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Bradley Cordell with the publishing house team at the largest book fair in western Ukraine.

Building the Church Planter’s Toolbox: The Long-Term Impact of Ukraine’s Publishing Ministry

By Andrew Shaughnessy, Sep 15, 2020

When one thinks of a missionary, what typically comes to mind is a pastor, planting churches and preaching the gospel to the lost; or perhaps a doctor, healing the sick and serving the poor in Jesus’ name. MTW missionary Bradley Cordell is neither of those things. Instead, he runs a publishing house that develops, translates, and publishes various Christian books, teaching materials, and devotionals in Ukrainian—a theologically-sound tool chest poised to support and empower church plants all across Ukraine for generations to come.

Bradley’s calling to Ukraine began two decades ago, when, during college, he spent three consecutive summers as an intern with MTW in Ukraine—an experience that profoundly impacted him. Eight years ago, Bradley and his wife, Sara, joined the MTW team in L’viv, Ukraine.

“When we moved there, I knew I wanted to serve but I didn’t exactly know what that would look like in L’viv,” Bradley explained. “The core vision of the MTW team in L’viv is church planting. … I’m a project manager, administratively gifted. We just wanted to be a part of the work and help however we could.”

For those first few years, Bradley had his hand in all sorts of different projects. He helped coordinate internships and trips, ministered to students, and did administrative work to support the church behind the scenes. Then the team began discussing the need for a publishing house and, for Bradley, everything changed.

A void of resources in Ukrainian language

The issue at hand was rooted in language. The eastern half of Ukraine primarily speaks Russian, while the western half of the country primarily speaks Ukrainian. Though MTW missionaries had been actively planting churches and ministering in Ukraine since the ‘90s, all of their previous church plants had Russian-speaking congregations. When MTW partnered with the Presbyterian denomination in Ukraine to plant a church in L’viv, the result was their very first Ukrainian-speaking Presbyterian church.

“Our team’s vision for the church plant is not to be a "one-off," but to see a church-planting movement in the Ukrainian speaking region of the country,” Bradley explained. “We want to be a church-planting church and a resource church.”

Working with Ukrainian-speaking people, the L’viv team hoped to lead Bible studies, Sunday schools, and discipleship groups in the people’s heart language. There was just one problem: ministry resources in Ukrainian are extremely rare and not rooted in Reformed theology.

“There are quite a few ministry resources in Russian,” Bradley said. “Russian has gotten a lot of love over the years because there are more Russian speakers in the world—so it’s more "bang for your buck," so to speak. But there has not been a lot of emphasis put into the Ukrainian language for Christian materials. Now I don’t mean to say that there’s nothing. It’s just very, very scarce. And if you’re looking for Reformed and gospel-focused materials it’s just non-existent.”

Promoting

Building a publishing house from scratch

They had the vision but lacked the tools. And so, the L’viv team decided to build the tools themselves, launching a translation and publishing ministry to help fill the need. Right away, Bradley—with his project management and business administration skills—seemed the perfect fit to run the show.

“I never thought I’d do publishing,” he said. “It was a pretty steep learning curve, but I saw the need and it just seemed like something that would fit my skillsets: project management, managing people, taking ideas and needs and figuring out how to accomplish a goal.”

The publishing house has thrived and been incredibly productive under Bradley’s leadership. All told, over the last four and a half years, the ministry has published more than 250 resources.

“It’s the kind of thing that can touch every aspect of a church plant,” Bradley explained. “We’ve done music, small group Bible studies, Sunday school curriculums, books, pamphlets, Bible timelines, videos, VBS curriculums, all kinds of things. We’ve got this core church plant and all these ministries shooting off of it, and all of them are asking for materials and resources to help them do their work and ministry better. The publishing ministry serves as a support structure to provide those resources.”

Sunday School

Translation and publishing focused on furthering church planting

When it comes to decisions about what resources to translate and publish, L’viv team’s core church-planting mission is always front and center. Their decision-making grid asks questions like: “How will this resource further advance the church plant and ministries of the church?” and “If we were to send out a church-planting pastor in the future, what tools could we develop that would help launch that church faster and empower them to lead that church plant better?” To answer those questions, Bradley and his team are in constant dialogue with ministry leaders, elders, and church planting pastors—asking them what they need, what they want, what would help them preach the gospel, disciple believers, and advance the kingdom.

The result: a strategically developed, kingdom-driven tool chest of resources for church planters in Ukraine.

“We just recently finished a church membership curriculum in Ukrainian,” Bradley said. “The next time a church planter in Ukraine has that need, they’re going to have that resource available to them.”

Next up: The Westminster Confession

Almost five years in, the publishing ministry has developed such a solid base of core resources (like Bible studies and Sunday school curriculums) that it has started branching out to more specialized or supplementary materials. Recently, for example, they translated a Francis Shaeffer book titled "Art and the Bible."

“That’s a great resource, but four years ago we would never have tackled something like that because we probably would have felt like there were some more essential things to do,” Bradley said.

That’s just one of around 20 active projects, including translations of devotionals originally published by Ligonier ministries, Sunday school curriculums for kids, various books, and small group Bible studies. Perhaps the most exciting and biggest project on the L’viv publishing ministry’s docket is a Ukrainian translation of the Westminster Confession of Faith, commissioned by the Presbyterian Church of Ukraine.

“It’s a mammoth project because of the language involved and because of how critical it is historically,” Bradley said. “We have a whole team of pastors and editors contributing to it, and we hope it becomes the statement of faith for Ukrainian-speaking churches.”

Demand spreads across the country

While the primary impetus for Bradley’s work is to serve the church plant in L’viv, he and the rest of the team are acutely aware that there is a need for gospel-centered resources in Ukrainian all across the country. As they’ve translated and published more and more resources, they’ve seen a huge demand and interest from dozens of churches across Ukraine, not just Presbyterian churches.

“One reason why I continue to stay involved in this ministry is that I just love the concrete nature of this work. There’s a project: I know when I’ve started, and I know when I’ve finished. And I really enjoy the fact that these resources will have long-term, generational impact on current and future generations of the Church.”

You can help support this ministry by giving to MTW L’viv’s Publishing Ministry campaign.
Andrew Shaughnessy

Andrew Shaughnessy is a long-time word slinger who spent nearly six years as MTW’s staff writer, gathering and telling impact stories from missionaries across the globe. These days, he’s off working as an analyst and editor in the publishing industry, writing fiction, and mountaineering. He holds a B.A. in history and English literature from Covenant College, and an M.S. in political science from Portland State University.

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Pray for MTW Ukraine's publishing ministry, translating and publishing Reformed materials in Ukrainian to equip pastors and laypeople in the Church.

Give thanks for and pray for the Krakow crisis team, the distribution of aid, and the shelter ministry as the team cares for displaced Ukrainians.

Pray for the church-planting team in L'viv, Ukraine, and the Ukrainians they serve. 

Thank God for bringing Ukrainians to faith in Him and giving them the vision to reach their own country for Christ. Pray for many more to be transformed.

Pray for the new believers God is drawing to Himself in Ukraine, and for those returning to faith in the wake of war.

Pray for Ukrainian pastors and church members who remain in dangerous areas, and for those transporting supplies across enemy lines. 

Pray against rape, murder, and capture of men, women, and children in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine. Pray for protection for the vulnerable.

Pray for courage for Christ’s followers in and around Ukraine. mtw.org/ukraine-crisis

Pray for families who have evacuated, leaving behind the only place they have ever known. Pray for transition and provision. 

Pray for pastors who have stayed behind in Ukraine as they minister to their congregations and the surrounding communities in a time of war.

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