Adventure. History. Tourism. Exploration. Spirituality.
These are the themes of a Russian-language YouTube channel called Alfa-News.TV, led and produced by Pastor Yuri, a Nazarene leader in Russia.
Several years ago, restrictive legislation and increasing government pressure in Russia were making it more difficult to rely on traditional methods for evangelism and church planting. Yuri turned to the greater religious freedom of the Internet, and of Russia’s neighboring country of Finland.
In response, Yuri developed an innovative strategy to reach Russian people with the gospel through an online travel and exploration show with spiritual content. Once the programming draws at least 1,000 regular followers, the YouTube channel will begin broadcasting informal worship services. Yuri believes they’ll start this autumn. The program has about 300 followers on YouTube, 300 more on its Facebook page, and an additional 300 on VK, a popular Russian social media platform.
As the online services begin to draw a consistent following of viewers, Yuri plans to eventually organize those viewers who are interested into real-world house churches or small groups. Nazarene congregations and pastors on the district are ready to provide support, especially the congregation and pastor in Volgograd, where Yuri previously was a pastor. He considers this will be the mother church of any new groups that are planted.
Such an approach will not violate Russia’s recently enacted laws limiting evangelism and where Christians can meet for worship.
“If they like an adventure program, when we start to talk about spiritual things they already like and trust us, and they start to hear from us the message about God and the gospel. They give us trust in that area.”
Yuri is making his vision a reality through creative partnerships.
He turned to a Christian TV station in Finland to partner with him in developing, filming and producing Alfa-News.TV. The station donates studio space, and one week of time every month from one of their salaried employees. A Christian marketing firm in Siberia donated a drone so the team could shoot high quality aerial video footage. Several of Yuri’s Russian friends in the film profession volunteer their time and expertise, as well.
Why partner with a station in Finland? Finland shares an extensive border with Russia, and has a significant Russian-speaking population; many Russian people are interested in Finland, or travel there on vacation. Yuri moved to St. Petersburg, close to Finland’s border, making it easier and more affordable to travel there regularly for planning and filming episodes of the show.
With high-end camera work, editing and graphic animations, the show is competitive with other secular programming in the genre.
In one episode, the team of geolocators visit a medieval castle where they reveal interesting aspects of the fortress’s architecture and history, as well as provide travel tips for tourists. Yuri shares religious or spiritual history of the site, connecting it to topics of spirituality.
Episodes often feature the team praying together for viewers or future visitors to the site.
Another 12-episode series follows Yuri and a group of Nazarene Eurasia Region leaders on a TransSiberian Railway trip from Moscow, in the west of Russia, to Voldovostock on the far east border with China and North Korea. The group learn about the cultures of cities along the way, while stopping to pray for God’s Spirit to be present and active in each city.
Additionally, the team record occasional programs in which they simply sit and discuss a complex topic that is relevant to both Finland and Russia.
Join us in prayer for the team and the ministry they are doing. Also, please pray for the people who will see the show, for God to speak to them through it.
— By Gina Grate Pottenger