Sharing the Good News in Bulgaria
Free Will Baptist International Missions was challenged to open Bulgaria as a field in 2005. A fact-finding trip confirmed the need for evangelization in the former Communist Bloc country. The Board of FWBIM approved opening the country to missionary service in December 2005.
Our first missionaries for Bulgaria, Tim and Lydia Awtrey, were appointed in July 2006. In February 2013, Jonathan and Amy Postlewaite joined the Awtreys in Svishtov, Bulgaria. Later that same year, Trifon and Vanya Trifonov joined the team and began planting a second church in Varna. Josh and Lydia Provow were appointed to the Bulgaria team in July 2013.
Geography and Climate
Part of the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria is located in southeastern Europe. Squeezed between Romania to the north and Turkey to the south, Bulgaria borders the Black Sea to the east. Greece, Turkey, Serbia, and the Republic of Macedonia form additional boundaries. Portions of biblical Macedonia are located within Bulgaria’s borders.
The mostly mountainous terrain boasts the highest peak on the peninsula, 9,596 feet. The temperate climate has hot, dry summers and cold, damp winters.
About 84 percent of the 7.5 million people populating Bulgaria are ethnic Bulgarian. Turks (almost 10%) and Roma (4.7%) comprise other major ethnicities.
Most Bulgarians (about 83%) are nominally affiliated with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. However, 45 years of communist domination yielded two generations of people devoid of knowledge of Jesus Christ. Islam claims the second highest percentage (12%) of adherents. Less than one percent of the population is evangelical Christian. A 2005 poll revealed only 40% of Bulgarians believe there is a God.
The first Bulgarian state was formed when the Bulgars, a Central Asian Turkic tribe, merged with the local Slavic inhabitants in the late seventh century. In succeeding centuries, Bulgaria struggled with the Byzantine Empire to assert its place in the Balkans. By the end of the 14th century, the Ottoman Turks overran the country. Bulgaria became independent from the Ottoman Empire in 1908.
Having fought on the losing side in both World Wars, Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence and became a People’s Republic in 1946. Communist domination ended in 1990 with the advent of multi-party elections. Bulgaria became a member of the European Union in 2007; however, the lack of political reform and corruption continue to make it the poorest in country in the EU.
The fall of communism in 1990 opened Bulgaria to contact with the outside world and the opportunity for many people to hear the good news of the gospel for the first time. Initial enthusiasm for the gospel has been replaced by materialism and indifference, as numerous church scandals brought to light priests and other church leaders involved in corrupt practices or serving as informants for the Bulgarian State Security service.
Christian groups have been active in the country for over 20 years, yet little or no growth is evident in most existing churches. Protestant believers make up less than one percent of the entire population. In many ares of the country, the percentage is much less. A 2003 report indicates 22 of Bulgaria’s 28 provinces have no evangelical church of any kind. An undisputed need for discipleship, leadership training, and church planted is evident.
Free Will Baptist Ministries
Free Will Baptists began missionary efforts in northern Bulgaria where the total number of evangelical believeres is at its lowest. The first church plant began in Svishtov, a town of 40,000 people on the Danube River. While most missionary efforts of other organizations have centered on the capital city of Sofia, Free Will Baptists have concentrated their work outside the capital, where few mission agencies have a permanent presence. In 2013, Trifon and Vanya Trifinov began a second church plant in the town of Varna, located on the Black Sea. Jonathan and Amy Postlewaite will soon begin a thrid Free Will Baptist church plant in northern Bulgaria.
Last update: May 26, 2014
110,550 Square Kilometers
Bulgarian Orthodox, 83%