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The evangelical Christian community in Bashkortostan is small in number, comprising less than 1% of the population.  It is our goal to encourage the existing believers and also, as mentioned in Acts 2, see their numbers added to daily.  In our efforts to support local churches we have noticed several issues facing them as they try to grow and reach out to those around them.

One of the biggest challenges facing pastors is trying to motivate their congregations to live missionally and be openly evangelistic.  There is a fear among believers to share their faith which we believe comes from a myriad of cultural issues.  Although the Russian constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and religious practice for each citizen, evangelical believers still encounter old Soviet-era propaganda stating that Baptists sacrifice their children, drink blood during their religious rituals, are not loyal to the state, etc.  Of course these things are not true, but old false rumors die a slow death.  Also, many believers are told that they are not true Russians if they do not adhere to the historic Orthodox state church.

Muslim-background believers often encounter rejection from family and friends when they attempt to verbalize their commitment to Jesus as the Son of God.  However, many Muslims are more open to conversations about Jesus and faith in Him than many Orthodox-background Russians, mostly because Jesus is a highly esteemed prophet within Islam.  Perhaps it is also due to the disdain that Muslims have for the Orthodox tradition of icons in their places of worship, which are interpreted by Muslims as symbols of idolatry. They recognize that evangelicals do not have such icons or traditions in their places of worship.   As a result, Many Muslim-background people seem to be more open to spiritual discussions.  It is our goal to show and live that Jesus is for everyone, not just those that grew up in a Christian culture.

Believers also encounter the encroachment of materialism and the increased availability of goods and services every day.  As in America, many families are becoming trapped in debt.  They live only for the purposes of selfish fulfillment and financial security, not giving thought to serious spiritual matters.

Churches also have to deal with limited budgets.  Some churches don’t like this situation and think that they should always be growing ‘bigger and better’ which is not necessarily the biblical view of church.  Most churches here are comprised of people who are not wealthy or even part of the middle class.  Therefore, everything is done very simply and in the end, everything works out.  Many pastors work a second job.  This approach to leadership has a biblical foundation and it is our goal to show believers that this situation is not necessarily one that needs to be overcome.

In spite of these difficulties and barriers, believers are still seeking ‘bridges’ they can use to share the gospel.  More believers now understand that sometimes they cannot start a spiritual conversation with a person based on the Bible, if those people don’t have a Biblical worldview.  Therefore, there are times a believer is led by the Holy Spirit to begin from an Orthodox or Muslim worldview, using the Quran itself (which speaks very favorably about Jesus as a highly-esteemed prophet who does not need to seek forgiveness for sinfulness from God) as an bridge to begin a conversation about God.  Service is another bridge.  Many believers view the ‘city’ as evil while the ‘countryside’ is viewed more positively.  As the churches in the city show that they really love and want to serve the people of Ufa, they are gaining more of a footing for sharing the gospel.

Most churches now have house groups which meet during the week, lessening the need for each church to have and maintain its own building.  Ministry, worship, discipleship, and meeting of needs are all happening in these small groups.  More believers and churches are focusing their giving on meeting community and evangelistic needs rather than on a church building.

There are some people in positions who have the power to help or hurt churches here.  They have the power to grant or restrict access to certain places, such as buildings, cafés, theaters, or schools for church activities.  They also have the power to allow or disallow activities outside of traditionally-recognized ‘places of worship’.  Favoritism is most certainly shown to Islam and Russian Orthodoxy in Ufa and across Bashkortostan.  However, to be fair, believers do not necessarily need to seek out some kind of religious-political agreement that would give ‘status’ to evangelical believers.  Our credibility comes from what God has done for us through Jesus and from God Himself.  Like Hebrews 12:14 says, as much as possible, as far as it depends on us, we should be at peace with all men.  If believers can work with officials, in order to gain access to a wider audience with which to share the gospel, then it is a worthy goal.  If not, God will make a way.  It is our goal as a team to support and work with local churches and to encourage the body of Christ as it grows.  Please join us in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit how you can partner with us to see the kingdom expand in Ufa and Bashkortostan.