Home » Leaders, Newsletter

A Divine Object Lesson by Denis Kozlov

14 August 2013 No Comment

Pastor Sergei Stagneyev recently invited to preach at his church in Gatchina, which is an historical town on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg, and I feel compelled to share how this church was a divine object lesson.

I first met Sergei when he was finishing his ministry training pastors’ with Rick Ives. That day, Rick needed to administer exams for two students, and he asked me to translate for him. One of those two students was Sergei. The exam called for a sermon that included an object lesson. There were only three people in the audience: Rick Ives, Heather Ives and me. The first student was confident, composed and well-spoken; obviously a good public speaker and promising preacher. Then, at just the right time, he pulled out a tender branch with newly-sprouted leafs and used it as an illustration of hope. It was very well done, and I thought to myself : “Wow, a great choice by Rick.” This man will be a great minister, and time has shown that my initial impression was right. Today, he is a faithful minister of the gospel.

Then came the second student, Sergei, and let me put it this way: he left a very different impression. First, Sergei is a very big man, he struggled speaking, and he was anything but confident. It was obvious that this experience was awkward for him, and he even struggled with what to do with his hands. His sermon was about people who don’t honor God with their finances should not expect God’s blessings regarding finances. He stated that they work hard to make money just to put it into a wallet with a big hole in it. He then reached into his pocket, pulled out a wallet, and ran his fingers through it to show that it had a big hole. Somehow, he brought it to its conclusion, and it was quite a contrast to the first student.

Because there was such a strong contrast, I naturally started thinking that, somehow, Rick missed it with Sergei. I just couldn’t see him doing well as a minister in the future. But here’s the funny thing: that was 17 years ago, and I still remember his sermon and its main point!

Some months later, both students were ordained. The first joined an existing church that was doing well, and Sergei went to Gatchina to plant a new church. I visited him and the church just a couple of years later, and I was amazed. Sergei and his wife, Nadia, birthed a living, vibrant church that enthusiastically worshiped God and served their community. I saw a totally different person when Sergei prayed publicly. His words of praise and thanksgiving flowed like a river from his lips. Those words welled up from his heart, and I thought to myself: Sergei really believes God put him there to get this job done. I now visit his church every few years, and, every time, I am impressed with him more and more.

On this occasion, I was invited by Sergei to preach and minister in prayer and counseling. I spent quality time with both Sergei and Nadia, and, now, 17 years after first meeting Sergei, I see God has used Sergei as an object lesson. I feel a little bit like the Old Testament prophet who relied on his physical eyes to determine what God wanted, but later learned that “the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Things in God’s kingdom are done by faith, not by sight. Some 17 years ago, I could not see in Sergei what is evident today. Namely that his church has over 100 people, which is great for a small town like Gatchina. They have 50 children in Sunday school. Every year they organize a Christian summer camp for kids from all over, including kids from various orphanages. As well, they have planted three other churches in nearby towns and a rehabilitation center in Saint Petersburg. They have started a Bible school and are one of the few, Russian churches that have their own building, which they built themselves.

Most of the church members have been saved through the ministry of this church rather than migrating from other churches. As I was speaking with people after the service, I realized how much work Sergei and Nadia invested into these people, and they have been doing it for 17 years.

Please pray for them as they pour out their lives for the Lord’s work and for the precious souls the Lord wants to bring into His kingdom.

P.S. I hope I have learned my object lesson: in the work of the Kingdom, do not rely on how things look in the natural!

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.

Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree