America Is Becoming Less Christian, Less Religious

July 1, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, News

America is still a predominantly Christian nation, but it’s becoming both less Christian and less religious, according to the results of the new American Religious Identification Survey. According to the poll, which came out today, the percentage of Americans who define themselves as Christian has dropped from 86 percent in 1990 to 76 percent in 2008. In one of the most dramatic shifts, 15 percent of Americans now say they have no religion — a figure that’s almost doubled in 18 years. Americans with no religious preference are now larger than all other major religious groups except Catholics and Baptists.

“What seems to be happening is there is a decline in what we might call traditional brand loyalty to the old denominations, specific churches,” said Barry Kosmin, a principle investigator for the American Religious Identification Survey. In the last 18 years, despite population growth and immigration, almost all religious denominations have lost ground. Mainline Protestants are down the most. Methodists, for example, have gone from 8 to 5 percent. Baptists are down from 19.3 to 15.8. And Jews are down from 1.8 to 1.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the number of atheists, while still small, has nearly doubled from 900,000 to 1.6 million. Kosmin says that people may feel more comfortable admitting their lack of faith at a time when atheist books, like Christopher Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” and movies are getting a lot of attention. Comedian Bill Maher took aim at religion in his documentary film “Religulous,” saying that he preaches “the gospel of ‘I Don’t Know.'”

But researchers point out that just because people are dropping out of organized religion, that doesn’t mean they’re abandoning faith. In an informal poll on Twitter today, we heard similar sentiments.

“I no longer attend church, but still pray to Jesus,” said Sean Whitney.

Dramatic Shift in Way Americans Worship

“I dropped out of the Catholic faith years ago. However, it doesn’t mean I have stopped believing in God,” said Carmen Rivera.

The study finds that more people are exploring spiritual frontiers. Some 2.8 million Americans now say they identify with new religious movements like Wicca, paganism or spiritualists. Catholic strongholds in New England and the Midwest have faded as people have moved toward the Sunbelt.

“We are becoming a nation of spiritually anchored people who are not traditionally religious,” said Serene Jones, president of the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York.

While Americans may be leaving established denominations, the one major growth area in American Christianity is among evangelicals. Megachurches are booming, rising from 5 to 11.8 percent of the population.

And with the economy in free fall, many megachurches say they’re seeing increased attendance. They’re praying that perhaps hard times will draw Americans back to their faith.

Is Religion In America in Decline?

June 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Duke University sociologist Mark Chaves’ working title for his new book on trends in U.S. religion was “Continuity and Change in American Religion.”

But the folks on the Princeton University Press marketing team suggested he could attract more attention with the bolder title: The Decline of American Religion.

Chaves, director of the National Congregations Study, took another look at research showing indicators of traditional beliefs and practices are either stable or falling in a nation that is a symbol of the staying power of religion in the West.

His conclusion: “The burden of proof has shifted to those who want to claim that American religiosity is not declining.”

Chaves shared his perspective in a paper on “The Decline of American Religion?” for the Association of Religion Data Archives. His work is a significant addition to the discussion of the future of faith in the U.S.

The argument that religion is declining has gained more attention in recent years with major surveys pointing to the existence of a substantial group of Americans who state no preference for organized religion.

Fifteen percent of respondents to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey did not identify with a religious group, up from 8 percent in 1990. The 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey found 16 percent of respondents said they were unaffiliated with any particular faith today, more than double the number who said they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children.

But researchers also point out strong signs of stability, even steady growth over the long term, in American religious life.

“The single most significant trend in American religion from 1900 to the present has been the steady and spectacular decline in the percentage of religiously unaffiliated people in the American population,” J. Gordon Melton, founding director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, Calif., wrote in a recent ARDA paper on “American Religion’s Mega-Trends.” “In 1900, the religiously unaffiliated included some 65 percent of the population. That figure has now dropped to around 15 percent.”

Signs of decline

Chaves does not doubt the central role of religion in the lives of Americans.

“By world standards, Americans remain remarkably religious in both belief and practice. Americans are more pious than people in any Western country, with the possible exception of Ireland,” he said in the ARDA paper.

However, he noted, whether it is a major change such as a drop in the rates of religious affiliation or a small change such as the number of Americans who say they believe in God declining from 99 percent in the 1950s to 92 percent in 2008, no indicator of traditional religious belief or practice is going up.

“On the contrary, every indicator of traditional religiosity is either stable or declining. This is why I think it is reasonable to conclude that American religion has in fact declined in recent decades — slowly, but unmistakably,” Chaves said.

Those indicators of decline, taken from General Social Survey data, include:

  • From 1990 to 2008, the percent of people who never attend religious services rose from 13 percent to 22 percent.
  • Just 45 percent of adult respondents born after 1970 reported growing up with religiously active fathers.
  • In the 1960s, about 1 percent of college freshmen expected to become clergy. Now, about three-tenths of a percent have the same expectation.
  • The percentage of people saying they have a great deal of confidence in leaders of religious institutions has declined from about 35 percent in the 1970s to about 25 percent today.

An uncertain future

So what is the final verdict on the status of religion in America?

There may not be one.

Baylor University sociologist Paul Froese said the research seems to indicate a lot of stability in religion in America. In practical terms, Froese said, he does not see any trends that religion is declining in social or political influence in the United States.

When one considers major cultural changes in the United States on issues such as racial attitudes, “these religion indicators by comparison seem really stable,” he said.

Chaves said there is plenty of room for interpretation.

“Reasonable people can disagree on whether the master narrative is fundamentally decline or fundamentally stability,” he said in an interview.

What decline is evident has been gradual: “American religion remains very vibrant and will for your lifetime and my lifetime,” Chaves said.

Looking to the future, the aging of the U.S. population should be a positive influence on religion since religious beliefs and practices tend to increase with age, researchers say. But the declining participation by younger generations of parents is a significant negative predictor. In the National Study of Youth and Religion, having highly religious parents was one of the strongest variables associated with youth being highly religious as emerging adults.

So what is Chaves going to call his new book on religion in America when it comes out this summer?

“Bland or not,” Chaves says in the ARDA paper, “it will be called, “American Religion: Contemporary Trends.”

Is your church ready for GDPR?

May 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

You’ve probably heard about GDPR. The new European data protection regulation that applies practically to everyone entered in power on May 25, 2018. Especially if you operate a church or ministry website, it’s most likely that there’s already a process for getting your systems in compliance with the regulation.

GDPR in effect adds to or supersedes existing legislation on data protection, which up to this point has been provided by the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003. The regulation is basically a law that must be followed in all European countries (but also applies to non-EU organizations that have users in the EU). In this particular case, it applies to companies that are not registered in Europe, but are having European customers. So that’s most church organizations. The GDPR introduces a stronger requirement on accountability for data controllers. This means that you must be able to show that you are complying with the principles by providing evidence. For example, where you process on the basis of consent, you should to store those consents. Since consent should be specific to a “purpose”, you may need separate consent to cover different areas of data processing within the life of the church

The impact is going to be huge as there are a number of very significant changes that will impact every organization that processes data inside the EU. This includes the Church, which has been that in most cases, very poor at complying with legislation. If your church organization or church website process personal information, of any kind, inside the EU, GDPR applies to you. This applies to Churches who are owned/run from outside the EU. If you process any data in the EU like website visitors, live broadcast viewers or attendance, GDPR needs to be on your radar.

Though, GDPR allows religious (amongst others) not-for-profit bodies to process data without specific consent as long as it relates only to members or former members (or those who have regular contact with it in connection with, there is still a great risk. Data that “reveals religious belief” becomes special category data – which requires additional care with regard to processing. Reveling of “religious belief” should not be assumed simply because someone attends church or church events, becomes a “friend” or gives money to a church. However, where someone is required to have affirmed belief (e.g. that they are baptized or that they are a member of the Church) e.g. processing of the electoral roll, then this could be argued to reveal religious belief.

In regard of this, the rights of the user/client (referred to as “data subject” in the regulation) under the new GDPR law are:

  • the right to erasure (the right to be forgotten/deleted from the system),
  • right to restriction of processing (keep the data, but mark it as “restricted”)
  • the right to data portability (export data in a machine-readable format),
  • the right to rectification (the ability to get personal data fixed),
  • the right to be informed (human-readable information, rather than privacy terms)
  • the right of access (the user is able to see all the data you have about them).

Additionally, the relevant basic principles are:

  • data minimization (do not collect more data than necessary),
  • integrity and confidentiality (all security measures to protect data)
  • measures to guarantee that the data has not been inappropriately modified.

To set some context, it may be helpful to ask, “Whose data is it?” If we believe that the data we hold on our systems belong to us then we are likely going to be resistant to GDPR. If we are 100% clear that each person’s personal data belongs to that individual alone, and that we are custodians of their data, then we’ll likely have a much healthier response to GDPR. When we see ourselves as custodians, charged with a “trust,” we’ll likely want to do our very best when we receive, store and process people’s personal data. And also be more ruthless about removing any data that we don’t wish to hold within that trust.

The legal basis for processing data is premised on one or more of six conditions:

  • consent of the data subject
  • performance of any contract with the data subject relating to it
  • compliance with a legal obligation
  • that the vital interests of the data subject are protected
  • that the data acquired and held is needed for the performance of a task carried out by the organization in the public interest
  • that the legitimate interests of data subjects are protected

None of the other requirements of the regulation have an exception depending on the organization size, so “I’m small, GDPR does not concern me” is a myth. “Personal data” is basically every piece of data your organization has collected that can be used to uniquely identify a person.

Just an every day example, Google Maps shows you your location history – all the places that you’ve been to. Displaying your church’s map allows visitors to find you but also records their intent of movement history on any electronic device that can lock a GPS location (this includes any PC with internet connection too). It is still the visitor’s personal information that GDPR allows storing only under certain legal conditions.

An individual can object at any time to you using their personal information for:

  • Direct Marketing (including fundraising). If an individual objects to you using their data to contact them for this purpose then you must cease immediately. There are no exemptions.
  • Scientific, historical, research or statistical purposes. You can have an exemption from this if you have a legitimate need to keep processing it, e.g. you need to send Gift Aid information to HMRC.
  • A ‘legitimate interest’ of the church (ex. video broadcast, family events, small group home gatherings, fund raisers, prayer call campaigns, etc.).

Age check – GDPR introduces special protection for children’s personal data. Broadly, for a child there will be a need to have consent from a parent or guardian in order to process any data lawfully. You should ask for the visitor’s age, and if the user is a child, you should ask for parent permission.

Keeping data for no longer than necessary – if your church collects the data for a specific purpose (e.g. product purchase, email campaign, call list, etc.), you have to delete it/anonymize it as soon as you don’t need it. Many churches offer welcoming package, registration, online offering, etc. The visitor’s consent goes only for the particular item for which you are obligated to keep a consent form.

Cookies – Every basic website nowadays use a number of different types of cookies. They are all subject of a different regulation (a Directive that will soon become a Regulation). However, GDPR still changes things when tracking cookies are concerned. I’ve outlined my opinion on tracking cookies in a separate post.

Encrypt the data in transit – means that communication between your application layer and your database (or your message queue, or whatever component you have) should be over TLS.

Encrypt the data at rest – this again depends on the database (some offer table-level encryption), but can also be done on machine-level

Implement pseudonymisation – the most obvious use-case is when you want to use production data for the test/staging servers. You should change the personal data to some “pseudonym”, so that the people cannot be identified.

Don’t log personal data – getting rid of the personal data from log files (especially if they are shipped to a 3rd party service or a plugin.

Above all, DO NOT use data for purposes that the user hasn’t agreed!

Finally, GDPR mandates identification and notification of breaches of the regulation to the individual, and sometimes the national regulator (the Information Commissioner’s Office, ICO) within 72 hours. The maximum fine for organizations which breach the regulation will be €20 million. Quite apart from anything else, this should give charity trustees pause for thought.

Where to begin? Start with the following questions and actions:

  1. Does your collection and use of personal or sensitive data fall within the “purposes” of your current Data Protection policy?
  2. Are there current uses that fall outside the current scope?
  3. Are your policy’s stated “purposes” sufficiently broad enough to cover all your ministry and activity? Highlight any areas that need further expansion in your policy.
  4. Note down any third party “processors” that use or further process the personal data like: Book keeper, WordPress, MailChimp, Planning Center, Stripe, GoCardless, Textlocal.
  5. Identify and list all the ways your church adds personal data into each module, including contact details, attendance or tracking data, and notes.
  6. Note any additional processing of information you carry out in your admin workflows within each module, such as communications you send, notifications to others in your church that get triggered, and any reports you produce and distribute in those workflows.
  7. Are there any areas of “bad practice” or risk that needs addressing? For example, using images from people’s social media profiles without consent or audio/video and live broadcast recordings of the same. Notes that express opinion rather than fact, or where consent has not been obtained for all of these.
  8. In respect of handling personal data, how do your church’s procedures demonstrate accountability practices?
  9. Are any changes communicated to those in your church or team that need to know?
  10. If you were a newcomer to your church, would you as a newcomer be clear at every point of submitting your personal data, what the church’s privacy notice and data protection policy is? Would you feel sufficiently informed about how your data will be used and would know how you could opt out if you wanted to?

Common sense disclaimer: This article is not legal advice. You need to contact your church attorney for a complete evaluation and action guide on how to fully protect your organization.

2018 Annual Conferences of Bulgarian Churches in America

May 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

bulgarian-churchThe congregations within the Alliance of the Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in North America meet every Memorial Day weekend for an annual conference:

  1. Dallas (2002)
  2. Chicago (2003)
  3. Minneapolis (2004)
  4. Los Angeles (2005)
  5. Dallas (2006)
  6. Chicago (2007)
  7. Minneapolis (2008)
  8. Los Angeles (2009)
  9. Houston (2010)
  10. Las Vegas (2011)
  11.  Chicago (2012)
  12. Dallas (2013)
  13. Minneapolis (2014)
  14. Las Vegas (2015)
  15. Houston (2016)
  16. Chicago (2017)
  17. Jacksonville (2018)

READ ALSO:

RAMADAN: How to reach Muslims with the Gospel?

May 15, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Over 1 billion Muslims around the world are now observing Ramadan, a month of fasting and reflection. While most adherents to Islam are spending their holiday on personal discipline and dedication, more extreme factions are using the time of year to call for violence against Christians.

Ruth Kramer of Mission Network News reports:

“During Ramadan, the jihadists are calling for holy war. They’re calling it kind of an obligatory act of worship. What you typically see during Ramadan is a real spike in the violence. On the day that Ramadan began, jihadists attacked a bus that was filled with Coptic Christians in Egypt and killed 29 of them; about half of those were children as young as two years old.”

In the face of such violence, as we’re bombarded by stories of increasing barbarism, how should the body of Christ respond?

“One of the biggest tools we have in our tool chest is prayer, and we just don’t know how to pray for Muslims, how to love Muslims, to come alongside them and say there is another way.”

“If we knew how to pray for Muslims, and we joined together in prayer, imagine what God could do through that.”

To help us learn to pray for our Muslim neighbors, Prayercast, a branch of OneWay Ministries, is hosting the Ramadan Prayer Challenge.

The campaign sends daily prayer notes directly to your smartphone, focusing on specific regions and concerns of Muslim people. They’re inviting Christians across the world to unite in prayer for the next month, to ask “with one voice that God would shatter the deception of Islam with the presence and truth of Jesus Christ.”

How to Evangelize a Muslim

  • The testimony of the Gospels provides the most reliable witness to Christ. Preach the Gospel as it is! Do not soft-pedal around biblical terminology to please Muslim hearers. Be clear about what you believe and why you believe it. Know the Scriptures well, and know the confessions and what exactly you believe (catechisms). The more you know about your faith, the easier it is to talk with Muslims.
  • There is no gospel in Islam. The Qur’an clearly contradicts the essence of biblical Christianity and rejects the triune nature of God, disfigures the biblical doctrines of the person of Christ and denies justification through faith on account of the work of Christ on the cross. While claiming to be the perpetual religion of nature and history, following in the footsteps of Christianity, it attempts to justify its claims by asserting that the Word of God, revealed in the New and Old Testament, is corrupted. Our apologetic discussion with Muslims should be to defend the Scriptures and prove that the Scriptures aren’t corrupt as Muslims claim. Our goal is to open up their minds a bit so that they can start reading the Gospels for an eyewitness or a companion of an eyewitness to the real Jesus.
  • Always ask them the classic evangelistic questions. ‘What about your salvation?’ ‘Can you be certain of this?’ ‘If you were to die, can you be certain you’d enter heaven at some point?’ Their response is always, “No, I couldn’t be certain, nor do I care.”
  • Most western missionaries are result oriented; instead you should be concerned about preaching the Gospel correctly (as it is). The essence of Muslim evangelism is accurate communication about sin and grace: simply and clearly. Talk about the law and the gospel, not about infralapsarianism and divine simplicity! Don’t compare the Bible with the Quran. That comes later!
  • Always remember that you are talking to Muslims. Avoid the use of Christian jargon. Speak about real sin, real guilt, real shed blood! Do not be ashamed to use Jesus’ direct and indirect titles clearly such as ‘Son of God’ ‘Lamb of God’ ‘New Adam’ ‘I AM – YAHWEH’ ‘Savior’ ‘Almighty God’.
  • Use tact and be charitable! Don’t talk about reprobation with a Muslim or a new convert who has just lost an unbelieving family member. Be kind and courteous! Many Muslims act and speak out of ignorance, not malice.
  • Be sensitive to their past – if they’ve had a bad experience with Christians, missionaries or churches, struggled with a particular sin etc., be understanding and compassionate! Muslims hate self-righteousness, and rightly so! Do not soft-pedal the law and the guilt of sin, but make sure they understand that you are a justified sinner, not a self-righteous “know it all” who is here to correct them!
  • Muslims will ask you many questions about your faith. Don’t feel like you have to answer all of their questions in one day. However, make sure they hear your answers to one or two questions clearly. Stick with the subject – don’t get sidetracked. When the conversation wanders, pull it back to center stage – the law and the gospel.
  • Muslims will ask you to comment on their faith. Don’t go there; they will not benefit from your criticism (or feigned approval) of other religions. Your job isn’t to debunk Islam but to give a clear witness to the truth of the Gospel. Instead of letting them drag you into the topic, turn the tables and ask them questions. Let them articulate their own understandings of the religious themes you are discussing; let what you communicate be the plain truth of Christian doctrines without enumerating how Islam is wrong.
  • The message of the Gospel offends Muslims. It is okay! Don’t worry! God will take care of the hearer. It is His message. Muslims will not convert to Christ if they are not offended by the message of the Gospel. Offend them by being very clear about the teachings of Christ!
  • Do not use any ‘Muslim friendly’ bible translations. ‘Muslims friendly’ bible translations are very deceptive! They are not true to the original Scriptures. Muslims see it as a form of deception by missionaries!
  • Muslim evangelism is not about winning an argument, but leading Muslims to Christ with the Gospel. Discussions may get heated and intense at times – that’s okay. But the purpose of Muslim evangelism is not to show why you are right and Islam is wrong. It is to communicate the truth of the gospel! The message is to be the offence! Not you!
  • When Muslims are apathetic about sin – use the law. When Muslims have doubts or are skeptical – use basic apologetic arguments. When Muslims express guilt for sin – present the Gospel.
  • Evangelism is about leading Muslims to Christ. Convincing non-Christians or Evangelicals that Reformed theology is true, falls under the heading of polemics. Don’t confuse the two.
  • When talking to Muslims stick with what all Christians hold in common wherever possible. Leave the internecine fighting among Christians aside when talking to Muslims. A Muslim will not care so much about differences between the Catholics and the Protestants or Lutherans and Baptists. Issues such as the exact meaning of the Lord’s Supper or methods of baptism should be addressed later, during discipleship!
  • Wherever possible, when talking to Muslims speak about Christianity as factually true – “Jesus did this,” “Jesus said this,” “people heard and saw him,” etc. Keep away from the subjective line of approach– “it works for me,” “this is how I feel about it,” this is my testimony.”
  • Before meeting with your Muslim friends pray for wisdom.
  • Muslims will respect the text you quote, but not your personal opinion. Trust in the power of God the Holy Spirit working through the word! Cite texts directly from the Scriptures with attribution. Jesus says, Paul says…. It will not help Muslims to hear your personal opinion on biblical issues. So, don’t say “I think,” or “it seems to me” or “I feel like…” Muslims interpret your thoughts, your take on things or your feelings as part of the corruption of the Bible.
  • Don’t rush things with Muslims. Just because a Muslim is not ready to trust in Christ after one encounter does not mean that effective evangelism has not taken place. Pre-evangelism is equally vital. You may plant, but someone else may have to water! Always remember that it is not us who convert the Muslims to Christ but God Himself (in His time)!
  • Remember that evangelism isn’t complete after you first present the Gospel message to a Muslim. Evangelism has to continue even after they repent and give their lives to Christ. They have to sit under the ministry of the Word. Evangelism of a Muslim is complete only after they are baptized, brought to the Lord’s Supper and sat under the preaching of the Word at church. In other words, evangelism never ends. Discipleship is evangelism.
  • Treat Muslims as objects of concern, not notches in your belt! Establish relationships and friendships with Muslims whenever and wherever possible.
  • Don’t forget that a prophet is without honor in his own home. The chances of Muslim converts leading their own unbelieving family members (or someone close to them) to Christ by themselves is remote. Encourage them as they give witness to what they have learned, but also pray for God to bring other people into the picture to help evangelize their families.
  • Don’t force things. If your Muslim friends balk, ridicule and otherwise are not interested, back off. Find another time and place. If after repeated attempts to communicate the gospel, and someone still shows an unwillingness to hear what you have to say, “shake the dust off your feet and move on to a new town!”
  • Be willing to get your Muslim friends the resources they need: be willing to provide them with a Bible (not just a New Testament), the right book to read, and certainly an invitation to your home and later an invitation to attend your church or to a Bible study, etc. Never ever use a Muslim friendly bible translation. These translations are a product of some western mission agencies without any support from the national churches who know their context best.
  • Pray for opportunities to evangelize Muslims. Make sure to let your Muslim friends know that you regularly attend a church. Do not disconnect your evangelism effort from the church. Pray for your church – that God would bless the preaching of his word, that he would bring Muslims into our midst, and that he would bless the church with growth.
  • You don’t have to become a practical Arminian to be a faithful evangelist! A Christian approach to Muslim evangelism simply means telling Muslims the truth in love without changing it. Trust that God the Holy Spirit will penetrate hearts and minds of Muslims with “the Gospel”
  • Muslims love to sing Islamic hymns that tell the stories of the Quran. Islamic hymn singing is singing the words of the Quran. Show your Muslim friends some samples of Christian biblical songs with verses directly taken from Scriptures. In other words, sing the Bible to them! The role of music in human culture is to join people together. Biblically we are commanded to sing the praises of Christ. There are 694 references to singing or music making in Holy Scriptures. Participatory singing is a very significant matter biblically. There will be no singing in Hell, but the saints in Heaven will sing everlastingly. That is really amazing and remarkable! Let us show Muslims what we will be doing in Heaven.
  • “Fear God and give Him Glory, because the hour of His judgment has come, and Worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Rev. 14:7)

Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in America (2017 Report)

May 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

bulgarian-church

CURRENTLY ACTIVE CHURCHES/CONGREGATIONS:

Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in Chicago (2017 Report)
Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in Texas (2017 Report)
Bulgarian Evangelical Churches – West Coast (2017 Report)

  • Los Angeles (occasional/outreach of the Foursquare Church – Mission Hills, CA)
  • Las Vegas (outreach of the Foursquare Church – http://lasvegaschurch.tv)
  • San Francisco (occasional/inactive since 2012, Berkeley University/Concord, CA)
  • Phoenix, Arizona

Bulgarian Evangelical Churches Canada (2017 Report)

  • Toronto (inactive since 2007)
  • Toronto/Slavic (active since 2009)
  • Montreal (occasional/inactive since 2012)

Atlanta (active since 1996)

CURRENTLY INACTIVE CHURCHES/CONGREGATIONS:

  • New York, NY (currently inactive)
  • Buffalo, NY  (occasional/inactive)
  • Jacksonville, FL  (occasional/inactive since 2014)
  • Ft. Lauderdale / Miami  (currently inactive)
  • Washington State, Seattle area (currently inactive)
  • Minneapolis, MN (occasional/inactive since 2015)

READ MORE:

The Unrealized Spiritual Harvest of Bulgarian Churches in North America

April 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, News

bulgarian-church ….A closer examination of the ministry and structure of the network of Bulgarian churches in North America will give answers to essential issues of cross-cultural evangelism and ministry for the Church of God. Unfortunately, until now very little has proven effective in exploring, pursuing and implementing cross-cultural paradigms within the ministry opportunities in communities formed by immigrants from post-Communist countries. As a result, these communities have remained untouched by the eldership and resources available within the Church of God denomination. There are presently no leaders trained by the Church of God for the needs of these migrant communities. Thus, a great urban harvest in large metropolises, where the Church of God has not been historically present in a strong way, remains ungathered. Although, through these communities, the Church of God has the unique opportunity to experience the post-Communist revival from Eastern Europe in a local Western setting… (p.84, Chapter III: Contextual Assessment, Historical Background, Structural Analyses and Demographics of Immigration in a Paradigm for Cross-Cultural Ministries among Migrant and Disfranchised Ethnic Groups in America Today) Read complete paper (PDF)

How to Start a Bulgarian Church in America from A-to-Z

Sanctuary Gateway Cities for Eastern European Slavic and Bulgarian Immigrant Churches in North America

April 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

bulgarian-churchSince 1994 Cup & Cross Ministries International has assisted churches across the United States and has strategically planned and developed a process which incorporates Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in North America. The first success of this endeavor was the establishment of the Bulgarian Evangelical Church of God in Chicago in 1995.

The Bulgarian Church of God in Chicago followed a rich century-long tradition, which began with the establishing of Bulgarian churches and missions in 1907. (read the history) Consecutively, our 1995 Church Starting Paradigm was successfully used in various studies and models in 2003. The program was continuously improved in the following decade, proposing an effective model for leading and managing growing Bulgarian churches.

Based on the Gateway cities in North America and their relations to the Bulgarian communities across the continent, it proposed a prognosis toward establishing Bulgarian churches (see it here) and outlined the perimeters of their processes and dynamics in the near future (read in detail). Since 1995 twelve more Bulgarian churches have been started in strategic immigration gateways across the United States and Canada. For the past four years our team have been involved in the process of establishing Bulgarian congregations in Atlanta, Phoenix and San Francisco. Read complete paper (PDF)

Toward Context of Ministry Applications
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.

It is encouraging, at the same time, to observer that one of the positive estimates provided by our doctoral project is also coming to reality. In 2002-2004, based on analyses provided by the New Religious Immigrants Project, our research suggested that the next Bulgarian Evangelical Church will be established in the last of the Seven American Gateway Cities which was still without a Bulgarian Church, namely the city of San Francisco. Our resent visit in the area of the Bay Area showed that this prediction is already progressing into a reality as the Bulgarian Diaspora there is already producing a Bible study group out of uniting Bulgarian college students from Barkley and young computer professionals in the area.

Geographical Location of Bulgarian American Churches and Gateway Cities.

Currently, Bulgarian Evangelical Churches are located in cities which have a high concentration of foreign-born immigrants. Such cities are called gateway cities, a large immigrant point-of-entry city to the United States. Immigrants typically enter the United States through one of these cities and settle there. Such cities contain over half of the foreign-born population in the United States. There are Bulgarian Evangelical Churches active in six of the seven gateway cities as follows:

Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in Gateway Cities

Gateway City Foreign Born Percent of Foreign Born Bulgarian Church
1. New York, NY 3,657,269 18.7% Yes
2. Los Angeles, CA 3,944,828 27.1% Yes
3. Houston, TX 460,380 12.3% Yes
4. Washington, DC 578,786 8.6% No
5. Miami, FL 1,072,843 33.6% Yes
6. Chicago, IL 914,58 11.1% Yes
7. San Francisco, CA 1,250,693 20.0% No

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Several facts are obvious from the above comparison. It is apparent that Bulgarian immigrants come to North America in ways similar to other immigrant groups, channeled through the listed gateway cities. Large cities which are gateways are more probable to become a settlement for Bulgarian immigrants due to the availability of jobs, 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 process of formation of Bulgarian immigrant communities, 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 the remaining two gateway cities (Washington, D.C. and San Francisco) and other large cities which meet the requirements to become a gateway city (for example, the city Atlanta). 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 this type of cities. With all this in mind, the Unrealized Spiritual Harvest of Bulgarian Churches in North America remains unforgiving in history…

 

Resources for Further Study:

 

 

 

Christmas Book Sale: Bulgarian Congregations in North America

December 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, News

In the past five years since 2011, we have authored over two dozen books related to our ministry and mission work in Eastern Europe. As several of the prints are now almost exhausted and second/third editions and several new titles are under way, we are releasing all currently available editions in a Christmas sale through the month of December. All titles are available at up to 30% off and Amazon offers free shipping and extra savings for bundle purchases.

Our book available on sale today is:

Bulgarian Churches in North America: The Unrealized Spiritual Harvest as a Paradigm for Cross-Cultural Ministries among Migrant and Disfranchised Ethnic Groups in America Today

bulgarian-church ….A closer examination of the ministry and structure of the network of Bulgarian churches in North America will give answers to essential issues of cross-cultural evangelism and ministry for the Church of God. Unfortunately, until now very little has proven effective in exploring, pursuing and implementing cross-cultural paradigms within the ministry opportunities in communities formed by immigrants from post-Communist countries. As a result, these communities have remained untouched by the eldership and resources available within the Church of God denomination. There are presently no leaders trained by the Church of God for the needs of these migrant communities. Thus, a great urban harvest in large metropolises, where the Church of God has not been historically present in a strong way, remains ungathered. Although, through these communities, the Church of God has the unique opportunity to experience the post-Communist revival from Eastern Europe in a local Western setting… (p.84, Chapter III: Contextual Assessment, Historical Background, Structural Analyses and Demographics of Immigration in a Paradigm for Cross-Cultural Ministries among Migrant and Disfranchised Ethnic Groups in America Today) Read complete paper (PDF)

How to Start a Bulgarian Church in America from A-to-Z

Make America PRAY Again

November 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Featured, News

make-america-pray-again

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