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Biblical Counseling in Russia

Truth In Love 430

A glimpse into God's work in Russia.

Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast, I have with me two brand new guests to our show. My brother Evgeny Bahkmutsky who’s a senior pastor at Russian Bible Church in Moscow, and also, Victor Zubarov who is the pastor of counseling. He has an MABC from The Master’s University, and he is certified with us at ACBC. Now, I’m so grateful for these brothers. Thank you for traveling so far to be with us. It’s fun to have you in the room here with me and us having a discussion. I cannot wait for our listeners to hear a little bit about the two of you and the work that the Lord is doing with you all in Russia. And it’s really exciting to me to hear what the Lord is doing. And so thank you so much for being with us. Evgeny, I want to start with you if I can and just ask a little bit about your church there in Russia, Russian Bible Church in Moscow, and I want you to help us to understand a little bit about the church, maybe its history, how it started, how the Lord is using you guys there. 

Evgeny Bahkmutsky: You know Moscow, it’s quite a global city and very unreached city, out of 20 million, you barely can find, I would say, less than 40,000 evangelicals, a really small number, a really small number and out of these 40, probably only 10 percents kind of healthy ones. So, if you want to make a difference in Russia, you got to be in Moscow. No matter what you like or don’t like, it’s just reality. It’s the most influential city in the former Soviet Union and we’ve been praying to see spiritual awakening in Russia, in order to see that you got to have healthy churches. And not really many churches there but also not really many truly build their ministry on the Bible. Biblical counseling, preaching, teaching, evangelism. So we’ve been praying to see such churches or at least a few churches like that based on the Bible, sufficiency of the Bible, authority of the Bible, and we’ve been praying. A few families. It’s less than 20 people total. We started by the grace of God in 2009, and by true God’s help, we saw amazing growth, in the second year we doubled in our size. We moved to a different place and now we have in our building 700 people come in every Sunday. It’s our maximum capacity to accommodate, we plant, we helped to grow other churches, revitalize, plant, teach, and it’s just been exploding and growing through evangelism, through teaching God’s Word, training new leaders. And again, it’s really based on a biblical foundation, the sufficiency of the Scripture. Many people will look at us and say oh it’s like a Bible Driven Crazy driven. It’s never going to work, but God honors His Word. And we see many people coming to faith, and we actually feel ourselves like Macedonians, come and help because there are so many people that we’re not really able to accommodate them all. 

Dale Johnson: I think that’s a great call, and Evgeny, you and I met one another maybe a year or so ago. Our sons are students together at The Master’s University. And so, we’ve been able to share a bit of time together there and even hearing a little bit more about your story and the work that the Lord is doing there at the church and how He’s beginning to expand it. And I want our listeners to know the call that you make is an important call, the call for the need of those to be workers among the harvest field where the Lord is saving people. And I think that’s a great call and I want to talk even a little bit more. Victor, I want to ask you a question, as it relates specifically to the ministry, some of the things that Evgeny talked about there at Russian Bible Church, and you’re the pastor of counseling, and you have a background as a student, you went to The Master’s University and did MABC there. I want you to talk a little bit about biblical counseling now as a counselor in Moscow.

If we think about ACBC, one of our taglines is to say, you know, we’re going to help you to have a biblical solution to the problems that people face. People are people whether they’re in America, whether they’re in Russia, whether in Africa and because we’re created in the image of God and we’re affected by the Fall, people are going to have similar problems. And the Bible is, as you mentioned, the Bible is sufficient to help us to deal with those. So just talk about biblical counseling and you being a counselor there now in Moscow, and then what the Lord may be doing there in Russia. 

Victor Zubarov: Thank you for your question. By God’s grace, Evgeny invited me to be a part of the team that started a church in Moscow, everyone’s together. We started from the beginning. And from that point, we faced that many people ask for help, I would say that in those times there are very few people who are able to help with the spiritual needs and like other people who graduated from seminary I thought that I knew the answer to any questions. But it was a lot of failure that I made and praise the Lord I entered to TMU and graduated there. I’ve got a lot of spiritual insights and a lot of tools on how to help people and we have several programs in Russia that can help on how to deal with difficult issues. But I would say none of them, maybe some have a biblical approach, but none of them are based deeply on the Bible and have a Bible-driven approach to counseling. Some of them are pretty good but they’re not so solid, and that’s why I as a counselor meet with a counselee, they try to use a secular approach or something else, but we need to return to the Bible and help people from that foundation. As I know, for example, the counseling department at TMU and the ACBC approach, have a Bible foundation.

Dale Johnson: No, and that’s helpful. And it’s really interesting to me to see the work of the church now becomes very natural as we think about the proclamation of the Word of God and you see it began to affect the lives of people, as you mentioned over a couple of years, seeing yourselves double, and the Word works in a lot of different ways. The Word works in terms of conviction of our hearts, it exposes our conscience, it exposes the sin within us. It also is a comfort and encouragement. And as that’s happening, you need people who can meet with folks want on wanted to address these problems and I’m sure it’s happening there similar to what I’ve experienced here in the US where when you begin to help people with the Word and you demonstrate how sufficient and hopeful the Word is to the normal problems that people face. There’s a hunger as the Scripture talks about Matthew 5. There’s a hunger and a thirst to want to know the Lord that way, to want to have that peace, which truly satisfies like nothing else can do. And when we see the work of the Lord in that way, it’s exciting. It’s exciting to see what the Lord will do. And I’m going to challenge some of our listeners. Some of you who are at school at TMU, and where I teach at Midwestern Seminary and some of the other schools around. If you’re looking for places to go and serve the Lord, you can take some of the training that you have in places just like Russia or around the world where the Lord is doing incredible work and they need laborers who can help them bring the beauty of the sufficiency of Christ. 

Evgeny Bahkmutsky: Yeah, please come to Russia. 

Victor Zubarov: We’ll love to have you.

Dale Johnson: Yeah. I mean we can see the Lord doing that kind of that kind of work in places and it would be exciting. I want to talk to you, Victor. Just one more question as we think about this and counseling particularly, I’m sure people wonder you know, Americans we have so many issues and so many problems and so many difficulties that we try to work through and ways that we categorize those things and some people might say, well you guys face some different realities, what are some of the counseling issues that you all encounter most in your context?

Victor Zubarov: It depends, with such people you just face for example, during the COVID, we try to help unbelievers. We made it like…

Evgeny Bahkmutsky: a counseling center. 

Victor Zubarov: Yeah, a counseling center, and we made a website and posted our cell phone number, and people called us. And mostly at those time, people who called us struggled with depression, thoughts about suicide, with some angry issues. So, that’s usual for unbelievers, and by God’s grace several people who faced with us, they even repented and we saw the fruit of our labor. If you ask about people who are involved in the church, I would say that we were faced with many family issues, conflict resolution, and anger issues the same. For example, with a teenager and young adult’s problem of purity, I would say, very similar to the American context. But anyway, Moscow, it’s added something because in Moscow, people are very busy, they do not have a lot of friends who can ask them about okay, what’s the struggle do you have? What do you read from the Bible? When do you evangelize? So that’s the question we need to ask by ourselves and that somebody asked us that starts with counseling in the simple way, believe to a believer. But in the same way, if we have some difficult issues, for example, divorce or a problem with one guy, who was in our church, and he is pornography addicted. So, that’s why we need to help him on how to deal with that. 

Dale Johnson: Well, so helpful and even as you’re describing this, some of the shapes of our problems may look different. But as humanity, we’re dealing with so many of the same problems. And that’s the brilliance of the Scripture is to help us no matter what. Some of the worldviews that you guys may face might look a little bit differently, but the manifestation of those problems in the human heart present themselves very similar. 

Evgeny Bahkmutsky: You can have kind of different context. Yeah, kind of a slightly different context, but human nature is the same everywhere. I remember myself when I was a young minister and started to meet with some Americans, I thought they were people from different planets, they kind of have different struggles, and never get angry, arrogant, kind of sinful behavior. And now I have been in the US enough. They are just like Russians. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah, they’re sinful and angry and arrogant. Yes. We could say all of that. That’s so true. Yeah. These are things that are common to our sinful nature in the manifestation of it. Now, Evgeny, I don’t want to miss sort of the elephant in the room, as we talked about, you know, conflict that’s happening in your part of the world. And this is something that I do. Our church has prayed for on a consistent basis for believers, both in Russia and the Ukraine. And as we talk about the military conflict in Ukraine, I want you to give us sort of a sense of how this has impacted your church. How has this impacted your brothers and sisters in the Ukraine and even your counseling ministry there?

Evgeny Bahkmutsky: I know this terrible tragedy broke our hearts, we have compassion for our suffering brothers and sisters in Ukraine. And we try to do our best to help with refugees, to pray for peace and protection and mercy and grace. We try to give as much as we can really, our hearts and prayers there are with our brothers and sisters. But also, it’s truly affected our lives in many ways. First of all, people learned to be much more compassionate when something happened far far away, you don’t feel, you are not really sensitive to that so much. But when it’s happening with people whom you really know, whom you’ve met, and it’s really touching your hearts and it gives us many lessons to learn to reconsider our life really.

Secondly, many people realize that time has shortened, in many ways everything may change, you can’t plan a kind of plan too much ahead to like one day and tomorrow I’m going to have some chance or going to have some time, tomorrow might be so different than you expect it. So you got to do right things right away right now where you are and then certainly it helped us to reconsider our commitment to ministry because especially for Russian Christians, Russian Christians are going to suffer a lot, and now we suffer in a different way. And I think it seems to me that tomorrow is going to be worse and if you’re not really renewed your faith, you’re don’t really have a full commitment to minister to these people around you, it’s going to be hard for you. So you got to understand, I have something to die for, I have the gospel. I have all-sufficient God’s Word to rely on. And I’m going to apply that, and I’m going to maximize my time, I’m going to redeem my time for God’s Kingdom, for His work and it’s such a helpful way. I see that our churches are energized in many ways. And I see that people are passionate about preaching, passionate about studying, going deeper and going further and truly Philippians 1:21 people see that for us, it is going to be a gain because of Christ our treasure. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah. And we can see that Christ is the only hope in such devastating and difficult times that we live in for sure. It definitely teaches us to as Moses said, to number our days and it’s interesting to me how the Scriptures, walking faithfully with the Lord gives a person so much meaning and value and purpose. And when people see tragedy like what you’re describing, people find themselves in despair. They don’t know what to do. And we have the hope that’s found in Christ.

Evgeny Bahkmutsky: You know, a friend of mine, whom I studied together in high school, non-Christian. I tried to evangelize him for many years, no response but that time he called me himself and we met from 7 p.m. till 11 p.m., and he asked me, I know our best days on this planet are over. But what is really bringing you joy? And I’ve been sharing the good news of Lord Jesus Christ, and he was asking these questions with full interest and he never heard that. He had never been so attentive as before and I see many non-Christians coming to faith because they’ve seen this, there is no ground stable, kind of, there’s no rock to stand that on and there should be something more, something more and we have the Gospel. We have the Bible, we have the true answer, Jesus Christ. 

Dale Johnson: Really well said, brother, I think, man, what a thing if we can pause and even pray. I want to encourage you all to pray because the Lord is using a difficulty like this to open the hearts of people to ask questions that are related to eternity and that the Lord would use these brothers in Russia to continue to preach the Gospel to the folks who are there in fellowship with him. Not most of our listeners know I’ve talked about what we see happening around the world and my excitement for that, to see biblical counseling spread across the globe because not because biblical counseling is so wonderful. It’s because it’s a position that sees the sufficiency of the Word, which strengthens the church to minister well in a very practical way. I think I would argue according to the way God designed the church to run.

So I want to talk to you guys a little bit about your work there and even explore how ACBC can help your ministry there because ACBC is a parachurch but we’re not God’s plan. The church is God’s plan. And so, the vitality of ACBC is only to the degree that we can help the church to be strengthened to grow in the Word to minister practically and well and so I want you guys to just talk a little bit about ways that we can pray for you and how ACBC can help your ministry there in Russia. 

Victor Zubarov: It was interesting to me that when drafting was announced in Russia, some people left the country and we gathered together, our elder board. And we encouraged each other and we decided why we stayed, we will stay in Russia and the reason was who will trust our message if we left and we will proclaim the gospel from Paris, from London, from Berlin? Nobody, we stay in Russia because we wanted to reach our people with the Gospel. And that’s the message. That’s the point of staying for us. We wanted to bring the Gospel through these dark times, through difficulties and help people to understand their beliefs, to whom they will believe. And I would say that ACBC just helped us to bring the Gospel to different issues that people just face each day and that’s why we wanted them to see their life through different perspectives, through different lenses, through the Gospel lenses. And that’s why I would say that ACBC can help our church and help Russia in total. So, I would I would ask that people will pray for us, pray for our church that the counseling ministry will grow in influence, will grow in the number of people who are prepared for counseling others and that’s our dream to see healthy grounded Scripture churches.

Evgeny Bahkmutsky: Victor, he is a humble, extremely gifted brother and great biblical counselor. He actually ministers for the whole Russia now, and I think that your ministry could continue to provide great resources and some pastors they are so busy with day-by-day ministry, and sometimes they don’t have enough time to develop some curriculums or some answers. They believe that Bible is sufficient, but they really would be blessed to get some answers from the Bible from others and Christ granted and blessed many churches so we can share resources, and we badly need training centers and local churches based. We have a perfect person, Victor Zubarov, a very gifted, well-trained person who was tested and improved by his ministry and we will build around him a training center of biblical counseling for Russia. It would be the best thing to do because there are many churches, hundreds, thousands of churches, and many people and they looking for better training better resourcing, here we are, and we, as a local church are very much open to being such a hub for people for counseling ministry in Russia. 

Dale Johnson: Well, I’m going to ask our members to make sure that you’re praying for this to come to fruition. It’s something that you and I are dreaming about and praying for. And I’m going to ask our members to join us in that. And I look forward to our conversation to even in the future. I will mention something. And I’m just always amazed by the goodness of God anytime I talk to you guys and folks around the world just like you. And in the providence of the Lord, I can’t do what you can do in those places. Providentially, the Lord brought you up in a family in Russia who speaks Russian and He wants His Gospel there, I can’t speak any Russian, and the Lord is choosing you to do that work there and I love that we can partner together for the sake of the name of Christ and join together and that we would support you in the work that you’re doing there and we aim to do that at ACBC to do what we can to help strengthen your church so that you can do the work of the ministry, strengthen your people so that they can be the light of the world in the dark places of the world. And so, I’m so excited about you guys being here and the relationship that we’re seeing built with ACBC and the work that’s being done there in Russia, and I appreciate you brothers so much.

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