The ancient province of Macedonia existed during the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. In 1913, after the Balkan wars, the Bucharest Treaty divided Macedonia between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria. Eventually, after World War II, the part of Macedonia ruled by Serbia emerged as one of the six Republics of Yugoslavia.
In 1991, after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Macedonia became an independent state with a democratic government and religious freedom under the law. However, the Orthodox are still the most privileged group, especially when it comes to getting land and official permission to build worship facilities.
The number of evangelical believers is about 2000, which is only 0.1% of the population. The Slavic Gospel Association (SGA) began its ministry in Macedonia in 1982, when I had the privilege of meeting
Pastor Strahil Grozdanov – a faithful servant of God who had stood firm under pressure from the Communist regime. Although tract distribution was forbidden, he faithfully distributed in many areas of Skopje and beyond. The initial contact between SGA and Pastor Grozdanov has now continued for 25 years.
Initially he began a Baptist witness, meeting with his family in his own home, where they continued to meet for several decades as numbers slowly grew. They finally moved to the current location in downtown Skopje. Today the congregation of Hope Baptist Church has outgrown the church building but getting permission to extend it is proving a painfully slow process.
The church has also extended its witness into an unevangelised area of Skopje where 100,000 people live. Some 8-12 people now meet weekly in a room at the old airport to study The twelve pillars of the Christian faith (see below).
Over many years, SGA has helped to fund the publishing work of the Rainbow Bible Centre led by Dr Ivan Grozdanov – Pastor Strahil’s son. Several titles have been published each year, some written by Ivan himself. Thousands of these books with their evangelical message have found their way into the hands of the faculty and students of the University of Skopje.
One publication that has been greatly blessed is The twelve pillars of the Christian faith – a series of studies based on the Scriptures and written by Ivan. This is being used by other evangelical groups throughout the country to teach the foundational truths of the gospel to unchurched people, and has resulted in the salvation of souls.
The largest literature project undertaken by the SGA in Macedonia was the translation of the New Testament by Ivan and his team. To date, tens of thousands of copies have been printed and distributed. Their impact continues as God’s Word touches the lives of many different people. Separate editions of the Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes have also been produced. More recently we have funded 20,000 copies of the booklet Bible ethics.
During the Kosovo crisis, thousands of refugees poured into Macedonia and SGA were able to assist the church in the distribution of gospel literature.
Sadly, new freedoms for the work of the gospel have also brought a large influx of foreign missionaries, most of whom have their own agendas for church planting.
Many of these had been sent to plant new churches independent of those already existing. In some cases they have got involved in existing ministries and then withdrawn, taking away a group from the local church to ‘plant’ a new church. This has been very painful for local fellowships and it has taken some time to heal the resulting wounds.
Although the church in Macedonia is still relatively small, there has been steady growth in some areas. We look to the future under God’s blessing with hope and anticipation.