Moscow Good News Church Has A Permanent Home!January 22, 2015
It is appropriate as we enter a new year to share with you the details of a very significant, “new” moment in the history of this ministry. I believe that what I share in this letter will bless you on multiple levels, especially if you’re still pressing in to see your own breakthrough — the manifestation of a God-given dream you’ve held on to for a very long time.
As I mentioned in last month’s teaching letter, we officially opened the new, permanent home of the Moscow Good News Church on December 7, 2014! It was a historic and memorable event in our lives, and I promised to tell you in as much detail as possible about the events of that unforgettable day. So GET READY as I make good on my promise and share with you the great things the Lord has done because of His faithfulness and the faithfulness of our partners whom He has called alongside us to help us. Whether it was a financial gift or an earnest prayer for us as we “kept our hands to the plow” on this monumental task, we’re so grateful for the outpouring of support from our partners during this long journey since our first church service in Moscow in September 2000, more than 14 years ago!
We still have further to go as we finish out the remaining portions of the building, such as the baptistry, our business offices, the exterior of the building, new asphalt in the parking lot, and the addition of the third floor. But the fact that we’re now able to hold services in a beautiful new auditorium, including children’s services in our fabulously decorated children’s ministry, is breakthrough indeed.
On Dedication Sunday last month, we held three unique services in one day to commemorate our grand opening. Pastors from all over the former Soviet Union, local and national political leaders, many of our friends from various parts of the world, and, of course, our church congregation — approximately 3,000 people in all — were present for this event. We learned later that reporters also attended the services, and before the day was even over, there was an article published by Russia’s main news service about the grand opening (with several more articles that followed). That first article stated that we were the largest Protestant church in Moscow, and the reporter who wrote the story went into great detail about the various outreaches of our ministry. In a city of millions of people, most of whom claim to be Russian Orthodox in their beliefs, this kind of reporting is unheard of. Every article presented a completely positive report, and we are so thankful.
In the first service of Dedication Sunday, we held a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Honorees were positioned on the platform with Denise and me who represented various facets of our lives over the course of our ministry. Those who participated in the ceremony included:
- the pastors of the first church Denise and I started in Riga, Latvia, when we moved to the former USSR 23 years ago.
- the bishop of the union we are registered under by law in this country, along with his wife.
- one of my associate pastors, who put in many long hours and sacrificed so much to oversee the entire reconstruction of the building, along with his wife.
- two of our partners, a husband-and-wife team, who have partnered financially with the work of this ministry for the past 26 years.
Of course, this last couple was there representing YOU and all our faithful partners and friends of this ministry. Although Denise and I are the ones who spearheaded this building project in obedience to Jesus, really, no one in the Kingdom of God ever does anything on his or her own. We are vitally aware that without each one of these people in our lives who took their places with us on that platform — as well as all those they represented — the work could not have moved forward as it did.
I can’t continue this letter without acknowledging the closest members of my family — Denise and our sons Paul, Philip, and Joel — who were an invaluable source of strength and encouragement to me throughout this whole process. I leaned on their faith at times when I was discouraged and thoughts assailed my mind that we were never going to arrive at this place in time with the victory securely in our hands. (And can you believe that Joel was 11 years old when we began this journey of faith? Wow. It is just amazing to me that the fulfilling of this dream has spanned more than half his life!)
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, I preached a message called, “Four Acts of God’s Grace” — salvation, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, rededication, and church membership. Every week in our church, we invite people to the altar to receive each of these “grace acts” from God, and on Dedication Sunday, 85 people responded during that first service! I knew there would be a response, but it was much larger than I anticipated. Thankfully, our counseling team was prepared — and now we have a beautiful room where those who respond can be taken for individual prayer.
In the second service, several politicians took turns addressing the congregation, and I was overwhelmed by their positive reactions to us as a church. Some of them even quoted Scripture as they spoke. The highest-ranking official in attendance began his address by saying: “Jesus said, ‘Where two or three of you are gathered in My name, there am I in your midst.’ Judging by this crowd today, I would say we qualify, and Jesus is here!”
Another political leader said, “You are truly a branch of the Vine.…” To me, it was remarkable to hear such high-ranking politicians speak so directly from the Word of God. They were all very kind in their remarks about Denise and me — and if there was ever a question about people in high places knowing about our ministry, that question was publicly answered in that service!
After the politicians spoke, I invited a number of pastors on stage to congratulate our church (which is a Russian tradition for such events). Ten pastors spoke — and it was simply an honor to hear what they had to say from their hearts about Denise and me and our ministry here. People attended our celebration from Latvia, Ukraine, the United States, countries in Asia, cities deep inside the nation of Russia, and, of course, Moscow.
In the second service, we also consecrated the building by anointing it with oil. We anointed some of the walls, doors, and seats to represent a blessing on all who enter the building to worship and receive ministry from God and His Word.
In the third service, we held a gala praise-and-worship meeting to end our special day of celebration. Various departments of the church participated — our son Philip helped lead worship; Denise beautifully sang “To God Be the Glory” in Russian; our youth band led a worship set and performed in drama; the dance troupe from the Riga church blessed the congregation with their anointed choreography; and we even heard from the choir of Zolatoy Vek, or Golden Age, our ministry to senior citizens in the community!
In the third dedication service, we also held our very first Communion ceremony in the new building. How fitting it was in this new season in our church to recognize the Supreme Head of the Church with the Communion elements and to acknowledge His sacrifice that makes ministry and the turning of people’s hearts back to God possible.
As I look back over the events of our Dedication Sunday, I honestly do not know what could have been done better. The Lord blessed us, and everything moved on time, stayed in time, and Jesus was honored, which was most important to me. Thank you for your prayers for us and for everything you’ve sown into this building, which represents ministry to the Russian-speaking world in Moscow, in Russia, and to the furthest reaches as we extend our light even higher in this new season. The only thing that could have been better about our day of celebration would be having YOU there to experience the moment right there with us!
What an amazing time of celebration we experienced on Dedication Sunday last month, commemorating what the Lord has done for the Moscow Good News Church and the multitudes that will be touched by the ministry that will go forth from this place. But besides commemorating a historic moment for the church and the ministry here in Russia, the grand opening of the church building provided opportunity for me to reflect on the many twists, turns, and setbacks we also experienced to get to this time of celebration. The journey has been long, but by His grace, we arrived at our appointed destination on time and with the blessing of God upon us.
Denise and I and our team pray the same for you in the year 2015 — that you’ll keep your hands to the plow and your feet to the path of God’s choosing so that you, too, will arrive at your appointed places of destiny right on time. I am so thankful for you — for what you have done, for what you do, and for coming alongside Denise and me and our family in this work. Eternity is before each one of us, and what we have done for Jesus will not be forgotten (see 1 Corinthians 15:58). He holds a reward for each of us for what we have done for His name and His work (see Revelation 22:12). Please contact our office in Tulsa and let us know about any specific prayer requests that are on your heart right now.
We love you and thank God for you!
We are your brother and sister, friends, and partners in Jesus Christ,
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families