Pashkov 9: Evangelical Christians in Russia
By Konstantin Chernushenko
May 2007
Shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution, Gospel Christians convened their fifth congress. The theme was from Romans 13:11: "The hour has come for you to wake up from your sleep." What Ivan Stepanovich Prokhanov had called "an appalling reign of terror" was over, and it was time to focus on Russian and world wide evangelism and on the crucial issue of unity.

The unity of believers was a constant theme of Prokhanov's work. He felt strongly that the prayer of Jesus for unity was an imperative -- "Quote John 17:20 ,21". In this sentiment he stood in the tradition of Vasili Alexandrovich Pashkov who had worked earlier for the unification of all believers in Russia . Prokhanov took the lead in the formation of the All-Russia Evangelical Christian Union in 1909.

Would the unity effort only be extended to evangelicals who were similar to the Gospel Christians in several important ways? Prokhanov's answer was No, and he demonstrated a remarkable initiate in reaching out to a former oppressor, the Orthodox Church. That state Church had suffered at the hands of the new government who had confiscated valuables. There was severe repression when the Orthodox Church resisted, and the Patriarch was placed under arrested on sixth of May 1922. There was unrest even schism within the Orthodox Church. To all of these Prokhanov addressed The Gospel Call.

There were three points in this document, 100,000 copies of which were distributed across Russia : (1) Forgiveness was extended to the Orthodox. (2) The Orthodox were urged to begin a national New Testament-based reformation. (3) Special prayer meetings would be arranged to which Orthodox believers would be invited.

Ivan Stepanovich Pashkov was invited to preach in Moscow in an Orthodox Cathedral. Among others things he said, "Behold, brothers and sisters, today a miracle has happened before my very eyes." He spoke on the nature of the gospel and called for repentance. The attending Priest pray, "Lord, forgive me as a simple sinner and as a sinner-shepherd of these immortal souls with regard to whom I am so neglectful.

Prokhanov then visited the Metropolitan Antonin who stated his agreement with almost everything in the Gospel Call but said this call "can't be realized in the Greek Orthodox Church at present." He took a book from his shelf and showed it to Prokhanov saying, "This is the book from which I am taking drops of living water every day." What was that book? It was a copy of Gusli, the compilation of hymns by Prokhanov, widely used among Gospel Christians.

Prokhanov recalls, "One of the brethren who accompanied me wept with tears of joy. Surely there was reason for his tears," Prokhanov wrote, "It is certain," he continued, "that in a thousand years never such a thing happened as that a Metropolitan of the Green Orthodox Church would pray in his own words with outsiders, yet he prayed with the representatives of the people's Evangelical movement."

Later, in a religious gathering Antonin was asked which church or religious organization came nearest to the teachings of Christ. He responded, "I know one group of Christians; they are called Evangelical Christians. They restore the primitive Christianity of Christ and the apostles."

A special day of prayer for Orthodox revival was set for November 1922. Metropolitan Antonin attended and gave an address. Words of these remarkable meetings spread across Russia and the attitude of the two groups toward each other changed dramatically.

The personnel and staff of World Christian Broadcasting have great respect for the Gospel Christian movement in Russia and prays to see a similar revival in these decades. Let Ivan Stepanovich Prokhanov's vision ring across Russia :
      It is firmly held by all believers in Christ, apart from any distinction of name or creed, that the church of the first century, the church of Christ and the Apostles…is in its ideal aspect the model for the Church throughout all future centuries…
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