Sometimes, statistics can present an optical illusion. Operation World reports that Serbia has 7.7 million people, with about 80% identifying as Christian. This looks encouraging, but of these only a tiny minority would be evangelical. Some estimate the percentage of evangelical Christians to be under 0.1%, or 5000–7000 people.
To be Serbian is to be Orthodox, and largely to be ignorant of the gospel. Unfortunately, the Orthodox are not the only ones who suffer from nominalism. Liberal theology has devastated the country, and many of Serbia's evangelical churches have a high percentage of people who are Christian in name only. The church today is struggling to put down fresh roots into the Scriptures.
Helping to strengthen the church in this Balkan country is the Baptist Theological School (BTS). Though this school has fluxuated in and out of existence since 1939, in September of 2019 (80 years after its founding), it celebrated its first graduation of bachelor degree students ever. BTS, which was relaunched in partnership with TLI in 2015, emphasizes deep study and application of the Scriptures.
One graduate, a pastor named Miroslav, shared how his studies at BTS transformed his preaching. "Before I became a student at BTS, interpretation of the Bible was pretty much emotion and hunch-based," he explained. "This practically meant that the Word of God meant to me whatever I came up with. Of course, there were boundaries, but still no hermeneutical principles or contextual background." Now, Miroslav continues, he's "gained principles [of interpretation] and rules to hold onto, so that the unveiling of the word of God would be as accurate as possible."
BTS currently has 32 students enrolled, many of them in various church leadership and ministry roles. Some are pastors, others work in Christian media or music. Many are laymen who long to serve God more faithfully in their vocation and church. BTS is committed to patiently, faithfully, and joyfully train generations of leaders for the Balkans and beyond. Please pray for the work of BTS, the students, faculty, and TLI Staff.