Russian Seminary In Hope of Expanding Ministries in Russia

( [email protected] ) Dec 18, 2003 11:49 AM EST

Russian Baptist Seminary is seeking to receive financial support from the US churches with the goal of strengthening minitries in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe by raising and educating potential young ministers

Russia is home to 147 million people but only 1,400 Baptist churches. That's a ratio of only one Baptist congregation for every 105,000 people.

"Our goal is to train many more students for the ministry, not only for the Russian Baptist churches," Alexander Kozynko of Russian Baptist seminary explained. "We train many ministers from Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia and some from Kazakhstan."

Over 10 years Moscow Theological Seminary of Evangelical Christians-Baptists only had 72 graduates but the number is expected to grow rapidly. The renovated seminary building will increase enrollment from 25 students to about 200 students. Before the seminary couldn’t accept more than 25 students because of the limited building space. The first seminary class of 1993 only had 17 students. The seminary offers three academic programs -- the two-year master of divinity and three-year bachelor of theology degrees, plus a certificate for youth leadership. Now the seminary is ready to produce more pastors and teachers who will spread the gospel across Russia and Eastern Europe.

Creation of the school fulfilled an 88-year dream for Russian Baptists. "The first prayer for this school was said in 1905, at the first Baptist World Alliance meeting in London," Kozynko reported.

"For Eastern Europe, our seminary is pretty important. Some of the smaller [Baptist] unions don't have a seminary. They have Bible institutes. Some of their students can be trained at this seminary."

The major problem that most students are facing is the tuition and other living costs which add up to $3,000 per year. Kozynko assumes that this will give financial burden to many Russian and Easter European ministries that want to help students to get education.

"We require the students to pay tuition," he said. "But the churches who are recommending them, they really are not able to provide scholarships. ... We still look forward to increasing the number of students if we can get enough churches to provide financial and prayer support."

In concern of difficult financial situation, Kozynko has been visiting the United States seeking for churches that will commit to "adopt a student for three or five years and also support them as they begin ministry," he explained. "I am really glad to extend our contacts to several places in the United States," he said.

Ronnie Prevost, a professor of church ministry at Logsdon School of Theology in Abilene, Texas and a member of the Moscow Seminary Board of trustees, said Kozynko's proposition which asks to adopt a Moscow Seminary student and help launch a lifetime ministry, provides churches with a chance to impact Russia and Eastern Europe with the gospel.

"It's going to prove to be the mother seminary of Baptist work for the foreseeable and long-range future of Russia," said Prevost.

He added, "Not only is the seminary producing ministers -- pastors and youth ministers -- for the churches, but graduates are going out and starting Bible schools, Bible colleges and seminaries in their home regions."

"They are expected to start schools that will be doing the training of ministers," Prevost said. "It's almost an accelerated paradigm of what we've seen as Baptists in the United States. ... The ideal for any country is for the ministers to be trained within the context of their culture. They know their people best."

Kozynko expected of the great need and incredible openness the young ministers would enjoy once they come to their fields of service. "In this way, we can affect society in a positive way," he said. "Drug use and alcohol are destroying our society. ... They are empty in their souls.

"But the Slavic people -- Russians as well as Ukraines and others -- are open to the good news. ... Many people are after the truth in their lives."