Bulgarian Church of God splits in 10

July 1, 2022 by  
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The Bulgarian Church of God has split in no less than 10 since the 2000s as following:

  1. Bulgarian Church of God (27.12.1990)
  2. Church of God in Bulgaria (23.01.2006)
  3. God’s Church (13938/2006: 07.02.2007)
  4. Church of God-12 (Sofia, Rodostono)
  5. New Generation Church of God (05.04.2000)
  6. Bethesda Church of God (27.12.2010)
  7. BulLive Church of God (15.01.2000)
  8. New Life Church of God (06.11.2000)
  9. Bulgarian Church of God – Sofia (4996/2003 Sredetz, E.Georgiev Bul. 2, apt. 4)
  10. Bridge Church of God (50/2013)

Bulgarian Church of God Membership 20 Years Later

May 5, 2022 by  
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Bulgarian Church of God Membership 20 Years Ago

March 30, 2022 by  
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The Central Church of God Ministry Center in Sofia (Bulgaria) Today

December 30, 2021 by  
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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)

9/11 REVERSAL: Prophetic Restoration of a Nation and the Glory of God

September 10, 2021 by  
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In 1994, as a prophetic warning to the nation some seven years before the 9/11 attacks, Dr. David Franklin wrote “A Call to Righteousness: Impending Judgment.” Drawing conclusions from Ezekiel’s chapter 12 desolation, destruction, dispersion, despair and prophetic hope in chapter 14, he warns that:

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

The book continues with a call for international righteousness (p. 10) and a critique of the debt-free myth proclaiming a time of economic shift (p. 11-12). Remember, this warning was written two decades before anyone in America had mentioned foreclosure, crises or global economic crises. But my favorite chapter still is the interpretation of Ezekiel’s vision of the departure of the Glory of God (p. 20-21).

I read this book back in 1999 and frankly had forgotten about it until 2011 when, at a young ministers training camp in the mountains of Bulgaria, we experienced what we consider the most genuine appearance of the Glory of God in our whole ministry. We wrote about it then and presented our observation at the 2012 Missions Conference at the Good Shepherd Church of God inPahokee,FL. The four points of our observation carry a tremendous prophetic resemblance to what Dr. David Franklin had proclaimed in his book 18 years ago:

(1) Every time God renews His covenant with His people, He shows His presence.

(2) 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.

(3) When a generation looses the vision of the Glory of God, God begins renewing His covenant again with a new generation.

(4) 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.

 

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

The Bulgarian Church of God Celebrates its 90th Anniversary

November 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News, Research

Excerpt from “Spirit-Empowerment of the Poor in Spirit: Dr. Nicholas Nikolov and the Establishment of the Bulgarian Assemblies of God in 1928” presented at the Missions & Intercultural Studies Interest Group, 47th Annual Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (Lee University, 2018)

In 2018, the Pentecostal Union in Bulgaria is celebrating 90 years since its establishment. The organization of the Bulgarian Assemblies would have been impossible without the leadership of Dr. Nicholas Nikolov. But while Nikolov successfully fulfilled the mission set by the American Assemblies of God, the larger part of Bulgaria’s young Pentecostal movement remained unregistered and mainly underground. Recently published intelligence reports by the Communist Regime propaganda placed the beginnings of the Bulgarian Church of God in 1922-1924 – much earlier than the separation from the officially organized Pentecostal churches. The establishing meeting of the Bulgarian Pentecostal Union in 1928 simply reaffirmed the already existing division among Bulgarian Pentecostals and the beginning of the Bulgarian Church of God. The year 2018 rightly marks its 90th anniversary

Unregistered Pentecostal Churches and the Underground Bulgarian Church of God 

The larger majority of Pentecostal churches in Bulgaria remained reluctant to join the Pentecostal Union with particular skepticism toward registering with the government in 1928. Many perceived the new organization with 20 members led by Nikolov as betraying the original Pentecostal message brought by Zaplishny and Voronaev. As the older Pentecostals in the country saw it, a young man sent from America, took a dozen of believers and formed a new organization – nothing others have not done before him.

Almost immediately a prophetic word was given to Spas Stefanov,[1] in whose Sofia home Pentecostal meetings were held. The prophecy was from the book of Isaiah 8:10-12:  Say ye not, a confederacy[2] [union], to all them to whom this people shall say, a confederacy [union]; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.

No more than a fortnight later, the largest recorded earthquake in Bulgaria occurred and was immediately seen as divine confirmation; especially when taking under account, that its epicenter in Chirpan, and the close-by Plovdiv and Mirichlery, were renowned cities of Pentecostal Evangelical work at the time. The effect was much like the Great Earthquake of San Francisco during the Azusa Street Revival. Another confirmation to the prophecy was seen during the following winter when the Black Sea froze right at the headquarters of the newly established Pentecostal Union in Bourgas.

With a confirmed prophecy in hand, the majority opposing the new organization was lead by the seven presbyters ordained personally by Dionisey Zaplishny during his first visit in Bulgaria. They accented on the leadership and gifts of the Spirit in the unregistered (free) churches without manmade organization and order. Most of the groups that united around them were in Northern Bulgaria in the cities of Pleven, Lovetch, Etropole, Vratsa, Vidin, Montana, Nikopol, Troyan, and village churches near Ruse, Razgrad and Yambol. Presbyter Stoyan Tinchev formed and led the largest group among them, which grew into an underground movement during the Communist Regime and formed the Church of God in Bulgaria.

Boris Grozdanov, who held direct communication and was personally visited by Swedish Pentecostal evangelist Axel B. Lindgren, led groups in Verdikal/Bankya near Sofia and Pernik (both places visited often by Zaplishney).[3] Many more were located in Southern Bulgaria, between Stara Zagora and the Turkish border at Malko Tarnovo, led by Ivan Broshovsky of Yambol.

[1] Father of pastor Toma Spasov, who was sentenced and deported in the 1980s by the Communist Regime with two other Church of God pastors for leading unregistered underground churches.

[2] Translated in the Bulgarian Bible as “union” and resembling the newly established Pentecostal Union.

[3] Letter from Lindgren instructed him to hold the pure teaching and stay out of organized religion. Recorded December 14, 1930 in Protocol 14 of Minutes of the Executive Committee of the Evangelical Pentecostal Churches in Bulgaria (Personal archive of the author).

Recommended Reading:

  1. Autobiography of Pastor Dionisey Zaplishny (cir. 1927)
  2. Dinko Zhelev, former president of the Bulgarian Pentecostal Union (personal archives)
  3. Diulgerov, D.V. (with statistical data submitted by Dr. Nicolas Nikolov) in Annual Publication of the Theological Faculty at Sofia University – Sofia, 1932
  4. Donka Kinareva: Family Chronicles by J. Markov (unpublished)
  5. Joseph Gourbalov, Birth and Early Historical and Theological Development of the Baptist Movement in Bulgaria, 2002
  6. Letter from Axel B. Lindgren to Boris Grozdanov (April 10, 1930)
  7. National Archive Records, Ruse – Bulgaria (Archive collection, F319K)
  8. Nikolov, Nicolas and Martha. Ministerial files, personal papers and family correspondence (1924-28)
  9. Paul Gourbalov, Birth and Development of the Evangelical Pentecostal Movement in Bulgaria (manuscript)
  10. Travel Diary of Marry Zaplishna (cir. 1924)

GOD is DOING a NEW THING

July 15, 2018 by  
Filed under Featured, News

2020

The Holy Ghost within us cries for holiness and we shall not be oppressed, depressed, repressed, regressed, transgressed by this dead and dying world. For there’s a standard of heaven and a judgment of God; a rule of holiness and a road of righteousness which must begin nowhere else but with the household of God; where God is doing a NEW thing and speaking for a SEASON of:

– Re-covery
– Re-claiming
– Re-versal
– Re-juvenation
– Re-imbursement

– Re-cuperation
– Re-organization
– Re-volution
– Re-envisioning
– Re-freshing

and re-telling the old, old story that a King has left His glory and died on cross on Calvary to save a wretch like me…

90 Years Ago Pastor Nicholas Nikolov Established the Pentecostal Union of Bulgaria

March 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News

By the fall of 1927 the Pentecostal revival from Bourgas extended to several outreaches. Appropriate recognition was given by the General Council of the Assemblies of God in their September, 1927 meeting. The Latter Rain Evangel also reported revival in Bulgaria, workers trained at the Bible School and a good number saved and baptized with the Holy Spirit.

 With this avid success and the arrival of Nikolov’s first-born son on November 9, 1927 came the second attempt to unite Bulgarian Pentecostals. A preliminary meeting was held in February of 1928 in Rouse where the Union’s establishing meeting was scheduled for March 28 in Bourgas.

To no surprise, only 14 delegates representing five congregations attended. The delegates voted and received the Union’s by-laws and statement of faith, based on the same documents by the Assemblies of God in America. The first annual conference of the new Union followed in October in Varna. A national General Council was set and the Executive Committee was chaired by Pastor Nikolov – at the time of his appointment he was only 28 years of age.

Trained in the United States and familiar with the Assemblies of God structure, Nikolov purposed to replicate the same organization in Bulgaria. Unfortunately, most Bulgarian Pentecostals in 1928 did not have a clear perception of the Assemblies of God and hardly felt part of the denomination. With only 20 members, the new organization was a small minority and did not represent the vast diversity within Bulgarian Pentecostalism at the time. Neither did it cause the split among Bulgarian Pentecostals as often held. The official registration of the Pentecostal Union simply confirmed the deepening division among Pentecostals in Bulgaria that had taken place since Zaplishny was deported in 1924.

Benny Hinn in the Church of God Ministry Center in Bulgaria

September 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Featured, News

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