By Ruth Leary with Benjamin Morrison
As part of our mission to help leaders build gospel movements in cities, City to City, in partnership with local leaders, hosts exposure events to acquaint people to the basic church planting philosophy and theology to which City to City ascribes. These Gospel in the City events provide an opportunity to connect with leaders previously unknown to us as well as to help catalyze local network formation.
On October 28-30 a Gospel in the City event, hosted by local church planters and network leaders, was held in Kiev, Ukraine. Nearly 150 leaders from seventeen of the twenty-four regions of the country were in attendance. The group was highly trans-denominational reflecting the diverse and unique relationships that City to City believes are vital to developing robust and healthy church planting networks. Gathering such a diverse group of leaders is unique for Ukraine. One participant reflected, “I’ve never seen a conference in Ukraine where so many people from different denominations gathered together yet with so much unity around the gospel.”
We are particularly excited that City to City leaders from Hamburg, Germany taught the workshops in Ukraine. Having just hosted their own Gospel in the City event, they were able to share invaluable personal experience to the Ukraine participants. Workshop topics included gospel theology, preaching to the heart, and contextualization. We are so encouraged to see the growing maturity of the work in Europe as demonstrated by this kind of training being provided by leaders from within the CTC Europe Network.
Amazingly Center Church by Tim Keller was officially published in Russian the week prior to the conference. Due to an incredible discount offered by outside donors, over 250 copies of the book were distributed at the event. Consider the potential impact on Ukraine from hundreds of practitioners having access to the concepts of Center Church in their native tongue. In addition, as the book circulates in the region, a new and large audience will encounter City to City for the first time.
We had the opportunity to discuss the event with Benjamin Morrison, one of the network leaders on the steering committee. Here are some of his reflections:
What do you think was an important takeaway for the participants?
Many pastors and local leaders were encouraged by the emphasis on church planting and were inspired to talk more readily with their denominations and churches about starting new churches. We have found that often leaders are interested in planting churches, but their denominations or existing churches do not share the same vision. Another key takeaway was recognizing the need for more training and equipping of church planters in Ukraine. Recognizing this need, several participants went away from the conference calling for more training and asking how they could be involved. There is great potential for City to City to partner with local denominations and churches to offer training to local leaders.
What ways can City to City add value to the good work that is already being done in Ukraine?
The key added value from City to City is a truly gospel-centered theology. Much of the church in Ukraine is moralistic and driven by legalism. Instead of viewing the gospel as an entry way and then something to be forgotten, we need a theological vision that has the gospel at the heart of it and that recognizes that the center of the Christian life is transformation by the gospel. City to City’s distinct focus on the gospel as the key is desperately needed in churches in Ukraine. Many of the churches in Ukraine can learn much from City to City about contextualization and how to reach people with the gospel in ways that appropriately address the culture of today. City to City’s desire to help build networks that are trans-denominational aligns perfectly with a great need in Ukraine. The war has inspired churches to work across denominational lines, and we believe City to City will be a great asset in these efforts.
As Ukraine faces challenging times as a nation, the church has a unique opportunity to reach the hearts of people that have previously been closed off to the gospel. Pray that through continued partnership between City to City and local networks in Ukraine, we might see the flourishing of church planting across the nation.