And I saw another an gel . . . having the everlasting gospel to preach ... to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (Rev. 14:6). Although I have preached these words and prayed for the results, I'm not certain I ever dreamed how they could become a reality in Russia. Now I am writing this from Moscow, living in the midst of a miraculous movement of the Holy Spirit in this great city, where I am teaching a field school for pastors in conjunction with a great evangelistic thrust led by Mark Finley.
Reality is greater than what my hope could have imagined. My limited faith embraced fulfillment of this prophecy through a small remnant of believers in every country, but I would never have dreamed of this! Nearly five years ago when I first visited Russia, religion was still practiced quietly by the few who embraced faith. Public proclamation was virtually unknown. Adventists had only a limited presence despite a rich history of faithfulness during awesome trials.
Things change! God is still on the throne. Sweeping political and economic changes have brought a great opportunity to the former Soviet Union. This is a new day. The Russians are coming!
The Russians are coming to Christ. After 70 long years of Communism's oppression of religion, people are starved for a meaningful religious experience. People are responsive. Pastors and evangelists are popular. Spiritual hunger compels people to sit for hours as the Scriptures are taught. Ready acceptance fol lows the preaching of the message, and new believers embrace personal piety with strong fervor for sharing the gospel with others. The coming of Jesus is a blessed hope.
The Russians are also coming to cults. Christianity is not alone in capturing the interest of the people. There is a proliferation of false prophets and false Christs, all of which are not imported. Bizarre groups originating locally vie for the attention of the people. When people are so hungry for spirituality, the truth about God's character and His plan of salvation is urgently needed to combat error.
The Russians are coming to commercialism. Materialism is a god in the changing Russian culture as much as any where else. Sudden availability of luxuries never before known tempts people to trust in their own entrepreneurial ventures for security. Pursuit of hard currency and the struggle for economic ad vantage pervade a society that needs Jesus to satisfy the longing that many hope to find in money.
The Russians are coming to evangelistic direction. When religious freedom first came to the former Soviet Union, the churches were dependent upon foreign evangelists to assist them in proclaiming the gospel. Consequently, independent ministries as well as denominational entities have flooded the various republics with personnel, programs and products. While much of this has been needed and appreciated, the Russian sense of hospitality demands that they care for visitors and devote their best to those who come to work with them. Often this taxes faithful members above their own abilities. Now is the time to come only at their request. A high level of competency and professionalism increasingly marks the work of Russian pastors and evangelists. Careful pre-evaluation of every proposed venture should determine why we come: to help meet their needs, not because the open field seems more inviting than our own challenges.
The Russians are coming to cooperation. Believers no longer view them selves as recipients only. Russian Adventists see themselves as part of Global Mission. I was encouraged to see 100 pastors earnestly praying for large cities such as New York, Hong Kong, and Lon don as they realized that more new believers had attended worship services the previous Sabbath in Moscow than the total of all worshippers in these cities. Appreciation for the benefits that have come from an influx of money and personnel is coupled with a missionary spirit. Our churches want to share in proclaiming the gospel. I was impressed with one congregation's emphasis on the mission offering when my evaluation would have been that they needed money. I was wrong. Certainly they have great needs. But they understood their need to give and to participate in Global Mission.
The Russians are not just now coming to commitment! They are already there! The cost of discipleship remains high. The faithfulness of God's people will be challenged again and again.
Recent constitutional actions could severely threaten freedom of religion. Satan is not asleep. He will exploit every opportunity. But pastors and members are committed! I've seen them down on their knees. I've seen individuals who have been scurrilously attacked by those who know little of reality earnestly praying for God's will and His power for the church. We could learn from them. Even if I had been imprisoned for my preaching it would be unsafe for me to judge others who have suffered!
Here's the best news! When the saints come marching into the kingdom, the Russians are coming too!