Not by Might nor by Power is a work that provides a significant contribution to the process of developing Pentecostal theology and more specifically its social concern. This book deals extensively with the Latin America Child Care. Its structure is organized around issues concerning South American Pentecostals. This review will first offer a chapter-by-chapter overview of the book, second discuss several of the significant issues of the book, and third will show the book in the current context of ministry.
The book begins by establishing the foundation of Pentecostal faith and experience. The author uses the historical background of Pentecostalism connecting it with the story of the Latin American Pentecostal movement thus establishing the global transformative role of the movement.
Chapter two claims that through global transformation, Pentecostalism becomes a social relevant movement. The author examines this role of the movement within the current Latin American political and social context. A very important point is made about the parallel appearance of the Pentecostalism in different parts of the world, thus making the movement autonomous in each country where it was present. This development was possible only because Pentecostalism in its original North American context emerged among the poor and oppressed denying the authority of the rich and powerful and moving toward social liberation.
Chapters three and four deals with the compatibility of Latin American culture and Pentecostalism and is based on the topics discussed above. This way, chapter three is a paradigm merge between the topics dealt within chapters one and two. The Pentecostal characteristics are predominating in the discussion. Chapter four continues with the Pentecostal relevance to social processes and dynamics in Latin America. In this way of thought, the economical environment of Latin America is the factor that enables Pentecostals to participate in the social transformation. Chapter five brings a case study dealing with the Latin America Child Care. The LACC presents a paradigm for further society involvement, which is presented as the central proving point of the research.
There is a challenge for a better presentation of theology and praxis in chapters six and seven. The book claims the ability of Pentecostals to offer social action alternatives and calls for various forms of social expression which are developed based on coherent doctrinal statements. These include politics, eschatology, triumphalism and other important issues. In relation to the premillennial views of Pentecostalism, Petersen calls external critics to carefully reconsider the claim that Pentecostalism is purely dispensational. The book explains that in its very nature Pentecostalism and its view of the work of the Holy Spirit denies any limitations to the last, and at the same time proclaims the rapture of the church and the imminent return of the Lord. Thus Pentecostalism presents a unique already-not-yet eschatology which has served as a developmental factor of its social concern.
Concerning the relationship between Pentecostal eschatology and political involvement, Petersen critiques the purposeful abstinence of political involvement and viewing of politics as a rather worldly practice. The book urges Pentecostals to view politics as a tool for social involvement and transformation even in regard of the soon return of the Lord. In fact, the research seems to propose that political involvement is part of the eschatological expectation of the church.
Toward Context of Ministry Applications
While Latin America is quite separated from our present context of ministry in Bulgaria, Not by Might nor by Power presents many similarities between both, especially in the problematic issues of Pentecostal theology and praxis. Similarly to the problems in Latin America, in the beginning of the 21st century the Protestant Church in Bulgaria is entering a new constitutional era in the history of the country. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the political and economic challenges in Eastern Europe have strongly affected the Evangelical Churches. More than ever before, they are in need of reformation in doctrines and praxes in order to adjust to a style of worship liberated from the dictatorship of the communist regime. In order to guarantee the religious freedom for our young, democratic society, the Protestant Movement in Bulgaria needs a more dynamic representation. Such can be provided only by people who will create a balance between the old atheistic structures and the new contemporary, nontraditional style of ministry.
Similar is the case among Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in North America which also share analogue dynamics with congregations of Latin American immigrants. Several facts are obvious from such comparison. It is apparent that Bulgarian immigrants come to North America in ways similar as other immigrant groups. Large cities which are gateways for immigrants are probable to become a settlement for Bulgarian immigrants due to the availability of jobs, affordable lodging and other immigrants from the same ethnic group.
The emerging Bulgarian immigrant communities share religious similarities and belongingness which are factors helping to form the communities. As a result of this formation process, the Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in North America emerge. It also seems natural to suggest that as this process continues, Bulgarian Evangelical Churches will be formed in other gateway cities and other large cities which meet the requirements to become a gateway city. Such has been the case with Latin American churches. If this is true, it should be proposed that the Bulgarian Churches in North America follow a strategy for church planting and growth which targets these types of cities.
Pentecostalism and Post-Modern Social Transformation
Almost one hundred years ago, Pentecostalism began as a rejection of the social structure which widely included sin, corruption and lack of holiness. These factors had spread not only in the society, but had established their strongholds in the church as well. Pentecostalism strongly opposed sin as a ruling factor in both the church and the community, seeing its roots in the approaching modernity. As an antagonist to modernism, for almost a century Pentecostalism stood strongly in its roots of holiness and godliness, claiming that they are the foundation of any true Biblical church and community. Indeed, the model of rebelling against sin and unrighteousness was a paradigm set for the church by Jesus Christ Himself.
In the beginning of the 21st century, much is said about the church becoming a postmodern system serving the needs of postmodern people in an almost super-market manner. Yet, again, it seems reasonable to suggest that the Pentecostal paradigm from the beginning of modernity will work once again in postmodernity. While again moral values are rejected by the present social system, Pentecostalism must take a stand for its ground of holiness and become again a rebel – this time an antagonist to postmodern marginality and nominal Christianity or even becoming a Postmodern Rebel.
Although one of the rightist parties just won the 2013 parliamentarian Bulgarian elections by a fraction, it lacks the needed majority to form an independent government. The Socialist party, second in the ballot, is searching an uneven alliance with the nationalists from “Attack” and the Turkish ethnic DPS (Right and Freedom Movement). Neither the Union of democratic forces nor the political movement of ex-king Simeon II Saxe-Coburg-Gotta was able to cross the 4% election barrier required to enter Parliament. Thus, the only two parties who in years past were able to form independent democratic governments (respectively 1997 and 2001), now remain in the periphery of Bulgari’s political life.
In regard to the current political crises, as early as 2009 our team warned that if the newly elected government continues to use the same local level (city, municipality) political paradigms to run the country as EU member crises will be inevitable. Two years later, as half of the parliamentarian term has passed, we further advised in “Election’s Perspectives for Bulgaria” that as Bulgaria’s Prime Minister elect did not take the much expected place as a presidential candidate, his political strategy would be strongly criticized by his opponents as inadequate and insufficient to answer Bulgaria’s problems. In the beginning of 2013 as political distress grew, the government was forced to resign amid open protests and high rate of the government disapproval.
Meanwhile, after almost entering Bulgaria’s parliament in 1997, the Bulgarian Christian Coalition, traditionally representing the Protestants in the country, remains on the borderline of any political existence. Bulgarian evangelicals were never able to reach their political legacy again, although the new Bulgarian census showed over 25% increase of evangelical population in Bulgaria to some 65,000 people strong. The alternative party, Christian Democratic Forum has showed no political activity since it was established a decade later and quickly defeated by having less than 1,000 votes nationwide. The Bulgarian Christian Coalition has also chosen not to run in the upcoming elections.
The Revised Version of the 1940 Bulgarian Bible, which our ministry has been working on since 2005 and released earlier in 2012, was presented at various book markets, festivals and churches for the Bulgarian Easter on May 5th.
The 1940 revision was initiated in 1920-24 by the British and Foreign Bible Society, reprinted multiple times and smuggled in Bulgaria under communism. It is perhaps the most read Bulgarian Bible of all times. While a number of new versions have attempted to replace it, this revision made by our team in the past seven years while ministering in Bulgaria has preserved the original text in its entirety and made it available to Bulgarian readers abroad.
Bulgarian Bibles to be released by our team in the summer of 2013:
- May 24, 2013: Bulgarian Culture Holiday: A New Study New Testament with commentary, charts, maps and explanatory annotation
- June 23, 2013: Pentecost in Bulgaria: Luke: A New Bulgarian Translation – the final of four volume new translation series which we began in 2007
Bulgarian Bible Revisions and Translations released by our ministry so far:
- 1871 Constantinople Bible (in its final Vienna Revision of 1914)
- John: A New Bulgarian Translation (2008)
- Matthew: A New Bulgarian Translation (2010)
- Mark: A New Bulgarian Translation (2011)
2. When every part of the church’s life is hospitable to people who do not yet grasp the Gospel.
3. When we move away from a ‘tribal’ atmosphere to a ‘missional’ atmosphere.
4. When we respect and talk to people like we do at work.
(Find common ground to build friendships)
5. When we understand more and more how the Gospel changes everything.
The Gospel Changes Everything
The Gospel changes people from the inside out. Christ gives us a radically new identity, freeing us from both self-righteousness and self-condemnation. He liberates us to accept people we once excluded, and to break the bondage of things (even good things) that once drove us. In particular, the gospel makes us welcoming and respectful toward those who do not share our beliefs. We can deeply love people who reject or are indifferent to Gospel because we understand that it was the goodness of God that led us to repentance.
This small book has been over ten years in the making. It is a commentary and study guide for the doctrinal teachings of the Church of God aligned with our Declaration of Faith. It was initially prepared for Bible School and seminary students due to the lack of Sunday school and teaching literature in the Bulgarian vernacular. Through the years however, it has became the standard teaching tool in Sunday schools and programs across the country being used in several Bulgarian churches across Europe as well.
The Bible series was initially published in single lesson leaflets for the Church of God in Sofia. Our team would prepare the lessons every week and print about a thousand copies of each to teach at the beginning of each Sunday morning service. As we gathered information from the local churches at the 2002 Church of God national minister’s meeting, it was reported that thousands of leaflets were being copied, distributed and taught each month without us even knowing about it. Our team has further presented the complete series in the Church of God congregations of Sofia, Pravetz, Ruse, Gabrovo and even Chicago. We are grateful that after all these years it has finally seen its publication as a book accompanied with the video teachings of our weekly Bible Hour broadcast program.
Lessons accompanied with video presentations included in volume 1:
Lesson 1: My Bible
Lesson 2: Holy Trinity
Lesson 3: Jesus Christ
Lesson 4: Repentance for Salvation
Lesson 5: Difficult Questions
Lesson 6: Fasting
Lesson 7: Prayer
Lesson 8: Holiness
Lesson 9: Holy Ghost Baptism
Lesson 10: Giving and Charity
Lesson 11: Water Baptism
Lesson 12: Divine Healing
Lesson 12: Divine Healing
Lesson 13: Holy Communion
Lesson 14: Last Days
Lesson 15: Resurrections
Lesson 16: Fruit and Gifts of the Spirit
Lesson 17: Theology with Melody
Lesson 18: Ministry and Praxis
Lesson 19: Angels
Lesson 20: Pentecostal Primitivism
Nearly 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall traces of communism still remain throughout Bulgaria. For those who lived directly under communism these traces include mental footprints which daily influence these individuals’ approach to life. For that generation who has no personal memory of communism, they find themselves indirectly influenced by the physical traces that will forever be a part of the undeniable history of Bulgaria.
Historically, Bulgaria, similar to other Balkan countries, has gone through turmoil, slavery and defeat. Though Bulgaria is the quietest and most obscure nation on the Balkan Peninsula, its people are confronted with the typical social obstacles that plague former communist-bloc countries: slow reform, economical, educational and cultural destitution and moral confusion.
Due to such rich history, Bulgarians have distinct historical memories and it is this distinctiveness that produces their national identity. These similar yet unique experiences of economic ordeals and historical legacy are what shape the Bulgarian mentality. The economical, educational, political and cultural crises have remained an indivisible part of Bulgaria’s reality. And Bulgaria’s evangelical community of more than 100,000 people has its own set of unique anxieties and hardships.
Excepts taken from “LOOKING OVER the WALL”
A Psychological Exploration of Communist and Post Communist Bulgaria
Copyright © April 12, 2012 by Kathryn N. Donev
© 2012, Spasen Publishers, a division of www.cupandcross.com
Regardless of my 20+ years of ministry, I would have never understood this message until two years ago, when during a youth Bible camp in Bulgaria God showed up in a way we’d never experienced before.
I wrote about this experience on a number of occasions consecutively in:
For a night-long service with some 100 young ministers on fire for God, who witnessed and testified of entering the cloud of God’s Glory, simply cannot be forgotten…
But counting the days since that very experience, we’ve come to realize that there’s not only a cry for the Glory of God among the people. There is an urgent need today for the people of God to reconnect, re-experience and relive again the Glory. The failure to do so threatens our very identity, our existence and our future as a church of God. And as sure as our past experiences are soon forgotten, there is an urgent need to impart the experience of the Glory of God into a new generation.
For it is time to be known in this world not by our own accomplishments, but through the physical manifestation of the presence, through the cloud and the pillar of fire, of the Glory of God. And this will never happen except if we have first (1) longed, (2) prayed, and (3) been in the Glory alone with the Living God overshadowing us…
The Liberating Spirit is an analytical examination of the Pentecostal movement in the Latino community. Pentecostalism is presented as a social transformation factor. The research is written for a scholarly audience, though it is understandable by the common believer as well. It argues for a “pneumatic” social ethic, and urges Pentecostals to move beyond selective preaching of salvation and to address such systemic issues as human rights, social injustice, racism, etc.
The study follows a well developed structure which integrates Pentecostalism and social transformation within the context of a Hispanic American culture. Chapters one and two of the study deal with the Hispanic American culture through focusing on the Hispanic immigration in North America. Chapter three is an overview of the Hispanic Pentecostal reality to identify the Pentecostal church as a center for liberation from oppression in the context of Pentecostal eschatology. Chapter four provides Scriptural proof for the presented ideas, and chapter five concludes the research with a presentation of social ethic for the Hispanic American Pentecostals.
Pentecostal churches are presented as traditionally unlearned in their majority, but always open to the needs of the poor among them. Villafane even speaks of “menesteroso” (the oppressed) as a main focus of concern of the Pentecostal churches. Since its beginning the movement has emphasized the inclusiveness of the Christian community existing in the context of Christ’s love for all with special emphasis on the poor, suffering, sick and oppressed.
Being concern with all of these, Pentecostalism has viewed the pneumatic theology and praxis not only as a heritage of its ethos, but also as means through which social justice is made possible within the church and the world which the church reaches through ministry. In the pneumatic part of the research, the author responds to Karl Barth’s dream for theology of the Spirit. Villafane sees Pentecostalism as the movement that brings such theology.
In relationship to the immigration dynamics, the author gives an extensive overview of the Latin American immigrants and the way they experience their ethnic belongingness. Villafane shows that Latin American immigrants form at least four groups of language preferences (1) English only, (2) Bilingual with English preferences, (3) Bilingual with Spanish preferences and (4) Spanish only. This division is somewhat different than the Bulgarian language preference. At this present time, research shows that all Bulgarian immigrants speak some English but prefer Bulgarian among them. Also, all Bulgarian-born immigrants have studied Russian beside Bulgarian and English, but do not use it in their communication within or outside of the Bulgaria community. And finally, at this time there is no English only preference group among the Bulgarians. Perhaps such will be formed when a second generation of Bulgarian immigrants emerges in America.
Another interesting point of difference is the ethnos of the immigrant communities. Villafane shows that Latin American immigrants represent five such groups as follows:
- Mexicans 61%
- Puerto Ricans 15%
- Cubans 6%
- Central and South America 10%
- Other Nations 8%
The ethnic structure of the Bulgarian immigration in North America is close to the ethnic ratio in the Bulgarian nation which are: Bulgarians 80%, Turks 12%, Roma (6%) and others 2%. This presents several major differences between the Latin American and Bulgarian diasporas which are:
(1) The Latin American diaspora represents a much larger ethnic and geographical area from which immigrants have come than the Bulgarian one.
(2) The Latin American diaspora represents a much larger immigrant group in North America, with a longer history and large geographical location than the Bulgarian one.
(3) The Bulgarian diaspora represents a less defragmenter community as a large majority (80%) is Bulgarians. In the Latin American case almost 50% of the immigrants are with different ethnic background.
(4) The Bulgarian diaspora represents a different ethnic group, which differ not only by national belongingness, but by language as well.
In this context it must be critically noted that until recently cultural assimilation was considered an inevitable fact which can be prevented neither by the assimilating culture nor by the assimilated culture. It was considered that once a group of two or more cultures meet, assimilation begins. In America, however, assimilation is no longer seen as an inevitable process. Instead a cultural diversity exists in a rather mosaic structure described by the term “segmented assimilation.” Such phenomenal ethnic formation derives from the multiplicity of lifestyles and worldviews that formed a contemporary American culture. The technical term for this new mixing is “transnationalism.”
Villafane’s research further offers an in-depth overview of the Latin American communities in North America examining their culture and paradigms and influence of Pentecostal ministry among them. The text speaks of the “homo socius” or the person in the context of community, claiming that an individual is only a person when acting in the social context. A certain transformation from one social context to another is also suggested when viewed in cross-cultural dynamics of immigration, assimilation and naturalization. These processes are similar within the Bulgarian immigrant communities in North America in relation to the ministry of Protestant churches among them.
The Bulgarian Christian communities are searching for a model of adjustment to the assimilating culture in which they exist. This can be accomplished by adopting a strategy of incorporating the postmodern setting of worship, theology and praxis within the Bulgarian Christian community. It should be accompanied by an intentional process of liberation from the dysfunctional model through which the Bulgarian Protestant Church operated during the Communist Regime (1944-1989). This process should purpose to liberate the believers from an oppression mentality and transform them toward the mind of Christ, in order to minister effectively in the present context of existence. Failure to address this present dilemma will result in an inability of the Bulgarian Christian community to communicate its faith and to minister to the younger, faster-adjusting generation of Bulgarian-Americans, whose religious belongingness remains unexplored and often even unknown to themselves.
In all cases, the Bulgarian Evangelical churches accept the responsibility of being much more than a religious center, as it serves as a social and ethno-cultural center as well. Thus, in the context of ethic assimilation and cultural regrouping, the Bulgarian churches not only remain a protector of the Bulgarian ethnicity and the Bulgarian way of life, but also acts as an agent of cultural integration. Naturally, as such it has received the attention of Bulgarian immigrants who have altered it to meet present needs.
“Selling out the Church” is a protest against the market-driven shape which society has given to the modern church. The authors defend the thesis that the form in which the gospel is manifested molds the content of its message. The main focus is on the aggressive use of marketing principles to advance the vision of the church without taking into consideration all negative effects that may follow because of it.
They contend the church marketing principles articulated by Kotler claiming that the purpose of the church is to be a sign of the future Kingdom and the new creation which God is bringing into being. The marketing principles actively oppose this purpose of the Christian church as they emphasize on making the church more attractive to the eventual “customers.”
These strategies wrongly accent on attracting people to the Christian community through offering them to meet their apparent needs and thus give them proper reasons for being churchgoers. This way the target of the church becomes the consumer as the church is expected to provide the proper products. The problem is that the Christian faith does not follow “the logic of self interested exchanges.”
The main problem is that when the church acts as just another manufacturer of hopes, it is no longer able to act as directed by God. The actual truth is that the world no longer expects the church to act according to its calling but rather according the present market needs. Meeting the worlds expectation means the church mission is redefined to whether or not a “customer” would keep his/her business with the church.
The importance of the book is its presentation of how any cultural formation introduced into the church, can deform its message and form a corrupted vision, which will reflect negatively on its future development.
In understanding the history of the advancements in psychotherapy in Bulgaria and the foundations of the country as a whole, we gain a glimpse into the national identity and collective consciousness of a community; one which was formed by a strong people; a people that strive for religious freedom and the quest for knowledge; one that overcame oppression, trial and, hardship.
For many Bulgarians, communism was not simply a set of ideological directives, but it permeated nearly all spheres of social life. Communism and the lasting effects on its population is not one that is comfortable to recollect. It is neither something that is easy to understand and we may never fully comprehend the post communist mentality. And perhaps we should question those who make such claim.
However, if left ignored, we ignore an undeniable part of history and identity. The danger in not recollecting is that we may in doing so, ignore the possibility for change. Recognition is the first step toward change and empathy. It is only via the shoes of empathy that we can walk in the paths of genuinely comprehending the post communistic mentality and another culture.
Excepts taken from “LOOKING OVER the WALL”
A Psychological Exploration of Communist and Post Communist Bulgaria
Copyright © April 12, 2012 by Kathryn N. Donev
© 2012, Spasen Publishers, a division of www.cupandcross.com