Can you take a few moments to consider investing in this? I leave on October 23.
The situation today
Walk the streets of Kiev and you will see many amazing churches with incredible artwork, iconography, and music–all creativity dedicated to the worship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In 1988, even under the then-Soviet rule, the city and nation celebrated 1000 years of Christianity.
In a free but beleaguered Ukraine today, those ancient churches have been joined by thousands of new ones across the nation, full of new, energetic Christian believers, passionate about using current music to express their hearts in the worship of God. Since independence in 1992, Ukrainian Christians have sought to bring and be the Gospel in ways relevant to current culture both in their nation and in other former Soviet republics.
Russian-backed separatists are still attacking the country’s southeast. Corruption is still being weeded out of governmental procedures and positions. Terrible economic conditions have seen purchasing power drop by two-thirds. Ukrainians are under attack as never before.
These churches need leaders who are grounded in the values and principles that undergirded the ancient church and are also proficient in using the tools that will propel them into the future. When it comes to worship, that means understanding how the practices of the early church have much to teach us about how we approach worship today. It also means gaining skill in contemporary worship music and how culture, character and calling come into play.
In Kiev in 2012, God re-fired my heart and gave me a passion for the nation of Ukraine and its people, especially young leaders. I found that seeds I helped plant in 1992 had borne much fruit. (Here’s a bit of a report about that visit.)
We worked alongside the Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS), founded that same year by my friend Anatole Glukhovskyy. The seminary offers both undergraduate and graduate courses in ministry and has a unique trans-denominational perspective.
That fresh sense of calling was delayed a bit by the opportunity to complete a Masters’ degree at the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies (IWS).
However, by God’s grace and provision, the past two years have refueled and retooled me to better come alongside and help as I have completed that degree.
The past twelve months
In less than 14 days, I will board a plane to go back to Kiev for the third time in less than a year.
November 2014 for Mission Ukraine
Mission Ukraine pulled together hundreds of evangelical church leaders from across the nation (including the annexed region of Crimea and the eastern parts of the nation still under attack by separatists) as they discussed the priority of united evangelism even in these very difficult times.
I was honored to be invited to attend as a delegate and someone involved in ministry in Ukraine. They invited me to speak briefly and sing at the event myself, and had me lead the small group sessions involving music and the arts in ministry.
We heard many moving and honest testimonies about the difficult situations facing the Ukrainian church currently, but one comment stood head and shoulders over the rest. Pastor Vladimir Glukhovskyy (father of Anatoly), a church-planting evangelist and pastor during the difficult Soviet times, addressed the whole gathering. When asked to give his perspective, he said this: “I think God will hold us accountable for what we have done during this time of openness.”
March 2015 for “Music in Worship”
By God’s grace, I was able to bring a team to do a worship seminar in March as part of my thesis project for my Master’s degree.
John Conner (gifted saxophonist, engineer/producer from Nashville), Rev. Dr. Greg Wilde (professor from IWS) and his wife Jan, as well as Michael and Dawn Marie Helin (former Wings of Light team members and long-time media and music missionaries in Europe) were the highly qualified team that accompanied me. The UETS staff did a marvelous job of organization. We joined with gifted Ukrainian leaders, speakers and worship teams to work with a tremendous group of church leaders and volunteers from all across Ukraine for three days of encouragement and training. We had twice the number of people expected. There are too many stories to tell here, but you can see a gallery of pictures from the event as well as video of my and Greg’s plenary talks. It was a powerful time.
NOW, October 2015
As a response to what God did in our midst, Ivan Rusyn, the Rector of UETS and Marina Yarmolenko, the Dean of the Music Ministry and Theology department and her staff have asked that I would lecture and bring seminars to UETS twice a year.
In our planning and discussion, we discovered that Robert Webber’s book, WORSHIP OLD & NEW, is available in Russian! That will be our main textbook and framework for the class. I will have the music/theology students 15 times in 5 days–pretty intense! We will look closely at how the Biblical principles and practices that informed the worship of the early church should inform our worship today. The class will finish with a similar week early in 2016.
The economic situation in Ukraine doesn’t allow them to do much to help financially. On our March trip, the team was able to raise extra money to replace an aging computer for the Music/Theology department and bless them, as well as help with some of the cost of the seminar.
My Ukrainian colleagues are investing all they can to make this work; this is a partnership, not a one-sided American presentation. It is an ongoing dialogue to see how their students and their teachers can be better equipped in the area of worship renewal, and then how together we can help the churches and pastors they work with across Ukraine and Eurasia.
On this trip, we will also be discussing our plans for the seminar and classes to come in the spring. I will have meetings with other churches and individuals regarding future ministry. We are also talking with the leadership of IWS about all three ministries (MusicWorks International, UETS and IWS) working together to teach and train leaders and local pastors in worship renewal.
[Click here for some more background on MusicWorks International, part of the ACT International family of ministries.]
How you can help now!
More important than just finance, we need a support team of devoted intercessors who will stand with us. Are you willing to pray for the guidance and the freedom of the Holy Spirit during my time there? Let me know in the comments section below or drop me a note at this email.
I need to raise money right away to cover both the trip expenses which have been advanced to me and for the costs of my work in preparation.
$3000-3500 in initial expenses now,
and when I get back, establishing a substantial base of monthly support.
The initial expenses are most urgent and crucial–it will be important to have them in hand before I fly on the 23rd. The flight cost has been advanced to me, and I need to raise that and cover other expenses for the trip as I prepare to go.
Although this is late, I believe that raising $3500 in two weeks is do-able. God is my source. (If all the friends and partners seeing this gave just $5-10, the need would be more than met.) I’m praying for:
1 gift of $500 • 2 gifts of $250 • 10 gifts of $100 • 20 gifts of $50 • 25 gifts of $25
for a total of $3500.
(Of course, you can give more or less than this, but this will meet the immediate need.)
You can give via credit/debit card, check (payable to MusicWorks International) or by automatic bank draft by using the link just above. Donations are tax-deductible and are figured in US dollars.
Again, leave a comment below or email me if you want to be part of our intercessory team, and I will add you to our list to receive reports and prayer requests. If you can’t give financially right now–I certainly understand that.
God is in control; He has given the calling, and I believe He will provide as we look for the partners He has chosen in this season. I’m grateful that you are prayerfully considering this as we look to walk into a new season of ministry. Already several friends have indicated they want to be part of this trip by investing…I am thankful for the encouragement! I need your “experienced” prayer support and investment now.
This is a unique opportunity in a very strategic nation at a very crucial time. Will you help us continue to walk through these doors? I want to combine worship old and new in bringing solid theology and practice alongside current skills and cultural awareness that will bring great glory to the living God. It is a start to a new season.
That’s the story, the need and how you can help now. I pray you will!