Mikhovich: Be an optimist; plant churches now - Word&Way

Mikhovich: Be an optimist; plant churches now

JEFFERSON CITY — Leonid Mikhovich believes now is the time to be optimistic, to plant new churches and to tell others about Jesus.

Leonid Mikhovich

The president of Minsk Theological Seminary recently shared with members of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City. Preaching from Joshua 1:1-6, Mikhovich pointed out that the Hebrews did not have an easy victory because the cities in Canaan were large and heavily fortified.

“There are fortresses around and inside us” today, he said.

Secularization and indifference among God’s people are among those fortresses, he added. Worship wars have thrown up another barrier among churches in Belarus. “Churches sometimes can’t work together because of it,” Mikhovich explained. “It’s easier to have a good relationship with brothers and sisters in a foreign land.”

He reminded listeners, “Jesus prayed that all believers would be as one.”

Mikhovich noted that some aspects of life are beyond Christians’ control, but that seeking God, rather than wringing hands, helps focus on evangelism. He acknowledged the difficulty churches face to get registered and to purchase property. “It’s not the loss of freedom that’s the problem, but our attitude,” he said.

“We can look at it optimistically or pessimistically. The pessimists say there are only a few faithful churches. The optimists say, ‘Now is the time to plant churches,’” he declared.

He shared that even with restrictions, the political climate for Christians in Belarus is better than it was when he was growing up under the Soviet Union. Christians were discriminated against, and it was difficult to buy a Bible.

Christians must remember that the church is God’s church, planted 2,000 years ago, he said. The “main thing” to take away from Joshua is that the victory came “not from tactics but from God’s actions.”

“Since we fight God’s battles, he goes before us,” he said.

Minsk Theological Seminary President Leonid Mikhovich (left) visits with First Baptist Church of Jefferson City members Lois Jeffries (center) and Gary Hemphill following a recent worship service. Mikhovich spent a couple of months at Missouri Baptist University as part of his study toward a doctorate degree. He is leading the seminary to create practical programs to assist pastors in Belarus, most of whom serve in a bivocational capacity.

Mikhovich earned a master of divinity degree in theology at Moscow Theological Seminary in Russia. After graduating in 1997, he helped start the seminary in Minsk, the only theological seminary for the Baptist Union in Belarus. He has served as president since 2000.

He also earned a master of arts degree in practical ministry through TCM International Institute in Vienna, Austria, in conjunction with Cincinnati Christian University.

He and other leaders see three main missions for the seminary. First is “to help our churches…and to meet church needs,” he said. The seminary has just started a biblical counseling degree.

All the seminary’s administrators, including Mikhovich, also are pastors. He is pastor of Gospel of Light Church and also serves as a senior pastor for the association of churches in Minsk and the region.

The second goal is to help churches develop ministries to reach their communities. The seminary has started a program for church librarians, and leaders now are discussing the possibility of including a program on aging ministry. “We want to help churches realize the need to pay attention to the problems of the elderly,” he said.

Administrators also want to develop theological resources for pastors and help church members understand the value of new translations.

Minsk Theological Seminary currently includes eight departments, with about 550 students, most of whom attend part-time.

“Most of our students are also involved in church ministry. We can’t just train professionals because most of our churches can’t afford them and most also work other jobs,” he said.

Mikhovich studied for two months at Missouri Baptist University to complete a doctorate through the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague and the University of Wales.

Missouri-based Future Leadership Foundation has been assisting the seminary at Minsk, including raising funds for classroom supplies.