Response to “Russian Culture and The Christian Church”

the_churchRecently, Tanya Feygin’s article, “Russian Culture and The Christian Church” went viral in the Slavic Christian community. As I read it, bitter-sweet thoughts filled my mind. And when I was done, only bitterness remained. I am always deeply saddened by any blatant misrepresentation of any Christian community including the Slavic community.

I have not met Tanya Feygin, but if I may, would like to answer her blog with a response.

To understand where I come from and my perspective, here is a short background of myself. I too immigrated to the US when I was 9 years old & grew up in the Slavic Christian community in the USA. My 3rd grade teacher couldn’t pronounce my real name (Rostislav), therefore today I go by Russell.

At the age of 18, I became a Youth Pastor at one of the largest Slavic churches in WA, and served there for 5 years. After conflicts about worship, language & methods, my wife and I moved out of the state, and completely removed ourselves from the Slavic community, and started attending and served in an “American” church for 4 years.

The Slavic church I was a part of was very conservative & traditional, and just like Tanya, I did struggle with some aspects of the semi-closed-in community. And, true, there were some people that did paint the “American Church” as heathen and backslidden. Quiet honestly though, with time, I probably heard more rhetoric similar to Tanya’s blog, saying, “the American church” is perfect, and the Russians are all hypocrites, Pharisees and cheaters.

After several years in the American community, I was drawn back to Seattle, and with several close friends, we planted a church called City On A Hill. Today, City On A Hill is home to over 1,500 people. Though the largest percentage of members of our church have a Slavic background, we have people from over 15 nationalities attending our services, including from Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Vietnam, Fiji, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, and other nationalities.

From my small experience, I have ceased to see the churches in America as “Russian” and “American,” and as “The Right One” and “The Wrong One.”

Based on the merits of “The Russian Culture and The Christian Church”, I could just as well write a blog on the “American Culture and The Christian Church,” detailing how “American” pastors are buying male prostitutes and $65 million dollar jets, teaching their members to stop believing homosexuality as sin, or how visitors who come to the “American” church with any different version of the Bible other than the KJV are persecuted and mocked. Such a depiction of the American church would be blatantly ignorant and false, though the above instances are true and have occurred in an “American” church.

In all reality, by generalizing and painting the “Slavic Church” with one brush, we only display our hypocritical, judgmental attitude that we ourselves denounce and have supposedly left. Sadly, many people leave the judgmental “Slavic” culture, but the Slavic culture does not leave them. Let me say it more correctly: though there are some in the Slavic church that are judgmental, you will find judgmental people in every other community of faith that you will attend. It has nothing to do with being Slavic or American, but rather having a sinful nature that seeks to domineer and put others down to feel better about oneself.

The truth is, there are no “Slavic” churches, and “American” churches, there is but ONE church of Jesus Christ. Also, there is no “perfect” church. The real church is made of people, and people are imperfect. If you think you have found the perfect church, brace yourself for disappointment, because sooner or later it will come. We only have a perfect Savior, and proclaim a perfect Jesus. People, including pastors in EVERY churches, will make mistakes, will misjudge, will not always display patience and perfect love and will disappoint. Again, we only have a perfect Savior.

Therefore, after a while of leaving a “Slavic” church, anyone will quickly discover that each community of faith will have their strengths and weaknesses. And, within each community of faith, there will be true disciples of Christ, the hypocrites, and the Pharisees.

In general, there are some things in the Slavic Christian community that are great strengths, worthy of imitation and admiration. For example, the divorce rate of members in Slavic speaking churches is probably less than 5%. One must agree that is commendable. Also, the rate of children & youth who remain in the church after college is much higher in the Slavic churches in general, than churches in America. According to some data, 56% of all high school graduates in the US leave the church right after graduation. And, only 11% of kids & youth who were raised in the church are still in church after college graduation. Such statistics are downright scary. Yes, there are many Slavic youth dealing with drug and alcohol addiction and who’ve left the church, but the percentage leaving church is not nearly as high as in the American culture. I believe the church in the US can benefit greatly learning from ethnic churches, and kids & youth ministry is one of those areas where the church in American needs a shift.

Concerning diversity, there is true joy to worship Jesus with many races and nationalities. I believe a true preaching of the Gospel will lead to diversity in races, ethic groups and cultures. And truth be told, another strength of the Slavic community in the US is their diversity in the church. Yes, I said it. It was not a typo. Most Slavic speaking churches will have at least 5 to 10 nationalities coming together weekly for worship. And if you don’t think there is a big difference between a Russian, a Ukrainian, Belorussian, Modovian, or a Latvian, just look at the current war in Ukraine. In comparison, most churches in America are segregated and not diverse. It is very rare and uncommon for a church to be diverse in America. According to statistics, 8 in 10 congregations are made up of one predominant racial group.

One note of caution concerning diversity: just because there is diversity, does not mean it’s a taste of heaven, and a true gospel is preached. There of thousands of diverse congregations that gather for worship, yet they worship another Jesus and preach a false gospel. For example, you will find a lot of diversity in churches preaching a pro-gay lifestyle.

It must be stated, Slavic speaking churches, just like other immigrant groups, face challenges and have weaknesses. Slavic speaking churches in the US must do a better job of reaching people outside the four walls. Due to language deficiencies, many Slavic churches will not be very effective reaching the community at large, yet, it does not mean such churches should not be doing outreaches at all. For example, there are thousands of Russian atheists and non-believers throughout the US, and they need to be reached, and Slavic-speaking churches are best equipped in reaching them. In other words, we need all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people; one church will not reach everyone.

Also, Tanya’s blog would not have gone viral, if so many people would not have been hurt, misguided, and misjudged in the Slavic Christian community. There has been a lot of pain inflicted in the name of religion, including in the Slavic churches. I’ve got my stories as well. But the truth is, similar things happen in all churches, Slavic, American, Korean, etc. It’s not a Russian culture vs. The American Church.

Slavic parents and churches must understand that one of their primary roles is to raise up sons and daughters who will make a profound impact in the community at large. And when the sons and daughters actually move forward with reaching out to the community at large, the parents and Slavic speaking churches should rejoice, support and celebrate what God is doing through their children. Sadly though, as these sons and daughters grow up and move on to fulfill their calling, much energy is wasted throwing rocks back at their parents and their former churches, and vice-versa. The role of “immigrant/ethnic” churches is similar to the role of John the Baptist: they will decrease, yet their increase will be in the impact and influence of their children.

As I travel and meet Slavic immigrants in the US, I already see God raising up an army of leaders from conservative, Slavic speaking churches who are making a huge impact in their perspective communities. For example:

klimchukPastor Alex Klimchuk planted a church in Sioux Falls SD, primarily reaching Russians & Ukrainians at first. Today, over 90% of those attending his church are not Slavic, and every weekend, 5 to 10 people are coming to the Lord through their church.

pisarchukPastor Leonid Pisarchuk planted a church in the Kelso/Longview area, and though at first they were reaching Slavic families, today they are making a huge impact in hundreds of lives through their church and ministry.

khilchenkoPastor Andrey Khilchenko planted a church in Kent, WA (City of Rain Church). What was first a Slavic church, today, they have 2 campuses and are a model church in reaching the community and homeless people. If you want to see what outreach to homeless should look like, get to know Pastor Andrey.

kipkoPastor Bogdan Kipko and the church he is part of, The Slavic Church Orange County, started a 2nd service, which was all in English, and began to make an impact in their region. Today, they are planting a new church in Irvine CA, which will have no resemblance of being a Slavic church, yet are supported and planted from a Slavic congregation.

cymbalaPastor Jim Cymbala, pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle, was raised by Ukrainian & Polish parents who spoke their native language at home. Today, The Brooklyn Tabernacle ministers to over 16,000 people and over 100 nationalities in New York.

In conclusion, it hurts my heart to see the Slavic Christian community misrepresented & painted with one brush. For the most part, most of the people in the Slavic churches love Jesus dearly, love the word of God, walk in the fear of the Lord, and want their children to walk in the fear of the Lord. Most of the people are not cheating the IRS, lying to SSI, and judging everyone who enters through the doors of their church. And, God is honoring their faith and dedication, and is rising up their children to make a huge impact in their communities.

When City On A Hill Church started, most of the leaders of our church were young. If you would to take 20 of our key leaders, none of our parents were members of our church, but rather continued to worship in traditional Slavic churches. Yet, each and everyone of us looked back at our parents and the churches we grew up in, and were grateful to God for their impact and influence. Certainly, our methods, language and style is different than the churches we grew up in, but their faith, dedication to purity and the Gospel is what has impacted us to go further. Thank you parents. Thank you Slavic Gospel Church. Thank you, Slavic community; the few bad apples among you will never overshadow your impact and influence on the generations to come.

As believers, we thank God for every Christ-honoring, Bible-believing church. He uses every kind of church to reach all kinds of people. And if the Slavic churches in America would all only reach or impact one person, we can rejoice in that. We know they have reached at least 2 people, including me and Mrs. Tanya Feygin. 

43 thoughts on “Response to “Russian Culture and The Christian Church”

    1. We cannot judge and accuse the entire community of these wrongdoings. This is bad publicity and is not fair to the honest, honorable people. I am well integrated in the American community and I have witnessed the same amongst my American acquaintances. We are all people and face the same issues. Although the Slavic community faces very specific cultural challenges and perhaps doesn’t do well under certain pressures, we have so much good to offer as well! Plus, if one church doesn’t work for someone, they are free to seek one that would nourish their spiritual growth, Slavic or American.

    2. I’m not sure Tanya meant in the way that you have responded to her blog, I’m not her so I can only assume from what I read. I don’t think she meant it as a comparison of cultures and that the Russian church has gotten it wrong and the American church has gotten it right, because both have serious issues; we are all after all broken people still in the process of being sanctified more and more into the image of Jesus. I think Tanya finally went to a church that preached more Gospel and less Religion and she found tremendous joy in that and some of the things she’s noticed is that there seems to be more diversity and as she stayed there a bit longer she picked up on the things that stood out to her most about her old church and what hurt her. I don’t think it’s right to overgeneralize, but we must admit that more sanctification is being preached rather than Jesus in more than a few churches, which is the crux of the matter, be they Russian or American. I think focusing on the fact that Tanya has decided to illustrate between the two cultures (though that simply happened because she went from a Russian church that spoke more religiously and ended up in a church that preached the Gospel, though she could have just as well ended up in a Russian church preaching the Gospel) makes us miss the mark here. What you said is right, every church has it’s issues. But here’s the thing, we can’t ignore the fact that Jesus must be preached otherwise there is no point of that church and I think a lot of times we focus so much on the hurt that Slavic young people were caused or the disrespect that Slavic elder people have endured that we are completely ignoring that fact our bruised egos and hurting hearts are competing rather than solving the matter at hand: is the Gospel even being preached in our church, or has our culture been so deeply being ingrained in our beliefs that we are in fact preaching that (which simple ends up religion)? Am I say just Russian churches do this? No. Am I saying the American church does this? No. Am I even trying to compare the two? No. I just think we need to focus more on giving our hurts to Jesus, realizing we were taught by broken people who are searching for the Truth as much as we are. But not only that, we need to talk to those people (if possible and one on one) and ask them what they believe and tell what we believe and where we’re right and they aren’t, or where we are wrong and they aren’t and preach the Gospel to each other.

  1. Pastor Russel,

    Thank you for clarifying that “Most of the people are not cheating the IRS, lying to SSI, and judging everyone who enters through the doors of their church.”

    I was speaking from my experiences in my church and my community in Sacramento. The majority of the people in OUR community ARE doing those things mentioned in the article. However, there are many faithful believers who are standing up and do not compromise.
    I understand that NOT ALL churches in the Sacramento community are like the ones I mention.
    Another pastor that is worth mentioning is Alex Shevchenko and House of Bread Church.

    Thank you for this article for it does shed more light on this difficult topic.

    Thank you!
    In Christ,
    Tanya

    1. Thought provoking. And I agree with you, Alex. We have to look at the statistics from all angles. How were those statistics obtained?

      The fact remains: many people put their culture above the Gospel.

      1. Yes, i agree with Tanya “Many people put their culture above the Gospel”. This is what often is happening in Slavic churches : NO PREACHING THE GOSPEL ! Let me tell you why i think good solid theological preaching of the Gospel is the key for Slavic church’ survival : i studied at Birmingham theological seminary and i attend PCA church(not USPCA, because they left us in 70s becoming liberal) and i KNOW for sure :
        where is no CHRIST-CENTERED PREACHING – that church sooner or later will start preaching their TRADITIONS AND THEIR CULTURE AND LEGALISM, salvation by works ! Doesn’t it remind you something? Yes, Slavic churches. Because their leaders couldn’t get theological education during 70 y.of strong atheism im Soviet’s, what was left to preach was …family-denominational traditions. Salvation by good works. So what i hear from the pulpit of local Slavic church today is the same preaching i had heard when i was a kid in Ukraine. Its no preaching AT ALL ! This is why Slavic church leaders fill 2h.service time by other activities(choir ministry, children, music worship) – because they are lack of the WORD… because they lack of theological education…because they hate when i tell them “brothers, you must go to seminary”… ” Preaching real Gospel IS THE CORNERSTONE UPON WHICH CHURCHES STAND OF FALLS “(MARTIN LUTHER, 16th ct.)

    2. We cannot judge and accuse the entire community of these wrongdoings. This is bad publicity and is not fair to the honest, honorable people. I am well integrated in the American community and I have witnessed the same amongst my American acquaintances. We are all people and face the same issues. Although the Slavic community faces very specific cultural challenges and perhaps doesn’t do well under certain pressures, we have so much good to offer as well! Plus, if one church doesn’t work for someone, they are free to seek one that would nourish their spiritual growth, Slavic or American.

    3. Hello Tanya.
      I accidentally stumbled upon your blog by having one of my facebook friends like one of your articles. I skimmed some of your posts, but then this post caught my attention . After re-reading it a few times, I would like you to please address the following questions:
      1) Please provide the statistical data about how “rampant” alcoholism, drug dependence, prostitution, greed, burglaries, adultery, pornography, dishonesty is in the “Russian Church” (I will use this term from now on to mean any of the unregistered “otdelyonie” baptist churches that you probably attended here in Sacramento).
      “According to Christian Smith, between 20% and 40% of religiously active teenagers are involved in serious risk behaviors involving alcohol and drugs. Of U.S. 12th graders who attend religious services weekly or more, 31% of them drink enough alcohol to “feel pretty high” at least half of the time that they drink, as do 27% of 12th graders who say that their faith is “very important” in their lives. When it comes to drugs, nearly 39% of U.S. 12th graders who attend religious services weekly or more had used illegal drugs in the previous year, 31% had smoked marijuana in the previous year and 20% had used hard drugs in the previous year. For those who said their faith was “very important” in their lives, nearly 40% had used illegal drugs, 32% had smoked marijuana and 21% had used hard drugs in the previous year. Furthermore, 11% of 12th graders who attend religious services weekly or more and roughly 13% of those who say religious faith is “very important” in their lives had tried marijuana or hashish by the ninth grade.”
      I’M ASSUMING THIS IS MOSTLY LIKELY DATA FROM THE AMERICAN CHURCH YOUTH, NOT FROM THE “RUSSIAN CHURCH”. http://youthandreligion.nd.edu/related-resources/preliminary-research-findings/significant-numbers-of-religiously-active-teenagers-are-involved-in-serious-risk-behaviors-involving/
      2) Please provide statistical data about how many people are leaving the “Russian Church”.
      “Whereas 85% of the silent generation (born 1928-1945) call themselves Christians, just 56% of today’s younger millennials (born 1990-1996) do the same, even though the vast majority — about eight in 10 — were raised in religious homes. Each successive generation of Americans includes fewer Christians, Pew has found. To put it simply: Older generations of Americans are not passing along the Christian faith as effectively as their forebears.” http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/12/living/pew-religion-study/
      “According to Rainer Research, approximately 70% of American youth drop out of church between the age of 18 and 22. The Barna Group estimates that 80% of those reared in the church will be “disengaged” by the time they are 29.” http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/november/27.40.html
      SO HENCE EACH SUCCESSIVE GENERATION OF RUSSIANS MAY ALSO INCLUDE FEWER CHRISTIANS AND THEIR YOUTH MAY LEAVE THE CHURCH. THIS IS NOT JUST A “RUSSIAN CHURCH” PROBLEM. DEAR TANYA, I WOULD BE WILLING TO STAKE A WAGER THAT YOU OR THE OTHER PEOPLE YOU GO TO CHURCH WITH WILL NOT FIND EVEN ONE PERSON WITHIN THE “EXEMPLARY” AMERICAN COMMUNITY WHO DOES NOT KNOW A YOUNG MAN OR WOMAN WHO HAS LEFT THE CHRISTIAN FAITH.
      3) Excommunication is a Biblical truth. (Matthew 18:15-17). Please provide your American Church doctrine about excommunication.
      http://mp3-ehb.ru/msc-ehb/47-dokumenty-msc-ehb/318-ob-osvyaschenii-izdanie-sc-ehb.html?showall=&start=14
      4) Please provide statistical data about the high divorce rate in “Russian Church”.
      “A Barna Group report from 2008 claims that the overall divorce rate in the US is 33%, but they also note that evangelical Christians are at 26% and Catholics are 28%. But Protestant in general are listed as 34%” ARE YOU SAYING THAT THE RUSSIAN CHURCH YOU USED TO GO TO HAD EVEN 25% OF THEIR MARRIAGES END IN DIVORCE? http://www.inquisitr.com/1336702/christian-church-divorce-rate-statistics-in-america-is-not-50-percent/
      5) “We have pastors being arrested for soliciting prostitutes.” WERE YOU THERE WHEN HE WAS SOLICITING THE PROSTITUTE? As there is a Russian saying “ты свечку держала?” Are you just repeating what the media and the news station says? I’m not sure if he did or didn’t, but have you read what others have posted on this regard? Did you talk to the pastor to hear his side of the story? How can you be sure that you’re not just repeating a lie? The most dangerous untruths are truths slightly distorted. If you’re not 100% sure he did it, are you not committing the sin that you claim other people do in the Russian Church: gossiping? http://www.gfchurch.com/ru/pages/newDetails.php?id=244&a=4&b=28
      6) “The majority of the people in OUR community ARE doing those things mentioned in the article” (here you were responding to another blog that the people in the Russian Church are not cheating the IRS, the SSI…” WHERE IS YOUR STATISTICAL DATA AGAIN?
      “In a recent year, however, only 2,472 Americans were convicted of tax crimes — .0022% of all taxpayers. This number is astonishingly small, taking into account that the IRS estimates that 17% of all taxpayers are not complying with the tax laws in some way or another. And the number of convictions for tax crimes has decreased over the past decade.” http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/negligence-versus-tax-fraud-irs-difference-29962.html
      SO EITHER OF THOSE 2472 PEOPLE WERE ALL THE PEOPLE THAT YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT “THE MAJORITY”, OR THE IRS IS LOOKING IN THE WRONG PLACE- THEY NEED TO GO TO THE RUSSIAN CHURCH AND HAVE BETTER RESULTS THERE. Also, did you notice that SEVENTEEN percent of tax payers are not complying. If we were to take that number to the Russian Church you went to, and even give it a few more percent points (just because), and lets say that 25% of Russian Church members cheat the IRS…. TWENTY FIVE PERCENT IS NOT THE MAJORITY.
      7) “We race to outdo each other with bigger houses, more expensive cars, boasting about our travels to hot vacation spots and showing off our designer clothes and bags… We are idolaters” SO THEN YOU’RE SAYING THAT AMERICANS ALL HAVE SMALLER HOUSES, CHEAPER CARS, NOT GOING ON VACATION, AND DON’T WEAR DESIGNER CLOTHES? Since you’re saying “we”, then I guess I’m included as well? Well, my family lives in a smaller house (1300 sq ft), have salvage cars from car auctions, haven’t been anywhere on vacation except to San Diego once and to Russia for a few weeks to have our kids meet their paternal family, never been on a cruise, and have only 1 “expensive” purse ($100) which my husband got me for Christmas, which I use for the last 2 years now, and most of my clothes come from Ross or Walmart. We make close to $100,000 a year by the way. Am I not a part of your non-existent non-statistical analysis then? Am I just a weird Russian Church goer?
      8) “Our faith has become dead”- Are just lumping everyone into the phrase “our” again, as you lumped “we” in the point above? Prove to me that the Russian Church faith is dead. Prove to me that the American Church faith is alive. Please.
      9) Lastly, please provide your American Church’s doctrine on killing people. Not MURDERING, but KILLING in general. Can Christians kill another person? Can they serve in the army?

      I’m sorry that I took up so much of your time in making you read this, but these are just SOME of the points that I would like you to address ( in the same numerical order and with references please). I will respect your opinion more if you answer to my comment WITH DATA.
      Thank you so much,
      Sister in Christ, Lena

  2. Highly disagree with almost everything in this post. Your “statistics” are a joke and are extremely uneducated. You are comparing the small amount of Russian churches to an entire country of different denomination of churches. Those statistics are based off the HUGE majority of Americans that claim they are “Christians”. If you want to make an educated comparison, my friend, compare the church population of Russian itself to the church population of America. That is an even comparison. You are using the small percentage of judgmental Russian churches that look down on anyone for life if they ever dare divorce. My friend was divorced from a very well known church we all know and the head pastor told him “if you divorce, I will tell your friends and the people of the church that you are straying from God, etc…”. I will not name names but this is a pastor we all know very well. This is a disgrace. 5% of divorce rate in Russian churches? That says nothing. That’s like saying ‘the rate of people that follow the law in Saudi Arabia is very high so they must have great law abiding people there. The punishment for not following the law in Saudi Arabia is extremely severe. Similar idea with Russian churches. You divorce? You become outcast, looked down upon, looked at differently by everyone in the Russian community. Let’s be real here. I can go on and on. I don’t doubt there are Russian churches out there that are trying to make a difference and become better but saying “no church is perfect” is a weak cop-out and an excuse to defend a faulty way of running a church. If Jesus was running a church today, would he be running it like Bethany? House of Bread? Please. Yes, no church is perfect but the Slavic community is a joke when it comes to spreading what the true gospel is. And as far as all these ‘churches that have been started’ are break offs from other churches, i.e. house of bread is 95% former Bethany attendees. That is a fact. The church doesn’t grow because the cultural barriers don’t allow it to. Look at American churches they ONLY grow. Yes they’re divorce rates, drug rates, etc… are higher. Why? Because they’re rate of growth and diversity of people is a thousand times higher than Russian churches. Simple math people. This is exactly why I left the Russian church. Uneducated arguments, uneducated facts, and the brainwashing of a culture that was brought over from communist Russia.

    1. Sorry, the reply button is confusingly placed.

      Thought provoking. And I agree with you, Alex. We have to look at the statistics from all angles. How were those statistics obtained?

      The fact remains: many people put their culture above the Gospel.

    2. Alex,

      You make very good points but dissing the churches like that is completely unacceptable and not Christ-like at all. This pastor, Tanya and you are all right in your own ways. No church is perfect, it’s just a fact. Elevation does amazing things but I don’t attend because it’s just not right for me. Use these realizations about our churches to make a difference, not to verbally tear churches down and only inciting more anger among the community.

      PS– It’s best if you let someone else type for you to remove the anger and bitterness in your future posts. We all follow the same God, so I’d pray God doesn’t punish you for speaking so poorly of his Church and publicly nonetheless.

    3. How about praying and bringing some change to your communities instead of running away from your problems? Takes guts, doesn’t it? Its always easier to judge standing on the sidelines. Laboring and paying the price is hard…. Upon studying major church reformations throughout the history, I would like to point out that all changes came from folks who stood, paid the price and faced scrutiny and even death for their convictions. But this is hard food to swallow, isn’t it?

  3. Great response!! Completely agree with this. One of the biggest frustrations I’ve had with those who leave the Russian church is that many of them become condescending towards their past church. It’s a vicious cycle of being judgmental that doesn’t seem to end. Thank you for writing this response is a loving manner and finding the facts & numbers to back up your statements.

    1. How about praying and bringing some change to your communities instead of running away from your problems? Takes guts, doesn’t it? Its always easier to judge standing on the sidelines. Laboring and paying the price is hard…. Upon studying major church reformations throughout the history, I would like to point out that all changes came from folks who stood, paid the price and faced scrutiny and even death for their convictions. But this is hard food to swallow, isn’t it?

      1. this response was meant for Alex and other supporter of Tanya’s article. The Reply on this blog is tricky… :))

  4. Thanks Russell!
    You said it great! Thank Hod for smart people!
    And I don’t think that women should be speaking, so Tanya Feygin you shouldnt be saying much, unless it was you that was cheating the IRS and SSI and the rest government programs!
    Thank u! And speak for yourself next time. Why ditch at Slavic people. No body is perfect first of all and u get a choice American russian or Chinese church nobody can’t force u!!!

  5. Both articles have their good and bad. I somewhat agreed with her and I somewhat agree with you. We are happily in an “American” church now for 10 years, ended up there because our first 2 Russian churches both fell apart. One Pastor got a divorce the other one moved to another state. We are not bitter toward Slavic churches but very happy to be where we are. We feel at home, I think thats most important for everyone. Like you say in the end we are all one church, no church is perfect! Wishing only the best for you guys at city on the hill, but love being part of the city church.

  6. I admit I did identify with the original post written by Tanya and was a bit suspicious when I saw your response. I personally have experienced many unwelcome and unfair judgements against me because I chose to study at a university away from home and move to a different city on my own..so reading her post felt very familiar. However, after reading your response, I can’t help but agree with you. I think there are many people who have been hurt or shunned by their church, but that can happen anywhere. I have coworkers who grew up exactly as I did- with strict conservative “rules”- and they aren’t Slavic…just goes to show that when people confuse legalism for the Gospel, someone will get hurt.

  7. Amen Russell, This is Patsy, I have been unable to attend Church much for about a year due to Heart problems so I really appreciate your good posts. I will also request and covet your prayers for a successful healing of this problem. I miss you and I sure miss my Baby! Could you post a picture of him. He is what 4 or 5 now? (Matthew)

    God will bless and keep you. GOD CARES. Date: Fri, 27 Mar 2015 17:51:31 +0000 To: pathallum@hotmail.com

  8. Growing up within the Slavic church community has caused so much pain and suffering for me. The judging, gossiping, hypocrites that fill in are just that. You can sit there and defend them all you want but 90% of the people are just that.
    You’ve just been properly brainwashed into thinking that the Slavic community can do no wrong and therefore posted this ridiculous article. Thanks to the Slavic community I can no longer say that I am a christian and know many, many people who can say the same.
    Speak for yourself but Tanya’s article spoke the truth and you’re only defending it so blatantly because you know its true.

  9. This is a more fair and balanced approach to the cultural challenges of the Slavic Christians in the United States. My background: My family immigrated from Ukraine in 1989 when I was 6 years of age. I went through a similar roller coaster of frustrations with our churches and pursued an American experience but thank God that I have matured and grew out of this (with God’s help.) Some of us have a calling in Slavic as well as American communities. We can’t generalize and demonize a culture because soon we find that both, the Slovaks & the Americans face the same challenges, same spiritual law and ultimately the same God!
    First, Tanya speaks of a specific group or denomination in a past tense, not the entire Slavic modern community of 2015! I am proud of how far we have come! Further, I didn’t see any objective analysis in her article about the statistics of church attendance, overall satisfaction and growth . On the contrary, it was full of bitter and negative emotion. Many folks saw it as an attack and became defensive. A more sensitive, respectful approach would have helped. Not to say that there were no legitimate concerns raised. I am surprised that this article made it, I guess people love to dwell on drama rather than concentrating on the solutions. I am glad that Tanya found God in an American church but I am saddened that she sees this as a passport to bash her roots. The worse we can do for our children is rob them of their heritage. God Bless everyone!! Thank you Russell for your input!

  10. Very good article, Russell, thank you so much for writing it. Honest, truthful points to Tanya’s one-sided blog post. Also, another reason her article has gone viral is because a lot of people have been hurt by what she posted and how she misrepresented us. OUR FAITH HAS BECOME DEAD? Really? Not mine, my parents’ or my church’s faith. I wouldn’t be proud of this type of viral attention. You have the support of American church going Slavic people, but not Russian church goers.

  11. Tanya Feygin, the tax cheating issue is preached about and disapproved of in my Russian Baptist church. My husband is self employed, works for cash, and we work hard to honor God in our taxes. You must have family or friends who proudly cheat since you’re so adamant that most Russians participate in this type of deception

  12. Brilliantly written.
    Thank you.
    As a 20-year-old worship/choir leader in a semi-to-pretty conservative church in New York, I’ve struggled with many of our “traditions” and have had a lot of difficulty with finding a middle-ground in my surroundings. It’s so easy to blame the brothers or pastors for their “ignorance”, the “misunderstandings”, etc., but I’ve recently come to realize how wrong that is. We all have constant issues of miscommunication in just about every aspect of our lives, and I’ve learned to start listening, rather than judging. This has opened my eyes so much, to the many people in our super-Slavic church who truly love Jesus, who constantly pray for the well-being of the church, and especially for the youth. It’s changed my life.
    I am so happy (to tears, really!) that you have written this article to help remind all of us that we all serve one beautiful God, despite our cultures, traditions, nationalities, etc. Thank you!

  13. Guys, whatever problems there are in so called “Slavic” churches, they have absolutely nothing to do with Russian Culture. Russian Baptists and Pentecostals were living in separate subcultures in Russia. They had their own music, dress style, jargon, and most of all anti-Russian, anti-cultural mentality. They didn’t read Russian Literature, because it was a sin to them. They didn’t go to museums, theaters, balet, concerts. They didn’t even have TV in their houses. Please don’t mix Great Russian Culture in here. Those people read Bible every Sunday, not Tolstoy’s or Dostoevsky’s books.

  14. Compadre Ruslanovich, I think you missed a couple of key points that Tanya made in her article. 1. She doesn’t claim that the “American Church” is perfect or even close to in comparison to the “Slavic Church”. What she stated was that in many Slavic churches, and communities, the word “Americansi” would be synonymous with the words “Sinners” and “Disbelievers”; including American Churches themselves.. 2. While there are some hurt and broken people who are “throwing rocks”, there is nothing wrong with criticising how legalism and Slavic Traditions, which have been construed as Christian truth, have affected a large amount of Slavic people. I think that Tanya’s article wasn’t written with hate or a grudge, but with a deep concern over a large amount of Slavic church leaders and Church goers. You shouldn’t be offended or become defensive in thinking that she’s just painting over every single person in the Slavic community with one stroke of the brush. She just mentioned some cold hard truths, end encouraged everyone who finished reading her article to love one another.. (which includes all humans)

  15. I think both posts miss something important. Tanya is right on about the fear that Russian church puts on the young people about the “bad Western culture”. Even if they don’t preach it from the pulpit, kids feel the disapproval of the west and all things associated with it coming from the Slavic church. And this response to Tanya’s article is really defensive, it doesn’t address this part of the Slavic church or acknowledge honestly it’s faults. However, part of the reason a lot of young people leave the Slavic church is not necessarily because of hypocrisy or lack of integrity on the part of the adults, but because the young people who have come are third culture kids, who are no longer Slavic and not really American. The Slavic church doesn’t have a way to help these kids integrate and know themselves or know God and help them to navigate in this new American world. How could it? The pastors are unpaid (at least ours were) and they themselves have large families and how can we expect a man to have 2 jobs and also take care of his family? The kids grow up going to American schools and everything they learn is completely different than what their parents learned in Soviet school, (ex: respect for authority, community, individualism, etc) so there’s a huge disconnect between the parents and their kids. And the pastors continue to preach as if they were in Soviet Russia, addressing the needs of the older congregation. I love the Slavic church, I loved the community when I was there, but I regret not joining a college ministry when I went to a university, because I had this pride in me, that only the Russian Baptist church was correct. That the American Christians were superficial, and not really real, so I never pursued any other means of spiritual growth, except to listen to Christian radio and continue going to my Slavic church. And then when I started doubting this whole Christianity thing, I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, because doubting was a sin. The only answer was “stop doubting, it’s from Satan!” Later on, I met some great American Christians and later went to their church that was able to take not only my questions seriously but also point me to resources that helped me develop a complete worldview, i.e my place in this world, my place in the story of God’s redemption. It’s taken years of sitting under Biblical teaching to understand this Grand Story, from creation to Jesus’s comeback. In my experience my time in the Russian church was great, but the teaching was disjointed, we heard 3 sermons every Sunday and sometimes they contradicted each other! So for us these third culture kids, our lives were fragmented, there was a box for our Russian identity, there was a box for our American identity, there was a box for our family, school, etc. Honestly I knew almost every story in the Bible, and yet I didn’t have a way to really make sense of it all. There are some things that the Slavic churches do well, mainly community, that I miss and honestly that’s one of the main things that keep people there, but in terms of teaching and pasturing it’s flock it’s lacking. I think that might be changing with some of the examples you’ve mentioned and for that I am really grateful! The American church (not all of them of course) on the other hand has mainly good teaching, but lacks real deep community (again not all of the churches). So there are of course problems with every church, and every church is marred by sin because we all are sinners. But then I wonder about “community” in the Slavic church if you haven’t been born into it. I have a Russian friend who was an unbeliever and married an American and started going to a local Slavic church and after a year there, they still see her as an outsider. So I think real community is only for those that they “know”, those who are part of the family. And I am not bashing the Slavic church or the American church, I recognize that our culture (be it American, or Slavic) is a huge part of who we are so much so that we don’t even see how it plays out in our churches. Example, American materialism and individualism is on display in the American church whereas the Russian work’s oriented history (because of Orthodoxy) is everywhere, even in the most “gracious” “Protestant” churches. It’s just part of our cultures and just because we recognize it doesn’t mean that we hate it. Sometimes we need to critique our churches so that we can see where we are lacking and pray that God would change us. No need to get rid of the baby with the bath water so to say. And seriously, I am so glad for these Slavic pastors who are planting churches. What a blessing!

  16. I also think that both miss the mark. To be honest, its not the church that is the problem.
    I mean, not the “Russian” church and not the “American” church. You see, church is not made up of “mean men who boss everyone around” and not made up of judgemental little ladies sitting in the pews gossiping. Mostly, churches are made up of families. If we want to get to the heart of the problem and change the problem, we have to start with sin and with problems of the family. THAT is what church is made up of. Sure, there are individual, single people. But that is the very few. Mostly families. Lots of them. And all are different and come from different backgrounds.
    The problem isn’t bad preaching. Evolution is “Preached” in Schools, but those children whose parents have invested their time in teaching the Bible and what is says, STILL follow the Bible and don’t buy into the school system. After becoming a parent, I only then began to understand what a huge impact my parents have played in my life.
    If we bad-talk the slavic, Russian Church, basically, we are bad-mouthing our parents. There are so many family I see from the Russian culture who were really poor, little education, and no opportunites to be anyone in the Soveit Union, they came to the US to give their children what they could never have…. good education, BIG house, and lots of opportunities to be someone, but what they forgot to invest in is the Bible teaching their children must have…the Bible teaching they had all their lives and didn’t think it could be replaced. But you know what happened? Something most parents never thought of, in the rush to pay for morgage, their kids college ed, and new car, they didn’t leave time to show their kids an example of being servants to others around them (because they came from a different country, they are the ones in “need”), they didn’t leave time to show their children the importance of studying the Bible daily, didn’t have time to pray with their kids, to cry for the unsaved lost relatives, didn’t have time to have “sinners” into their home to witness and feed them and just get to know them. That is what has been missing in the Russian culture. So many aim for big houses with big morgages and don’t realize how materialistic not the Americans are, but they have become.
    American churches, like Luda said, do also have issues. All people are sinners. Sinners make up families, which make up churches. But, to get to the root of the problem, I believe we must change the teaching and reaching our children in our famliies. Then churches would change.
    I grew up in an American church. My parents started attending when I was around 7. My mom cried for the first few years we attended, because she couldn’t understand what the Pastor was preaching. But my parents still went, cause they had growing kids who loved their Christian School and the kids from school invited them to come to the church. American churches are not perfect in any way. Lots of problems there too. Years later, my parents became one of the first “modern” missionaries to go back to Russia to do mission work, got ex communicated from many of our relatives because “my parents would lose everything they worked for.” But I saw, that God had been blessing my parents and that the finances they had were not because of lying or cheating the government, bu because my parents were hard working, put God first, put teaching us the Bible first, and God had been giving us what we needed. Almost 20 years after moving to the US, my parents are now back in Russia, serving the Lord here as Pastor and wife and my 16 year old sister, (who has never been to Russia before and was born in the US) and actively serving with every breathe they have.
    Praise the Lord for the amazing families that our Russian churches do have, however, I believe that what many American and Russian famlies are forgeting in today’s world is investing in our children, because tomorrow’s churches will either be filled with them … or they will be empty.

  17. I have to say I disagree with majority of this article. Speaking from my personal experience – I had a HORRIBLE time attending an ultraconservative Slavic speaking church. Long story short the backstabbing and gossiping and lack of spiritual food got so unbearable that I went into a deep depression and asked God to take me. I won’t go into the details, there is no need to concentrate on that. I just want to say that it hurts me deeply that instead of paying attention to the youth and the congregation for that matter, the so called “brothers” were too busy fighting over who gets the pastors position. And the hight standards… oh that’s a whole another topic. Try not dressing up a certain way or driving a car that’s not up to the standard. Try and see how many friends you will be able to make. Or if you will fit in at all. Though I prayed and fasted a lot for that church, I thank the Lord that he has removed me from there. The double standards… I don’t even want to go there. I never had doubts in my faith in God, but just now I am relearning all over what being a Christian actually means. God gave me a loving, wise husband who helped me deal with my depression and did everything he could to help heal the emotion and spiritual wounds. I still attend a Slavic speaking church and this church is great. They do all kinds of charity work, they are very organized and they love God. I can’t help but notice over the course of years and through traveling to different states and visiting many different churches that the more conservative the church, the more problems and gossip and backstabbing.
    There are many wonderful Slavic churches out there and many young people who love God with all of their heart and they live to praise and service Him. I’m seeing a spiritual awakening withing the community and it’s a wonderful thing. I just wish the elderly would realize that they won’t achieve anything by enforcing their outdated rules and traditions on the youth. Give the youth spiritual food Instead. Lead by example and spend time with them, try to understand them. Many of them are lost and confused and are hurting. They have questions, lots of question. And they would love to open up to someone but they are afraid of being judged and afraid of getting a bad reputation.
    I know that God hears our prayers and He will continue on working in our community. It needs change and lots and lots of healing.

    1. I have 7 brothers and sisters. All of them left the “Slavic” church. There is nothing you can do to force them to come back. Many new “Slavic” churches are much better, but not because they are kinder or more loving or have more compassion but because they are PARROTING the American more progressive churches. That’s what the “Slavic” culture does best — copying others.

  18. After reading tanyas blog I was really saddened and hurt for days, and from what I hear a lot of people were. What good came out of tanyas post? None! What was her intentions? No good ones! If some people read her article and leave their “Slavic” church and goes to an American church and gets even more disappointed because they see the same flaws in that church that they ran away from the Slavic in the first place and then just stops going to church and believing in God all together, who will answer for that? Its scary for me to even think of the all the repercussions from tanyas blog that sadly may affect her. Everything she mentioned goes on in every church, Slavic or any other cultured church. Thank you Russell for your response to her article, it was right on. I say let’s be the change in our churches that we want to see not leave and bash them. That’s the easy way out that sadly tanya and some other people are taking.

    1. Yuliya, you can not say that no good comes out of Tanya’s post. All things work together for the good of those who love God. Maybe that post will work as a wake up call to some people who are encouraging and participating in such behavior. I personally understand the writers of both articles and feel that as Christians we have no right to attack either of the writers in the comments

  19. You are correct to say there is only one church, and the head of this Church is Jesus Christ. But what is this church? Where can I find it? How will I know were it is? You say no church is perfect (by saying this you say that the Church of Christ itself, his bride, is not perfect). But at the same time you condemn certain churches “There of thousands of diverse congregations that gather for worship, yet they worship another Jesus and preach a false gospel. For example, you will find a lot of diversity in churches preaching a pro-gay lifestyle.” How can you judge a congregation when you yourself say there is no perfection? Where do you draw the line? There is thousands of congregations on the earth all preaching a different word. How can you who says “there is no perfect church” condemn someone else for their imperfection. Do not get me wrong, homosexuality is a sin and shall inherit the kingdom of God, but your description of THE Church (there is but one) leads to hypocrisy. The only way this can be resolved is if there is one ultimate truth from which everything may be judged, and with an ultimate truth there is no room for thousands of interpretations and teachings. One God, one Truth, one Church, and this Church is holy and perfect because God himself is holy and perfect. Nothing impure will will enter the Kingdom of God.

  20. Indeed, problems and challenges exist in all streams of the church. We are still in the flesh, even if we are redeemed. I don’t agree with every detail of Tanya’s article, but overall, I think that its important to point out that, as I read it, I got the impression that it is not meant to label the whole Slavic Community with the same sins. Rather, it is seeking to think out loud and be honest about real and ongoing issues. Russell, it sounds like your church is far from many of the Slavic churches in terms of cultural characteristics. But its important to remember that, for those of us still in these churches, it is deeply challenging and painful to see deep seated habits in the people that are very hard to change and address. The powerful response to her article shows that there are many young people struggling with this in their churches. How do we move forward?? Its a tough question. I offer more thoughts here – http://andreyb.com/2015/03/27/moving-forward-in-russian-church-culture/

  21. A lot came of Tanya’s post. How about being honest for a change? American churches went through similar problems TWO GENERATIONS ago. They are far ahead of the Slavic church.

  22. Great and well-written article! I completely agree with everything you stated here:
    “The truth is, there are no “Slavic” churches, and “American” churches, there is but ONE church of Jesus Christ. Also, there is no “perfect” church. The real church is made of people, and people are imperfect. If you think you have found the perfect church, brace yourself for disappointment, because sooner or later it will come. We only have a perfect Savior, and proclaim a perfect Jesus.”

  23. I was saddend by how Tanyas blog berated christian people. Her article will be a stumbing block for alot of people.
    Matthew 23:13

    “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
    Russell thanks for the this article.

  24. i higher this was an excellent response to an article obviously written by someone who was deeply hurt. This is the most Biblical way we can ever approach the culture issue we have as Slavic people in the U.S. And I commend you for your humbleness and love in replying to the original article. I do think you should have cited your sources but other wise very well written. Praise God.

  25. Thank you Russel for a wonderful response.
    I also think that we 1.5 generation have a unique responsibility given our ability to understand and navigate two cultures.
    It would be wonderful for people like Tanya, who is growing in her faith, to help others in the Slavic community do the same. However, one cannot help others in this case remotely. It can only be done by living out the faith and committing yourself to a body of Slavic believers who desperately need to see what it means to put your trust in Christ. Of course, I would never advocate that someone joins a church that is rejecting Christ and condoning sin, but if at all possible, please help the Slavic people grow by letting them see you walk in the Lord. If people like Tanya don’t do it, who will?

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