the street.

No one can be sure that tomorrow our government, pressed by the Orthodox Church or due to a political situation, will not persecute Western religious organizations and missionaries for spreading their beliefs and make them leave this country. As a result, most Protestant churches that are run by Western missionaries will be deprived of their leaders.

The priorities of today are to train Russian leaders for the churches and to make "new wineskins," churches promoting spiritual revival of the Russian people and drawing those who are searching for God. We encourage you to pray and support the Russian brethren.

God bless you,

Peter N. Sautov
Director, Center for Evangelism
Pastor, Evangelical Christian-Baptist Church in Novogireevo, Moscow

Peter N. Sautov, "An Open Letter to Christians of the World," East-West Church & Ministry Report, 3 (Winter 1995), 6-7

Open Letter to All Western Missionary Organizations Interested in Spreading the Gospel in the Former Soviet Union

Dear brothers and sisters,

In addressing you, we are moved by different feelings and by many, often contradictory, discussions on how to preach the Gospel in our countries.

First, we want to thank you from our heart for your love to our peoples which helped us in preaching the Gospel during decades when Christ's Church in our country had been an object of persecution....We thank you that despite all restrictions you remained faithful to the words of the Apostles: "One should follow the Lord more than people" and risked your freedom to bring us the Lord's Word and other Christian literature which helped us survive in the years of Babylonian slavery....

Given the above, one can understand the enthusiasm with which Western believers reacted to new opportunities of preaching the Gospel in our country after so-called perestroika had started....[But] we would like to share with you some of the difficulties we have to fight.

First, many western missions rushed to the "open door" with great enthusiasm. In Moscow alone over one hundred western organizations were registered. And each one wants to accomplish its program by using the existing church infrastructure which is still weak....

Second, indigenous missionary organizations cannot compete with strong western missions and the best people prefer to work for western organizations and, naturally, for better payment. As a result, indigenous missions lose their translators, editors, preachers, missionaries. Finally instead of assistance and support from western missionaries, local missions have to defend their own vision of missionary service.

Third, at a time when national consciousness...is being transformed into open nationalism, it is very harmful to evangelize without thinking about national culture, religion, and local traditions....Evangelization campaigns formed under the influence of western show produce feelings of protest against protestantism....

Fourth, because many missionary initiatives from the West are denominational. As a result very unusual communities and churches appear in our country. We can understand the zeal of those missionaries sent by these missions and churches to establish their own communities. We cannot argue with this, but when in order to have their own church, members of indigenous churches are offered money, and good money, to force them to come to a new church, then this not only goes beyond all norms of cooperation but is totally incompatible with our understanding of missionary service. We are thankful to the Lord that this last case is unique....

Fifth, some missions organize evangelization campaigns in our countries on an interdenominational basis. We lack the experience of tolerant cooperation...and these joint services imposed by the West for the best of purposes meet unprepared soil, produce tension, and worsen existing disagreements. When preparing any kind of campaign, the real religious situation should be taken into consideration....

Let us support each other in prayer and in deed, as it used to be in the worst times, at this very crucial time for our countries--the time of building the Lord's Kingdom--and jointly resist the Gospel's enemies.

With love and respect,

Missionary Coordinating Council,
Almaty, Kazakhstan, 23 March 1993

Otonas Balchunas, Shaulai, Lithuania Henri Fot, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Anatoly Bogatov, Saransk, Moldovia Piotr Lunichkin, Vladikavkaz, Ossetia
Andrei Bondarenko, Elgava, Latvia Pavel Pogodin, Nalchik, Kavkaz
Semen Borodin, Krasnodar, Russia Victor Shiva, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Vassily Davidyuk, Kiev, Ukraine Franz Tissen, Saran, Kazakhstan

"Open Letter to All Western Missionary Organizations Interested in Spreading the Gospel in the Former Soviet Union," East-West Church & Ministry Report, 3 (Winter 1995), 6-7.

Written permission is required for reprinting or electronic distribution of any portion of the East-West Church & Ministry Report.

© 1995 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

EWC&M Report | Contents | Search back issues | From Our Readers | Subscribe