Long-term strategies in Belarus
Despite many laments from Western missionaries about the decline of Christian faith in their home countries, neither we nor they should underestimate what the Western church has done and is still doing for the republics of the former Soviet Union.
The colossal efforts of our brothers and sisters from the USA, UK, Holland, Germany and other countries helped greatly in overcoming the spiritual deadness which gripped eastern Europe during 80 years of Communism.
I believe that today there are still three valid ‘investment paradigms’ for western missionary enterprise – short-term, medium-term and long-term.
When you bring Christmas gifts to neglected children in a Belarussian orphanage; when you invite young people suffering from Chernobyl’s nuclear explosion into Christian homes in the US or UK for several weeks; when you sponsor an evangelistic summer camp – you are making a short-term ‘investment’.
By ‘short-term’ I do not mean unimportant. Far from it – Jesus taught us to care about the sick and suffering and bring good news to the poor. But I mean that we see the results of such efforts in immediate and tangible terms.
Medium-term investment means a longer wait for the results. Efforts in church planting and church growth fall in this category. It takes time to construct a physical church building. It takes even more time to start a congregation from scratch and grow it to a size of, say, 40 people. The goals are still clear and tangible – it just takes longer to reach them.
Long-term investment can still be evangelistic, but needs a long winding road to achieve its aims. This is the case with Christian publishing. The immediate goal of this ministry is to produce a book. But that may require translation from another language, as well as editing, layout and printing. This can take many months.
But even having a well-presented, edifying book is not an end in itself! It must be distributed to reach its readers. And then it must be read and its teaching applied.
Alas, we have not reached the desired goal yet. We need each book to be a spiritual blessing to the person reading it. An unbeliever needs to be converted after reading John Blanchard’s Ultimate questions; a pastor needs to renew his ministerial commitment through reading Baxter’s Reformed pastor; a believer needs to live a more sanctified life through reading John Owen’s treatise on indwelling sin.
It takes much time from translating a book to the production of such effects. And how can we know for sure about the spiritual results? Yet in spite of all the difficulties and intangibilities, Christian publishing is known to be a valuable enterprise.
Theological education also falls into this third, long-term category. Perhaps it belongs to a category of its own. It is really long-term – perhaps, a fourth investment paradigm. However difficult it is and slow to bring spiritual results, theological education is fundamental to the future solid growth of the evangelical church.
We need a Reformed seminary in Belarus. We ask for your prayers that the Lord will help us to achieve this.
The author is the manager of Russian EP Books