Gospel in Turkey
Gospel in Turkey
Baptists in Turkey
The total population of Turkey is 68 million, the majority being Muslims (84%) and all Christians comprise only less than 1%. The bulk of population are Turks (76 %) however large minority are Kurds (16%) and others (8%).
Turkey may be called the cradle of Christianity as many missionary journeys of apostle Paul took place in today’s Turkey and the seven churches (Rev. 2-3) were there too.
The Baptists in Turkey recently formed an association which is comprised of 4 local congregations. The main goal of this association is to cooperate and encourage each other for witness in the predominantly Muslim country. The chairman of association is Ertan Cevik, pastor from Izmir (ancient Smyrna). One of the churches belonging to this group is Agape from Samsun where Orhan is the pastor.
Pastor Orhan and Agape Church
Several years ago Orhan found an advert for a free New Testament in a local newspaper. He had requested one and two weeks later a package came but … it was empty… He called again and some-time later a copy of the Gospel of John arrived by post. He was very impressed while reading it but did not know anybody in his city to talk about the issues he had just read.
Later change of jobs moved Orhan to another city and he continued reading the New Testament. One day his boss at work shared about his Christian faith and particularly that he read the Bible too. They both began studying together and one other believer joined in, and later he took them to a Christian church.
After some time Orhan’s pastor suggested moving to the Black Sea coast in order to start a new church there. Orhan felt the Lord’s call and moved with his family to Samsun (city populated by about 500 thousand). Soon after he started sharing the gospel and found there many receptive people. Eventually the new believers asked him to be their pastor. This was the beginning of the Agape Church.
The group opened a website and discovered that there were … virtually thousands of entries. This method has been very effective in reaching out to local people. Hundreds of people came to visit this newly opened church and wanted to talk, ask questions and discuss about the matters of Christian faith. Most of visitors came to church because of the website or personal contacts.
The congregation in Samsun is like a large family.. There is a great deal of devotion and strong spiritual bonds that connect the believers. They meet several times during the week. Every Saturday the Agape congregation meets for a prayer meeting and a meal. On Sunday there is a Christian service. They organize regular baptisms, sometimes baptizing in a pool, nearby lake or the Black Sea.
No public Christian events are allowed except for some activities in prisons. No camps are available to Christians because of high costs and they can afford only one day trips or picnics in the vicinity. They also have many requests from prisoners who ask for visits. Recently many refugees from Syria have arrived in Turkey and the Agape Church takes care of some of them. Food, blankets and coal are distributed among them.
This is the only evangelical church among 7.5 million people and one can drive up to six hours in any direction to find another Christian church. The Agape Church works to disciple believers who are scattered throughout this vast area as their goal is to establish more churches. The region includes 16 towns.
The Agape Church is currently planting a new congregation in the city of Amasya, 120 km away from Samsun where are some people open for the gospel. One of them is a potential leader and his wife is also a believer. They are being trained by Orhan to lead this new congregation.
Ever since Orhan and his family have been in Samsun they experienced many attacks against them. Letters and emails with threats as well as aggressive phone calls have been regular offences against them. A sheer sign of a cross or another Christian symbol could instigate outrageous anger of some extremists who would brake windows in the building or make other damages.
In 2005 Orhan got kidnapped by a group of extremists who held him in custody for some time in order to threaten and stop the Christian activity. Since that time the government assigned to Orhan a body guard and the church building is protected by the police round o’clock.
Orhan says: ‘It is important to appreciate the people in order to relate well to them. And we have to be ready to pay the cost at any time… In our country every Christian is a missionary who should be ready for suffering because of faith.’
1. Safety of Christian leaders and believers.
2. Perseverance in the mission work in spite of obstacles.
3. Wisdom to find new people who are open for the Gospel.
4. Permanent place of worship for the Agape Church in Samsun.
EBF Mission Partnerships Coordinator
Planting new churches together!
For the glory of God!