On Tuesday, October 30, 2012, the annual Azusa Lecture Series will take place and will include a lecture by John Christopher Thomas and presentation of the Spirit of Azusa Award to Dr. French Arrington. The event will take place at 7:00 P.M. at the North Cleveland Church of God Bryant Fellowship Hall and is free and open to the public.
On April 14, 1906, a group of African Americans under the leadership of William J. Seymour established a mission at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California. They had been holding services at a nearby home on Bonnie Brae Street, but when people began to speak in tongues and experience divine healings the crowds became too great for the residential neighborhood. Spiritual expectation, newspaper articles, and the San Francisco earthquake four days later increased attention to what God was doing in the small mission. Soon people began arriving from around the world to seek their personal “Pentecost.” Many were compelled to take the message to the nations, birthing the greatest missions movement in the history of Christianity. Individuals, congregations and denominations were swept into the new Pentecostal Movement. When mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians also began to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the twentieth century came to be called “The Century of the Holy Spirit.”
Speaker John Christopher Thomas is the Abbott Professor of Biblical Studies at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary and serves as associate pastor of the Woodward Avenue Church of God in Athens, Tennessee. A founding editor of the Journal of Pentecostal Theology, Thomas edits the journal’s supplemental series of books and is general editor of the Pentecostal Commentary Series. An internationally recognized Bible scholar, Thomas directs the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies at Bangor University in Wales as well as the Centre for Pentecostal Theology in Cleveland, Tennessee. Among his seven books is the newly released commentary on the Book of Revelation, The Apocalypse.
Spirit of Azusa Award recipient French L. Arrington is Professor Emeritus of New Testament Greek and Exegesis at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary, having served for 21 years on that faculty as well as 17 years at Lee College. While at Lee, he was chairman of the Bible and Theology Department and honored with the Excellence in Teaching Award. A former pastor, Arrington has written extensively for ministerial and lay enrichment in the local church. His latest book is The Greatest Letter Ever Written: A Study of Romans.
Church of God General Overseer Mark Williams has urged Church of God congregations to consider joining the interdenominational prayer effort, “40 Days of Prayer to Change the Heart of a Nation!” The forty-day prayer emphasis takes place from September 28 to November 6, 2012. Tens of thousands of other congregations will participate in the joint prayer venture.
Williams noted, “While there is an obvious urgency for prayer here in the United States, this theme can be applied to any nation! And yet, our situation is particularly acute, and it affects the globe – financial crisis, the lack of repentance, unchecked sin and greed, national disunity, a disregard for all things sacred. We need a ‘great awakening.” Materials to assist with the ’40 Days of Prayer’ beginning on September 28, can be downloaded at www.40daysofprayer.net, and www.40daystosaveamerica.com.
Doug Small, coordinator of Prayer Ministries for the Church of God, noted that this effort is being led by the National Prayer Committee and the National Day of Prayer leadership team. A prayer guide is available on-line. In addition, both Dave Butts and Greg Frizzell have produced excellent resources. The first is available at www.prayershop.org and the second, through David Gosnell’s office, who leads Church of God Men’s Discipleship Ministries.
Here are some ways congregations can be involved in the 40 Days of Prayer effort:
1. Observe the Great Day of Prayer, early in the 40 day period – October, 7.
2. Plan additional corporate prayer meetings.
3. During this period, forgo the typical topics of prayer and focus on the nation.
4. Pick a day or week in which you will do a prayer-chain, 24-7 prayer, one day, as a minimum, to pray 24 hours. Or, for one 7 day period, engage in a concentrated season of prayer.
5. Set a room aside at the Church where people can come and pray. Better yet, open the sanctuary. Turn on the music. Dim the lights. Make it reflective and prayerful. Keep it accessible. Establish prayer stations. Lay out prayer helps with a focus on the nation.
6. Create a chart, divide the day into 24 one-hour or 48 thirty minute segments. Keep someone in the sanctuary praying for a day – or a week.
7. Do a fasting chain. Have people sign up to fast one meal, and another the next – until you fill up a week. People are then asked to pray at that time and around that period.
8. Join with other churches your community. Set up a schedule so that one church prays this week – and it is open, and another the next week. Unity and prayer must be partners. Seven churches can cover the period of prayer, one per week. And 40 churches, can each take a day.
The first ‘Great Day of Prayer,’ on October 7, will be a part of this solemn call to pray for the nation, beginning with our own need for repentance and re-dedication to God. Church of God Prayer Ministries has produced support materials for this Sunday. They can be downloaded at www.praycog.org.
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
Pastors who served as agents of the secret police during the Communist Regime in Bulgaria are being revealed this week through special legal provision of the Bulgarian Constitution, which allows secret government dossiers and archives to be made public. The law excuses ministers who are retired, immigrated or deceased as it pays special attention to people who continue to serve on denominational boards, heads of religious organizations or church pastors.
The released records have revealed a significant count of Bulgarian evangelical pastors, who have served directly under the Communist government as secret agents and are currently serving in lead positions in their respective churches and denominations. At least 17 agents have infiltrated the Pentecostal churches in Bulgaria (including the Assemblies of God, Church of God and other charismatic denominations). The count is overwhelming in comparison with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church representing some 90% of Bulgaria’s general population with only 11 regional bishops with secret police dossiers.
The newly released documents reveal that these pastor-agents served the Regime through willfully betraying and reporting fellow ministers and their respective ministries, regularly submitting the names of new believers joining their congregations and the activities of their churches as a whole. Special interest in their reports seems to have been given to “foreign religious emissaries” – missionaries from sister-denominations in other countries who visited Bulgarian evangelicals with the purpose of bringing moral and financial support, smuggling Bibles or just encouraging the churches during their time of trials and tribulations under the Regime.
Even more disturbing is the lack of definite and unified response on behalf of the current denominational leaders and the repulsiveness of the general public on the issue as a whole. While the Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance appealed for prayerful but fair dealing with the said misconducts, the Bulgarian Assemblies of God has chosen to deal with the issue internally behind closed doors and the Church of God in Bulgaria has postponed discussion to its general meeting in March or perhaps May. Several outspoken leaders from the Congregational and Apostolic churches have been unsuccessful in bringing about a public debate involving all Bulgarian Protestants, while journalistic investigations in the Christian media have been openly attacked in attempt to be kept silent.
It is understood that many of the said pastor-agents were coerced to serve as such through pressure in their jobs, friends, families and in some cases even their children. Yet, the Bulgarian churches are now struggling to cope with the fact that leading ministers within their denominational structures have continually and purposefully reported on the life of the church, thus betraying fellow believers and ministers.
September 15th in Bulgaria marked the first day of the school year. The Sofia Echo reported that Sixty-three thousand young Bulgarians entered school for the first time on this day. School opening ceremonies include the playing of the national anthem, raising of the flag, speeches and of course giving the teacher a bouquet of flowers.
Naturally, the month of August marks a time of preparation, when students are finishing up their summer and will begin buying their supplies for classes. In past years our ministry has assisted several underprivileged children in nearby villages of the Yambol region with providing these much needed supplies, however this year we decided to do something a bit different. Instead of giving notebooks or pencils, 50 days prior to the 15th, we gave out Bibles to these children getting ready to attend school. With the help of our team and regional youth ministers and ministry leaders we were able to reach 50 young students. This may not sound like much when you look at numbers but we have found throughout the years that ministry with a personal touch is much more effective than ministering to the unknown masses.
With the temptations that these children will be faced including alcohol, drugs, sex and the unimaginable, we believe that the Bible is the most needed instruction manual that can serve as a life resource for when these difficult times come. The follow are a few statistics on the influence of peer pressure that we pray will be confronted with the Power of the Word:
* About 50% of teenagers feel pressured with regard to sex in relationships (The Kaiser Foundation).
* Bulgaria has the highest Teen Birth Rate internationally with the United States coming in a close second (National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion).
* 9% (14 years), 18% (15 – 17 Years), 22% (18 – 19 Years) of teens experience a pregnancy every year. (Communities Responding to the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention)
* Right around 30% of teenagers are offered drugs in middle school and high school (Adolescent Substance Abuse Knowledge Base).
* The use of marijuana has risen by a staggering 275% from the years ’92 – ’97.
* Nearly 10% of teens have tried some form of cocaine in their lives. (Adolescent Substance Abuse Knowledge Base)
As we are finishing up our 30 days of prayer campaign in the month of September we request special prayer for these students that they will not leave there new Bibles on a shelf for display, but that they will read them and hide the Truth in their hearts.
It has taken exactly 10 years since the envisioning of the Masters of Chaplaincy Ministry in Bulgaria for its final realization in the Bulgarian national and cultural context. Through this time of struggle and anticipation, we encountered a number of difficulties as follows:
- Government difficulties on various levels within the Bulgarian administration and a direct repression from the Ministry of Justice, which was later included in the Religious Freedom report of the U.S. Department of State
- Administrative difficulties with approving the program as a legal educational process, while no legal background of chaplaincy has ever been provided in Bulgaria
- Economic difficulties with arranging location and time placement for the program, lecturers, the very much needed student scholarships and various other academic expenses
- Proper student selection through a special screening process to ensure only qualified candidates for placement within the Masters’ Program
- And of course, spiritual difficulties with the whole process of establishing chaplaincy in Bulgaria again being a definite spiritual warfare for all participants
Now that the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Program is an undeniable fact, we realize how our training was more than just a necessity for the implementation of such a great task. It was also well sufficient for a time as such.
I’m especially grateful for the role of my wife Kathryn, who was the main motivator behind the program and who stepped in at very crucial moments in the teaching process providing the complete structure of the program’s counseling module through her training from the Department of Psychology with Lee University and expertise from the Crises Counseling Center in Cleveland. My own experience as a chaplain during my CPE days at Erlanger and Siskin hospitals, as well as educational background from the Pentecostal Theological Seminary and experience with various churches and organizations as an ordained Church of God bishop, also served as tremendous support in various steps through the whole process of the program from its envisioning and foundation in 2001. We are thankful to all friends and partners in the ministry who contributed with their own expertise in the designing of the program and the educational process. And at last a final word of encouragement to all students and churches now set forth to do the ministry of chaplaincy in Bulgaria through the first Masters’ of Chaplaincy Ministry Program in the country.
Read more about chaplaincy in Bulgaria in the following HISTORY of EVENTS
During the month of September 2011 the Counseling Module of the first Bulgarian Master of Chaplaincy Ministry Program in Bulgaria was successfully completed. This was the last of three modules, which further included two semesters’ long study of chaplaincy and theology taught at the United Theological Faculty of the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute in Sofia, Bulgaria.
A total of fifteen students attended this final module. Ten of these students successfully finished their masters’ level studies and are now set forth for practicum in their respective areas of ministry and consecutive thesis defense prior to their graduation in the spring of 2012. Many of them are already ministering in hospital and prison settings, as well as among military and police personnel.
During the course of the program, we were able to finalize the long awaited negotiations with New Bulgarian University and signed an agreement with which every student chaplain will be able to graduate with a government accredited diploma from the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and New Bulgarian University.
This program in its entirety was only made possible through the personal efforts and tireless teaching of the following friends and partners in the ministry: Major General Clay Buckingham, USA (ret), Chaplain Colonel Rich Young of the IAEC, Dr. Jim Ellis from Union University, legal consultant on European Union religious issues, Dr. Hristo Berov from the Potsdam University in Germany, Dr. Roumen Bostandjiev from the Psychology Department of New Bulgarian University in Sofia, Bulgaria, Dr. Dona-Gene Mitchell from the Political Science Department of the University of Nebraska and professors from the United Theological Faculty under the supervision of Dr. Dony & Kathryn Donev from the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association.
Read more about chaplaincy in Bulgaria in the following HISTORY of EVENTS