MOSCOW – The 2018 FIFA World Cup soccer competition began today in Russia with the home team winning its and the tournament’s opening match before a crowd of 78,011 avid fans.
The tournament will include 32 national teams competing in a total of 64 matches in 12 different cities, including Volgograd, Kaliningrad, Sochi, and Saint Petersburg. The championship game is scheduled for 15 July at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Christians in Russia have been looking forward to the games since the country’s selection as host for the 2018 games, seven-and-a-half years ago in December 2010. Their fervor is not for the games only, but for the opportunity to reach as many as three million people with the Gospel. The only problem is that open evangelism is now illegal in Russia so groups like Mission Eurasia have needed to create ways to accomplish their mission goals.
The question they faced was how to capitalize on this rare opportunity without bending or breaking the law in a country that is “displaying increased hostility to religious groups other than the Orthodox Church.” The new laws introduced in 2016 as anti-terror legislation are being used to restrict religious activities and evangelistic efforts outside of recognized churches.
More than 400 evangelical churches are expected to take part in the Mission Eurasia outreach. Taking advantage of the fact that all the soccer matches are already sold out, the churches are opening up their facilities for soccer devotees to gather to watch live broadcasts on their big screens for free. They plan to distribute some 600,000 pieces of Scripture in Russian, including 100,000 New Testaments whilst young Christian leaders use the opportunity to engage attendees in conversation to introduce them to Jesus.
Sergey Rakhuba, president of Mission Eurasia, expects the screenings in the churches to attract large crowds.
“This is an unprecedented opportunity, especially at a time when the Iron Curtain that cracked down on Christianity during the Soviet era has been strictly limiting public missionary activity and evangelism under the guise of anti-terrorism . . . This fresh, strategic approach . . . a demonstration of the power of ‘the gift of hospitality,’ is needed in the current political and social climate.”
Please pray for believers involved in this ministry as they engage in this outreach even beyond the championship game in mid-July.
Mission Eurasia (formerly Russian Ministries) was founded in 1991, just after the collapse of the Soviet Union, by Reverend Peter and Anita Deyneka. Designed to react quickly and decisively to new opportunities for evangelism and church planting in the former Communist region, the ministry and the Association for Spiritual Renewal (now Mission Eurasia Field Ministries) helped train more than 5,000 church planters and start more than 1,000 evangelical churches. Today, Mission Eurasia and Mission Eurasia Field Ministries work in 13 former Soviet countries (now known as Eurasia) and Israel to train, equip and mobilize the next generation of Christian leaders.
- Christian News Wire, Two Unprecedented Events Kick-Off in Russia Tomorrow, Where Church and Sports Find Common Ground
- Church Leaders, Russian Churches Welcome Soccer Fans and Chance to Witness
- Church Leaders, Russia Exercises New Anti-Evangelism Laws by Arresting American Missionary
- Wikipedia, 2018 FIFA World Cup
- Mission Eurasia Press Release, Mission Eurasia Leverages World Cup to Compete for Souls in Russia