Celebrations in Bulgarian churches? (source: www.freeimages.com)

This month’s guest blogger is Valentin Kozhuharov, who lectures in missiology at the University of Plovdiv and is a consultant on missions to the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

Since the changes of 1990 (and before that no religious life was possible in Eastern Europe because of the persecutions the communists systematically carried out against Christians and any other religion), the church in Bulgaria has grown rapidly and fruitfully.

The Orthodox church has mostly been occupied with restoring its internal ecclesiastical life, so mission has not been its main goal of church work, but anyway this church organised a nationwide network of Sunday schools, undertook various charitable activities and started (only in the last 7-8 years) mission in prisons, orphanages, old people’s homes and other social institutions.  It even started “external” mission by sending a priest to South Africa in July 2010 to plant an Orthodox church in Pretoria.

The amount of mission work, which has mostly been done in a bit chaotic way, needed systematisation and theoretical-practical foundations, and in the diocese of Veliko Tarnovo a mission department was opened in January 2010 and a missionary document has been developed: “Principles of mission for the Bulgarian Orthodox church”.  In June 2011 the Principles were considered by the Holy Synod, and now in several diocesan centres the bishops have appointed mission educators to further develop mission strategy in their dioceses and to practically carry out missionary activities.

The evangelical churches in Bulgaria have been more active in the so called “social mission” where they carried out mission work in almost all social institutions in the country dealing with children and the disadvantaged (children’s homes, prisons, orphanages, old people’s homes, hospitals, etc). In many areas the Orthodox church and the evangelical churches have competed with each other in these mission fields, and often they would oppose the mission work of the “other” church; in some instances the Orthodox church used the authority of the state to oust the “sectarian” Christian organisations (as they treated the evangelical churches in the country).

This made Christians of both the Orthodox and the evangelical churches to think, and to come to practical recommendations, about mission of Christian unity where all the churches in the country are able to combine resources and efforts in their God-commanded mission work in society.  In the last two to three years, in many social institutions these Christians work together with the same marginalised and needy people and children.  Still the day when they all will be working together in one spirit and one heart is far away, but a good start has been made.

Valentin Kozhuharov

Bulgarian missionaries take part (and some of them took the leading role) in the newly-established Orthodox Mission Network which aims to increase mission awareness within the Orthodox churches in Europe and to initiate true missions on their territories.  Bulgarian missiologists develop theoretical issues of mission, and for the first time missiology has been taught as a theological discipline since February 2011 in one of the university theological faculties.  These missionaries and missiologists cooperate with many other missionaries and missiologists both Orthodox and non-Orthodox and both in Europe and worldwide.

Please pray:

  • for Valentin as he lectures on missiology and stimulates a passion for outreach among all Bulgarian denominations
  • for the gospel to flourish in Bulgaria
  • for more mission workers, both foreign and local, to train and inspire the church

For more information about praying for Bulgaria visit the World Prayer Map