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‘A new blaze’ sought by Romanian pastors

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–“We need a new blaze,” said Ted Cocian, pastor of First Romanian Baptist Church of Atlanta.

Romanian Southern Baptists need to move quickly, Cocian and other pastors agreed, in order to reach a vision of doubling their congregations and revitalizing the Romanian Baptist community in North America.

“We’ve fallen prey to creature comforts,” said Cocian, one of more than a dozen pastors who attended a Romanian church planting summit at the North American Mission Board. “Homes, cars, careers and the American dream is stifling thoughts of God.”

That “new blaze” is a call for each of the 45 Romanian churches that are part of the Southern Baptist Convention to focus their energies on planting one church or more — thus increasing the number of Romanian Baptist churches to about 100 by the year 2020.

The pastors recognize they are commanded to make disciples of all people — Romanian or not. But among the 500,000-plus Romanians living in the United States and Canada, the influence of Christians is dwindling as second- and third-generation Romanians leave churches in large numbers.

“Many of our churches still conduct services in Romanian,” Cocian said. “This is fine for the older group, but Romanians born in the United States don’t connect with the old way of doing things. They would rather go somewhere else where the music is more contemporary and the service is in English.”

Or, turned off by the formalities and language of traditional Romanian churches, they may simply decide to stay home on Sundays, Cocian said.

Liviu Percy, pastor of the Romanian Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., said a fondness for the good old days keeps Romanian churches from reaching outside themselves.

“Romanian culture is so rich,” Percy said. “We enjoy good music, good plays, good poetry, and it’s easy for our members to think that this is all church is about. But these cultural experiences and fellowship are just the beginning.

“Our job is to awaken them to the outside world,” he added. “We are called to fulfill the Great Commission. Anything short of this muddles our identity as a Gospel-focused congregation.”

To accomplish their goals — starting new churches, increased evangelism, missions and acts of service, and developing second- and third-generation leaders — the pastors agreed they need more training and better partnerships with their fellow Romanian churches.

“When you are a Baptist pastor trained in Romania, so often you are the only one or one of few serving in your area,” said Mark Hobafcovich, a native of Romania and urban church planting consultant for NAMB. “You’re it! There’s no one to partner with.

“So as part of training our pastors we need to make partnerships and outward focus a part of the genetic structure. And if pastors learn to delegate leadership responsibilities to trained lay leaders, people are able to exercise their gifts and the ministry expands.”

In the coming months, leaders from the Romanian Baptist churches in cooperation with NAMB will begin walking through potential initiatives discussed at the gathering.

“The church so often knows how to behave under persecution, when the wind is against it,” said Valentin Popavici, pastor of Romanian Baptist Church of Chicago. “Now we will learn how to be the church when everything is going fine.”

Romanian pastors came from California, North Carolina, Michigan, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Florida, Massachusetts, Georgia and British Columbia for the March 24-26 sessions at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga.

In tandem with casting a vision for church planting, evangelism and discipleship, participants also spent considerable time in prayer together.

“All of these plans that we have, though, will be a sounding gong if we don’t experience among ourselves a true revival of our spiritual lives,” said George Dancea, pastor of First Romanian Baptist Church of Hollywood, Fla. “We’re not interested in cosmetics. We need to have a true spiritual awakening.”
Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board.

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  • Adam Miller