East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 13, No. 4, Fall 2005, Covering the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe

Book Review

Johnson, Paul H., ed. The CoMission. Chicago: Moody, 2004.

In the 1990s American evangelical missionaries chose to target a key social group — school teachers. It was a risky decision due to the fact that Russian school teachers represent an occupational group in which atheism and indifference toward religion are prevalent. At the same time, evangelism in Russia desperately needs a work with this particular audience. During the years of state atheism, Christian faith disappeared from young people, teachers, and altogether from a wide strata of the intelligentsia. The return of faith to the educated and socially active strata of the population is necessary and critically important for the spiritual enlightenment of Russia.

The testimonies of CoMission participants gathered here underscore the depth of the cultural differences between the U.S. and modern Russia. A spirit of skepticism, despondency, and lack of faith in one’s own strength prevails now in Russia, in contrast to American enthusiasm, optimism, and creative energy. American spirituality both frightened and attracted Russians. Tatyana Molodyk, a pastor of the Russian United Methodist Church who came to God under the influence of American missionaries, shared with me: “I always considered that people become believers due to sorrow, illness, and failure; grief is a sister of Christian faith. Getting to know American missionaries, I saw an opposite concept — faith as a fruit of joy, the fullness of life, and gratitude to God for self-realization on earth. In the beginning, it amazed me and scared me, and then I started seeking that particular faith, and I have found it.”

The most important characteristic of the CoMission’s ministry, as well as of many American Evangelicals in Russia, is the key role of prayer while serving. CoMission participants focused on Bible study, the preaching of Christian moral values, and prayer. This emphasis in evangelical missions contrasts sharply with so-called “traditional religions” that mainly emphasize ideological and political values in their preaching. As a result, many Russians who endured Soviet rule and who lost any conception of true Christian faith now perceive Christianity as one more ideology. But people do not always make their way to faith through a set of ideological constructs. A tremendous contribution made by the CoMission and other American evangelistic projects is the sharing of faith and prayer unsullied by ideology.

How successful was the CoMission? For the past 15 years, thousands of new evangelical churches and groups have emerged in Russia. The occupational composition of Protestant congregations has radically changed. In Soviet times, Protestants included virtually no intelligentsia. Now, educated people account for a significant portion of Russian Protestants. The CoMission’s role in the social transformation of Russian Protestantism cannot be measured with mathematical accuracy. However, it is perfectly apparent that the CoMission project chose a strategic audience and made a weighty contribution to the development of the evangelical movement in Russia.

Reviewed by Sergei B. Filatov, an Orthodox layman who holds a candidat (doctoral) degree in history, works for Moscow’s Institute of the United States and Canada. Translated by Asya Arushanyan.

Johnson, Paul H., ed. The CoMission. Chicago: Moody, 2004.

God often does the powerful and miraculous through the available and willing. The CoMission is the testimony of God’s amazing work through those who made themselves sacrificially available and saw Him do the unbelievable. Those who served with the CoMission were used by God to share the Good News in thousands of public schools in the former Soviet Union and lay the foundation of ministry to the educated class in hundreds of cities and towns between 1992 and 1997.

The CoMission relates the story through the eyes of the executive committee, with chapters devoted to each of the 11 committee members’ area of responsibility. These chapters collectively reveal the heart, sacrifice, faith, and courage exhibited by leaders and those who went as “CoMissioners” to Russia and Ukraine. They took bold steps following God’s lead into the unknown. In the process, they won thousands to Christ, pioneered a new paradigm of doing missions and ministry, and saw Russians and Ukrainians discipled in the faith. Most importantly, they followed the Spirit’s lead in obedience and brought glory to Christ. The stories and principles in The CoMission are compelling.

The CoMission based its work on 15 principles that are spread throughout the book and listed together in Appendix One. These principles are key to spiritual and Kingdom ministry regardless of context. As executive director of the CoMission Training and Materials Committee (chapter 5), I can attest to the accuracy of these principles. More than just nice words, they were the life-blood of the movement. The leaders lived them and the movement embodied them. Collectively, we regularly met God and saw Him do the miraculous as we applied these principles.

The CoMission is a worthy example of Kingdom service in unity. A total of 82 ministries determined to work together to advance the cause of Christ, rather than promoting their own organization. This book opens the secrets to Spirit-led ministry partnerships.

Many lay men and women on some of the earliest CoMission teams were the first Westerners to go to closed Russian and Ukrainian cities in decades – and the first to share the Good News. They fumbled, they made mistakes, and yet they saw God’s hand at work. The book shares some of these stories. I am convinced that in eternity the real story will unfold and the stories of faith and courage of lay men and women who served in the CoMission will put many in vocational Christian work to shame. If you seek a deeper awareness of missions and ministry, the wisdom and stories in this book will give you a mark to strive toward and shape the development of your ministry for the good.

Reviewed by Stacy T. Rinehart, International Director, MentorLink International, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Sergei B. Filatov and Stacy T. Rinehard, Reviews of The CoMission, ed. Paul H. Johnson, East-West Church & Ministry Report 13 (Fall 2005), 14, 16.

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2005 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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