Growing Christian Population in St. Petersburg, Russia

( [email protected] ) Apr 27, 2004 11:41 AM EDT

In St. Petersburg, home to 4.5 million people, there are only about 8,000 who regularly attend evangelical or Protestant churches. The majority identify themselves as Russian Orthodox, but most are atheists or agnostics.

However, there is growing interest in Christianity among young people. The Rev. Maxim Baranov, minister of the Russian church, shared about the growing interest in evangelical Christianity in Russia during his visit to Lincoln.

His church, which was "planted" two years ago, has only about 30 members, but its programs for young people and businessmen reach out to many more. They have very special strategy in spreading the gospel. For instance, transforming a beauty parlor becomes a place of worship, fittingly called Transformation Baptist Church.

St. Petersburg has some 80 Protestant or evangelical churches, but most have fewer than 50 members. Of 35 Baptist congregations in the St. Petersburg area, only eight have church buildings. The rest meet in offices, homes or commercial buildings, such as the beauty shop.

"My church sponsors a club that meets twice monthly at a St. Petersburg restaurant and is attended by business and professional people. Participants hear speakers on such topics as management and business ethics, and some meet in smaller groups to study the Bible. About two-thirds of those who come are non-Christians, they like the club environment, which is an alternative to bars and drinking parties.” Baranov said.

His church also sponsors soccer, music and other events that attract teenagers. His wife, Sveta, leads a women's quilting group that reaches out to young families.

"I really believe there's going to be a revival in Russia," Baranov said.

In his two-month tour of the United States, Baranov spoke to churches and business groups in California, Texas and Louisiana. In Nebraska, he spoke at a Christian Business Men's Committee event in Omaha, and in Lincoln he met with Nebraska Supreme Court judges and Gov. Mike Johanns, who made him an honorary Nebraska citizen. He planned to visit Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Washington, D.C.