Bulgaria suffered under Communist rule from 1947 to 1989, and troubles remain. Corruption, crime networks, and poverty affect many lives. Abortion, while less than in the past, is still widespread, and divorce is common. The populace continues to age even as its overall numbers have been steadily declining since 1986. Many young people leave Bulgaria (the poorest EU country) to find work and opportunity in other nations. Pray for the Church to demonstrate God’s love in this country where racial tensions are strong and hope is rare.
The Orthodox Church needs renewal and new life. A bitter schism weakened and undermined the Church, stemming from the collusion of Orthodox leaders with the former Communist regime. Disunity persists, even at the local level. Orthodoxy is still largely equated to a Bulgarian identity, but this is changing as other religious groups take root and grow. Pray for a genuine move of the Holy Spirit that brings reconciliation of rifts and a full realization of Orthodoxy's spiritual richness.
Sofia, the capital and Bulgaria's only large city, has many churches, but more are needed. Pray for the nation's centre of influence to be saturated with the gospel. Meanwhile, 2,500 villages are without any evangelical church. Pray that the peoples of the rural areas would not be neglected; their spiritual need is great.
Consolidating church growth is a priority. Pray for:
- Training of church leadership. Residential, TEE and informal training courses (such as EQUIP and the Global Leadership Summit) are multiplying - all necessary to prepare more leaders for growing churches. Pray especially for the interdenominational Evangelical Theological Institute, a cooperative effort formed through the merger of four different schools. Pray for the staff and students, and for provision of financial and academic resources necessary to provide a solid biblical foundation for ministry.
- Discernment of doctrinal error. Every modern heresy and cult seems to have targeted this country - Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, extreme "prosperity" teachings and other Christian and eastern cults are very active, sending many missionaries. Pray for wise leaders and a biblically knowledgeable Church to discern false doctrine.
- New indigenous agencies have sprung up, many characterized by creativity and activism. They aim to reach children, prisoners, and ethnic minorities and to provide literature, Bibles, and Christian teaching in schools and camps. The need for wise coordination and adequate funding mechanisms is urgent.
- Country-wide vision. Pray for the influence and use of the BEA and others in setting - and achieving, by God's grace - ambitious goals for the effective evangelization of the country.
Cross-cultural missions are increasing. Bulgarians serve in Turkey, India, Zimbabwe and throughout Europe. Increasing numbers go with short-term teams to neighbouring countries. Pray for greater vision for the world in Bulgarian churches. Pray for greater awareness and cultural sensitivity among Christians toward ethnic minorities in Bulgaria.
Islam's legacy here dates to the Ottoman era, but most Bulgarian Muslims practice folk magic and are largely unaware of many Islamic teachings. Muslim missionaries (who outnumber Christian ones), teachers and funds pour into the country to teach Bulgarian Muslims a purer Islam and to push for greater Islamic influence. Pray that Bulgaria's 900,000 Muslims would discover Jesus as the true light and Lamb of God.
Ethnic minorities suffered severely at times at the hands of the Bulgarian majority. Bulgaria's straddling of a Balkan, Slavic and Turkish cultural fault line has generated trouble for centuries. Considerable discrimination continues, and both Turks and Gypsies have formed political parties to press for their rights. Pray specifically for:
- The Rumelian Turks in the east who deeply resent the attempts of the Communist regime to forcibly Bulgarize them in the 1980s. Their language, religion and culture are now fully recognized. Barely 150 evangelical believers are known among them. Specific long-term church planting ministry is a recent development. Pray for the trickle of conversions to become a flood.
- The Millet, an oppressed Turkish-speaking Gypsy minority, experienced a people movement to Christ among them during the 1990s. Of the up to 15,000 believers, as many as 80% were women and children, most coming to faith by way of dreams, visions and healings. This group of believers has since shrunk to less than half that number. Pray for the conversion of men also, largely unemployed and bound by alcohol. Pray too for Christians with knowledge of Turkish who seek to disciple these groups of largely leaderless believers (Ichthus Fellowship and Bulgarian national groups).
- The Romani, with widespread illiteracy, are generally despised and at the bottom of the social order. The Orthodox/Muslim ratio among them is about 60/40. Many are deeply involved in the occult, crime and gambling, but major church growth has occurred amidst them as well - more than 20,000 have turned to the Lord, mainly through the Pentecostals, Baptists and the Church of God. The Romani NT and Romani-language radio ministry are valuable.
- Bulgarian-speaking Muslims in the south have an identity crisis - rejected both by Bulgarians (religion) and Turks (language); a specific ministry is needed to reach them. Only a handful of congregations exist among them, but Bulgarian workers have increased focused prayer and church planting work among this group in recent years.
Literature. Every large city has at least one Christian bookstore (CLC, Veren Publishers, others), and most larger churches have books for sale. Pray for viability amidst the prevailing poverty. EHC, SGM and the Bible League have plans for a nation-wide literature distribution campaign. Effective cooperation between foreign and national literature agencies is needed. Several indigenous Christian publishers have emerged, but struggle financially to produce and sell copies.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.