Known as the birthplace of democracy and the Olympics, Greece was the first European country to be evangelized (Acts 16:10). Today, only 0.03 percent of its 11 million people are considered evangelical Christians. Even though Greece was the first country in Europe to hear the Gospel, today there is very little connection between New Testament Christianity and the everyday practice of religion.
Theodore Kalogeropoulos, director for TWR Greece, was recently in Cary, and we took some time to talk with him about his responsibilities, TWR’s ministry in Greece, and the people we are reaching and how to pray for them.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how you came to Christ?
A: I grew up in a believer’s family, so I’m not the average Greek, and of course I knew about God, and I believed in God. I grew up with Sunday school, but when I was 17 years old, I went to a youth conference. Even though I knew God and believed in God, I realized I needed to give my life to God. At that time, God touched me, and I feel that from that time, I was born again and growing in knowledge. I’m trying to do God’s work with more persistence.
Q: What is your role at TWR? Can you explain a bit about that?
We have TWR Hellas. Hellas is the name of Greece in the local language. We formed the TWR alliance, which is a nonprofit organization that produces biblical programs and places them on various secular stations.
I’m directing TWR Greece, and we place the programs on radio stations. For seven years now, we have broadcast the TTB [Through the Bible] series and also the In Touch Ministries series. We are preparing now to add the Project Hannah program.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face in ministry?
First of all, the word of God as we’re trying to present it to the people has a different meaning for Greeks because Greece has been a “Christian” country for 2,000 years now. Christianity has a different meaning there. For a Greek to be Christian means to be baptized as a child into the [Greek Orthodox] church, attend Christmas and Easter occasions in the church, and probably attend one or two times again when there is a marriage or some other ceremony.
For them “Christianity” is something different. They don’t know that they must have an everyday relationship with God. This is a very difficult thing to pass on to the people, because when you tell them they should be a good Christian, they will say “I have done all that. I’m OK.” They don’t understand what Jesus did for them on the cross.
Communicating salvation, as we understand it, is really a big challenge. They immediately consider it Protestant or evangelical. They say that we (the Orthodox) are the true Christians, so why are you coming to tell us something else? It creates a number of problems for them including going against their own conscience and the fear of what their family will think and do if they change from their current religious position.
Q: How about the Bible? Do they have access to the Bible at all?
They can have access to the Bible, but it’s not the ultimate authority in the Orthodox Church, because they have the traditions, writings of church fathers, and the Old Testament. Although the New Testament writers are important, the New Testament is only understood through the church fathers. So the Bible is one of these three; and it’s not the most important. Because of that, they don’t use the Bible very often.
Greek people as a whole are deeply religious, and the Bible is revered. Only the priests have the privilege of reading the Scriptures, and when the priests refer to the Bible and liturgy, it is all done in an archaic Greek that is difficult to understand today. In the churches, they have Bibles which are covered with gold or very nice artistic things. The people may kiss the book out of respect, but they don’t open it very often. So usually the Bible is absent from their lives, and it’s difficult for them to understand that it is important to take the Bible and read it. Bibles are not sold in Christian bookstores, either.
As a part of the follow-up of listeners to TWR’s Greek-language programs, those who write in and request a Bible are sent a Greek New Testament. When they read the Word of God for the first time in their own language, they can understand. It becomes an opportunity for a life-changing encounter with the living God.
Q: With this in mind, how can we pray for the people of Greece?
In addition to the latest economic crisis, we ask that people pray that Greeks would understand really what God did for them and the gift of God, Jesus.
Pray that they will turn to Him and accept from Him the regeneration, power, and help for everyday life instead of being “religious.”
Of course, you can also pray about the ethical corruption seen very often in politics and politicians, but also in the people.
(To view an inspirational video describing TWR’s growing ministry in Greece, click here)