Prayer desperately needed for Russian churches, IMB worker says
Lamar and Aubrey Shubert lead workers among both Ukrainian and Russian people groups. And while the world’s spotlight is, understandably, on the travesties the Ukrainian people are facing, the Shuberts’ hearts are breaking not only for them but also for the Russian people.
When the U.S.S.R. legally ceased to exist on Dec. 31, 1991, Southern Baptists and other evangelical groups rushed to get the gospel to the peoples of Russia and the former republics. Though the government has increased restrictions in recent years, established churches in Russia have continued to grow in strength and zeal. As the war continues and the world is polarized, the Shuberts want to remind the church in the U.S. to be in prayer for churches in Russia, because they are hurting too.
“The Russian church and most of the Russian people are not the ones at war with Ukraine. It’s the Russian regime,” Lamar said.
The Shuberts offered specific ways that Southern Baptists can be praying for Christians in Russia during this time – specifically for Christ followers and national partners inside the border.
Pray for those who have yet to hear the gospel in Russia
Less than 2% of Russia’s population of 145.8 million identify as evangelical. Pray for believers that remain in Russia to be dedicated to the task of reaching this vast unreached people group with the gospel during war. Pray that they would be reminded that the world’s greatest need is lostness, even when other felt needs are increasingly pressing.
Pray for the Russian church in the face of persecution
The Shuberts are praying for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, but while war still rages, those inside Russia who are vocally opposed to the war are facing impending persecution. Lamar says churches are anticipating the government focusing on people in their culture who are “causing tension” and pushing to single them out. He believes this will inevitably include the Russian evangelical church. Lamar said churches are anticipating a “religious purging.”
“It’s just hard to listen to friends and colleagues who, for their elders’ meetings, are asking questions like, ‘What’s our political statement going to be so that when they come to arrest us, we can be the best witnesses we can be?’ That’s where the church is right now. They’re preparing for those arrests and the coming persecution,” Lamar shared.
Pray for the Russian church as part of the body of Christ
As necessary sanctions rise to halt the efforts of the Russian regime, it’s the people of Russia, rather than government leaders, who are feeling the most pain right now. The price of milk has risen five or six times what it was weeks ago. Car parts are scarce, and most flights are unavailable. Still, the churches are doing what they can to help Ukrainian refugees who have fled to Russia.
“They are personally suffering,” Lamar said. “It’s not just the potential of persecution. They’re suffering in a way that we as Americans don’t understand, and we have seldom seen in our American history. Pray for them as they suffer and as they suffer willingly.”
Pray for IMB workers among Russian people groups
Russians remain one of the largest unreached people groups, despite the growing church in Russia. With this statistic in mind, the burden to continue the work among Russian people groups is heavy.
“They’re [International Mission Board (IMB) workers] suffering also, but they’re waiting to see where Russians start to migrate to as they come out. They want to be there and seize the gospel moment,” Lamar said.
As the Shuberts expressed their concern for Russian believers, they also look with confidence to the kingdom impact that the Russian church can make within its own country and as some begin to flee to other places.
“There’s a great church in Russia. The church in Russia is strong, is sound, is growing and is vibrant,” Lamar said. “We want to hold to trust in Christ that if persecution does break out, it’ll be something that the church grows through. And our brothers and sisters in Russia believe that wholeheartedly. They’ll stand and pay whatever cost it takes because they know that God will use it to raise up the kingdom.”
Some names may have been changed for security reasons.
Cover photo: Believers gather in a church in Moscow, Russia, in 2006 (IMB photo).
Myriah Snyder writes for the IMB. This story first appeared in the IMB’s Newsroom.