"When the Communists fell, we discovered we did not speak the same language as secular Russians."

When the Communists fell and the door was opened, we thought we needed only a few years to convert Russia for Christ. We started very intensive evangelization. We preached to hundreds of thousands, started missions and Bible studies, distributed millions of Bibles and Christian literature, and planted a lot of churches.

What we discovered later was that we did not always speak the same language as secular Russians. For decades the church had developed its own culture in isolation—you cannot ignore the fact that Russia was closed to the gospel for 75 years. We held church services, but to have Bible studies we would sit around a table with biscuits, sandwiches, and cups of tea. But this big table was nothing but decoration for the secret police. If they would break in, it's a party. The main purpose was to study the Bible and pray. That was our culture. So when we went and preached to secular people, we could not connect well with their culture. Even after ten years of openings, evangelical ministry in Russia is still both relatively small and very new.

This is why most people here still do not know what evangelical Christianity is about. They have heard so many negative stories about born-again believers that they are surprised to hear good stories. For many, evangelical Christians are still those who killed their kids and sacrificed infants, and all the other propaganda they heard. When they hear what evangelical Christianity is really about, it is a revelation.

When we preached the gospel, people responded enthusiastically. Our church had a front-row bench where we celebrated everybody new. But the next Sunday there ...

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