- The IFES team in one country commented that, while evangelicals are now accepted as normal people in society (and not as they formerly were viewed, as members of cults), it is still common for students to hear that the event they have come to is sponsored by an evangelical ministry and for them to gather their stuff and run from the room in fear, as they have heard from their Orthodox church priests that they are not to have anything to do with evangelicals.
- The IFES movements in these countries all would love to work with churches to help their students know about IFES as an opportunity to grow in faith and ministry skills while in the University context. But evangelical churches in these countries (representing just a single percent of people in their countries) skirmish among one another and don't trust IFES, so pastors often dissuade their students from being involved in IFES, and churches don't support with prayer or support the efforts of students to reach their university student friends with the gospel message.
- We were in the Caucuses for a gathering of staff and we were celebrating the newest member of the staff team. A passionate guy with a heart for the many non-believers he counts as friends, he was welcomed onto the team and he told his story. He said he had been frustrated in his previous job as a bartender, and had conversations with his evangelical church pastor about the propriety of his serving in that job. The pastor said, "Everyone has to have a job" and was encouraging to him in his role. Then, the opportunity came for him to serve with IFES, and he again approached his pastor. His pastor, who ten years ago had a misunderstanding with the IFES team and has never been able to reconcile or understand the ministry, said he was making a terrible mistake and that he, his pastor, would rather that he served as a bartender helping students to get drunk than as a campus minister calling students to repentance and new faith and to growth as followers of Christ.
This has hugely negative impact on Christian students coming to universities and on the ability of these national IFES movements to support themselves with local funding. It is difficult not to see this entire dysfunctional ecology as at least one significant indirect result of the oppressive presence of soviet-style government in the twentieth century, many negative impacts of which are still being felt here. Soviet-era suspicion toward churches specifically and alternative power structures in general left a leadership model that too-often become abusive, even from leaders who themselves have paid huge costs being oppressed by this system in the past, but now replicate it in more subtle ways in their churches. Please join us in praying for the believers here, that they grow in their trust of God and one another in their joint efforts to live as followers of Jesus and call others to do the same.
Previous blog posts touching similar topics: