A worship leader's passion for music education and spiritual unity in Eastern Europe has enveloped at least one Baptist leader in Missouri.
"Amazing," John Jackson of Farmington said repeatedly to describe Alexander "Sasha" Kreshchuk and Worship Summit 2011 at St. Matthew's Baptist Church in Riga, Latvia. About 150 worship and other church leaders from six countries participated in the Jan. 27-29 event.
"They planned it, implemented it and were the ones involved in leading it," he said.
But he pointed to Kreshchuk as the visionary behind it and behind the spread of music education throughout the region. As music leader for the Baptist Union of the Ukraine, Kreshchuk is responsible for music training for the country.
His passion led him to begin music academies — events hosted at a local church to resource music leaders and provide training in worship leadership and church music. He has already sent people to assist Baptist Unions in neighboring countries.
"He's the visionary...truly an amazing leader," Jackson said. "He has their heart and he has their attention. He has their follower-ship," Jackson said. "He has been able to do this because he has the respect of the pastoral leadership."
The 2011 event was one product of a visioning process that began five years earlier. Jackson, minister of music at First Baptist Church, Farmington, led his choir on a mission trip to Belarus in 2006. While there, he began discussions with national leaders to encourage them to share resources and skills among themselves.
In 2007, the conversation "ramped up" with a meeting in Kiev to discuss the possibility of a summit for individuals responsible for leadership training in their respective countries. The talks resulted in an event in 2008 that offered information, resources and contacts for leaders from eight nations.
Several organizations helped provide resources and workshop leaders, including the Missouri-based Future Leadership Foundation, which Jackson serves as associate executive director of resources. Music and World Cultures, Worship Resources International and Jubilate also participated.
In early 2008, representatives of those organizations, the Slavic Gospel Association, Liberty University and others met with Kreshchuk in Minneapolis to talk about how to partner with one another rather than to duplicate efforts in Eastern Europe. They named their group the Eurasian Worship Alliance.
During the 2008 summit, national leaders developed a vision statement to strengthen music education by pledging to promote common understanding, calling Christians to mature in faith, sharing resources and encouraging dialog.
"This was the first time anything like this had happened among Eastern European countries," Jackson said, pointing out that strong nationalistic feelings tend to isolate the nations from one another.
This year's summit embodied the vision for church worship leaders. "I walked away [from the summit] thinking you don't really get to see the fruit fleshed out before you very often," Jackson said. "It was exciting."
The summit offered seminars, concerts, worship services and breakout sessions. Each country shared about upcoming events and training to be offered, and each led a worship service. The summit also featured a choir composed of singers from across Latvia that had performed at a Franklin Graham appearance in the fall.
Jackson, who led a requested session on strategic planning for ministry, was especially impressed how the international event bridged nationalism among participants. "From the first day of the summit you could tell the worship leaders and church leaders were of one heart.... That just doesn't happen...but it was as if they were one church," Jackson said.
Participants encouraged and resourced one another and worshipped together. "At no time did you get the feeling of 'them and us.' It was always just us," he added.
Following the event, individuals who had participated in the Minneapolis discussion planned future meetings via Skype and other means to continue to dialog.
Jackson also reconnected with three Lithuanian leaders he had taught on his first trip with Future Leadership Foundation in 2005. "One of the great feelings that happened was to see them lead worship...to see how they had grown," he said.
Jackson's participation with Eastern European leaders also has changed his ministry. "I'm not as narrow-focused on what I see as my role in ministry," he explained. "I have more of a global outlook...and this is being fleshed out in our own church."
While First Baptist has always had a strong local and national missions emphasis, the choir's three trips has led to more international involvement and led more individuals to volunteer to go.
"This is bigger than me, bigger than our church, bigger than Farmington. This is God's work," Jackson said.