Published June 9, 2005
Andrew Ryzhkov, an articulate, personable and enthusiastic pastor from Belarus (part of the former Soviet Union), has planted a church in the metro Atlanta area that is effectively reaching Russian Jews for Christ. The church, started in August 2003, is Calvary Russian Baptist Mission, which meets in Atlanta's North Peachtree Baptist Church.
Even though the climate in Russia was not friendly toward evangelical Christianity, Ryzhkov grew up in a Christian home where he was nurtured spiritually and taught the Bible. His father, Peter, served as a pastor for 40 years in Belarus and was successful in planting seven new churches in a land rife with a political system and philosophy antagonistic toward the gospel.
Immediately after his conversion experience Ryzhkov began sharing his testimony with his high school classmates. His witness was met with resistance, even hostility. "Many times the teachers would ridicule me in front of the whole class for my Christian beliefs and holy living," he admits.
In 1989, when Ryzhkov applied to a music college, the administration of the school was enraged that he would speak to others about his relationship with Christ and prevented him from registering for any classes. The only option left for him was to enroll in a vocational school and get a degree in carpentry and furniture design.
In 1992, while working for a furniture manufacturer, Ryzhkov was given the opportunity to become the youth pastor in a local church. For three years he served the church and prayed for an opportunity to study theology in England or the United States. With the iron curtain removed and free communication with the West available, God miraculously opened the door for the youth pastor to come to the United States to pursue his theological education.
Andrew and his brother were invited to come to Georgia to study at Toccoa Falls Bible College. Ryzhkov began his studies in 1995 and graduated in 2000 with two majors: Biblical studies and piano performance. In the year of his graduation Ryzhkov was called to pastor the Bethel Russian congregation in Snellville.
God gave to Ryzhkov a deepening burden for the 55,000 Russian-speaking lost people in Atlanta, where 70 percent of them are Russian Jews. As the pastor's desire to reach these people grew, God began to impress upon him the need to plant a church specifically designed to reach the Russian Jewish immigrants; he started with a dozen people meeting at the facilities of Annistown Road Baptist Church in Snellville.
The Annistown Road Church had been working with the people of the Bryansk region of Russia for several years and began to sense the need to meet the spiritual needs not only of the people who lived in Russia, but the needs of the Russians who lived in metro Atlanta. Larry Black, a church planter for many years, joined the Annistown Road Church staff in 2003 and was instrumental in helping the Russian church get started.
With financial support from the Georgia Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board, the church was launched. Ryzhkov, with wise counsel from others, was able to lay a good foundation for the church by developing core values and a strategy for evangelism, prayer, stewardship and leadership.
The Russian congregation placed an emphasis on personal evangelism and in just two years the church has grown from a modest beginning to a congregation of nearly 60 every Sunday. Most of the members have come into the fellowship as new converts.
"What an exciting experience to see Jewish people surrender their lives to our Messiah, Jesus Christ," Ryzhkov glowingly declares. "In reaching Jewish people we find that we must pray a lot and must exercise great patience, because it seems that they all have many, many questions and we must answer them all. We try to win them as friends, meet their needs and give them books to read on the biblical prophecies about the Messiah."
In 2004 Ryzhkov moved his congregation to North Peachtree Baptist Church in Atlanta, because 75 percent of the Russian immigrants in the Atlanta area live in the I-75 to I-85 corridor. The dynamic pastor has mobilized his flock to minister to others. In addition to their evangelistic efforts locally they annually take a short-term mission to advance the gospel in Belarus.
Ryzhkov is not only the pastor of the Calvary Russian Baptist Mission, but he is the choir director, pianist, counselor, preacher, teacher, ministry coordinator and mentor of men. He gratefully declares, "I praise the Lord for providing a core group of people in our church who are accepting Kingdom responsibilities and joining me in doing the work of the ministry."
Tony Romans, pastor of North Peachtree Church, states, "We are blessed to have the Calvary Russian Baptist Mission meet in our facilities. They are faithful to share the gospel not only with Russian immigrants, but with others as well. Andrew Ryzhkov is a wonderful and faithful pastor who is truly committed to the Word of God.
"Last Thanksgiving we invited the Russian church to join with us in the observance of the Lord's Supper," Romans adds. "Brother Andrew interpreted the entire service into the Russian language for his congregation; it was very meaningful for all of us."
Romans indicated that Ryzhkov recently implied that he has another six new converts to baptize. The Calvary Russian Baptist Mission, under the leadership of their energetic and engaging pastor, looks to the future with great anticipation and believes that God will continue to give them souls for the Kingdom.
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