Dony K. Donev, Cup & Cross Ministries International
The following World Missions Series were sparked by a partial sign with the words “Missions Check,” we saw in Atlanta on our way to a mission’s trip to Europe just a weeks after the great tornado of 2011. We’ve observed the events that followed for over a year now, thus launching these series with a purpose. After serving in various ministry positions around the globe as a part of the Church of God for over 20 years, we have built a solid platform as a response to current problems and issues on the mission filed. In the past seven years alone, our ministry team has survived several consecutive denominational splits, and coming on the other side still preaching Jesus Christ and Him risen, this is what we have to state…
A people is a group owning a vision. Vision is what we do today in order to have a better tomorrow. Mission is the things we do to accomplish the vision. And if mission without a vision is blind, mission without a message is blind without a tongue. It feels and it hears, but it can never fully perceive and speak to be heard.
A mission is distinct by the method via which it brings its message. These three are ultimately and intrinsically connected. If mission is what we do, method is how we do it, then message is what we want people to know after we have done it…
But the method of bringing the message quite often changes the message itself. Thus changing, adapting and altering the ministry method must be done with careful consideration of the long-term shift they create not merely in our mission, but on our own Pentecostal identity as well. While adjustments may be needed in missions as the world around us changes, the message must remain the same at all cost. For who is the source and the ultimate agent of change, except the author of the message – God in whom there is no shadow of change?
A good number of churches in the 21st century are choosing to abandon their mission programs as dysfunctional and obsolete in order to follow a more corporate-based model of becoming mission-sending agencies and/or partners with such. While this may be financially and structurally beneficial, such paradigm cannot work for any Pentecostal church with local or global representation without changing forever its corporate identity.
At the same time, there is no need to restart or reset missions, for Mission Dei is not a circular, seasonal or repetitive process in human history. It is solemnly based on the ultimate, one-time event of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This salvific monument on the stage of eternity neither needs, nor will it ever repeat and recycle itself again into history. And it most certainly does not need our human participation to be reset into a new century. The only restarting that is ever needed is our own resubmission at the old rugged cross on Calvary.
Changing our missional structure to fit, the ever-changing world we live in, is a reaction, generally done post-factum if not too late. And any reaction is simply not leading, but following. Which bids the question, is the church leading in this world or is our mission being reduced to the needs of the current social system. For the Bible still calls us to be not conformed to this world, but transformed by the mind of Christ. To be not merely a culturally relevant church, but a Bible-based alternative culture in a sinful world.
The lesson of the contemporary and culturally relevant church should have been learned centuries ago by Byzantine Orthodoxy. For it is not the change of the world that affects the outcome of ministry, but the change of the church by transformation within. And it is there that the preservation of our cross-fixed, blood-washed, and power resurrected identity must remain constant and unchanging. Thus, we find simply irrelevant, any call for a culturally relevant church, which causes the change or yet even the loss of the message of eternal salvation.
We are just returning from a powerful weekend of teaching in Sofia. With temperatures below zero and snow covering the larger part of Bulgaria, we travelled to the capital city to minister at the Mission Church there. The church is only a couple of years old, but we have worked with the pastor and the leadership team for over a decade now as part of our Church of God ministry and the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association as well.
Since April, 2009 the Mission Church has had services in the heart of the Sofia metropolitan of some 2.5 million people living in it. The church started with a handful of folks and now has some 120 members in their regular meetings, a Bible school, home group program, arts program and a very powerful praise team and choir that have held several successful concerts already.
Our visit was connected with a series of lectures on New Testament interpretation at their Bible school and ministering in their Sunday service. Although the school has only 30 students, we felt a powerful presence during the lectures and were able to extend the material and connect on a more personal level with the students. Naturally, the Sunday service became a great continuation of what we had already completed with the students. During the first song of worship, a demon possessed man ran to the altars screaming and rolled on the ground, only to be delivered a few minutes later. Then, the preaching took the attention of the people in the congregation, followed by an alter service in which many rededicated their lives praying to God to bring them to a new spiritual level in their Christian walk. Along with the pastor and his family, we were blessed to observe the Word working within the people and changing their lives forever.
It is Missions week in Bulgaria following Thanksgiving. A time to meet with Bulgarian missionaries who travel abroad, discuss their needs and pray for the success of their respective ministries. Our Thanksgiving weekend involved a ministry team retreat in the Balkan Mountains as part of the education program initiated several months ago by our Bible School initiative for the Bulgarian Church of God. As usual, this event was dedicated to training young ministers and their teams and this time the focus of our meeting was missions. Ministry teams represented the Plovdiv, Yambol and Sliven regions. A missionary from Spain was also present for the training.
Keynote speaker of the event was the president of the Bulgarian Missionary Network (BMN), Rev. Ivo Shatrovsky, who shared his calling from God for missions and a personal vision for Bulgarian missions abroad. In his address, he presented several valuable lessons he has learned in his own missionary experience in the West Indies. Two workshops on the topics of Conflict Resolution and Structuring for Growth were further presented by our team. And while various activities were taking place in the midst of extensive discussions, sharing on the part of the missionaries and strategic planning for the future of the represented regions, the time of fellowship turned to a prayerful reflection on God’s calling upon our own lives.
For the mission of the church cannot exist apart from God. It is a calling, not merely a career. It is a cost, not simply a concern. It is a burden, not just a belief. Its focus is care and compassion. And yes, even in the 21st century, it still remains a Holy Ghost uttering, through which one remains blind for the world around until obeying to the vision of heaven (Acts 26:19) and begins seeing the world through the eyes of the Savior.
From ministering in the Ghetto, we traveled to the heart of the capital to preach at the First Assemblies of God in Sofia located in the downtown area of Sofia. This is the oldest Pentecostal church in town, which was established in the 1930s as a direct result of the Pentecostal revival which has swept through Bulgaria. Today, the church is pastured by Rev. Victor Virchev, who also currently serves as the President of the Bulgarian Pentecostal Union. In recent years, the old building was remodeled to create a modern ministry center which serves as headquarters of the Bulgarian Pentecostal Union in its partnership with the Assemblies of God and has become an important religious symbol of Sofia in its downtown location. We ministered in the main service on Sunday morning and were able to present Pastor Virchev with a copy of the revised Constantinople Bible, which our ministry published in the beginning of 2009.
The Gipsy ghetto of Phakulteta is located in the northeast side of the capital Sofia with a population of some 120,000 people, which makes it larger than the average Bulgarian town. It comprises a substantial part of the population of Sofia, which now numbers over two million people. In recent years, Phakulteta has been a place of ethnic tensions produced in the middle of extreme poverty and the war of local crime clans which rule the area.
There, we have focused our ministry efforts in the past several years through regular preaching, prayer meetings, and leadership seminars for pastors, youth rallies and music fests. As many have noticed in the recent months while we have ministered at the Life Church of God in the Sofia gipsy ghetto, the extremeness of the context in which we minister there and the deep needs of the people, often draw the attention of God with powerful anointing and supernatural miracles. However, this last service was so powerful in the Spirit that it put all present on their knees for prayer in the alter service which followed the message. We were able to broadcast live the event and we are grateful that video recorded from the service can be now watched by many showing the heavy presence of the Holy Spirit, which no words can truly describe. We are scheduled to return to Philpovtsy soon for a series of revival services, which will reunite the local churches in a regional seminar on Last Day Prophecy.
It is always a delight to return to the city of Samokov near Sofia and minister there. Recent developments have dictated that two Church of God congregation in near-by locations minister to over 3,000 Spirit filled members from the gipsy ethnos in the area. The growth is so tremendous, that one of the congregations have baptized in water 207 people last month alone. The other congregation is led by the national overseer of the Bulgarian Church of God, Pastor Alexander Todorov. We ministered in Samokov on the subject: 20 Signs of the Last Days and were also able to schedule other ministry appointments with the churches in the area. The regional leadership seminar was also discussed for a
time convenient for all pastors in the region, as it has been in the plans for sometime now due to our ongoing ministry in other areas of the country. It is our heartily desire that this ministry event combined with the prayers of the saints will result in the union of the Spirit-filled believers in the city of Samokov producing a mighty wave of revival in the lives of the people which will change the spiritual landscape of this area forever.