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:

Doctrine of Free Will among Bulgarian Protestant and Pentecostal Believers

May 10, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Slide11by Dony K. Donev, D.Min.

Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals (Research presentation prepared for the Society of Pentecostal Studies, Seattle, 2013 – Lakeland, 2015, thesis in partial fulfillment of the degree of D. Phil., Trinity College)

Another peculiar characteristic present among early Pentecostals around the globe was the subject of free will. This was not a problem for the movement in Bulgaria. As strange as it may sound, among all publications and teachings by missionaries in Bulgaria during the 19th century there is no mention of Calvinism, election or predestination. Because Bulgaria’s traditional Eastern Orthodox orientation, both Congregational and Methodist missionaries taught Armenian free will. Even though many Bulgarian ministers were educated in the Calvinistic schools like Princeton and Auburn, Calvinism never picked up among Bulgarian Protestants. With the explosive growth of Bulgaria’s Pentecostals in the 1920s, this Armenian theological heritage was widely accepted amongst the movement.

First Pentecostal Missionaries to Bulgaria (1920)

April 25, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

Slide5by Dony K. Donev, D.Min.

Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals (Research presentation prepared for the Society of Pentecostal Studies, Seattle, 2013 – Lakeland, 2015, thesis in partial fulfillment of the degree of D. Phil., Trinity College)

Interestingly enough, the arrival of the first Pentecostal missionaries to Bulgaria was not associated with starting new churches. Neither was it purposing a takeover of existing protestant congregations or the traditional for Bulgaria Eastern Orthodoxy. First Pentecostal missionaries Voronaev (far left) and Zaplishny served as a pastor in the United States, but their goal in Bulgaria was to preach Pentecost in already established churches. Zaplyshny’s wife Olga, who was from Bulgaria, enjoyed her home church which was more than sufficient for the hand full of believers.

It was common in 1920 that whole congregations of traditional protestant churches in Bulgaria would convert to Pentecostalism. However, it was not until almost a decade later when in 1928 the nephew of Olga Zaplishny – Nicolas Nikoloff who was educated in the States was sent by the Assemblies of God to organize the Pentecostal movement in Bulgaria. Initially only 7 congregations agreed to his proposal to be included into the new Pentecostal Union and registered with the government. They were predominantly in Southern Bulgaria around the city of Bourgas where the Zaplishny family settled and labored. The rest remained under the leadership of Stoyan Tinchev (far right) calling themselves Free Church of God. They later formed churches in North Central Bulgaria, near the city of Varna where Voronaev resided.

Less than a decade old, the Bulgarian Pentecostalism movement split between the churches that registered with the government and the churches which refused to register. There were some later differences in their view on sanctification, Baptism with the Holy Spirit, leadership and organizational structure. Nevertheless, the preaching of Pentecost became the entry point for Spirit baptism among mainline churches and new converts.

The gifts of the Spirit were also contributing their part in the work. A well known example, in the first Baptist church in Bulgaria, the pastor’s daughter received the Holy Spirit and the whole church followed. And there are even some who suggest, that glassollalia had been previously experienced by some orthodox mystics in Bulgaria as related to the Russian Molokans from the Romanina city of Tulcha. With all this evidence, the baptism with the Holy Spirit was viewed as mandatory for salvation among early Bulgarian Pentecostals. Along with salvation and water baptism, it became known as “the fullness” of spiritual experience. One could not go to heaven without “the fullness!”

The Everlasting Gospel: The Significance of Eschatology in the Development of Pentecostal Thought

April 5, 2015 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, News

faupel everlasting gospelThe Everlasting Gospel: The Significance of Eschatology in the Development of Pentecostal Thought by D.W. Faupel follows the following outline:

  1. The Pentecostal Message: In this chapter Faupel explores the pre-formation of the Pentecostal message. He relates its content to the Full Gospel, which includes: salvation, sanctification, baptism with the Holy Spirit, healing and second coming.
  2. Context of Pentecostal Thought: In this chapter Faupel gives a brief sketch of the American context at the end of the 19th century. His focus on the American culture as ground for Pentecostalism, however, seemed quite narrow especially in retrospect to the original glassolalia experience by the disciples on the Day of Pentecost.
  3. The Pentecostal Message: Faupel offers an interesting observation on the lives, messages, ministries and outcomes of three major pre-Pentecostal American figures. He writes of J.A. Dowie. Frank W. Sandford and Charles Parham.
  4. The Coming of the Latter Rain: Faupel begins the story of Seymuor as a continuation of the historical formation of the Pentecostal Movement linking it back to the ministry of Parham. He explores the beginning of the Azusa Street revival and its affect on Los Angeles, the United States and worldwide.
  5. Defining the Parameters of Pentecostal Though: The end of Faupel’s story focuses on the outcomes of the Latter Rain phenomenon. Main concern of the plot is the ministry of Durham in Chicago, who proposes the idea of Finished Work. Durham claims that thought Calvary there are only two works of grace, the salvation experience and the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The sanctification, he proposes, comes in the life of the believer through the salvation experience.

Presenting at the Society for Pentecostal Studies in Southeastern University on “Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals” (Part 2)

January 25, 2015 by  
Filed under News, Publication, Research

Presenting at the Society for Pentecostal Studies in Southeastern University on “Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals” (Part 2)

Pentecostal and Charismatic Journals

August 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Publication

pentecostal

Online Pentecostal Academic Journals

August 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

pentecostal

Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies (AJPS) – associated with the Asia Pacific Theological Seminary in the Philippines (Assemblies of God Philippines) – volumes from 1998-present – FREE ONLINE

Australasian Pentecostal Studies (APS) – 1999-present – FREE ONLINE

Canadian Journal of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity – 2010-present – FREE ONLINE

Cyberjournal for Pentecostal-Charismatic Research – 1997-2013 – FREE ONLINE

Encounter: Journal for Pentecostal Ministry – associated with the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary – volumes from 2004-present – FREE ONLINE

Journal of the European Pentecostal Theological Association (JEPTA) – associated with the European Pentecostal Theological Association – volumes from 1981-present – FREE ONLINE through 2009 / Members access to 2010-present

Journal for Pentecostal Theology (JPT) – volumes from 1992-present – Members access only

The Pentecostal Educator – associated with the World Alliance for Pentecostal Theological Education – volumes 2014-present – FREE ONLINE [FORTHCOMING]

PentecoStudies: Online Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements – 2004-present – subscription

Pneuma: Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies – volumes from 1979-present – Members access only

PneumAfrica: The Online Journal of African Pentecostal Christianity – associated with the Association for Pentecostal Theological Education in Africa – volumes from 2013-present – FREE ONLINE

Pneuma Review – volumes from 1998-present – FREE ONLINE

I have intentionally not included the more pastoral and popular publications: Paraclete (1967-1995), Enrichment Journal (1995-present), or Enrich: A Journal for Pentecostal Ministry.

[CURRENT ON JULY 19, 2014]

“Strange Fire”? Not in a Global Pentecostal Context of Ministry

June 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Featured, News

A Biblical and experiential panel response to John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” from an international Pentecostal point of view Strange Fire
Dony K. Donev with Dennis Balcombe, Hanny Setiawan and Marius Lombaard

MacArthur Strange Fire

John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Nelson Books, 2013).

Almost one year ago, internationally known author John MacArthur began campaigning for his new book Strange Fire. With lots of material written beforehand by many who had not even read the book, the actual premiere was at a conference with the same name, not without some scandal to help its wide popularization. But scandal was hardly needed when the book classified most (if not all) Charismatics around the world as heretics. Тhe bottom line for MacArthur’s work was deconstruction modern day Charismatic theology and exposing it as unbiblical.

Do Pentecostal churches really offer a “strange fire” as MacArthur proposes? Could charismatic extremes practiced by some be evident in all Charismatic churches and classical Pentecostal denominations? And is it possible to declare a world wide movement of half a billion strong as heretical by observing random examples among less than 3% (three percent) of its representatives residing in North America?

The premise of this ad hominem attack is surprising, when even in Pentecostal scholarly circles we have long debated some Charismatic praxis as wrong and destructive to the movement as a whole. So, when an outsider to Pentecostalism as MacArthur jumps in and claims all Pentecostals are bad because some Charismatics have been found in the wrong, the normal response is simply to disagree. Especially when these extremes do not concern Pentecostalism globally, but as MacArthur himself admits, are defined to a North American context of ministry and even more strict and limited Charismatic circle of neo-Pentecostalism.

The purpose of this article, therefore, is to present the view of Classic Pentecostals, as deferred from the variety non-Pentecostal Charismatics. And to discuss MacArthur’s assumptions in an international Pentecostal context, though Strange Fire refuses to view Pentecostalism as the global power it has become. Perhaps, the very weakness of any theological work that seeks international recognition, but fortifies its argument only within the perimeter of westernized theology. To provoke an even deeper discussion, the study explores five of the major arguments of Strange Fire within the ministry context of Pentecostals from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.

Apostolic Relevance or a New Apostolic Reformation?

Admittedly, MacArthur strongest point within his attack on Pentecostals is outlining Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation movement. And even quoting Vinson Synan, who was invited to join the network for $69 a month, but declined with the response, “I could not afford to be an apostle.” But how concerned is the larger Pentecostal world about this apostolic movement? And how important is NAR in global Pentecostalism today?

Hanny Setiawan of the Bethany Church of Solo Baru, Indonesia states:

I personally know NARs and follow Wagner’s thought but, I am not sure that Indonesian charismatic churches are aware of Wagner’s thought. Indonesian charismatic churches are not strategically structured and concepted like Wagner’s way of thinking. I recognize myself has an apostolic function even though I don’t call myself an apostle (neither my community). Wagner’s book and other related books have helped me to know my calling deeper. And because I understand what my calling is, I can perform my apostolic function more efficiently.

Lifetime missionary to China, Dennis Balcombe also responds:

This New Apostolic Reformation is simply an American invention and organization by Peter Wagner and some who follow him. It has absolutely no relevance to the church in China, and I suspect in most other parts of the world. I live in the Hong Kong SAR and have not heard of anyone who is actually a part of this or calls himself an apostle. It is almost unheard of in mainland China where the church situation is much different. [Even] In the past in mainland China the church seldom used any type of titles for ministers other than ‘Servant of the Lord” or “Handmaiden of the Lord.” One reason was that for much of the past 65 years in Communist China, the house church (which constitutes the majority of Protestant Christians in China) has been illegal and persecuted to various degrees. Anyone having religious titles would possibly be marked by authorities.

Several years Peter Wagner and Chuck Pierce came to Hong Kong, and at the invitation of a local pastor, Rev. David Wang, invited many mainland house church leaders to attend an ‘apostolic ordination meeting’. They ordained several as apostles of various areas. However none of them were main leaders, and when they went back to their cities and told other pastors of the meeting, almost without exception the others totally rejected this.

Coming from my own background as a minister in post-Communist Bulgaria, I can confirm much similar experience with NAR in Eastern Europe. That there are true Pentecostal apostles is an undisputable fact; especially, when we speak of men and women who have started multiple churches and sometimes whole movements. At the same time, questioning the authenticity of “apostles who never do anything” (terminology by C.Buettel/J.Johnson) has been an open praxis in modern day Pentecostalism ever since its conception at the Azusa Street Revival.

Prosperity and Poverty in the Context of Global Pentecostalism

Next to apostles and “rock star” ministers, Strange Fire addresses the prosperity movement. Yet, the global Pentecostal church is hardly a materially prosperous one. On the contrary, overwhelming evidence from around the world repeatedly proves that poverty is an ever present factor in global Pentecostalism. So, exactly how important is the prosperity teaching in Pentecostal churches around the world?

Pastor Balcombe puts it rightfully:

This doctrine is almost totally foreign to the true Chinese churches in most parts of Asia, especially Hong Kong and China. [Prosperity] is being preached and practiced to various degrees of success mostly only in some more prosperous Asian nations. We would immediately think of Singapore and the mega-church of Joseph Prince which is also well known for the teaching we call antinomianism. Though this church is large and considered to be Charismatic, we would not identify it as a solid Pentecostal/Evangelical church.

Marius Lombaard of the University of South Africa agrees that:

The Pentecostal church I was part of was very opposed to prosperity teaching. It distinguished itself from other Pentecostals and Charismatics. Members at the time ranged from ordinary poor, to middle class people and no body was above middle class.

Hanny Setiawan affirms the above by saying:

Bill Hamon’s book the eternal church has helped me map the charismatic churches in Indonesia. With the Full Gospel movement (more traditional Pentecostal churches), Indonesian Pentecostal were “updated” into charismatic teaching in 1998 during the Asian turmoil. That’s when the prosperity teaching came into various emerging mega churches.

And then he wholeheartedly declares:

As part of both Pentecostal and charismatic churches I strongly state that I hate prosperity teaching. And yes, we have issue upon this teaching.

For working with the poor, I have to be honest that what I am doing is not typically with charismatic/prophetic churches in Indonesia. But few churches have already started doing work for wide-nation program in the social sector.

Even in my own European descent, I have to agree with these views when applied into global Pentecostal context. In my own dissertation a decade ago I wrote of Bulgarian churches that planted in North American context of ministry.

The fifteen years of economical crises, political disorder and the high rate of unemployment in Bulgaria have not helped the church plan for the future or find alternative ways for support. Thus, the Bulgarian Protestant Church remains a poor church. Moving to a land of greater prosperity (viz., North America), however, has not brought much improvement to the situation. The financial blessings enjoyed by individual Bulgarian believers are not always reflected in the financial ability of the church. Even within the American context, the Bulgarian church remains a beggar in a land of plenty (Bulgarian Churches in North America, 2004).

Prosperity is a mindset, a worldview of its own. And how it is measured remains entirely cultural. But one thing is for sure, it is not the worldview of the entire global church, regardless if they are Pentecostal, Baptist or even Catholic. In other words, no one movement can be holistically and globally prosperous. And when ministering among the poorest of the poor, the Bible does remind of Jesus’ teachings whereas our personal prosperity cannot remain self-centered. It must be applied toward the needs of the others as well. Or we are in the danger of Laodicea—to be rich, yet poor in the site of God.

Miracles shall cease? Not according to the Bible

From his personally-modified cessationist theology, MacArthur insists that miracles and healings are not consistent with the view of the church in the 21st century. This is hardly true for all Pentecostal groups around the world. Many among them have come to know Christ and exist as a church through no other way but by a miracle. And they are not hesitant to testify of that. If asked, virtually all Pentecostals can very vividly describe the last occurrence of miracle and demonstration of spiritual gifts they’ve witnessed recently in their own spiritual walk with specific details (date, place and event).

Hanny Setiawan responds:

I can boldly say that MacArthur is wrong in this statement. In fact, I am working on writing all the miracles happened to us in a website. We believe miracles are usual in Indonesia. Many Indonesians are uneducated and miracles are expected. Prophetic dreams, directions, visions, are widely experienced. In my ministry network, in fact, we move heavily in a divine direction. We teach the difference between Titanic Teaching and Noah’s Ark. What MacArthur suggests is to build ministry like building the Titanic, all brain and logic. We don’t buy into that! We build our ministry based on total obedience to divine direction. Sometimes it’s illogical and insane, but it’s always biblical. Illogical doesn’t mean un-biblical.

Dennis Balcombe also responds:

This is absolutely not true in most of Asia, especially in China. I have been travelling throughout the world for the past 45 years, and I would say this is not true of most of the part of the world we identify as ‘third-world nations’. This would include S. E. Asian nations, especially Indonesia, India, most of Africa and South America. I have been working extensively in mainland China since 1978, and have spoken to thousands of individual Christians and have deeply researched the history of Christianity and revival going back over 100 years. Almost without exception people tell me they became Christians due to some miracle they experienced, saw or heard about.

While in China not every Christian believes in or has experienced speaking in tongues, you would have to travel far and wide to find a Christian who doesn’t believe that miracles are for today and take place in the church today. It would take volumes to write in detail all the miracles I have either witnessed or heard about in China and other nations I have travelled, and this year Charisma Publishers will publish a new book I just wrote, China’s Opening Door with a few chapters dedicated to the miracles in China.

Like the churches in China today, the church under the Communism Regime could not exist without miracles. The fall of the Berlin wall was a miracle of its own. This alone is proof for supernatural signs at an international scale.

There is a video recorded from that time where a woman born blind who received her vision during a Bulgarian Church of God service in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was shot while Lee University’s Campus Choir lead by Dr. David Horton visited Bulgaria. While people are praising God for the miracle and the choir is singing, the camera drifts in the crowd to record a bearded man dressed in pure white standing taller than anyone else in the auditorium. His appearance is so amazingly different from the rest of the congregation that one immediately thinks of Jesus standing in the crowd. The video was lab tested upon returning to the States and was proven authentic. Yet, not a single person remembered seeing that man during the service.

Prophecy shall cease, but only where charity has failed

The argument of secession of the gifts of the Spirit is presented mainly in ch. 12 of MacArthur’s “Strange Fire.” It represents the heart of his argument against Pentecostalism through the years. This argument has been theologically reputed and practically invalid. But most of all, it is simply not true experientially as prophetic messages in or without tongues are still evident in multitude of Pentecostal churches around the world today.

Hanny Setiawan is certain that:

Again, MacArthur is very wrong. Without the work of the Spirit, Indonesian churches cannot survive. We live in the biggest Muslim nation in the world. And prophetically, we get the message that Indonesia is the last puzzle of the world. I share this to show how prophetic is integrated in our strategic ministry policy. Now we work toward 34 provinces by faith through the Holy Spirit without money backup. How could MacArthur explains this?

Marius Lombaard underlines the social aspect of the prophetic church by saying:

In my country, Christianity is too diverse to give any idea what the “majority” believes. Many may still believe in prophecy, but they would nuance their views of it differently. Prophecy can be wrongly caricatured. My beliefs about prophecy is that it is a function of the church to speak prophetically about contemporary cultural and social issues, rather than individuals being “filled with the spirit” and randomly telling people what they believe God to be telling them. I do think when prophecy takes my latter description of being “filled” with the spirit and randomly speaking things one believes God to be telling you, that there is a high risk of it being false.

Dennis Balcombe also admits as a Pentecostal that:

On rare occasions there are “prophecies” that violate the Word of God, are judgmental and condemning, and are spoken with malice and evil intent. We will always immediately deal with such prophecies, ask the speaker to be quiet, and let the congregation know that the “prophecy” was wrong.

Thus, prophecy is always judged by the written Word of God, the witness of the individual and the pastor or spiritual head of the one receiving the prophecy is usually present, or the words are given to him to follow up on. Over the years, we have found almost all of these prophecies to be accurate and are amazing inasmuch many of these giving the prophecies know nothing about the individuals they are speaking to. We see a powerful confirmation of the word of knowledge.

However, a small percentage seems to have ‘missed the mark’ and were not suitable or applicable to the individual. We would tell the person if there is no confirmation to ignore such ‘prophecies’ and we would point this out to the one giving the prophecy. If it happened often, we would not allow that person to continue to operate in this gift. There are some individuals, almost always from the USA or other Western nations, who will from time to time give predictive prophecies relating to major world events, world leaders, earthquakes and other natural judgments, etc. We usually only read about these prophecies in various public meetings, but not in our local church.

All through the Bible, persecution of the community of God is overcome mainly through prophetic presence and power. For this reason my masters’ thesis Pentecostal Primitivism argued that a persecuted movement, as Pentecostals have been for many years and in many places around the world, cannot survive without miracles within the prophetic realm:

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.

Spiritual Salvation: Both Prophetic and Supernatural

How important are the above issues to the salvation of eternal human souls if both prophetic and supernatural are removed from within the church? Should not salvation be the central focus of the church of the 21st century around the world rather than other seemingly important theological quarrels? And isn’t Biblical salvation still both supernatural and prophetic?

“Salvation is central of our ministry. It will always be the most important thing,” Hanny Setiawan responds. “But that’s only the beginning of discipleship. Personal piety teaching will merely cause egoistic salvation. Being and Doing are two things that have to happen together. Being like Christ, and doing Christ’s work. MacArthur’s concerns are well-taken, but he has to listen to our concern as well. Cessationist teaching has produced arrogant and humanistic Christianity. Total dependency to written words has to go hand in hand with total dependency to the living words. Holy Spirit and Bible are the two variables we need. Jesus is both natural and supernatural, so why can’t we believe that we are naturally supernatural”?

Marius Lombaard explains that:

Salvation is not dependent on a Gnostic view that one must hold to all the correct beliefs or doctrines, but on trusting that God will raise the dead at his second coming just like he raised Jesus from the grave. Nevertheless, I do think charismatic gifts are a practical matter that deserves attention in light of the prosperity and “word of faith” movement. I think there is a lot of unwarranted strange things happening in the charismatic churches in my country, but I do not think they are a majority, and they are not all equally practicing the stranger charismatic things.

Dennis Balcombe continues:

Preaching the “Full Gospel” with signs following, healing the sick, leading believers to be baptized in the Holy Spirit is very much a part of the ministry of the church today, and will result in the salvation of many souls. But the preaching of the Gospel will always focus on Christ, His Word, the cross and the salvation of the lost. Gifts of the Holy Spirit, healing of the sick, the ministry of prophets and apostles, God’s blessing on those who believe in Him (the good side of the prosperity Gospel) are part of the inner working of the Gospel. Our destination is the evangelization of the lost, the preaching of the Gospel of Christ to the nations, and the salvation of souls. The observations of John MacArthur in Strange Fire of the over-emphasis on gifts, ministries, anointing, prophecy, tongues, healing and other parts of the inner working of the Gospel to the neglect of preaching the Word and Christ should be a wake-up call to all of us.

***

As a fifth generation Bulgarian Pentecostal, which is somewhat rare in a post-Communist context, my last words to the cessationism of Strange Fire are the same I wrote on the back of a final exam at a Bible Belt Baptist College some 20 years ago:

My grandmother was baptized with the Holy Ghost at an all-night cottage prayer meeting at age six in a small southern town in Bulgaria in 1926; as after God healed her from tuberculosis at the same prayer meeting two years earlier. My mother was baptized with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues accompanied with the gift of prophecy at age 12. And then in 1990, God baptized me with the Holy Spirit, among many others at the first national gathering of Pentecostals in Bulgaria after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

After preaching for 25 years the Gospel of Salvation and Pentecost with the Biblical gifts of the Spirit, and having dedicated over ten years to higher education and three graduate degrees, with a scholarly certainty of my Biblical Pentecostal experience I can declare: “You’ve come to tell me there’s no Pentecost for today a bit too late!”

 

PR

Dennis Balcombe

Dennis Balcombe

Dennis Balcombe, originally from California, USA, has served as a missionary in Hong Kong and China for the past 45 years since 1969. He was one of the first missionaries to enter China when it opened in 1978, and much of his time is in China ministering in both official churches and home churches. He is the founder and senior pastor of Revival Christian Church in Hong Kong and serves with his wife Kathy, two children and the family of his daughter, Sharon and Samuel Lau.

Hanny Setiawan

Hanny Setiawan MBA/MA is a pastor at the Bethany Church of Solo Baru in of Surakarta, Indonesia. He holds an MBA in Management Information System degree from Bentley University in Boston and is currently working on MA in Community Development at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminar. He is currently fathering a national-wide youth movement and developing Indonesia Reformed Charismatic Institute and Praying Indonesia Movement. His strategic vision is for a new generation of revivalist in Indonesia in all spheres of ministry: business, media, art, politics and economy.

MariusLombaard

Marius Lombaard

Marius Lombaard is an undergraduate student of theology at the University of South Africa (UNISA). He is married and aspires to major in New Testament studies. He also had extensive exposure to all the major mainline church denominations in South Africa, and speaks with considerable insight as to the ethos of all these denominations.

 

What made us Pentecostal?

January 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Featured, News

article-0-14AD215E000005DC-994_634x422[1]Pentecostalism is a message for standing fast till the end. As Pentecostals, we preached this message before we had a sermon outline.

We went without knowing. We prayed without ceasing. We prophesied without seeing in the physical or even purposefully refusing to reckon with it.

We preached without a season, for preaching was the vibe of our ministry and the heartbeat of our churches. We preached because we had a testimony. We did not know how to say it, but we had something to say.

We did not know how to write a sermon, or a theological exposition, or an exegetical definition, or a leadership proposition, but we preached because we had an experience that NO sermon could recreate and no message could deliver.

We had met God upon the mountain and that personal meeting, that date with destiny, that divine appointment had become our source of life everlasting. And this is what made us Pentecostal.

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.

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