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How the Orthodox Church is Gaining Influence in Post-Communist Russia

Although there are differences, I was also able to find similarities between the ways that Orthodox and Evangelical Christians set out to evangelize. For one, both groups embrace new converts from all walks of life. According to the article, “Kirill has challenged the Church to see all segments of Russian society—from bikers to rock music fans, from drug addicts to political candidates—as its mission field.” Secondly, leaders of both groups seem to believe in a “renewal,” a national revival, if Christianity regains its place at the head of the nation.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Orthodoxy is right for all Russians, after reading this article, I began to believe that the Orthodox Church has had a positive effect on the overall spiritual climate of the nation. According to Burgess, “sociological surveys have established that Russia is one of the few places in the developed world where people report that religion is becoming more important to them, not less.”

While Evangelical groups offer aspects of faith that the Orthodox Church doesn’t offer, they also can’t compete with the Orthodox Church’s history or its far-reaching influence over the overall culture in Russia. Therefore, I think that Evangelical groups in Russia would benefit from working with the Orthodox Church. The article talks about the seminaries and the hundreds of Orthodox churches that are being built (and rebuilt) now that communism has ended. If Evangelical leaders could establish relationships with the leaders of those seminaries and churches, they could combine their efforts and bring the message of God’s love and forgiveness to a greater number of people. There are also many humanitarian efforts that the Orthodox Church has been carrying out, and if Evangelical churches could come alongside them, they could extend their reach to the poor and needy. It brings a smile to my face to imagine a group of Christians—Orthodox, Presbyterians, Pentecostals—uniting together and bringing love to the homebound elderly and to children who have disabilities.

There is also a new mission field for all Christian denominations. According to Burgess, “In large cities like Moscow or St. Petersburg, hundreds of thousands of people live in residential areas that were constructed during the Soviet period and therefore have no churches.” Last year, my parents moved to one such residential area of Moscow. They’ve seen the need for a church there, and they’re planning to start one over the next few years.

One of the greatest things that we can do, no matter what denomination we belong to, is to help people understand the magnificence of God’s love. This article reminded me that God’s love can be expressed in many ways: a smile, a helping hand, the cooperation of believers, stories of God’s faithfulness throughout history, even the colorful artwork found inside a Russian Orthodox cathedral. If I go back to Moscow for a visit, I will try to notice the expressions of love that I overlooked before.

 

To read the May 2014 First Things article, “In-Churching Russia: Journeying Through the Efforts of Orthodoxy to Return Russia to Faith” by John P. Burgess, point your browser to this address: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/05/in-churching-russia

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Category: Church History, Spring 2014

About the Author: Rachel E. Mock is a writer and a mental health counselor who lives in Florida with her husband. She grew up as a missionary kid in Europe in the 1990s, and she has continued to do international mission and humanitarian work as an adult. Rachel loves to learn and write about people of other cultures. She has worked as a correspondent for The Herald of Gadsden County and has written for several other publications, including Tallahassee Woman and tallahassee.com. She blogs about her thoughts, her cultural experiences, and her spiritual journey at rachelmock.com. Twitter. Facebook. Pinterest.

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