Ilija Tanevski is pastor of Christian Centre 490 in Skopje, Macedonia. We interviewed him about the church in Macedonia and what God is doing in his country. There is an interesting move of God in the country, but the love of Jesus is still very much needed, especially to break tradition.
Christian Centre 490
Christian Centre 490 in Skopje is one of four local Evangelical Pentecostal churches in the Christian Centre 490 movement. The other churches are located in Veles, Strumitsa, and Shutka, the latter having the largest Roma community in Europe. “We also have a home group in Kumanovo.”
The number 490 is based on Matthew 18:21-22: Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” Ilija explains that his church believes in forgiveness: “God forgives us everything, so we can forgive also.”
“God forgives us everything, so we can forgive also.”
Christian Centre 490 recently celebrated its 30-year anniversary. The church was started by a Swedish couple to evangelize to the students in Macedonia. Christian Centre in Skopje has around 100 members right now.
They organize many different services. “We have youth services, women and men services, mercy services, and a few more.” The mercy services are focused on people who need help. “We visit people, help them with clothes, food, and housing. We also give the Roma children breakfast.”
Ilija sees being a pastor not only as a full-time job, but also as a lifestyle. “When you are a pastor, you don’t just have a professional job, but you have a pastoral heart.” According to Ilija, a pastoral lifestyle involves seeing many people in your daily life, talking with them and helping them. “We need a lot of wisdom for that. Thank God for His wisdom.”
Ilija describes his testimony as “not so dramatic, but quite interesting.” His mother is an Orthodox Christian, and passed on to Ilija a love for Jesus from a young age. “I remember as a child, I read the Bible on my own initiative. I also encouraged my friends to read the Bible. But over the years, other things took their place in my life.” School and sports took up much of Ilija’s time. “Everything what a young man does.”
After one year of marriage to his wife Daniela, they were together with some of Daniela’s friends. “We started talking about God. It was a really good conversation. I remember that I said to them what I said to my friends when I was young: ‘Please come in our home and we will read the Bible.’ They all agreed and thought it was a good idea.” So everyone started reading the Bible, it was about ten people. “We were reading intensively during that period.”
“This is our place.”
“After some time, the mother’s friend of one of those people came and testified about Jesus.” The group decided to visit Christian Centre together. “When we went to the church, we stayed. It has been 13 years now. We started by going to home groups, and after that we went to one of the services. When we went there, we all said: ‘This is our place.’ Seven people of our group eventually stayed at our church.”
An interesting move of God
Ilija sees the church in Macedonia growing, but not in the way he expected. “Especially in the corona period. The churches were simply pushed to look for different ways to reach the believers and also non-believers. A lot of Macedonian churches used social networks.” Christian Centre 490 also went online, which caused many new people to watch their services and hear about Jesus. “Many people called me: ‘Please go online, we are afraid, please preach and talk about God.’ A lot of the people who called me or wrote me during that time, are now in the church.” God has turned the pandemic for good in this way. “It is biblical. When we have many troubles, God moves. He is always better.”
God is not only moving in the evangelical church, but is also strengthening ties between different denominations in Macedonia. “During this period, what I see and witness, is an interesting move of God in Macedonia. Especially in the community between the different denominations. I am very happy with that. One of my desires is to have a better community between churches in Macedonia. God has strengthened our community to work together, not only in the church, but also in society, like never before.”
“God is taking the barrier away between churches.”
Christian Centre 490 has many joined projects with other churches, like the mercy ministry. “I think God is taking the barrier away between the churches.” They have worked together with Methodist, Evangelical, and Baptist churches, and had a few experiences with Orthodox churches.
For God all things are possible
“Specific for this period is how God is raising new young leaders who strongly believe that Macedonia can be saved, and are working on it.” Ilija also believes that there is a rise of apostolic and prophetic ministry in Macedonia. “What God is doing with those people, is not only for Macedonia, but also for outside the country.”
“Please God, open their hearts, so that they see You.”
Ilija believes the people of Macedonia are not yet really open to Jesus. “There is a lot of tradition. They call themselves Christian, but they are only Christian by name. They only go to church for tradition.” People who really love Jesus only make up a small percentage of the population in Macedonia. “When I pray, I pray: ‘Please God, open their hearts, so that they see You.’ We must have faith for that. Jesus said: ‘What is impossible for people, for God is possible.’ I catch that and I hold on to that. For God all things are possible.”
Ilija says he and Christian Centre are open to work together with other churches, in or outside Macedonia. “We don’t cooperate with churches only if we have the same theology. We cooperate with churches by heart. That is more important. When you have heart for working for God, we can work with many churches.”