Evangelistic Opportunities Open in Russia

Feb 06, 2003 06:46 PM EST

FORT WORTH, Texas - The president of the Russian Baptist Union feels a need for the rekindling of the gospel of Christ across Russian land. The Students of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary heard of the opportunities that were opened to them in the Russian mission field.

Yuri Sipko, the president of the Russian Baptist Reunion met the students at the Fort Worth Texas seminary, Jan. 29. There, he recounted a great 1992 Billy Graham crusade in a 45,000 - capacity stadium that was over flowing with crowds of people. When Graham asked the believers to come down to the floor, thousands of Russians flooded down to the platform to testify; 30 new churches began as a result of the crusade.

Now, 10 years later, many of the accomplishments have faded away; only half of the 30 churches remain. The "doors, which were being opened. now we see how they are closing. Russia still needs the gospel," Sipko said.

Only 93,000 Baptists exist in Russia; a dwindling number compared to Russia's total 145 million. However, those who profess the name of Jesus in the country live out the life passionately.

"When we have summer across the region, they are taking suitcases of Bibles and they are going back to the villages and towns around," Sipko said.

Russian believers travel by river and, upon coming on a village or town, stop to tell them about Christ and offer them Bibles, he continued.

"Every time when people see these young men and young women, they are looking at them like angels, because in these villages they don't have radios, television -- even sometimes they don't have electricity," he said, noting that the people have had no access to the gospel before.

The gospel, when given, is received warmly by the people.

He told the Southwestern students of the many opportunities opened to them, not only in proclaiming the gospel, but in the theological teaching field as well.

"Can you believe that until 1992, we didn't have even one theological institution in the vast territory of Russia?" Sipko asked.

The first Russian seminary - the Moscow Theological Seminary of Evangelical Christian-Baptists, began classes in an old building, starting in 1993. In 2002, the Seminary moved to a newer building. Now, teachers are needed for the renovated seminary.

Rick Yount, author of "Created to Learn" and "Called to Teach" and a professor of educational ministries at Southwestern, said that providing theological education for Russians requires a proper understanding of their cultural context.

"We don't need to go and tell Russian Baptists how to do church," Yount said. "They've been doing church in horrible circumstances, terrible persecution for years. But they would certainly welcome us to come and stand with them, beside them -- to teach them and allow them to teach us and together work for the glory of God in the former Soviet Union."

Yount's "Created to Learn" was recently translated into Russian for use in Russian Baptist seminaries. Yount had been to Russia on 12 occasions in the past 11 years.

By Pauline C.