This is an article from the January-February 1991 issue: The State of the World

Midnight in Moscow 1000 Church Leaders Meet To Save The USSR

Midnight in Moscow 1000 Church Leaders Meet To Save The USSR

"I love you, I love you, my Russian brothers. We are one in Christ." A Muslim convert from Soviet Central Asia addressed 900 Soviet delegates and 150 from 24 other countries gathered in a Moscow hotel. He testified to the way God had worked in his life, finishing with a tearful Macedonian call, "Come over and help us; we need your help to bring in the harvest."

The usually staid delegates broke into enthusiastic applause.

This scene from the October 22-26, 1990, Lausanne Congress on Evangelism reveals that God is doing exciting things in the Soviet Union. Organized by 70 Soviet Christians who had attended Lausanne II in Manila in 1989, the congress was called to inspire and encourage their fellow Christians to effective evangelism in their vast land.

The Congress hosted nearly 100 workshops on 22 subject areas to implement the task of evangelizing the various segments of Soviet society. All 15 USSR republics were represented in this, the first gathering of Christian leaders in over 70 years.

One of the highlights was the "Good Evening, Moscow" television interview with Tom Houston, Leighton Ford and Bill Bright. The audience was estimated at 20 million.

Paul Eshleman, director of the Jesus Film Project, stated, "I believe the Congress will prove to be a powerful launching pad for the further evangelization of the Soviet Union."

John Robb of World Vision co-hosted a workshop with Johannes Reimer of Logos in Germany which emphasized work among the unreached. It focused on identifying these unreached people and on strategies for reaching them. Another emphasized the organizing of mission agencies, although 40 such had been formed in just the past year by young men excited by their new opportunities.

Phil Sandahl of "World by 2000 Radio" said of the Soviet believers, "They have just begun to take advantage of the new opportunities and look beyond themselves to people in surrounding communities that don't have any church or other direct witness."

But there emerged some areas of concern. While some who were already involved in ministry to the unreached gravitated to workshops on the topic, there was no general sense that this should be top priority. There is so much new opportunity that most seem excited only about their own ideas. There was lacking a strong sense of unity toward joining hands with others for greater effectiveness.

Phil Sandahl also pointed out that "the Soviet Church has been so concerned about self-preservation that it has a hard time thinking corporately. They need time to grow. The Soviet Union is in an incredible state of flux. Perhaps the greatest significance of this conference is the forging of new relationships, and the results may not be seen for a while."

One evangelistic tool which was well received at the congress, the newly redubbed Russian version of the movie Jesus, opened October 19th in Moscow. The movie is a docu-drama on the life of Jesus, based closely on the Gospel of Luke. Movie producers, directors, and actors joined city and religious leaders for the premier. The 1,200 seat theater was packed, with an overflow crowd of 600 watching by video linkup. A second showing the next day drew another 1,500. The response has been good at the other premiers in Lithuania, Moldavia, Leningrad, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

The film has been seen by the top intellectual, military and political leadership of the host cities and republics. This has opened doors into schools, factories, prisons and hospitals. ,,Over the next year, the film will open in local theaters in all 15 republics of the USSR in the major ethnic language of each republic. It is anticipated that the film will be shown in at least 1,000 theaters, with an audience of 5 to 10 percent of the total population of the USSR. By mid-1991, the Jesus Project staff are trusting the Lord for 600 projectors and 16mm prints to help local Christians throughout the USSR and Eastern Europe continue sharing the Gospel. They want to launch new church-based teams that will sponsor showings in an effort to plant 50,000 "New Life Groups" to help new believers grow.

The film is also helping to reach the unreached. On November 1, the film premiered in Kazakhstan's capital of Alma Ata, in Central Asia. At the close, the audience of around 1,200 viewers stood and applauded.

But these efforts are not without risk. On November 3rd the film premiered in Uzbekistan in the Muslim stronghold city of Tashkent. At the close of the film interested Uzbek viewers were led in a prayer to receive Christ. Suddenly, a small group of individuals began yelling and chanting, disrupting the last few moments of the closing summary.

The next day, the Russian version showing of Jesus scheduled for that night was canceled after threats were received that the theater would be burned down if the film were shown again. A showing scheduled in a theater about 20 miles away was warmly received, however, with at least 30 of the 200 viewers indicating decisions for Christ.

For more information write:

The JESUS Film Project 30012 Ivy Glenn Dr. Suite 200 Laguna Nigel CA 92677 Tel. 714/495-7383


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