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Конец нормы: не бери, не ходи, не сиди

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Много бед пережил Израиль, но каждый раз жизнь возвращалась на круги своя. 

Цикл благоденствия-отступления-наказания-покаяния повторялся снова и снова. Бог терпел и долготерпел, любил и миловал без меры.

А людям казалось, что все так и должно быть, что при всех их проступках и проделках, преступлениях и неверностях ничего непоправимого не случится, что все будет хорошо. 

Но рано или поздно всякой «нормальной жизни» приходит конец. 

Пророк Иеремия слышит от Господа слово, что обычное течение жизни прекращается до того момента, пока люди не назовут своих идолов ложью, а Единственного Бога – силой, крепостью и прибежищем (Иер. 16: 19).

Впрочем, сами люди не смогут вернуться к нормальной жизни, к жизни с Богом, пока Он Сам не явит Себя: 


«Посему, вот Я покажу им ныне, покажу им руку Мою и могущество Мое, и узнают, что имя Мое—Господь» (21).


Людям казалось, что они контролируют циклы жизни, но Бог напоминает, что нормальная жизнь – это Его чудо и милость, что  Он может остановить течение жизни и Он же может возобновить или обновить движение. 

Когда мы оставляем Его и забываем Его закон (11), Он оставляет нас пожинать последствия наших решений. Тогда мы теряем нашу землю и оказываемся пленниками чужих царей. Тогда мы теряем наши дома и семьи, города и храмы. 

В такое время лучше ничего не иметь, потому что все будет потеряно и разрушено.

Пророк Иеремия слышит повеление от Господа забыть о радостях обычной жизни, даже не иметь их, чтобы не скорбеть об их утрате:


«Не бери себе жены, и пусть не будет у тебя ни сыновей, ни дочерей на месте сем.  Ибо так говорит Господь о сыновьях и дочерях, которые родятся на месте сем, и о матерях их, которые родят их, и об отцах их, которые произведут их на сей земле: тяжкими смертями умрут они и не будут ни оплаканы, ни похоронены; будут навозом на поверхности земли; мечом и голодом будут истреблены, и трупы их будут пищею птицам небесным и зверям земным. Ибо так говорит Господь: не входи в дом сетующих и не ходи плакать и жалеть с ними; ибо Я отнял от этого народа, говорит Господь, мир Мой и милость и сожаление. И умрут великие и малые на земле сей; и не будут погребены, и не будут оплакивать их, ни терзать себя, ни стричься ради них. И не будут преломлять для них хлеб в печали, в утешение об умершем; и не подадут им чаши утешения, чтобы пить по отце их и матери их. Не ходи также и в дом пиршества, чтобы сидеть с ними, есть и пить; ибо так говорит Господь Саваоф, Бог Израилев: вот, Я прекращу на месте сем в глазах ваших и во дни ваши голос радости и голос веселья, голос жениха и голос невесты» (2-9).


Не бери. Не ходи. Не сиди. 

Слишком поздно. 

Оставим все это, потому что оно обречено. 

Потому что мы не сможем сохранить нашу жизнь прежней. 

Потому что «только ложь наследовали наши отцы, пустоту и то, в чем никакой нет пользы», потому что лишь пережив и осознав эту пустоту, мы можем воскликнуть: «Господи, сила моя и крепость моя и прибежище мое в день скорби!» (19). 

Конец «нормальной жизни» должен стать отвержением прежней жизни как лжи и пустоты, возвращением к Богу, вхождением в Его Царство, открытием настоящей жизни как жизни Божьей, жизни вечной, жизни с избытком. 

Быть устами Бога

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У пророка Иеремии было много причин для плача, но при этом он не переставал радоваться тому, что Бог продолжает говорить. 

Как можно радоваться и плакать одновременно? 

Как можно передавать волю Бога так, чтобы не потерять ничего из строгости, серьезности, правды, гнева, ревности, нежности, долготерпения, милости, любви, надежды? Так может только пророк, отказавшийся от своих слов и согласный быть устами Бога. 

Сочетание радости и скорби характерно для всех пророков смутного времени.

Они передают страшные слова Господа: «Я устал миловать» (Иер. 15:6). 

Они не имеют права добавлять что-либо от себя, приукрашивать, разбавлять, смягчать.

Можно лишь представить, как трудно было Иеремии выполнить такое поручение от Господа: 


«Отгони [их] от лица Моего, пусть они отойдут. Если же скажут тебе: 'куда нам идти?', то скажи им: так говорит Господь: кто [обречен] на смерть, иди на смерть; и кто под меч, --под меч; и кто на голод, --на голод; и кто в плен, --в плен» (1-2).


Эти слова предназначались не врагам, но своему родному, избранному Богом народу.

И все же эти страшные слова – слова Божьи. И все же, пока Бог говорит, все еще возможно. 

Поэтому пророк принимает горькое Божье откровение и покоряется ему. Пророк принимает свою роль, не видя всего плана, но доверяясь ему.  

Что бы ни было, но имя Божье наречено на нас – это достаточное основание для радости и веселия пред Господом: 


«Обретены слова Твои, и я съел их; и было слово Твое мне в радость и в веселие сердца моего; ибо имя Твое наречено на мне, Господи, Боже Саваоф» (16).


Перед людьми же пророк предстает грозным вестником. Он не разделяет беспечного веселья неверных и грешных людей, он исполнен святого негодования.


«Не сидел я в собрании смеющихся и не веселился: под тяготеющею на мне рукою Твоею я сидел одиноко, ибо Ты исполнил меня негодования» (17).


Это болезнь и рана пророка – страдать за свой народ больше, чем страдает сам народ, переживать за людей больше, чем они переживают за себя. 

Но в этом есть подобие Господу – так любить и так страдать вопреки всей неверности и недостойности тех, которых любишь, за кого страдаешь. 

Сегодня, как и тогда, Господь ищет тех, кто готов быть подобным Ему, кто готов стать Его устами, кто способен понимать, принимать и передавать Его слова во всей их силе и чистоте:


«На сие так сказал Господь: если ты обратишься, то Я восставлю тебя, и будешь предстоять пред лицем Моим; и если извлечешь драгоценное из ничтожного, то будешь как Мои уста. Они сами будут обращаться к тебе, а не ты будешь обращаться к ним. И сделаю тебя для этого народа крепкою медною стеною; они будут ратовать против тебя, но не одолеют тебя, ибо Я с тобою, чтобы спасать и избавлять тебя, говорит Господь» (19-20).


Быть как уста Бога – не значит угождать большинству, нравиться власть имущим, искать популярности и всенародного признания. 
Быть как уста Бога – значит стоять крепкой стеной за правду, какой бы горькой она ни была. 
Быть как уста Бога – значит напоминать о Нем всем тем, кто Его оставил; кто хочет быть как будто с Богом, не принимая Его всерьез; кто не слушает Бога и Его пророков, потому что ищет легких решений и сладких слов, не спасения, но забвения, не света, но покоя; кто продолжает бурное веселье, не замечая  смерти, меча, голода и плена. 
Быть как уста Бога – пророческое призвание малого остатка в мире постправды и довольного ей большинства. 

Stewardship Partnership Spans the Globe

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Stewardship Partnership Spans the Globe


By Michael Cherenkov and Jon C Wiebe


Christian Leader

 

In 2018 MB Foundation released a resource to inspire generosity among the MB family as part of its Championing Biblical Stewardship efforts. The Seven-Day Generosity Challengewas developed as a resource for churches and small groups to encourage a life of joyful, Christ-centered generosity.  This resource was first compiled by The Global Generosity Network who subsequently gave permission to MB Foundation to customize the resource for its use.  After some significant editing, it was put into production.

 

The impact of the devotional has grown far beyond the initial purposes and our continental boarders.

 

An unexpected development happened when MB Foundation partnered with Mission Eurasia for the Russian translation. Mission Eurasia is an international agency focused on training and mobilizing Christian leaders in the countries of Eurasia and Israel. Their president, Sergey Rakhuba, not only provided the translated material, but recognized the value of its teachings in their ministry. With our enthusiastic support, they began using it in 65 training locations in 14 countries of Eurasia.

 

According to Michael Cherenkov, Executive Field Director, “when Jon Wiebe released the 7-Day Generosity Challenge as a resource for friends and partners of MB Foundation little did he know that very soon the resource would be in a great demand and very popular on the vast territories of far-off Eurasia. And now people read it in Russian, Ukrainian and even Georgian! This book has already been reprinted three times in Eurasia with a total of 10,000 copies.”



 

Mission Eurasia became a partner in distributing this resource. 

Michael Cherenkov shares, “We had been thinking about the importance of this topic in the churches of Eurasia for a long time. When I read this book in 2018 I knew right then that we had to translate it and publish for our partner churches in Ukraine. The book was a simple, clear and inspiring invitation to be generous and I wanted to pass on that message as far as possible to change both the mentality and daily ministry practices.” 

 

The first recipients of this manual were 11 MB churches and it was like a breath of fresh air to them. MB churches in Ukraine are young and small. On one hand, they are constantly faced with a lack of resources. On the other hand, they are actively involved in many ministries and are very open to fresh ideas. They were very happy to implement the idea of generosity and make it a foundation for their ministry practices. They took the challenge, and generosity became their daily practice. 

 

Roman Rakhuba, leader of MB churches in Ukraine also teaches at School Without Walls (SWW), a specially designed program for young leaders of Mission Eurasia. He shared this resource and his experience of using these ideas in practice with others. So, 7-Day Generosity Challenge became part of SWW curriculum in 14 countries of former Soviet Union. Thousands of young leaders can read the book, download electronic versions and even see these lessons in video format. As Mission Eurasia built on the idea of the “generosity challenge” they started their TV program called, Time to Be Generous.

 

As it is known, 70 years of soviet regime taught people to keep the mentality of scarcity which also affected the church. Today, the topic of generosity helps to repair the defects in theology and practical church ministry and also unlock the potential of the church for a more active and effective ministry. And in this regard, the legacy and experience of MB churches is valuable and relevant for the sister churches in Ukraine and other countries of Eurasia.

 

Mission Eurasia has received stories and testimonies of the 7-Day Generosity devotional’s impact for individual studies, home groups, and churches. 

 

Denis Gorenkov, Mission Eurasia, Ukraine 

“I believe that 7-Day Generosity Challenge is an amazingly holistic material whereas it was written by people from different cultures and different Christian communities. But they managed to create a deep yet quite simple for perceiving material with universal message. I have witnessed how this message was received by young leaders in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Caucasus and Russia… They live and serve in different countries and contexts and that is why, the strong side of this books being universal and holistic helped our leaders grasp it and live it out.”

 

Aleksei Yuditsenko, Heart for Christ MB Church pastor, Berdyansk, Ukraine

“I found 7-Day Generosity Challenge very compelling and encouraging. I loved the biblical view on finances, and generosity in general. I feel like I was already living that life of generosity but when you serve people all the time and give, you need to receive as well. And I received an encouraging message from the book. God spoke to me and helped me understand the depth of why I serve others; ultimately it’s all from Him and for Him.

I have used the material of the book in my sermon and was planning to study it in our home groups but that was when our country announced a lockdown. So, as soon as we are able to meet in groups we’ll go through 7-Day Generosity Challenge as a church in our small groups. This book is a great tool to study in groups!”

 

Sergei Ryadnov, Light to the World MB Church, Novomoskovsk, Ukraine

“To me personally the book has been a great resource. It helped me to have a broader and better understanding of generosity and live it out in my personal life and ministry. Also, there were many helpful ideas there that I now teach in my church.”

 

Igor Syrbu, church pastor, Chisinau, Moldova

“When I heard about 7-Day Generosity Challenge at one of the meetings that was organized by Mission Eurasia I was very impressed and thought, “This is exactly what people in our church need to hear!” I am a church pastor and also a home group leader. So I always look for useful and interesting material to share with people. And 7-Day Generosity Challenge was an answer to that quest. We started studying the material in our home groups and preach on generosity at our church. The material resonated with my heart and helped me personally to be more deliberate and disciplined with generosity. I have always admired the people who were generous and served with whatever opportunities they had to be a blessing to others. So I tried to convey that message to the people in my home group. People in our Church without Walls have always been generous in supporting local ministries as well as missionaries in Central Asia. So, 7-Day Generosity Challenge course helped us cultivate that mindset and conscious culture of generosity. As a family, apart from tithing, we also started to set aside a certain fixed amount of money for people in need. And recently I started to think how to plan and do it more strategically: how I can financially support a project, especially now, in time of crisis and pandemic. So, our journey of cultivating the culture of generosity continues and I see how God blesses us and invites us to grow in this discipline.”

 

Sergei Semenov, Zaporozhye, Ukraine

“I was part of a webinar recently that was led by Jon Wiebe where we talked about generosity and how we can be giving people in the modern world. I was so impressed by the webinar that I read the book 7-Day Generosity Challenge right away. I was very inspired by some ideas and now do my best to live them out. Here are some of the messages from the book that were a big revelation for me, and inspired to live a more generous life: generosity is an outcome of a deep relationship with God; when we don’t walk closely with the Lord we lose the ability to be sensitive and live a generous life; generosity is a reflection of God’s nature in us; every person is not an owner of all they possess, rather, a steward.  I am a youth leader at my church and want to share these ideas with young people who come to our church. I believe the Lord will give us strength to live out these ideas and we can glorify Him through our generosity.”

 

Pavel Tokarchuk, Mission Eurasia, Russia

The initiative to talk about generosity, sacrifice, and biblical view on stewardship is very timely and is now discussed at seminars, presentations and printed resources. We are grateful to our partners for making this resource available for our evangelical churches, pastors and leaders. We hope that as we promote this course and its ideas it will help Christians to look at generosity in a new way and help for spreading the gospel and for the churches to grow different ministries. Our hope is that as we distribute these books it will be helpful to many churches in taking care of financial needs of the church, missions and grow in other ways of giving. Some leaders use this material in their small groups, in seminars at Christian conferences and meetings with Christian businessmen.”

 

Mariana Vakula, Kharkiv, Ukraine

“7-Day Generosity Challenge is an unusual book. It’s not the type of book that you read and quickly forget. This book inspires, challenges and changes you. God’s Word accompanied by the writers’ life stories is not dry theory. Because of the challenges at the end of each chapter, the biblical principles of generosity get implemented in our everyday lives.  I am grateful to God and everyone who participated in making this valuable book possible. I am planning to use it in our ladies’ groups.”

 

Mission Eurasia also developed different resources to complement the devotional:

 

1)    Digital devotional books

Russian - https://equalibra.org/ru/book/cemidnevnyy-prizyv-k-schedrosti/

Ukrainian - https://equalibra.org/ru/book/semidenniy-zaklik-do-schedrosti/

 

2)   Nearing completion on videos for each lesson.  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWyZbGfBEUSCjkC6iR83f6JIlmk_yW4XW

 

3)   Devotionals are also in the final stages of being recorded as audiobooks. 


“Only God could take a resource for our U.S. Mennonite Brethren constituency, with a distribution of 3,935 in the U.S. (194 Spanish, 2,727 English and 1,014 in Russian), and use it across the former Soviet Union to encourage our Mennonite Brethren churches in Ukraine and as a resource for the Christian church at large,” says Jon C. Wiebe, MB Foundation President & CEO.



 


 

По случаю бездождия

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По причине наших грехов закрывается небо. 

Нет воды земле, скоту, простым людям, священникам, царям. 

Неверность людей обрекает весь мир на страдание.


«Вельможи посылают слуг своих за водою; они приходят к колодезям и не находят воды; возвращаются с пустыми сосудами; пристыженные и смущенные, они покрывают свои головы. Так как почва растрескалась оттого, что не было дождя на землю, то и земледельцы в смущении и покрывают свои головы. Даже и лань рождает на поле и оставляет [детей], потому что нет травы. И дикие ослы стоят на возвышенных местах и глотают, подобно шакалам, воздух; глаза их потускли, потому что нет травы» (Иер. 14:3-6).


Господь не дает дождя, но при этом дает Свое слово «по случаю бездождия» (1), поясняет Своему настоящему пророку причину происходящего.

Всевышний повелевает Иеремии не молиться во благо народу, поскольку Он больше не принимает молитв

Небо закрыто – оно не дает своих благословений и не принимает жертв и просьб людских.

Это тот случай, когда молиться и поститься - значит гневить Бога еще больше прежнего. Это тот случай, когда обращение к Богу после всего содеянного против Него становится наглостью и мерзостью.


«Если они будут поститься, Я не услышу вопля их; и если вознесут всесожжение и дар, не приму их; но мечом и голодом, и моровою язвою истреблю их» (12).


Бог не принимает и тех, которые именуются Его представителями –  самозванных, самоуверенных и лживых пророков процветания и мира:


«Так говорит Господь о пророках: они пророчествуют именем Моим, а Я не посылал их; они говорят: 'меча и голода не будет на сей земле': мечом и голодом будут истреблены эти пророки,  и народ, которому они пророчествуют, разбросан будет по улицам Иерусалима от голода и меча, и некому будет хоронить их, --они и жены их, и сыновья их, и дочери их; и Я изолью на них зло их» (15-16).


На тех, кто не хочет понимать глубину своего падения и степень своей вины, кто убежден в безнаказанности в силу своей избранности, Бог изольет зло вместо дождя.

И единственное, что Он примет со стороны людей – это их слезы.  


« И скажи им слово сие: да льются из глаз моих слезы ночь и день, и да не перестают» (17).


Когда не льется дождь, мы должны лить слезы. 

Не потоки лживых пророчеств о том, что «все будет хорошо». 

Не редкие слезки капризных детей. 

Но слезы грешников, к которым приходит прозрение и тошнота от совершенных преступлений, а вслед за этим – полное принятие Божьей воли, готовность нести заслуженное наказание и робкая надежда на то, что однажды Божий гнев сменится милостью.

Тогда наши настоящие, плачущие пророки смогут предстать пред Господом, чтобы воздать Ему славу и довериться Его суду и милости:


«Есть ли между суетными [богами] языческими производящие дождь? или может ли небо [само собою] подавать ливень? не Ты ли это, Господи, Боже наш? На Тебя надеемся мы; ибо Ты творишь все это» (22).

5 Pandemic Lessons from Eurasia’s Evangelical Churches

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How congregations in the former Soviet Union are responding to the coronavirus challenge can help the global church think better about buildings, young professionals, and persecution

Image: Illustration by Mallory Rentsch / Source Images: Courtesy of Mission Eurasia


Focus on Eurasia: How the Evangelical Church is responding to the challenge of the pandemic, and what lessons it can offer the global Christian community

 

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has put the entire world to the test, including the global Christian community. It also provided new opportunities for increasing global Christian unity. One of the challenges for us as Christians is to care not just for ourselves and our families, churches and countries, but for Christians in other parts of the world. If we know more about them and pray for them more, if we learn from them and help them, it will strengthen not only our communities, but the entire global Christian family. 

 

For many Western Christians, Eurasia is uncharted territory, and no less so during this pandemic. In the midst of troubling news from Europe and the USA, we do not hear much about what is happening in Eurasia, and even less about how churches are responding to the pandemic. But in this case no news is not good news. It simply means that we have little accurate information. The problem also lies in the fact that we have very little interest in what is happening, despite the fact that post-Soviet Eurasia is a strategically important region, situated with Europe to its west, China to its southeast, and the Islamic world to its south. And the way local Evangelical churches respond to the challenge of the pandemic speaks volumes about their way of life and ministry, as well as their future missions potential.

 

National leaders testify that the situation in Eurasia is alarming. Health systems, economies, transportation, and security systems are on the verge of total collapse. Mass testing is not happening. Governments deny access to reliable information. And all the while the war in Ukraine continues, and restrictions on religious freedom and human rights increase in Russia and Central Asia. 

 

The former Soviet Union is a gray zone, where, in the wake of the Soviet Empire, strange hybrid systems have emerged, which imitate the developed world while using talk of democracy, free markets, rule of law, independent media, freedom, and human rights to mask their absence. Given these circumstances Evangelical churches are under constant pressure both from government authorities and society, which are dominated by either aggressive Orthodoxy, Islamism, or a secular Soviet mindset. 

 

The challenge of the pandemic has lit a spark, which cast light on the little-noticed but active and essential role of the Evangelical Church in this gray zone. Below I will share five simple lessons that the global Christian community can learn from the Church in post-Soviet Eurasia. 

 

1. Lesson One. When the government is helpless and all other public institutions are paralyzed, the Church finds itself on the front lines. Under the circumstances, people have no one to turn to other than the Church and volunteers. And this creates unprecedented opportunities for sharing the Gospel beyond church walls. Regular church members serve as agents or angels of hope for thousands of people paralyzed by fear and poverty. When regular church activities come to a halt, it prompts many young Christians to begin thinking about what they can do for others.

 

Sergey, a young pastor from Buryatia (a region of Siberia bordering Mongolia), shares his experience: “Jesus said, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations,’ and our government said, ‘Stay home.’ We were faced with the question of how to help people without breaking the law. Our team registered as volunteers and received special volunteer movement permits. Some of us sewed masks, others collected and distributed food donations to those in need, and others answered calls to a hotline, offering much-needed counseling and encouragement. One day we were asked to visit a woman who had been severely beaten by her husband. She had gone blind and was alone. We expected her to have a lot of questions about how God could have allowed this to happen to her, but instead she eagerly listened as we told her about Jesus and she prayed to accept Him as her Lord and Savior. We prayed for her, for healing for her soul, spirit, and, of course, her eyes. She is very lonely and would like us to visit more often to tell her about God. After encounters like that you begin to appreciate things you almost didn’t notice before and took for granted – your ability to see, hear, walk, live.” 

 

These positive examples serve to introduce many people to the Church and change their attitude towards it. Sergey continues, “As you know, all non-Orthodox churches are considered illegitimate in Russia. However now a lot of good things are being written about us online and on TV. While before the Evangelical Church was considered a sect, now we are practically heroes!”

 

2. Lesson Two. In addition to formal church structures it is important to have a parallel network of informal leaders. In critical moments, when church structures are paralyzed, these field (not office) leaders can take the lead. In 2004 Mission Eurasia began training young leaders from 14 countries of Eurasia through the School Without Walls program, which put an accent on serving outside church walls. Over the years we have trained and equipped an entire army of young leaders. It is an invaluable resource for churches to have relationship-based networks of young leaders with experience working together, especially during a crisis of large institutions and structures. 

 

Another extremely important network of leaders is our young professionals network. Normally churches don’t notice them, however now churches are praying for doctors and teachers. Now that churches are closed, everyone understands that it is Christian professionals out on the front lines. They have become visible. And this experience should change us forever. We should not wait for the next crisis, we should be mobilizing the Church now through young professionals ministry, through training, caring for and supporting them. If they are the avant-garde of the church, then they deserve better treatment and better resources. In the coming years we should focus on helping those professional communities which are critically important to the life of our whole society - groups that could be called to the front lines at any moment. In Eurasia we call this movement “Mission in Profession.” It is a new, fresh initiative, which could change our way of thinking about missions, profession, the Church, and young professionals’ place in it.  

 

3. Lesson Three. When the whole world is in crisis, we need to count, first and foremost, on local resources. When borders are closed, and giving to global missions is declining with each day, it is important to use the opportunity to encourage communities to develop their own internal culture of generosity. I remember back in 2005 when the Russian government refused to recognize Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child gifts as humanitarian aid. Authorities claimed that, “Russia is rich and can take care of its own children.” That same year, Russian Evangelical churches began their own Christmas gift distribution project called Gift of Hope. It turned out that churches were glad to give and put together gifts for orphans and children from needy families. Since then the ministry has continued to grow. It is not well-known in the West, but it is well-known in Eurasia, and has been met by a generous response among churches. As a result many have even developed their own similar initiatives, and the idea has become contagious. Today, as the lockdown continues, instead of Gifts of Hope for children, churches are putting together “iCare” grocery packages for hungry families. 

 

All this is not to say that churches in Eurasia do not need help. Help is needed more than ever, especially in the dark corners of Eurasia such as the Russian-controlled separatist regions of Ukraine or far-flung regions of the Caucasus and Central Asia. However I am convinced that when we know the breadth of local generosity, we will be happier to support churches in Eurasia, adding our international assistance to their sacrificial giving, thereby sharing in their needs and blessings. 

 

4. Lesson Four. Churches that did not have comfortable, well-equipped buildings turned out to be more flexible and creative in missions outreach. In Russia and many countries of Eurasia, the government can easily confiscate, bulldoze, or shut down an Evangelical church’s building. Therefore a majority of churches have faced difficult choices, weighing the risks of continuing to actively reach out to their community or calmly enjoy a comfortable church life in a well-equipped location with no external outreach activity. During the pandemic, churches without buildings responded more quickly, because they lost less. They were able to mobilize to serve others instead of grieving over their empty building.

 

Media attention has been fixated on the Orthodox Churches, which continued public services during lockdown in defiance of government restrictions. In the Orthodox tradition the temple is everything, and without the temple and sacraments there is no Church. In contrast, Evangelical churches, which have learned to live and serve “without walls,” are in a much better position. While Orthodox churches fight for their traditional liturgy formats, Evangelical churches are reaching new missions fields – online and in homes. Many call themselves “Church Without Walls,” putting an accent on their flexible format and missional nature. Igor, pastor of one of these churches, says that the quarantine has not in any way limited their activity: “We were not tied to a particular location or ministry format, therefore we do not feel that we have less work or fellowship. In fact, the opposite has occurred, because during lockdown everyone wants to hear about God and no one refuses assistance or prayer.” 

 

5. Lesson Five. Ministry during lockdown can serve not just as a test, but also as a valuable lesson for future periods of repression and persecution. This is not the first time the Church in post-Soviet Eurasia has been in lockdown. It survived seventy years of aggressive atheism, when almost all churches were closed. While Soviet communism feels like the distant past, the lessons of that history, learned through underground ministry, personal evangelism, and a battle for freedom, are still relevant today. Pastor Sergey serves in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine, and he says that when church services were forbidden, he wasn’t discouraged – he still remembered church services in Soviet times. “I realized that now was the time for individual meetings and family visits, for speaking without a pulpit or microphone, but rather heart to heart. In the very first week of lockdown two people confessed their sin and made peace with God. They had never attended church before the lockdown. But God found them. I am grateful for the new opportunities created by this situation.” 

 

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These and many other lessons from the ministry of the Evangelical Church in Eurasia during the ongoing pandemic serve as a reminder that in times of external difficulties and limitations, God renews the Church, activating its young and creative powers, focusing them on missions “without walls.” The Church of post-Soviet Eurasia was cleansed through trial by fire, and the current challenges are unlikely to limit its ministry. More likely the opposite will happen – this challenge will become a powerful stimulus to renew its mission and grow in leadership, generosity and creativity.

 

 

 

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