Looking Out of the Corner of Their Eyes: An Analysis of the Trend in Spiritual Development of Youth in Bulgaria

January 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, News


The Bulgarian Pentecostal movement is rooted in the Azusa Street Holiness Revival, which began in April of 1906. As a result of the revival, which followed throughout the United States less than a decade later, denominations such as the Church of God (1896) and Assemblies of God (1914) were established and sent missionaries to foreign lands including Bulgaria. After Assemblies of God missionaries to Eastern Europe Zaplishny and Voronaev embarked on their missionary endeavors in the 1920s, Bulgaria officially received the message of Pentecost. However, when Communist Dictatorship began in 1944, religious freedom was repressed and forced Pentecostal believers underground for 45 years until the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

From this oppression, Christians became creative in where and how they would gather. Services were held in secret rooms, moving from one house to the next and literally underground. During difficult times they would even gather in secluded mountain plains and hold services, which would last for days at a time. Even to this day, this tradition is kept where every year believers will assemble together for a time of praise and worship. And it is from these times that branched other church movements, which attempt to replicate this experience with a focus on evangelizing the youth of Bulgaria. However, some of these attempts have not been very successful. These movements successfully target young people, but the experiences which they are having are not as their fathers and grandfathers. Unfortunately, they are somewhat superficial and have become a time of leisure and socialization. There has been a perversion of the genuine experiences of the past in this attempt to simply copy what is happening without having a sincerely encounter with God. The church attempts to keep the tradition without having the experience.

Yet, in the midst of these movements of camps, rallies, mega services, concerts, there are young people which do have a genuine encounter and are on fire for God. But unfortunately, these movements with a lack of a better word are not properly equipped with a follow through plan in which the youth can be plugged into a local church where they can be discipled. It is almost as if the churches do not have an internal program for youth because they are relying on the many external activities to minister to their youth.

Many Bulgarian congregations are struggling with how to motivate their youth locally. They are confused why during the times of conferences and camps youth appear to be on fire for God, but when they return to their local church, for the ones who have a local church, they “lose” this drive. The simple, simple answer to this is that our youth are lacking in a strong internal biblical foundation. Youth need this foundation to build on in order to genuinely grow in Christ. Therefore, the churches’ focus should be to educate our children and give a solid Biblical basis as opposed to waiting until they are lost to gather them in a camp and attempt to reach them. If ones motivation is based internally, no external factor will be needed to motivate your youth. There is no substitute for an internal passion for Christ for when something is internal it does not come and go with a movement or trend. This foundation comes from our fathers and mothers and from the local church.

Youth are ready for a serious authentic move of the Spirit, which is Biblical based in the foundation of the roots from which their faith is grounded. When understanding from where you came, you will be able to appreciate your here and now. Meaning that in identifying with your roots you know who you are and do not waiver with movements. But for those whom have had a genuine encounter on the mountain tops, so to speak, where are they to go? Who will father them? With the crisis in leadership in the churches of Bulgaria, there is a spirit of discouragement and distrust among believers. This is harsh to say, but should not be kept silent simply because of pride. Only when Bulgaria is ready to recognize this, will it be ready to genuinely minister to youth. It is only then that the young people will have a place to go and someone to minister to them. For how can one minister to another when they themselves are occupied with bitterness and power.

Children from birth watch everything. All is new to them, everything is interesting and they are instinctively curios. This curiosity is a God given desire in order to learn and grow. When a child is learning to pray they are told to bow their heads, close their eyes and listen to the words of their parents, but if you observe this process closely you will notice that a child will at first peak around. Why do they do this? Initially, one might think that a child is just playing around and not taking prayer seriously, however this is not the case. They look out of the corner of their eye and peak around in order to watch and see what you do and how to pray. They cannot learn when their eyes are closed. They have never before closed their eyes to pray and need a model.

So just as children look to their fathers and mothers to learn how to pray, the Bulgarian youth are looking to their spiritual fathers to know how to pray. With much sorrow I say the following: these children do not like what they are seeing. They peak out of the corner of their eye and see arguing, hostility, selfishness, depression, burnt-out, and worst of all, they do not see their fathers praying. They do not see their fathers fasting. If a father does not pray or fast how will the children know how to do these biblical acts. This lack of spiritual discipline leads to a rebellion against the church in which you hear from the mouths of babes “I believe in God, but I don’t believe in the church”. This factual quote should be eye opening. Yet instead, we keep our eyes wide shut. We need to overcome the lie that if we do not see things or problems, they do not exist. It is time to listen to what we know is truth.

So on one hand, we have a lost generation that does not have any faith in organized religion and on the other, we have a generation of youth that is hungry if not starved. They are hungry for solid foods and tired of living off babes milk. They are ready for a real experience and need spiritual parents. Who is willing to be that spiritual father? Who is willing to stop arguing? Who is willing to open their house again to be a home for the spiritual orphans of Bulgaria? Let the church once again be a place of refuge and not a place to be prostituted out to the highest bidder. Let the pastor genuinely be a father again instead of a corrupt politician. Let the children of Bulgarian have a voice, because if their voice is taken away today, they will have no future tomorrow and be lost for an eternity. This is not a price we should be willing to pay.

This article is based on a word the Lord gave me on 09/09/2010 that “The Children of Bulgaria are looking out of the corner of their eyes up to their fathers and not liking what they are seeing”.
-Kathryn N. Donev

Bulgarian Evangelical Church Analysis 2010

February 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, News

1. The growing number of visitors of evangelical churches, caused by the socio-economical factors in 2010, will demand a time sensitive model for church conflict resolution and the restoration of church-wide unity. In this process, the evangelical preaching must adequately include the Bible teachings of forgiveness, agreement and unity.

2. In the context of the socio-economic crises and the inadequacy of traditional religion in 2010, more celebrities and politicians will show interest toward the evangelical churches and the elements of their services. It is a time for evangelical preaching to leave the four walls of the church and to juxtapose the Biblical standard for living as the social bases for building society.

3. The finalization of major church building projects in 2009-2010 will relieve a number of congregations from rent obligations, thus releasing more resources and funds despite the crises. The recipients of this blessing must use their buildings to relieve other evangelical churches from rent obligations in their respective regions, thus overcoming the feeling of power and priority and actualizing the vision of the Kingdom for brotherhood and unity. A church building could be used by 3-5 midsize congregations with a suitable program of services and a common Sunday service. The given blessing will either become a blessing for others or be taken way.

4. The search for responsibility from leadership as a whole is a process, which is constantly present within the evangelical movement with a special focus in the last 20 years. In regard to the said financial freedom in 2010, this search must be brought to an adequately working and properly contextualized model for leadership, which includes not only economical, but spiritual responsibility on the part of church leadership as well. It is impossible to define a life of holiness outside of the context of social relationships.

5. The opening of secret police dossiers belonging to leading religious leaders from the past and the present, purposes the destabilization of a unified and growing evangelical movement. Nevertheless, it is a process which must occur and a road that must be travelled by the Church in order to remove the unnecessary suspicions conceived by temporary external to the church factors. In this process, the guilty ones must humble themselves, while the hurt ones must forgive in order that the unity of the church is restored again.

6. Every persecution is a result of a broken balance in the relationship between church and state. Strong confrontation and persecution toward evangelical churches in 2010 is the natural result from the gradual increasing in restrictions of religious liberty and human rights. But in the struggle the Church does not weaken. On the contrary, the evangelical church knows how to heal in the processes of persecution and therefore they must be viewed as purification of the church for growth.

7. The increase of cases of religious persecution in 2010, in which the state religion aims at alternative faith communities in order to hide its own inadequacy in a given crises moment, may vary from a political position of the Church in society to creating a spiritually healthy new generation. These dynamics are results from the furious misbalance between the social position of the state church and its spiritual bankruptcy.

8. Within the lack of balance in the relationship between church and state, every change in the Religious Law in 2010 will result in a negative connotation toward evangelical churches. The society is unready to accept the protestant faith as a standard, although it applies it subconsciously in all social spheres – from culture to economy. There is no successful capitalist society without protestant values, and this fact must be realized by all church leaders.

9. The increasing return of immigrants back to Bulgaria in 2010, due to the prolonged economical crises in Europe, will create a flow of new thinking, ideas and dynamics in the Church, but it will not decrease the intensity of establishing new Bulgarian immigrant congregations in foreign lands.

10. After 20 years of democratic changes within the society and the church, in 2010 a new generation of leaders reaches adulthood. Teams of various church ministries enter a new level of professionalism. The church itself becomes socially aware rediscovering its own spiritual role and redefining its historical identity in a postmodern and post communist context. All this leads to the increase in the need for systematic studying and responsible practice of the principles of church leadership. In this context, the processes of returning to the first love, spirituality and unity are a must. The recognition of the need for such revitalization can in a moment change the status of the Church in history. The lack of recognition will doom the Church to a historical failure.

Bulgarian Evangelical Church Analysis 2009

January 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, News

1. Crises in the denominations were created by a vast spectrum of factors, from the lack of effective model for training a new generation of leaders to organized state restrictions against the evangelical churches.

2. The year 2009 was a time of confusion in the strategy of evangelical churches, accompanied with devaluation of the vision for evangelization, education and unity.

3. The hesitation within the leading denominations was properly detected by the receptive political and government organizations. Because of this, the attack against the evangelical denominations grew with well balanced and precisely targeted constant speed.

4. Among the reasons to put a halter on evangelical churches was to limit their vision for participation in the 2009 elections with (un)expected results.

5. The number of church visitors grew due to the political insecurity and economic crises. Yet at the same time, there was a decrease in visitors in the contexts of the new wave of immigration. These dynamics created a balance with the sense of plateau.

6. The stagnation within the evangelical movement was compensated with concerts and conferences, but unfortunately the elements of fasting, prayer and giving were rarely present.

7. Almost 15 years after the global introduction of the Internet through Windows 95, evangelical churches have begun to develop a sense for media. Media presence is increasing positively, which is justified with the growing interest in evangelical preaching and the social message which it carries. Unfortunately, in most cases the media presence becomes popularity without justification and an idea lacking strategic planning; thus, it currently does not produce adequate results.

8. The crises for leadership is a growing problem for the evangelical churches, which are currently lead by leaders without successors. The older generation of pastors is without a doubt influenced by the totalitarian model for leadership, while the ones who have been successful in separating themselves from it remain “self-taught leaders.” The newly founded denominations are unable to become the so-needed alternative. Processes of fatherhood and passing on of leadership are lacking, which births a growing interest toward the problems of church leadership.