Recently, Tanya Feygin’s article, “Russian Culture and The Christian Church” went viral in the Slavic Christian community, with close to 4,000 Facebook shares, thousands of views, and a lot of chatter & comments. After reading the article, I countered with a response, posted HERE. Since my first post, Ive had the opportunity to privately connect with Tanya Feygin, and have spent some time reading other people’s responses and comments & their experience growing up in a “Slavic” church.
After some observation and thought, one thing I have come away with is the realization that many people have been hurt in the name of “religion,” including in the Slavic Christian community. As I read some of the responses, my heart was gripped with grief and sorrow.
In this 2nd response, I want to address those who have been hurt in any church, including a Slavic church, and apologize. Why should I apologize? I’m a pastor, having served and continuing to serve in the Slavic community.
If there is someone who has hurt you within the Christian church, please accept this letter as personally from them. And quiet possibly, you might not ever hear some of these things from several of them, but please trust and believe that in their hearts, at least they feel this way.
Dear reader, on behalf of many pastors and elders, we ask:
Forgive us for often presenting ourselves as sinless, blameless and perfect, all while we should have focused on presenting a PERFECT Savior, Jesus Christ.
Forgive us for not confessing our own sins publicly, all while exposing other people’s sins and private confessions in our sermons, member’s meetings & conversations.
Forgive us for being forgiving, gracious and loving towards family members, wealthy church members and friends, yet have been strict, quick to judge and quick to excommunicate members with no financial or relational benefit to the church.
Forgive us that we have often elevated some sins and sinners to beyond hope, yet ignored, practiced and even encouraged others in sins that were culturally more acceptable, like gossip & slander.
Forgive us for often being the religious hypocrites.
Forgive us for elevating some traditions to the level of Biblical absolutes, and confusing you as to what are cultural practices and actual Biblical values.
Forgive us for often being unwilling to stand up against false, unclear, and unbiblical prophecies and prophets who bring confusion & fear, and actually downplay the real and the most correct prophecy which is the revealed word of God in the scriptures.
Forgive us for often lovingly correcting & admonishing some members, yet not even giving a chance and a hearing to others.
Forgive us for presenting ourselves as if we are no longer in need grace, mercy, forgiveness and strength daily, and act as if we know everything and no longer need correction, teaching, and admonishment. Truly, we are just beggars, telling other beggars where to find food and salvation for the soul, that is in Christ Jesus.
Forgive us for teaching you, whether by actions or deeds, to look down on those who are different than us, or worship Jesus differently than we do.
Forgive us to making you feel like “our” church is the “only” and most correct church in our community, and that we are Jesus’ favorite bunch.
Forgive us for teaching you to believe that our church practices and beliefs are the PUREST form of Christianity, and everything else is defiled, corrupt, and unbiblical.
Forgive us for “sanctifying” our methods of ministry, and teaching you to believe all other methods are unbiblical and “worldly.”
Forgive us for giving a voice to some people in the church who should never have been given a voice because of their selfish ambitions and impure motives.
Forgive us for not being intentional enough in seeking to reach people of different races and ethnicities by our local churches.
Forgive us for not being intentional enough in building relationships with other local church pastors and leaders and displaying Christian, brotherly unity in our relationships.
Forgive us for not embracing great role models from other cultures, and making you believe that the only “TRUE” men and women of God are in the “Slavic” community.
Forgive us for believing more in the power of culture and nurture than in the life changing power of the gospel. Such beliefs have led many to discrimination against people of other races, nations, and backgrounds.
Forgive us for exemplifying and subconsciously teaching that the Great Commission and evangelism is only for people living in Ukraine, Russia, India, and Mexico, and not for our next door neighbors and communities.
Forgive us for forgetting that Jesus spent a lot of His time with sinners, eating and drinking with them, yet, we often criticize those who, like Jesus, befriend and seek out the down cast, the hurting and the outlaws.
Forgive us for mostly focusing on the outward appearance, yet ignoring flaws of character and heart.
Forgive us for allowing “family” ties to play the dominant role in church elections, pastoral succession, and ministry positions.
Forgive us for being unwilling to correct and comprehend some, just because of their position, past impact, financial giving or influence.
Forgive us for unwilling to repent and take responsibility for our mistakes and actions.
Forgive us for not learning to listen more, and speak less.
Forgive us for making you believe we are better than others, instead of focusing your attention on Jesus, His grace, and His mercy.
Forgive us for not preaching enough a simple gospel massage, a message of salvation through Jesus, by grace through faith!
In other words, we all need grace. We all make mistakes, We all need Jesus. He is our Savior. He is the perfect one.
How often we all forget, whether we are pastors, leaders, bishops, deacons, choir directors, Sunday school teachers, ushers, senior citizens, parents, millionaires, or former prisoners for the sake of the Gospel, we are all just as much in need of a Savior today, as we were in need of Him yesterday. I pray that Apostle Paul’s words continue to remain true for each and everyone of us, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).