of Saturation Church Planting Ministry in Russia
The Alliance for Saturation Church Planting arrived in Russia
in the mid 90s, with teams in Moscow, Kazan, Izhevsk, and Petrozavodsk.
The teams did everything they could to influence the national church
with a vision for, and with the practical tools to accomplish,
saturating Russia with churches. Networking, envisioning seminars
for nationals and expatriates, curriculum development, partnerships,
relationships, and more was used as the teams tried to get church
planting on the agenda of denominations, churches, and individuals;
and in situations where it was on agendas, tried to move it up
the list of priorities. The Alliance teams in Russia contributed
to the development of the OMEGA curriculum, and were able to use
it in several locations.
It is impossible to know the full impact of the Alliance work
in Russia. Trainers have been trained, and are training others.
OMEGA has a life of its own in Russia, Central Asia and beyond.
Multitudes of nationals have been envisioned, new churches have
been started, and some of those churches are starting other churches.
The teams have influenced many levels of church leadership, from
denominational heads to regional leaders to local pastors to church
planter trainers and to church planters. The Alliance teams, in
conjunction with partner agencies, have creatively employed a variety
of strategies, but all pointing toward the goal of a healthy reproducing
church planting movement in Russia.
The work has not and is not without its challenges. The Alliance
is not the only entity in Russia that attempting to assist the
local church. A multitude of agencies offer seminars on a variety
of topics. This, plus the Soviet love of acquiring knowledge for
the sake of acquiring knowledge, has diminished the value of seminars.
This has led many Alliance partners to focus on smaller numbers
of people, with more of an emphasis on discipleship and deeper
life change. In several contexts where a more personalized approach
has been used, the ration between the number of people trained
and the number of churches started has increased.
Lessons Learned (Based on Interviews with National and Expatriate
Throughout a decade of mission's involvement in Russia, Alliance
teams have learned valuable lessons. Many no longer believe in
reproducible models, believing that every successful church plant
is an original. Some expressed a greater appreciation for the sovereignty
of God in seeing church planting movements; versus a formula of
elements that guarantees success. Almost every contributor commented
on the priority of having the right people present for training,
and of evaluating the gift mix of potential church planters. This
isn't to minimize the contribution of anyone (prayer, giving, etc.),
but speaks of a recognition that the great impacts have been with
people who have an evangelistic gift mix and an entrepreneurial
spirit. Another insight shared by some is that the most successful
church planting sites are where a national and expatriate are working
together. Every national interviewed strongly emphasized the need
for building relationships of trust with nationals, particularly
those to whom God has already given a vision for SCP.
Alliance workers have employed a variety of models, depending
on the context. While the applications vary, consist themes were
building trust and earning the right to be heard, having appropriately
gifted presenters in all venues (read "good speakers"),
providing practical training and ideally practicum together, and
discipleship/mentoring. Models include:
- Intensive modular seminars, drawing church planters
and potential church planters together for training
- "Kitchen Table Training" where a smaller
group of students gather in a non-lecture roundtable format
- School environment, where students are trained
for six-months to one-year to two-years
- "Great Commission Youth Camps" where
youth (future leaders) were exposed to SCP principles
Thoughts on the Future
Several agreed that the SCP vision is more popular today than
it was five years ago in Russia, which means that the Alliance
emphasis should shift to strategies and practical "how-tos" of
church planting. This isn't to say that there isn't a place for
envisioning, but the practical tools used to teach SCP principles
can be the vehicle for communicating vision.
- One dream of the Moscow team was to develop a Russian
language publication (newsletter, bulletin, magazine) that would:
highlight "hot spots" where things are going well,
give practical "non-theoretical" input and suggestions
for church planting, tell the success stories from Russia, and
otherwise uphold the banner for SCP in Russia. Many agreed that
this would be a valuable tool, developing a publication and then
overseeing its distribution. An additional dream would be to
develop a Russian language website. Many felt that recruiting
this person(s) is a priority. The work would best be done from
the field, and could be done by a one to two-year short-termer
who has experience in publishing. They would not need to learn
the language. An experienced "finisher" would be ideal
for this. If there were a person dedicated to this publication,
they could also be a local link of prayer needs and success stories
to the Alliance partners outside of Russia.
- A strong recommendation from several was the development
of a more practical church planting strategy handbook that
wouldn't be an "envisioning tool", though the contents
may include envisioning elements. Nationals suggested including
counseling skills, and helping people resolve issues from their
past and present.
- Another recommendation expressed was regionally
based (versus Moscow based) refresher training for trainers who
have proven fruit as a result of their ministry.
- Additionally, a consistent recommendation from participants
is that the Alliance tries to connect with more regional groups (local
affiliations that are springing up), versus working with the
larger bulky denominations. Every person interviewed indicated
that the Alliance should think regionally and not countrywide.
- An interesting recommendation that came from nationals
and expatriates is to recruit and train Ukrainian church planting
missionaries in stopgap situations where there is no critical
mass of believers.
Daniel Downey, United World Mission