Moscow Church Spearheads Russia Revival
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In a land where the Russian Orthodox Church dominates, one evangelical charismatic church is creating spiritual waves.
The Protestant movement is growing very strongly.
Americans Rick and Denise Renner are at the forefront of the movement. In 1991, the couple moved their family to what is now the former Soviet Union with the goal of reaching Russians with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Nine years later, in September 2000, they started Moscow Good News Church in the Russian capital city.
Moscow Church is approximately 3,500 people in regular attendance.
And that's big for Russia, where most Protestant churches attract less than 1,000 people to each of their congregations. And while the goal is to reach a broad section of those living in the Moscow metropolis, the church puts a special emphasis on reaching the upper class.
Specifically, a part of our vision is to reach a higher class of people.
Well, because they need God, too, and there aren't many churches that they can actually feel comfortable in.
Most Russians belong to the Orthodox Church. There are some 30,000 churches dotting the Russian landscape. The church is gaining more prominence after decades of persecution under the Soviet system. Yet, this newfound role isn't necessarily translating into regular attendance or observance.
Most people don't even know the tenets of the faith. They don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Nowadays, it is hip to be religious in Russia.
But Renner says something different happens at Moscow Good News. Those from an Orthodox background find the evangelical church community a whole new experience.
Some of them are shocked. Some of them think, "Wow, I've only seen this in movies."
Along with the preaching of the Gospel, worship and the style of music played in church is a big draw, too.
I say, "Hey, come to church. We have music in church and it is fun." "Like what, Gospel music?"
In addition to the main service, Moscow Good News has an active children's ministry that puts on regular drama performances about the life of Christ.
They also have an entire church dedicated just to reaching the elderly. (Moscow, Russia): And despite the tremendous success of Moscow Good News Church, it faces a huge public perception problem. You see, today in Russia, charismatic churches are often considered cults. So the government puts laws on the books to restrict religious freedom. And because the Russian Orthodox Church views the evangelical churches as competitors, they often side with the government trying to limit evangelical church growth.
The official position of the Russian Orthodox Church is that everything besides them is a cult.
But a new generation of young Russians are emerging with different views on the matter.
I know the Orthodox Church doesn't have a good opinion of the Protestant churches, but that has to change.
I have evangelical Christians who are friends of mine. I enjoy talking with them and appreciate things they share with me.
It is that sentiment that Renner and members of Moscow Good News Church hope lead to more Russians embracing the message of Jesus Christ.
Capitalism has come. Many people are successful. Many people have made money. Many people have lost a lot of money, and they know and they've found out for themselves that it is not the answer to all of their problems. And so there's a new wave of interest in spiritual things.
George Thomas, CBN News, reporting from Moscow.