I have recently written 3 articles that have the word “Russian” in the title. All three by implication pointed out some negative things in some people, and so I have been accused of going on a crusade against all things Russian. In my writings I have specifically noted things like “not every Russian church is bad, and not every American church is good” but of course, people read titles, not the actual content. Some of the titles have been so controversial or shocking people assumed I hate all Slavic’s. Believe me, I love Slavic people as I love all people. So as I have pointed out some negative trends, allow me to point out some positive things. I have not met all the Slavic pastors in the US, I would be childish and arrogant to assume I could write a post about all of them. In my life I have met some Russian pastors that I am honored to call my friend. These are the reasons some Slavic pastors are amazing:
1. Some care about the Bible more than traditions.
While being surrounded by people of varying views and positions, they focus on the authority of Scripture and guide their people to obey and love Gods Word. While they are in the Russian culture, and often live by its norms, they know the difference between their culture and Gods word. While they may dress like a Russian person would dress, but they don’t focus, care, or preach about dressing like Russians. They work hard to teach their people the importance of the Cross over culture. Their main goal is that the Bible is preached, Jesus is worshiped, all peoples/cultures are loved, and the Scripture is obeyed, above all traditions.
2. Some care about people more than their reputation
While it’s hard to refrain from sinful feelings when people are sinfully brutal, critical, and divisive, these pastors expose themselves to be martyrs, only for the sake of gently shepherding Gods sheep. When met with conflict and arguments, when dealing with people who disagree with them, these pastors worry far more about loving the person in question, than defending their own position and popularity. Their main goal is to win the hearts of people to Jesus, than to maintain a respectable position.
3. Some don’t judge, they gently restore
Every religion and nation in this world shares one thing. They all accuse and judge other people as being worse. Yet, there are Slavic pastors that follow Galatians 6:1, not the way of the world. They don’t cause people to feel shame, they don’t load heaps of guilt over their heads, they don’t condemn anyone. Even those that are in sin or error, are not treated as evil, they are loved in Grace. These pastors don’t set themselves up to be beacons of holiness, but instead gently stoop down to the sinner, explain that they too are “an inch of Grace” away from hell and all need to rely on God’s Grace.
4. Some are trustworthy rather than gossips
Every person in this world knows how hard it is to keep a secret, especially something shocking and controversial. It almost wants to burst out of your mouth. Yet these pastors do not speak of people sins. They don’t pick up the phone and call ten of their friends as soon as they hear the latest piece of gossip. They are that are not busybodies, they don’t forcefully interfere into other peoples affairs to get a good story, instead they meet people to love on them.
5. Some disagree without condemning others
To deal with differing views on something, especially in “Politics or Religion” is no easy task. Wars have been fought for those that refuse to acknowledge other views. Many people in this world mock, scorn, jeer, humiliate, guilt, shun, and condemn anyone who has even a minor disagreement. Conversations I’ve heard include things like “If you don’t agree with me, you don’t honor or glorify God.” I firsthand know the difficulty of dealing with differing viewpoints. Yet there are some pastors that can gently agree to disagree. They say their position and then genuinely love you. They don’t try to beat you down with condemnation. They don’t host meetings to condemn you with their friends. They don’t say things like “I disagree, because you are wrong, evil, demonic, and will soon be supporting gay marriage, oh and I love you.” Instead they say things like “I disagree but it’s a secondary issue, let’s focus on loving Jesus, and loving each other.”
I thank God for men like these that exist in the Russian community. I know that is so very hard to be like this because of our own sin, and the push of some church members that don’t want a pastor to be like this. I pray that God would allow me and others who are not fully here, to grow in Grace, and become like this.