Water Baptism among early Bulgarian Pentecostals

April 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

Slide11by Dony K. Donev, D.Min.

Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals (Research presentation prepared for the Society of Pentecostal Studies, Seattle, 2013 – Lakeland, 2015, thesis in partial fulfillment of the degree of D. Phil., Trinity College)

The sacrament of water baptism was not new for Bulgarian believers. But Pentecostals did NOT accept infant baptism. Converts who were baptized as babies or any other Eastern Orthodox ritual were re-baptized before being received in the church. Among early Bulgarian Pentecostals, baptism was always done outside in “running water.” It was also considered mandatory for salvation as Bulgaria’s early Pentecostals insisted on spiritual fullness including: (1) salvation, (2) water baptism and (3) baptism with the Spirit. This formula of spiritual experience satisfied the witness of blood, water and Spirit (1 Jn. 5:8) on earth and corresponded with the triune God in heaven (1 Jn. 5:7), from whom the believer’s spiritual experience originated.

Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals

April 15, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News, Research


by Dony K. Donev, D.Min.

Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals (Research presentation prepared for the Society of Pentecostal Studies, Seattle, 2013 – Lakeland, 2015, thesis in partial fulfillment of the degree of D. Phil., Trinity College)

Protestant work in Bulgaria began in 1815 when agents of British and Foreign Bible Society, Robert Pinkerton (1780-1859) and Benjamin Barker (d.1859), initiated a search for Bible translators in the spoken Bulgarian vernacular. As a result a new translation of the New Testament in Bulgaria was published in 1840 and the whole Bible in 1871.

By the liberation of Bulgaria from Turkish Yoke in 1878 Protestantism was well established in Bulgaria. Graduates from Protestant Robert’s College became prominent politicians in the new Bulgarian state. When the first Pentecostal missionaries arrived in 1920, they found a century old protestant tradition in Bulgaria.

Presenting at the Society for Pentecostal Studies in Southeastern University on “Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals” (Part 2)

January 25, 2015 by  
Filed under News, Publication, Research

Presenting at the Society for Pentecostal Studies in Southeastern University on “Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals” (Part 2)

Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire?

October 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Comments Off on Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire?

MacArthur Strange FireDid tongues and the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit cease in the early church? John MacArthur says they did and that practicing them today is false worship—an abomination before God. Pneuma Review invites you to respond to these criticisms and to renew the biblical command to “desire spiritual gifts” (1 Cor 14:1).

We’ve been here before

In 1978, MacArthur wrote The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective (Zondervan). Charismatic Chaos (Zondervan) was published in 1992. Dr. MacArthur launched his latest attacks against Pentecostal/charismatic beliefs with the Strange Fire conference (October 16-18, 2013), with speakers including Joni Eareckson-Tada and R. C. Sproul. His new book is Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson), due out on November 12, 2013.

Not known for a conciliatory approach, John MacArthur’s inflammatory language is sure to polarize any attempt by Christians to discuss the gifts of the Spirit. We all agree that spiritual gifts can be and have been misused. There are significant doctrinal errors and poor theology being taught by some Christian leaders today. But are all Pentecostal/charismatics worshiping God falsely? Are they believing and teaching a counterfeit Gospel?

Invitation to participate

Pneuma Review has invited Pentecostal/charismatic scholars and Bible teachers from around the world to read and respond to MacArthur’s book. This is your opportunity to join the discussion about the continuation or cessation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Use the Comment box below so that all of us may read your posts.

As we have this needed conversation

Please keep in mind the Pneuma Foundation’s (parent organization of Pneuma Review) principles for discussing controversial topics.

When presenting teachings over which there is disagreement in the body of Christ, the Pneuma Foundation will not make its position in a manner that alienates or ignores opposing views. It is better to follow the Biblical mandate of preferring others over ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4). The Foundation desires to present the differing viewpoints and promote dialogue, acknowledging that the goal of our instruction is love (1 Tim. 1:5).

Pentecostals too?
Is John MacArthur being as hard on Pentecostals as he is on charismatics? This brief video by MacArthur might make you think that he is more sympathetic towards classical Pentecostals. However, Dr. Michael Brown sent this note to us that he posted on his Facebook page:

For all those writing to me and claiming that Pastor MacArthur is reaching out to “faithful Pentecostals” in a conciliatory way, make no mistake about it: He renounces the entire charismatic movement as being in serious error and ends his book with a strong appeal to his reformed charismatic friends to completely renounce their beliefs in continuationism. It’s black and white, in his book, on my desk, no doubt about it.

John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, Reviewed by R. Loren Sandford
R. Loren SandfordStrange Fire by John MacArthur is basically an attack on anything and everything related to the Charismatic Movement and the various movements descended from it, as if the whole of it were composed of one monolithic set of doctrines and practices that all of us espouse. It invalidates anything that smacks of the supernatural or of emotion freely expressed in God’s presence. MacArthur pours his vitriol – and I mean vitriol – through the filter of his own prejudices and theological presuppositions in a way that blinds him to the differences between the various movements within the charismatic stream and causes him to deny the existence of the majority of us who do not agree with or practice the abuses he objects to. In doing so he ignores or reinterprets, through very poor exegesis, the clear teaching of much of the Scripture as well. [Read more]

John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, Reviewed by Eddie L. Hyatt

hyatt_1-140x205[1]As a life-long Pentecostal-Charismatic, I recommend that every Pentecostal-Charismatic leader read Strange Fire by John MacArthur. I say this because we need to see how the bizarre “spiritual” behavior and doctrinal extremes by some in our movement are viewed by those on the outside and are used to whitewash the entire movement. We have done a very poor job of addressing these problems from within, so I do not doubt that God has raised up a voice that is fundamentally opposed to our movement to address these extremes. If God could use a pagan Babylonian king to discipline his people Israel for their sins (Jeremiah 25:8-11), could he not use a merciless fundamentalist preacher to point out our shortcomings? [Read more]

MORE on the TOPIC:

Tim Challies: Lessons Learned at Strange Fire

Adrian Warnock: Strange Fire – A Charismatic Response to John MacArthur

ALEX MURASHKO: MacArthur Continues Case Against Charismatic Movement at ‘Strange Fire’


SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ: John MacArthur Suffers From Spiritual, Cultural and Theological Myopia

Joela Barker: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference

MICHAEL BROWN: A Final Appeal to Pastor MacArthur on the Eve of His ‘Strange Fire’ Conference

Sarah Pulliam Bailey: John MacArthur vs. Mark Driscoll: Megachurch pastors clash

Benjamin Robinson: Strange Fire? A Response to John MacArthur


Presenting at the Society for Pentecostal Studies in Seattle Pacific University on “Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals” (Part 1)

March 10, 2013 by  
Filed under News, Publication, Research

Presenting at the Society for Pentecostal Studies in Seattle on “Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals” (Part 1)

The Land of Pentecostals

June 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, News

A brief Interaction with Walter Brueggemann
by Dr. Dony K. Donev


Since I began studying Pentecostal history sometime ago, I have pondered the question of space and how we, Pentecostals, associate with it. Perhaps, on a larger scale, all Christian associate with space and location, but for Pentecostals it somehow becomes part of the identity of a given event, process or even person. This association is so strong that we simply cannot tell our history without it. And how is one even expected to tell Pentecostal history without places like the Bethel School of Healing, 214 Bonnie Brie Street and the Azusa Street Mission? Or how are we supposed to tell our story, to give our testimony of events significant and central for our spiritual life without a place and a location, which in most cases defines them all? For example, our salvation is connected the place where we were saved and sanctified; baptism with water or with fire from above; healing on the spot at a given prayer meeting, miracle service or church revival. And even eschatology, always undividable from the meeting in the clouds and the Heavenly city.

For Pentecostals, the Full Gospel teaching is a covenant theology because it ultimately subscribes to the quest for the Promised Land. But, I’ve never been able to pin point the reasoning behind this until reviewing anew Brueggemann’s study of “The Land” and comparing his ideas with Pentecostal history and praxis through the following quotes that will exchange perspectives with the questions stated above and hopefully stir further thinking.

p.5 “Space” means an arena of freedom without coercion or accountability, free of pressure and void of authority. …. But “place” is a very different matter. Place is space which has historical meanings, where some things have happened which are now remembered and which provide continuity across generations. Place is space in which important words have been exchanged, which have established identity, defined vocation, and envisioned destiny. Place is space in which vows have been exchanged, promises have been made, and demands have been issued. Place is indeed a protest against unpromising pursuit of space. It is a declaration that our humanness cannot be found in escape, detachment, absence of commitment, and undefined freedom.
Whereas pursuit of space may be a flight from history, a yearning for a place is a decision to enter history with an identifiable people in an identifiable pilgrimage.”

p. 11 “The very land that promised to create space for human joy and freedom became the very source of dehumanizing exploitation and oppression. Land was indeed a problem for Israel. Time after time, Israel saw the land of promise become the land of problem.”

p. 15 “….land theology in the Bible: presuming upon the land and being expelled from it; trusting toward a land not yet possessed, but empowered by anticipation of it.”

p. 27 “The action is in the land promised, not in the land possessed … So Jacob, bearer of the promise, is buried in Canaan under promise.”

p. 42 “Presence is for pursuit of the promise …. The new people, contrasted with the old, are promise-trusters, rooted in Moses, linked to the faith of Caleb, and identified as the vulnerable ones. His presence is evident in his intervention not to keep things going, but to bring life out of death, to call to himself promise-trusters in the midst of promise-doubters.”

p. 47 “Israel knew that in his speaking and Israel’s hearing was its life. That is why the first word in Israel’s life is “listen” (Deut. 6:4)! Israel lived by a people-creating word spoken by this people-creator (Deut. 8:3).”

p. 51 “Both rain and manna come from heaven, from outside the history of coercion and demand.”

p. 53 “Israel does not have many resources with which to resist the temptation. The chief one is memory. At the boundary [of Gilgal] Israel is urged to remember …. Remembering is an historic activity. To practice it is to affirm one’s historicity.”

p. 54 “Land can be a place for historical remembering, for action that affirms the abrasive historicity of our existence. But land can also be, as Deuteronomy saw so clearly, the enemy of memory, the destroyer of historical precariousness. The central temptation of the land for Israel is that Israel will cease to remember and settle for how it is and imagine not only that it was always so but it will always be so. Guaranteed security dulls the memory …. Israel’s central temptation is to forget and so cease to be a historical people, open either to the Lord of history or to his blessings yet to be given. Settled into an eternally guaranteed situation, one securely knows that one is indeed addressed by the voice of history who gives gifts and makes claims. And if one is not addressed, then one does not need to answer. And if one does not answer, then one is free not to care, not decide, not to hope and not to celebrate.”

p. 56 “The land will be avenged preciously because land is not given over to any human agent, but is a sign and function in covenant. Thus arrayed against the monarchy are both the traditionalism of Naboth and the purpose of Yahweh.”

p. 57 “Israel finds itself in history as one who had no right to exist. Slaves become an historical community. Sojourners become secured in land …. Non of it achieved, all of it given …. And the way to sustain gifted existence is to stay singularly with the gift-giver.”

And the following conclusions: as Pentecostals, we associate with places and location, we ultimately associate with land as part of our covenant theology, because:

1. In the land we place our own historical meaning, our part and role in history, as well as the spiritual heritage we have received and we give to a next generation; thus, place itself becomes not only where our history happens, but a defining part of our historical identity as a people.

2. Enduring the promise of a land not yet seen, but already received by faith, has indeed been the formative factor in any and all Pentecostal movements around the globe, as well as the initiative to restore the social order for peoples whose land has been taken away unfairly. We have even learned, that when the Promised Land becomes a land of problem, we must return to the promise in order to remain a movement after the move of the Holy Ghost and not merely a nominal denomination.

3. As humans, we localize the omnipresence of God to the place of our experience with God – the place where God has become personal for us. And this is the place, where we dare say, we have received the promise of God. Although His promise may not yet be visible in reality, having come from our experience with God, it creates a reality which is much more real than the present reality. In that sense, the very act of receiving the promise that comes from outside of history and through hearing the voice of God, recreates our reality and future.

4. Main, among other temptations for us, is the temptation to forget the land, the place of promise and meeting with God – where we come from, where we have been and where we are going. Just as Israel, this act of forgetting denotes our ceasing from being a historical people.

5. And just like Israel did, Pentecostals find themselves without the right to exist. Yet, the association with the land, and not merely any land but the Land of Promise, gives us not only a right of existence, but also an identity which no one, not even us, can change or redefine, except the Giver of the Promise. And this is the function of the covenant and the association of our personal experience with God to a place, a location, a spot in history where our lives were once and for all changed for eternity.

Bulgarian Pentecostals

April 5, 2005 by  
Filed under News

pentecostal-van11Fifteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Bulgarian Protestant movement claims over 100,000 members. This number is almost ten times higher than a 1975 German study which presented proof of approximately 13,000 “known” Protestants in Bulgaria. In the 1980s, this number had grown to 55,000, as this was the time when many Western missionaries were able to visit Bulgaria and gather information about the underground churches outlawed by the Communist Regime.

Although international reports confirmed the existence of over 100,000 Protestants in Bulgaria as early as 1994, the Bulgarian National Statistical Institute counted only 42,000 Protestant believers in Bulgaria for the 2002-2003 National Census. This number was detested recently by Dr. Stephen Penov, a professor at the Sofia University and a member of the Bulgarian Academy of Science, who has served as a Parliament expert on human rights and faith confessions. Dr. Penov stated that the members of classical Protestant denominations in Bulgarian exceeded 100,000 with over 60,000 identified as classical Protestants and a membership in the new Protestant denominations of approximately 50,000. During the past fifteen years, Bulgaria has experienced an ongoing Pentecostal revival. Therefore, it is not a surprise that over eighty percent of Bulgarian Protestants are Pentecostal or claim Pentecostal experience.

Protestant work on the Balkan Peninsula began in the 1800s when British and American missionaries were allowed to enter the Ottoman Empire. In the 1820s, the British Bible Society developed a Protestant translation of the Bulgarian Bible, which was completed and published in Constantinople in 1871. During this same period, various Protestant denominations began mission work in Bulgaria, among which were Congregationalists (1856), Methodist (1857), Baptists (1865) and Seven Day Adventists (1891). In 1871, the first Bulgarian Protestant Church was founded in the town of Bansko. By the time Bulgaria was liberated in 1878 and became an independent Balkan state, Protestantism was well established in the Bulgarian culture.

Pentecostalism was introduced in Bulgaria in 1920 as Ukrainian immigrants Zaplishny and Voronaev preached in the Congregational church at the Black Sea port city of Bourgas, where several were baptized with the Holy Spirit. This event marked the beginning of Bulgarian Pentecostalism.

In the next decade, the movement had spread throughout the country. The establishment of a consistent national structure occurred under the leadership of Nikolai Nikolov. The new denomination was formally recognized as the Union of the Evangelical Pentecostal Churches in Bulgaria, at a national assembly on 28-31 March, 1928. The organization, also known as the Pentecostal Union, was affiliated with the Assemblies of God denomination.

Legally, the newly formed organization was required to register with the Bulgarian government. This caused a great deal of controversy and division. A conservative Pentecostal group, with congregations located mainly in Northern Bulgaria, emerged from the split and adopted the name, Tinchevists, after the name of the leader Stoyan Tintchev. The Tinchevists, who are often called Northern Brothers due to the fact that most of their congregations were located in Northern Bulgaria, later became commonly known as the Bulgarian Church of God (lit. Bulgarian God’s Church).

The split between the Pentecostal Union and the Church of God was mainly due to leadership instability and internal organization disagreement. Unfortunately, due to the historical developments which followed, true attempts to reunite both Pentecostal wings did not take place even after the original leaders were replaced.

In 1944, the Communist Revolution took place in Bulgaria. In 1949, Communist authorities tried and convicted fifteen protestant leaders on false charges of treason and espionage. The division among Bulgarian Pentecostals continued during the Communist Regime. The Pentecostal Union pursued legal existence by registering with the Communist state. This action led to the government’s interference with church business and the implanting of secret agents within the denomination’s structure.

The Bulgarian Church of God, on the other hand, chose to remain underground and was severely persecuted by the authorities. Archives report that in 1974, the Bulgarian Church of God had only 600 members nationwide. This number grew to 2,000 members with congregations in 25 cities by 1981 and doubled by 1986 when the denomination was affiliated with the Church of God (Cleveland, TN).

At the same time, the Bulgarian Pentecostal Union had approximately 10,000 members and when the Berlin Wall fell, the denomination entered the Pentecostal revival that swept the country. In the decade that followed, the Pentecostal Union multiplied its congregation to 500 with over 50,000 members and adherents. A recent interview with Ivan Ivanov, the student pastor of the Pentecostal College in Sofia, indicated that the membership of the Pentecostal Union might have experienced a decline since 2002.

Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Church of God continued to grow reporting over 32,000 members with close to 400 congregations in 2001. Its work among the ethnic minorities in the country has resulted in the emergence of large Roma congregations like the ones in Samokov with 1,700 and in Razlog with 450 members.

It is reasonable to ask the question why is Pentecostalism so attractive to Bulgarian culture in the beginning of the 21st century? How is Pentecostalism responding so well to the need for faith within the postcommunist Bulgarian society? What is the reason Pentecostalism has spread so rapidly in the postcommunist age? Is Pentecostalism simply filling a spiritual gap or is it successfully responding to postmodern thinking?

The answers to the above questions are found in Pentecostal theology, which claims the “five-fold Gospel.” The results of a recent survey of one hundred randomly selected Bulgarian Protestants asking about the fundamentals of their faith is shown in the following table:

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

The last characteristic is prompted by the obvious fact, that where two or three Bulgarian Protestants agree, one disagrees with them. It is for future researchers to determine if this is a reflection of Bulgarian cultural mentality, suspicion remaining from the Communist Regime or simply Pentecostal experiential curiosity with existential need for opposition of social norms even within itself.

Fortunately, Bulgarians remain in almost complete agreement on issues such as the person and work of Jesus Christ in the salvific mission of God and the importance of the Holy Spirit in the mission of the church. Perhaps, these are the points of agreement which future Bulgarian Protestants should use to build unity and construct strategies for the future development of the movement. Because these also serve as the cornerstone of Pentecostal doctrine and practice, a movement toward unity within the Bulgarian Protestant movement should be initiated by Bulgarian Pentecostals. However, before such initiation can be realized, Pentecostals must reach a balance between their numerical advantage and their social action.

Bulgarian Pentecostals Called to Fast

November 10, 2003 by  
Filed under News

The national leadership of the Bulgarian Pentecostal churches announced national days for fasting and prayer. The announcement includes chain fasting and a night of prayer in the local churches, as well as a national prayer and fasting event for pastors which will take place in November, 2003. It purposes empowering of a new spiritual vision for ministry. The prayer requests include:
1. Spiritual renewal of believers and churches.
2. Infilling with the Spirit for ministry through the spiritual gifts.
3. Positive church influence among the Bulgarian community.
4. Spiritual and financial prosperity for the churches.
5. All elected in leadership in the church and the nation.
6. Successful mission work according to the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20).
7. Anointing in the evangelism and preaching, confirmed by spiritual fruits, new converts and supernatural signs and wonders.

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