110 Years Ago the First Bulgarian Mission in Chicago was Started

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

bulgarian-churchIn May 1907, sponsored by the Chicago Tract Society, Petko Vasilev opened the Bulgarian Christian House in Chicago. The facilities had beds and a kitchen and served as a hotel and a shelter for new immigrants. In 1908, the name was changed to Bulgarian Christian Society and later was relocated several times.

A second similar work was started at the same time by Daniel Protoff called the Russian Christian Mission. Located in Chicago, it supported church services and a Bible school. In 1909, the City Missionary Society called Basil Keusseff to lead the mission. Keusseff was a Bulgarian born minister who was converted in Romania and was a graduate of the school in Samokov and Cliff College in Sheffield, England. In the 1890s, Keusseff pastored the Baptist church in Lom and then moved to Pittsburgh where he worked with Robert Bamber, pastor of the Turtle Creek Christian Church. The mission ministered to Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian and Turkish minorities.

Around 1910, the ministry of the Bulgarian Christian Society was aided by Reverend Paul Mishkoff, a student at Moody Bible Institute. Coming from a poor but strong Protestant family, Mishkoff was called to preach at a very early age. He studied in the school at Samokov and was often sent to preach in the nearby villages. After finishing the school, Mishkoff decided to come and study at the Moody Bible Institute. He was helped by a Methodist missionary who gave him four dollars – the price of a third-class ticket from Sofia to New York where he was put on the immigrant’s train to Chicago. He was denied admission to Moody with the explanation that there was neither room nor funds for him. With no job and no money, the young preacher had to find food at the saloons where it was offered free for ones who drank. During his struggles, Mishkoff had lost all his possessions except a pocket size New Testament. In his personal story, he recalled, “But I had the copy of the Bulgarian Testament in my pocket not only to keep it, but to read it when I was sitting on the benches of the Union Station and other public places night after night. My soul was wakened anew. An ambition was roused in me: I must prepare myself for a preacher any way.” Through a financial miracle, Mishkoff was eventually able to graduate from the Moody Bible Institute. During the course of his studies, he was supported by Chicago Tract Society and he was able to minister to the 5,000 Bulgarians living in Chicago.

Also in 1910, the Bulgarian Christian Society established a library which served the Bulgarian community for over twenty years. The congregation of the mission numbered about fifty. The ministry included English classes and immigration law seminars. Several changes in the leadership of the mission began in 1921. In 1924, the mission was headed by Zaprian Vidoloff and the mission was renamed the Bulgarian Christian Mission. Vidoloff was a graduate of the Samokov School in 1910, a student of philosophy at the University of Sofia and a graduate of Union Theological College in Chicago. He entered pastoral ministry in 1915 and later served as the secretary of the Baptist Union. At the same time, he was secretary of the Bulgarian legation in Washington, D.C. from 1921 to 1923.

All Bulgarian religious organizations initiated by evangelicals before 1930 existed as missions. In February 1932, the First Bulgarian Church pastored by Joseph Hristov was started in Chicago.

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

The Forgotten Azusa Street Mission: The Place where the First Pentecostals Met

April 15, 2016 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

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By Cecil M. Robeck, Jr.

For years, the building on Azusa Street has also been an enigma. Most people are familiar with the same three or four photographs that have been published and republished through the years. They show a rectangular, boxy, wood frame structure that was 40 feet by 60 feet and desperately in need of repair. Seymour began his meetings in the Mission on April 15, 1906. A work crew set up a pulpit made from a wooden box used for shipping shoes from the manufacturer to stores. The pulpit sat in the center of the room. A piece of cotton cloth covered its top. Osterberg built an altar with donated lumber that ran between two chairs. Space was left open for seekers. Bartleman sketched seating as nothing more than a few long planks set on nail kegs and a ragtag collection of old chairs.

What the new sources have revealed about the Mission, however, is fascinating. The people worshiped on the ground level — a dirt floor, on which straw and sawdust were scattered. The walls were never finished, but the people whitewashed the rough-cut lumber. Near the door hung a mailbox into which tithes and offerings were placed since they did not take offerings at the Mission. A sign greeted visitors with vivid green letters. It read “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin” (Daniel 5:25, kjv), with its Ns written backwards and its Ss upside down. Men hung their hats on exposed overhead rafters where a single row of incandescent lights ran the length of the room.

These sources also reveal that the atmosphere within this crude building — without insulation or air conditioning, and teeming with perspiring bodies — was rank at best. As one writer put it, “It was necessary to stick one’s nose under the benches to get a breath of air.”
Several announced that the meetings were plagued by flies. “Swarms of flies,” wrote one reporter, “attracted by the vitiated atmosphere, buzzed throughout the room, and it was a continual fight for protection.”

A series of maps drawn by the Sanborn Insurance Company give a clear picture of the neighborhood. The 1888 map discloses that Azusa Street was originally Old Second Street. The street was never more than one block in length. It ended at a street paving company with piles of coal, along with heavy equipment. A small house, marked on the map by a “D” for domicile, sat on the front of the property with the address of 87. (See highlighted section.) A marble works business specializing in tombstones stood on the southeast corner of Azusa Street and San Pedro. Orange and grapefruit orchards surrounded the property. On the right of the map a Southern Pacific railroad spur is clearly visible. The City Directory indicates that the neighborhood was predominantly Jewish, though other names were mixed among them.

A second map of the property was published in 1894. Old Second Street had become Azusa Street, and the address had been changed to 312. The house had been moved further back on the property where it served as a parsonage. The dominant building at 312 Azusa Street was the Stevens African Methodist Episcopal Church. At the front of the building a series of tiny parallel lines on the map mark a staircase that stood at the north end of the building providing entry to the second floor, the original sanctuary.

The only known photograph of the church from this period shows three interesting features. First, it shows the original staircase. Second, and less obvious, the original roofline had a steep pitch. Third, three gothic style windows with tracery lines adorned the front wall.

By 1894, the citrus groves had largely disappeared. On the southern side they were replaced by lawn. The smell of orange blossoms and the serenity of the orchard were rapidly being replaced by the banging of railroad cars and the smell of new lumber. A growing number of boarding houses and small businesses, including canneries and laundries, were moving into the immediate area by this time. The property marked “YARD” on the map is the beginning of the lumberyard that soon came to dominate the area. The City Directory reveals fewer Jewish names, and more racial and ethnic diversity in the neighborhood, including African Americans, Germans, Scandinavians, and Japanese.

Stevens AME Church occupied the building at 312 Azusa Street until February 1904 when the congregation dedicated a new brick facility at the corner of 8th and Towne and changed their name to First AME Church. Before the congregation could decide what to do with the property on Azusa Street, however, an arsonist set the vacant church building on fire. The structure was greatly weakened, and the roof was completely destroyed. The congregation decided to turn the building into a tenement house. They subdivided the former second-floor sanctuary into several rooms separated by a long hallway that ran the length of the building. The stairs were removed from the front of the building and a rear stairwell was constructed, leaving the original entry hanging in space. The lower level was used to house horses and to store building supplies, including lumber and nails.

In 1906, a new Sanborn Map was published. (See 1906 map.) The building was marked with the words “Lodgings 2nd, Hall 1st, CHEAP.” The transition of the neighborhood had continued. The marble work still occupied the southeast corner of Azusa Street and San Pedro, but a livery and feed supply store now dominated the northeast corner. A growing lumberyard to the south and east of the property now replaced the once sprawling lawn. A Southern Pacific railroad spur curved through the lumberyard to service this business.

The Apostolic Faith, the newspaper of the Azusa Street Mission between September 1906 and June 1908, later referred to the nearby Russian community. Many of these recent immigrants were employed in the lumberyard. They were not Russian Orthodox Christians as one might guess; they were Molokans — “Milk drinkers.” This group had been influenced by some of the 16th-century Reformers. They did not accept the dairy fasts of the Orthodox Church. They were Trinitarians who strongly believed in the ongoing guidance of the Holy Spirit. Demos Shakarian, grandfather of the founder of Full Gospel Business Men’s International, was among these immigrants who were led to Los Angeles through a prophetic word given in 1855.

Henry McGowan, later an Assemblies of God pastor in Pasadena, was a member of the Holiness Church at the time. He was employed as a teamster. He timed his arrival at the nearby lumberyard so he could visit the Mission during its afternoon services.

This map suggests why some viewed the Mission as being in a slum. A better description would be an area of developing light industry.

In April 1906, when the people who had been meeting at the house at 214 North Bonnie Brae Street were forced to move, they found the building at 312 Azusa Street was for sale. The photograph below taken about the time that the congregation chose to move into the building shows the “For Sale” sign posted high on the east wall of the building, as well as the rear of the tombstone shop. Seymour, pastor of the Azusa Street Mission, and a few trusted friends met with the pastor of First AME Church and negotiated a lease for $8 a month.

An early photograph reveals what the 1906 version of the map indicates. The pitched roof had not been replaced. The building had a flat roof. The staircase that had stood at the front of the building had been removed.

In a sense, this building suited the Azusa Street faithful. They were not accustomed to luxury. They were willing to meet in the stable portion of the building. The upstairs could be used for prayer rooms, church offices, and a home for Pastor Seymour.

Articles of incorporation were filed with the state of California on March 9, 1907, and amended May 19, 1914. The church negotiated the purchase of the property for $15,000 with $4,000 down. It was given the necessary cash to retire the mortgage in 1908. The sale was recorded by the County of Los Angeles on April 12, 1908.

1888_MapA 1894 map 1906 map

95 Years Ago Voronaev Set Sail on a Pentecostal Mission to Europe

July 15, 2015 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, Missions, News

51Sa1IcA8OL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_[1]Rev. Ivan Voronaev’s last letter to Assemblies of God headquarters in Springfield, Missouri was received by Rev. J. Roswell Flower on June 22, 1920 and was marked “He plans to return to Russia.” The letter outlined Voronaev’s six-point mission strategy:

  1. he was leaving with his family and some brothers from New York to Russia on July 13, 1920 on the steamboat “Madonna”
  2. Voronaev trusted the Lord for the finances necessary to complete the mission
  3. First Russian Assembly of New York was poor and unable to meet the ministry expenses
  4. Voronaev was unable to get in touch with Assemblies of God missionaries Johnson and Schmidt
  5. but planned to preach in Russia
  6. finally, the group had decided to purchase Russian Bibles and New Testaments in New York to take to Russia.

The group included the families of Voronaev, Zaplishny, Koltovich, along with V. Klibik and N. Kardanov from Ossetia. They could only purchase tickets for the deck, which proposed problems for the children during the cold ocean nights. According to Voronaev’s later records, the group set sail from New York on July 15, 1920 (thou Martha C. Zaplishny- Jackson recalls July 8th or 17th in various statements). The only standing proof for the exact departure date is the ship’s records with the French Fabre Line.

Madonna sailed via Marseille in France and Naples, Italy. The group’s trip to Europe included a stop in Greece before reaching Constantinople on August 10, 1920. Both Voronaev and Zaplishny’s children have pictures from visiting “several other Balkan countries,” thou not well documented and quite improbable. Consecutively, when the Zaplishny family had to flee Bulgaria in 1924, they used the same route taking a train to Cherbourg, France and then a boat to New York’s Ellis Island.

Through all these difficulties, Voronaev reached Bulgaria by the end of 1920 and Odessa in the U.S.S.R by August 12, 1921. The movements his mission started from Varna to Vladivostock were Pentecostal pioneers for this part of the Old World. By the time Voronaev was arrested in 1930, over 400 Pentecostal churches with 20,000 members strong were started by his ministry throughout Eastern Europe.

Read about the legacy of Ivan Voronaev:

More about the Voronaev’s children:

Ivan Voronaev in the historical archives:

X Youth Event Reunion

September 1, 2014 by  
Filed under Events, News

downloadX 7.7.7 @ Black Sea http://cupandcross.com/x-youth-event-at-the-black-sea-2/

X 8.8.8 @ the Heart of Bulgaria http://cupandcross.com/x-2008-in-the-heart-of-bulgaria-a-new-level-of-ministry/

X 9.9.9 @ Gipsy Ghetto of Samokov http://cupandcross.com/2009-x-event-transforming-the-status-quo-2/

X 10.10.10 @ Cyprus http://cupandcross.com/x-10-10-10-cyprus-reflection/

X 11.11.11 @ Chicago http://cupandcross.com/x-11-11-11-youth-event-afterglow/

X 12.12.12 @ End Time Revival http://cupandcross.com/12-12-12-revival-at-the-end-of-the-world/

 

Mission as Transformation

July 1, 2014 by  
Filed under Featured, News

missionMission as Transformation is a collection of essays by leading mission experts, which challenges the Christian community to view more seriously its participation in the processes of social transformation. The book defines the term “transformation” as holistic or integral mission. The term also denotes change in one’s condition in order to receive fully the life God has intended. The Kingdom of God is viewed as a fundamental structure and system in the above process.

The book overviews important publications and thought developments over the past 30 years in reference to the subject of mission as transformation. It begins with a number of key issues starting with theological foundations (Part 1) and missiological dynamics related to social transformation (Part 2). The last are viewed in their relation to transformation and evangelism in the context of modernity, which come as a surprise in regard to the date of publication (1999). Part 3 deals extensively with praxis and their effect as factors within the transformational dynamics and processes. Several among the discussions are noticeable as follows:

(1) Suffering and the Cross
The climax of Christ’s mission was the cross. His suffering was due to a preexisting conflict which was resolved though His sacrifice, a transformational statement that included justice and restoration. The Church is also called to engage in the struggle for justice and social equilibrium, which is not only its earthly mission, but part of its eschatological hope as well. The sign of social change is then, not so much, the coming city, but the cross outside the gates. The involvement of the individual believer and the church as a corporate body in suffering on behalf of the oppressed is not viewed by God as failure. On the contrary, it is a transformation that changes both the world and the church after the image of Christ.

(2) The Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God is God’s redemption for humankind. It is His redemptive participation in human history through which all people are challenged to repent and live life of participating in the Kingdom business, while the Kingdom remains an already-not-yet reality. This reality gives a new status to every believer, who is transformed after the image of Christ, in order to participate in His Kingdom. In this sense, the Kingdom is not a personal Kingdom or personal transformation alone, but it is community which God creates for all with the purpose of being inclusive toward all.

The discussion on the Kingdom of God implies partnership with non-Christians which in holiness circles may be viewed as inappropriate. Kingdom values are to replace worldly values to indicate the influence of the Kingdom. Certain guidelines of cooperation then must be drawn in order that any partnership of such kind does not radically change the identity of the church negatively, but rather serves as a positive transformational factor for all participating Christians and non-Christians.

(3) Identity
The Christian identity is such a guideline itself. The impartation of Christ-like identity is a supernatural process which empowers the believer to participate in the greater purpose of God for the universe. Identity is provided by the Gospel and is the fundamental principle for Christian involvement in any processes of social transformation.

(4) Politics
The discussion is brought to the participation of Christians in politics as a part of Christian involvement in social transformation. Among Pentecostals this subject has been a taboo topic since the very beginning of the movement. The text, however, argues that as the suffering of Christ was not passive, He set a model for a radical political action. The Kingdom of God was the central idea of Christ preaching through which He proclaimed the reign of God as a King. This was done in the context of the Roman empire combined with Jewish aristocracy expressed in a political and religious system of class oppression which Christ challenged through His teaching, life, death and resurrection thus proving their temporality and creating an anti-culture against the oppression of the poor and the week. Christian politics in this sense are prophetic, proclamation of the Kingdom and eschatology.

(5) Eschatology
Christian eschatology is perhaps the most important theological factor, which determines the attitude of the community of believers toward the subject of social transformation. Eschatology deals with the future and the end of the era, but also with the end of history and the fulfillment of its goal. Historically, protestant eschatology is amillennial, at least in the era from Augustine through the Reformers. Post-reformation eschatology receives a more postmillennial aspect which affirms Christian positivism for the future. Postmillenarianism presupposed and resulted in a more extensive participation of believers in the political scene.

However, through the 19th and 20th centuries, premillenarianism became the major eschatological view among Protestants. As a result, a major reversal in theology of politics, from Calvinistic theology of politics which sees them as advancing the Kingdom of God, to a more pietistic theology of politics was observed. Saving souls became a priority before saving societies, thus promoting a pessimistic eschatological view. Such was taken by most missionaries of the 19th and 20th century whose ministries originated in the mission efforts of premillennial congregations and denominations.

Apparently, pessimistic eschatology has hurt the major premillennial wing of protestant churches, among which are Pentecostals. They must seriously reconsider their abstinence from issues of political tension, social injustice, since the lack of participation in the last has formatted their role in the dynamics of social formation and reformation. On the other hand, their critics may review the claim of premillennial eschatology as pessimistic. This is due to the fact that while premillennial theology may refuse a view of a better world here and now, it most certainly expects such one with the future return of Christ. Therefore, while such theology may be pessimistic in its earthly sense, it is most certainly optimistic in its Heavenly, eschatological sense. In other words, for premillennial believers the optimism of the end-times lies in the parousia. The tension of the already-not-yet Kingdom proves such a view and explains the Kingdom tensions of the now and the future which premillennial eschatology often presents. Such a view is both Biblical and practical. It further well balances both Christian passivism (often confirmed through piety) and activism, which should result in social concern and action. In the beginning of the 21st century, the last has become a central topic of premillennial eschatology which has resulted in its more extensive, practical implementation.

Pray for our Chaplains on Mission

March 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Featured, News

chaplaincy-in-bulgariaPray for our Bulgarian chaplains who were recently deployed on their next mission in the Middle East. We are not at liberty to publicize their names or current location, but we can mention that they have been a part of our Masters of Chaplaincy Ministry Program now affiliated with the New Bulgarian University (NBU). In the past three years they have successfully undergone the chaplaincy training by Maj. General C. Buckingham, USA (ret), Chaplain Col. R. Young of the IAEC and Dr. J. Ellis of Union University as part of our masters program. We are continuing to pray that they come home safely after their mission and be able to participate in the commencement graduation ceremony with their cohort from this year’s class.

Restoration of Chaplain Ministry in Bulgaria
Since 1995, Cup and Cross Ministries International has worked toward a vision of the establishment of a Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association – an organization that incorporates pastoral care to prisons, military, police and hospitals. Our outreaches have been able to provide pastoral care and social services to the needy in a time of severe economic crises and political tensions. Our presence has been an answer for people in need for both physical and spiritual support. In the beginning of the 21st century, we are witnesses of a miracle as this vision comes into reality. Today, police and military officers participate in services led by the same ministers and pastors who once, during communism, they were ordered to arrest for the preaching of the Gospel.

History of Events
In September of 1944 the Communist revolution took over Bulgaria. All prior Protestant activates were outlawed. Pastors and ministers were imprisoned. Some were brutally executed. Any attempt for ministry in public was equal to a death sentence. The church went underground for 45 years until the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and a Holy Ghost revival swept through the country. In the summer of 2000 the Bulgarian Church of God organized a chaplaincy seminar in the Military School in Veliko Turnovo. This was done with the partnership of NATO’s head chaplain along with the representative of the Orthodox Church in Bulgaria, the director of the school under the patronage of the vice-president of Bulgaria Mr. Kavaldjiev. More than 250 officers, spiritual leaders and civil representatives participated. The goal of the seminar was to awaken the interest of the community and appeal for changes in the Bulgarian constitution, which would guarantee the freedom of military personnel to access the chaplain’s services and care.

The Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association
In February of 2002 a chaplaincy seminar, organized along with the Church of God Chaplains Commission, was held in the National Palace of Culture in Sofia. More than 60 pastors, chaplains, students and church workers from different denominations attended. These were people actively involved in military, hospital and prison ministries. The seminar was a stepping-stone for the development of the chaplaincy ministry in Bulgaria. It served as a beginning point of the structural development of the department of chaplaincy and caregivers in the Bulgarian Church of God and facilitated to the establishment of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association of which Cup & Cross Ministries became a charter member.

Transforming Mission

September 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

bosch[1]Transforming Mission is a book about missions. The text is not merely a theoretical proposal but rather a detailed historical and theological overview of Biblical missions which results in a new paradigm. In the light of the book, the title means both transforming the present mission model toward a new successful paradigm and the way mission becomes a transformational factor for the community of all believers.

The book begins with a Biblical overview from a historical perspective, as the author examines the development of Biblical missions throughout the Old and New Testaments. A special attention is given to the Luke–Acts writings and the Pauline epistles. In the review of the Pauline mission strategy, Bosch points Paul’s interest to large cities of main importance. Although, the apostle does work in rural areas his main priority remains large cities with sufficient gathering areas where the Gospel can be quickly and more efficiently spread. Such model is supported by a realized eschatology and clear understanding of the quick and eminent return of the Lord. Paul redefines his mission strategy on the basis of this context to purposefully invest more time and effort in metropolises and crowds where the results of his ministry will be more efficient.

The author notes the success of the early church missions, as he points out that regardless of the Jewish rejection of Jesus, thousands of Jews throughout Israel were saved in a short period as a result of the mission of the Early Church. This success is evident from the Scriptures, for the period of time even before the mission was extended to the Gentiles. As the spread of the gospel continued, Bosch writes the mission of the early church extended to the borders of the known Biblical world.

The text examines the relationship between personal crisis and mission effectiveness of the Early Church. Repentance, forgiveness of sins and salvation were represented as personal crisis in the message of the early church, which was focused on the immediate conversion of the human soul. Such focus on the individual experience of the believer remains a focal point for the Biblical paradigm of missions. Unfortunately, this focus was lost as the church took a more non-crisis model of personal transformation in the centuries to follow. This brings the research to its second major part, which is an overview of the church history beyond the third century.

The book continues with a historical overview of church history in six epochs. The focus remains on the theology of missions and its transformation, since the beginning of this part of the research deals with the Eastern Church and culture after the Edict of Constantine. Bosch claims that the church was not a bearer of culture until put in a context of Empirial religious organization which actually was a merger between state and church. Elements of primitive eschatology virtually disappeared from the church. Moving toward the apologetics period of church history, the author properly notes the change within the eschatological view of the church form eminent-apocalyptic return of Christ to a kingdom-on-earth mentality.

The foundation of this trend is in the exchange of a crisis-repentance experience with the gradual spiritual elevation of the human soul (pneumatikoi). This idea stayed strong within the church through the next centuries of history and produced definite religious movements toward indulgencies as early as the Martyrdom of Polycarp where we read about “purchasing at the cost of one hour release from eternal punishment.” It is understandable that in such context missions receive a much different outlook. The medieval ages confirmed the indulgency practices with such vigor that they became a prime mission focus. Their influence was so strong that even after the Protestant Reformation had long-dealt with indulgent practices, mission was hard to fit in the paradigm of the church. Bosch confirms that it was not until the Wake of the Enlightenment that missions received the attention which they deserved in a church context. However, his overview of that era is quickly passed through modernity and is contradicted with the entering of postmodernity and its effect on modern-day culture. This is followed by an in-depth study of the elements of mission and their present-day application in various mission paradigms and concludes with a rather ecumenical model of missions.

Mission Applications: Mission to Post Communist Communities
In a transformation from post communism to postmodernism, the role of the church is definite. The church is a spiritual agent in transforming cultural. Our ministry in Bulgaria for the past 15 years has followed this mission model in the establishment and development of a network with over 15 churches. This process has been accompanied by definite vision expectations and strong leadership training, which have become the plus-side of our ministry in the Bulgarian context of constant insecurity. Our ministry team has benefited from the implementation of David J. Hesselgrave from Planting Churches Cross-Culturally following the “Pauline Cycle of Missions” (Table 1):

Table 1: Pauline Cycle of Missions, Event First Cycle Second Cycle
(1) Missionaries Commissioned Acts 13:1-4; 15:39, 40
(2) Audience Contacted Acts 13:14-16; 14:1; 16:13-15; 19:4, 9, 10
(3) Gospel Communicated Acts 13:17ff.; 16:31; 19:4, 9-10
(4) Hearers Converted Acts 13:48; 16:14, 15; 19:5, 18
(5) Believers Congregated Acts 13:43; 19:9, 10
(6) Faith Confirmed Acts 14:21, 22; 15:41; 20:20, 27
(7) Leadership Consecrated Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; 1Tim.1:3-4
(8) Believers Commended Acts 14:23; 16:40; 20:1, 25, 32
(9) Relationships Continued Acts 15:36; 18:23; 20:17; Eph.1:1-16
(10) Sending Churches Convened Acts 14:26, 27; 15:1-4

In the general Bulgarian context, there are claims today that the Bulgarian Pentecostals have pessimistic eschatology which doesn’t allow them to envision their ministry as a transformation of society. Such accusations come from small “reformed” groups who regardless of a limited presence during the years of the Communist Regime and virtually no mission attempts toward Bulgaria today claim to be the historical heritage of the Bulgarian Protestantism. Their main concern is that Pentecostalism, as the largest wing of the Bulgarian Protestantism, has pessimistic eschatology and no social or cultural attempt to transform Bulgaria because of the lack of a plan for economical transformation and participation politics.

This, however, is hardly the case, since the Bulgarian Pentecostal movement has gained a significant level of influence within the Bulgarian community in the past 15 years. Although representing roughly 1% of the Bulgarian population with a little over 100,000 member’s the Pentecostal movement has been present in the political life of the country with National Assemblies representatives and a political party (Bulgarian Christian Coalition) established in 1997. The government connection has continued with the numerous times Pentecostal churches and leaders have used their connection outside Bulgaria to assist with social challenges with social groups like disabled, orphans and retired. The social work of the Pentecostal moment has become well known throughout the Bulgarian towns and villages, as Pentecostal social centers are often the last and only resort for those social groups. The Pentecostal efforts toward social centers have inevitably assisted the Bulgarian economy in the area of social work which are now untouchable due to the severe economical crises which followed the fall of Communism.

Other minority groups have also been touched by Pentecostal ministry as the largest Gipsy Christian churches in Europe are only in Bulgaria. Women in ministry have been a constant phenomenon within Bulgarian Pentecostalism ever since its beginnings in the 1920s. The Bulgarian Pentecostals have always stood against racial and ethnical discrimination against Gypsies, Jews, Pomaks, and immigrants. Christian television, radio and other media in major cities are all initiated by Pentecostals who are responsible for the survival, rediscovery and reclaiming of the true Bulgarian Protestant identity. The 1990 Pentecostal revival in Bulgaria went well beyond the boundaries of social transformation and is playing a major role in the democratization of Bulgaria.

Mission of God Study Bible Review

July 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

Comments Off on Mission of God Study Bible Review

MissionOfGodSB_post[1]

Several months ago, our team undertook the task of comparing and reviewing a growing number of Study Bibles appearing on the book market recently in what we called a 21st century Revival of Study Bibles. This article is part of our Study Bibles review series as outlined here: http://cupandcross.com/bible-revival/

The Mission of God Study Bible is edited by Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation containing essays and commentaries by over 50 contributors among whom Billy Graham and Jack Hayford. Significant place is given to quotes from Francis Dubose’s 1983 book, God Who Sends. The primary purpose is to introduce a Missional Manifesto to the church of the 21st century. Beside book introductions, essays and cross-reference annotations, it promotes ideas from the Bible as QR Codes, Text Messages and Notes from God using the Holman Christian Standard Bible text as a foundation.

The initial commentary introduces God’s mission in creating the world and the divine plan to reconnect with His creation into a promise of an eternal land. The passages of our usual consideration (Numbers ch.6 and Jeremiah ch.18) are not particularly commented; however, the introduction to Numbers begins with a beautiful analogy of how serious God takes His mission leading the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness. The notes on Jeremiah also contain Glenn Barth’s Dwelling and Working for God in the City.

Although not written by primarily Pentecostal authors, the commentary on Acts includes a very charismatic key to revival through making disciples using: (1) empowerment, (2) education and (3) evolving. This process is described as inclusive and hospitable to all in two articles on the Gentile conversion in Acts 10. The mission of the Christian ministry is enriched by the Gifts of the Spirit annotated personally by Ed Stetzer in 1 Corinthians 14 through the source, search and sovereignty of spirituality. But it is also inseparable from the marketplace as described in connection with the Corinthian church Acts ch.18.

The Pneumatological and ministry related commentaries connect well with the urgency of musicological eschatology starting with the phrase “In the Spirit” (Revelation 4:2). The notes conclude with another article with an urban theme on the Heavenly City. The eschatological mission in Revelation is explained as “Refocusing and Renewing the Church.” An article about missionary to China, Hudson Taylor is placed next to the story of the two witnesses, expressing the eschatological urgency to reach the whole world with the Gospel. This coincides with two commentaries on the Great Commission in Matthew 28, “The Mission of God and the Mission in the Church” and “Go Therefore.”

Overall a great missional tool with over 150 commentary notes and articles begins with the Missional Manifesto and concluding with the “Letters to the Church” from elder statesmen like Billy Graham, Jack Hayford, R. T. Kendall, Erwin Lutzer, Calvin Miller, and R.C. Sproul.

Called & Empowered

July 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, News

calledCalled & Empowered is a collection of essays that addresses a number of critical post-modern issues. The main purpose of the book is to introduce and answer problematic questions related to church and culture. A great addition is the compilation of in-depth cultural studies and recent theological developments viewed in Christian context. What made the book interesting for me personally was the presence of a number of well-balanced critical perspectives which were presented from different viewpoints. Because they were combined with different cultural factors, they were helpful in understanding the Global Mission of Pentecostalism. The supportive evidence focused on the Kingdom, culture, social formation and unity.

On the Kingdom of God
During the latter part of the twentieth century, the doctrine of the Kingdom of God was of great concern for many theologians and missiologists. In my short educational experience, I have been introduced to a number of works on the subject, some of which were quite controversial. However, it has been interesting to read about the Kingdom strategy of Jesus, along with the development of the Kingdom theology in the context of third world praxis. It seems that in both cases, it is reasonable to accept the fact that since the Kingdom of God was a prime concern in the ministry of Jesus, as well as in the ministry of John the Baptist and the apostles, it should carry the same importance in our Christian life and activities. Unfortunately, this may not be the observed reality in Christianity today. However, traditionally and historically, Pentecostal Christians have always focused on the Kingdom of God. A very particular example in this case is the already-not-yet proposal, which is directly associated with Kingdom theology.

On Gospel and Culture
This particular division in Called and Empowered has a very important discussion on the urbanization of the Pentecostal mission. Historically, Pentecostal revivals do not begin in huge urban centers and do not focus or attract them. It seems that such revivals occur mainly among people who are neither highly educated, nor economically prosperous. Also they do not occupy a high rank in the social hierarchy. It is only after they have had a period of successful existence as aggressively growing religious organizations that the Pentecostal Churches and ministries start aiming at the great cultural, economical and political urban centers. Such progressive development is evident in the Bible. Undeniably, the first move of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 was among uneducated people such as fishermen and tax collectors. Similar concern was expressed by Gentiles present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. Nevertheless, shortly thereafter the Gospel was preached before kings, politicians, governors and military leaders. Therefore, what Pentecostalism rediscovers today is not a new blending of culture and Gospel, but rather a reclamation of the continuity of historical inheritance.

On Pentecostal Response to Marxism
A very good point was made by Dr. Kuzmic in his exposition on Marxism in relation to the existence of Pentecostalism. It is always quite disturbing when a parallel between Marx’s socialism and Christianity is being made. In Eastern Europe however, this idea is not as neoteric as proposed by some Western writers. In the early twentieth century Nikolay Berdyaev, one of the most prominent socialist writers, introduced what is considered probably the first comparison between Christianity and Marxism. The similarities are many: common wealth, economical and social balance, peace, brotherhood, ect. Also, communism in many ways imitates Christianity. Good examples are the establishment of the social and economical infrastructure of cultural communes, work unions and agricultural cooperatives which have common assets. A similar example is the almost “religious” dedication required by the Communist Party.

What is missed, however, is the simple fact that Marxism, different from Christianity, lacks God. As Dr. Kuzmic points out, Marx hated all gods, including Christ. Therefore, there is no room for comparison. If Communism is Christianity without Christ, it then stands far away from the whole idea of the existence of Christianity. This was shown through the enormous failure of communism in Eastern Europe. Since Dr. Kuzmic has personally experienced all of the above, his exposition on Marxism in relation to Pentecostalism assesses the true danger of such a parallel.

On Ecumenism and Pentecostal Mission
The last evidence is drawn from the discussion on Ecumenical Mission offered in Called & Empowered and my long-term relationship with the World Council of Churches. The World Council of Churches is one of the numerous organizations which promote worldwide Christian unity through reconciliation, theological dialogue, sharing of resources and the vision of a community life rooted in a particular cultural context.

The vision of the World Council of Churches is based on the common Christian mission of introducing Christ and Christianity to the world. I am persuaded that the future of World Missions is for Christians uniting with a common purpose for our Christian mission. Undoubtedly, such process will take time and mutual efforts. I am reminded of this as I observe my home country, Bulgaria where Protestant Christians are divided against one another and unity is lacking. Unified missions will not only bring oneness and harmony back into the church, but it will formulate the ecclesiastical community after the image of the Early Church from the Book of Acts. The results from such a unified mission will not only be world changing, but self-changing as well.

Mission Applications
The following part of this overview will include a mission application response to the evidences listed above. As it focuses on the Eastern European context, it will further suggest mission applications in the present Protestant reality in the region, and more specifically among the Bulgarian Pentecostals. The above four evidence accents were chosen among others because they all pertain to today’s Bulgarian Protestant reality. The kingdom of God as both present reality and eschatological hope takes a bit different perspective in a society where forty five years of Communist regime has left a deep scar on people’s mentality. Healing for the emotional and social wounds has not been provided by rapidly changing governments and political models, crime has increased, severe economical crises have occupied and there remains a constant fear and lack of hope for the future. In such context, the Kingdom of God is much more than a present reality or a future hope. It is all that the Protestant church in Bulgaria really has.

Gospel and culture are an essential part of Bulgarian missions work. On the Balkan Peninsula where Bulgaria is located, there are more than 150 languages and dialects spoken. Adding the crossroads of three world religions, three continents and constant migration of people that has been going on for thousands of years, makes this Europe’s melting pot of cultures and ethnoses. Discovering a paradigm which will serve as a buffer between the ever-changing Balkan culture and the eternal Gospel will be the ever-present factor that determines the success of Protestantism on the Balkans.

In Eastern European cultural and social context, the mentioning of Communism indeed has a different meaning. The Pentecostal church in Bulgaria historically and ideologically has opposed Communism in every form, and thus Pentecostal Christianity in Bulgaria must differentiate from Communism in order to remain in its historical distinctives. In order to be successful in its mission and message, and at the same time remain within its original identity, the Bulgarian Protestant movement must continue to oppose Communism in all of its forms.

The final evidence of ecumenism must be understood in Eastern European settings not only as an ecumenical cooperation of different religious formations, but as a union between all existing Protestant groups. As costly as such idea may seem, it will strengthen Eastern European Protestantism. Historically, in Bulgaria an organization called Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance (United Evangelical Churches) has served such purpose by preserving the identity of the denominations members. Such unity of cooperation must continue in even more strategic and planned ways in order to provide Bulgarians with the proper social context for national Protestant reformation and revival.

Mission Bulgaria 2005-2012 Completed

June 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

Mission BulgariaWe are currently finalizing our Mission Bulgaria project through a seven-year long commitment, which has touched the lives and ministries of over 250 local churches in the country of Bulgaria. Along with these congregations, our international ministry team has worked with the Bulgarian Diaspora churches in the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Spain, Germany and France. Six Bulgarian churches are currently operating in Cyprus and four in the U.K., as there are projections for the registration of other Bulgarian churches as well. It has been a journey worth taking.

In relation to our ministry work in Bulgaria in the period of 2005-2012, among many others we’ve completed these seven milestones:

1. The publication of a complete revision of the Bulgarian Bible

2. Completing a new literal translation of the Bulgarian New Testament from the original Greek including the four gospels, acts, epistles, and the apocalypse

3. Establishment of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association with the special recognition of the US Department of State

4. Foundation of the Masters of Chaplaincy Ministry Program for Eastern Europe

5. Our national X event for youth every summer since 2005, which is accompanied with a Bible Camp for young ministers and a national mobile educational strategy

6. Building a broadcasting network which supports LIVE streaming of services and events for over 20 Bulgarian congregations every week

7. Implemented a long-term church planting proposal for establishing Bulgarian ethnic congregations outside of Bulgaria

After completing 7 years of ministry in Bulgaria, we are publishing a detailed overview of our work and results in a soon to be published monograph called simply Confessions. This new book speaks of the lessons we’ve learned in the ministry and issues of church and politics within the religious life of the country we’ve struggled to resolve. It addresses:

  • The separation of church and politics of false religiosity
  • Entering an organic relationship with God
  • Depending fully in the ministry of the Holy Spirit
  • Renvisioning the reality of the Kingdom
  • Raising a new Pentecostal generation
  • Reliving His glory
  • Leaving a legacy worth remembering

As we are celebrating our 7-year long accomplishment of Mission Bulgaria, we are reminded that in 2013 God is doing a new thing.

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