Without a doubt one of the highlights of my trip was the time I spent with local pastors on Tuesday and Wednesday (6/29-30). On Tuesday I spend the afternoon with Andre. He is a young man whose only other pastoral experience was in a more rural setting. Now he is preparing to plant a church across the Dneiper River in a newer section of Kiev. He called it a sleeping neighborhood and we would call it a bedroom community.
Dustin and I rode the Metro over to Andre’s part of town, which is an experience all its self. We emerged from the subterranean Metro station into a land of new high rise apartments, a handful of open air markets, a few restaurants, and no visible churches.
We walked with Andre through the community surrounded by nearly a half million people and even he could only point out two churches. It was exciting to hear him exegete his community. He is thinking creatively and strategically to find ways to build relationships. He has two steps in his initial plan. First, they have secured a very spacious (that is a relative term) apartment for he and his wife. It has a large living room that could accommodate 18-20 people. There they can extend hospitality to their neighbors and develop their leadership team. Second, he is looking for a cafe’ setting where they can teach english. I have no doubt he’s going to do very well.
On Wednesday we spent most of the day with Pastor Volva, Pastor Aleg, and Victor who is a youth pastor. It was a tremendous privilege to listen to them, learn from them, and spend time with them but there was a ring a familiarity to our conversation. The challenges and issues we discussed were very similar to the ones we experience here in the United States: “What is our mission? What is the vision God has given us? How do we get our church to grow?” And so we pressed into these lofty subjects separated by language & culture yet united in our passion & calling.
I know I didn’t solve anything but hopefully I gave them a couple things to consider.
- Like many churches in the United States they have started to depend on the programs and ministries of the church to draw people. We talked a lot about getting to know our neighbors, becoming a regular at a cafe or with a merchant, and getting involved in people’s lives outside the church.
- Like many pastors in the United States they have become slaves to the urgent. I tried to help them see that time spent dreaming and visionary prayer is just as important as the time they spend preparing for their Sunday sermon.
Words like ‘humbling’ and ‘honor’ just aren’t big enough to describe the events above. The best word I can come up with this morning is ‘gift.’ It was truly a gift to be reminded and assured that I’m part of a kinship, brotherhood, and fraternity of ordinary people called to serve an extraordinary God that circles the globe. It was a gift to remember that we’re in this together. And it was a gift to rub shoulders with such gifted and dedicated servants. I’m sure I received more than I gave and came home not only a better pastor but a better person because of my time with them.