Europe’s largest mega church ‘The Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations [or ‘Embassy of God]’ in Kiev, Ukraine is remarkable not only for its size, but also as an example of the forces of globalisation and the impact of a church driven to change the world.
The church was started by Sunday Adelaja, a Nigerian who studied journalism in Belarus before moving to Kiev, Ukraine in 1993 where he started a Bible study with a handful of people. Recognising the spiritual needs of the many drug addicts and alcoholics he encountered, the church grew through a ministry of healing that he and his converts brought to both addicts and their families. In 2008 the church is said to have had 25,000 people (according to Wikipedia) worshiping on a Sunday over 38 services in 30 different locations in Kiev. They are currently building a large centre from which to base their church services and many ministries.
Although the church is still led by Pastor Sunday from Nigeria, the church is thoroughly Ukrainian. The services are conducted in Russian and Ukrainian, at major church events people dressed in Ukrainian national costumes dance and the preaching from the pulpit encourages people to love their country so much that they work toward changing it for the better. The church has sent people abroad into most regions of the world as missionaries, yet remains Ukrainian at its core.
Catherine Wanner observes in her 2007 book, Communities of the Converted: Ukrainians and Global Evangelism, ‘The leadership of the Embassy of God is striving to bring about broad-based political, economic, social, and above all spiritual reform of Ukrainian society by simultaneously imparting a sense of shared morality to individuals and by creating a host of social institutions that will be founded on biblical principles in an overall effort to reenchant society.’ (p. 212)
In an interview with Wanner, Pastor Sunday said, ‘We are now taking responsibility to improve the world and reform the Earth through the principles of the Kingdom, the real principles. Transformations. So it’s like saying that we became a reformation church. A church that has set out to reform the whole society, to bring total change . . . Just transforming the whole culture, actually.’ (p. 234)
Indeed, this transformation of society is central to Pastor Sunday’s conception of what it means to be church. On his personal blog he wrote: “We as ministers are as successful as we manage to bring God’s will, His principles, His character and His presence to earth. However, if we do not change the values of this earth and do not transform the culture of our society, we only waste our time, we are just playing religion, and in this case church turns into another club. Also you cannot measure a church by the number of its members, because you can have many people, but still have no influence. Church is not measured by its financial health, because you can have plenty money, but never change the culture and the values of society.”
On their website they say that they will facilitate visitors, arranging accommodation, tours and translation. They say that visitors can attend the many ministries of the church, one of which is called ‘Building a Mega Church project’. I wonder what that means?!