Bulgarian Pentecostalism at ORU

December 10, 2023 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News, Publication

25 Years of Revivals in America

Thankful for 25 Years of Revivals in America

After 33 years of ministry, more than half of it on this side of the globe, we have now preached revivals in America for over quarter of a century. I have lost count how many times we’ve crossed from the Dakotas to Texas, and from the Carolinas to California to preach the Gospel to all willing to hear. I do remember one time when we drove 18 hours straight to Minneapolis, preached a single sermon, turned around and drove back the same distance due for another appointment. I’ve recorded every place, time and sermon. If needed, I can calculate the distance of getting there and back in total millage too. I’ve long lost the count of sets of brakes and tires worn-out during travel. Maybe, the next 25 years I’ll just fly! But through all this, I’ve often stood at a church parking lot, spent out from preaching, looking at the blue sky above and realizing: I am living my dream. Preaching is all I’ve always wanted to do!

Two times, apart from the 1990 post-Communist revival in Bulgaria, we have experienced continuing Holy Ghost revival in America. The first time was in the summer of 1999 in South Carolina, where one revival night multitudes were called to the ministry and on other nights, we just could not close the services with the power of God so powerfully evident. If you were a pastor back then, we most probably preached in your church one of these revivals, which are now marked by our 25-year anniversary.

In 1999, our revivals were weeks before the Y2K. Perhaps naively, I contributed the unusual move of the Spirit and extraordinary attendance to the turn of the 21st century.  We were forced to see things a bit more prophetically, when we were hit by a fresh wave of revival pre-pandemic in the Spring and Summer 2019. Along with preaching virtually daily during the revival season, we were able to publish our New Testament Interlinear in Bulgaria and distribute it to our churches just before the shutdown.

This time, the revival in 2023 came a bit sooner than the usual decade-long cycle we had experienced with the past two. As we are getting ready to continue our 2023 Revival Harvest Campaign with a Community Communion service just in time for Thanksgiving this week, we have completed two full months of revivals in Polk County. Some 50 back-to-back services can truly change one’s perspective on our days! That God is at work is not even in question here, but what about the Church?

Exactly 20 years ago in his book “A Call to Righteousness: Impending Judgment,” Dr. David Franklin outlined the cycle of repentance for a nation’s revival as following:

  • When a nation persists in violence, the Sovereign Lord confronts and holds responsible,
  • When a nation forgets God, He allows for times of repentance,
  • If repentance is ignored, God will expose and execute judgment on an unfaithful nation.

Every time God renews His covenant with His people, He shows His presence! (a) We know that God is present in the covenant, because He shows His glory. It happened to Moses and his generation. And it also happened to Solomon several hundred years later. (b) When a generation loses the vision of the Glory of God, God begins renewing His covenant again with a new generation. (c) God is not satisfied with a people who know the signs and the blessings of the covenant. He rests not until He is revealed as the God of the Covenant!

This Biblical truth is valid for any nation in the world, and I often draw a painful parallel of similarities with my home country of Bulgaria; where in October the 7th government elections since the start of the 2020 pandemic did not produce the desired change. Though the voting machines imported from Venezuela were pulled out a day before the election for obvious reasons, the vote went in history as the lowest ever with only 33% participating. This halted the acting government, setting the country for another parliamentarian election in 2024. With two regional wars now (Ukraine and Israel) and record high inflation, Bulgaria is walking a close line to another national crisis as we experienced back in 1997. In the midst of this, the Church of God Balkan Ministry Center in Sofia, which was initially sold in 2021, is back on the market with first installment toward its purchase made on November 16, 2023.

Meanwhile, on the national Day of National Awakening (celebrated after All Saints Day on November 1st), we were able to release and present the first Greek-Bulgarian Interlinear of the New Testament online. Its name, Evangelieto.com, means The Gospel in Bulgarian. This new website is a natural continuation of Bibliata.com – the first Bulgarian Bible online, we released back in the fall of 1996. This new online edition, which has been in the works since 2016, is dedicated to those students of the Bible, who prefer working with the original texts, rather than using the multitude of new Bible revisions often with religious and ideological orientation. The Greek-Bulgarian Interlinear of the New Testament online proposed the following solutions to the Bulgarian Bible translation:

  1. A non-received text – Textus Haud Receptus
  2. Critical Edition of the Greek New Testament (Tischendorf, Westcott&Hort, Nestle-Aland, UBS and SBL)
  3. Literal translation from Greek, made word for word without dynamic equivalents
  4. Linguistic paradigm for repetitive parallel permutation structures in the Greek-Bulgarian translation
  5. Analytical Greek New Testament with complete morphology of the words
  6. Complete textual commentary of the New Testament with thousands of references
  7. Audio/video reading of the verse with its original and consequent variations
  8. Discussion board under each verse for pastors and ministers to offer their thoughts on the text.

Thankful for 25 Years of Revivals in America: Revival Must Go On!

Polk Revival Announces Community Communion before Thanksgiving

November 20, 2023 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News, Publication

After some two months in services, Polk Revival has announced a Community Communion before Thanksgiving.  Initially 7, now 8 churches and multiple ministries across Polk County, TN have set to seek after the will of God for revival in their area after the pandemic. The revival has gone on now two months each week changing to another of the original seven church locations within the greater Conasauga, Reliance, Ocoee, Old Fort, Benton, and Delano communities along with the two oldest Polk County congregations at Cookson Creek and Friendship Baptist. A “True Halloween Alternative Revival” and “Polk Camp Meeting” were also completed during this time by faithful friends and partnering ministers.

Exactly 20 years ago in his book “A Call to Righteousness: Impending Judgment,” Dr. David Franklin outlined the cycle of repentance for a nation’s revival as following:

  • When a nation persists in violence, the Sovereign Lord confronts and holds responsible,
  • When a nation forgets God, He allows for times of repentance,
  • If repentance is ignored, God will expose and execute judgment on an unfaithful nation.

That God is at work is not even in question here, but what about the Church? Over 50 back-to-back services can truly change one’s perspective on last day global ecclesiology. Piece by piece the original vision God has given to many ministers for this area of East Tennessee is coming together. As Polk Revival continues strong, the participants are requesting prayer from all who love the Lord and have awaited His renewal of the land and His people. https://polkrevival.com/

BULGARIA in Brill’s Encyclopedia of Global Pentecostalism

November 15, 2023 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, Media, Missions, News, Publication, Research

Brill’s Encyclopedia of Global Pentecostalism (BEGP) provides a comprehensive overview of worldwide Pentecostalism from a range of disciplinary perspectives. It offers analysis at the level of specific countries and regions, historical figures, movements and organizations, and particular topics and themes. The online version of the Encyclopedia is already available

For some of you it has been a long time ago that you submitted your article(s) for BEGP, for others it was a bit more recent, but I am very happy to announce that this Summer the print edition of Brill’s Encyclopedia of Global Pentecostalism will finally see the light. With this we can proudly close this chapter and proceed to see what the reception of the volume will bring! Thank you for being part of this great project!

To celebrate, we will organize an online symposium on September 16th, with presentations from the editors as well as 3 experts who will comment on BEGP: Amos Yong, Birgit Meyer and Néstor Medina. You can find more detailed information in the attached flyer. Please be welcome.

Registration is free (but necessary to receive a link); we will raffle one free copy of the print edition among the registered participants. For registration and questions, please send your message to begp@brill.com, mentioning Symposium in the subject line.

We hope to see you then!

SIGNS of the LAST DAYS: Good called evil and evil good

November 10, 2023 by  
Filed under Featured, Media, Missions, News, Publication

Releasing Greek-Bulgarian Interlinear of the New Testament ONLINE

November 1, 2023 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, News, Publication

The day after All Saints Day in Bulgarian is celebrated as the Day of National Awakening. In honor and contribution to the National Awakening, we are proud to release the first Greek-Bulgarian Interlinear of the New Testament ONLINE @ https://evangelieto.com/

Evangelieto.com means The Gospel in Bulgarian and is also a common reference the New Testament texts. This new website is a natural continuation of Bibliata.com – the first Bulgarian Bible online, we released back in the cold winter of 1996.

For Easter 2015, after over eight years of hard work and much difficulties, Cup & Cross Ministries was able to complete and publish the first ever Greek-Bulgarian interlinear based on the Nestle-Aland 28/ UBS-4 texts. This first edition is dedicated to those students of the Bible, who prefer working with the original texts, rather than using the multitude of new Bible revisions often with religious and ideological orientation.

For the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, our Greek-Bulgarian Interlinear of the New Testament was presented in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia on All Saints Day 2017. The Greek Bulgarian Interlinear of the New Testament proposed the following solutions to the translation of the Bible in Bulgarian:
1. A non-received text – Textus Haud Receptus
2. Critical Edition of the Greek New Testament alike Revised Textus Receptus, Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, von Soden, Nestle-Aland, UBS and SBL GNTs
3. Literal translation from Greek made word for word without dynamic equivalents
4. Linguistic paradigm for repetitive parallel permutation structures in the Greek-Bulgarian translation alike form criticism of the Bible
5. Analytical Greek New Testament with complete morphology of the words

This new translation took several years to refine through multiple revisions, re-readings, and new re-translate where needed in order to produce an interlinear with priority advantages and distinctive features as follows:
1. The text is arranged in three lines – Greek original, literal translation and for the first time in a Bulgarian publication, an analytical apparatus with detailed morphology of the words.
2. A brand-new word for word translation, not phrase for phrase or simple imposed text on an already existing translation, challenges the reader into a deeper understanding of the Word.
3. Unnecessary text markers and explanations have been avoided because the parallel stylistics between Greek and Bulgarian are much more similar than other languages even when accompanied with Strong’s numbering.
4. The literal meaning of the text is shown without the dynamic equivalent characteristic of other interlinear editions.
5. All participles/predicates are literally translated avoiding the superimposition of like, as, which, etc., when they are not in the original text.
6. All definite articles are given as in the Greek before the word (not at the end part of the word as it is done in Bulgarian) even in the tradition of Nomina Sacra.
7. Enforced literalism on understandable New Testament terminology such as Lord/Master, church/ecclesia/congregation/gathering/assembly, baptism, etc. is avoided.
8. The literal word for word translation preserves case and gender as possible in over 90% of the New Testament text.
9. The applied critical apparatus in addition to the analytical morphology, includes designation of all verses and passages of critical difference with the Nestle-Aland GNT.
10. Hitherto missing morphology now provided, not only shows why a given word is translated in the chosen way, but enables the reader to navigate through more complex grammatical structures of the Greek language and understand them.

To translate the Bible is like to climb upon top of Mount Everest. You put everything at stake. You spend yourself to the last. You forget the pain and fatigue. You leave behind the unimportant things. You carry only the most important ones. Every breath is for eternity. Every step is last. And so, all the way to the top! The price is unbearable, but the reward is extraordinary. Because there, from the top, you finally see things differently. And it is almost impossible to go back down. Even if you can, down now feels different. And one can only hope others too will climb this peak, to perceive and translate for the next. So, that they too can see. For this reason, our interlinear is by no means the last. It is only a seed, which will bear long lasting fruit. For the generations…

Bulgaria builds permanent NATO base near Yambol

September 30, 2023 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News, Publication

By 2025 the Ministry of Defense will build an entire small town, in which the soldiers of the NATO allies from the multinational battle group on the territory of Bulgaria will live.

The estimated cost is at least 50 million euros but the final sum will become clear after the design is completed, Minister of Defense Todor Tagarev has told the MPs from the Defense Committee in Parliament. Military personnel of about 1,500 will reside in the town permanently, but it should be able to shelter up to 5,000 people.

It has not yet been decided where the base would be located, but the military has hinted that the region of Yambol is the most suitable area with the nearby air base of Bezmer. According to the minister, the construction of the military town will be economically beneficial for Yambol and the region.

Bulgaria’s President set a Date for this year’s Elections

September 25, 2023 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News, Publication

Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev signed a decree today scheduling the elections for mayors and municipal councilors for October 29.

The head of state has determined the date after a working meeting with representatives of the leadership of the Central Election Commission (CEc).

The conversation discussed the specifics of the local vote and the upcoming work on the organization of the election process. The CEC has informed the president of the technical and logistical features that the commission must comply with for the local elections and its readiness for their holding.

Here you can read about the results of a study that determined for who will one-third of Sofia residents will vote as their future mayor.

 

RESTORING GOD’s church…

August 25, 2023 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Media, Missions, News, Publication, Research

1896 Shearer Schoolhouse Revival

August 10, 2023 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

1896 Shearer Schoolhouse Revival

Location: Camp Creek, North Carolina


Introduction
Before the 1901 Topeka Outpouring, and before the 1906 Azusa Street Revival, there was the 1896 Shearer Schoolhouse Revival.

Several of the largest Pentecostal denominations trace their roots back to an event that took place at the Shearer Schoolhouse located in Camp Creek, North Carolina.

Richard G. Spurling Sr. (1810-1891)

The chain of events that led up to that momentous occasion began in 1884 when 72-year-old Richard G. Spurling (1810-1891), a Baptist preacher, and a few of his friends had grown weary with the spiritual condition in the mountains. They spent several years trying to bring renewal and reform within the churches, but all their efforts failed.

Together with his 27-year-old son, who was also a licensed Baptist preacher (R.G. Spurling Jr., 1857-1935), Spurling called for a gathering to be held on Thursday, August 19, 1886, to see if there was sufficient interest to start a new church.

Gathered that August day were those from Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches. They assembled in the Spurling family’s grist mill on the banks of Barney Creek, Tennessee. (Some have referred to that grist mill as the “Barney Creek Meetinghouse.”)

During the meeting, Richard G. Spurling Sr. asked those assembled:

As many Christians as are here present that are desirous to be free from all man-made creeds and traditions, and are willing to take the New Testament, or law of Christ, for your only rule of faith and practice; giving each other equal rights and privilege to read and interpret for yourselves as your conscience may dictate, and are willing to sit together as the Church of God to transact business as the same, come forward.

Location of the revival’s beginning in relation to other major cities in the area.

Painting of what the Spurling grist mill on Barney Creek could have looked like. This mill has also been called the Barney Creek Meetinghouse.

Eight out of the group came forward, and with those few they began the church that was named “Christian Union.”

On September 2, 1886, R.G. Spurling Jr., was installed as the pastor of this new church. A few years later, at age 74, the elder Spurling died, never having had the opportunity to see the budding of the great movement he launched.

R.G. Spurling Jr. preached across the mountains for the next ten years, starting churches in different locations, the last one being in Turtletown, Tennessee, only four miles from the Camp Creek church which Bryant had recently started. It was in Camp Creek that God brought an extraordinary revival of holiness to the mountains.

In 1892, William F. Bryant, a Baptist lay preacher licensed through Liberty Baptist Church, began prayer meetings in his home in Camp Creek, North Carolina. His home was located about 12 miles from the Christian Union congregation in Barney Creek. Bryant and Spurling ultimately became good friends and developed a strong working relationship.

R.G. Spurling Jr. and wife Barbara (earlier picture)

Spurling Family


Extraordinary Prayer & Preparation for Revival
Through W.F. Bryant’s relationship with Spurling, Bryant started a church and Sunday School in Camp Creek, under the Christian Union umbrella. Spurling led his congregation in Turtletown, Tennessee, to merge with Bryant’s congregation, which was located 4 miles away across the state border. This new unity and freedom led the people in the mountains to give themselves fully to prayer and fasting, anticipating God to save many souls.

This highly focused prayer led to a ten-day revival that was conducted in the summer of 1896 by four lay evangelists. These revival services were held in the Shearer Schoolhouse in Camp Creek, North Carolina. People came to this revival from many parts of the mountains.

Almost from the start of the meeting, the altars were filled with repentant sinners and seekers for the experience of sanctification. Many skeptics of holiness were convinced, and many more rough-living sinners were converted.  —Charles W. Conn

When the scheduled revival services concluded, the “spirit of revival” continued, and people often met in homes, under brush arbors, or in the Shearer Schoolhouse, as they didn’t yet have a building in which to worship.

Prominent locations involved with the revival. The major city of Chattanooga is given for reference.

R.G. Spurling Jr. founded this second Christian Union Church at Piney Grove in Monroe County, Tennessee, in 1897.


What Happened

All of the heightened focus on God to move in the mountains continued to inspire and move the people to believe for even greater things from God.

And the interest increased until unexpectedly, like a cloud from a clear sky, the Holy Ghost began to fall on the honest, humble, sincere seekers after God. . . . One after another fell under the power of God, and soon quite a number were speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

News of this Holy Spirit outpouring spread to adjoining counties and the people came to witness the phenomenon of Spirit-filled believers speaking in an unknown language. Many sick persons were healed and “hundreds of hard sinners were converted.”

It was a Pentecostal awakening, a recurrence of what happened on the Day of Pentecost. Even though this was a very sparsely populated area in the mountains, “more than 100 persons received the baptism with the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues.” This was an important event that prepared the way for the universal outpouring that followed ten years later during the 1906 Azusa Street Revival.

The Shearer Schoolhouse in Camp Creek, North Carolina, location of the 1896 holiness revival.

Wording on the Shearer Schoolhouse Monument

Shearer Schoolhouse Monument


Persecution
Beginning in 1899, the Liberty Baptist and Pleasant Hill Baptist churches excommunicated forty of their members for their participation with the Christian Union congregations (house churches) in the area, the reasons being the style of worship and doctrinal differences (R.G. Spurling Jr. was licensed to preach through Pleasant Hill Baptist, and William F. Bryant through Liberty Baptist Church. Both were excommunicated.)

A subsequent act of the Baptist churches was to prevent the Christian Union congregation from using the Shearer Schoolhouse for services. It was then that Dickson Kilpatrick donated land across the road from the schoolhouse on which a log meetinghouse could be constructed. The persecutors responded by first attempting to destroy the building with fire and dynamite–both attempts failed. It was then that 106 leading members of the community dismantled the log meeting house and burned the logs. This mob included ministers and deacons from neighboring churches, one justice of the peace, and one sheriff.

When arrests were finally made for the destruction of the property, and guilty parties were put on trial, Bryant and the Christian Union congregation simply asked the court to forgive them.

Other Types of Persecution Endured
1. Homes where meetings were held were burned.
2. People were whipped.
3. Homes were shot at.
4. Stones were thrown at buildings.
5. Water sources were contaminated.
6. Children were harshly treated by teachers at school, as well as beaten by other children. This required parents to take their children out of school.

These early Pentecostal pioneers suffered for about six years from this type of persecution, yet they had found a new freedom, power, and purpose for their life in this new Pentecostal experience which could not and would not be extinguished by their persecutors.

Monument today where the log church once stood 

Home of William F. Bryant

William F. Bryant (seated left) and family


Governmental Order  (fanaticism & false teachings)
Without any form of government in the Christian Union congregations, false teachings began to emerge, as well as fanaticism. This led Bryant and Spurling to develop a form of government, in conjunction with establishing doctrines, that would unite the believers and at the same time ward off the false teachings.

The restructuring of the Christian Union took place on May 15,1902, in the home of Bryant. This restructuring led to a name change for the churches from “Christian Union” to the “Holiness Church at Camp Creek.”

Following the reorganization, new preachers, deacons, and church members began to be added to the churches. One notable pastor that joined the Holiness Church on June 13, 1903, was the Quaker from Westfield, Indiana, A.J. Tomlinson.


A.J. Tomlinson
Tomlinson had come to the mountains in 1899 to serve as a missionary. He had established a school, an orphanage, and a clothing distribution center to care for and evangelize the poor.

Tomlinson had become acquainted with the Holiness Church in Camp Creek, and on the morning of June 13, 1903, following his morning prayer on the mountain behind Bryant’s home, Tomlinson became convinced that the holiness congregation was “the Church of God of the Bible.” The leadership of the Holiness Church had confidence in Tomlinson and immediately selected him as pastor for the church in Camp Creek.

Tomlinson’s vision to spread the gospel around the world soon led to the establishment of other Holiness Church congregations, the first General Assembly in 1906, and a change of name from the “Holiness Church” to “Church of God” in 1907. What began as a trickling mountain stream at Barney Creek became a surging river of global ministry.

W.F. Bryant and R.G. Spurling Jr., at the home of J.C. and Melissa (Shearer) Murphy, which was the site of the Church of God’s first General Assembly, conducted on January 26-27, 1906, at Camp Creek, North Carolina

Today the Shearer-Murphy House is maintained by the Church of God of Prophecy as a historical landmark. The home is located on River Hill Road not far from Fields of the Wood.

Historical marker sign at the intersection of River Hill Road and North Carolina Route 294


Results of the Revival
Not less than nine denominations emerged from the Shearer Schoolhouse Revival. At least five of those are headquartered in Cleveland, Tennessee. We list two prominent ones here.

Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)
In December of 1904 the Holiness Church of Camp Creek had its center of activity moved from Camp Creek, North Carolina, to Cleveland, Tennessee. That was when A.J. Tomlinson moved his family there to start the North Cleveland Church of God. That church eventually became the “mother church” for the budding denomination. Cleveland is now where the headquarters for the Church of God is located, and home to Lee University.

On January 11, 1907, the Holiness Church of Camp Creek changed its name to Church of God, and has kept that name since.

In 2018, the total worldwide membership of the Church of God was 7,468,083. Of that total, 1,189,304 members were in the United States and Canada, making the Church of God the 22nd largest Christian denomination in the United States.

North Cleveland Church of God, circa 1906

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