Thank God for the rich Christian heritage of Ukraine. Christianity in the Slavic world began in Kyiv 1,000 years ago. Churches here suffered greatly until independence (1991) and millions of Christians died, but the faithful perseverance of the Church now bears fruit. Today it impacts most of society. Evangelicals emerged from 130 years of persecution with larger numbers and stronger faith. Ukraine has a spiritual drive and vision present today that is different from generations before.
The Soviet Union dissolved 30 years ago, but its shadow still looms over Ukraine. The unmanaged market economy of the '90s drove many deeper into poverty while a few powerful oligarchs gained extreme wealth through corrupt means. Ukraine’s economic troubles increase the political tensions between East and West. Communism’s demise as a governing ideology left an empty space without values or morals. This led to a rapid increase of hopelessness, alcoholism and drug abuse, and the spread of sexually transmitted disease. Many opportunities exist for holistic and compassionate ministries, and believers must not miss this open door. Pray that the Church might minister the heart of Christ to Ukraine, a nation with no shortage of needs.
Ukraine has a strong Christian legacy, and evangelicals emerged stronger and more numerous from 130 years of sustained persecution in which millions of Christians were killed. Freedom of religion is vastly improved but not yet enshrined in both law and practice. Pray for the Church to engage this new context with boldness. There are several challenges:
- Reconciliation and unity. Ukrainian religious life is marred by strife among and inside all major groups. Competing schisms within Orthodoxy in particular, but also factions within Catholicism and Protestantism, blunt the effectiveness of religious faith. The Communist era is over, but scars of intimidation and betrayal need further healing - all three major confessions were split between collaborators and resisters. Pray for right responses to those who yielded to pressure, those who stood firm but often remain inflexible today, and those who emerged on the scene post-independence. Often divisions are the result of personal pride, unforgiveness and financial disputes rather than theological differences alone.
- The emergence of the newer churches is a great blessing, though it has upset the balance of the religious establishment. Dynamism, Western style and African leadership have ruffled some feathers amongst more traditional groups. Pray for sensitivity and gracious attitudes for all, and for ways to maximize both the spiritual fervour of newer groups and the remarkable spiritual heritage of more traditional ones.
- Growth is somewhat limited by current needs for training, infrastructure, adequate facilities and active input from lay Christians. Opportunities for holistic and compassionate ministries abound, and to miss this open door would be a shame. Pray for a mentality of abundance and generosity that provides for the material needs of church growth without too much recourse to foreign funds, which can bring their own complications.
Leadership training is probably the primary church need in Ukraine. Twenty years of sustained growth created thousands of new congregations requiring leadership formation. There are dozens of seminaries, Bible schools and institutes, the capacities of which must grow to meet current and future demands. Western agencies contribute helpfully in this area, including SGA, GEM, Calvary Chapel Mission, Baptist and Pentecostal groups and others. Pray for them to serve professionally and humbly. Ask for God's provision for good academic resources and textbooks, for building projects and also funding for student scholarships.
Indigenous agencies. A blossoming of agencies followed independence with Ukrainians now working in outreach (evangelism, literature, media), with children (in summer camps and schools), and especially in humanitarian work (with prisoners, hospitals, orphanages and soup kitchens). Pentecostals/charismatics and Baptists minister both within Ukraine and without, sending missionaries to other former Soviet states. Pray for the burgeoning Ukrainian missionary movement - for further growth, provision and fruitful partnership with Western and other agencies.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.