SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgarians set aside religious and political differences on Friday at the start of three days of prayer, as President Rosen Plevneliev sought to heal rifts following protests over poverty and the deaths of four men who set themselves on fire. The country has been rocked by demonstrations which brought down the center-right government in February and in particular by the self-immolations highlighting low living standards and suspected corruption among the political elite.
The prayer initiative, which drew more worshippers than normal to mosques on the Muslim day of prayer on Friday, came after Plevneliev met leaders of the dominant Orthodox Christian church and minority Muslim, Jewish and Catholic communities. Orthodox Christianity accounts for more than 80 percent of the 7.3-million population of Bulgaria, a country where 45 years of Communist rule undermined its influence.
“We need to have more hope and believe that we can pull through,” Plevneliev told reporters at his presidential offices. “As we face up to the challenges, we should draw lessons and believe more. ”We need solidarity – personal, human, fraternal solidarity,” Plevneliev added. “Let us look after the sick, give a hand to a neighbor who is in distress. Let us not leave people alone.”
Special prayers will be held at mosques across the country, the synagogue in the capital Sofia and all Bulgarian Orthodox and protestant (evangelical) churches over the next three days. The Armenian church will also hold prayers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Widespread protests over low incomes and a political elite accused of maintaining a corrupt system since the collapse of communism in 1989 forced the resignation of the cabinet led by Boiko Borisov. New elections are set for May 12, and, although Borisov’s center-right GERB party is leading in the polls, it is unlikely to command a majority and will have to try and form a coalition.
The time of changes in the world of missions is at hand. The search for a new paradigm for doing missions in the beginning of the 21st century has begun. Much like in the world of the internet, it cannot be a closed-circuit reinstallation of the same old software, which changes the interface, but not the structure; or a copyrighted etalon designed to be used by a tender legal minority. It must be an open-source, people oriented, social networking, body-like organism of believers that practice the Bible providing the diakonia of missions to peoples and nations in a need of salvation.
This necessity for a fresh evaluation of the way we do missions in the Spirit is based on issues which older missional paradigms were unable to adequately address. Rethinking of world missions today, includes rethinking the global problems of economic crises, world terrorism, immigration and open border markets. Problems that point not to new frontiers in some unknown cosmic future, but back to the old countries upon which modern day civilization was built.
Churches and missionaries, then, cannot afford to simply follow any secular, political, social or economical wave, but must propose Biblical solutions, which surpass both the understanding and history of the natural world to the realm of the Kingdom of God – the sole solver, provider and proprietor of the restoration of God created humanity, social justice and every relationship within the universum for eternity.
It is there, in the very Kingdom identity, or the lacking of such thereof, that the problem of ministry in missions is found. And this problem is deep, penetrating the very soul and make of the church, changing it from a community of mission minded believers willing to dedicate their lives to missions, to an agency that sends half-prepared, half-sponsored, half-aware missionaries to a mission filed where cultural, leadership and financial dilemmas hit them as a hurricane and never seize to oppose their call to minister in a foreign land.
Several characteristics are apparent immediately. The ministry of missions in the 21st century must be:
1. More mission minded than agency structured
2. More missionary focused than leadership centralized
3. More operational than organizational
4. More result oriented than self and strategy containable
5. More praying than thinking while more feeling, than cognitive
6. More giving than fundraising oriented
7. More focused on the Dominion of the Kingdom, than the denomination.
A proposal of such caliber must begin simultaneously at three starting points. First, perhaps not by importance, but by legal requirement, a professional counsel is a must. Many mission agencies follow the secular practice of debriefing missionaries, who have been on the field for a long time as part of their reentry. It is expected that post-missional experiences are often defined as problems requiring a professional counselors. But there are so many more cultural, financial, leadership, church and purely structure related problems. For example, how can one ever imagine doing missions in the 21st century without assertive financial planning in difficult times and rapidly changing international currencies, or political and security advisory in times of ever-present global terrorism? If addressed properly by in-house professionals beforehand, most of them can and should be easily prevented in the ministry of the missionaries. Thus, released from the burden of solving problems they are not qualified to deal with, missionaries will be allowed to fully focus on their main goal: namely, the salvation of eternal human souls.
Second, but equally important, are some very practical implications concerning the church recognition of the ministry of the missionary. Unfortunately, even in the beginning of the 21st century, some of the leading Pentecostal denominations in the world do not have the ministry of missions present on their ministerial report forms, as if it simply does not fit there. Others are yet to include missions as a ministry occupation on their voting registrations for business meetings at assemblies.
And finally, a word about the Prophetic Utterance of Pentecostal Missions. Historically, we, the missionaries baptized with the Holy Ghost, seldom followed models and paradigms. Our guidance has been that prophetic Word, that utterance of the Spirit, that divine guidance and Heavenly call that are never wrong. 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 life of our churches. And this made us Pentecostal. Even more important, this made us powerfully Pentecostal and Pentecostally powerful.
And if indeed, it is true that this very power is being lost today, it means that the very identity of our movement has changed from power giving to power needing – from powerful to powerless. The main questions that must be raised then are these: “What is the prophetic word for Pentecostal missions in 21st century?” and “What does the Spirit wants us to do?” And their answers could be found in the restoration of Pentecostal preaching, prophecy and prayer, as the foundation of any paradigm or model on which we continue to build the Ministry of World Missions.