Training Shortfall May Imperil Growth

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As the small evangelical church in Russia expands, so does the need for properly trained leaders who can take the church into the future.

In spite of attempts by nationalists and others to hinder the church, the number of evangelical Christians in Russia has doubled since the Soviet empire dissolved six years ago.

There are 300 registered evangelical churches in Moscow, compared to only three in 1991. Yet evangelicals still constitute only 1 percent of Russia's 147 million people.

The need for trained leaders is tremendous, according to Ron Brunson, area facilitator for the Alliance for Saturation Church Planting. Russia has more than 3,000 organized evangelical churches, three-fourths of them located west of the Ural Mountains. About half of those churches are Baptist Union, and one-third are Pentecostal Union.

Brunson points to the need for developing more teaching materials, textbooks, and theological institutions. "What is taught in the seminaries will shape the future of the church," he says.

ACUTE TRAINING NEEDS: Representatives from more than 100 Bible colleges, institutes, and seminaries gathered recently in Kiev to discuss the future of evangelical theological training, which began in a serious manner in Russia in 1990 with Saint Petersburg Christian College and the Odessa Theological Seminary.

An outgrowth of the conference in Kiev has been the appointment of a committee to form an accreditation association for Russian theological institutions.

The association will set standards by which all agencies will abide in areas such as teacher quality, curriculum, and student criteria. Currently no method exists to evaluate theological programs.

One problem that became clear during the conference is dependence of existing theological ...

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