Annual Conference of Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in North America

The seventh annual conference of Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in North America was held in Minneapolis May 24-26, 2008 under the theme “Fruitful in the Spirit.” The conference gathered Bulgarian evangelical believers from various parts of North America, but unfortunately the attendance was lower than previous years as the Bulgarian groups in Atlanta, GA; Nashville, TN; Ft. Lauderdale, FL and the Evangelical churches in Canada were without representatives.

Having worked with Bulgarian communities across the United States for some 15 years now while studying them for the purposes of our doctoral and postdoctoral research it is easily noticed, that the trends that led to the disappearance of Bulgarian Protestant communities in North America some 100 years ago are in the process of repeating themselves. This has been a personal concern of ours since we participated in the establishment of the first Bulgarian Church of God outside of Bulgaria in the city of Chicago. These issues can be summarized as follows.

Firstly, the problem in ministry remains unresolved through the continuous failure to provide the tri-dimensional dilemma of leadership, finances and culture. The resulting strife for preservation of the typical Bulgarian post communist mentality and “underground” style of ministry proves itself again and again incompatible with the American reality.

Secondly, the “regular” biannual division of congregations, which has become almost inevitable in the Bulgarian context, is hurting the churches preventing them from implementing a successful healing and growth process. These divisions evolve mainly from a misunderstood cell group model for “home-churching” which has proven ineffective in the Bulgarian cultural settings. The lack of an adequate split protection plan also contributes to this issue. At best, congregations spent all their resources managing to retain structure and prevent splits, while leaving no resources for further growth through reaching unchurched Bulgarian immigrants.

And thirdly, just like it happened some 100 years ago with the established Bulgarian protestant communities across North America, loosing the second generations of Bulgarian evangelical believers has become a counter priority. Perhaps because, Bulgarian congregations in the beginning of the 21st century are beginning to realize that it will inevitably mean the disappearance of Bulgarian Evangelical churches across North America as a whole. It is there, in winning the second generation of Bulgarian believers, where the key to survival of Bulgarian congregations lays.

It is encouraging, at the same time, to observer that one of the positive estimates provided by our doctoral project is also coming to reality. In 2002-2004, based on analyses provided by the New Religious Immigrants Project, our research suggested that the next Bulgarian Evangelical Church will be established in the last of the Seven American Gateway Cities which was still without a Bulgarian Church, namely the city of San Francisco. Our resent visit in the area of the Bay Area showed that this prediction is already progressing into a reality as the Bulgarian Diaspora there is already producing a Bible study group out of uniting Bulgarian college students from Barkley and young computer professionals in the area.

Resources for Further Study: