Pastor Sergey Khokhlov
Byezhitsa Church
Bryansk, Russia

Dear brothers and sisters,

I greet you with the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

We are sending you a report about the revival services in our city of Bryansk and in the church plant areas that were held on November 8-16, 2002.

We praise our God for His work in the hearts of many people during those days. We thank you for your prayers and support in this ministry, and ask you to keep on praying for our church and those people whom God has found and saved.

Peace and joy are dwelling in our hearts because we as believers have our trust in Jesus Christ, and His promises give us assurance that the end of our earthly life will become the beginning of the eternal life with God in his Heavenly Kingdom. But our hearts are hurting for the lost in this world that have not yet reconciled to God and might be separated from the Creator forever. It is hurting even more to think about the young people whose minds and souls are corrupted with wrong ideals and misconceptions that cause problems not only in their relations with God but also with their friends, parents and relatives. Miserable and destroyed at heart, they are trying to find a way out but instead they find themselves stuck deeper and deeper in the bondage of drugs, alcohol, stealing and lust. Even those who seem successful and fulfilled may stumble any time with no God on their side.

Our church has always felt responsible in doing evangelism work, especially among the young people. In 1998-2000 we would have special evangelism services every last Saturday of the month at the church for the youth of our Byezhitsa district. We would visit every house and apartment to invite the youth to the church so that they could hear what God has for them.

We have not had such regular meetings for the last two years but that does not mean we have given it up. Our responsibility before God and our pain for the young have not become less. We have been praying asking God to show us new opportunities and to guide us in this ministry.

In the summer we stated preparing for the revival services for the youth of the Byezhitsa district of Bryansk. We realized the importance of building up relations with our new friends as the basis for the effective planting of God’s seeds. The church pastors, the youth leaders had a lot of discussion and prayers about these plans, and they decided that the work should not stop after two or three evangelistic services for the non-Christian youth. We should continue meetings with our new friends, and probably not in the church building if they are not yet prepared for that and do not feel comfortable at the church, but in a cafe, in a form of a Christian club. The atmosphere of the informal setting might help young people feel relaxed and more open to the Gospel. The young people should know that there are other values with the young of the 21st century than their own, there are other life perspectives, there is a different way of life, and there are somewhat different young boys and girls.

Jesus Christ teaches us to speak in the way understandable to those we address, if we want to be heard, to meet the needs they have today. Paul, the apostle of Gentiles, followed Christ’s teaching and was successful in his preaching of the Gospel.

Our desire for this crusade was to invite as many unbelievers as possible. We wanted the two largest concert halls in Byezhitsa that hold about 1000 people each to be full with the youth. We used mass media, posters and invitation cards to advertise the event. God has really opened the way, and we had about 3000 people present during the three evenings, November 8-10, 2002.

To attract the attention of the youth to the crusade, we invited two Christian praise groups, “Open Skies” from the city of Tol’yatti, on the Volga river, and “Edelweiss” from Krasnodar, the south of Russia. Their songs speak of today’s life and a man caught in the net of the sin, whereas his soul is longing for a way out, they are a powerful testimony of a man who has been delivered from the bondage to the light of life, they are the proclamation of the truth of a new way, the way with Christ, Who saves people from the evil and sin.

God also blessed those days with joy we had in the fellowship with Rick Gage Ministries Team from America that consisted of 25 campaigners, most of whom were young people. Our American friends helped us financially in the evangelistic events, and they were active participants in the revival services. They preached the gospel, shared their testimonies, sang, answered the questions the young people had and gave counseling to the new converts. They also visited Bryansk orphanages during their stay in Bryansk. They not only shared about the Savior but they were living witnesses of Jesus. His love was shining through each of them, warming children’s hearts. The group brought financial help, clothes, shoes and other items much needed at the orphanages. We thank God for our friends and we are very grateful to them for their help!

All three evangelistic evenings were very effective, and the Word of God was preached in power. At the end of the Saturday evening when Pastor Sergey Khokhlov came out to address the present and give an invitation, he felt that the hearts of many people were ready to respond to God’s calling. Many hands were raised in response to the pastor’s question about their desire to pray to God. The pastor was leading them in prayer, and the audience repeated the words of prayer to God. It was a prayer of repentance and hope for a new life. On Sunday evening the pastor invited those who were willing to pray to come out forward, and more than 200 people came up onto the stage. Young souls need nourishment and we could not leave our new friends and let them go without giving them good counseling and sharing our joy of having new members in our family. To be able to do this, we trained more than 60 counselors, most of whom were young people. They encouraged their newly born friends to attend Christian fellowship at Byezhitsa church the next Monday evening, and also in the cafes “Byezhitsa” and “Yunost” that had been specially rented for regular meetings with the new friends.

On Monday about 200 people came to Byezhitsa church , 150 young people gathered in “Byezhitsa” cafe on Thursday and about 200 in “Yunost” cafe on Friday. These meetings still continue once a week in those places.

Evangelistic concerts for the youth that started on Friday, November 8, continued the next week in church plant areas of Bryansk region. The concerts were given by the Christian group “Edelweiss”, on Tuesday, Nov.12 – in Glinishchevo (pastor Nikolay Neshkov), on Wednesday, Nov. 13 – in Shibinets (pastor Pavel Shulga), on Thursday, Nov. 14 – in Mglin (pastors Sergey Sakharov, Igor Korobov), on Friday, Nov. 15 – in Dobrun (pastor Vasiliy Samokhin), on Saturday, Nov. 16 – in Zhiryatino (pastor Vladimir Bobrikov), on Sunday, Nov. 17 – in Rognedino (pastor Nikolay Sukharev).

Praise the Lord for that work!

Not all the Christians who were present at the concerts were able to accept the non-traditional, contemporary Christian music. The young people responded to it with clapping, singing together with the singer the refrains, some would stand up and clap their hands and move with the rhythm of singing. These reactions caused confusion in the hearts of some Christians who saw charismatic moods in it. But that music was not a stumbling block for the young people that came, it was the music they enjoyed, the music that did not hinder the words that spoke to the young hearts and made them think about the way they lived and where it might bring them. Many hearts felt a desire to get released from the bondage of sin. Not only the music but also the powerful testimony of the singer helped the audience to understand the message. God saved him when he realized he could not bear all his burdens alone. Many people who were present at the concerts accepted Jesus into their hearts. But some believers stumbled because of the music. It caused hurt feelings, misunderstanding, doubts….

What made the believers doubt the importance of the evangelistic concerts, of the Christian music that was performed? Probably some conservatism typical of the traditional Baptist churches that does not approve of any extra motion while worshiping ? Or steadfastness and firmness in protecting the purity of the Baptist faith that does not allow any harmful liberties? Such attitude does deserve great respect. But there is something here that Satan may skillfully take advantage of. It is a shaken unity of the church that is under threat then. It sometimes happens that we give certain “legal” things the first priority, and consider any change in the traditional form of worshiping no less than deviation from the truth of the doctrine. The enemy may use that crack in our unity and get through it, to bring in misunderstanding, hurt feelings, disagreement. It must not happen! Jesus Christ is praying for His children, “Holy Father, keep them and care for them – all those you have given Me – so that they will be united just as We are...My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as You and I are one, Father – that just as You are in Me and I am in You so they will be in Us, and the world will believe You sent Me”(John 17:11,21).

Let us keep on praying, brothers and sisters, for the white fields waiting for harvesting, for the good seeds that have been planted, that God will grow them and multiply them, that He will prolong His mercy on the earth and will continue His work adding more and more saved souls to His Church. Let us pray for the unity of His Church.

May His Name be glorified!

Sergey Khokhlov,

Pastor

Byezhitsa Church

Bryansk, Russia