Get Moving for Christ
The RUECB is back on the road again
M o s c o w -- After a break of nearly a year, the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB) Moscow offices are back on the road again with a motorised, missionary expedition. A 10.000-kilometre-expedition entitled “Many-Coloured Russia” departed from Moscow on 12 February headed for Kyzyl in central Siberia just north of Western Mongolia. The expedition’s intention is to meet migrant workers and many of the country’s ethnic minorities, which consist of 182 distinct language groups. Congregations visited are also to be schooled in working with such minorities.
The expedition will head eastward through Perm and Yekaterinburg before proceeding on to Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. It will then return westward via Chelyabinsk just west of the Urals and end in Ufa on 8 March. The group is led by Rev. Ruvim Voloshin, the RUECB’s Director of Missions, and consists initially of seven workers in one vehicle.
At the RUECB’s remarkable annual youth leadership conference, the “All-Russian Conference of Youth Leaders”, held this time at a church camp in Ramenskoe near Moscow from 5 to 8 February, a group of 10 young adults also decided to “get moving for Christ”. This spring they are planning to begin walking the 1.050 kilometres (653 miles) from St. Petersburg to Kiev. The RUECB-Youth Director Evgeny Bakhmutsky explains: “I hope they can get there by the end of summer. The Ukrainians are planning to meet us once we enter the country. I think the movement will grow and involve a lot more than just 10 people.” Further developments will be posted on the youth department’s website: “www.baptistyouth.ru”.
Bakhmutsky adds that this year’s conference had to cut off registration after the first 500 because of limited space. The event might become the longest weekend youth conference in Russia ever. It began with consultations by 10 regional youth coordinators working on issues of strategy on 1 February and will only close on 20 February after nearly two weeks of additional schooling at the RUECB’s Moscow seminary. Over 700 youth leaders participated during the course of the event, arriving from as far away as the Baltic states, Belarus, the Central Asian republics and Russia’s Pacific Coast.
The youth director describes the present trend of Russian youth work as “back to basics – preaching the Gospel and proclaiming the truth”. “We need a paradigm change,” he adds. “For at least the last 15 years, we have understood evangelisation as special events and programmes. So our churches have ceased to live and breathe evangelism. It is no longer a part of our daily lives, and teaching within church walls will not suffice. But I remember when we used to approach people on the trams.” Text messages sent back to the conference from trains by youth workers returning home indicate that the lesson is being learned. Bakhmutsky explains: “This is a reformation - not a revolution attempting to destroy something. It is a return to basics. Remember that the spiritual awakening in Russia a century ago was led by young men such as Ivan Prokhanov (1869-1935) and Ivan Pavlov (1883-1936).”
Evgeny Bakhmutsky adds that his union is thinking of organising new congregations aimed particularly at persons too young to have been shaped by the socialist system. These persons lack the socialist identity of earlier times. They are more Western in their thinking than traditionally Russian “and have not yet been able to find themselves”. The pastor concedes that not all Baptist congregations are ready to accept a large inflow of younger persons and that some older church members are more connected with the Soviet past than with Russia’s present and future.
Yet Bakhmutsky believes much youth work is functioning well and denies any jealousy regarding congregations such as Moscow’s “Word of Life” church. This Charismatic congregation of 4.000-plus members, led by the Swede Matts-Ola Ishoel, consists primarily of young people. “I would claim that we have more young people than the Charismatics do,” he states. “We have over 20.000 young people in our congregations.” Only a portion of these are baptised and can therefore be included among the RUECB’s official membership of nearly 80.000.
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 16 February 2009
A release of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. It is informational in character and does not express a sole, official position of RUECB-leadership. May be published freely. Release #09-04, 677 words, 4.206 keystrokes and spaces.