Russia kicked off the World Cup Thursday, the beginning of a month-long spectacle where millions of fans tune in to watch the world’s best soccer teams battle to be number one.
For many Christians this isn’t just a sporting event, it’s an opportunity to spread the gospel in a country that has become increasingly hostile towards evangelism.
Thousands of congregations across Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities are skirting around Russia’s anti-evangelism laws by inviting people to watch the games live in their church buildings.
There, people will get to watch the games on a big screen, eat snacks, and encounter God’s word.
Since most of the popular matches are sold out, the setup is a win-win for both the churches and the spectators.
The churches have partnered with Mission Eurasia to pass out Bibles, discipleship materials, and invitations to Bible studies.
“Mission Eurasia is capitalizing on mobilizing and training, equipping the next generation of leaders in all the countries of the former Soviet Union,” Mission Eurasia president Sergey Rakhuba told CBN News. “But especially focusing on this unprecedented opportunity that this World Cup games represent.”
“We want these young leaders that we’ve trained that have so much energy, full of enthusiasm, sharing their faith, sharing Scripture with people in the community,” he continued.
Rakhuba believes 3 million soccer fans will hear the gospel, despite the government’s crackdown on evangelism.
“They don’t allow believers outside of their churches to share their faith,” Rakhuba explained. “That’s why this strategy around the World Cup games is involved so that people will be invited to their officially registered church buildings where they will have their events, where they are allowed to have outreach, and there where we’ll be able to share the Gospel with them.”