Russia Ministry

러시아 사역

Underground University Russia

UU 러시아

Underground University Russia enables the church in Russia and the former Soviet Union to prepare for martyrdom and persecution amidst escalating legal restrictions. Such preparation must focus on helping the church here to remain one body with the faithful church around the world today and throughout history.


VOMK helps to prepare Russian seminary students for missionary service.

On October 3, a new law, “On Amendments to the Federal Law on Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Associations” came into effect in Russia. For outsiders, both the name of the law and its relationship to the past laws in Russia are hard to understand and articulate. This may be part of the reason why international media has largely ignored it.

Here is a summary of some key points of what this new law says:

  • The leaders of religious groups cannot be persons suspected of involvement in extremism and the financing of terrorism.
  • Undesirable foreigners cannot lead a religious group.
  • Priests and other personnel trained in foreign educational organizations must undergo re-certification and re-training in Russia
  • Religious organizations now must register with the government on a yearly basis (previously groups had to register every three years. Failure to register could result in the group’s activities being considered illegal).

Due to the subjective of some of these laws, it is also hard for Russian citizens to understand. Bishop Konstantin Bendas (Russian United Union of Evangelical Christians) said that over the years, the laws related to churches and religious institutions are gradually changed and turned prohibitive so that the rights of believers are limited. The problem is that the wording of these laws can be interpreted in several different ways, even according to someone’s will.

What is clear is that the government now has more control over who has the right to perform church services, conduct religious rituals and do missionary activities. Bishop Bendas said,

Before someone gives a neighbor the cup of the Eucharist, performs a prayer, reads lines of the Scripture from a church pulpit, or opens his mouth in a church choir, he will have to provide a certificate to the government that he did not study in any foreign education organizations and/or that he underwent appropriate retraining in a licensed educational organization with an accredited state program in Russia.

Dr. Foley teaches the Hero's Journey material, which helps persecuted Christians frame their stories in a Godly way. VOMK will publish this material in early December of this year.

It’s not hard to see the downward trend of religious freedom in Russia and why Bishop Bendas is concerned. But the response of leaders like Bishop Bendas seem to focus on the law and its ability to regulate the church and its activities. While we believe that is indeed what the law intends to do, Christians have been faithfully preaching the gospel, praying, and worshipping together in countries where the restrictions are much tighter.

That’s why the emphasis in our Underground University (UU) program is on faithfully living the Christian life in whatever environment God has placed us in. This is called being a “faithful witness” and it’s the Scriptural meaning of what it means to be a martyr. God’s word is not bound, and no government law can stop God’s activity in a particular nation.

“Faithful Witness” is the right message for the Russian church (as it is for any church) since many of the Russian pastors that we’ve met have placed their focus in the wrong place – for example, fighting these new laws through things like protests and politics. “Martyrdom Theology” teaches that we don’t need a certification from the government to preach from a pulpit, we don’t need buildings to worship in, and we don’t need permission to share the gospel amongst friends, neighbors, or anyone that we meet. These are all normal Christian activities that Christians have done at all times and in all places (North Korea, Rome, America, England, and Russia). In some countries, this has been called the “underground church,” not because the church is in hiding, but because it doesn’t rely on man-made structures or government certifications to do its work.

Our UU Russia training focuses on “how to do church” the underground way. We remind the students that suffering, and persecution is a gift from the Lord. We introduce them to their brothers and sisters in North Korea and China who are faithful amidst difficulties. We remind them of the heritage they have from their brothers and sisters who suffered under Communism.

Please Pray With Us For The Following Requests:

함께 기도해주십시오

  • Pray for the Russian seminary students that we just taught. Many of These students are preparing for missionary service and will leave Korea after they’ve graduated. Pray that they will be able to be faithful witnesses wherever the Lord sends them since much of the work they will do would be considered illegal missionary activity by the Russian government.
  • Pray for pastors in the Donbas region of Ukraine. Many Protestant churches are “underground churches” since there is no chance of registration. At the beginning of the war in 2014, many pastors left, but several stayed and continue to minister in that area. There are an estimated 50 underground churches in this region. Please pray for these pastors to be faithful witnesses of Christ in a difficult region.


  1. Joe Sanders

    Says June 10, 2021 at am 5:32

    It was just a matter of time with persecution growing in Russia again and appearing that the authorities are colluding with some in the Russian Orthodox church to do so as they did prior to the Bolshevik revolution. Thank you VOMK for listening to the Lord about discipling Russian believers and preparing them for persecution.

    • Pastor Tim

      Says June 15, 2021 at am 10:27

      Thanks for your comment Joe! Yes . . . we need to keep lifting up our Russian brothers and sisters in prayer. ~ Pastor Tim

  2. Ariel Lohberger

    Says September 08, 2021 at am 12:21

    I thank you for telling how we can pray for these needs…I pray the requests word for word, aloud, to join you in praying corporately for these Christians and their churches. God bless them and you.

    • Pastor Tim

      Says September 10, 2021 at pm 4:22

      Hi Ariel! Great to hear from you. It’s great to hear that you are praying for these needs. God Bless ~ Pastor Tim

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