Earlier this month, Steve Lawson and John Gillespie traveled with Global Advance to lead a Front Line Pastors Conference. Steve serves as one of our Global Ambassadors, and he shared his perspective on the Moscow Russia Frontline Pastors Training event.
Our host for the conference was Pastor Mikhail (Misha) Murza. Misha’s son, Lot, met us at the airport as we arrived late on a Wednesday afternoon. He took us to their home where Misha was cooking us a traditional Russian dinner of beef sausage, potatoes, and some red stuff that I’m still not sure what it was. We spent the night at Misha’s house, had a late breakfast of porridge (I didn’t know that stuff actually existed outside of fairytales), then headed over to the conference center to get checked into our room and get ready for the conference that began that afternoon.
The conference was attended by about 200 pastors and leaders from the region. Most were from around Moscow, although some had traveled a great distance (two or three days) to attend. These wonderful people were extremely gracious and seemed genuinely grateful that we had traveled to such a long way to minister to them. I honestly hadn’t thought about it, because I consider it such an honor to serve these men and women that work so hard, some in harsh conditions, for the sake of the gospel.
Each year, Global Advance hosts and sponsors pastors’ conferences, roundtables and other training initiatives for indigenous pastors around the world. Over 90% of pastors in developing nations will never have the chance to attend seminary or have formal Bible training. Many are in desperate need of encouragement. Global Advance training events are catalysts for church planting, discipleship and indigenous transformational efforts. Global Advance provides national pastors and church leaders with a vision in their hearts and tools in their hands for the advance of the Gospel worldwide.
Our conference center, located on the outskirts of Moscow, had an attached hotel and cafeteria, so we were able to have our meals together every day. (Btw, each morning we had more porridge…I’m starting to like that stuff). At each meal, John and I were able to interact with different pastors, through our translator Michael, and we got a feel for the climate in which they are serving. Many of the pastors were older and had lived under communism, and still struggled with the changing worldview and culture of their nation. They find it difficult to get the people in their churches very motivated or excited about sharing the gospel.
Because of the oppressive nature of communism, many of the Russian people still lack much ambition or motivation to improve or grow. Many of their churches remain small and ineffective, and consequently, finances are very tight. Pastors would tell us, with tears in their eyes, of the difficulties that they face in trying to reach their country that they love so much. It was such a privilege for John and I to be a source of encouragement and training for these precious people.
As I do almost every chance I get, I spoke on the amazing power of God’s grace. Every time I spoke, it was so humbling to watch them take notes on almost everything I said. And, as I have come to expect, it was awesome to watch as God set their hearts free, began to heal their brokenness, and gave them hope and the vision for the future. He loves His people so much, the church is, after all, His bride, and it is such a joy for me to watch as He pours out His love and grace, by the power of His word.
On the third day, one of the pastors asked to speak with John and I during one of the breaks. We found a room where it was quiet and private, and this pastor began to pour out his heart. He spread out a map of the region where he is from, and begin to show us each city where he feels God is calling him to plant churches. He is the pastor of a small church, but is consumed with the call of the gospel and the compulsion of the Holy Spirit to be part of fulfilling the great commission. Tears ran down his face as he circled city after city, and told us about the people there and their great need. Honestly, the skeptic in me was waiting for him to ask us for money. But he never did that. He just asked us over and over again to pray for him, to ask people to pray for Russia, and to ask people to come and serve.
As the conference came to a close on Saturday afternoon, person after person came up and thanked us for coming. Many would bring an interpreter and tell us of their renewed passion for ministry and their desire to plant new churches and reach out to their communities. Many simply hugged us and thanked us in Russian. The looks on their faces and the light in their eyes needed no interpretation. The grace of God had invaded Moscow, and none of us will ever be the same again.
Global Ambassador for Global Advance