Innovative World Cup Outreach to Hand Out Scriptures at First-Ever Games on Russian Soil
Mission Eurasia partners with national believers to beat crackdown on religious activity, and uses soccer’s global platform for evangelizing an estimated 3 million fans.
Soccer News: Soccer and religion? Seems an unusual combination but there is a strong movement afoot to take advantage of the crowds at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Here is an interesting twist — an innovative evangelistic outreach this summer in Russia.
For the first time in its nearly 90-year history, the world cup is coming to Russia and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is counting on the beautiful game raising the prestige of this country.
What Putin might not be counting on is a new campaign set to kick off to grow the church in the country by reaching millions of its residents.
Mission Eurasia, a U.S-based nonprofit training and equipping young Russian nationals as next generation ministry leaders, has set an unprecedented goal to pass out about 600,000 Scriptures, estimated to help 3 million sports fans during the campaign.
Controversial World Cup hosts are not new, and a few fans might remember that Argentina hosted the games back in 1978 only two years after a military uprising — but this is different. Russia is under international sanctions and stands accused of tampering with the US Presidential election and boosting Donald Trump.
Will Russia earn a popularity boost from the World Cup? Will the spread of religious zeal permeate the green of the fields?
At the upcoming World Cup game, young Russian believers want to share the gospel.
They will partner with hundreds of churches across the country to host big-screen live broadcasts of the soccer tournament, which runs from June 14-July 15.
By providing a way for fans to watch the games, they hope for the opportunity to share the gospel with many people who might not otherwise attend church.
Central to the outreach will be the distribution of up to 600,000 Scriptures,100,000 of which are special edition Russian-language New Testaments, featuring an introduction to Christianity, a QR code connecting to a New Life app that was developed by ShareWord Global, and 70 pages of discipleship materials.
The initiative is being organized by U.S.-based ministry Mission Eurasia, which has trained many of the young Russian leaders participating in the outreach, in association with partner churches there.
Overseeing the effort is Pavel Tokarchuk, Mission Eurasia’s director in Russia, who grew up in western Siberia and began serving with Mission Eurasia 20 years ago. A product of the ministry’s progressive model of raising up leaders from young nationals, he understands the native people and culture.
Pavel said, “Even though the country has its problems and may suffer from a low international standing, people still have a great deal of national pride. Staging the global competition offers a glimpse of a better future for our country,”
“There’s no better time to be able to share the source of real hope with them—a relationship with Jesus.”
The creative outreach has been welcomed by many churches, said Tokarchuk. “We’ve heard from hundreds of churches who want to use this moment for the kingdom. They are ready to use different ways to serve people and to bring the good news to them.”
Mission Eurasia leaders believe that the latest crackdown on religious activity could be a catalyst for the church to grow, as it was in the past.
“The church in Russia survived Communist persecution when they were driven underground,” said Mission Eurasia President Sergey Rakhuba. “And that’s what we see in other parts of the world as well.”
Interest is high in the World Cup, with most tickets for the games already sold—heightening the appeal of getting to see the action on a church’s big screen.
The tournament opens in a few days, on June 14, when Russia faces Saudi Arabia at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium—where the final will be played on July 15.
Thirty-two teams will compete in the World Cup — with the U.S. and Italy and others on the sideliens after failing to qualify.
Source: Press Release