East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 7, No. 1, Winter 1999, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe

Western Ministry in the East: Sorting Out Praise and Condemnation

Paul Negrut

After the collapse of  Communism East European churches possessed a living faith purified through fire, but with few resources and significantly weakened leadership.  Alternatively, Western churches which had not undergone the fire of persecution did have resources for mission and individual initiative.  Consequently, thousands of Western missionaries entered Eastern Europe in the past decade.  It became commonplace in the West to affirm that "Eastern Europe is a mission field . . . .The opportunities are now to reach Eastern Europe for Christ."1

East European Christians have responded with a range of opinions from unselective acceptance to unselective rejection of foreign missionaries.  Thus, Vasili Karcha, a Russian Baptist, launched this appeal:

To all missions and churches in Norway, Sweden, Finland, USA, Great Britain, Germany, and Canada.  Murmansk Christian Mission "Good Samaritan" asks for help and support in Jesus' name.  We need videocassette players, films in the Russian language, books, and more.  People in Russia are very open to the Gospel now.  We need to develop our Christian work and fulfill the proclamation of God's Word.2
Alternatively, when asked by a Western Christian, "How can the church in the West help you?," another East European pastor replied:  "First, pray; second, pray; third, pray; and please stay away!"3  Western missionaries express equally contradictory views regarding the best way to help Eastern Europe.  Thus, some advertise a sort of Christian tourism ("Come meet real Christians!"),4 while others warn that Western Christians have ignored many key principles of missionary involvement.5  Joseph Tson affirms that there can be a fruitful cooperation between East and West if the West fulfills its promises in East European countries:
There is a rush from hundreds of organizations in the West to do mission.  Some of them do good; some of them not so good; some of them do bad things.  It would be much better if someone who is serious and really means to help would say, "We see that you don't have children's ministry.  We have a project for you.  Here is exactly what we can do for you.  Here is how much money we are prepared to spend on helping you develop this children's ministry."  If you don't have such a project and you are not ready to spend money, don't go there to deceive people into believing that you are there because you want to help.6
It appears that "projects" are the marks of missiological correctness, whether or not these  "projects" are relevant for Eastern Europe.  What is missing on both sides is a theology of the church and mission that overcomes the legacy of Western individualism and East European collectivism.

Paul Negrut is president of Emanuel Bible Institute, Oradea, Romania.

  1. Ron Davies, After Gorbachev?  How Can Western Christians Help? (Eastbourne. East Sussex: Missions Advanced   Research and Communications, 1991), 17.
  2. The request appeared in Frontier (September-October 1990), 3.
  3. Tom Lewis, "Help or Hindrance:  The Western Church in Eastern Europe," Facts 32 (1990), 5.
  4. Brian Jose et al., Current and Future Trends in Central and Eastern Europe (Leesdorf-Baden, Austria: EEMR, 1990), 14.
  5. Davies, After Gorbachev?, 25.
  6. Joseph Tson, "Toward Reformation in Romania," East-West Church & Ministry Report 1 (Spring 1993), 1-2.

Paul Negrut, "Western Ministry in the East:  Sorting Out Praise and Condemnation," East-West Church & Ministry Report 7 (Winter 1999), 10.

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© 1999 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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