JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Thanks to partnerships between Baptist churches in Missouri and congregations in the Ukraine, leaders are being developed and new congregations are being planted.
In September, four Missouri pastors and one from Arlington, Va., accompanied Future Leadership Foundation CEO Roger Hatfield on a combination vision and teaching trip to the Eastern European country.
The trip was part of the FLF’s Ukraine 20/20 Church Initiative that hopes to connect 20 congregations from across the United States with 20 Ukrainian student church planters in five-year partnerships. Pastors from the U.S. partner churches would have opportunities to teach courses at the Ukraine Baptist Theological Seminary’s campuses in the Ukraine, Portugal and Italy.
Greg Morrow, pastor of First Baptist Church in California, Mo., coordinates the seminary training aspect and the Macedonia Project, which develops church planting through seminary education. Students work on a degree in church planting as they start new work with the support of their home churches and a U.S. partnering church.
“The impact of the Macedonia Project remains in the future, but initial observations indicate a great opportunity for the Ukraine Baptist Theological Seminary, the new works represented by each church planter and the partnering pastors and churches from the United States,” Morrow said by email.
Currently, eight U.S. congregations have signed on. Hatfield said he hopes that number increases to 12 by next March. “The pastors who went with us on [the September] trip are the springboard to enlisting colleagues,” he added. “They would be able to enlist those whom they know.”
The partnership calls for the American congregation to provide $400 and the Ukrainian mother church to give $200 per month to support the pastor “so that the church planter can give himself totally to seminary studies and church planting,” Hatfield explained.
In addition, the American pastors would provide coaching for their Ukrainian counterparts.
Morrow and Bob Nowlin of Fee Fee Baptist Church in Bridgeton taught at the seminary in September. The group also assisted with a weekend retreat for the church planters and mother church pastors.
Individuals are being recruited for a similar trip in the spring.
First Baptist Church in Jefferson City has already signed on. “I am excited about the multi-year partnership First Baptist is entering into with the Ukrainians,” Senior Pastor Doyle Sager said.
“God has given the Ukrainian Baptists courage and passion under very challenging circumstances — secularism as well as subtle resistance from government and from entrenched Catholic and Orthodox churches. The believers we worked with have a joy and abandon to the Lord that teaches us Westerners a great deal about following Jesus.”
Chris Cook, pastor of Parkade Baptist Church in Columbia, made the trip to explore the possibility of participating in the Macedonia Project. He came away feeling that Ukrainian Baptists were making every resource count.
“In all my ministry...I have never been with a group of people so clearly focused and devoted to the cause of advancing God’s kingdom,” he said. “My observation is that the church in the Ukraine has far less resources than the church in the United States. Yet, their zeal to start new churches and spread the gospel far surpasses that of the United States.”
FLF became involved with church leadership development in the Ukraine through the influence of several people, beginning with a connection between Baptist men in North Carolina and Ukrainian Baptists in 1992 to build churches.
That five-year partnership eventually led to the involvement of Joe Privott of St. Louis and of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in St. Charles. Privott introduced FLF to the possibilities of working with Ukrainian Baptists.