The Macedonian Orthodox Church claims to represent almost two-thirds of the population, but more than 1,000 churches remain largely empty, and most Macedonians are secular and unreligious in practice. The Macedonian government effectively endorsed this Church’s hegemony by imprisoning the local bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church, from which the Macedonian Orthodox illegitimately split. The Orthodox Church sometimes opposes new religious expressions such as evangelicalism, but dialogue is increasing. Pray for new life to touch this Church and all those who belong to it.
The evangelical witness is small, but growing. Almost every Protestant/Independent expression of faith is active and increasing. Even so, there are fewer than 100 evangelical congregations. Pray for the many challenges of and opportunities for the Church:
a) Opposition. The label of “cult” persists, but is slowly fading for evangelicals. Obstructive tactics by the government often hold back the church from building the facilities needed to host the growing congregations. Pray for favour from the government and a humble attitude from the Church.
b) Unity. Expressions of oneness in Christ are increasing, including pastors’ prayer summits and networks, citywide worship events, and even websites focused on the issue. Pray that believers might press into true unity and that Christians’ love for one another might attract many to Christ.
c) Church planting, evangelism and mission. Macedonian believers “punch above their weight” in terms of outward-focused ministry. Many congregations look to reproduce and so deliberately move into cities and neighbourhoods previously unevangelized. House churches are a great part of this focus. Pray for a grassroots movement that sees the numbers of Macedonian believers rapidly multiply. Indigenous groups such as Macedonian Mission to the Balkans (reaching all ethnicities in the southern regions of the former Yugoslavia) are impacting Macedonia as well as neighbouring countries.
d) Training and discipleship. The first (non-Orthodox) theological school in the country is being planned – Macedonia Bible Seminary is aiming to open by autumn 2010. In the meantime, ministries such as SEND, YWAM and SGA all focus on raising up mature and biblically literate believers. Generally, multiple small congregations increase the need for leaders, yet are a better structure in which to disciple Christians.