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What can Lenin teach us about biblical Evangelism?

Legend has it, that Vladimir Lenin was a very smart man. Once, police came to the place where he was under house arrest. They were tipped off by an informant that Lenin had contraband, so they were looking for it – mostly books or any other literature that Communists used to influence the masses.

Lenin knew he was in trouble, because he had several prohibited books on the bottom shelves. What was he to do?

I’ll tell you what happened next in a second, but first, let me ask you a question: suppose a person from a totally different religion (let’s call it Russian Orthodox) came to you and asked, “say, what’s the difference between you Baptists and Russian Orthodox?”

How would you answer?

Think about it:

The Enemy just set a mine right in front of you to step on

But to avoid this question would be just as deadly.

Let me tell you how I used to answer this.

“Well, we don’t have any icons in our churches, unlike the Russian Orthodox, bless God!” I would continue, “and we don’t add man-made doctrine to the Bible, such as Apocrypha and Church Fathers’ teachings…”

Do you see what I have done? I’ve alienated the person from the beginning and it took less than 10 seconds to do that. The Gospel didn’t have a chance to change this person’s heart. (Truth be told, I didn’t even think about sharing the Gospel, instead, in my pride I was eager to show my deep knowledge of the differences between us and those, who are “wrong”). And it happened so many times that I should have learned a long time ago…

The biggest mistake — I’ve allowed Satan to frame the conversation

Lenin was smarter than I. When the police came to his bookshelves they could have started searching from the bottom and quickly found the contraband… but Lenin offered a step stool to the officer, who promptly took it and began searching from the top shelf. Since Lenin had an extensive library, that officer gave up his search before he got to communist contraband…

What Lenin did — he reframed the search where it benefitted him.

When we are talking about answering questions of unbelievers, our main goal is not to make friends or to show how much we know, but to share the Gospel with them. Reframing a seemingly explosive question “say, what’s the difference between you Baptists and Russian Orthodox?” can sound like this:

Witnessing Lenin’s way

“To tell you the truth, not a whole lot. We believe that God created this world in 6 days, and so do Russian Orthodox believers. We also believe that Man sins and comes short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) — so do the Orthodox. We both believe that Jesus is the Son of God (1 Jn 5:5), who came 2000 years ago to die for our sins on the cross and who was buried and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3–4).”

Before I get crucified for “compromising the truth” let me just say, that if teaching a child basic ‘rithmetic, before proceeding to multiplication, algebra and trigonometry is “compromising” then ok, I am guilty!

At this point, not only I haven’t “lost” him, I have established some common ground. My friend is still by my side, listening intently. What’s important to point out, I’ve already built a foundation for the Gospel.

Proceeding to answer the question asked, I can delve right into the heart of the Gospel and (without any more references to the Russian Orthodox) tell the person what the Bible says about sin, God’s holy standard, salvation and ask him (or her) to make a decision.

Realizing that I don’t have to answer what I was asked, but rather answer what the person needs was the most liberating idea that helped my personal soulwinning.

Come to think of it, this is what Jesus did all the time.


Please meet Abu-Alexei. Take notice that his name is not Alexei, that is his eldest son’s name. In Eastern culture a man is known by the name of his firstborn son. When a woman gets pregnant in the Middle East, the saying is "may your first child be a strong and healthy son."

I am Abu-Alexei.

To be honest, my wife and I shed many tears over our son's disability. However, God shows time and time again that He has a plan and that He has made everything beautiful in His time.

Alexei has never met a stranger in his life; he is a super open and friendly teenager who loves to meet new people.

Since we live in a small town of about 30,000 people, he has met virtually everyone. He often doesn’t remember their names, but he sure leaves a lasting positive impression. He enjoys telling people about God and struggles when his peers laugh or call him mean names, but it is amazing how quickly he forgives them and goes back to tell them more.

Oftentimes, when people meet me for the first time they say, "Oh, yes! You are Alexei's dad!" because they have known him way before they met me. In so many ways, Alexei is paving the way for the Gospel to be proclaimed in our town.

I am proud to be Abu-Alexei!

I have a friend from Iraq, let’s call him Faiz. He shared a story about when he was in grade school, his teacher gave students a form where they needed to write their address, phone number, parents’ names, etc. For his parents’ names Faiz put “Abu-Faiz” (Faiz’ Dad) and “Um-Faiz” (Faiz’ Mom) because during all of his childhood everyone around called his parents that. The teacher thought that my friend was a few fries short of a happy meal, but this is how eastern cultures think.

Who is your tribe?

In the West you hear people ask each other “So, where do you work?” This is because in Western culture people derive their significance from what they do. Interestingly enough, in Russia they often ask, “Where did you go to College/University?”

I still remember  spending summers at my grandparents’ village and being asked by neighbors who didn’t know me, “So, who is your grandfather?” The answer to this question told them everything they needed to know about my socio-economic status, education, worldview, future political affiliation and more.

Have you noticed how much time the Scriptures devote to describe a person’s lineage? It is of utmost importance for eastern cultures to know where one comes from. Another equally crucial question is “what kind of legacy one leaves behind?”

This is why it was so painful for Abram to be childless. Maybe he wasn’t mocked out loud, but you can almost hear the sneers of his neighbors: “look at him… no son… how pitiful… he’s a nobody”

All of his life up to the age of 99 none of Abram’s vast wealth, experience or personal accomplishments mattered. He endured being a nobody in the eyes of everyone around him. Everyone, except for God! So when the Lord changed his name to mean “the Father of many Nations” he was sending Abraham a message that he was somebody and that “all families of the earth be blessed” through him!

Have you considered your lineage?

Maybe you come from a family with a rich spiritual heritage, having seen first-hand God’s faithful leading in the lives of your ancestors. If this is the case, remember: to whom much is given much is required! Do not neglect to live out your faith in dependence on God’s faithful promises and to entrust this spiritual inheritance to your descendants.

If, on the other hand, you come from a family “tribe” that is as far from God as the East is from the West; if you are considered an outcast, a nobody… take heart. You have the privilege of changing your family history and breaking the cycle of insignificance. In Christ you are a new creation — you are a part of a priestly tribe, holy, precious and blessed.

Consider the legacy you leave behind. Will it endure for just a few short years, or will it bless everyone whom it comes in contact with for generations to come? Consider who you are in God’s eyes and Whose you are. You can only serve one master.


Are you an electrician?

This question startled Vadim, a member of our 30-strong evangelism team, on a recent trip to Siberia’s North, causing him to turn around. Standing there was a Tatar man in his fifties, dressed as most village men in a thick coat and floppy eared fur hat.

“Why would he ask me this?” Vadim thought, “we are here to tell people about Chri…” and then he realized the culprit for man's confusion:

Vadim had on bright orange pants, the kind that utility workers wear in extreme Siberian weather. It was a cold February Thursday, and he walked from house to house for several hours, so his choice of pants was very sensible for that day.

Have you ever felt that God ordained a divine appointment for you with someone, but at the same time you felt inadequate, not knowing how to respond? If you answered yes, this makes you…normal!

Breathing a quick prayer “Lord, help me speak of You to this man,” Vadim answered “Well, sure! What seems to be the problem?” His philosophy was to never let an opportunity go to waste.

Turns out, Aynur had an issue with his wiring. Looking at the electrical box Vadim quickly diagnosed the problem — an ancient breaker got corroded and would lose connection intermittently. After checking a couple other things and ensuring that everything else was safe Vadim finally said: “you know, the Most High, who created Light, sent me to you today…”

Aynur, as a typical Muslim believed that God was the Creator, but he didn’t know Him. However, his culture elevates hospitality to a virtue, so while he was heating water for tea and setting the table with Qabartma, küzikmäk and other Tatar dishes, Vadim poured out his heart preaching Christ…

Sometimes we care too much beforehand about what to say when the moment comes. While it is imperative to be prepared to “give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear,” it is equally important to be led by the Spirit of God.

God, who can speak through anything, from donkeys to rocks, is definitely able to use orange utility pants to bring the Gospel to a needy soul.

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However, you would be wrong. In fact, maybe it takes just a shade of wildness to live in the area where modern advances clash with the rugged beauty of untouched nature, but we don’t slow down a bit in the winter. 

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In fact, winter is awesome for evangelism!

In January 2017 we took a trip up north to reach Tartar villages with the Gospel of Christ.

Can you imagine living in a place that is cut off from civilization 9 months out of the year? Only when everything around you is frozen can someone from the outside come in and share the good news of Jesus. 

Meet Zulfia, a Muslim woman who has lived in the same house for 83 years. Although she did not make a profession of faith that day, she listened intently as the New Testament was opened and read to her in her own language for the first time in her life!

Another woman, Erna welcomed us in her home to hear about the true meaning of Kurban Bayrami ("the Holiday of Sacrifice").

This is the second of two Muslim holidays celebrated worldwide each year, and considered the holier of the two. It honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son, as an act of obedience to God's command. We told Erna and her children of the true Lamb of God, Whom God provided to wash away our sins. Thanks to you, we were the first messengers to tell these souls about God’s amazing love!

You must have been praying hard, because not a day of our 5 day trip went by without spiritual victories! Despite our vehicles (we took 2 vans and 2 cars) having daily issues, we were able to visit 14 exclusively Tatar villages on our 1200 km trip!

God blessed us with a group of students from Novosibirsk along with our missionary students and church members, twenty five of us, to share the gospel with Muslims. Thank you for giving me a great opportunity to better learn how to witness to Muslims and to point them to Ee-sá Mah-seéh (Jesus the Messiah).

I believe we all came away with a greater burden to reach the lost and a godly boldness to share Christ more often.

Here we are, a year later, and that same burden and boldness is in our hearts. We are planning another trip and covet your prayers for souls, for safety, and that the Lord will be glorified in all we say and do on this trip. I can’t give out concrete dates, but I will let you know the results of our trip when we return.


Say what? Vladimir, don't you believe in prayer? Or more importantly, don't you NEED prayer every day in your ministry?

Yes and YES!

But the reality is that we often give lip-service to such a vital discipline as prayer. 

It starts with making a New Year resolution that goes something like this: “this year I am going to pray more.”

Sound familiar? Such a resolution is almost guaranteed to fail, and research supports this. According to the University of Scranton only 8% of New Year resolutions are successful, while the majority fail in as little as a few weeks (just check the #resolutionfail tweets).

What makes “this year I am going to pray more for missionaries” such a lousy goal?

First of all, it lacks specificity. What are we going to ask God and on whose behalf? It would be much better to rephrase it “I am going to pray for John and Jennifer Smith from Peru.”

Secondly, for a resolution to succeed it needs to be measurable. Pray how much more? How do you know that you’ve reached this goal? Answering these questions can transform our resolution to “I am going to pray specifically for John and Jennifer Smith’s needs for 30 minutes each day.” This way we will know exactly if we achieved this goal or have yet to achieve it.

Another step we can take is to make our prayer resolution actionable. As you may be aware, prayer needs change. Staying current with them takes initiative and action on our part. Static repetition of stale prayers discourages this crucial discipline.  That’s why we may need to add, “I will find out their family and ministry needs and pray specifically for them,” to our prayer goal.

Likewise, our prayers need to stretch us, be risky, if you will. Researchers Dr. Steve Kerr and Dr. Douglas LePelley of Chancellor University state “difficult goals are far more likely to generate sustained enthusiasm and higher levels of performance.” I think this can be applied to the content of our prayer life.

If we start praying for things that only God can do, we will be amazed at how He answers. Take George Müller for example. In his book “Praying the Bible” Donald S. Whitney writes:

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“Through his orphanage in Bristol, Mueller cared for as many as two thousand orphans at a time—more than ten thousand in his lifetime. Yet he never made the needs of his ministries known to anyone except to God in prayer. Only through his annual reports did people learn after the fact what the needs had been during the previous year and how God had provided.

Mueller had over fifty thousand specific recorded answers to prayers in his journals, thirty thousand of which he said were answered the same day or the same hour that he prayed them. Think of it: that’s five hundred definite answers to prayer each year—more than one per day—every single day for sixty years! God funneled over half a billion dollars (in today’s dollars) through his hands in answer to prayer.”

Next, our prayer life should be exciting. It needs to move past our intellect, “I know that I must pray,” and ignite our heart on fire! Consider motivations for your fervent prayer — “when I see God answering my prayers on behalf of John and Jennifer, I leap for joy. It makes me want to pray longer and more often. I get encouraged and grow in my faith.”

Consider also what’s at stake:

without prayer support plans derail, relationships grow cold and ministries stagnate. Your prayers are key to making a difference. How does it make you feel?

Lastly, we must ensure that our resolution to pray is time-keyed. In other words, there needs to be a reference to the:

  • Starting date — without a firm date, such as “starting on January 3rd” it would be so easy to procrastinate. “Pray more this year” can mean next week, next month, or even December 31st!
  • Time spent doing the action — I already mentioned setting a specific amount of time, such as praying for 30 minutes
  • Frequency — How often we are going to be engaged in this practice — it could be every week day, 7 days a week or every Wednesday…
  • Time trigger — when you plan to pray. For example at 6:00 AM. Setting a time trigger is a great way to create consistency in our practice.
  • Streak target — how long you are going to be engaged in this practice, before you determine that it has become your habit? Although a popular belief is that it takes 21 days of consistent practice, in reality it is much longer than this. A good rule of thumb is to be engaged in a practice for 90 days for it to become a habit.

And this is precisely, why I said you should not set a goal of praying for your missionaries. Shocking, I know.

Instead, you should make it a habit

There are key differences:

  • Goals imply “you are not there yet, but you will be as soon as you reach it…” This can become pharisaical and legalistic. Have you ever done something, just to put a check-mark next to it and call it completed? With this mindset, we are training ourselves to put happiness and success off till the goal is achieved. Our focus should be on the journey, not the destination. Consider the relationships you are building as you communicate with missionaries about their needs and reporting to them that you’ve prayed for them. Consider the inspiration you feel as you see God at work answering YOUR prayers!

  • Goals can be strangely at odds with long term Christian growth. It happens all the time. People would set a goal of reading their Bible through in a year, and once they achieve it, they stagnate and open God’s Word only on occasion. Don’t let it happen to you. Instead, you should focus on the habit of reading the Bible, praying daily, etc. Find your motivation in being the person of prayer, rather than praying itself.

  • Goals are about the short-term result. Habits are about long-term growth. Let’s say your morning gets hectic, and you only pray for 5 minutes. (This never happens to you, does it?) If you have a goal oriented mindset, you feel bad. Your motivation level decreases if you derive your significance only from achieving a set goal. But are you really a failure? Have you grown closer to God in 5 minutes when you’ve prayed on behalf of others? Have you made an eternal impact even in such a brief stretch of time? Will you stop praying even after your 30 minutes are up?

Vladimir Lukyanov
Missionary to Siberia, Russia

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