How far do you go to reach another person with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Recently one of our Northwest Baptist pastors told me something that stunned me. I don’t think he thought what he said was striking in any way. He spoke about it matter-of-factly. What he said was this: “About 70 to 80 percent of our church is Ukrainian, but we speak Russian at church so that we can reach Russians and Russian speakers.”
I had never considered such a thing. The pastor preaches in his second language, and the singing and worship is conducted in the second language of most of the church, so that they can reach more people for Christ. Remarkable! And they are reaching hundreds of people.
When the pastor told me that, I quickly remembered a conversation with one of the church’s members when I spoke there several months ago. The church member told me, “At home we speak Ukrainian. At church we speak Russian. And in business we speak English.” I asked the congregation that day if any were from Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and a number of other nations comprising the former Soviet Union, and there were some in attendance from many of these countries. During the Soviet era, the various nations of the Union were required to teach Russian in the schools. Many citizens of these countries can therefore speak Russian as well as their national language. Thus, the church can reach people from all the nations of the former Soviet Union if they speak the common language of Russian.
In addition to most of the congregation worshipping in their second language, they also deal with different cultures and political commitments. With Russia occupying Crimea, and aggressing upon Ukraine, the church members have differing perspectives on what is happening in their home countries. The pastor told me that he needs to understand such things in order to lead the church effectively.
This pastor helped me understand in a deeper way what it means to go the second mile, then go another, to show God’s love and share the gospel with another. Few of you reading this will better reach people by worshipping or preaching in a language other than your mother tongue. If, like me, you were born in the United States you probably speak only one language. But there are other matters that give us opportunity to lead our people to go the second and third mile in order to reach people.
If your church struggles with style preferences in worship, music, clothing, time and length of services, ministry methods, etc., then consider this Russian language congregation and what they are doing to reach people. I must say, they encourage me, and challenge me, to go the second mile, and then to go another, in my efforts to help others know God’s love in Christ Jesus.