From Shepherd of Sheep to Shepherd of Men

Tending sheep is something that Alex enjoys. As a young man, he worked as a shepherd in the rugged hills of Serbia. Here he learned what it takes to lead sheep down treacherous passes to cool running streams and fresh green pastures.

As Alex grew older, he felt the call to become a different kind of shepherd, a shepherd of men. He enrolled at the Adventist theological seminary several hours from home in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade. Here he learned how to lead men and women to the word of God and to develop a relationship with Christ Jesus. Alex felt he’d found his true calling. 

Upon graduation five years ago, he felt a burden to gather a flock of new believers rather than pastor an established church. So the Adventist Church in Serbia asked him to plant a new congregation in Pirot, a region in southern Serbia where there were virtually no Adventists.

Most people in this region are firmly planted in their current faiths and are not open to Adventist beliefs. They’re also reluctant to visit churches of other faiths. Alex felt that traditional evangelism would not work, so he took a different approach.

Pirot, like most Serbian towns, has a large city square filled with bustling shops, crowded cafes, and lots of people. Alex thought this might be a perfect place to start his new church. He asked the shopkeeper of one of Pirot’s most popular café’s—a sweet shop with a large outdoor sitting area—if he could hold an hour-long meeting in the evenings. The shopkeeper agreed because he thought it might add to his business. 

Within a few weeks Alex had the café filled with people who were interested in what he had to say but who normally wouldn’t have come to his church. Even the shopkeeper, who was a member of another faith-group, occasionally attended the meetings. Within six months two small groups formed that met several times a week in other locations. 

As the group continued to grow, Alex looked for a place to meet on Sabbath, but there were no halls in Pirot for him to rent. Then he happened upon a storefront that was available. It was on a major street in town with plenty of parking nearby. He rented it.

It didn’t take long for the storefront to fill up, however the large storeroom of the shop was conveniently empty. Alex turned the storeroom into an overflow sanctuary by setting up a video camera in the storefront and a video projector and speakers in the storeroom, creating his own closed-circuit television system. Now he has plenty of room for church on Sabbath.

In the last four years 37 people have been baptized. What seemed impossible when Alex arrived five years ago has become a reality.

At a GlanceThe Republic of Serbia

Serbia is a landlocked country in Southeastern Europe. The country borders Romania and Bulgaria to the east, Hungary to the north, the former Yugoslavian state of Macedonia to the south, and the former Yugoslavian states of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro to the west. Greece and Albania are to the south.

For much of the 20th century Serbia was part of the former Yugoslavia. Following the end of Communism 20 years ago, Serbia has gone through many bloodless and bloody conflicts as many former Yugoslavian states have broken away from it and formed their own sovereignty. Today Serbia is working to join the European Union so they can benefit from the lucrative trade agreements that many neighboring countries enjoy.

Capital: Belgrade
Major Languages: Serbian and Hungarian
Major Religions: Serbian Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim
Population: 9.5 million*
Adventist Membership: 6,626*
Membership to population ratio: 1,140*
Adventist Churches: 168*

*Courtesy of the General Conference Office of Archives and Statistics Annual Statistical Report 2009

Third Quarter 2011

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