This week marks the start of the 500th anniversary year of the great Reformation when Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, nailed his ninety-five complaints of corruption in the Catholic Church on the door of a church in Germany on Oct. 31, 1517. He wanted change but ended up getting opposition that resulted in the protestant reformation that swept through Europe and beyond with the truth of “The just shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:17). He also translated the Bible into the people’s language so they could read it for themselves. The impact was felt around the world.
But, did you also know Luther came to Ukraine too? Before arriving, Prince Volodymyr (988) imported what he saw of Catholicism in Constantinople and started the Eastern Orthodox church in Kiev. But, their glittering domes with external rites failed to bring true spiritual revival.
So, by the 16th century some sent their sons west to hear Luther lectures. They returned and schools were started with these ideas back in Ukraine. Eventually the Russian Bible Society came along and people began reading the Scriptures for themselves resulting in real spiritual change. Prayer group movements also sprang up which the Orthodox church began to oppose.
German colonies established by Catherine the Great (1762–96) brought in more spiritual change but she also restricted their activity as well as the Orthodox church. My heritage came from one of these colonies that we visited last week. See the link below about our visit to Tarutina. These began to have congregations and some were even known to baptize by immersion by 1855. The idea of salvation by faith rather than through ritual, baptism or works caught on fast. We visited a few of these churches while in the Odessa area.
But, with the 1917 Russian Revolution and communism the church was persecuted under government sanctioned atheism for seventy years. Many believers and church leaders of all kinds suffered, went to prison or died. Then in 1991 the collapse of the U.S.S.R. resulted in religious freedom. This is why many say the Reformation has just now arrived in Ukraine. Yes, that’s how Luther got there.
One example of this that caught my attention when we visited Central Baptist Church in
Odessa. My son Caleb was interviewing Sergei Sannikov, a theologian, author and founder of Odessa Theological Seminary, who had just completed a major new evangelical commentary on the Bible to help Slavic pastors understand Scripture better. His church stands out with it’s beautiful gardens and attractive building that has two balconies to maximize space. The church has been in existence for over two-hundred years but the building is much more recent.
I asked Mr. Sannikov if the KGB (Secret Police) had given the church much problems during communism. He pointed out that the actual site of the building we were standing in once was a headquarters for the KGB. But, with the fall of the iron curtain the KGB was eliminated and now on that spot the church was built. Now salvation by grace alone in Christ alone is being preached on the spot where once it was actively opposed. Praise God!
With that in mind Discovery has had an active part in helping bring those reformation truths to Ukraine for the past twenty-three years. We’ve done this through our two sent missionaries of the Sukos and Gustafsons as well as supporting nationals like the Sagadeyevs, Motovilians and Kaletniks.
See a video of our trip to our family village of Tarutino and lesson from what we found there by going to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_UBqBF9pc4.
- Living Nativity Workday 9-12 continues each Saturdays.
- Set your clocks back one hour Saturday night for daylight saving time.
- Sunday at 9:15 we’ll be looking at reformation truths in a new Discovery Class that Chris and I will team teach. It is designed to inform those new to Discovery about what we believe, how we function, our history and a host of other important things. It is recommended for those considering membership. Come and bring your questions.
- Sunday at 10:30 I will also give a report of our ministry in Ukraine over the past month before Chris opens the Word for us.