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Evangelism goes to Moscow

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Archives / 1993 / March

 

 

Evangelism goes to Moscow

J.R. Spangler
J. R. Spangler, a former editor of Ministry, is a consultant for evangelism in Russia.

 

For a little more than two years the Seventh-day Adventist Church has utilized the miraculous opening of religious and political doors in the former Soviet Union.

Historically, the culture of Russia has had little religious liberty. Not under the prelates. Not under the czars. Not under the Communists. But suddenly and surprisingly, the tightly closed doors and windows of this former world power were shattered. Newfound religious freedom made it possible for religions of every description to preach publicly their beliefs to a population quite ignorant of the true gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture. This ignorance resulted in a spiritual vacuum; as a result, every evangelistic campaign we have held has been jammed with eager listeners.

During 1991 we held 11 three to four-week evangelistic training schools for 500 Seventh-day Adventist ministers who have not had seminary training. Mornings were spent in classes and evenings in public meetings. Our major purpose was to train pastors to conduct their own evangelistic campaigns.

During 1992 we conducted nearly 75 major campaigns with evangelists from Australia, Germany, the U.S.A., and Canada participating. Plans for 1993 call for 125 major campaigns by visiting evangelists, and another 125 campaigns by local ministers. These meetings will last from five to six weeks, the time necessary to establish hungry souls in Bible truths.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church two and one-half years ago had only 35,000 members in the former Soviet Union small indeed! Since then the Lord has enabled us to more than double our prayer/faith goal of 3 5,000 baptisms! To reach our goal of 1 million members by the 1995 General Conference session requires enormous faith, but by God's grace it can be done!

Formidable problems

However, the fragile miracle of freedom is facing overwhelming problems that will impact negatively on our evangelistic program in the future. Among these problems is the lack in Russia, as well as in other republics of the former Soviet Union, of a constitution that permits religious freedom. For instance, if Russia chooses to enforce the religious liberty section of its old constitution, all public religious activities could be shut down immediately.

Another formidable problem is the objection by the major established church to the invasion of foreign (as they label it) religious groups. In one of the republics of the former Soviet Union, several top religious leaders lobbied their legislature unsuccessfully to pass a law prohibiting people from changing their denominations. All religious movements other than the former state churches are looked upon as a threat to their culture that dates back for centuries.

Another serious problem is the political and economic instability that reigns throughout this former empire. Tragic indeed is the economic condition that has reduced millions to a level of poverty unknown to First World countries. Western news media paint a bleak and foreboding picture of present conditions that may well lead to a revolution where religious freedom will again be denied. The conspiring enemies of politics, economics, religious oppression, and even nature itself seem to be against a bright future.

Victory in spite of adversity

However, God is still on His throne. My purpose in mentioning the dark side of the former U.S.S.R. is to emphasize the need of quickly sharing the gospel with the multitudes before the night comes when no one can work.

It Is Written is now telecast nation wide, weekly. Our Voice of Hope radiobroadcast is reaching millions of homes. This is all done in the local language. The response is staggering. Our trained staff is working overtime correcting thousands of Bible correspondence lessons. To accomplish so much with so few is overloading the circuits. We pray that the beams of light that have touched and are touching the hearts of so many will never be extinguished, regardless of what may happen in the future!

The Kremlin Congressional Hall meetings

Last March the unimaginable happened. From a political viewpoint, the most important and best known hall in the former U.S.S.R. is the Kremlin Congressional Hall in Moscow. This beautiful 6,500-seat auditorium, just inside the Kremlin walls, was the venue for the delegates of the former Soviet Congress of People's Deputies of the U.S.S.R. This massive hall with its white marble foyer and plush bright-red seats had been viewed by millions around the world when the news media covered the U.S.S.R.'s Communist Party sessions. Until now it was unthinkable for any religious group to rent any public auditorium, much less this prestigious auditorium. Yet our church under God's blessing conducted evangelistic meetings in this hall.The cross of Christ instead of Communism was exalted twice a day to capacity audiences, for 11 days!

In March 1992, when the Communist Old Guard rallied some 30,000 demonstrators in favor of turning back the clock, a front page article in Izvestia proclaimed that it was impossible for them to meet in their usual place because "in the schedule of the Palace, there was planned, for March 14 to 25, another activity titled 'Biblical Way to a New Life.' It will be conducted by American Seventh-day Adventists." Newspapers and radio and television commentators spread this story across the land.

Mark Finley, newly appointed speaker of the It Is Written telecast, addressed 10,000 to 12,000 eager listeners daily. Two thousand were baptized, and two new churches were established. Today we have four strong congregations in Moscow, where, just a short a time ago, we had only one. (To read the thrilling story of remarkable conversions to Christ, please write to It Is Written, Box 0, Thousand Oaks, California 91360, for a free copy of Mark Finley's book The Cross and the Kremlin.

International field school of evangelism

In July of this year, another historic event will occur in Moscow when Mark Finley and a large staff of helpers will conduct a month-long crusade in the 40,000-seat indoor Olympic Stadium. It is nothing short of a miracle for us to have secured this commodious place for an entire month! If all goes as planned, this crusade will constitute the greatest single evangelistic campaign our church has ever attempted. We fervently re quest your prayers in behalf of this gigantic undertaking!

The General Conference and the Adventist Media Center Evangelistic Association will sponsor this crusade. In addition to TV, radio, and newspaper advertisements to help secure a daily attendance of 40,000, we plan to pro mote the New Life Bible Correspondence Course, with the objective of graduating 100,000 Muscovites from this 27-lesson course before the meetings begin. We have a goal of baptizing 4,000 to 5,000 precious souls, and establishing 6 to 10 new churches. The 1992 world Annual Council voted that this crusade will be both a world field school of evangelism and a soul-winning crusade for Russia's capital city.

Three hundred delegates from our Euro-Asia Division will be in attendance. Nearly 200 delegates from our other world divisions will participate. All division presidents and Ministerial Association secretaries will be invited. Each division will select and sponsor its quota of delegates. Two levels of seminars, introductory and advanced, will deal with practical subjects such as the conducting of evangelistic crusades, church management, church growth, evangelistic and pastoral preaching, lay training, and guidelines for administrators. All applications for attendance must be processed and voted on by the various divisions.

This world field school of evangelism has a two-pronged thrust. The first objective is to strengthen and increase the membership in Moscow and to train national pastors. Second, we want this program to inspire the world field with the necessity of proclaiming publicly the grand truths of the everlasting gospel in the setting of the three angels' mes sages. Surely, we need to be about our Father's business in sharing with the world the good news of salvation and the hope of Christ's soon return.

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