Theology of the Persecuted Church

June 30, 2004 by  
Filed under News

Theology of the Persecuted Church is a research sequel which introduces the ministry dynamics, spiritual practices and theological formation of the Bulgarian Church of God under the communist Regime.

Part 1: Lord’s Supper
The Church of God in Bulgaria was established in the 1920s with an identical name, but independently from the Church of God (Cleveland, TN). The first connection between the two denominations was established in 1985. During this 65-year period the Church of God in Bulgaria was persecuted by Orthodox and nationalistic organizations until it was outlawed by the Communism Regime in the 1940s. During the years of underground worship, the Church of God has preserved the Lord’s Supper in the grade of authenticity in which it was initially received from the first Pentecostal missionaries.

An essential part of the service is the preparation. Due to the lack of scheduled services in the underground church, the believers depend on the leadership of the Holy Spirit for the exact date of the communion service. This is done with regard to the need of protection from the secret police. Fasting is a required preparation for the service. Due to the lack of meeting place, the actual service takes place at a believer’s home. Sometimes these services have up to fifty people in a small apartment. Worship is quiet, because any loud noise may lead to the appearance of the police. The physical silence, however, does not limit the presence of the Holy Spirit, and even helps the believers to be more sensitive to the voice of God, which is indescribable when taking place as a group experience. The service starts with prayer, which lasts until God reveals the lady whom is to beak the unleavened bread for the communion. During the time of preparation, the minister delivers the communion message.

The altar call, given after the sermon, purposes to prepare the believers for communion. The communion is not given to a person who is not saved, baptized in water and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, after the sermon, a special prayer is offered for repentance and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The author has personally witnessed up to thirty people saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit in a matter of minutes as a result of such a prayer.

The converts are then led to the river and baptized in water. This is done in even in the middle of winter, sometimes the temperature is so low that the minister and his assistants break the ice in order to baptize the converts.

The converts are welcomed back with a special song by the congregation. After extended time of self-examination and request of each believer to be forgiven by the present members of the congregation, the pastor presents the communion to the congregation. One of the unleavened cakes is used as a symbol of the oneness of Christ’s body. The cup of the communion is filled with wine. The roots of this tradition can be traced back to the teachings of the first western missionaries to Bulgaria at the end of the nineteenth century, as well as the influence of the Eastern Orthodox tradition. After communion, men and women are separated for a foot washing service. At the end of the service, all are gathered for an Agape feast, which serves as a conclusion of the communion service.