Four Types Of People That Populate The Russian Church

In this post, I want to outline four types (groups) of people that populate and dominate the Russian church in the United States. This is all based on my twenty year observation while being in the Russian church in America.

Let me say right out of the gate that I love the church in general and the Russian church in particular. I do not remember a time when I was not a part of a church. I was born into a fourth generation Christian home. In the home I was raised, everyone went to church and took an active part within the church. My entire tenure in the church has been within the Russian church. I have visited many English-speaking churches but have always been a member in a Russian church. I recited cute poems with the rest of the kids during major holidays within the church.

I delivered my first sermon at the age of 12 in a Russian church. I was baptized in a Russian church — with my best friend at age 14, at Green Lake in Seattle, with a complete orchestra accompanying the celebration, situated on the shore. I began to lead my first bible study with a small group of people, per the inspiration of my mother, at age 17.

I include a brief biographical sketch because over the last two conscious decades of my life — I have been a part of the Russian church. During this time, I was able to make some observations. These observations seem to be staple items within the Russian church. These observations might be true in a different cultural context (for example in any church), but I can only write about that which I lived in and lived through.

It is no surprise to anyone that at the present moment, the Russian church in an American context is experiencing a tumultuous time. The following is just a brief sample of where these issues stem from:

  • Cultural differences
  • Language barriers
  • Tradition vs. Scripture
  • Reverence vs. Relevance
  • Lack of communication between generations
  • Lack of desire to understand different age groups (youth to understand the adults; adults to understand the youth).
  • Methodology differences
  • Theological differences

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Before we get to some practical steps to take, I want to outline four groups of people within the Russian church. These groups represent in my opinion most if not all of the people that currently are a part of the Russian church. It is helpful for us to look at these groups, to think about these groups and to attempt if possible to live peaceably (Rom. 12:18) in and amongst these groups for the following reasons:

  • Because we are all serving the same Jesus
  • Because we are all members of one body (of Christ)
  • Because we need to be thought of well by outsiders
  • Because our life preaches a powerful testimony (for the good of Christ; or for the shame of his name)
  • Because we are all passionate about the same mission (while methodology might differ, and does)
  • Because we need to learn how to work with people who think differently than us
  • Because we can make necessary adjustments and avoid a potentially preventable disaster
  • Because we are all going to spend eternity in heaven, together.

Here are four types of people in the [Russian] church.

1. Constructive Co-workers. This group consists of people who genuinely want to help and support those who serve in the church. Their suggestions might not be pleasant to hear but they are indeed valuable and at times, very helpful. The people representing this group do not generally have personal agendas or vicious vendettas. They simply see a flaw within your methodology and want to offer you their opinion. This group enables others to become more humble. This group provides analyzed arguments for various plans and projects within the church. Some people tend to perceive this group as being unhelpful. Others view them always providing suggestions but never putting in any work. However, what they tend to say usually has some merit and is worth listening to.

2. Constant Critics. This group loves to criticize constantly and consistently — anything and anyone for a diverse variety of reasons. Their criticism is destructive rather than constructive. They serve criticism for the sake of criticism itself. For this group, anything new or unusual is excellent fodder for commentary and criticism. They are seldom pleased and are rarely pleasant. A pedestal is the usual position from which they function.  They tend to be experts in all fields and in every discipline. This is why they extend a “helping” hand and demand that people listen to what they have to say. Cooperative initiatives are greeted with instant disapproval. You can do no right in your position. They can do no wrong from where they stand.

3. Bridge-builders. This group is unprecedented in value but almost non-existent in quantity. If you find an individual that resides in this group within your church, thank God for them. Next, build a relationship with them, learn from them and work alongside them. This group understands the intricacies and tendencies of each and every generation that populates the church. They are passionate about young people. They find a common ground with the older people. They respect those who have gone before them. They want to help those who still have a long way to go. They understand that the young people are the future of the church. Finding and sustaining a dialogue between the differing generations is what makes them excellent bridge-builders. This group does not choose favorites based on affinity. They do not demonstrate loyalty based on partiality. They are neither reformers nor conformers. They are obstinately opposed to those who want to stifle growth and create dissension. They love Jesus, love the church and want to see intergenerational worship take place. If needed, they will shield the sheep from ravenous wolves. They are not blinded by selfish ambitions and are not led astray by misguided objectives. Blessed be the bridge-builders for they choose to fulfill the will of God within the church of God for the glory of God.

4. Agenda Activists. This group usually tends to be hurtful, not helpful. This group is obstinately obsessed with building a platform for themselves. They then use this platform to push personal agendas and carry out personal vendettas against those who disagree with them. They are not able to disagree agreeably. They are far from being amicable. It must be their way or else you are going to be stranded on the highway. They are usually known by what they are against rather than what they stand for. Recruitment for more activists to fulfill the agenda happens frequently and aggressively. It does not matter who gets hurt in the process, so long as the agenda is fulfilled and the pseudo-platform is extended. This group tends to focus on previous victories and antiquated accolades. Instead of investing into new leaders, they are holding fast to their positions and are training new activists. They create roadblocks for people who want to serve and extinguish the flame where it is barely burning. They demand to be respected because of their experience but do little to cultivate meaningful relationships.

The above is a small snapshot of the reality in which the [Russian] church finds itself in at the current moment. We do well to look at this list and avoid joining a group of the negative variety. At the same time, we must be transparent with ourselves. If we are not vigilante in our Christian walk, we might be repeating the same mistakes of the group with which we find absolutely nothing in common.

In the end, as I mentioned before, we have a common purpose and a unifying goal (I hope). By understanding that these groups exist, we can be better equipped to handle the behavior we demonstrate. My chief aim in this post is to encourage unity not discord, teamwork not dictatorship, peace not chaos.

In all of this, the glory of God and the proclamation of the gospel should be of utmost importance to us.

May God give us the courage to continue forward with each other, to be patient with one another and to love deeply, as Christ first loved us.

In my next post, I want to offer some practical steps you can take if the following is true:

  • You are frustrated with the situation of your current church (it does not necessarily have to be a Slavic saturated church)
  • You are passionate about bringing glory to God by serving the people in your church and community
  • You want to continue serving with minimal confrontations and maximal impact
  • You are thinking of abandoning the Russian Church altogether because of various reasons

Question: Do you go to a predominantly Russian church? How have you been able to remain constructive in this environment? What would you recommend to others? 



31 responses to “Four Types Of People That Populate The Russian Church”

  1. Thanks for helpful observations, Boggie! I was thinking along different lines: reformers, anti-reformers, conformers, etc.

    1. Alex — I also was thinking of the same lines — but I will expand on what you mentioned in my next post — which will be more of a practical approach for people who might find themselves in this particular situation. Thanks for commenting and stopping by man — come on back often!

  2. Ryan Pickell Avatar
    Ryan Pickell

    Very interesting post Boggy. Obviously I’m just a simple American outsider, but I would say I have to say those observations are pretty accurate. To some extent I would say that every church has these type of people in them and is not simply restricted to Russian churches.

    I’ve always told you that your church has a closeness about it I have not experienced anywhere else. It seems that everything is magnified, from your shared joy to the hardest difficulties. And I’m sure it might have something to do with everyone being related in some way shape or form as well…haha. But I believe Russian churches have something American ones do not. There is a strong sense of belonging, and I believe it has something to do with a unified culture. Not to say other churches do not have this, but from what I have experienced with my limited interactions, they show one of the better concepts of actually doing “life” together through your faith.

    1. Andrey Yevtushenko Avatar
      Andrey Yevtushenko

      Good observations. Some thoughts…
      Unfurtanetly, these behaviour trends are an outcome of a deeper issue. 1st-Unity is an outcome of our understanding and submission to the Gospel. Romans 15:5-6. 2nd-Godly belief (united worship) is an outcome of glory. It’s either my own or God’s. John 5:44.

      1. Andrey – thank you for your thoughts — I agree — doctrine will determine practice — what people believe will determine how they live. This of course includes living in a community church context. If we are not distinctly gospelcentered, we inevitably become man-centered. If we would constantly think about and pursue to bring God glory — some of these groups mentioned here would be non-existent. Nevertheless, they serve as good instruments of sanctification — albeit not entirely pleasant.

    2. Ryan — thank you for sharing this — I resonate and agree with every one of your points — and you are right — because churches are made up of people — the types explained here are most likely prevalent in every single type of church (not exclusively Slavic circles). Also, your insight is appreciated greatly — I always tell people I am more America than most Americans — but I think you have me beat in that area for sure 🙂

      I am very encouraged to hear about your experience in the church I serve at. Some have called us a big small group — which in a way — is not entirely inaccurate.

  3. I think the problem will be with in the groups until people going to recognize what group they are in…

    1. Pasha — true — I know that any person has a potential to find themselves in a group that is not being constructive — unless they are vigilanty watching their walk with the Lord. Unfortunately, some people decide to camp out in a particular group for an extended amount of time. They also need to be loved and encouraged — because the gospel is powerful enough to treat the most difficult of situations. Thank you for the comment!

  4. I recently left my Russian church and joined a new church plant. I think there is hope for any body of Christian people if they practice sound theology and engage their mission field. Today the Russian church in America needs to regenerate their theology as well as engage a mission field. However, it’s important to note that many people feed (spiritually) in English speaking churches and then complain at the Russian church.

    I was one of those people.

    If you are thinking of changing churches, be prepared to change your life. Be prepared to know how to share to gospel with Americans. Be prepared to befriend your neighbors. Be prepared to invite your coworkers to church.

    The only thing worse than staying at a dysfunctional church is leaving it for the wrong reasons.

    2 cents from a nobody. Stay curious.

    1. Dysfunctional church? Did you develop a new concept?

      1. That sounds like a good book title no?

    2. Aleks — insightful points, thank you!

      When you say: However, it’s important to note that many people feed (spiritually) in English speaking churches and then complain at the Russian church. I was one of those people. what was the tipping point that made you leave? Do you miss the cultural aspects of the Russian church?

      Also, when you say: If you are thinking of changing churches, be prepared to change your life. Be prepared to know how to share to gospel with Americans. Be prepared to befriend your neighbors. Be prepared to invite your coworkers to church. are you implying that some Russian churches (or at least the one you were a part of) did not engage in any intentional/missional work while being a part of the church?

      I agree with you that leaving the church should not be the first option because wherever you go, there will be people who will think differently than you — but if you are all about stunting your sanctification process, then leaving a church and hopping from church to church can surely do that for you.

      Thank you for the comment, I appreciate your insight!

      1. The tipping point that made me move was just a personal ministry choice. I basically said I am committing to ministry in the United States; declaring an American home church. It’s kind of ironic since I moved to Estonia for a long term ministry project. Not gonna lie; theology preached from the pulpit played it’s part as well. I found myself frustrated with incorrect exegesis and incoherent messages and received most of my spiritual growth from books and podcasts. I’m sure that I’m not the only one.

        The church I was part of did engage a mission field. A chunk of younger people went to Russia with Hope for Orphans and others went to Mexico. I think that stuff is great and opens up a sphere of your life that many Russians living in America are rarely engaged in. Honestly, doing that stuff overseas inspirers many to do it here.

        1. Aleks — great summary of your experience. Thank you for sharing!

          I think all of your points are not at all far from reality. In fact, they are fairly accurate — in some instances.

          I also do not think “you are the only one.” But, what I did notice with many slavic speaking youth, is this: They feed off of podcasts and good books — which is phenomenal — and I highly encourage this — but — they tend to stick to slavic circles and slavic churches and slavic events and slavic-backed initiatives — because they ultimately find their sense of community — in slavic circles. I have yet to meet a large number of people who have actually moved to an american church — and succesfully intergrated every part of their life into it — including being involved in a small group, serving in the church, and being a vibrant member of this community of faith (All the things that you have done in your experience, which I commend you for!)

          Thank you for sharing and interacting. It is always very interesting to hear a unique perspective from someone such as yourself who has made the shift and is thriving in the new environment.

          1. Hey guys,

            I am a complete new-by to blogging/discussion boards, but this blog really caught my eye.

            First off, Bogdan Kipko, from the material that you post on this website, there is a lot to be learned. So I have a deep respect for you.

            I grew up a little north of Seattle and my father is a pastor at a Pentecostal Church. At age 18, I left his home and his church because I could not survive pursuing Jesus and growing in my relationship with him and being pulled down into to the confusing teachings of their church along with the common idolatrous culture of the young Slavic community.

            I left to Mars Hill Church and since then have slowly completely immersed myself into Mars Hill theology, culture, and community. At this point, there are about ten others that I know are on the same path I’m on. We are all really good friends and some guys are even beginning to intermarry.

            I also know many other Slavic people (not personally) but as acquaintances that are also at my church, plugged in and thriving.

            So I just wanted to throw in my experience with this and say that yes, Aleks, you are definitely not alone. And yes, Bogdan mine and Alek’s situation is definitely a minority.

            I would also like to use this opportunity to throw a question out there. I love the Slavic people, I want to be a pastor, but feel like the differences between my church, theology, christian culture, and philosophy of ministry is so far from what would be accepted by the Russian communities. Should I except the fact that I will not be able to get across to the collective majority of Slavic’s and just focus on serving my church and my city? Or should I continue to try to find and clear a path that would help come across respectably to the Russian church?

          2. Eddie hello — thank you for stopping by and commenting — I really appreciate it!

            Thank you for your words of encouragement as well —

            You bring up some very good questions — if you were still in the Russian church, I would point you to this post that I wrote — but since that is not the case — here is what I would say:

            1. If you are plugged in to any , Jesus loving church – that is already phenomenal — continue to use your God-given talents to serve Jesus and His people.
            2. An area of concern that I have noticed among those who leave the Russian church and go to an American church is this: Even though they enjoy the great teaching/organizational excellence etc — they still have a hard time assimilating fully into the America Culture. They barely speak Russian — they speak English without an accent — but — they still have a Russian soul — if you are in the assimilation process — and are going forward at full speed – this is great!
            3. I would still support your decision to go back to your Russian church and find a place you can serve there. Chances are, there are still young people there who are in need of guidance and leadership — from someone who understands their mindset.
            4. If you choose this option, keep in mind that change in this type of a church will not come quickly or easily. Be prepared for some set-backs.
            5. At the same time — the upside is that you have an opportunity to be a pioneer in the movement — in the front lines — instead of a satisfied spectator hanging out on the side-lines. Take your pick.

            Blessings to you my Brother — hopefully this helped — I am open to continuing our discussion!

  5. […] 27, 2011 in Intentionality with 0 Comments Read the first post regarding the four types of people populating the [Russian] church […]

    1. Thank you so much for your clear concise and comprehensive observation based on your solid twenty years of experience…:) 

      1. Arin — its the least I can do! 🙂

  6. […] in the gospel. In the near future, I will definitely explore this topic and write about it. The post that went live Monday generated the most comments (and traffic) in the history of any post found […]

  7. Bogdan,

    Thank you for your post.
    You brought up some good, valid points. I had a privilege of visiting many Russian Churches in America in the recent years and I agree that a lot of improvements, can and should be made in our churches. God has entrusted us so much! We have hundreds or even thousands of great young people in Russian churches and I am praying for Lord to use our youth for His glory.

    But not all of the Russian Churches are the same.

    I personally love my Russian church. I think we have a large group of bridge-builders in our church.

    Lord blessed us abundantly in the last few years as more and more new ministries have started in our church.

    Just to list a few ministries that our church is involved in;
    Short Term Missionary Trips to Mexico, Short term trips to Russian Orphanages with H4O ministry, Short Term Trips within USA. We have a missionary group that left for a year to Russia. Aleks who made a post earlier is still a technically our church member and our dear friend who is currently serving in Estonia.
    Church Construction in Mexico and Russia
    Our youth trying to serve locally by getting involved in:
    Feed My Starving Children
    Operations Christmas Child
    Homeless Connect
    Leaf Raking
    It’s Ok to Say Merry Christmas, just to name a few.

    We are praying about starting a few new ministries in our church. If it is in His will we are planning to start sending out mid-term Missionary teams (2-4 months) overseas in the next few years.
    We are currently praying about “A Home to Share” project which is inviting orphans from Russia to spend summer and winter holidays in our Christian families.

    I am thankful to God that He has placed me in my church.
    Bogdan I see your passion for God’s Kindgdom, and I just want to invite you to get plugged and get involved in our H4O short term missionary trips to orphanages, because for a lot of people they are life changers. (
    Hope for Orphans is a ministry of Russian Baptist Church of Shakopee, MN but 2/3 of our team members come from other churches, states, and countries.

    In Him,


    1. Tim hi, thanks for stopping by and commenting, it is great to meet you here! Wow — I am blown away by the amount of work the church you are a part of is involved in. This is really cool. God bless you guys as you further His kingdom and spread the gospel of Jesus everywhere, and it seems like you guys are doing exactly that!

      It is highly encouraging to hear that your church has many “bridge-builders.” This might have contributed to the many items you guys are involved in and it seems like you function as one cohesive unit.

      I will absolutely check out the website you provided, thank you for that. Is your church the location where that large youth congress recently took place?

      You are absolutely right about the “hundreds or even thousands of great young people in Russian churches” and I am praying for them and with them as well.

      It is always difficult to be pioneers in a new movement, but I believe that those who will get through this valley of humility, God will use them greatly and allow them to scale to the peak of greatness — exclusively for His name to be glorified. Unfortunately, not many want to stick around — and no blame can be attached to their decision — because the culture clash can become unbearable for some.

      Thank you for sharing about the ministries you are involved in — be sure to friend me on facebook and let’s stay in touch!

  8. Interesting post, as much as I can’t disagree with you one bit, I would argue that these types of people not only populate the Russian church, but the church in general.

    Just a thought


    1. Max Hi — thank you for stopping by and commenting — I really appreciate it! I agree with you — this is exactly why I said this towards the beginning of the post: “These observations seem to be staple items within the Russian church. These observations might be true in a different cultural context (for example in any church), but I can only write about that which I lived in and lived through.”

      Good thought and great interaction, lets keep it going! Thank you!

      1. mmm. my mistake

        1. No worries! Thanks for stopping by and interacting — 🙂

  9. It is interesting to me that an American thought Russian churches have a sense of belonging that American churches don’t. I find it exactly opposite. In my experience, having been a member of a Slavic church I found that people show up on Sunday, listen to sermon and singing, talk about menial matters after church, and leave.Those who show up on weekdays, focus more on running the ministries, rather than caring for people. I found lots of exclusivity, and zero inclusiveness and acceptance of those who are different. When I moved to a new area, I joined an American church. There I found a focus on caring for people, one-on-one mentorship, intentionality about building up one another, and a sense of community.

    1. Andre hi — thanks for stopping by and commenting — it seems that there are diverse experiences across the board in terms of being in a Russian church — and there is not one continuous experience that every one has. I am glad though that you found a church home where you are loved and cared for — this is the most important piece for your spiritual growth.

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