TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
June 28, 2017
This testimony contains information related to the church split which Breakthrough Christian Center went through in January 2017.
A much more lengthy letter was published in Bulgarian, mostly for the benefit of church members who have chosen to remain with the church, as well as for those who chose to leave without having heard the full range of information relevant to this matter.
Breakthrough Christian Center is an indigenous church which came into existence as a result of my conversion to faith in Jesus Christ in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1989 after a move of God swept through our country in the early years after the collapse of Communism. In this environment I connected with a Christian lay pastor from Serbia who was living in Bulgaria and got to hear the Gospel for the first time in a way I was able to understand. After my conversion, I opened my apartment for people to be able to come and ask questions about faith in Jesus. I also began sharing Christ with my friends and even with strangers on the street and out of this a community (church) came into existence, initially named Truth from Zion. Even though the church has worked together with various ministries from around the world, we have never been part of any foreign organization and I have never been on anyone’s payroll. This work was founded on the simple principle of hearing from the Lord, giving, praying and doing what we have been led to do by the Spirit. We have never been anything else but a fully self-supported work. As a result of our ministry, tens of thousands have either heard the Gospel for the first time or have been ministered to through our many missions outreaches, conferences, seminars or media ministry.
This testimony focuses specifically on our history in the last 7 years and the church split that resulted.
This is the second unsuccessful attempt for me to transfer the local pastorate while remaining active in fulfilling my role as a founder and overseer who has been and is involved with the work of ministry in Bulgaria.
From its founding, our history has been rich and full of extremes:
- starting the church at the age of 20, only 9 months after receiving Christ and becoming born-again
- leading the church to grow to 1,000 people in 4 years by God’s grace and as a result of our evangelistic efforts
- becoming the target of high-level persecution by the Bulgarian government as well as by the religious system and the media, all of which very corrupt and operated mostly by former Communists and agents of DS – the Bulgarian equivalent of KGB.
- getting stripped of our legal status as a religious non-profit in 1994 by the Bulgarian Parliament
- going through a 5-year period of operating as an illegal entity in post-Communist Bulgaria
- surviving 5 years of persecution and emerging in 1999 as a leading national voice in the Bulgarian Christian community
- spearheading various efforts, advancing God’s Kingdom purpose in Bulgaria (major conferences, helping the Body of Christ to shift away from defeatist mindset and becoming more of a Dominion-minded church; making impact on society by encouraging Christians to take action in the social arena along the lines of defending marriage and family, as well as against the promotion of harmful laws).
In addition to founding Breakthrough Christian Center at the age of 20, leading it to growth, surviving 5 years of harsh treatment by the Bulgarian government and leading the church back to growth, one of my main concerns has been leadership. Particularly raising up leaders who are capable of navigating the complexities of the post-Communist culture and system, as well as being able to raise healthy churches.
One theme that has emerged through the years is the lack of spiritual fathers. This has been the greatest challenge – first of all, I had to mature to a place where I understand what this means from experience and second, to relate the Father’s heart of God to people who have been so profoundly shaped by the culture of intimidation, so characteristic of the former Communist regime and the Balkans in general.
My first attempt at raising a leader who can pastor the church I founded was pastor Emil Stareishinski. He and his family joined our church in the period 1999-2000 and he quickly became part of my team, having had some experience in starting and pastoring a church in another city. In 2002 our family became based in the United States and I released him in the position of a senior pastor, with the clear understanding that even though he is a man of good character, he lacked adequate ministry training, he had never pastored a larger congregation and that he will be mentored by me on the job. I continued to travel back and forth between the US and Bulgaria, amongst other things and legally remained the executive pastor of the church. As time went on, it became clear that the Lord has other plans for pastor Emil and in 2008, due to a series of circumstances, including a difficult personal economic hardship, he left the church and moved with his family to the United Kingdom.
After much prayer and consultation with prophet John Isleib of IMPACT Ministries, who has been ministering alongside me as a governmental prophet to our church since 1997, I asked Pastor Kaloyan Kurdomanov and his wife whether they would be willing to take over the pastorate of the church. They had become part of Breakthrough Christian Center in 1998 and later on he joined the staff of the church at my invitation – first as a financial manager and later on leading our educational effort, called Apostolic Institute.
So in the fall of 2009 I officially turned the pastoring of the church to pastor Kaloyan Kurdomanov and the eldership which at that time was made up of pastor Stoian Georgiev and pastor Radoslav Iliev. Pastor Kurdomanov legally became the Senior pastor of the church, while I remained its overseeing apostle as clearly outlined in the Bylaws of the Apostolic Reformed Church, from which body Breakthrough Christian Center draws its legal status.
Turning the pastoring of the church over to pastor Kaloyan and the eldership was done with everyone’s full understanding that I will remain as the overseeing apostle of this work – both the local church and our work as an Apostolic center in areas outside of the internal development of the local church. Again, for clarity’s sake, Breakthrough Christian Center is an Apostolic center and its status is clearly defined in the Bylaws of the Apostolic Reformed Church, which is our national body of churches and duly recognized as an independent religious body by Bulgarian law, regulating religious institutions.
As an overseer I bear the ultimate responsibility for the training of ministers, ordaining them, overseeing them personally and the work they lead. As clearly pointed out in our bylaws, in the event of doctrinal error, financial mishandling, moral failure or the refusal to receive correction, the overseeing apostle can remove an elder and replace him with someone else.
Between 2009 and 2016, pastor Kaloyan Kurdomanov had all the freedom any pastor might need in order to lead and develop a local church in Bulgaria (or anywhere else, for that matter). He had the liberty to be the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to forming the budget of the church, the freedom to hire and fire employees for the work of the ministry, the freedom to choose which speakers to invite to the church, who to develop relationships with ministry-wise, etc. I have never hindered him in fulfilling his duties and the work God has called him to do. This he confirmed on a conference call with several other leaders in 2016, which call was recorded with everyone’s consent.
It is also important for me to note that in this period of time I have never officially or unofficially given up my position and duties of an overseer.
In 2014, I was led by the Lord to open a new line of communication with pastor Kaloyan and to begin to connect with him more effectively as his and the church’s oversight, which meant asking questions, trying to understand what he wants to achieve with the church and how I can be of help.
This effort of mine which marked the entire 2014, wasn’t received well.
He spoke about trust having been lost due to a private business transaction he and I had been part of in 2013. Clearly, it was a mistake for me to enter into private business transactions with close friends, let alone people like pastor Kaloyan, who (it turns out) used money his family needed for their needs, in order to take part of a high-risk, high-reward, short-term transaction (a short term loan to a third party, not to me or a company controlled by me). Still, it’s important to note that pastor Kurdomanov knew very well I’m not the one who is controlling this transaction and I was involved on an equal footing with him, pooling our money together in order to participate in a private offering which went south. It appears this financial loss had a significant impact on pastor Kaloyan, since it emerged in 2016 on a conference call with the other church elders, that he is expecting me to recover his losses. (Based on my private conversations with the elders, even they themselves didn’t agree with pastor Kurdomanov’s take on this situation and his attempts to make me recover his losses. However, in public, these men didn’t press the issue and sided with Kaloyan).
To complicate matters, at the beginning of 2015 I felt compelled to disclose to pastor Kaloyan and his wife Nina, that some complications in my wife’s health were impacting our relationship and our family in a very negative way. I didn’t ask for his help, I just thought it was the right thing for me to do – to be the one to disclose this hardship to someone I am ethically obligated to keep posted on any critical developments that might affect him or the work we’re involved in together. It seems to me that from this point on, pastor Kurdomanov completely dropped his relationship with me and things took a turn for the worse. He began to make phone calls to people in Minnesota behind my back, trying to extract information about what was going on in our family, obviously damaging my trust in him and thus our relationship.
In May 2015 he declared to me by email that he didn’t accept me as his spiritual authority anymore but he was okay with me being the overseer of the church?!? I decided not to react and arranged to have extensive conversations with him and his wife, as well as with the other elders later in September of 2015. However, our attempt to dialogue didn’t improve the situation. In spite of offering my friendship and the suggestion to turn a new page in our relationship, including discussing these matters in front of the whole church, this didn’t produce any results.
In April 2016 pastor Kurdomanov informed me and the elders that he had gone to Singapore and had asked apostle Naomi Dowdy of Trinity Christian Center to be his spiritual covering, which she had accepted. I contacted Rev. Dowdy, who had been to Bulgaria in 2006 at my invitation, as well as I have ministered at Trinity Christian Center at her invitation in years past. Our conversation didn’t produce any results.
The crisis in this situation deepened further in October of 2015 when it became clear that pastor Kurdomanov had attempted to get bishop Joseph Mattera of Resurrection Church in Brooklyn, New York, involved as a third party – again behind my back. However, after a conference call which was recorded with everyone’s consent, in which call bishop Mattera took part as well, it became clearly established that pastor Kurdomanov has had all the freedom any pastor might need in order to grow a church and I have never hindered him from doing his job. Bishop Mattera withdrew from this situation and we haven’t communicated since.
In January of this year (2017) I traveled to Bulgaria and offered pastor Kurdomanov to remain as a pastor in order to avoid trauma for the church – with the only condition to accept two other long-time church members to join the eldership body. He turned down the last effort of mine to make things better and let me know that he will only work with the elders who are supporting him since they are his „team“.
Pastor Kaloyan and his wife announced to me in this same private conversation that it seems the time has come for us to part, to which I agreed.
Based on all of the above, as the rightful and legal spiritual overseer of Breakthrough Christian Center, I have released pastor Kaloyan and his wife, as well as the elders of Breakthrough Christian Center, of their duties and have initiated a new phase in the development of the church.
Immediately pastor Kaloyan declared he will continue preaching and around 100 church members followed him, thus splitting the church and starting a new church in town.
For the record, this is the first „real“ church split we have experienced as a church, the first one being the departure of a small group of people in 1997, some 20 years ago, after an associate pastor chose to become affiliated closely with Word of Life Church in Sweden.
This testimony finalizes my personal involvement in this matter. I pray for God to take care of pastor Kaloyan and his family in the choices they have made. I opened up my heart, my life, my family and the church family to them as to people, sent into our lives by God Himself. I created opportunities for him and the other leaders, using whatever little resources and trust I’ve had with the amazing people of Breakthrough Christian Center. I do not feel this dynamic was ever understood or appreciated. Rather, it seems to me that the attitude of entitlement took over and changed the nature of what was meant to be a long-term relationship.
Unfortunately, this relationship didn’t end well, with pastor Kurdomanov clearly expecting me to remove myself from being his spiritual authority, turning the church over to him, recognizing him as the apostolic overseer of Breakthrough Christian Center and allowing for a third party to move in and become an outside oversight of the church. This scenario was clearly iterated to me on at least two different occasions and in front of witnesses. To such scenario I could never agree since it violates the very fundamental design of the church, its unique history and also its calling. This church split was imposed on me and all the people who remained as members of the church after seeking God and hearing from Him on this matter.
At one point, after realizing my individual efforts weren’t leading to any progress, I did consult about this matter with prophet John Isleib, as well as with other ministers and long-time members of the church, to some of which I have given first-hand access to email communications and other important information in order for them to judge this matter and help me to remain objective. However, being the one who singlehandedly recognized pastor Kurdomanov’s call to ministry and having been the one who created the conditions for his development and raising as a leader, as well as the other elders, I felt it would be most appropriate to write up this testimony personally and not coming from a group of people. Still, it is important for me to make it clear that I have sought the advice of people who have proven their friendship and sincere love for me, my family and Breakthrough Christian Center.
I’m sure I could have done better as a person, as a leader, as a friend and as an overseer in this situation. However, it seems that I was put in a situation to have to choose between compromising who God has made me to be and what He has called me to do – all in the name of achieving some political „peace“, which I can’t do. Ultimately, in my humble opinion, the following needs to be considered:
- there are many different churches and ministry networks. All who join such ministries need to get clear with who is at the helm of such work, how is the work structured and what the Bylaws say. In this case, it should have been very clear to pastor Kurdomanov, that as someone who has founded and pioneered this work for more than two decades, having gone through a number of tests and trials, having established myself as a reformer who has gone against the corrupt religious and government systems, it would be a huge mistake to try to dislodge me from a ministry God has entrusted me with. Our Bylaws clearly define my role as an apostolic overseer of Breakthrough Christian Center, even after the pastoring of the church has been delegated to someone else. This delegation is not a transfer of some kind of company ownership, it’s a matter of transferring a position of stewardship. It is also clearly pointed out that this is conditional and such senior pastor could be removed.
- I never hindered pastor Kurdomanov from doing what God has called him to do. He chose to take his eyes off pastoring of the church and begin to go around my back, call people and finally declare to me by email he no longer accepts me as his oversight – no such actions were ever needed. He only had to give all of this some time and to have been a little more humble in his approach. However, it doesn’t seem that resolving this matter was his ultimate goal. It appears he wanted me out of his life. My recommendation to him and anyone else in such situation: every relationship has a story. When the story reveals that you were invited into my life and I had believed in you for years and trusted you in every way possible, you don’t turn around and begin to position yourself as the man in charge, trying to dictate this and that. It doesn’t work like that and it’s plain wrong. The right thing to do when you don’t agree with someone who let you into their world and you became part of their family and you used their relationship, trust and backing to become who you are, is to let go and move on and do what you have to do, without the stigma of a church split behind you. As it stands, pastor Kurdmoanov’s record is that he hasn’t started a single church from scratch and on his own. It could be that when he tries how this works, he will understand a little better what it means to be a founder who is seeking to raise a multigenerational work.
- Lastly, this whole story is a cautionary tail for third party ministries who get involved into local situations – if you are going to get involved, you have the ethical and spiritual obligation to discover the facts on both sides. If you don’t, how can you possibly take anyone’s side and claim to have been fair and objective? Backing up an unhappy pastor under someone else’s apostolic oversight and becoming a factor in such unhealthy triangulation doesn’t speak well of anyone, regardless of who they might be.
I ask everyone to lift up in prayer the families of all the people involved in this situation and mentioned here, as well as the believers who ended up being caught up in the middle of this situation. May the Lord speak to our hearts and lead us all to a place of repentance and Christian love for each other.
Breakthrough Christian Center
Last edit June 28, 2017