East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 10, No. 4, Fall 2002, Covering the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe

Key Challenges Before the Post-Soviet Church: A Synopsis

David Johnstone

The Church in Central and Eastern Europe emerged from the long night of Communist propaganda, manipulation, oppression, and often outright persecution battered but alive.  Although more than a decade of relative freedom has passed, many serious hangovers from the past remain that need prayerful attention.

  1. Healing of past wounds.  Under Communism government interference in church life, appointment of leaders, dispensing of privileges, and persecution caused division in nearly every denomination between the legal and illegal or registered and unregistered.  Those divisions are still evident. Pray for humility, confession, restoration, and renewal. The division between non-Pentecostal and Pentecostal Evangelicals has hampered their witness.

  2. The overcoming of an inferiority complex among Evangelicals. Their severe repression and denial of education and professional openings under Communism have left them marginalized and often ineffective in society.  Many leaders are reluctant to adapt in the face of cultural and generational change. As a result, many congregations appear irrelevant and unable to address twenty-first-century needs. Evangelicals could have a vital role in restoring moral, ethical, and spiritual standards in a society that has lost its way.
  3. The lack of open, appropriate evangelism. Since outreach was banned in the past, new opportunities in the 1990s were often missed or misused.  Some denominations and networks have grown, but others have stagnated. The growth of the early 1990s has tailed off. Discipling of seekers has been disappointing. Pray for Holy Spirit inspiration, innovation, and faith for growth in the twenty-first century.
  4. Handling relationships with the dominant Orthodox Church in Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Belarus, and Russia.Orthodox efforts to marginalize, discredit, and even eliminate other religions and minority Christian ministries have led to discriminatory legislation in these countries.
  5. Handling links with the global church. After decades of isolation, the shock of relating to Christian bodies from other lands has been often traumatic to both sides. Expatriate bodies need sensitivity and wisdom to learn from the many mistakes of the 1990s.  Foreign missionaries have gained a negative image--especially when much aid, help, and involvement were on a short-term basis with little cultural sensitivity, linguistic ability, or spiritual discernment.  Pray for long-term cooperation and mutual appreciation, with more support of local initiatives.
  6. The training of a new generation of leaders. All more structured theological education was controlled or banned. In the 1990s, numerous new seminaries, Bible schools, and theological education-by-extension programs sprang up across these lands. Increasingly, these are indigenously led and are maturing.  Much help is needed to make them more viable and effective and have the resources to give effective training.

Reprinted with permission from Patrick Johnstone, Operation World (Bromley, England: OM Publishing, 2001): 54-55.

David Johnstone, "Key Challenges Before the Post-Soviet Church: A Synopsis," East-West Church & Ministry Report 10 (Fall 2002), 15.

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© 2001 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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