- Who we are -
"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." (Corinthians I 12/12,13)
We believe that Christianity is not just one of world's religions.
We believe that Christianity is a revelation from God to man – from above downwards. Religions are always from below upwards. People try to draw near to God through their religion, doing various rituals and observances. As Martin Luther (called “the father of reformation”) said: “There is only one book in the world – the Bible, and One Person – Jesus Christ”.
Christianity has three main branches: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy. The Roman Catholic believers number more than 1.3 billion. The Protestant and the Evangelical believers are over 1 billion. The Orthodox believers number about 300 million.
We believe that each of the three branches is part of the big Christian family, and that one day all the sincere believers from any of the three branches will be in Heaven.
We see that the countries in which Protestantism and the Evangelical churches are strong, these countries prosper in spiritual, moral, democratic, and economic respect.
Thus, for example, in the USA where Christianity is the strongest in terms of percent ratio for the cities, the number of the Evangelical churches as well as the number of the Evangelical Christians is the highest in the world. For a city of about 100, 000 inhabitants, the minimum is 100 Evangelical churches, and in some cities the number of the Evangelical churches reaches 200–300.
The Evangelical activities in Bulgaria began in 1844 with the arriving of the first Evangelical missionaries in our country. Until 1858, the Evangelical movement had already been built. This means that the Evangelical movement is older than any of today's political parties, movements or organizations.
As Evangelical Christians, we take pride in our big contributions to the people of Bulgaria.
We acknowledge the big contributions of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, but we know that the contributions of the Evangelical believers and the Evangelical Churches are not lesser, and in some decisive moments from our history our contributions are much bigger than the contributions of the Orthodox Church or these of any organization of that day. Such is the case with our liberation from the Turkish bondage.
Everybody knows about the struggles of the Bulgarian people for liberation, which reached their climax in April 1876. The April Uprising was drowned in blood, and the Western governments with interests at stake tried to conceal the Turkish atrocities.
The Evangelical believers as well as the Evangelical missionaries, were the ones who interceded for the Bulgarian people.
We will mention that the Evangelicals took part both in the preparation of the uprising and in its course of action.
There was an Evangelical detachment. The maker of the cherry cannon, who also fired with it, was the Evangelical believer Stoil Findjikov. More than once, Vassil Levski and Georgi Benkovski hid themselves in the inn of Stoyan Angelov who was among the first Evangelicals in Pazardjik.
The pastor of the Evangelical Church in Bitolya harboured Vassil Levski for three months. In order to conceal his own activity, Levski used to say that he worked as a horse-herd for the pastor.
Another Evangelical who took an active part in the April Uprising, was Petar Doytchev. He used to carry out secret reconnaissance and courier missions. Information about his activity can be found in the History Museum of Panagyurishte where his portrait is also displayed. His friend Manctho Montchev, a famous co-worker of Georgi Benkovski, said about him that he was among the most honoured figures who did not want glory for themselves, and preferred not to be included in the list of their comrades who received rewards and pensions. After the Liberation, he went to America where he graduated from university and studied theology, and after his return to Bulgaria he became a pastor in the town of Tchirpan and other places.
However, the biggest contribution of the Evangelical believers was not in connection with the preparation of the uprising or the participation in it. After the quelling of the uprising, the truth about the outrages, the slaughter, and the inhuman cruelty with which it was quelled would have remained undisclosed and wouldn't have been made public if there had not been the energetic and timely interference of the Evangelicals.
The Evangelical missionary Dr. Albert Long through a written explanation to William Gladstone (leader of the English Liberals), and Gladstone's intercession in favour of the Bulgarian people led to the forming of a committee that visited Batak and Perushtitza. Thus the outrages of the Turks were made public and the war of liberation began.
In his History of the April Uprising, Dimitar Strashimirov wrote: “I must admit that the Protestant missionaries in Bulgaria were the first to speak about the atrocities of the Turks during the uprising and later on. They had managed to collect a lot of information about the monstrous acts of violence and barbarian cruelty, and that's why they were the first to become indignant. Taking a direct interest in the spiritual well-being of a nation, to which they had come from beyond far oceans to preach salvation of the souls, these instruments of the Word of God fittingly and in time became indignant because of the anguish and the sufferings – yes, because of the hopeless situation of God's flock”.
The names of the Evangelical missionaries Dr. Albert Long, Prof. George Washburn, Dr Jacob Clark, including the names of those politicians and social figures to which they turned: William Gladstone, Ewegene Skyler, and D. McGahan are directly connected with our liberation from the Turkish bondage.
Another exceptionally big contribution of the Evangelicals and the Evangelical churches to our nation was their work for the preservation of the national sense of the Bulgarians.
Out of this work, we will mention only the translation and the printing of the Bible, with which the Bulgarian standard language was formed.
Here is what some distinguished Bulgarians said about the Protestant translation of the Bible that had been issued.
Petko Slaveikov: “The translation of the Bible has put an end to the linguistic disorder, the scuffles between different dialects for superiority, and determined the standard language”.
Ivan Vazov, the patriarch of the Bulgarian literature adds: “The translation of the Bible in modern Bulgarian language by the American mission was an age of the revival of the Bulgarian people’s enlightenment and language.”
Stoyan Mihailovski: “The Protestant translation of the Bible is the most intelligent book we have in our language”.
This is just quite a small fraction of the facts through which we as Evangelical Christians can show our contribution and merits to the Bulgarian nation and state.
Unfortunately, in our country there are still journalists, politicians, and citizens who consider us to be sects that have recently sprung up after the democratic changes.
We will relate to the statements made by the Directors of the Department of the Ecclesiastical Matters at the Council of Ministers, during the mandates of different governments:
“We should entertain no illusions that Bulgaria will ever be a completely Orthodox country. In our country there have been Protestant denominations since the 19th century, some of them having made a significant contribution to the Bulgarian revival” (from an interview with associate professor Hristo Matanov, Duma newspaper, issue 44, February 1995);
“The Bulgarian Evangelical Christians are members of the large Christian family and of the Bulgarian democratic society. There are no sectarians among the Bulgarian Evangelicals. Thank you for your good attitude towards the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as well! Two aspects of your activity are especially pleasant when looked upon by the Bulgarian authorities. Above all, the social aspect of the work of the Bulgarian Evangelical Churches undeservedly lacks popularity. This work is in favour of all the Bulgarian people, and it helps them overcome more quickly the consequences of the crisis. On the other hand, the Bulgarian Evangelicals have made a significant contribution to the building up of the moral principles of our society. The virtues and the morality of your preachers and believers play a constructive role, and impart this morality and virtues to all the layers of the public life – this is what we need most, because for many years our nation had forcibly been made atheistic, non-Christian, with all the regrettable results of that. On the other hand, your clear differentiation from the religious cults was necessary, so that the boundaries between the generally recognized Christianity and the new false teachings cannot become indistinct in an unpleasant way” (extract from the speech of Lyubomir Mladenov before the delegates at the Evangelical conference in the National Palace of Culture on 31 January 1998, Sofia).
Here is what the associate professor Dr Bontcho Asenov also says in his book “Religion and sects in Bulgaria”:
“The most important conclusion is that the attitude of the society towards the Protestant churches needs to be changed. In our country they are still regarded as sects. Such is the opinion of institutions, mass media, and ordinary people. In the public and religious life of the nation it is necessary to clarify and confirm the standpoint that the Protestant churches are not sects. In their essence, they are part of the Christian religious teaching. A sign of this change in the attitude towards Protestantism is the opinion of the Orthodoxy that has been expressed at ecumenical meetings and dialogues that it too is “a living branch of the Christian tree”, and that “the Protestants are brothers in Christ”” (p 255).
Our church was founded in 1992. Later a second church was founded in the “Vitosha” quarter. Bojidar Simeonov was the pastor. Since then both churches have functioned as one although they have separate registrations and two separate church councils. In the autumn of 1999 a new pastor was appointed. His name is Vesselin Kostov Lazarov.
In the year 2000 a spiritual revival began. More than 250 people converted from islam to Christianity, and were baptized in water. Within about a month around 120 people were baptized in the Holy Spirit, which is among the biggest outpourings of the Holy Spirit in Bulgaria. The two churches also functioned as “mother-churches” for the starting of churches in the city of Shumen and the region around it.
There was such a great change in the people that this was also noticed by the local authorities. The municipality and the mayor helped the church. The municipality built a staircase outside the gypsy church in the “Vitosha” quarter by which the believers can walk up to the church. The pastor, Vesselin Lazarov was appointed a secretary for the humanitarian affairs for the whole region of Shumen.
The church has been invited to participate with its music team and program for children, teenagers and youth in cocktail parties and festive occasions organized by the Municipality.
In 2001 a persecution began. It did not come from the authorities, but it was started by religious leaders who interfered grossly in the life of the church. This demanded that the churches leave the Union of the Evangelical Pentecostal Churches and join the National Alliance of the United Churches of God.
A new spiritual move followed, and within about a month 10 more churches were founded in the city of Shumen and its region. Three of them are in Shumen, in its quarters, and thus the number of the churches belonging to UCG in the city of Shumen reached five.
There are altogether 12 churches belonging to UCG in Shumen and the surrounding area, and there are also several home groups in Shumen and the villages. The separate functioning churches in the city of Shumen are: UCG-1, UCG-2, and those in the quarters of “Matnitza”, “Everest”, and “Divdyadovo; around the city of Shumen: in the village of Vehtovo, in the village of Madara, in the village of Kotchovo, in the town of Provadia, in the village of Petrov dol, in the village of Neophit Rilski, in the village of Zhitnitza.
The denomination that we left brought an action over the property of the church, and managed to take possession of one of the church's buildings. The church began a strenuous prayer and God worked an incredible miracle. The church managed to buy one of the largest halls in the centre of the city of Shumen – the “Mlada gvardia” movie house with 830 seats. The building that had been taken away from us, was with 100 seats. In addition to the one hundred taken seats, the Lord gave us seven times more. The buying of the hall itself, as well as its paying up, was connected with a series of miracles. The church didn't have any money, and the believers began strenuous prayers. In the last day before the coming of the final date for the payment, a Bulgarian family who had saved money for a home – the Lord spoke to them to give $ 20,000 for the paying up of the hall.
In 2003 the church started to pray early in the morning from 5 to 7 a.m. The number of those who attended the prayer meetings reached 110 people. As a result, some outright adversaries of the church repented.
After the purchase of the movie house an attempt was made to work the public up against the church through a program on the local cable television TOP TV and publications in some newspapers, where it was hinted that the transaction had been done for a much bigger sum than the official sum in the notarial act. The journalists hadn't even bothered to inform themselves about the name of the pastor and “renamed” him Lazar Lazarov. In the program on TOP TV they tried to relate us to the sect of the mormons whom we have nothing to do with. An attempt was made that our activities be stopped through setting in motion of Regulation №1 of the City council in Shumen which forbids the activities of religious organisations within 400 metres from public institutions, schools, nursery schools, etc.
They also contacted the Department of Ecclesiastical Matters at the cabinet council, where they were told that the regulation was unlawful and no one had a right to interfere in the activities of the church.
The pastor of the church, Vesselin Kostov Lazarov, was born in the city of Sofia on 18.02.1961. He grew up in the church in the “Poduyane” quarter where his grandfather Stoyan Stephanov served as a deacon and was among the founders of the church. During his youth years, pastor V. Lazarov took the leadership of the youth meetings, and later he was ordained deacon and served as a Bible teacher and led the Sunday Bible lessons. He was also elected as a member of the leadership of the church.
In 1989 pastor Vesselin Lazarov married Darina Paneva, and two sons were born to them – Vesseleil and Natanail.
In 1991 Blagovest Velev invited him to the Mission for Christian Enlightenment where he was part of Iliya Milanov's team for evangelizing, and took part in the largest evangelizing meetings in the history of Bulgaria.
In 1993 he moved to Varna with his family, and again there he was elected as a member of the church council. Later he was assigned the leadership over the church in the town of Provadiavillage of Neophit Rilski, and thus the number of the churches under their care reached five; each one of the churches was visited twice a week. where he began with 17 adult believers, and for a short time the number of the children alone reached 40. Together with his wife they started 3 more churches around Provadia (in the villages of Petrov Dol, Zhitnitza and Ventchan). They also took the lead over a home group in the village of Neophit Rilski, and thus the number of the churches under their care reached five; each one of the churches was visited twice a week.
In September 1999 pastor Vesselin Lazarov was invited to take the lead over the church in Shumen.
He owns two patents for inventions related to driving with one pedal.
In 2001 because of the gross and intolerable interference of the Union of the Evangelical Pentecostal Churches in the life of the church, he left the Union of EPC together with the churches in which he ministered and they all joined the National Alliance of the United Churches of God. At short notice with the help of the Alliance, six more churches were founded in the villages of Madara, Vehtovo, and Kotchovo, and in Shumen's quarters of Divdyadovo, Everest, and Matnitza.
In 2010, with his wife founded the church in Germany, in the city of Duisburg. The church originally assumed by Tyanka Angelova, later, the pastor's wife Darina Lazarova joined as manager.
In 2016 the church was given a huge church building by German pastors and done a Bulgarian-German Association for registration of the church.
“My vision, my spiritual purpose is a revival in Bulgaria, the fruit thereof not to be lost as it was the case with the powerful revival from 1990 – 1993 in Bulgaria, and as it is seen from many revivals around the world.
During those years I saw stadiums packed with people and hundreds of thousands receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. In areas with 100% Turkish population 100% of all that attended the evangelization received Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. In some cities, the administration of the stadiums said that these stadiums had never been so full, even during the meetings at the time of the democratic changes. Although almost two million Bulgarians were evangelized, a very small number of them entered the churches and remained in them.
Even if the Lord gave a new revival right now, the results would be the same.
In my opinion there are two main reasons for the loss of the fruit from most revivals:
1. An insufficient number of equipped believers. Jesus says: “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few”.
In times of revival the pastors and the church ministers cannot take care of the newly converted Christians, and thus most of them return into the world. This is also the reason for the great fluctuation in the churches.
My purpose is to equip every believer to be able to multiply themselves and to be a spiritual father, i.e. to be able to take care of at least several people. This equipping is done mainly through emphasizing on teaching during the church services.
The first thing that the early Church emphasized on and practiced was the teaching (Acts 2/42).
For the equipping of the believers we also have a Bible school, youth and teenage meetings, several schools as well as many other activities.
2. Building of barns where the wheat should be stored, that is to say the fruit of the revival. If the wheat is left in the field, it will be lost. When a revival happens, there should be enough churches that are capable of taking care of the newly converted Christians.
I believe that the best evangelization is the founding of new churches.
During the powerful revival in Bulgaria (1990 – 1993) the churches were few in number and they could not take care of the new believers.
My desire and purpose is the founding of new churches, one church per every one thousand people. This means that in a city of 100, 000 people there should be at least 100 churches.
Many pastors are annoyed at other denominations that come to their cities and separate the believers from their churches while founding their own churches. However, they do not realise that one of the reasons for this to happen is that they themselves don't do that, and they are not open to the founding of new churches.
Many pastors dream of 'mega' churches and pull everything towards their church. My concept of a strong church is that we should be going outwards, focusing our efforts outwards to reach the people and found new churches. From my experience as a pastor I have seen that most of the ministers who wanted and aimed at a 'mega' church, had their church split. In my opinion, among main reasons for this is that everything is concentrated inwards, towards the problems of the church itself. I see that the churches that have directed their ministry only towards themselves, do not grow in the same way as the ones that work for the founding of new churches.
In our city there are churches of five denominations – Methodists, Pentecostals, Adventists, Orthodox and the National Alliance of UCG to which we belong.
The Methodists have one church, the Pentecostals have two, the Adventists have one, the Orthodox have two and through the help of the Lord we have five UCG churches. Even so, this makes altogether eleven churches, which is extremely insufficient.
The inference is that the churches in Shumen and all over Bulgaria are not ready for a revival.
We could have founded many more churches in Shumen and the surrounding area, but we realize that it's not enough just to start a church – it has to be built up, and for this labourers are needed as well as constant investing of labour and resources.
The church is established in accordance with the requirements of the Bulgarian legislation, and it is a corporate body.
At the head of the church is pastor Veselin Kostov Lazarov.
Members of the spiritual council: Agop Altunyan, Krasen Boyadziev, Tzvetoslav Georgiev, Martin Dimitrov.
One of the great blessings for our churches is the unity and agreement among the members of the spiritual councils in the governing and the making of decisions. For all these years, in spite of the hardships that the churches went through, the unity in the leadership and among the believers has not just been preserved, but it has also become greater.
We are grateful to You, Lord. May the glory be to You forever, and we worship Your holy Name. Amen.
Christian Center Shumen
The official service takes place at the central building (Cultura cinema /its old name is Mlada Gvardia/)
each Sunday at 10.30 am
Monday - the Gypsy Church in the quarter of Vitosha, 47 Stara Planina Str. at 18.00
Wednesday - the Cultura cinema, at 18.30
Thursday - the quarter of Vitosha, at 18.00
Saturday - a youth meeting at the Cultura cinema at 13.30
Prayer hour of the church: every evening at 21:00