Live in a way that honors the Lord: TOW in Eurasia
“Get ready for your next assignment”, was a phrase I kept hearing from my father. It was still a time when Soviet Russia was building an atheistic kingdom in my homeland and several generations were living without any hope for change. It was the same with the Church. Even, as in Acts 12, the Church was fervently praying…but it was hard to believe. I could not understand what kind of assignment might be next for me. But my father was encouraging me to continue studying English, working at the factory, and faithfully serving at the church. That was my world and then at the age of 20, I got married and family was added to that list. Raising four kids was an assignment!
Most senior and even executive leaders know what their next project will be before it begins. With time, I have learned that my father was in a minority because he believed in preparation beforehand. He was able to combine his faith with hard work in order to make sure that he and his family lives in a way that honors the Lord regardless of blessing or hardships of life. 1 Peter 1:18 became a personal motivational revelation for me: ‘Jesus redeemed me from the empty way of life’. I took those words very personally and asked the Lord to help me to say “NO” to the empty way of life.
A constant presence of education, work and ministry could bring a good balance to everyone as a person. And at the same time, this style of life is a good ground for new seeds of faith to be planted. One year after ‘perestroika’ came to my country, the Lord challenged me to start a church planting institution, well known today as Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary. When I asked His guidance in building a leadership team of those who can train church-planting teams, the Lord reminded me that I was able to learn personally by keeping the process of training, work and ministry united. That was the first challenge, because for many of us on a team, we were ready to believe that the whole focus was supposed to be solely on ministry, trusting the Lord’s guidance by His Holy Spirit and in Him, meeting all our daily needs.
After almost 25 years of experience, it is possible to learn how to increase acceptance of failure by improving our return on it. It is crucial to learn from every failure and even more, to share the lessons we learned in order to help ourselves and others to review, if needed, a pattern of failure. Real freedom comes when leaders learn to extract the maximum value from a failure. It is also less painful to the whole organization and protects the company/ministry from a fear of failure.
The seminary leadership very well received suggested collaboration with Bakke University in area of the theology of work. With the help of Dr. Lowell Bakke and Dr. Gwen Dewey, curriculum of the vocational training program for pastors was revised. Interestingly, most of the churches in Eurasia had been started by those who did not have any systematic education. But soon enough, those church planters took time to come to the seminary for two week blocks four times a year to be trained. Hundreds of pastors are taking courses every year and they have become the best promoters of the Theology of Work related courses. Let me share some of their stories:
“I was asking the Lord how to motivate elders and members of 55 churches that I was responsible for, to stay active and fruitful in proclamation of the Gospel. After taking a course “Theology of work and ministry of the local church” at UETS, I was transformed myself and shared this opportunity with all our churches. It was six years ago. Today, I see almost all those churches serving the Lord as one team from Monday till Sunday. The Lord is helping open new churches as well.”
- Peter Zalizny, Bishop -
“God has used Dr. Lowell Bakke in a very special way, when I was taking a course with him few years ago. My passion is to serve Jewish people as my people. Typical Evangelical way of evangelism is not working, and I knew that it has to be a better biblical way. Theology of Work gave me answers I was looking for and today I am equipped for my new assignment – to see Jews reached by Messiah, Jesus Christ. Ukraine is blessed by big Messianic congregations, and I am happy to be part of His growing Body.”
- Efim Fingerman, Pastor -
“My father was a constructor. Together with him we have built a number of buildings. Today I have my own construction company with several hundred people working for me. I was taught to give 10% to the church from my income and help building churches, but not to see that my company is part of the God’s Kingdom. Because I was blind, my teams in office as well as on a field received not much encouragement. TOW course on Christian Ethics still helping me to see my company as part of His Church in society. Yes, we were praying together at the beginning of the day, but today we are praying for people, to whom we build homes to be covered by the love of the Lord and be part of His Family.”
- Mykola Zukov -
Today, a number of theological institutions introduced TOW to their training programs in Eurasia. Among leaders, I would name the following five: Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary, Saint-Petersburg Christian University, Lvov Catholic University, Moscow Theological Seminary, and Kuban Christian University. CCX (IFES in Ukraine) ministry is strong in using “Profession as Mission” program.
Seven years of my regional ministry as Lausanne Movement representative for Eurasia has helped to make Theology of Work available in 12 countries of the former Soviet Union. Systematically organized Regional consultations are gathering evangelists from different denominations to many nations with Russian speaking diaspora. At the same time national churches wanted to be even more effective on local level and needed some encouragement. “We need to make stronger our sense of urgency”, one senior pastor of the Central Baptist Church in Kiev told me. Together with almost 200 pastors of different Evangelical churches in Kiev, they committed to a citywide concept of evangelism. Priority #1 was to train 50 evangelists for all major areas of society, government, business, and market.
It was truly done in the spirit of the Theology of Work. Many local businesses, churches and government offices could be a good case study. Please allow me to share few more testimonies:
“Lausanne movement has helped me to see 1 Peter 1:15 differently. As a senior pastor of the church with 2500 members, I wanted my people to be holy in all they do. Biblical understanding of the absolutes in area of ethics is helping me to teach this course to my people. But I had to take it myself first… One more miracle: I got full peace in inviting evangelists from other denominations to help us reaching bikers, solders that just came from a war zone east of Ukraine, faculty at the State Pedagogical University. Theology of Work training (and a questioner in particular) so clear that our faith and hope are in God, the same Savior of us all. Good to be well connected.”
- Vitaliy Kozubovskyy, Senior Pastor -
“Women’s ministry is easy from a side, that ladies to love to have a fellowship. But to deal with local or even national issue is not that easy. I went through the training on Biblical Stewardship and realized that Creation Mandate is as crucial as Redemptive Mandate. From a question of what we are doing for a struggling colleague, we went to the question of what we are doing for a struggling nature in the City Park. To see it as a one package of responsibility opens our eyes on a role of the women in society.”
- Alla Andrashko -
“Finally, music and message are in tune with my life”.
- Irina Kolesnik -
Recon Education Center is a first stage of Recon College development. Two years before leaving seminary, I sensed to take time in understanding, making and managing media. This new assignment is truly a challenge. I had to read the Bible from a mass media perspective to see heroes of faith as effective communicators. The world of media is a total darkness, and Jesus wants us to bring His light to that world as well. Media, especially digital, determine all aspects of our everyday lives.
Young people literally live in virtual media world, even sleeping with their gadgets. Many of them are very talented in IT area, but cannot achieve media life and business changing experience. Recon media training is targeting those talented people to use their gifts for His Kingdom, working in local church or local business. Media is the shortest way of engagement with the global workplace as well as global proclamation of the Gospel. Let me share with you few thoughts from my team of co-founders of Recon. It is a fact that the Lord was preparing them long time ago for our joint assignment.
“The world is progressing rapidly. What was a fantastic dream yesterday is our daily life today. Tomorrow, it might be part of the history of our civilization, and then give way to an irrepressible future. Where are we? Is our voice being heard in the world’s orchestra of information and technology? Or are we staying within the church’s walls waiting for a miracle to happen? The miracle will happen out there where the people are. This is the main revelation of interactive television. Today more than ever, we are able to fulfill the Great Commission and enter into everyone’s home. Evangelical churches building a strong educational system for the media sphere could become a milestone that opens the possibility for Christian reformation in the 21st century. Isn’t it incredible?”
- Sergey Demidovich, TV host/presenter, journalist -
“The producer is the one who brings the story written on piece of paper to life by using various tools of animation and carving a certain message behind the plot. Every story can be told differently; the perception depends on the narrator, the chosen method of communication, and the emphasis, either positive or negative. The producer is the person who puts the final dot at the end of the story sentence. He is responsible to turn tragedy into a happily-ever-after finale. That is why this profession is so important and why more producers with high integrity are needed.”
- Yuri Prilipko, Director, Digital Cinema Ukraine Film.UA -
The following three courses became part of the undergraduate program:
This course is to confirm the ministry calling of those in market place and business as part of God’s plan of salvation, for all to have a joy from work.
This course is to deal with the undebatable truths that drive and direct behavior and decision-making. Time will be taken to develop personal and organizational core values.
This course is to learn from the Bible how the Gospel “conquers” the world by penetrating its major cities. It will help students to understand how faith impacts the world of business, government, services, as well as media outlets.
The entire three years program on Effective Communication, with three TOW courses, is to be available soon online. That way everyone, speaking Russian or Ukrainian, will be able to be blessed. Glory to God, and thank you Bakke Graduate University and Mustard Seed Foundation for a hand of help. We will keep banking on your cutting edge guidance in this area on a global level. Let’s keep learning, working and serving together in order to be ready for next assignment from Him…