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, a Nazarene pastor in Russia, turned to the greater religious freedom of the Internet and of Russia’s neighboring country — Finland — to share the Gospel.
He developed a Russian YouTube channel called Alfa-News.TV — an online travel and exploration show that utilizes five key themes to connect to its audience: adventure, history, tourism, exploration, and spirituality.
Once the programming draws at least 1,000 regular followers, the YouTube channel will begin broadcasting informal worship services alongside its travel-based content, which 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, Yuri plans to eventually organize the viewers who are interested in real-world house churches or small groups. Nazarene congregations and pastors on the district are ready to provide support, especially the church in Volgograd, Russia, where Yuri previously was a pastor. He considers this the mother church of any new groups that are planted.
This approach will not violate Russia’s recently enacted laws limiting evangelism and locations 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,” Yuri said. “They give us trust in that area.”
Yuri turned to a Christian TV station in Finland to make this possible. He partnered with them to develop, film, and produce Alfa-News.TV. The station donates studio space and one week of work 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 footage. Several of Yuri’s Russian friends in the film profession also volunteer their time and expertise.
Yuri chose to partner with a station in Finland because they share an extensive border with Russia and have a significant Russian-speaking population. It also helps that many Russian people are interested in Finland and regularly travel there on vacation.
With high-end camera work, editing, and graphic animations, the show is competitive with other secular programming in the genre.
In one episode, a team of geolocators visits a medieval castle where they reveal interesting aspects of the fortress’ architecture and history, as well as provide travel tips for tourists. Throughout the show, Yuri shares religious or spiritual history of the site, connecting it to topics of Christian 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 Trans-Siberian Railway trip from Moscow in the west of Russia to Voldovostock on the far east border with China and North Korea. The group learns 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 occasionally records programs in which they simply sit and discuss complex topics that are relevant to both Finland and Russia.
Yuri even moved to St. Petersburg — a city close to Finland’s border — making it easier and more affordable to travel there regularly for planning and filming episodes of the show as it continues to grow its audience.