Romania is one of the world’s most Christian nations by percentage, but it is difficult to see this in society. The atheistic worldview of Communism persists. Weak faith, hypocrisy, and slander of other denominations cause problems for all Christian groups. This does not glorify Christ, and does not build up the Church. Church members and even clergy mix faith with folk religious practices or the occult. Churches neglect many poor people. Pray for a breakthrough of love, holiness, discipleship, and prayer in all denominations.
The Orthodox Church dominates society with 87% of the population affiliated. Cultural pressure to remain Orthodox, however nominal, persists. For many, this affiliation is inherited rather than reflective of a deeply held personal faith. Some Orthodox priests frequently oppose, sometimes violently, evangelical outreach. Yet within this ancient confession there is life and potential for great good. Pray for renewal from within and for the Holy Spirit to awaken those whose faith lies dead or dormant.
The Lord's Army is a remarkable renewal movement within the Orthodox Church with about 300,000 converted affiliates and many more sympathizers. Severely persecuted in the past, it is more accepted today. There are two expressions of one movement - one a branch of Orthodoxy, and the other a more independent movement linked to the Evangelical Alliance. Pray that these believers may act as leaven in the wider Orthodox Church with its large nominal membership. Pray also that the Lord's Army might inspire and foster similar movements in other Orthodox nations.
Many challenges face the Church. Since the fall of Communism, the Church has grown numerically and even matured, but there remains a long way to go.
Church planting is still a vital ministry. Over 100 new churches are planted each year, but many more are needed. A consortium of mission agencies works across evangelical denominational boundaries to facilitate reaching the 19 cities and 9,500 villages (43% of all villages) without a single evangelical church. Many more congregations are still needed in the cities. There is notable resistance to non-Orthodox expressions of Christianity in most villages, and rising costs and rapid cultural change make for urban challenges. Pray for this vision to become a widespread movement, owned by the national church and effective at planting churches in every city, town and village.
The relevance of Christianity to youth is a challenge - this is more an issue of church culture and tradition than openness. Churched youth are often dedicated and effective in ministry. Unfortunately, most church programmes are not attractive to unbelieving young people. Pray for effective programmes and pastors who are willing and able to mobilize the youth into ministry, an area of ministry surprisingly lacking until now.
Romanians as a mission force are a new and quickly expanding dynamic. At least ten indigenous sending agencies have emerged since 2000, and training programmes are multiplying. Members of Partners in Mission, most notably OC, were instrumental in shaping these changes. Romanians can easily access fields that Westerners cannot, and agencies are interested in Romanians serving with them. Limiting factors are the lack of financial support/sponsorship and the lagging missions vision in many churches. Pray for the removal of every barrier to the full flowering of an indigenous missions movement.
The Romanian diaspora in Europe can be regarded as both crisis and opportunity. Looking for a better life, between 10 and 20% of Romanians have left the country since 1990, a trend accelerated by EU entry in 2007. Combined with urbanization, this damages social structures and many families and churches. The exodus of the younger generation and the brain-drain of intellectuals and professionals will have a serious effect on the nation as will the trend of parents leaving their children with grandparents while they move abroad. But, on the positive side, many dynamic evangelical churches have been planted throughout Western Europe as a result. Pray that these churches might reach out beyond Romanians to the spiritually needy nations that host them. Pray also for more Romanian Christians to stay or to return in order to build up and transform their own nation.
The Romani (Gypsy) community, notoriously difficult to count, but numbering between 500,000 and 2.5 million. Although they are proportionately more evangelical than majority Romanians, they remain a needy people. They suffer discrimination and isolation, with much lower standards of living, education, health care and employment. Government programmes raise these standards and integrate them into society, but deep-seated prejudice must be overcome. Hundreds of thousands flee Romania only to meet harsh treatment in other European countries. But they are also the most spiritually responsive ethnicity to the gospel. Increasingly, Christian Romani now have bold vision to reach their own people.
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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.