The Central Church of God Ministry Center in Sofia (Bulgaria) Today

December 30, 2021 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

At the end of each year, we have made it a tradition to share the projects completed in the past months of hard work and labor for the Kingdom. But as we are approaching now 20 years of ministering and teaching with the Church of God denomination together, we have decided to recall some more long-term projects.

Exactly 20 years ago, my wife landed in Sofia, Bulgaria for the first time on a snowy December day. In fact, it was so cold that my mother worrying she would be coming from a much warmer subtropical climate, bought the biggest winter jacket she could find, so we could wrap her with it on the way from the airport. Not the most glorious meeting or welcome party as I recall it today.

I was eager to show her my Church, the Bulgarian Church of God, then second to none in the country with 32,000 membership strong and 400 congregations. Many of them newly started and 28 of them in the two-million people capital alone. The Central Church of God in Sofia, where I preached and ministered in 2001-02, had almost 1,200 people at that time. Its main meeting place was the multifaceted Church of God Ministry Center in a prime location in the growing European capital – a project we had undertaken in 1998 with the faithful will and support of some two dozen Church of God congregations from Florida. The documents from my personal archives tell the story best:

December 2, 2001 – I had just returned from Romania bringing with me World Missions Director Lovell Carry and Field Director (Central/Eastern EU/CIS) Dieter Knospe. They were in Bulgaria on a special visit to transfer the new building to the ownership and operation of the Central Church of God in Sofia per the contract signed with our overseer in the Spring of 2001.

The days of Ministry Weeks 17-19 that followed in December, 2001 and which my wife recorded here: https://cupandcross.com/2001/12/ are excruciating to even remember today. Sunday service with Sunday School and preaching, then again on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Then special Saturday services in Pravetz and many other places. Similar schedule plus the traditional celebration services in the following Christmas week. Repeat again for the New Year’s week. And all of these done in extremely cold weather and tons of snow on the ground – so much that my wife was delayed for days leaving for the States mid-January with all flights out of Sofia cancelled as the ice never melted enough to clear the runway and defrost the airplanes.

And all through this, the building never stopped. Regardless of all difficulties, we were all working eagerly and anticipating greater results. The multifaceted Church of God Center in downtown Sofia was to encapsulate all our ministries and many more, giving our young freedom generation the opportunity of a lifetime to make a difference for the Kingdom…

Today, when the building of our Ministry Center is being sold and it will be used for something the will of the donors never intended it to be, our Church of God denomination in Bulgaria is split to no less than 12 fractions all registered since 2005. All of them still carry a variant of the Church of God name and consist of the same people I grew up with under the Communist Regime of Bulgaria.  We were promised a democratic leadership formed by indigenous people, but instead ended up with mini-bosses, regional micromanaging oversight, multiple splits and everything that characterizes a very typical colonial type of missions.

With the church organizations split time and again until torn into pieces, many of my peers chose alternative paths. Some left the ministry, others were hurt or divorced, a few even died and many simply gave up and moved on. With the rest, I have an appointment at the End of the World!

But none of this gives any pleasure or satisfaction to share. Especially when reminded that the dreams we all once dreamed are now hang on the willow trees by the rivers of Babylon. When reaching those waters of deeply troubled cross-cultural crises of faith and conviction, all bridges to people have sunken with no hope to recover again. God’s Kingdom has no gain in any of this!

Our prayer has hence turned into a prophetic protest for a new reality – not merely for a new mission paradigm, but one of a whole new mission… A Spirit-led ministry that forgoes all man-made politics and business-like models, but instead aims to build a New Church that is nothing less than the very cross-road where we encounter God and others in the Spirit of Pentecost.

 

CONFESSIONS of a Pentecostal Preacher

To Mark Alan
We know not why good people have to die,
but we do know we must tell their story…

Chapter I: Beyond the Church and into God

Be without fear in the face of your enemies.
Be brave and upright that God may love thee.
Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death.
Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong.
That is your oath.
~Kingdom
of Heaven (2005)

 

Separation of church from politics of false religiosity

The phone rang heavy and long. It was 4 AM in Bulgaria, but I was already up. A friend on the other end of the line was calling from South Carolina with a warning of some bad situation. The following morning, I was going to be contacted by the Director questioning why we were ministering in churches outside of our denomination.

The truth was we had ministered in some 300 local churches across the Balkan country of Bulgaria crossing all denominational boundaries and gathering youth from just about every confession. God had used us not only to reach and minister and to lead, but to step into an untouched spiritual realm, to undertake an unfamiliar ministry paradigm and to approach a brand new dimension of reality where He was to be the center of it all. And we had obeyed without questions. Now it was time to pay the price!

* * *

Our denomination, the one to which I remain both critically loyal and loyally critical, spreads over some five generations. Through its century old existence, the struggles and tension between theology and praxis has been in the center. And there, in the very essence of Pentecostalism itself, while some are always celebrating and being celebrated in the office or temple, others are always pushed in the periphery of normal life, hidden from the world behind closed doors and seeking a much deeper experience with God.

These modern day mystics are not only forgotten, but often forbidden. For their riot for righteousness cannot be conceived, contained and controlled by the religious norms of organized officiality. They speak as prophets to a world they so fervently try to escape from, about a reality that does not exist in the normal believer’s mindset. A stage of spirituality that cannot be preached without being lived in the social existence. And a relationship of God that goes far beyond common relationism and into God himself. That God, Who does not abide in offices and temples, but on the cross outside of the city walls…

But I knew nothing of this until that cold winter morning when the phone rang through darkness of the night. Knowing what is coming, rarely changes what we have done to get here.

7 Years in Bulgaria: CONFESSIONS of a Pentecostal Preacher
by Dony K. Donev, D.Min.
Upcoming Releases for United States (October, 2020)

Why Americans Attend Church in 2021

June 5, 2021 by  
Filed under Featured, News

This is probably one of the church statistics you didn’t even realize you wanted to know.Two-thirds of people in a Pew Research survey say they attend church for four main reasons:

  • To become a better person (68%)
  • To introduce faith to their kids (69%)
  • To find personal comfort (66%)
  • Grow closer to God (81%)

2021 Church Stats

May 10, 2021 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Yes |  No  | Question
78% | 22% | Does a person have free will?
75% | 25% | Can a person choose to be saved or not?
97% | 3% | Must a person accept Jesus Christ as a personal Savior in order to be saved?
75% | 25% | Can a person lose his/her salvation?
60% | 40% | Is the use of alcohol sin?
72% | 28% | Can a person be saved without being baptized in the Holy Spirit?
63% | 37% | Are you baptized with the Holy Spirit?
10% | 90% | Have the spiritual gifts described in the Bible ceased?
64% | 36% | Are there apostles today?
73% | 27% | Do you go to church each week?
88% | 12% | Do you pray daily?
77% | 23% | Do you read the Bible daily?
35% | 65% | Do you fast more than once a week?

According to the preliminary survey results, the profile of the average Evangelical Protestant today is: (1) fundamentally evangelical in doctrine, (2) more Armenian than Calvinistic, (3) more Pentecostal/Charismatic in experience, (4) more traditional than contemporary in conviction, (5) more theoretical than practical in teaching, (5) more conservative than liberal in practice and (7) more agreeing than disagreeing in fellowship.

National Church Survey to Reveal State of the American Church in 2021

March 15, 2021 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Media, News, Research

National church survey reveals important data about the state of the church in America today

The survey has been conducted for the past several years in several hundred congregations from all denominations across the United States. All collected national trends provide information about essential ministry dynamics and characteristics of the local congregation like:

  • Church Type & Membership
  • Teams & Leaders
  • Praise & Worship
  • Pastoral/Personal
  • Mission & Vision

Subscribe to ChurchInfluence.com weekly newsletter to receive free each published report containing important information about current church trends in America today.

Sample reports from the national State of the Church survey include:

  • 5 common church types across the nation
  • 3 financial characteristics of the average church in America
  • College education take over church leadership
  • 4 leading types of pastor’s teams
  • The growth of congregational ethnicity
  • 6 dimensions of leadership training for small churches (80-120 members)
  • Top 3 problems in church growth
  • 8 Successful strategies to communicate with your church volunteer teams
  • 4 age groups within the make of church membership
  • 7 factors that make your congregational ethnos
  • 20th century paradigm for church training still used today
  • How can you improve worship within a church service
  • 5 ways to improve how the community views your church
  • 3 successful ways how to really spend half of your time in prayer and meditation

Though, the majority of participants were among Western North American Pentecostal/Charismatic congregations, the National State of the Church Survey brings results of the state of the church much similar to the ones presented by the Pew Forum, Barna Research Group and Gallup. While the said researchers present a more holistic to the Christian body information, the National State of the Church Survey brings a special focus of statistical data on Pentecostal/Charismatic congregations, their structure, leadership and praxis.

 

Historical Significance of the Tennessee/Georgia Old Federal Road in the Trail of Tears and its Connection to the Church of God

January 25, 2020 by  
Filed under Featured, News

trail-of-tearsHistorical Significance of the Tennessee/Georgia Old Federal Road in the Trail of Tears and its Connection to the Church of God

New Echota, Georgia was the capital of the Cherokee Nation from 1825 to 1838.  This is the location where the Treaty of New Echota or the Treaty of 1835 was signed on December 29, 1835 by U.S. government officials and representatives of a minority Cherokee political faction called “The Treaty Party” or “Ridge Party”. This treaty was not approved by the Cherokee National Council nor signed by Principal Chief John Ross. Regardless, it established terms under which the Cherokee Nation were to receive a sum not exceeding five millions dollars for surrendering their lands and possessions east of the Mississippi river to the U.S. Government and agreeing to move to the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River, which later became part of Oklahoma.

The Red Clay State Historic Park, located 17 miles southwest of the Church of God Headquarter in Cleveland, Tennessee, marks the last location of the Cherokee councils where Chief John Ross and nearly 15,000 Cherokees rejected the proposed Treaty of 1835. Despite the questionable legitimacy of this Treaty, in March 1838, it was amended and ratified by the U.S. Senate and became the legal basis for the forcible removal of the Cherokee Nation known as the Trail of Tears.  The name came from the Cherokees who called the removal “Nunna-da-ul-tsun-yi,” which means “the place where they cried.” The last pieces of land controlled by the Cherokee Nation at that time were North Georgia, Northern Alabama and parts of Tennessee and North Carolina. The forced journey was through three major land routes. Each route could have taken some 1,000 miles and over four months to walk. The removal of the Cherokees and other tribes from their homelands in the Southeast began May 16, 1838.

The Georgia Road or present day Federal Road was a route of the Trail of Tears that the Cherokee people walked during their forced removal from their homelands.  The route was built from 1803 to 1805 through the newly formed Cherokee Nation on a land concession secured with the 1805 Treaty of Tellico with the agreement that the U.S. Government would pay the Cherokee Nation $1,600.00. The Treaty was signed on October 25, 1805 at The Tellico Blockhouse (1794 – 1807) – an early American outpost located along the Little Tennessee River in Vonore, Monroe County, Tennessee that functioned as the location of official liaisons between the United States government and the Cherokee. The route was originally purposed to be a mail route because of the great need to link the expanding settlements during the westward expansion of the U.S. colonies. It was in 1819 after improvements to the road that it was called “the Federal Road”.

The Tellico Blockhouse was the starting point for the Old Federal Road, which connected Knoxville to Cherokee settlements in Georgia.  The route ran from Niles Ferry on the Little Tennessee River near the present day U.S. Highway 411 Bridge, southward into Georgia. Starting from the Niles Ferry Crossing of the Little Tennessee River, near the U.S. Highway 411 bridge, the road went straight to a point about two miles east of the present town of Madisonville, Tennessee. This location is 20 some miles north of the Tellico Plains area that marks the site of the beginning of the Church Cleveland, Tennessee. The road continued southward via the Federal Trail connecting to the North Old Tellico Highway past the present site of Coltharp School, intersected Tennessee Highway 68 for a short distance and passed the site of the Nonaberg Church.  East of Englewood, Tennessee it continued on the east side of McMinn Central High School and crossed Highway 411 near the railroad overpass.  Along the west side of Etowah, the road continued near Cog Hill and the Hiwassee River near the mouth of Conasauga Creek where there was a ferry near the site of the John Hildebrand Mill.  From the ferry on the Hiwassee River the road ran through the site of the present Benton, Tennessee courthouse.  ocoee-church-of-godIt continued on Welcome Valley Road and then crossed the Ocoee River at the Hildebrand Landing. From this point the road ran south and crossed U.S. Highway 64 where there is now the River Hills Church of God formerly the Ocoee Church of God.  Continuing south near Old Fort, the route crossed U.S. Highway 411 and came to the Conasauga River at McNair Landing. Near the south end of the village of Tennga, Georgia is an historic marker alongside of Highway 411m which states the Old Federal Road was close to its path for the next twenty-five miles southward.  It would have been at this point in Tennga that the Trail of Tears would have taken a turn onto GA-2 passing the Praters Mill near Dalton Georgia to connect in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Out of the 15,000 Cherokee who endured the forced migration west after the Treaty of 1835, it is estimated that several thousand died along the way or in internment holding camps. This Old Federal route is where some of Cherokee holding camps would have been located. The Fort Marr or Fort Marrow military post constructed around 1814 under the 1803 Treaty, is the last visible remains of these camps.  The original fort was built on the Old Federal Road near the Tennessee/Georgia state line near the Conasauga River. It was relocated in 1965 beside U.S. Hwy. 411 in Benton and then to it’s current location in the Cherokee National Forest on the grounds of the Hiwassee/Ocoee State Park Ranger Station at Gee Creek Campground in Delano, Tennessee. This location provides access to popular Church of God water baptismal sites.  In June 4, 1838 Captain Marrow reported having 256 Cherokees at his fort ready for emigration.

The Native Americans were forcefully removed from their homes, plantations and farms all because of greed.  Thousands of people lost their lives including the wife of Chief John Ross.  Parts of the Old Federal Road have been washed away with floods of tears, but there are parts that still remain.  The Church of God, having its roots in the same territory of the Cherokee, Chickamauga, Muskogee Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw people, plays a vital role in the process of reconciliation among the descendants of the Trail of Tears. And the historical buildings and markers along the Trail or Tears must be preserved.  The churches along the route even though they were not actual structures during the time period are a historical beacon of hope which still crying out for those lost on this tragic journey.

cherokee-trail-of-tears

A Church Assessment Can Change Your Church

March 10, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Publication, Research

Failure to thoroughly or consistently review aspects of the church will have a negative impact on the organisation in multiple ways. In contrast, when a church embraces an intentional review process there are a number of benefits:

1. An intentional church assessment process provides key information that can be catalytic for the growth of the church.

2. An intentional church assessment process ensures the church does not drift from its mission.

3. An intentional church assessment process uses the vision as motivation for change.

4. An intentional church assessment process protects the culture by ensuring it is not neglected in the busyness of activity.

5. An intentional church assessment process will identify when the systems or structure are no longer serving the vision.

6. An intentional church assessment process creates accountability for the achievement of strategic goals.

Bulgarian Evangelical Church in Sofia

December 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

Bulgarian Evangelical Church in Kazanlak

December 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

Bulgarian Evangelical Church in Ruse

November 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

Bulgarian Evangelical Church in Plodvid

November 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

Next Page »