an article from the Interview column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 5: Number 3, 1994.
The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.
Only days after his return from the Nations for Christ Congress (NFCC '92) in the Baltic capital of Riga, Latvia, CRI international coordinator Paul Carden discusses the thirst for information on the cults in the former Soviet Union and its satellites, and CRI's plans to develop a more effective outreach to this needy part of the world.
Newsletter: What led you to go to NFCC '92?
Carden: Many months of prayer and waiting upon the Lord. We've been monitoring the situation in the former Soviet Union since before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the way the cults are spreading there now is nothing short of appalling. Worst of all, the Christians in those nations have next to nothing -- no full-time resource people or ministries, no in-depth materials -- to help them discern and effectively resist these groups, much less evangelize them.
You see, while the Christians there are going all out to make the most of their freedom, the cults are doing the same. The amount of money and effort that the Mormons, Scientologists, Moonies, Hare Krishnas, and other groups are pouring into these places is alarming. And it's just the beginning. Frankly, it's hard for me to put the urgency of the situation into words.
I'm also very troubled by the potential influence of both the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and Robert Schuller there, which could undermine the gospel message in the churches.
Newsletter: Who attended the congress?
Carden: Over 1,000 Christian leaders and lay workers from all 15 former Soviet republics, plus 200 or so observers and workshop leaders from all over the world. It was quite an exciting group to be with!
Newsletter: What did you hope to accomplish there?
Carden: Three things: equipping, fact-finding, and connecting.
First, we knew that this event represented a strategic opportunity to distribute literature on the cults that would then be carried throughout the whole former Soviet empire. I took about 13,000 tracts on Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses in Russian, Ukrainian, Latvian, and Estonian -- plus dozens of English-language books on the cults, the occult, and sound doctrine for seminary and Bible school libraries and key individuals. It was well over 300 pounds worth of literature.
Second, we wanted to get direct input from Christians regarding which cultic groups were affecting them most. For example, we prepared a special Russian-language questionnaire, with questions such as: "Which cults are working in the area where you minister?" and "Please describe the kinds of problems they are creating." More than 10 percent of the delegates completed and returned the questionnaires, and I think we'll see some very important patterns in the responses that will help us develop future strategies.
Third, we hoped to connect with key individuals and organizations for possible future ministry. I was very pleased with the contacts I was able to make.
On top of all that, I managed to lead a workshop on "Understanding the Cults." I also had an opportunity to witness for more than an hour to a psychic who came to the conference to conduct interviews for a New Age newspaper.
Newsletter: What was the reaction to the literature?
Carden: It was amazing, just amazing. The first hour or so, I could hardly get it onto the display table fast enough! When people found out what it was, they lunged for it. There were times you'd have thought I was giving away money -- some of them had almost panicked expressions, they were so desperate for information on the cults. I could have taken literally ten times that amount of tracts, and people would have snapped it all up. And the wonderful thing is, I know that every single bit of it is going to be put to use.
While all of the people who received the English-language books for Christian seminary libraries were appreciative, some were visibly moved. I really wish we could have taken more. I'm exploring ways of getting this kind of material -- and subscriptions to the Christian Research Journal -- into every seminary in the former USSR and Eastern Europe. It's that important.
On the whole, the trip was a very effective way of putting strategic material into the hands of committed Christians from every republic of the former Soviet empire. It's hard to think of a more efficient means of distribution.
Not only that, but at least two major organizations made serious inquiries about reproducing our Russian-language literature. And others are very interested in translating the English-language materials as quickly as possible.
Newsletter: Did you learn anything new about what the cults and other groups are doing?
Carden: Yes. I was troubled to hear estimates of the number of Hare Krishnas in that part of the world -- in the thousands, even in Latvia. We have reliable reports that the Moonies are taking thousands of high school and university students and professors in Ukraine, Latvia, and elsewhere on free trips to the Black Sea or to camping situations for extensive indoctrination. We've also learned that Witness Lee's movement is operating in at least five districts in Moscow, and that Unity churches in North America are sending students and pastors for summer projects in Russia.
Newsletter: Where do we go from here?
Carden: The biggest priority is to translate some of the best literature we've got now, and adapt or simply create new materials to meet the most pressing needs. Well-dubbed videos on the cults have enormous potential, too. And if we had the proper means of getting on radio, that would be wonderful. But anyone who's interested in working through the mass media should be careful, because the response can be overwhelming -- thousands and thousands of letters every week.
I also saw real enthusiasm for the idea of holding major conferences on the cults and apologetics in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and I think that some people with clout are willing to help us organize them.
Newsletter: Is there anything our readers can do to help.
Carden: Absolutely. First, they can pray. This is so serious. I'm convinced that we haven't even begun to see the true intensity of spiritual warfare involved in this outreach, and to be truly effective we must have intercession. We specifically need prayer for great discernment and foresight so that resources can be used very, very wisely, and so that we don't get ahead of ourselves. Because we're not likely to establish an office in Russia anytime soon, we want to work through the groups and individuals God is already using there. We want to be completely open to anything the Lord wants us to do.
Second, they can take tracts to the former Soviet Union. So many Christian ministry groups are traveling there now, and the tracts we have can be carried right to believers who need them. We can send a list to anyone who asks.
Then, our readers can put us together with capable -- preferably experienced -- volunteer translators to help us get the high-priority literature into Russian, Ukrainian, and the other major national languages (including those spoken in Eastern Europe). This is long overdue, and we're eager to begin now.
Finally, they can give. We need special funds before we can proceed as vigorously as we need to. For example, our translations coordinator, Eliseo Giron, needs a Macintosh computer to enable him to handle all the foreign-language typefaces we're using in this new literature. (People who want to get involved in any way financially should contact Scott Larson, CRI's vice president of development.)
One thing is crystal clear: We've got to move now, while there's an opportunity. We need to consider where things might be 20 or 40 years from now if we don't take drastic action, and then work like mad to inoculate and equip as many Christians as possible before the cults get more deeply rooted, more broadly based.
And to get the job done, we've all got to pitch in together.
End of document, CRN0043A.TXT (original CRI file name), "A Moment of Opportunity. An Interview with Paul Carden" release A, June 30, 1994 R. Poll, CRI
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