I recently traveled to Ukraine in order to teach for a week at the Kiev Theological Seminary. Next week, I’ll write a post about my experience with the leaders and students of KTS. But until then, I hope you’ll take a moment to read this story from Eurasia Stories.
Training church planters in Ukraine leads to Gospel proclamation throughout the former Soviet Union by Nicole Lee
KIEV, Ukraine — In the past 15 years, the students of Kiev Theological Seminary (KTS) have started more than 200 churches in Ukraine.
International Mission Board workers Joel Ragains and Dan Upchurch are co-directors of a church-planting faculty at KTS that Ragains began eight years ago. Its unique program requires every student to either be a church planter or a member of a church-planting team. Six groups of students have graduated thus far, and 50 percent of those are continuing today as church planters. Currently the church-planting faculty has 25 students enrolled in a four-year program. From current and past students, 20 new churches have either formed or are forming.
The program’s students come from all across the former Soviet republics including Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. And they are going out to all parts of the former Soviet Union, including countries that are considered “closed” to Western missionaries.
In addition, former students are currently working in Russia with traditional Orthodox as well as with Muslims and Buddhists. Other graduates have started multiple churches in Ukraine and are sending the next generation of church planters to study with the faculty. All of this helps Ragains and Upchurch accomplish their long-term goal.
“Ragain’s goal from the beginning is to make a bigger impact than just Ukraine,” Upchurch said. “We want to change the spiritual climate of Ukraine and the former Soviet Union through equipping.”
And it seems that they are doing just that. Two students from the first class have churches that run more than 100 people in attendance. One of those has sent four church members back to the faculty and one of those has already planted a church running about 50 in worship. In addition, one of the church members has gone to China as a missionary.
But the vision doesn’t stop with what the students are doing. The next step is to reproduce the faculty in other locations.
“When we look toward the future, we don’t just want to train church planters, we want to produce a paradigm of training church planters that can be reproduced in other parts of the Soviet Union,” Upchurch said. “We don’t want students to just learn it, we want them to learn and teach.”
Ragains recently met with people in Russia about beginning a modular church-planting program in an area that is described as a spiritual wilderness. They have one church for every million people. This program will have its kickoff in fall of 2013.
Also twice a year Upchurch and Ragains are teaching courses in Bible colleges in Ukraine to plant the seed of church-planting early.
Of course Upchurch and Ragains aren’t alone in their vision. They have been undergirded from the beginning by Southern Baptist churches in the States.
Graceland Baptist Church in New Albany, Ind. and Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss. have provided support and recruited teachers. Bellevue Baptist in Cordova, Tenn., has sent ministry teams as well.
Story originally posted by Nicole Lee, an IMB writer based in Europe. (link)