As a fruit of Movement Day Global Cities in New York City 2016, we planted a Movement Day Expression in Athens 2017. Tom Mahairas, a New York City evangelist, created the opportunity to gather with leaders in Athens.
We formed a working group at Movement Day 100 Cities in 2018 and had a Movement Day Balkan Cities in Athens in 2019 with leaders from Athens, Thessaloniki, Skopje (North Macedonia), Belgrade (Serbia), Tirana (Albania), and Sofia (Bulgaria). One hundred and forty leaders attended from 14 countries representing other European nations and the US.
In June 2021 we had a virtual Movement Day Balkan Cities with nearly 150 leaders over two days. We had presentations on best practices from across the region. This included an Albanian soccer initiative building a stadium to reach young people in the country.
The core group representing these cities has been meeting monthly by zoom for the past two years. We also had a planning gathering in March 2020 just as Covid hit the globe in Thessaloniki.
Why The Balkans
The Balkans are incredibly strategic as one of the early cradles of Christianity. Greece is the only city outside of Israel with four prominent New Testament cities (Athens, Corinth, Thessaloniki, and Phillipi). The Balkans are also the epicenter of refugee migration from Syria and Africa into Europe.
Across the Balkans the evangelical church is less than 2% of the population. Albania had no known Christians in 1990. Skopje and Belgrade combined have less than 2000 evangelicals for 3.5 million people. This is an important arena for evangelism.
There is a great opportunity to collaborate with important movements across the region including university work (IFES), church planting (City to City), and refugee work (Hellenistic Ministries). There are some vibrant next generation leaders that are emerging and eager to church plant as well as do graduate work. We are seeing church planting taking place among the Roma Gypsies. Our core group includes prominent IFES leadership, the church planting coordinator for Southern Europe, and one of the largest refugee organizations in the Balkans.
The priorities for the future include:
- Continuing our monthly zoom calls with an emphasis on strategizing around the next generation
- Participating in the global gathering in Dubai in February 2022 to network and learn best practices
- Have dozens of leaders benefit from the Movement Day Scholars Program to write on the opportunities and challenges of the Balkans
- Host an annual gathering in June to mature the network and accelerate best practices across the region.