FIRST, THE NEWS:
WORSHIPPERS GATHER NEAR DEBRIS OF CHURCH DEMOLISHED BY RUSSIAN GOV'T.
from Christian Post
(17 Sep) It was the second Sunday since Russian police demolished Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church on the eastern edge of Moscow, but the pastor and members have not canceled any of their scheduled meetings despite increasing pressure from authorities to stop gathering near the ruins. Almost the entire three-story building of the church in Kosino-Ukhtomsky District in Moscow's Eastern Administrative District had been destroyed by police and so-called civil volunteers in the early hours of Sept. 6, but the congregation still chose to gather for its 11 a.m. service on Sunday.
The church met against the will of local authorities. The church's pastor, Vasili Romanyuk, was summoned by police last Sunday, when the believers stayed for the two-and-a-half-hour service in the rain. Police called the gathering an "unauthorized meeting." A police officer asked the pastor to sign a protocol, which said he was guilty of holding an unsanctioned, unlawful meeting. However, Romanyuk explained it wasn't political but a religious gathering. "Vasily asked the police captain why this particular meeting was unsanctioned and the one yesterday, the day before, and the meetings last week, last month, in years past were not!" Dr. Hannu Haukka, founder and president of Great Commission Media Ministries told the Virginia-based National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: "LEAVE ONLY ONE SPOON, ONE MUG AND ONE MATTRESS FOR EACH"
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service
(18 Sep) Uzbekistan continues to raid private homes, confiscating religious literature and halting meetings for worship, Forum 18 News Service notes. Fines of up to 50 times the minimum wage have then been imposed on those subjected to raids. In one case court bailiffs illegally confiscated basic household goods such as a refrigerator, washing machine and dining table from a Baptist family, and have threatened to confiscate more household items as they will not pay an unjust fine they cannot afford
Three Navoi Regional Court Bailiffs on 11 September confiscated from husband and wife Artur and Irina Alpayev their dining table, refrigerator, piano and DVD disk player. The couple are members of a local unregistered Baptist Church, and have refused to pay a fine imposed on them on 9 June by Judge Oltinbek Mansurov of Navoi City Criminal Court for "illegally" keeping Christian books in their private flat. The three Bailiffs with two other colleagues had already taken away the family's washing machine on 8 August, Alpayev complained to Forum 18 on 13 September. The couple have five children.
The order for the confiscation came from Senior Bailiff Laziz Isayev, who instructed his subordinates to "leave only one spoon, one mug and one mattress for each member of the family," Alpayev told Forum 18. This has taken place alongside state media attacks on the same people. State-controlled television has stated that people should buy and read only state-authorised religious books, warning of those who allegedly "misuse people's interest in reading books." It also claimed that only two publishers were allowed to publish religious books - but did not name the publishers or state which beliefs the publishers cover. A state Religious Affairs Committee official did not know the names of the two publishers. [read more...]
ATTACKS ON CHRISTIAN, MUSLIM HOLY PLACES RAISE ISSUE OF MORAL LIMITS OF FREEDOM - RUSSIAN CHURCH
(20 Sep) The Russian Orthodox Church has reminded people who start religious conflicts and riots that freedom of expression should have clear moral limits. "I personally think that the continuing actions in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the appearance of a film insulting the founder of Islam, the attacks on U.S. embassies and taking down their flags, desecration of graves, and the drawing of swastikas on synagogues are links of the same chain," Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations, told Interfax-Religion on Thursday
He called the people "madmen" who desecrate symbols that are extremely important to specific social groups and buildings that have always been considered off-limits such as religious buildings and diplomatic missions. Such crimes are much more important than regular crimes because "when you desecrate a symbol held dear by some people, community, or religious group, you try to belittle and subjugate the entire group. It is not a coincidence that such actions have led to large-scale conflicts in history," Father Vsevolod said. "Such actions can upset civil accord and cause conflicts between large groups of people which we now see in many places, which means that such actions should not take place. Specific countries, and maybe the world community, should fully rule them out. Punishment for them should be serious and unavoidable," he said. [read more...]
RUSSIA: INCREASED PENALTIES FOR DEMONSTRATIONS EXTENDED TO WORSHIP
by Geraldine Fagan and Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
(13 Sep) For the first time since Russia massively increased the administrative penalties for violating its Demonstrations Law this June, a religious leader has been fined at the new, higher level for conducting religious worship without state approval, Forum 18 News Service has learned. The Pentecostal pastor heavily fined, Aleksandr Kravchenko, insisted in court that advance notification is not legally required for religious events, but the Maikop (Adygea republic) magistrate who punished him brushed aside his argument.
The 2004 Demonstrations Law indeed states that "religious rites and ceremonies" come under the 1997 Religion Law (Article 1.2). While the 1997 Law in turn states that "public worship services, other religious rites and ceremonies" are regulated by legislation on demonstrations, this is only if they take place outside designated religious buildings and sites such as cemeteries, places of pilgrimage and private residences (Article 16.2). Crucially, the list also includes "places made available to religious organisations for these [worship] purposes" - which should cover privately rented premises. Since 2009, however, Forum 18 has noted a rise in cases when religious leaders are prosecuted for holding worship at privately rented premises without notifying the authorities in advance. Some judges throw out such cases, but about half of prosecutions reported are successful. [read more...]
UOC-MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE REMEMBERS VICTIMS OF POLITICAL REPRESSIONS BURIED IN BYKIVNIA
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(21 Sep) The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate remembered the victims of political repressions buried near the village of Bykivnia. On September 20, the Administrator of UOC-MP, Archbishop Antonii (Pakanych) of Boryspil, visited Bykivnia Graves National Historic-Memorial Reserve and served a memorial service for the repose of the victims and consecrated the memorial sign in the burial place. The event was attended by the head of the Kyiv City State Administration, Oleksandr Popov, Director of the Reserve, Maryna Hromova, author of the memorial sign design, architect Larysa Skoryk, reported Orthodox.org.ua.
In the Bykivnia forest, in 1936-1941, the NKVD organized a mass burial of people executed by the repressive bodies. The first victims, who were mostly transported from Lukianivska Prison, were buried here in the late 1920s. Officially, the development of a special zone for secret burials began only in 1936. According to the experts, at least 130-150 thousand people were buried in Bykivnia. [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: RAID ON ORTHODOX FAMILY, DISABLED CHILD BEATEN, LITERATURE DESTROYED
from Forum 18 News Service
RUSSIAN CHURCH HAILS RELEASE OF IRANIAN PROTESTANT PASTOR SENTENCED TO DEATH
PUTIN'S GOD SQUAD
BELIEVERS REACH OUT TO THE POOR WITH COMPASSION IN BELARUS
from Mission Network News
UOC-MP ORGANIZES ANTI-ALCOHOL CONVENTION IN KYIV
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: LIVES CHANGED FOR CHRIST AT SUMMER BIBLE CAMPS
from Russian Ministries
CRIMINAL CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST MAN FOR POURING INK OVER ICON AT CHRIST THE SAVIOR CATHEDRAL
HOSTILE TAKEOVERS OF MOSCOW CHURCHES
from Moskovskii Komsomolets
CHRISTIAN CAMPING COMES OF AGE IN EASTERN EUROPE
from Christian Chronicle
See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!
The above news articles describe the assaults by one culturally religious or ideological group on another cultural/religious group, while at the same time decrying such people as "madmen." It is hard to miss the irony of such statements. The confiscation of believers' property in Uzbekistan and the infringement of religious freedom in Russia are strongly reminiscent of Soviet-era anti-religious persecution from 25-30 years ago. Commemorating those victims of political repressions in the village of Bykivnia reminds us of Christ's words to the Jews who built monuments to the prophets whom their fathers had murdered.
In "OTHER NEWS HEADLINES" you can read about "PUTIN'S GOD SQUAD" of thugs who go around wearing crosses and beating up various groups of people who don't agree with the official dogma of the day. "The more things change, the more they stay the same," according to an old French saying. But if pseudo-religious people use thuggery to gain social and political power over their opponents, it does not negate the validity of true religion: "True religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27).
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[This is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of my book The Ministry Driven Church, available HERE.]
The classic passage that describes making disciples is the Great Commission - "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Therefore go, and make disciples (matheteuo) of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Mat. 28:18b-20). The number of sermons and books on this passage must be innumerable. First, notice that the source of all authority is not tradition, nor the Pope, nor the Bible, but Jesus Christ. He must be the central focus of our disciple-making. But how does disciple-making (matheteuo) relate to practical ministry?
Our modern paradigm of discipleship is to teach another person how to pray, study the Bible, how to memorize key Bible verses for witnessing, how to win souls, and how to raise funds so that we can go all over the world doing these things. Once we've done this, we are convinced that we have made new disciples of Jesus Christ. But are they disciples of Jesus, or are they just followers of our half-Gospel methods? Is that how Jesus made disciples? "Our existing paradigm acts like a filter," writes Daniel Maxton: "Any data that does not fit the existing paradigm does not get through it. Because the filter has the effect of concentrating the information that does get through, the impression is created of even greater support for their paradigms than really exists."1 So the more books we read, the more sermons we hear about this form of disciple-making and the more we go to remote places, the more we are convinced this is the way Jesus did it!
But "the whole Christian faith," continues Maxton, "is built around the concept of shifting paradigms. The word repentance, metanoia, means to change your mind or look in another direction."2 So let us now repent of our half-Gospel mistaken methods, shift our paradigms and change our minds to conform to the mind of Christ. How did Jesus Christ make disciples, and how did He command them to do the same?
In Mat. 10:1 and 7-8, we read - "He called to himself his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every sickness. ...As you go, preach, saying, 'The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Freely you received, so freely give.' " Jesus clearly commanded them to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, but He also commanded them to cast out unclean spirits, heal all kinds of disease and cleanse the lepers. By the way, the verb "go" here and in the Great Commission is a participle ("as you go" or "going"), not an imperative: we are not commanded to be always jetting around the globe to some remote countries; rather, it could be translated, "wherever you go or happen to be, do (imperative) such-and-such. We waste huge amounts of jet fuel, time and money and we exhaust ourselves physically simply traveling around, imagining that by this we are ministering to the Lord! Modern technology can enable us to communicate the Good News and keep in touch with our coworkers, mission headquarters, family and friends, with an efficiency and effectiveness that was almost unimaginable even just thirty years ago. It is imperative that we use the Internet to proclaim the Kingdom of God; otherwise we will let this amazing tool go to the devil.
In all of the synoptic Gospels, whenever Jesus sent out His disciples, He commanded them to perform practical ministry as well as to preach the Good News (Mk. 6:7-13; Lk. 9:1-6; 10:17-19). Teaching these forms of practical ministry are part and parcel of making disciples! And in the Great Commission, He commanded His disciples to do the same. He did not tell them to only teach others soul-winning, Bible study methods, how to lead a worship service or to form small groups; He also commanded His disciples to "teach them (others) to observe (carry out) all things that I commanded you to do." And what was it that He commanded His disciples to do? To do practical ministry right along with preaching the Good News! The word "observe" in the KJV and other translations gives entirely the wrong impression, that you can be a passive observer of Christianity, like a spectator in the stands of a sport event. It has been said the definition of a football game is twenty or so people running around on the field desperately in need of rest, and sixty thousand people watching from the stands desperately in need of exercise! Christianity is not a spectator sport. The word "observe" means to carry out, to fulfill, and to do what Jesus taught His disciples to do.
As we learn later in Acts 6, the Apostles became overworked when the Jerusalem church grew to number in the thousands, so they had to spin off part of their ministry by forming a new position, that of deacon. But this division of labor caused by explosive church growth does not mean that the rank-and-file disciple maker or the pastor of a small church can conveniently forget about teaching their disciples how to minister in a practical way. We aren't all leaders of mega-churches with such a division of labor as in the huge Jerusalem church of the first century!
Another passage in Matthew's Gospel illustrating this relationship between discipleship and hands-on ministry is Mat. 9:37-38 - "Then he said to his disciples (mathetes), 'The harvest indeed is plentiful, but the laborers (ergates) are few. Pray therefore that the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers into his harvest.'" The word ergates means "a toiler; figuratively a teacher: - labourer, worker."3 So the disciple (mathetes) is commanded to pray for more laborers (ergates) like himself, i.e., he is to multiply himself in the lives of others by making disciples. St. Paul echoes this multiplication process in 2 Tim. 2:2 - "The things which you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit the same to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also." Then he uses the analogies of a soldier, an athlete and a farmer. The image of a farmer or field laborer that Jesus and Paul used is certainly one of a person who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. How many twenty-first century disciple-makers would get their hands dirty by planting and harvesting crops, or cleaning manure out of a barn, or carrying a bedpan, or changing a diaper for an incontinent handicapped person? Wouldn't they prefer building a nice library full of books on three-point sermon preparation and leading touchy-feely groups, so they can sit in their leather-upholstered chair behind a mahogany desk in front of that impressive library and feel very important and holy? These passages cry out for a change in our paradigms!
Although the disciple must be a person who is ready to get his hands dirty in hands-on practical ministry, we must guard against anti-intellectualism and belittling specialized training. Higher education is important: it forms us as persons and opens our minds to new ways of understanding and ministering that the untrained mind can't quite grasp. But this higher education must include learning how to conduct practical ministry. Some people, even some Christian leaders, think that practical ministry is something anyone can do if they have enough life experience. This is not true! Jesus taught the multitudes in parables, but they couldn't understand: "Then Jesus sent the multitudes away, and went into the house. His disciples came to him, saying, 'Explain to us the parable of the darnel weeds of the field'" (Mat. 13:36). So the disciples received additional instruction and education. Then Jesus asked them, "Have you understood all these things?" (v. 51) "Do you get it now?" - asked Jesus. They answered "yes," even though they didn't quite get it, and wouldn't until after His death and resurrection. But they were learning.
Endnotes to Chapter 2:
1. Maxton, Daniel, Parenting Daughter Churches: A New Paradigm for Medium-Sized Congregations in the Baptist General Conference, (Pasadena, CA, doctoral thesis, School of Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, 1994), 245.
2. Ibid., 33.
3. Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, op. cit.
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Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but doesn't get you anywhere!
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