By Bill Burkett
For 74 years our unregistered churches survived the holocaust of persecution of a human system that imprisoned and tortured Christians. We must express a sincere appreciation for the present government that has released us from those former harsh and unreasonable treatments and recognizes the wrongs done to us in the past. Those who suffered unjustly in prison are being graciously compensated with additional monthly retirement pay as a display of genuine understanding toward the Christian community. It is for these kind of government leaders we are commanded by Scripture to pray for.
1 Timothy 2:1-2; Romans 13:3; Hebrews 13:17.)
When the church was persecuted by its rulers they made laws against the church that were unbearable and contrary to the laws of God. As Christians we then had to “obey God rather than men” as Peter told those Roman authorities who abused their authority. (Acts 5:29.) The teaching of Christ never conflicts with the good of man and members of society. A church that is obeying God and walking in obedience to the principles of godliness make the best citizens. But if authority is abused by us as his ministers within the church it is even more devastating than when the church had to live under a government whose leaders abused their authority.
The Scripture tells us that righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people. (Proverbs 14:34.) This same principle applies to the church when it becomes corrupted. If its leaders and pastors sneer at the supreme importance of righteousness and godliness, then that church or that man becomes a reproach to God and society. God will put His judgment and chastisement on those who violate His righteousness.
For those decades we were suppressed and abused by the enemies of Christ the Lord by His Spirit kept us bound together and we did not lose each other or our fellowship. But now that we have been blessed with a wonderful new freedom many new dangers much more subtle and dangerous to the church have appeared. Let us consider a few of those new enemies that sometimes work through those who may be within the church. In Jude’s epistle he describes the corrupting influence that threaten the spiritual power of the church as coming from within the church and not from without. Brethren, those things that corrupt from within are much more dangerous than those things that would threaten us from without.
The religious lifestyle of the foreigner who comes from the West is the first and greatest threat against the tranquility and pursuit of godliness in our churches of the CIS.
Basically there are two kinds of foreign church ministries who come to Ukraine, Russia and Belorus; good ones and bad ones. How do we tell the difference?
Well, let us first describe the good brethren who come to us. Many foreign preachers have come from very liberal churches that want to change us and give us Americanism or Charimaticism. Much of the preaching and teaching being brought from England, Finland, Norway, Australia and Germany is more of a cultural gospel than it is a Christian gospel.
Western materialism has created a shallow and light-hearted kind of Christianity that is totally void of the fear of God, reverence and obedience to the traditional ordinances and doctrines of the apostles. A good preacher from the west will not come with the intention of changing you from the “terrible and binding traditions” of your faith to replace it with a cheap version of Christianity based on his or her cultural preferences.
If the Slavic churches feel their need of learning anything from a foreign visitor, then let the foreigner be invited by the Slavic pastor to teach on that matter only with the pastor’s approval.
I can say that Faith Mission and Commission Inc. has been very careful to be supportive of only those doctrines of the churches which are established here by the pastors. The purpose of our presence is to encourage you in the faith you have and not replace it with another kind of faith that comes from the West rather than from the Scripture.
Foreign ministries should be very concerned with providing for the practical and humanitarian needs of the people of Russia and the Ukraine as well as the people of the church. We have put in place the Sister Church program to provide a flow of practical assistance and dollars to our pastors; we have also created the Contact program that puts needy individuals here in the Ukraine with individuals in America who want to help those is dire circumstances; We have just completed a shipment of 20 tons of food and clothing to the Khabarovsk region and now plan for shipments to the Ukraine through The Ukrainian Christian Charity mission under the direction of Valerie Sumin and his mission network; We have placed Bibles in the hands pastors and believers of other faiths who ask for them.
The Authority of the Local Pastors
Foreigners have no business coming into our churches and overruling the local pastor and dominating a church with their doctrine when it is not the teaching of that pastor. Foreigners should not appoint missionaries to work with our churches unless we have approved those they send. When a missionary steps on the soil of our land, then he is under the authority of the bishops of the churches of that country. What he does should be with the permission of the local bishop and under his authority. We have only visited and traveled to those churches where we have been invited. When we are there, we preach Paul’s gospel with no intention to cause that pastor any problems.
Brethren, we have been under the precious leadership of the Holy Ghost for all of these years and He has been faithful to keep us. We do not need any organizations, associations or agreements contrived by man which the church of Acts did not have. Let us be only THE CHURCH OF ACTS. Let our rule of government be the authority of Scripture. May the revelation of God’s Word be the singular and most powerful influence upon us as pastors. Let us prove the Power of the Scriptures to govern us and the power of the Holy Spirit to keep us in the unity of THE CHURCH OF ACTS. Let us belong only to THE CHURCH OF ACTS.
Man creates organizations because he gains preeminence and power through them. But God created the church and breathed the Holy Spirit of life and power upon us to function as a spiritual organism of Christ-like godliness. The strength of the church is not in numbers, alliances or worldly status – the strength of the church is in the simplicity godliness. When the church thinks more upon perfecting holiness that it does organization, it is the true church. But when the church thinks in terms of alliances and organization as a means of strength and security, it has become human and carnal. Foreigners have taught us this new way of thinking. It has been the subtle influence of foreigners who want to bring us under their control ultimately that is behind
These are the closing hours of the churches history and Satan is feverishly working to deceive the pastors and the people to abandon the Biblical government we have always had and come under some other government other than THE CHURCH OF ACTS. Any plan or idea that divides the brethren and brings strife is of men and the Devil, not of God. Keep your unity. Remain pure and totally dependent upon God and Biblical government.
The hour of world evangelism is upon us. Let us be busy with this task and then give ourselves to prayer and fasting. These are the objectives God has called us to.
A foreigner coming to us should first of all be concerned with our practical and humane needs and leave the running of the church to the local pastor not interfering in the internal affairs of the church unless asked.