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Prof helps EKG unfold in former Soviet lands

GERMANTOWN, Tenn. (BP)–Jere Phillips of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary continues to marvel at how God is using Empowering Kingdom Growth in Russia and is grateful for the part God has allowed him to play in it.

Phillips, MABTS director of extensions and distance learning, has traveled overseas in a number of countries to teach and evangelize. When an opportunity arose in 2002 to go with a group of students from the seminary to Russia, Phillips confessed that Russia had not been on his radar screen. “I hadn’t planned to go due to finances,” he said. “But God just put it on my heart to go.”

Fiodor Baraniuk, a Russian student in Phillips’ Ph.D. seminar, found out about Phillips’ impending trip to his homeland. Baraniuk knew that Phillips had written curriculum for LifeWay and he knew of the need of Russian Baptists for indigenous Sunday School curriculum. Baraniuk asked Phillips to provide a conference for the Russian curriculum writers.

That opportunity led to Phillips’ meeting with the president of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptist, who invited Phillips to return in 2003 for a leadership retreat. Phillips brought his friend Carlisle Driggers, executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Driggers shared with Russian Baptist leaders about the South Carolina’s Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative and the state convention’s planning model called “Thy Kingdom Come.”

Russian leaders then spent five late-night hours in prayer, after which they announced that God was leading them to make EKG a national strategy for Russian Baptists.

Since 2003, Phillips has returned to Russia six times to train and encourage various levels of leadership in the EKG material. In March 2004, he and Driggers trained the RUECB president, vice presidents and 54 district superintendents. Phillips had edited “Thy Kingdom Come” for Russian use, which was translated into Russian, along with Drigger’s book “A Journey of Faith and Hope.” Five thousand copies were printed and delivered to the 1,400 RUECB churches across Russia.

Driggers and Phillips returned in July 2004 for a follow up retreat. In March 2005, Phillips’ former student, Fiodor Baraniuk, now the Sunday School director for the Russian union, taught the material to other district superintendents.

In May 2005, Phillips taught EKG to about 250 pastors in five cities across Russia. He traveled in July to speak in Moldova to the Euro-Asiatic Federation of Evangelical Christians-Baptist, encompassing the Baptist unions of various countries that formerly were part of the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Phillips traveled again in October to lead EKG training in Kiev for Ukrainian leadership.

Yuriy Apatov, secretary general of the Euro-Asiatic Federdation, invited Phillips, Driggers and SBC EKG strategist Ken Hemphill to attend their 51st Congress in Moscow in March. In his invitation Apatov stated, “All the presidents of the Baptist Unions have expressed high interest in learning more about EKG. We are also excited to learn and see what God is doing and how He is changing the Russian Baptist Union since the Baptists have accepted EKG as their national strategy.

“We would like to give you enough time, and ask you to address the EKG concept to the entire body of the EAF. We believe this will empower us to enlarge our horizons and give direction in our ministry of the spreading of the Gospel of the Kingdom,” Apatov wrote.

Following the March EAF sessions in Moscow, Phillips anticipates that each of the Euro-Asiatic Federation countries will want training for leaders and pastors, “as the Lord leads and provides,” he said.

The Russian and Euro-Asiatic evangelical churches still face many challenges and hardships, Hemphill said. “This is my first trip there. I am excited that their leaders are coming together and embracing EKG as a convention,” he said prior to the trip. “But I am going as a learner as well, and for what they can teach us. They have been a persecuted church. I’m going to fellowship with them and will come back encouraged.”

Hemphill is the author of “Empowering Kingdom Growth” and “A 40 Day Experience: EKG, The Heartbeat of God.” Later this year the RUECB will publish 13 Bible studies written by Phillips based on Hemphill’s 40 Day EKG study.

Ed Tarleton, International Missions Board director for Russia, the EKG material has helped Russian Baptists develop a unifying vision and has given them a new emphasis on servant leadership among their churches. The RUECB vision statement is: To serve churches for the establishment and expansion of the Kingdom of God on earth.

Tarleton and his wife have worked in Moscow the past 12 years. He said several hundred new churches have started in Russia over the past 10 years, with RUECB churches now encompassing more than 80,000 members.

Phillips is grateful to MABTS for viewing his involvement in this project as part of the seminary’s mission and for allowing him time away from his seminary responsibilities to strengthen the Baptist church in Russia. “It’s what we’re all about,” he said.

“But we need Baptists to pray,” Phillips said. “This is a unique opportunity to impact those 15 crucial nations of the former Soviet Union. Pray that EKG will be seen as a heartbeat for them as well.”

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  • Kay Adkins