Baptist Church Planting in Macedonia

Baptist Church Planting in Macedonia

Daniel Trusiewicz - March 28, 2008

Introduction to Macedonia

The Republic of Macedonia, often referred to simply as Macedonia, is a country on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. It emerged peacefully from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and two years later was admitted to the United Nations. The capital is Skopje, with 500,000 inhabitants, and the total population of Macedonia is ca. 2 million citizens. According to the 2002 census, 64% of the total population declared themselves Macedonians and 25% Albanians. Smaller ethnic minorities include Turks - 4%, Roma – 2,5%, Serbs - 2% and other – 2,5%. The majority (65%) of the population belongs to the Macedonian Orthodox Church, Muslims comprise 33% and other Christian denominations 0,4%. Altogether, there are at least 1200 churches and 400 mosques in the country.[1]

Baptist work in Macedonia

The Baptist Union in Macedonia comprises only two congregations: the “Good News” Baptist Church of Skopje, which was founded in 1959; and the congregation in Radovish, which is much older as it was started at the end of 19th century. Several foreign missionaries have also planted churches which do not associate themselves with either of these congregations.

Baptist work in Skopje had a difficult start when indigenous missionary Grozdanov started a new congregation in the capital city of Macedonia, 49 years ago. The communist regime of Yugoslavia seriously hampered any evangelistic activities, and additional obstacles included a devastating flood in 1962 and an earthquake one year later which totally demolished the city. In the 1970s the church grew well and Dr Ivan Grozdanov took over the pastorate from his aging father.

The current pastor, Marko, represents the third generation of the Grozdanovs in ministry. He took over the leadership 2 years ago. Prior to that Marko and his wife, Tina, had studied theology in Osijek (Croatia) and at IBTS in Prague (Czech Rep) both earning Magister degrees.

Skopje Baptist Church has outgrown its accommodation in the present building. Besides work typical of a local congregation, it has developed multifaceted ministry. Effective methods of evanglism include the local version of the Alpha-course and an Internet-based discussion forum focused on faith. The ministry of publishing Christian literature has been particularly important – translations of English books into Macedonian and also books written by Dr Ivan Grozdanov. Notably, this is the only Evangelical publishing house in Macedonia. The church also runs a public bookstore near the University of Skopje and regularly takes part in an annual national book fare.

Baptist Church Planting in Macedonia

The newest Baptist initiative is to start a new church in the part of Skopje called Aerodrome - a district inhabited by 100,000 residents. The goal is to bring the Gospel to the most densely populated part of the city where presently there is no Evangelical witness at all. The vision of the church planting team is to see people receive the Gospel, have meaningful Christian fellowship and develop into future leaders. The initiative has the name - “Rainbow Ministry”.

A group of 20-30 seekers are participateing in “12 Pillars of Christian Faith” – a course led by the church planting team. Before the start of the course one year ago, about 10,000 invitations were distributed and now the group has regular weekly meetings. Besides teaching and publications, occasional concerts, panels or quizzes are also organized.

The church planting team has faced numerous obstacles. Prejudice from the Orthodox Church is very common: people typically associate Macedonians with the Orthodox Church. There are few leaders who are mature enough to carry the load of ministry. The high cost of printed materials and renting facilities are also serious issues for local Baptists, who are neither numerous nor wealthy. There are too few people in the mother church who understand the need for church planting, and generally the vision for growth is missing from the majority of church members. Additionally, some foreign missionaries are not sensitive enough to the needs of the indigenous work.

Typical “Rainbow Ministry” meeting

The meeting room is located in a modern building with good facilities. There is seating for 30 people; several Christian posters decorate the walls; and there is a small library of books which people may borrow from. There is also a table where people can make tea or coffee. People start arriving and chat with each other while having a drink. When Dr Grozdanov starts his lecture about 20 people are present. People listen attentively and from time to time a question is asked which the leader answers promptly. The meeting lasts about an hour and a half, and once it is over the participants chat with each other for some time before they leave. It is evident that the initial stage of new church planting in Skopje is very successful and that people are responsive.

Prayer needs:

1. Pray for a breakdown of prejudices among the population with regards to the Gospel. Pray that people may be more open to hear and learn about the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Pray for further maturing and growth of young local indigenous leaders, who will become the backbone of the mission in the future.

3. Pray for a vision among fellow local and international Christians to support the ministry through prayer, visits, donations and long-term partnerships.


[1] Wikipedia online