My friend and brother in Christ, Jerry Starling, is a former missionary to New Zealand and has proclaimed the gospel in Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Ohio, and Michigan. He now works with Eastern European Mission as Regional Coordinator for Florida. He writes a blog, Committed to Truth which you can find here. He writes about the work of Ukrainian Alexander Prokopchuk…a great example of a what we are discussing on this blog.
Most of my life I’ve wanted to see a church grow and prosper without either a church building or a paid preacher. Finally, as I’m nearing the end of my seventh decade of life, I have seen this — in the church-planting activities of Alexander Prokopchuk in Ukraine.
This brother (Sasha, as he is affectionately known) preaches on a national TV program. He offers some free literature each week, and receives an average of 300 requests for material weekly. Each request is promptly answered, including the introductory lesson of a Bible Correspondence Course. Thousands have completed his courses over the past half–dozen years — and hundreds have obeyed the gospel. These are scattered all over the country — a family here, two or three families there, a group of a dozen or so studying together in another place. These scattered groups are taught how to start a church in their own homes.
To strengthen them and inspire them, a seminar is offered each year. “Newbies” are invited — along with some other recent converts who have previously attended a seminar and who are doing what all of them are taught to do at the seminar:
1. Worship, even if it is only “two or three gathered in Jesus’ name.”
2. Tell other people what you are doing and why.
3. Make a difference in your community by showing the love of Jesus.
They are shown a very practical way of doing this through working with the many government-sponsored orphanages found throughout Ukraine. This work with the orphans parallels the work of the ancient church in rescuing children who were “exposed” to die when the father did not want them. In the ancient world, only the “pimps” and the Christians would offer these children shelter — the pimps for their own ungodly purposes and the Christians for the glory of God.
In Ukraine, the “graduates” of the government orphanages, shown the door on their 16th birthday, have a grim future. In the first year, 20% commit suicide. Of those who survive five years, 80% of the boys are in organized crime and 50% of the girls are prostitutes.
But the orphans touched by the Christians have a different future. Not only do the Christians work with them in the orphanages, many become foster parents and even “adopt” children into their own families. The impact of this God-filled life-style is making an impact on the peoples of Ukraine. Though all of this is done quietly with no national fanfare, people are seeing it — and coming to Jesus.
I was privileged to visit one of those seminars last September. It was the most inspirational event I have ever attended. There were between four and five hundred people present — and every person hung on every word that was being said. Simple, real gospel messages were delivered — and some of the more recent converts told of their experiences in their own cities.
New Christians left with the feeling, “These people are just like me. If they can do this, so can I with God’s help.” I met a coal miner who has started three congregations in his town — and who is making a real difference in his community with his work with orphans (including taking some of them into his own home).
A lot of money is being poured into this work — but it is not going for a paid preacher in every little congregation and a building for them to meet in. Rather, it is going to the preaching of the word on TV, in printed material, and at the seminars. Where there is a cluster of students, Sasha goes to meet them, and get them started in the Way.
Eastern European Mission, a ministry I work with as a fund-raiser in my home state of Florida, helps in this work by providing the means for the work – but, as I said, what we provide goes into the teaching and preaching of the Word, not into building a clergy class or a nation-wide series of church buildings, each with a struggling group of saints who are barely hanging on – as I have seen in most mission work I have observed, both as a “missionary” and a supporter of missions.