The New Russia Now
By E. Claude Gardner
Why have you come to Russia to preach since we have priests and churches already?" asked a faculty member in the question period when I lectured at the Conservatory of Music at the university in Yekaterinburg. The Russian Orthodox Church is the entrenched religion; our goal was to plant the New Testament church. I was able to explain we are "debtors" to people world wide as Jesus charges in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19) and as was practiced by Paul (Rom. 1:14). Happily I was able to state we are also preaching the gospel in many other nations - India, Austria, China, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Nigeria, Brazil, and others.
From November 1-14, 1992 a team of seven American and three Russian Christians established the Lord's church in Yekaterinburg; 54 were baptized. Potential is there for many to become Christians.
For eight nights I preached in the Palace House of Culture located close to the train station and accessible by bus and trolley. We began at 6 p.m., and after I spoke using a translator, we encouraged questions from the audience until 8:30 p.m. The people listened eagerly; they asked very good questions which enabled us to give them a better understanding of the Bible. They asked about the Sabbath, infant baptism, sprinkling, miracles, tongues, the Holy Spirit, existence of God, the Russian Orthodox Church, and other things. On the last night I was there, I spoke at a House of Culture at a large chemical plant where I had spoken on a Sunday before, and 17 were baptized.
The theme I used was "The Bible - the Book of Hope." For a people who had been fed pessimistic atheism it was timely to offer them a new hope. I sensed they were hungering for something better than what they had from both their political and religious systems. Before going to Russia, I believed it would be necessary to preach on the existence of God and Christian evidences since atheistic Communism had held sway for 75 years. I did deal with these vital matters; however, I concluded that a large number of people believed in God. I spoke on God, Christ, the Bible, the plan of salvation, salvation from sin, and restoration of the New Testament church, topics that are needed in America and anywhere in the world.
On the first Sunday the church met in Yekaterinburg, we had 63 present including several visitors. After the team left, one of the American brethren remained for a few days to further instruct these new Christians. These new babes in Christ will need to have more Bible teaching.
During the day our team taught Bible classes individually, and also we spoke to many university and institute students and faculty; this was profitable. I enjoyed speaking at the Conservatory of Music, an engineering school, two business schools, and to classes of students studying German and English. Also, I spoke to children and their parents in a special school. One of the two Adventist churches asked me to speak, and I preached on "The Church Jesus Built." I preached freely and without fear.
The Russian people are friendly, hospitable, and generous. They are responsive, and they are receptive to hearing the Gospel, which offers them a better way to live. Now is the time for us to preach New Testament Christianity. The time may come soon when this privilege is gone.
Denominational people are swarming to Russia. One radio preacher announced recently that he had gotten 600 members to go over at one time. Let us not be timid about going to Russia at once.
Yekaterinburg, the fourth largest Russian city, is about 1,200 miles east of Moscow. It is in Asia at the edge of Europe, on the fringe of Siberia. It is a large city of 1.5 million with about 4.5 million in the general area. The church established there can radiate in other parts. Let us pray for more laborers for Russia. "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest ... will send forth laborers" (Matt. 9:38).