Category Archives: Christianity

Ministry Internship in Bulgaria

Take a year and experience the mission field in Bulgaria!Bulgaria in Europe

We are looking for recent high school grads or college students/grads who want to pursue a ministry internship with us in Sofia, Bulgaria from October 2016 – June 2017.

Serve

You will serve alongside us as we endeavor to share the gospel in Sofia and around Bulgaria. Additionally, there is the possibility of making a ministry trip to Pskov, Russia during the year.

Sofia MountainEast-West Ministries International is focused on evangelism and church planting.

Within this mission there are numerous ways to serve, including a church plant in Sofia, partnering with the Bulgarian Christian Student Union, and ministry in a transitional home.

No previous language training is necessary, you will take regular Bulgarian lessons during the week and have plenty of opportunity for practice!

Live

We are located in a neighborhood of Sofia near the Vitosha mountain, within walking distance of the New Bulgarian University and easy public transportation to downtown.

Sofia City

You will need to raise approximately $1,500 in monthly support, though that may vary slightly depending on the person. We will work with you to develop a budget and support-raising plan.

Tzar Asen Stronghold

Bulgaria is located in the South-East of Europe, bordered by Turkey, Greece, Romania, Serbia, and Macedonia.

There are also some low-cost airlines that operate flights into Western Europe if you would like to travel after the internship.

Please contact us using the form below if you are interested in this opportunity!

Puritan Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving

O my God,
Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
my heart admires, adores, loves thee,
for my little vessel is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before thee
in ceaseless flow.

When I think upon and converse with thee
ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
crowding into every moment of happiness.

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
for adorning it, sanctifying it,
though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou hast given me,
for preserving its strength and vigour,
for providing senses to enjoy delights,
for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding,
for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
for a full table and overflowing cup,
for appetite, taste, sweetness,
for social joys of relatives and friends,
for ability to serve others,
for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

I love thee above the powers of language
to express,
for what thou art to thy creatures.

Increase my love, O my God, through time
and eternity.

Amen

(The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers)

Sermon – The Ministry of Reconciliation

When we hear the word ministry, we often think of professionals – staff at churches or Christian organizations. Do you have a ministry?

The Apostle Paul writes that God, through Christ, has reconciled us to himself and given us the ministry of reconciliation. We are God’s agents – God’s ambassadors to his enemies, offering terms of surrender.

God works with individuals and through individuals. Join us as we consider God’s call on the life of the Christian in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians 5:14-21.

Listen or download here:

Evangelism on a City Bus – Russian Orthodox

“I don’t read the Bible, I’m Orthodox.”

You don’t expect to actually hear those words. Everyone knows it’s true, but it’s never said. Certainly not as a means of identification.

Orthodox Bible

On the bus home from a seminar the other day, Nansi had a Russian study Bible on her lap. The man sitting across from her, a Jehovah’s Witness, engaged with us – easy enough when someone is carrying a Bible! You can read the story of that encounter here.

There had been four of us sitting in tight quarters, like a restaurant booth without the table. Sitting next to the Jehovah’s Witness was a woman, who I initially thought was with him. After he left the bus, since she had heard the entire conversation, I asked if she read the Bible. Immediately she answered, “I don’t read the Bible, I’m Orthodox.”

[“Я Библию не читаю, я Православная.”]

In response I asked, “Are Orthodox not allowed to read the Bible?”

After an awkward pause, ignoring the question, she said “that guy’s not normal,” referring to the Jehovah’s Witness.

Below is the rest of our conversation:

“I come from a different branch of Christianity, and I don’t really understand Orthodoxy. What is most important in Orthodoxy?”

“To be a good person.”

“That’s only possible with God’s strength.”

“Sometimes I feel that way.”

“I know you might think that I’m also from a cult, we work with the Baptists. We can’t be good people on our own. You can’t be a good person. I can’t be a good person. My natural self does not seek the things of God. It’s only when God resurrects me, though Jesus Christ, that I can live.”

“Why are you here, in Pskov?”

“My wife and I moved here because we want to help people. We have some friends from the area who recommended it.”

“My priest told me not to help people unless they want to be helped. I’m old, I’m in my 60s, I’m tired of people, I don’t want to spend any time with them. People don’t have the same values today, they’re only interested in money.”

“Were you a Christian in the Soviet times?”

“I never thought of it that way. I sang in the choir at church. I was a schoolteacher and they threatened to fire me because of my church going.”

Orthodox WomanAt first we thought she was angry when she asked us why we were here. I think she was just generally confused, didn’t understand why we would come. Admittedly, it doesn’t make much worldly sense.

A standard, nominal Orthodox Christian, who never goes to church, would also say it’s important to be a good person. It’s enlightening, however, to hear that from someone who is a regular part of the church’s life.

She thinks the Jehovah’s Witness is in a cult, and he thinks she’s an unbeliever, but both of them are trying to earn their salvation. I hope she gives up. I hope she stops trying to rely on her own strength.

She knows who we are, and she knows where we meet, but the cultural baggage against Protestants is so strong that very few self-identified Orthodox are willing to engage.

Less than 10% of Russians have any connection to any church. Most Russians are Orthodox only by ethnic identification. To them all Protestants are “Baptists,” and they’ve been taught that Baptists are Western traitors who practice child sacrifice. Seriously. Most believe the first accusation, and some the second.

This is one of our greatest strengths as foreign missionaries in Russia. We’re not Russian. It’s ok for us to be Protestant – I’m not a traitor for being one. Russians can engage with us as a cross-cultural dialogue, not a negotiation with an enemy. The problem is, we don’t even have the Bible as a common foundation.

Do you have any experience in theological communication with Orthodox? Let me know in the comments!

Read part 1: Evangelism on a City Bus – Jehovah’s Witness

Evangelism on a City Bus – Jehovah’s Witness

As missionaries in Russia, we’re always looking for ways to steer conversations towards spiritual themes. Sometimes, you get asked directly!

My wife and I were on the bus, going home from a Romans’ seminar that was held at our church downtown. On Russian buses, there are sections of four seats that face each other, in pairs of two. Like a booth at a restaurant, but there’s no table and your legs are often intertwined.

Our Russian language MacArthur Study Bible was sitting on Nansi’s lap, the description written on the spine. The man across from her leaned over and asked what a “study bible” is. Talking to strangers is highly unusual behavior for Russians in public, so I was a little confused at first. I took the Bible, opened it up and showed that the text is at the top and commentary at the bottom of each page.

Study Bible Russian

The man asks, “how do you know to trust what the commentary says?” That’s a brilliant question, one that I did not expect from someone in a nominal Christian culture where nobody reads the Bible. “He’s a known, respected and trusted author,” I respond. Nansi adds that we compare what we read against the text – which was actually a much better answer!

“You shouldn’t read any commentary, just read the actual text,” the man replies. As if to prove something, I show him my English Bible, which doesn’t have any commentary.

“People pray here about the Kingdom of Heaven, but they have no idea what the kingdom actually is.” Presumably he’s referring to the Lord’s Prayer, or as even Russian Protestants call it, the “Our Father.” I took the bait, “what is the Kingdom of Heaven?”

“A government in heaven, ruled by Christ, established 100 years ago in 1914. If I give you some literature, will you take it?” Let’s find out who this guy is, I think – not knowing this piece of JW theology. As he’s getting ready to exit the bus, he pulls out a magazine – the Jehovah’s Witness style is unmistakeable.

My wife made an insightful comment, that would have been pertinent had the man not left. We’re not supposed to read commentary, just the Biblical text … but we should read the Watchtower? How is that not commentary?
Watchtower Russian May 2014
This is the second time that we’ve been engaged by Jehovah’s Witnesses. First, while in Bulgaria waiting for our visas – now, on a bus in Pskov, Russia. They definitely deserve an “A” for effort.

Granted, he had a very helpful hint that we would be a good target, we were carrying a study Bible in plain view. Still, I can’t imagine that many Protestants are looking to start spiritual conversations in the city bus.

I know, from speaking to other Jehovah’s Witnesses, that they need to earn their place in heaven, to be one of the 144,000. It is a religion of works, and he’s trying to do his part to evangelize not just because he’s concerned about us, but also because he’s concerned about himself.

He is trying to earn salvation by his evangelism. That may give him greater impetus to do it – but are we, who are secure in our hope, silent?

The conversation continued with the man’s neighbor in part 2: Evangelism on a City Bus – Russian Orthodox

Christmas at the Gypsy Church in Dupnitsa, Bulgaria

Gypsy Church in Dupnitsa
Gypsy Church in Dupnitsa

We spent Christmas Day with Nansi’s home church in a Gypsy village of Dupnitsa, a town south of Sofia. I preached from a nontraditional Christmas passage (John 1:1-16) and Nansi translated. The children all got presents from Samaritan’s Purse, so if you and your church participated in any of the international Christmas gift outreaches, we saw the fruits of that!

After Chernobyl, I Can’t Believe In God

Ukrainian Atheist

This week a friend and I were talking at Starbucks about our ministry in Russia and the history of Evangelical Christians in Russia and Ukraine. In the middle of our conversation, the lady next to us turns around and says that she is from Ukraine and overheard our conversation. We soon begin to understand that her hope for salvation is in her nation. Click on the video to hear about our conversation and the conviction of God on her heart:

Where is Our Hope?

I ask if she believes in God, she says that her grandmother did, but she can’t. Religion is a crutch for the weak. It’s ok for people to go to church, because they learn morals, but God can’t exist because of all the suffering in the world. “After Chernobyl, I can’t believe in God.” In her opinion, the disaster at Chernobyl was not an accident, but an intentional attack meant to kill people and lead to the destruction of the Ukrainian people and the Soviet Union. Why would God allow that? The only hope is for the people and politicians of Ukraine to bring greatness to the nation.

My friend and I told her that our hope is not in democracy and it is not in America. Our hope is in the living God who redeemed us in Jesus Christ – who suffered for us while we were still enemies. That the human heart is evil, not just some people, but all people. “I can’t believe, I can’t believe.” She stood up and prepared to leave. Visibly shaken, she kept repeating “I feel so guilty, I feel so guilty. I see my grandmother standing in front of me, scolding me, ‘Olga, how dare you!’

Believe in Your Heart and Confess with Your Mouth

Olga confided that she doesn’t usually tell people she doesn’t believe. She doesn’t know why she shared that with us, “I thought you were students of history, I didn’t know you were so religious! I believe in my heart that there’s no God, but I don’t usually say it. I feel so guilty.”

We told her we’d be praying for her and her son and invited her to the Russian language church where I am a member if she wanted to talk more about God.

Paul writes that we should believe in our heart and confess with our mouth (Romans 10:8-13). Interesting that she believes in her heart that there is no God, but she is shaken to the core when she confesses with her mouth. Please pray along with us that the conviction she feels will bring fruit.

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Partner with Our Mission to Pskov, Russia!

Pskov in Europe
Pskov in Europe

My wife and I have quit our jobs, given away our savings and most of our possessions, and are raising support to move to Russia as full-time missionaries!

We are still seeking 5 people to partner with us for $50 per month.

Click on the links below:

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Partner with Our Mission

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Why Are Young Christians Becoming Atheists?

Listening to Young Atheists:
Lessons for a Stronger Christianity

Surveys in recent years have shown that between 60-75% of American Christian youth will cease attending church after graduating from high school. This low retention rate has led to many concerns about the demographic decline of confessing Christians.

Many speculate as to why, and a Christian foundation asked confessing atheists at colleges across the country why they became atheists. The conclusions were surprisingly uniform – and present a damning condemnation of contemporary approaches to youth ministry.

One student, Phil, shares his journey to unbelief:

“Church became all about ceremony, handholding, and kumbaya,” Phil said with a look of disgust. “I missed my old youth pastor. He actually knew the Bible.” …

[Phil] loved his church (“they weren’t just going through the motions”), his pastor (“a rock star trapped in a pastor’s body”), and, most of all, his youth leader, Jim (“a passionate man”). Jim’s Bible studies were particularly meaningful to him. He admired the fact that Jim didn’t dodge the tough chapters or the tough questions: “He didn’t always have satisfying answers or answers at all, but he didn’t run away from the questions either. The way he taught the Bible made me feel smart.” …

During his junior year of high school, the church, in an effort to attract more young people, wanted Jim to teach less and play more. Difference of opinion over this new strategy led to Jim’s dismissal. He was replaced by Savannah, an attractive twenty-something who, according to Phil, “didn’t know a thing about the Bible.” The church got what it wanted: the youth group grew. But it lost Phil.

Too often we think that youth ministry should be about fun and games. With the reduction of “Big Church” sermons in the Evangelical world to simplistic, rhyming aphorisms for a better life, the standard has been set so low that the youth ministers are forced into farce. From the adults our youth have learned that doctrine isn’t fun, and catechism is a terrible game. Of course, catechisms were originally meant to train children in the faith.

In tandem with, and likely because of, the dumbing down of our teaching in youth ministry, there has been a devaluation of the depth of the Christian response to this world:

 “The connection between Jesus and a person’s life was not clear.” This is an incisive critique. [Stephanie] seems to have intuitively understood that the church does not exist simply to address social ills, but to proclaim the teachings of its founder, Jesus Christ, and their relevance to the world. Since Stephanie did not see that connection, she saw little incentive to stay. …

Others hoped to find answers to questions of personal significance, purpose, and ethics. Serious-minded, they often concluded that church services were largely shallow, harmless, and ultimately irrelevant. As Ben, an engineering major at the University of Texas, so bluntly put it: “I really started to get bored with church.”

Jesus’ call is not to a better life, at least, not in the way that the world understands as better. Jesus calls us to lose our lives, to renounce all that we have. Personal significance, purpose, ethics – our whole lives – are to be understood through God’s plan of redemption and self-revelation in Christ.

Our answers are deeper, sharper, more meaningful … and costlier than the world’s. We just shy away from them. Through our methods we teach that fun is the core value of life. Are we surprised that when freed from church they continue to seek out self-centered pleasure?

We should not be ashamed of Christ’s full-throated proclamation of payment for and dominion over our lives. If people don’t sense that we take the Christian message very seriously, why would they?

But sincerity is indispensable to any truth we wish others to believe. There is something winsome, even irresistible, about a life lived with conviction. I am reminded of the Scottish philosopher and skeptic, David Hume, who was recognized among a crowd of those listening to the preaching of George Whitefield, the famed evangelist of the First Great Awakening:

“I thought you didn’t believe in the Gospel,” someone asked.

“I do not,” Hume replied. Then, with a nod toward Whitefield, he added, “But he does.”

You can read the full article here: “Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity” [The Atlantic]