As well-meaning Westerners rush into Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, they may be hurting as much as helping.

For more than six months following Romania’s revolution, Paul Negrut, pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Oradea, was able to preach only once to his congregation. The reason? Not government restriction, but an endless stream of Western visitors to his church—as many as 20 on a single Sunday—each invited out of customary hospitality to speak from the pulpit.

The problem is not Second Baptist’s alone. Across Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, churches are finding that the blessing of glasnost has opened them to a near-suffocating embrace of Western Christians. For the most part, the onslaught of evangelicals grows from a genuine desire to help. But despite good intentions, the Western church’s response to the fall of the Iron Curtain has been marked by confusion. In some cases the disjointed effort has hurt the church more than helped. And missions experts warn that valuable time is being lost as ministries scramble to find their way in the East.

No Strategy

To say Western efforts lack coordination is “a major understatement,” according to a recent report from the Missions Research Group, a consortium of 11 agencies working in Eastern Europe. Church leaders in both the East and West admit the Eastern Bloc’s sudden turn toward democracy caught them unprepared. “Fortune 500 companies had operational plans and programs ready on the shelves for the day the East opened, but most Christian groups had absolutely no strategy, short- or long-term, to change that part of the world,” said Ralph Mann, president of Mission Possible, a Dallas-based ministry that has operated covertly in Eastern Europe for 15 years. Individual ...

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