Pentecostal Education in Bulgaria a Decade Later

September 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Featured, News

This article was originally authored in 2008

The missionary strategy of Protestant denominations toward Bulgaria within the 19th century effectively included evangelistic, publishing and educational outreaches. The educational paradigms, which the western missionaries introduced, were soon adopted by the Bulgarian people, quickly realized as progressive and successfully implemented in both religious and secular Bulgarian schools. These trends continued in the next several decades, educating Bulgarian youth and producing the first generation of Bulgarian leaders who took their rightful place in political, economical, social and religious structures in the Bulgarian lands.

Unfortunately, when the Communist Revolution took place in Bulgaria, all religious schools, with the exception of the Eastern Orthodox Seminary in Sofia, were closed down and religious education was outlawed. For the next half century, Bulgarian evangelical ministers were destined to do ministry without any former religious education.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the tension for religious education reached its culmination and a number of religious schools were quickly established across Bulgaria. The instruction methods used ranged from Bible study home groups to Bible colleges all to fulfill the niche for religious education. Two important milestones must be mentioned here, and they are the opening of the Logos Bible Academy in the Danube town of Russe and the starting of a long distance program by ORA International.

Naturally, the general trend of Bulgaria’s post communist governments to control these educational institutions resulted in the registration of a religious institute under the Directorate of Religious Affairs, a government agency formed to register, manage and supervise the activity of religious formation on the territory of Bulgaria. It was in this context that the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute (BETI) was formed and registered in the capital Sofia. It included five departments (often called faculties), representing Bulgarian evangelical denominations with a predominant focus on the Pentecostal wing.

The Theological College in Stara Zagora, often mistakenly called a Theological Seminary, was established in 1998 as one of these departments to represent the Bulgarian Church of God. Because of current developments within the Bulgarian Church of God, the department was started in the city of Stara Zagora, located some four hours east of the capital and became the only of the faculties not located in Sofia. Naturally, its location, staff, affiliation and purpose created a sense of independence, both in its theology and structure.

With the acceptance of the new Act of Confessions in 2002, the Bulgarian government employed a more drastic approach toward all religious institutions not fitting the standard denominational profile. Since BETI was among them, the government initiated the process of the Institute’s accreditation with the Ministry of Education. Five years later, the government is yet to grant the accreditation. It was not until the publication of this article in March, 2008 that the Bulgarian Government moved toward finalizing the long-awaited accreditation of BETI.

Meanwhile the Institute’s management is facing a tri-dimensional dilemma which includes economic, cultural and leadership tensions. Some of them have not been resolved due to the lack of recourses; others have not been resolved due to the lack of essential prerequisites in the long-term educational strategy of the school. The following is a list of the challenges, which must be resolved immediately in order for the Institute to continue to operate under the said government accreditation:

1. The school’s baccalaureate program, structured primarily after 20th century American Bible college model, is practically incompatible with the requirements of the Bulgarian Ministry of Education. The dilemma of changing the program to meet the accreditation requirements or to retain the school’s evangelical identity is yet to be resolved on part of BETI as a whole, as well as its theological departments individually.

2. Three masters programs that were to focus on the subjects of Christian counseling, chaplaincy ministry and missions were secured from the Bulgarian government several years ago. However, because of the lack of students and experts on the said topics, only one of them, the master’s program in counseling, has been partially developed. Today, it remains in its initial phase as a distance-learning program, while the other two programs are virtually untouched.

3. It has taken BETI over a decade to comply with the country’s requirements for higher education. In this process, the school has not facilitated the opportunity for religious master’s programs thus missing its mission to become a higher education authority in religious studies.

4. The resistance toward the evangelical movement and more specifically its presence within the educational process of Bulgarian adolescents has resulted in continuous protests on part of the Bulgarian community. They have been followed by restrictions from the government, which has forced the Institute at the periphery of the educational process. Two waves of attacks against Bulgarian evangelicals in 1990-1993, 2002-2004 and the current trend of the government to establish mandatory religious classes for children ages seven to twelve has contributed to this alienation and has forced the inability of evangelical education to find and establish its place within the Bulgaria community. Much of this has to do with the lack of an adequate placement strategy for graduates upon the completion of the college’s program.

5. Furthermore, scholarships for individual students and sponsorship for the colleges of the Institute has weekend since 9/11 creating an economical dilemma with which the Institute is still struggling. The financial crisis has brought about the rethinking of the economic strategy of the Institute, its dependency on religious support sources and its financial self-sufficiency.

6. Additionally, a number of Roma/Gipsy communities have received substantial educational grants from the European Union upon Bulgaria’s official membership. This has taken a great number of the Roma/Gipsy students within the Institute in a different direction.

7. Immigration has also taken its toll on the Institute’s graduates, as many of them have seized the opportunity to continue their training in religious educational institutions abroad, while other have simple forgone their higher religious education in the struggle for personal survival, both groups never to return and practice in Bulgaria.

8. It is also unfortunate, that most of the professionally trained Bulgarians who have graduated with a higher degree in religious studies from foreign colleges and universities, have been unable to find their place within the structure of the BETI and have been employed in educational institutions, religious centers, ministries and missions which often have to do very little with Bulgaria.

9. The denominational affiliation of each of the departments, has contributed to the dilemma of structural incompatibility with the leadership and vision differences between the denominations that are affiliated with the Institute. The recent crises in several of the member dominations have added to the escalation of the above dilemmas and the incapability for the resolution from a denominational standpoint.

10. Naturally, the well-educated graduates have chosen not to occupy themselves with denominational politics both to avoid confrontation and to express their disagreement. This dynamic has been partially ignored by leadership remaining from the period of the underground church when religious education was virtually nonexistent and lacking a complete realization of the power of education. This unnoticed trend, however, endangers Bulgarian Evangelism creating a lack of continuity within the leadership and preparing the context for the emerging leadership crises.

As an educational institution of the Bulgarian Church of God and a member of the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute, the Theological College in Stara Zagora has experienced all of the above dilemmas and more. Its physical distance from the capital Sofia has jeopardized its accreditation with Bulgaria’s Ministry of Education, the latest guidelines of which have constituted that a school department cannot be more than 25 miles away from its main office. Since Stara Zagora is almost 200 miles away, the Church of God Bible College has been forced to find a suitable alternative. One logical solution may be to move the school or parts of the school to a Sofia location.

However, the Stara Zagora Theological College has had very little if any representation in the capital for its decade of existence. A move to Sofia would propose a number of new problems such as the relocation of teachers and a forced split of focus between two campuses. Another immediate challenge would be the development of a long-term financial strategy to meet a budget, which in the capital would be three-four times the cost of the same operation in the city Stara Zagora. And finally, a successful strategy for establishing a new level of cooperation with the rest of the Institute’s departments, which have operated in the capital Sofia for over a decade is a must, before a successful educational program can be initiated by the Bulgarian Theological College at the new location.

10 Scholarly Articles on Pentecostal vs. Chrismatics Theological Distinctives

January 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

Christmas Book Sale: Pentecostal Primitivism

December 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Books, Events, 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:

Prophetic and Persecuted Movement

51DUWeyraBL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_[1]Since a social movement that purposes liberation of the individual is always rejected by the present political and economic powers, Pentecostalism arises and develops in the midst of constant persecution and resistance. The constantly present struggle against evil, wrong and unrighteousness is the power that moves Pentecostalism to its final purposes. Once persecution disappears, Pentecostalism loses its original power and turns to a nominal religious organization, which continues to function and exist, however, outside the boundaries of its original purpose.

The theology of the Persecuted Church is a theology of martyrdom. The context of persecution is a constantly present formational factor in Pentecostalism worldwide, and as such it is a universal characteristic of the movement. Only as such can Pentecostalism act in its God-given prophetic authority. In the same prophetic power in which John prophesies of the coming Baptiser with the Holy Spirit, the Early Pentecostals preached about the Fire from Heaven prior to the actual experience of the Holy Spirit baptism. The message of the movement then becomes a prophetic utterance under which the movement grows and develops to the point of fulfillment of the promise given by God.

20 more recent Pentecostal articles in light of the upcoming Pentecostal Sunday celebration:

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

5 Pentecostal Discussions on the Full Five Fold Everlasting Gospel

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

What is a “full gospel” ? John Kissinger [03/31/2015 3:47 PM] W. Faupel defined Full Gospel within the doctrinal themes of: 1) justification by…

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The Everlasting Gospel: The Significance of Eschatology in the Development of Pentecostal Thought by D.W. Faupel follows the following outline: 1. The Pentecostal Message:…

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Diamonds in the Rough-N-Ready Pentecostal Series (Complete)

March 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

Diamonds in the Rough-N-Ready Pentecostal Series

 

51bmftgrh4l_ss500_1
Speaking in Tongues in America Prior to the Azusa Street Revival of 1906

April, 1906 – The Azusa street revival swept the globe starting with California

January 1, 1901– The initial phenomenon of speaking in tongues occurred at Parham’s school in Topeka, Kansas

January 6, 1900 – Frank Sanford’s Shiloh school reported that “The gift of tongues has descended”

1896 – Over 100 people baptized in the Shaerer schoolhouse revival conducted by the Christian Union in the North Carolina mountains

1887 – People falling in trances and speaking in tongues were reported at Maria Etter’s revival meetings in Indiana

1874 – Speaking in tongues occurred during healing meetings reported in New York

1873 – William H. Doughty and the Gift People of Rhode Island spoke in tongues

1854 – V. P. Simmons and Robert Boyd reported tongue speaking during Moody’s meetings

FURTHER READING:

Church of God (Cleveland, TN)

Azusa Street Revival of 1906

Prior to Azusa Street Revival of 1906

Speaking in Tongues in America Prior to the Azusa Street Revival of 1906 (Diamonds in the Rough-N-Ready Series)

March 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

51bmftgrh4l_ss500_1
The Azusa street revival swept the globe starting with California

January 1, 1901– The initial phenomenon of speaking in tongues occurred at Parham’s school in Topeka, Kansas

January 6, 1900 – Frank Sanford’s Shiloh school reported that “The gift of tongues has descended”

1896 – Over 100 people baptized in the Shaerer schoolhouse revival conducted by the Christian Union in the North Carolina mountains

1887 – People falling in trances and speaking in tongues were reported at Maria Etter’s revival meetings in Indiana

1874 – Speaking in tongues occurred during healing meetings reported in New York

1873 – William H. Doughty and the Gift People of Rhode Island spoke in tongues

1854 – V. P. Simmons and Robert Boyd reported tongue speaking during Moody’s meetings

Diamonds in the Rough-N-Ready Pentecostal Series (Renewed)

March 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Diamonds in the Rough-N-Ready Pentecostal Series

95th anniversary of the Pentecostal movement in Bulgaria

November 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

95yearsThe church in Bulgaria is celebrating the 95th anniversary of its Pentecostal movement in 2015. We were able to participate in this season of celebration and honoring heroes of the faith through a series of lectures and video broadcasts on various topics of Pentecostal history, doctrine and praxis. Additionally, in 2015 we were able to prepare and publish a Bulgarian Prayer New Testament and the Bulgarian translation of Ivan Voronaev’s biography we authored back in 2010. We are thankful to the Lord for this opportunity to minister to the Bulgarian congregation and are looking forward to the Azusa Revival anniversary in 2016.

Toward a Pentecostal Solution to the Refugee Crises in the European Union

October 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

SyriaCrisisRefugees0215Rev. Dony K. Donev, M.Div., D.Min.

We saw them everywhere during our ministry trips through Europe. Long columns of dark bearded men, covered women and malnourished, underdressed little children. They fill the refuge villages in Bulgaria near the Turkish border. Many of them were forced to travel in long trains from Austria to Hungary, Germany and all the way to the large Muslim ghettoes of Amsterdam and East Berlin. And even at the Dover side of the English Channel, where tens of miles long truck columns were parked directly on the interstate waiting for the refugees to pass with the ferryboats.

Every minister/missionary should at least wonder about a solution to this largest migration wave of the century. What is the proper human, Biblical approach toward these people regardless if they are persecuted Christians, migrating terrorists or just refugees without a country? What would be the Pentecostal (in the Spirit of Pentecost) response to their fate?

Several outspoken Pentecostal denominations have already raised awareness to the issue with a call for a “Christian assimilation.” Frankly, “assimilation” as an anthropological term is outdated even in the most assimilative cultures in the world. In the United States, once a melting pot of ethnos and cultures, modern day emigration takes terms in creating subcultures. In such cultural setting, assimilation is fairly hard to achieve and quite imperialistic as an approach. It is also not a religious term – the proper faith language being “proselytizing.” Even the Bible states that at the end “every tongue shall confess” picturing a multitude of ethnoses, not merely one assimilated culture. With all this, a call for cultural assimilation on part of Christianity borders a call for crusades, even the thought of which is inapplicable in 21st century’s society.

On the part of Islam, a Muslim subculture allowing assimilation without conflict and resistance will be practically impossible to achieve. And how exactly do you convert with words in a culture that allows speaking only to men? We all know of ministries or missions that have done successful work among Muslims, but what is observed in today’s context of ministry among Muslim migrants is unfamiliar to even experienced missionaries. A Muslim subculture is being created so fast, so vast and so unified throughout European Union countries, that it threatens to assimilate the Christian local host-culture before being assimilated or culturized within Western Christendom. Pentecostal churches throughout Europe are simply not prepared for such challenge, as confirm leaders of “Maranatha Ministries,” the largest Pentecostal church in the Netherlands.

The single greatest challenge is perhaps that the Islamic culture is not like any of the known subcultures in the Western World. While Hispanics focus on their language and Asians accent on their heritage and predecessors, the Islamic subcultures are being centralized around the Sharia Law. The newly forming subculture then is not simply ethnic or heritage oriented, but a legal precedent – often in direct contradiction with the law of the land. How do we engage the Sharia Law mindset with the law of Grace to effectively penetrate with the Message of Salvation such closely guarded culture, will be the answer to this current dilemma of ministry. Although not a complete solution, the following practical steps are much more Christ like and suitable to the situation than a theoretical assimilation, which may prove to be nothing more than a 21st century crusade:

  1. Fast from your daily Starbucks (Costa, or coffee brand of your choice) for a month. With the money you can sponsor one refugee child out of starvation. The cost is the same, but saving a child tastes much better than java
  2. Team up with a Pentecostal church in Europe, which is directly working within the refugee camps. It will not be hard to find one as only a few Pentecostal churches in Western Europe are involved in refugee work
  3. Prayerfully consider going to Europe yourself and contribute your time and resources toward a refugee camp.

Diamonds in the “Rough and Ready” (Pentecostal Series)

September 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

      1. Alive, alive! (A personal testimony)
      2. Church of God Primitivism
      3. Bulgarian Church of God
      4. J.W. Buckalew
      5. WAR ON THE SAINTS: Revival Dawn and the Baptism of the Spirit
      6. How Jezebel Killed One of the Greatest Revivals Ever
      7. Pentecostal Primitivism Preserved
      8. Why revival came? by Dr. Charles Conn
      9. Azusa Street Sermons
      10. The FORGOTTEN ROOTS OF THE AZUSA STREET REVIVAL
      11. First person to speak in tongues in the Assemblies of God was William Jethro Walthall of the Holiness Baptist Churches of Southwestern Arkansas
      12. The Work of the Spirit in Rhode Island (1874-75)

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