Evangelical Publishing Reaches Serbian Orthodox Leaders
By Colin Macpherson, Creative Director, Langham Literature based in Scotland
Serbia is perhaps the most difficult country in Eastern Europe for evangelical publishing. Protestants are viewed with suspicion and the law is biased against them. It is commonplace for evangelical churches to have ‘spies’ in the congregation on a Sunday morning, watching for ‘subversive or heretical’ teaching. The Serbian Orthodox church forbids the reading of anything heretical, and this includes anything published by a non-Orthodox publisher. Given the strong and open hostility of the Serbian Orthodox church towards evangelicals, it has been a subject of prayer that Soteria should be protected and its ministry extended amongst Orthodox readers, who need to know what God says through the Bible. Thanks to God, we have seen at least three specific answers to that prayer:
1) CEO of Soteria Dane Vidovic noticed a recurring name on his mail order list that he did not know. The orders were normally for multiple copies of his Bible commentaries and theological resources. He was naturally suspicious that he was being monitored by the authorities. Then he received a phone call from the man asking if he could visit. Dane’s suspicions and fears grew, especially since he has been tracked down to his home phone. A few days later there was a knock at the door and when he opened it he was faced by three fully robed Orthodox priests, looking very official and complete with long black beards. One of them said, ‘I am the one who has been buying your Bible books. My friends and I have found this way of studying the Bible very helpful. Would you help us further by leading us in Bible studies?’ Dane has been doing exactly that. One of those priests was a trainee iconographer, about to devote his life to making icons for Orthodox worship. After a while he said, ‘Now I don’t want to spend my life doing this when the Bible makes it clear we have direct access to God through Christ who is alive.’ He and his friends are now preaching sermons to their congregations, using the commentaries published by Soteria. One of the others has told Dane that people have commented on how his preaching is ‘more real.’ One elderly woman asked him where he had found this new improved way of thinking and was amazed when he replied, ‘from the books of the evangelist Billy Graham.’ Surely God’s Word has an amazing impact when it is faithfully opened up and understood! We pray with renewed vigour that the Gospel of the Bible will be preached in churches of all types in Serbia and God’s kingdom extended by this unforeseen channel.
2) Shortly after the publication of John Stott’s Why I Am A Christian and a commentary on Genesis in the Bible Speaks Today Series, the fax machine at Soteria clicked into action with a completely unexpected letter of request. It came from the Monks of the Serbian Orthodox monastery on Mount Athos in Greece. Mount Athos is on a remote and inaccessible peninsula, populated only by monks in a string of monasteries, shut off from the outside world. The Serbian monks had somehow managed to get hold of these titles. They would normally be regarded as heretical writings by Serbian Orthodox people, but the monks were delighted to hear of new commentaries from Soteria. Indeed, they asked for copies of everything that was available because they found the books were making the Bible exciting!
3) As Soteria’s reputation for high quality and reliability has been established and grown, it has attracted the opposition of many Orthodox church leaders, but it has also attracted the respect of some. One in particular contacted Dane recently to say that he had taken on a new role as a publisher for the Orthodox Church. He has asked Dane if he is willing to mentor him in good title selection. They are now planning a joint publishing project which is a tremendous opportunity for Soteria as it will give this title, as well as others, significant credibility and approval.