EASTERN EUROPE – When Erasyl* started university in his hometown in the former Soviet Union, he knew very little about Jesus. Being from a Muslim home, he was most familiar with the Quran, but he also knew the Bible was a holy book. What he did not know was the gospel.
An IMB missionary befriended him on campus and led him to the Lord. “Through studying Scripture and reading good books on apologetics and church history, God convinced me of the truth of the Bible, and I put my trust in Jesus in 2007,” Erasyl said.
Erasyl’s love of books grew during a season of his life when he ministered alongside Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Today, Erasyl is a pastor and credits much of his rapid spiritual growth to reading commentaries and Christian books about theology, ecclesiology, pastoral ministry and biblical counseling.
Back home in Central Asia, Erasyl often travels throughout the former Soviet Union and meets with other pastors. After his experience of coming to Christ and studying under godly men, he has been surprised to learn that “the privilege of having good books is a rare thing.” In fact, Erasyl said, most pastors either have books that are not theologically sound or no books at all.
Ministers in Russia and other former Soviet countries are handicapped by a scarcity of quality theological training resources. Because many live in isolated locations, the few available seminaries and ministry training centers are difficult to access.
Erasyl and his IMB partner, Dan Sullen*, are trying to change that. They have started a program called Equip a Pastor that aims to get new books to pastors on a monthly or bimonthly basis—all provided in the Russian language. These books will equip pastors with the much-needed tools they need to evangelize and disciple people across the cities, towns and villages of Russia and other former Soviet countries.
Every month, for 18 months, IMB missionaries will send pastors, church planters and evangelists books that will help equip them for the task of sharing the gospel and shepherding local congregations. In an 18-month period the pastors will receive 25 to 30 books. To ensure accountability and wise stewardship, each minister will be required to submit one book review every three months.
More than 150 pastors have applied to take part in the program. Many of the first 50 who have been sponsored expressed gratitude for resources they could not have afforded on their own. They also commented that this program has challenged them to think more deeply about their theology and ministry. Sullen observed that another positive and unexpected outcome for the church is that the pastors’ enthusiasm has overflowed to their congregations, who are also now beginning to delve more deeply into theology and biblical understanding
One hundred pastors are waiting to take part in the program. You can help by giving to the project.
“We are hoping to equip hundreds, not dozens, of pastors in ministry,” Erasyl said. “Please pray with us that God will equip His ministers for the work of ministry. Thank you, IMB, for helping us train our pastors.”
*Names changed for security
Karen Pearce is a contributing writer for IMB living in Prague.