An Open Letter To Slavic Church Leaders

It’s been a year since I wrote this post which evoked mixed reactions from Slavic church members across the US.

In all honesty, I wrote that post with only a few churches in mind – those that I have been a part of for many years.

I certainly did not expect a response I received, and it was quite overwhelming.

Looking back, however, I am able to confidently and thankfully say: My Father led me through it all!

He was the one who sustained me through some of the most difficult ridicule I have ever faced before, including that of those close to me.

There have also been those who responded in love and provided constructive criticism. (For instance, an advice I took to heart was that I shouldn’t have lumped everyone into the same big pile of “dead churches”).

However, what became even more clear to me is that there are so many Slavic brothers and sisters across the US who have been hurt by religion. It is always a blessing to see those who in spite of being hurt by churches and church leaders have found a real relationship with Jesus, and in it, healing and forgiveness. But there are also so many more others who have fallen and have been unable to get up…

And so, I want to preface this letter with this: If you are a Slavic church leader and you find absolutely nothing here that is applicable to you, that is wonderful! Praise God! I ask that you would join me in praying for those leaders who have lost the fear of the Lord, and who have become stumbling blocks to many.

I also want to point out that I do realize that there are no perfect churches or perfect church leaders. Every church has its own set of issues because, frankly, we are all broken people in need of God’s mercy and grace.

That being said, I cannot remain silent while witnessing a degradation within the Slavic churches in my community. God placed a heavy burden on my heart for the souls of many young people who are looking at you, the leaders of Slavic churches.

They see the corruption. They see past your mask. They see through your hypocrisy. They see the politics you engage in. They see that your faith has become a means to your status or power within the Slavic community. They see a dead religion.

They do not see Jesus in you.

They do not want to have anything to do with Christianity.

They leave your churches.

Scores of young people are either leading double lives themselves, (they certainly have someone from whom they are learning), or they are becoming atheists at an alarming rate.

And the most grievous thing is the fact that you, a Slavic church leader, blame this phenomenon on anything else but yourself.

You place the blame on colleges and universities. You say, “they just didn’t want to be on the straight and narrow way and chose the highway to hell,” or “they wanted freedom!” “They rebelled!” They, they, they.

But what about you?

You have lost the fear of God when you allowed church politics dictate how you lead the flock Jesus Christ placed into your care.

You appease those members who contribute the most dollars into the church treasury, or those who pledge to support your candidacy as a pastor once reelection rolls around. (That is if the reelection even takes place in your church). Some of you become life-long pastors, remaining in your posts even after you steal from the church treasury, or are caught soliciting prostitutes, or engage in some other shady dealings.

What plays into your favor is the fact that the majority of your members have immigrated from countries where Christians were persecuted. These members still carry fear and mistrust towards the governing authorities of this country. So you capitalize on that, and your sins become buried under the big pile you have labeled as “Christian persecution.”

Whether you hide your own sin or the sin of other members under the label of “Christian persecution,” you also do not follow the biblical teaching that instructs the church to judge and to discipline those within the church, while leaving judgment of those outside the church to God. Instead, you throw rocks at the nonbelievers while showering yourselves with praise of how good you are at keeping God’s law. Do you even see how convoluted it all really is?

“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges.” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13

How do you react when your members are accused and prosecuted for mortgage fraud or for setting a fire to their home in order to get insurance money? Why do these members engage in these sins in the first place? Don’t they realize the profound implications their actions have on their children?

Yet again, you call it “Christian persecution.” I have a question for you and the members who commit these misdemeanors and crimes: Do you even realize that you drag Jesus and His name through the mud you yourself created committing a crime?

Why do you, as a church leader, defend those types of activities? To preserve your image or the church’s reputation? Ignorance? Lack of understanding how the US criminal justice system operates? Some of the above, or all of the above?

I plead with you, please, do not insult the dear brothers and sisters facing real persecution – those who find themselves under ISIS control and in countries like China. You are not “persecuted for your faith” when the factual evidence against you is sufficient enough for a prosecutor to decide that the case against you is worth the county’s time and resources.

Those believers who know how the justice system works in this country can see through your schemes. They pray for you, hoping that you would repent. Most importanly, God sees you! Meanwhile, the young people, whose faith is still shaky, experience a total shipwreck leaving Christianity for good.

Politics is when you give in to the members’ threats of withdrawing their financial support, allowing these members to manipulate your decisions. An example would be you not allowing English-speaking services. Young people, whose Russian or Ukrainian is not as good as yours, would greatly benefit from the English services. But you give in to pressure from the majority of the selfish members who don’t want the English services. No matter how big of an effort you make in trying to “keep the Russian (or Ukrainian) language,” your children, and most certainly your grandchildren, will not be proficient in it. So, is it more important for them to speak Russian or to hear the Gospel in a language they can understand?

Politics is when you shut your eyes to the sin of those who are big money contributors, while exposing the sin of other members who contribute small amounts.

You also engage in church politics when you allow your family to monopolize the church ministry positions (choir, Sunday school, etc.), to a point that it becomes extremely difficult for anyone outside of the privileged circle to serve in those ministries.

You have lost the fear of God when you gossip and disclose the secrets of those who have confessed their sins to you in confidence. Recently, a young woman shared with me her shock at overhearing the pastors’ sons talk about her friend’s shameful secrets, all while they were laughing and sipping coffee at a local Starbucks.

You have lost the fear of God when you turned the baptism interviews into vetting sessions resembling an FBI background check. Young people, who have already confessed their sins and who have already given their lives to Jesus, are pressured to confess yet again, sometimes even to sins they have never done.

You have lost the fear of God when you cover sexual sins of deacons and ministers in your church. I find it hard to express the grief I feel upon finding out of yet another young woman traumatized by molestation or rape at the hands of her father or a pastor’s son. She is further damaged when no one does anything about it, or worse, when she is the one getting all the blame and shame.

"For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Romans 3:20-24
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:20-24

And finally, you have lost a relationship with Jesus and found religion when you started to focus on the letter of the law. Members of your flock hear about dress codes, jewelry, and makeup more than they hear about sin and God’s grace. You fail to realize that no matter how much you try to change your members by rules and regulations, the only one who can really change them is Jesus.

Meanwhile, you allow yourselves to become prideful, comparing your works to the works of others. Pride rules in the hearts of your church members as well. They boast about how “holy” they are because they always wear skirts and never wear makeup or jewelry. They also feel self-righteous when they find out about their brother or sister’s sin like adultery, pornography, or another “shameful” addiction. They further affirm their own sense of worth by gossiping and ostracizing those brothers and sisters who have stumbled and fallen, all the while forgetting that gossip and an unloving attitude is just as sinful.

You are careful about keeping your own faults and weaknesses secret. You believe that if your members know about them, they will stumble and fall. So for the good of those who are “weak in faith” you keep up the pretense that you are a “perfect Christian.” And I don’t blame you. Because you find yourself in the same vicious cycle of a culture that vilifies and shames others in order to glorify and promote themselves.

You may be a parent who will do anything to keep your “holy” status. This includes pressuring or even manipulating your children to repent, to sing in a choir, or to be baptized so that you can retain respect of your members. Or you may not be this type of a parent. But there are many in your churches who do use manipulation tactics such as “you are not going to get your car” or “I will not pay for your car insurance if you don’t sing in a choir, or don’t repent, or get baptized.” Because of this, you have number a of young church members who lead double lives. They get drunk in bars, do drugs, and have sex on Saturday nights and sing in choir on Sunday mornings.

And then you wonder why so many young people leave the Christian faith…

It’s really quite simple: You have failed to show the real Jesus to them!

A question I have been asked many times is this one: “Why do you keep talking about this?”

I certainly understand the cultural implications of a well-known idiom that says “не выноси сор из избы” or “do not air your dirty laundry in public.”

I also acknowledge the fact that many will interpret this post as yet another personal attempt at getting fame and publicity.

I am not in control of changing your minds, and I am most certainly not in control of changing your attitudes.

What I hope and pray for is seeing more and more Slavic pastors standing up against the grain and the popular cultures of their congregations. I pray for the current Slavic leaders to awaken with fervent love for and fear of the Lord. If this doesn’t happen, we are going to see more and more young people searching for life answers outside of our churches.

I have a heavy burden on my heart for these young people. And I will continue talking about and exposing these issues.

I love my Slavic heritage. However, I love those who are hurt by your religion more.

And above all, I love God.

Will you heed His call to wake up?

“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die,
for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.

Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.
But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”
~ Revelation 3:1-3

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’
But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich;
and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness;
and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne,
just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
~ Revelation 3:15-22

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21 thoughts on “An Open Letter To Slavic Church Leaders

  1. My apologies – I have one other question which I forgot to ask. Would the members of Slavic churches in the U.S. be willing, in obedience to the Great Commission of Matthew 28, to reach out to the people of every kindred, tongue and nation who are living right here in the U.S. as their neighbors and co-workers and the people they meet in their daily lives? Would these members be willing to advocate for social justice for the disadvantaged right here in the communities where they live? Would they be willing to invite such people to their churches? Or would they limit their missionary efforts solely to sending pastors over to Russia and the Ukraine?

  2. As a nonwhite American who has visited a few Slavic churches in the U.S., I have found your posts on Slavic church culture to be very interesting, along with some of the more critical comments concerning these posts. I think that many members of the Slavic evangelical and Protestant community have the same problem that many of the more conservative American churches have, namely that they have an excessive pride in their earthly culture. Thus, they use their churches as places to worship that earthly culture and ethnic identity instead of accepting the fact that, according to the New Testament, those who are in Christ are new creations, and the old identity has been done away with. They are unwilling to submit to passages in Ephesians which talk about how Christ’s death has destroyed the barrier between Jew and Gentile, and in Colossians where it is said that we who are in Christ have one new identity in which earthly identities have been dissolved. They refuse to admit that, according to Philippians 3:8, that old identity needed to be destroyed anyway! This is why many Slavic churches do not welcome Christians who are not Slavic – because they have set themselves, their ethnicity and their culture on a pedestal above everyone else. Thus, cut off from grace, they are easy prey for indwelling sin to wreak havoc in their lives – a havoc which they dare not confess to anyone who could help them, lest they lose their exalted status when others find out that they are only human. This is also why the members of many Slavic churches tend to be extremely standoffish toward the people of the broader society among whom they live. This is not the way to be a Gospel witness!

    To those Slavic evangelicals who are concerned with the worldliness of American society in comparison to supposedly pure Slavic culture, I would ask this: would you be willing to be part of multi-ethnic congregations in which people from every background were welcomed, yet where the holiness of God was faithfully preached and where church members were strongly encouraged to live holy lives as new creations? Or would the multi-ethnicity of such congregations be a deal-breaker for you?

  3. Wow. Amazing.. I was in a deep drug addiction because I was “made” to repent and get baptised and that way I ended up cursing myself. Then I found dead God 5 long years later. I wish I could say I see a revival coming to the Russian church’s. But let’s face the truth… it’s not gonna happen. Our God starts fresh, He starts new, he doesn’t fix old things he makes new things. That’s why the Bible says we are a NEC creation… be blessed.

    1. Wow, Vlad! Praise God for making you new and alive in Christ!
      I am still praying for an awakening and revival in all the churches, Slavic and American. And I believe nothing is impossible for God, and nothing can stay in a way of God’s move! I am so encouraged by your testimony! Thank you, Jesus!!!

  4. Таня а ты знала что гонимых Христиан вытесняли из церквей (40 лет тому назад когда выпускали братьев на свободу)…представ после долгого заключение прийти в свою общину и найти что там в руководстве ВОЛКЕ! кто открыто на кафедре заявляли, чтоб члены церкви не подходили к ним и даже не приветствовали их, потому что те преступники!! SO this is not new; do you think satans tactics changed today? oh no, he still has many of his servants in our churches; I mean its clear… churches have NO power, its becoming more and more liberal year by year, no reverence what-so-ever with the type of clothing people wear (even those who are serving in choir, whom represent a modern day Levite)…the type of music that already crept within the walls of the supposed place of reverencing God! its scary and Its all in the works by the same spirit, дух сего времени! Its scary that a supposed church of Christ has so much impurities when Jesus clearly said “нечего нечистого туда не войдет”… I am not afraid to say that many members of such churches will find themselves in hell and not fully understanding why they were not in the book of life!! well I will tell the reason now… you break the first commandment that is the fulfillment of everything else…. you do not love God!!

  5. Well written article. Thank you for sharing your heart. Most people know this to be the truth and yet majority are afraid to publicly admit the problem. Unfortunately, “comfort zone Christianity” keeps many people hostage in their religious mindset. Unless those of us who are of new generation will start renewing the mind according to the Bible and not according to an opinion of “Братский совет”, we are doomed to repeat same mistakes of the past.

  6. I have been to plenty of American churches that have ALL of these exact problems. Molestation and rape is more than common in American churches. In MANY American churches, youth is no where to be seen. Their “youth” are children ranging from the 11-17 and once they hit the college age, they leave church and many don’t come back.I was born in America and my family went to an American church in for the first 8 years of our life here. Rest assured I know plenty about the damage that the American churches have done to the young generation. Their constant sermons about “grace” have strayed the members into not realizing their sins, resulting in unfaithful, dead souls who believe in the lies that they are saved, so they continue to live their sinful lives. I can’t stand hearing immigrants coming here, living here for 10-15 years and talking about how bad Slavic churches are and American churches are not having these kind of problems. Little do most of these anti-Slavic church people know that American churches are constantly emptying. Their member numbers are plummeting. And this talk about allowing English sermons at our Russian services needs to stop. Why is youth so selfish about “give us this” “give us that”?!? What about the other members of the church that don’t speak English?? Let’s have English sermons so that now our kids can “understand and grow spiritually” but take that away from the rest of the immigrants who now can’t understand any sermons. What’s wrong with trying to preserve a culture? Nothing?!? Every ethnicity in America does it! Immigrants of all cultures and countries want to keep their culture and language for their generations, and there is nothing wrong with it. So stop trying to blame the Slavic churches for matters that are a problem across ALL churches. Stop blaming Slavic members for people’s inability to grow up, act like responsible adults, and follow the word of God AS WRITTEN and not as we want to interpret it. Yes we have issues in our churches, yes these issues have carried over generations and yes we need to stop living a dead Christian religion. But these issues are exactly the same in liberal Slavic churches and American churches across the board. So instead of trying to find someone to blame, start by acting like the Christian God wants us to be and start fixing these problems by fixing your own life first and helping the body of Christ grow. (this wasn’t aimed towards the author, but more to everyone that share this opinion).

    1. I was also born in America. I was raised in a Russian church. I became a born again Christian at 16 & was baptised at 16. At 20 I lost my Faith (the Slavic church did have a role to play in that) & I became agnostic. The Lord had mercy on my soul & through some interesting circumstances led me to an American Church & through the preaching of grace & love He brought me back into His loving arms.

      Vik you say that American churches have “constant sermons about “grace””. In my experience that is something I really never heard about in Slavic sermons. Sin is all they focus on & how we need to dress & look different to stand apart from the rest of the world. Slavic churches make it seem like if you do everything right/”play the part” then nothing bad will happen to you. The Lord will bless you & your life will be perfect. If by some horrible test of faith something bad does happen (unable to conceive, death of a child, a car accident, or anything really) then the first thing they say is what are you hiding? What do you need to repent? Our blessings are not guaranteed on this Earth but they are in heaven. Preaching grace is just as important as preaching about sin, Faith, Hope, and Love.

      Vik you say that American churches are emptying? …I don’t know about all of them but the one I go to has been around for 50 years. I started attending 3 years ago & it is much harder to find an empty seat today then the first year I was attending. I will also like to add that a good half of the church is either young married couples or college students.

      Vik what exactly is wrong with having a few English worship songs & ONE sermon in English? I don’t think anyone is asking for a complete English Service in a Slavic Church. However a sermon would not only benefit our youth but would also allow people to invite their English speaking friend & neighbors. How are immigrants living in America supposed to bring people to Christ if they can’t even bring them to church? Isn’t that what God is going to judge us on? How many people we have brought to Christ? What good does it do “preaching to the choir”? If the borders were to close & immigration came to an end, so would the growth in Slavic churches. Churches are the same as people, there are good and bad ones in every culture and nation. Slavic churches will have to conform sooner or later if they want to be influential in this country. & if they don’t they should consider moving to a Slavic speaking nation for the sake of their own salvation & to be able to do more good for God.

  7. “Young people becoming atheists at an alarming rate” – are the cracks finally starting to show… I have great respect for the people realizing and admitting their real spiritual condition. The honest atheist will find God if he truly searches for him, but the self-deluding Christian will be far away from God despite all the church going, and choir singing, and preaching… This fake house of cards (instead of a true house of worship), is being developed, supported, and continues to be actively built by the preachers and the parents who refuse to embrace faith and live in it. The children are forced to either, buy into this whole show and become an actor, leave faith because its a farce, or attempt to bring about change, and the third option is the road least taken… We cant blame the parents for our lack of a relationship with Christ, (The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge) but we can blame ourselves if we do nothing to change this facade. Some serious and drastic changes are required, and we need to start acting…

  8. I agree with you – it’s all hypocrisy. They are leading great flocks of people in truly believing a lie. And when those people will stand in front of God on judgment day, He will say “I do not know you.” Religion – it is a carlnal/fleshly worship of god. But God wants worshippers who worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)

  9. Well, there would be no need to specifically address all of this to the “Slavic” Church leaders, if not, maybe, for the fact that the Slavic immigrants somehow still believe that they are better Christians than the rest. Everything here are the common church problems since its very beginnings. Just read what the New Testament authors have to say about their contemporary churches or talk to the American pastors. Or just read in the news how the once celebrated American pastors like Mark Driscoll fall spectacularly when their abuses finally become too obvious.

    1. You nailed it: “Slavic immigrants somehow still believe that they are better Christians than the rest.”
      But do agree that these are the problems the church faced from the very beginning.

  10. Exposing issues is one thing. Being part of the solution is the true test of ones convictions. You clearly have a heart for the youth; sharing your successful work with the struggling youth would be a great help.

  11. This…this stirred up all kinds of emotions within me, because THESE exact words have been on my mind since I was a child. I can relate to almost everything you mentioned!! And I am one of those who left the Slavic church as a result. Thank you for speaking out on behalf of SO many people. I’d like your permission to share this article?

  12. Спасибо Таня, люблю читать твои мысли. Церковь не только для того чтобы с кафедры учили и говорили но и чтоб на деле помогали своим же членам церкви. Легко бежать за рубеж и помогать а вот своим? Пример, у меня трое детей и все они у меня родились кесарево. Ты знаеш процес выздоровления: встовать не можешь все страшно болит, ребенка поднять неможешь, к плите вообше подойти и речи нет. Так вот в огромной церкви нету групы людей которые б хотябы посетили и поддержали в такой тяжелый момент. Такая помощ лучше всякой проповеди. Знаю в некоторых церквях такое служение есть, но ето только некоторые. Хотелось побольше б душепопечительства и заинтересованости к членам церкви. Да благословит всех наших служителей Бог..

    1. Ольга, сочувствую вам за боль которую вы испытали в том, что с церкви к вам не пришли помочь. Я согласен с мыслю, что наши церкви в этом страдают; мы где то забываем в необходимости служить друг другу. И конечно же, получивши такой опыт, и зная как это больно когда нам не служат в наших нуждах, должно послужить мотивацией для Христианина идти и служить другим, особенно тем, которые этого не заслужили. Думаю что вы так и делаете.

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