Mission team trains Russian church planters

Communications Staff — November 7, 2008

Thanks to a mission team from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College, the Bashkortostan region of Russia has an increased passion for church planting.

Bruce Carlton, associate professor of missions at Boyce, led five Boyce students and one Southern student on a trip to the city of Ufa this summer, where he conducted a training session for Russian church planters and evangelists at the invitation of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board.

The students participated in the training and then did ministry work with seven new house church leaders in the area.

At least two students said the trip inspired them to consider career missions, Carlton said.

“This trip affirmed my calling to Russia,” said Stephanie Criser, a master of divinity student from Papillion, Neb. A Boyce student told Carlton that because of the trip, “God gave me a much greater concern for people around the world.”

Part of the trip’s inspirational value was the extensive hands-on ministry by the students, Carlton said. Some students taught English classes, and all of the males on the trip got an opportunity to preach in a Russian church. For one student, it was his first opportunity ever to preach.

Russian Baptist leaders and church planters responded enthusiastically, Carlton said. Some, who attended a training session Carlton led in Russia last year, returned and brought others to be trained as well. Another group of leaders made a commitment to plant reproducing churches.

“There were two leaders of an existing Russian Baptist church there,” Carlton said. “I met with them and seven of their emerging leaders one evening. They made a commitment that they’re going to start new house fellowships in an area of the city, and those new house fellowships are going to raise up leaders and reproduce themselves. They’ve made that commitment. They want to do that.”

Because Bashkortostan is a largely Muslim area, converts to faith in Christ face a danger of social ostracism. But the team encouraged the church plants to proclaim the Gospel faithfully.

One experience allowed the students to see
firsthand the danger Christians in some nations face regularly. Originally Carlton was scheduled to conduct the training sessions along with a Christian from India. But before the trip, the co-trainer was arrested in India for
“Christian proselytizing.”

The man was convicted, Carlton said, and served two months in jail.

One important activity conducted by the students was mapping. They mapped an area of Ufa that one Russian church wants to target with house churches. The map showed such things as houses, community centers, existing churches and strongholds of sin, Carlton said.

“We mapped a huge residential area for this church,” he said. “Presently the leaders of this church were training potential new house church leaders. So we mapped the whole area for them.”

In the same area of the city, students met with an existing house church and were able to teach some of the principles they learned from Carlton’s training.

“A couple of the students went in and taught a couple of things they had learned in the training,” he said, “particularly prayer walking and how to share your testimony.”

The trip was so successful that Carlton has been invited back to the region to conduct additional training in the fall of 2009. That will mark his fourth trip to Russia for training church planters.

“That’s encouraging,” Carlton said of the invitation to return.

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