THE ALBANIAN CHURCH EXISTS AGAIN, JUST!
Albania is a tiny country just north and west of Greece on the Adriatic coast. Albania features in the book of Romans, where in chapter 15 verse 19, Paul says that by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. Illyricum was the Roman name for what is now Albania. By 60AD there was even a Bishop in one of its cities. Although the church was birthed in signs and wonders, it quickly settled down into one of religion and ritual as the Catholic and Orthodox churches battled for dominance. The famous heretic Arius was banished to Albania before the Council of Nicaea then banished him further away to Syria where he laid the foundations for Islamic theology. Not much happened from then on for a thousand years.
After conquering Constantinople in 1458, the Muslim armies marched into to Albania on their way to eventually reaching Vienna with the aim of conquering Europe. Sadly, the Catholic and Orthodox elite quickly embraced Islam in order to preserve their social status. It wasn’t until the 16th Century that much of the wider population converted to Islam under great persecution and duress. The next sad development was the coming of ultra conservative Communism in the 20Th Century. Albania became the first declared Atheistic state in 1967. The true church of Albania by that stage has basically ceased to exist.
After the fall of Communism many western missionaries rushed in to Albania because of its status as an Atheistic country and the evangelical church was planted, to the ire of the three established religious blocs who wanted their flocks back. Unfortunately the new church picked up many of the bad habits the missionaries brought with them. Thankfully today there is still freedom of religion and the country is nominally 60% Muslim, 20% Catholic in the north, 10% Orthodox in the south and 10% atheist. These numbers include some 14,000 evangelicals.
In 2015 I visited Albania and dropped off a book to the Albanian Encouragement Project head office, the umbrella organisation for evangelicals in Albania. It was a publication I picked up from an ex-Muslim in India showing the supremacy of Jesus Christ inside the Qur’an. It was eagerly accepted as many church leaders are ex-Muslim. I was left with the impression Albania needed a great new wave of sign and wonders to shake it out of 1,800 years of religious darkness.
3. Evangelism Highlights
The evangelicals of Albania are growing at around 5% a year, against a stagnant national population. However, I was told the quick growth of the 1990’s has been replaced with a maturing of local leadership and a lot more training. The started from scratch so have had to relearn many truths we take for granted. Most Muslims are nominal any young so it is not so difficult to see them won to Jesus. Muslim households are very patriarchal so winning the men is key to evangelism. The Albanian church now has several fine training institutes and is already sending out missionaries to other ex-Communist and Muslim countries.
Pray for continued steady growth in numbers and leaders.
Pray for continued tolerance from the national government
Pray that inter-religious tension from the Balkans doesn’t come to Albania
Pray for revival among the Catholic and Orthodox churches
Pray for the defeat of ancient spiritual strongholds and spirits
Pray for an uptick in signs and wonders, dreams and visions
Pray that the one million Albanians aboard will hear the gospel
Pray that Albania will finally come home to the vision Paul had for it when he preached there
Next week: Azerbaijan