by Joel Comiskey
I’m writing from my hotel room in Ussuriysk , Russia, a city of 160,000 people about 100 kilometers from Vladivostok, the major city in this far east region of Russia. Pastor, Alexander Volkov, invited me to come speak about two years ago, so it was great to finally be here. He started his church, Higher Call Church, fifteen years ago with his wife, Ira, and it’s now one of the largest churches in the area (300 people in the mother church and an additional ten church plants). This church is a pure cell church with 45 cells and more than 90% in cell groups. Alexander has four pastors under him who oversee approx. ten groups each and who also lead their own cell (I thought this was a great characteristic!). Although my cell seminar included various churches (400 during the first night and 250 on Saturday ), it especially confirmed to Alexander’s church that they were on the right track.
Cell church comes naturally to these Russian people. They are very friendly and group oriented–much like the Latin American culture. Pastor Alexander said, “When we go on vacations, we like to invite other families to go with us. It makes the time more exciting.” My translator said to me, “Russian people depend on each other. They’ve gone through very, very hard times together and they’ve learned to overcome with the help of friends.” Another person gave me an illustration of popular culture saying, “When a Russian person drinks vodka, he never does it alone. He’ll even find someone off the street to drink with him.”
I appreciated the way that pastor Alexander organized each detail of the seminar, so that I could eat and talk with a wide range of leaders from his church (and even experienced a traditional Russian sauna on the last night with some of his key leaders!). After the first night, we ate a traditional Russian meal, and I sat next to Tasha, a cell leader who has multiplied her group various times. She shared that her cell members experienced such wonderful fellowship that some would spend the night after the cell. And Tasha loved it! She told me that her main problem in cell ministry is that sometimes she doesn’t stick to the cell agenda.
I told Alexander that North Americans are far more individualistic and less group oriented, but that we desperately needed cell ministry to truly experience God’s plan for the church. He agreed with me. I’m excited about what God is doing through the cell movement in Russia and plan on coming back in the future.