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Student taps Russian background to describe healthy churches

NEW ORLEANS (BP)??Churches can grow and be healthy despite their existence in the most unhealthy situations, according to a native Russian whose family for generations has lived and ministered through such circumstances.
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s president, Chuck Kelley, in focusing this academic year on what is needed to grow a healthy church, asked a student from Russia, third?year master of divinity degree student Jake Roudkovski, to speak in chapel Sept. 23, addressing the topic from his personal experiences.
This past summer Roudkovski visited his hometown, Altemy, Kazakhstan, a province of the former U.S.S.R., and talked with his nearly 80?year?old grandparents for what may be the last time before their deaths.
Baptist ministry has been a part of Roudkovski’s family for at least four generations through some of the worst oppression to be humanly experienced. Roudkovski is now himself a pastor, ministering at Woodland Baptist Church in Springfield, La.
“What was the most motivating factor in your life to keep you going through the oppression of Soviet rule?” Roudkovski asked his grandfather, a Baptist minister for more than 50 years, as he spent time with him this summer.
“My grandfather told me the call of God on his life was one of two important factors,” Roudkovski said.
“Then he told me the other factor occurred at the deathbed of his father. My great?grandfather called all his children to him, and as he lay on his bed, he told them, ‘There are two things I want you to do.
“‘I want you to know and do the Great Commandments (Matthew 22:37?39) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19?20). I want you to build your lives around these verses of Scripture.'”
Roudkovski’s grandfather told him these two factors sustained him while he suffered from mental and physical persecution and when he experienced the death of his wife, as well as when he was fired from his job in secular employment when a supervisor discovered he was a Christian.
“But my grandfather survived, and he used this secret of health and growth with his church for sheer survival in the former Soviet Union,” Roudkovski said.
“However, as I left my grandfather behind, I also heard God telling me, ‘Because of godly leaders such as your grandfather, the church in Russia has been healthy.'”
On a divine level, Roudkovski said, the key to a healthy church is God, while on a human level, the key to a healthy church is a godly leader, “people who lead through their worship, their work, their witness and their walk.”
Just as the early Christian church experienced church growth, as detailed in the Book of Acts, “it is through leaders who take what Jesus Christ said and then apply it that the world is turned upside down,” Roudkovski said.
As a minister leads in worship, he said, the minister “needs to worship God with genuine enthusiasm,” not something that is “so dull, dry, boring and predictable that it’s not even interesting.”
Since he is a minister at a small church himself, Roudkovski said he knows everything cannot be changed when and how the minister envisions.
“But what you can change is how you worship God yourself, your amount of enthusiasm and excitement. Excitement will flow from you, from your individual worship time, to others.”
Ministers lead in work, Roudkovski said, “as they take what Jesus said and do it.”
“The best way to equip others to serve is by modeling service yourself,” he said. “If we learn servanthood and apply it in our lives, the people around us can’t help but catch on to the idea.”
A minister also must be the one who leads in witness, Roudkovski said.
“I’m really bothered when I hear preachers say, ‘I can’t understand why my church isn’t growing.’
“I know why they aren’t growing. They aren’t growing because the preacher expects somebody else to do the witnessing.
“But how can we expect the members to witness if we who are supposed to be the leaders aren’t witnessing?”
Roudkovski’s grandmother, a minister’s wife, is the perfect example of a leader in witness, he said. Though she never had a day of seminary training, she has never failed to try to lead someone to the Lord every day.
“In fact, we were at the airport for my flight back to the United States, saying our final goodbyes, when we couldn’t find my grandmother. I was so sad because I thought this might be my last time ever to see her. But then we spotted her. She was witnessing to a Muslim man.
“My last sight of her was as she sat in the airport trying to lead this older gentleman to the Lord. Even though she knew she possibly would never see me again on earth, she felt she had to take the time to witness to that man because she knew she would see me again in heaven.”
Roudkovski’s grandfather is his perfect example of a minister leading by his walk, he said.
“As I spent time with my grandfather this summer and he told me of his experiences in the ministry, I asked him to pray for me that I would be a godly man.
“My grandfather prayed that I would have the strength to build my life on the Great Commandments and the Great Commission, something I saw everyday in my grandfather’s life.”

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  • Debbie Moore