MOSCOW (BP) – In a land marked by political and cultural transition, churches can grow stronger and reach future generations with the Gospel if they “turn their heart’s affection” toward the Kingdom of God, Ken Hemphill advised Baptist leaders from the countries of the former Soviet Union.
By Cameron Crabtree
Northwest Baptist Witness
MOSCOW (BP) – In a land marked by political and
cultural transition, churches can grow stronger and reach future
generations with the Gospel if they “turn their heart’s affection”
toward the Kingdom of God, Ken Hemphill advised Baptist leaders from
the countries of the former Soviet Union.
“God is seeking a people who will embody His name,
embrace His mission and obey His Word,” declared Hemphill, national
strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Empowering Kingdom
Hemphill spoke to more than 100 Baptist union
leaders who convened outside Moscow to learn how the EKG initiative
could make a spiritual impact upon the region’s numerous people groups.
EKG blends a spiritual focus on the Kingdom of God with planning tools
to help congregations discover their vision, mission and values.
“An effort like this helps lay a spiritual
foundation for understanding what God is doing in the world and how
churches can take part in it,” Hemphill said. “We’re not emphasizing a
specific model for the church, but a passion for God’s Kingdom that can
be customized for the cultural setting.”
Representatives of the International Mission Board
partner with two dozen Baptist unions across the sprawling landmass of
eastern and central Europe – home to more than 400 million people who
comprise 425-plus language and cultural groups spread across 12 time
The EKG conference – held as part of the 51st
meeting of the Euro-Asiatic Federation of Evangelical
Christians-Baptist – was funded by the IMB, the SBC Executive Committee
and the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Fifteen years ago, Baptists in the region were part
of one union. In the post-Soviet era, churches formed separate national
unions and are now grappling with how to cooperate in ministry amid
Some of the countries where the leaders serve are
taking economic strides forward, while others remain burdened by
political and religious pressures as they continue to emerge from
Baptist work in some of the former Soviet countries
dates back more than a century. Union leaders wonder whether changing
some of the old traditions – in order to reach new generations – could
generate conflicts among union-affiliated churches.
“The biggest challenge in the short term is the
strong reliance on tradition and doing ministry the way it’s always
been done,” explained Fiodor Baraniuk, director of the Sunday School
department for the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptist.
“EKG is helping people to refuse doing church in just the traditional
Even with struggles ahead, Baraniuk has high hopes
for the EKG process and future partnerships with Southern Baptists
working in Russia and the former Soviet countries.
“EKG has helped our churches have a clear sense of
determining where we should go,” he said. “We are trying to filter
everything we do through the eyes of the Kingdom of God.”
In the end it will pay off, Baraniuk predicted.
“We are setting ourselves up for a spiritual
future,” he said. “We may not see results immediately. We are taking
the long view.”
Hemphill hopes EKG will help the churches transcend
generational and cultural divides as they adjust to new cultural and
“The church here is coming out of a long period of
persecution and oppression, but they’re reaching a new generation that
may not know that history or even appreciate it,” Hemphill observed.
“Both groups are going to have to have a level of respect and
appreciation for one another.
“It’s really humbling to see these leaders embrace
the biblical understanding of the Kingdom of God,” Hemphill continued.
“While we’re certainly in a different cultural setting, the biblical
basis for EKG is cross-cultural.
“It is not a program, but it must become a passion bathed in prayer and based on God’s power.”