The Legacy of Dr. Nicholas Nikolov and the Bulgarian Pentecostal Union

November 5, 2019 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

Dr. Nicholas Nikolov passed to Glory on November 6, 1964. After his death, his wife Martha visited Bulgaria twice in 1976 and 1978, the second time for the 50th anniversary of the Pentecostal Union there where their legacy is strongly remembered to this day.

The organizational talent of Nicholas Nikolov applied with the Pentecostal movement in Bulgaria shaped the history and set a course for the next century. A study on his role and leadership cannot be completed without pointing to the key factors of his ministerial and organizational success despite the divisions present in the Union.

After reviewing Nikolov’s work in Bulgaria, it is becoming clear that it was not the cause for a split among Bulgarian Pentecostals in 1928 as often held. The official registration of the new organization simply confirmed a deepening division that had began with the very start of the movement. More important for us today are the factors that helped Nikolov establish, grow and ensure the future of the Pentecostal organization, while many older and more experienced Bulgarian leaders failed and lost their rightful place in history.

Firstly, what other nucleases within early Bulgarian Pentecostalism lacked in comparison with Nikolov’s Union, was the strong support from abroad (educational, financial and otherwise). It proved indispensable in the Bulgarian context of ministry shaped by deep economic crises and spiritual hunger after WWI. Nikolov found way to implement this advantage effectively in areas where the few before him did not succeed.

Based on his strong relationship with Assemblies of God headquarters in Springfield came the clear articulation of doctrinal understanding expressed in a written statement of faith and praxis. In all fairness, neither faith nor praxis borrowed from the American Assemblies of God fit perfectly the primitive Pentecostalism of Bulgaria in 1928. But as the Union grew into a nationwide organization, more useful applications of organized life were replicated even after Nikolov had left Bulgaria for good.

Then comes the very strong and effective educational and discipleship vision for denominational growth (also borrowed from the American Assemblies of God). Other Pentecostal groups in Bulgaria were too formed around strong leaders, but as most of them remained in leadership for life their spiritual strength and vision naturally weekend. While the work of the Spirit and the practice of gifts were central among them, any formal education or even basic training in practical ministry and organizational leadership were disregarded as worldly having no place in the Church of God. With this mentality prevalent, many Pentecostal groups did not survive after the passing of their first generation of leaders and disappeared from history – either assimilated by the Pentecostal Union or lost forever.

In contrast, Nikolov gave special use of strategic organizational structure that aided the work of the Spirit and empowered the Pentecostal churches. He also found ways to invest in the development of trained leaders able to build and lead the Union until his initial vision was fulfilled. In the process, some congregations did loose spirituality while gaining more structure and training. But overall, a healthy balance was reached ensuring a growing and spiritual Pentecostal denomination.

Lastly, the decision to comply with government legislation opened doors to cooperate with other Protestants organizations on a national level. This decision brought constant tensions that had to be carefully weighed. Siding with churches of the Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance, many of which subscribed to liberal theology, was seen by the older believers as compromising of the Pentecostal faith. Yet, it gave the young Pentecostal movement much needed credibility.

In a similar matter the government registration, provided a nationwide representation of Pentecostals in religious life and opened doors for renting auditoriums, building sanctuaries and creating a national network of self-sustained churches. Some older Pentecostals still saw this as compromising with the world and an unforgivable sin. Especially when the Communist Regime took over Bulgaria in 1944, most leading Protestant pastors were sentenced to life in prison and their place in the pulpit was filled by government paid agents, who infiltrated the decision making body of the Union and enforced government mandate over the churches.

But it also helped the Union churches survive the Regime and be among the few allowed to have regular meetings and services making them the largest evangelical group in Bulgaria today. Nikolov was right with his decision that a small band of organized Pentecostals was much stronger than any other divided majority. And that empowering Spirit-filled communities with organizational structure and leadership mandate can earn their rightful place in history.

Virtual Real Estate for the Kingdom Conference

November 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, Media, Missions, News, Publication, Research

Cupandcross.com launched in the fall of 1999. Our first public letter went out for Thanksgiving exactly 20 years ago and snice then has reached thousands of readers, partners and friends each week.

Since these humble beginnings, nontraditional means of increase have provided Cup and Cross with unique opportunities to serve in times of hardship. Investing in Virtual Real Estate (VRE) in the 90s has not only provided an e-pulpit to minister to millions of people, but it has been an unprecedent venture. Acquiring and popularizing top level internet domain names has been a long-time focus of ours and its return to the ministry has been irreplaceable.

Our intent for acquiring domain names has been to allow other ministries or organizations to benefit from and use them for a period of time before sale in order to be a good Stuart of the e-space realty. With the wild fluctuations in the .com market, the potential value also alternates.  It has been only with the Lord’s help of seizing the right moment within the divine destiny, that this unique venture has paid off.

Your Website Does Matter

Even if you’re fully engaging your members in church, you still need a church website. Why? According to Grey Matter Research, 17 million Americans who don’t regularly attend church visited a church website. While most are searching for church hours or programs, 26% are streaming video and another 26% are streaming audio. So yes, a website is vital for reaching more people and increasing your members.

Consultation

Beside personal presence and team building strategies, we implement the media in virtually every approach of ministry. We have published several research monographs as well as film series about our ministry work. Our team holds a weekly TV program called the Bible Hour.

Learn how we help churches build their own and unique media presence. For more information about such opportunity feel free to reach out to Cup and Cross. We can provide Internet conferences on the topic or come and visit with you at your church

Please Pray for our Area of Ministry in Bulgaria

October 10, 2019 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

10 Years of Chaplaincy on the High Seas

October 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

We began our literal journey of ministry on the high seas in 2009. After exploring the opportunity for several years’ prior and submitting applications to various chaplaincy organizations which dealt with such ministry, the doors finally opened for Cup and Cross.

This search for a ministerial identity and its proper application in the real world coincided with the start of the Master’s in Chaplaincy Ministry Program which we designed for the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute in Sofia around 2008-2009. The long standing relationships with professors, active military chaplains from various fields and countries, and the wisdom of several Generals in the field helped us calibrate our ministry focus with what is needed by real people in the real world.

The new fad “to be real” is not enough in a realistic ministry setting. When 25ft. high storm waves beat the aft and the ship is thrown towards the dark wall of ocean waters ahead, one cannot help but “to be real” and depend on a very real and skilled crew. A captain alone cannot run the boat through a storm even if all systems are reported working. It is the crew deep down in the engine room and making its way on the slippery deck that makes it all happen.

The Crew. Some of them have not seen their families for months or even a year at times. They struggle with the same fears and anxieties as the rest of us. Except, while the rest of us can hold on to something for dear life, the crew is obligated by duty to continue to serve and move the boat ahead. The little chapel on the top deck becomes a passage to a lagoon past the riffs of stormy life where stories are shared, prayers are lifted up together and human lives are reclaimed anew for Heaven.

We have found these nontraditional paths of travel and ministry yielding the most unique encounters and connections for Kingdom growth.  Our family is thankful for these 10 years and looking forward to even more means of ministry outside of the four church walls.  If you would like for us to come to your church as share our journey feel free to reach out to us.

40 False Beliefs of the Church Today

September 25, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

1. That Christianity is a religion and social status, rather than a personal life of holiness and relationship with God.
2. That Christians need standards and rules other than the Bible in order to live a Christian life.
3. That the divinely inspired text of the Bible needs human additions and alterations.
4. That the practices described by the Bible are not for today, as if the Bible is wrong.
5. That Christianity is religion for the weak.
6. That governments and countries are responsible for the growth and prosperity of the church.
7. That we must accept the world in order that the world accepts us.
8. That Postmodernity is Biblical teaching.
9. That the evolution theory is compatible with the Biblical teaching of the Creation.
10. That God needs our strategies, offices, plans and training based on the principles of the contemporary marketing and management in order to lead His Church like His strength has vanished.
11. That the church is successful only because of our personal participation.
12. That the personal works of righteousness are more important than the works of faith which the Word requires from us.
13. That life without sin is not possible.
14. That man has no free will, but is a subject of predetermined choice.
15. That once saved, a person is always saved regardless of the lifetime between his/her salvation and death.
16. That the Trinity is a composite of three different persons, and is not trinitarian nor monotheistic.
17. That Jesus Christ becomes the Son of God only after the incarnation.
18. That the leadership of the Holy Spirit is not needed in the church any longer.
19. That there is baptism of the Holy Spirit without speaking in other tongues.
20. That the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be practiced without a life of holiness.
21. That there is Biblical preaching without confirmation from the Holy Spirit with gifts and miracles.
22. That only elected men can preach the Gospel, as if the preaching of the Gospel is not an obligation of every believer.
23. That the Revival in the church is for a particular period of time and not a personal responsibility for every believer to live a life of revival.
24. That only because the Church does not operate under the anointing given to it, the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased to exist.
25. That only because we do not have personal discipline to pray and fast until God answers our prayers, He cannot do miracles as He has done before.
26. That because some prosperity teachings have over exaggerated some doctrines God does not supply needs any longer.
27. That one can change the spiritual laws and reap without having sowed.
28. That it is more blessed to receive than to give.
29. That to show mercy is an act of weakness.
30. That the minorities in the church, which form its ethnic variety, are its worst part.
31. That you can be a part of the Church without being part of the Spiritual Warfare.
32. That you can be victorious without Christ, without his sacrifice on the cross and without the power of his blood.
33. That when you are personally upset with certain people you have the right to simply leave the church.
34. That not going to church as an act of protest is an acceptable form of Christian behavior.
35. That cell groups without leadership and accountability are the apostolic model for the church.
36. That there are two kinds of Christians – layman and clergy, and that the Church must be without structure and hierarchy.
37. That there is no Rapture of the Church.
38. That the Rapture and the Second Coming are the same event.
39. That the Rapture is not before the Tribulation.
40. That the unrighteous and the ones who evidently live a life of sin will participate in the rapture of the Church and will be resurrected with the righteous dead.

Toward a Pentecostal Strategy for the City

September 5, 2019 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

Toward a Pentecostal Strategy for the City

One of the questions that seems to come up in this course discussion is how to change the world around us with a more positive and effective approach toward using the Gospel of Salvation. In this particular module, the difficulty addressed is ethnocentricity. The particularity of our search then arrives at the more detailed question, how can we change the culture (respectively subcultures) of our church congregations? This is a drastic move from a closed circle toward an outreach community that many congregations are unable to accomplish. How do we then empower such congregations to be transformed into cultural reach-outs to a single ethnos or multiple ethnic groups? 

Problem

The problem in the first quarter of the 21st century has been incapability of our church strategy with the times we live in and the mindset they occupy. We’ve been preparing the church for the multicultural battle, all and while we should have been equipping the saints how to rebuild the walls since the battle has been lost.

We’ve been equipping leaders for the ministry while the church ship has been sinking only to end up with well trained captains of a sunken fleet. And in a doomed attempt to reconcile the reality of the ministry with their training, they have turned to wave walkers who briefly surface for breaths of fresh air during Sunday worship only to return to the deep blue walk of their daily ministry never finding their lost piece of eight.

For the battle was lost long ago before the present generation of ministers ever came to existence. They know not the battle. They’ve only seen the ruins that were left within the broken walls of the church. And they have been struggling to reconcile the incomputable of what church eldership has been teaching them to battle against with the Nehemiah calling for restoration, which God has placed upon them. For the answer has never been in building a New Jerusalem for a fresh start, but restoring the old Jerusalem and its former glory to a new state that reclaims our history and heritage.

bulgarian-church

Context 

Recent analysis of migrant churches in the United States reveals that the predominant majority of them are located in cities which have a high influxation and concentration of immigrants. Such localities are called “gateway cities”. Immigrants typically enter the United States through one of these cities and settle there. These areas contain over half of the foreign-born population in the United States as follows:

  1. New York, NY – Foreign born population 18.7%
  2. Los Angeles, CA – Foreign born population 27.1%
  3. Houston, TX – Foreign born population 12.3%
  4. Washington, DC – Foreign born population 8.6%
  5. Miami, FL – Foreign born population 33.6%
  6. Chicago, IL – Foreign born population 11.1%
  7. San Francisco, CA – Foreign born population 20.0%

Strategy

Asking the right questions is important, but the answers cannot be generic for all ethnic groups or cultural settings. There is a strong need to be flexible and observe changes in culture, but not to change the message of the Gospel or compromise our witness. Several common things are noted in any cultural setting where our ministry is involved:

First and foremost, people of all cultures prefer to be personal with a purpose, rather than being project driven. No one longs to be part of someone else’s project. Yet, our very existence demands personal purpose, which could serve as a great cultural catalyst in a church ministry.

Secondly, cross cultural ministry is not done merely on relationships, but on being real in the relationships. The greatest halt of ministry work is when people realize the relationship with the church has not been a real one, but merely a part of a program or a paradigm.

Finally, our cross cultural model for ministry should not be just salvation oriented, but soul oriented. There is a great difference between writing down the number of saved every Sunday and actually caring for the eternal well-being of the saved souls. In fact, this is so fundamentally determinative that it should be the goal in mind of every new church plant.

30 Days of Prayer and Fasting in 2019

August 30, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Publication, Research

Week 1
September 1, 2006 – Restoration of the Backslidden
September 2, 2006 – Church Leadership: Bulgarian Pastors and Ministers

Week 2
September 3, 2006 – National Revival in Bulgaria
September 4, 2006 – Spiritual and Physical Harvests
September 5, 2006 – Restoration of Protestant Evangelical Heritage
September 6, 2006 – Unification of the Bulgarian Nation and the Bulgarian Church (In observance of Unification Day in Bulgaria)
September 7, 2006 – Renewal of Family Ties
September 8, 2006 – Child Protection
September 9, 2006 – Mission Work

Week 3
September 10, 2006 – The Hopeless (In observance of World Suicide Prevention Day)
September 11, 2006 – Against Fear (In observance of Patriot Day in the United States)
September 12, 2006 – Sexual Purity and Biblical Moral Principles in the Bulgarian Society
September 13, 2006 – Sanctification and Prayer for Restoration of Holiness in the Bulgarian Church
September 14, 2006 – Return Toward Evangelical Roots
September 15, 2006 – Students of Bulgaria (In observance of the first day of school in Bulgaria)
September 16, 2006 – National Day of Fasting for the Bulgarian Evangelical Movement

Week 4
September 17, 2006 – The Country of Bulgaria
September 18, 2006 – National Prosperity
September 19, 2006 – Abortion Prevention and Prayer for Mothers Who Have Had an Abortion (In observance of Abortion Prevention Day in Bulgaria)
September 20, 2006 – Deliverance from Addictions (In observance of the National Addiction Counselors’ Day)
September 21, 2006 – World Peace (In observance of the International Day of Peace)
September 22, 2006 – Spiritual Freedom (In observance of Independence Day in Bulgaria)
September 23, 2006 – Spirit of Forgiveness

Week 5
September 24, 2006 – Restoring of Friendships and Relationships (In observance of National Good Neighbor Day)
September 25, 2006 – Against Stress and Results of Stress
September 26, 2006 – Physical Healing and Deliverance
September 27, 2006 – Peace for Israel
September 28, 2006 – A Fresh Anointing
September 29, 2006 – The Persecuted Believers
September 30, 2006 – Strength and Endurance

VBS for Adults

August 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, News, Research

For reasons obvious to most of our readers, I was able to attend no less than 10 (ten) VBS/Kids crusades this summer. Seven Baptist, several Pentecostals and a Methodist one.

The themes ranged from jungle journey and the Lion King to giddy up cowboys and cowgirls and world/planet/time travelling. All cool themes with lots of props and much careful preparation all in the name of bringing the Good News to the little ones. A noble cause truly worthy of any expense and labor for any church out there.

Time and length ranged from one whole day or one evening service to three nights and even several week long ones. For most of it, the ones held in most Baptist churches were designed by LifeWay and were well structured with kids constantly moving from station to station. The rest were somewhat free style, but still designed with the expectation of lots of children attending. In between each module there was candy, snacks or even a full blown supper.

The location of each VBS and the way it was designed for the crowd flow made the initial impression important. Signs welcoming and directing newcomers were grate, but the friendliness of the people made up for less signage and more human touch. Registration was a must and parents’ preferences were not taken lightly. The decorations of each room helped the children adjust to the new setting and work through the set curriculum. And yes, lots of kids made lots of mess so cleanness in class rooms, play areas and bathrooms were tended to. Some churches had a designated team that made sure the facilities were clean for the next group. And where cleanness was not intentional, it was observed that many parents did not return with their children.

Most VBS programs were designed around age groups. Some included even classes for toddlers and several had adult classes too. The ones that did not, included a family night toward the end of the week for parents to attend. A family night was a great feature for parents who did not attend but dropped their kids every night and picked them up afterwards. They were addressed with materials and opportunities for a spiritual renewal.

The thematic VBSs progressed with learning daily and build up on the previous day. The groups of children toggled between Bible lesson, crafts, games and lots of music. Kids were greatly encouraged to participate and learn the songs and dancing, recite Bible verses and answer questions from the covered material. Some parents participated too.

Prayer was made a central focal point for most of the VBSs observed. The Baptists ones, especially, had pledges of allegiance at the start of the service and assembly with prayer toward the end. A memorable experience for all children who enjoy social setting, making new friends and learn the Bible.

Here are several take ways to observe for a VBS in your church:

  1. Prepare for lots of children – if you have it they will come
  2. Train your workers. Form teams for each task. Assign measurable goals to ensure smooth moving through the program
  3. Self designed VBS programs work as good as the paid ones, as long as designed with the children and families in mind
  4. Chose the length of the event carefully with regard of your constitutions. For the most of it, less is really more.
  5. Do not underestimate friendliness, cleanness and the safety of the children.
  6. Don’t miss a family day. Everyone likes hot dogs and water slides on a hot summer day.

This goes without saying, but focus on God – it is easy to lose track and purposes in the larger design of such events.

Pentecost Sunday Full Gospel as Preached by the Early Pentecostals

I keep on repeating this through the years, but the need for the constant repetition comes from the simple fact that among new doctrinal teachings and Hillsong style of worship the True Message of Pentecost remains long forgotten

  1. Salvation – That a man must be saved while the hour of grace is still upon us has been that teaching of every protestant evangelical since the Reformation. Why people attend church all their lives without getting saved is beyond me. But I do know that the commitment of the CHURCH to REVIVAL brings people to SALVATION.
  1. Sanctification – The Wesleyan teaching of sanctification resolves that the sanctification of the believer is definite. This means that though it may progress and evolve through time, as the believer gets closer to God in his/her daily walk, sanctification must become ENTIRE i.e. allowing NO sin to abide in the believer’s body, soul or spirit. Without ENTIRE sanctification resulting in holiness, no one will ever see God (Heb. 12:14).
  1. Holy Ghost Baptism – The doctrine of the Baptism with the Holy Ghost means that when baptized we speak in one tongue with God because we are ONE with His Spirit. Not just in us or upon us, but that we are IN the Spirit as John was on the day of Revelation.
  1. Healing in the Atonement of Christ belongs to every believer. This means you, your family and your church members. The healing provided in the Atonement is for ALL believers – no exception. It is also for ALL sickness, disease, viruses, infections, tumors and cancers. But that it belongs to does not yet mean that it has been received by the believer. For this reason, God does not stop healing neither in this age nor through eternity, as the leaves of the Tree of Life in the New Jerusalem are still and forever for the healing (Rev. 22:2)
  1. The Second Coming of Christ for Pentecostals is not simply pre-millennial, but also pre-Tribulation. There have been MANY teachings on the End Times until today. Post-millennials claim we live in the Millennium even now anticipating the return of the Lord; a-millennials that there will be no Millennium at all. Post-tribulationists expect his return at the end of the Tribulation, mid-post-tribulationists in the middle. But in Pentecost, we expect Christ to return before the Tribulation that we may be saved from the hour of trial (Rev. 3:10) and before the Millennium so we may reign with Him 1,000 years. Any other message is no message of hope for the Church of the Living God.

Pentecostal articles for Pentecost Sunday

June 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

Offering a few recent Pentecostal articles in light of the upcoming Pentecost Sunday celebration:51bmftgrh4l_ss500_1

  1. The Forgotten Azusa Street Mission: The Place where the First Pentecostals Met
  2. Diamonds in the Rough-N-Ready Pentecostal Series (Complete)
  3. 95th anniversary of the Pentecostal movement in Bulgaria
  4. Toward a Pentecostal Solution to the Refugee Crises in the European Union
  5. Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals
  6. Pacifism as a Social Stand for Holiness among Early Bulgarian Pentecostals
  7. The Practice of Corporate Holiness within the Communion Service of Bulgarian Pentecostals
  8. Sanctification and Personal Holiness among Early Bulgarian Pentecostals
  9. First Pentecostal Missionaries to Bulgaria (1920)
  10. Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals
  11. The Everlasting Gospel: The Significance of Eschatology in the Development of Pentecostal Thought
  12. Online Pentecostal Academic Journals
  13. What made us Pentecostal?
  14. Pentecostalism and Post-Modern Social Transformation
  15. Obama, Marxism and Pentecostal Identity
  16. Why I Decided to Publish Pentecostal Primitivism?
  17. Historic Pentecostal Revival Tour in Bulgaria Continues
  18. The Land of Pentecostals
  19. Pentecostal Theological Seminary Address
  20. A Truly Pentecostal Water Baptism

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