The Russian Orthodox mindset is growing. The Centre of Sociological Research of the Lomonosov Moscow State University conducted a public opinion poll among 1,000 adults in Moscow and 3,000 in the rest of Russia during 1996. They determined:
43.3% of adults consider themselves Russian Orthodox. (This rose to 66.1% in Moscow)
50.6% of adults consider themselves Christian believers
7.1% say that they attend church monthly; (This rose to 20.3% in Moscow)
3.9% say that they attend weekly. (This compares to about 40% for Americans, 20% for Canadians, and less than 10% for most of the other industrialize nations. The actual percentage of attendees is about half the stated amount.)
And these figures have without doubt risen sharply since 1996. And broadly the same figures have been seen in other parts of Eastern Europe, where Orthodoxy has replaced Communism as the dominant ‘faith’ of the common people.
It’s been my experience from many years of preaching in the Orthodox world that one really won’t win converts by merely throwing doctrine at them. On the other hand, faith comes by hearing, and hearing is a hearing of the word of God, i.e. the Gospel. Doctrine must have a place in our witness; but a bald presentation of those doctrines, with the inevitable implicit criticisms which there are within them of Orthodox doctrines, will be unlikely to make much impact. A lecture on ‘There is one God not three’ held in Moscow, Bucharest, Sofia, Belgrade, Athens...is unlikely to produce much response. And yet people from an Orthodox background are lining up to be baptized in some of those areas, Russia especially. Why? How? They know true Bible doctrine; they have rejected the Orthodox mindset. What made them do it? Surely the answer is that there has been a genuine attempt at bridge building between us and them, real relationship building, an offering of something relevant to the harsh realities of life in the Eastern bloc, a leading people onwards into an understanding of the gripping, transforming power of the Truth in daily life. So anyone aiming to convert people from this background simply has to know something about the Orthodox mindset.