Youth Revival in Bulgaria

September 25, 2013

In 865 A.D., the nation of Bulgaria adopted Christianity as its state religion. Steeped in tradition, it´s still true today that Bulgarian identity is almost synonymous with Eastern Orthodoxy.

Yet something is missing. Devotion for God has waned. Blame it on 50 years of communist repression, the growing Islamic presence, or the sway of changing times. Whatever the reason, many Bulgarians are feeling disillusioned about matters of faith. In the case of the younger generation, some have rejected religion altogether.

A Christian Aid-assisted evangelical ministry called Good News Churches wants to reverse that trend. In a landscape of shifting sands, they seek to give Bulgarian youth a firm foundation in Jesus Christ—a faith that won´t be uprooted by political ideologies or the latest fad.

This summer the ministry celebrated the 12th year of “New Wave,” a national Christian youth program that draws thousands of participants to an annual camp and to other high energy events.

“It is exciting to see young people on fire for Jesus and with a deep desire to serve Him,” said a gospel worker with the ministry, who together with his wife serve as national coordinators for New Wave.

The main event took place in July, when a throng of enthusiastic young people between the ages of 14 and 25 gathered for Spirit-filled worship and fellowship at a week-long camp near the Black Sea. In addition to Bulgarians, the camp was attended by dozens of youth from other countries in Eastern Europe.

Participants divided into small groups for in-depth Bible study and prayer. Among the topics they discussed were how to share their faith and ways to experience a deeper relationship with Christ.

“Every year we have about 20 people baptized in water and many more filled with the Spirit,” the missionary said. “A lot of parents are testifying of the change that has taken place in the lives of their children after the New Wave summer camps.”

Mini-revivals are held in the spring and the fall, bringing together 2,000 young people for a day of praising God and fervent prayer. Unlike the summer retreats, these events take place in rented sports arenas or cultural halls in large cities which can be easily accessed via public transportation from outlying towns and villages.

The youth rallies are making an impact. Some attendees commit their hearts to Christ for the first time. Strengthened in their faith, many teens return to their communities and become a witness for the Lord to their friends and relatives. Others discover their calling to become church leaders, pastors, and missionaries whose outreach will have long-term effects on the future of their nation.

Today´s generation lives in a different world compared to what their parents and grandparents experienced during the communist years of 1944 to 1989. There is more freedom, both politically and socially. Gone too is the system that oppressed religious activities of all denominations and faiths.

Although Bulgaria´s constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion, Orthodoxy is officially recognized as the traditional religion of the country. An estimated 82 percent of Bulgaria´s 7 million inhabitants identify themselves as Orthodox.

Evangelical Christianity, considered a sect by many Bulgarians, is slowly gaining acceptance, especially among youth. Protestants comprise just 1.9 percent of the country´s population, up from a mere 0.4 percent in 1980.

Authenticity is what young adults are looking for, and ministry leaders want them to know what it means to have a genuine, life-transforming walk with the Savior—no matter what their religious affiliation may be.

“Our vision is to invest in young people´s lives, to develop the gifts they have and their character, and to teach them to show mercy to those that are neglected and rejected in society,” said one Christian Aid-assisted missionary.