A Russian Perspective on the Missionary Movement
Russia has awakened from spiritual sleep which lasted for 70 years. Now we can buy and read the Bible and participate in worship. Just ten years ago, we could lose our jobs, could be turned out from universities, or could even be imprisoned because of religious activity. By that long period, God reminds us of the history of the Jews, who were enslaved for70 years, when they had turned away from Him.
Thousands of missionaries have now come to Russia to help its spiritual revival, and I deeply appreciate their time and deeds. May God bless them! I saw people whose lives were completely changed by the Lord Jesus Christ through those missionaries. Before their conversion people had anxious looks. But then their faces became clear and smiling. It means that God's peace has come to their hearts. I saw happy kids' eyes at a summer camp, when they received God's love through missionaries. Many children were from broken families and had lack of care. But now they will always link Christian faith with missionary kindness. I saw prisoners who, with the help of missionaries, received hope and strength to endure their terrible circumstances. Praise be the Lord for those missionaries who have brought light to Russia!
At the same time it's obvious that missionaries have failed to win as many folk as they expected at the beginning of their crusade to Russia. It takes some time, better coordinated efforts, and long-term plans to convert many people in a country which was atheistic for 70 years. It's impossible to win a lot of people for Christ right away just by distribution of millions of sometimes primitive brochures, and Bibles written in old-fashioned Russian, or Bibles poorly translated into modern Russian. Russia must have native, profound Christian thinkers and scholars to prepare a new translation of the Bible with comments to lead Russians to Christ. It will take time to find and equip scholars. Perhaps, also, it will take the help of Western Christian seminaries because Russian theological schools don't have well-developed programs and skilled teachers as yet.
Another problem of the missionary movement is its relationship with the Orthodox Church. Many people who seek for truth, peace, and satisfaction are frustrated when they watch the opposition between Protestants and Orthodox. Mutual accusations of the churches remind one of old political struggles. Sometimes people decide to take the side of the Orthodox Church because it is the traditional Russian church, closely bound with Russian culture. Sadly, others, who do not find true love for Christians from other denominations widely declared in any church, make the decision to avoid all churches.
Edited excerpt reprinted with permission from Khristianstvo segodnya (Christianity Today), a new quarterly published in Russian and English. The first 1995 issue, from which the above editorial is taken, includes articles on "Christian Music in Russia," "What Can We Learn From Nehemiah?," "Missionaries in Russia," and "Is There Mutual Understanding in the Christian World?"
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© 1996 Institute for East-West Christian Studies