Armenia, a small country on the borders of Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia, is a primarily Christian nation. In A.D. 301, the Armenian Apostolic Church was the first Christian denomination to become a state religion. Christianity still remains the predominant religion in the country today.
Of Armenia’s 3 million inhabitants, 90 percent belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, the U.S. Department of State noted in 2005. But while most Armenians identify with Christianity as their religion, their faith is sometimes obscured by legalism and ritual.
Gnel Arsenyan, Foursquare national leader of Armenia and pastor, has a desire to expand Foursquare churches and continue to spread the gospel among Armenian citizens. To do this, he has spent a significant amount of time befriending and encouraging pastors throughout Armenia.
Recently, George W. Cline, Foursquare Missions International (FMI) representative, visited Armenia and was able to interact with Pastor Gnel and other church leaders.
“There are only a [couple] Foursquare churches in Armenia,” George notes. While local leaders desire church growth, they also face the challenge of surviving. “The people have little resources, so they have to trust the Lord,” George explains.
This is evident in Charentsavan, within the Kotayk province of Armenia, where Pastor Gnel leads his church. When George visited, it was cold, even snowing, but he noted that most of the people walked to church on Saturday night and Sunday. And although he says “much of the industry in the area evaporated,” people were friendly, and he says the morale in the area was high.
Pastor Gnel is currently focusing on planting a church in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Though much of the population is religious, George explains that many individuals are not “open to change from ‘religious’ to ‘Christ followers’ ” and are comfortable with simply going to church. Many of the citizens focus more on a ritualistic church setting rather than a church setting that could encourage discipleship and help spread the gospel.
Pastor Gnel has also spent time befriending pastors in the city of Sevan, which is roughly a 30-minute drive from Charentsavan. “It is evident that Pastor Gnel is doing a great job,” George says. “He is obviously highly respected among the church leaders and people of the community.”
Sam (full name withheld for security reasons), an FMI area missionary, has been working in the area with Pastor Gnel, as well. With Sam’s partnership, Pastor Gnel empowers local leaders at the two established Foursquare churches in Armenia. There are 660 Foursquare members and 35 workers, according to 2012 reports, and 440 people made decisions for Christ last year. In addition, 36 people were baptized with the Holy Spirit, and five people experienced water baptisms. But the country still displays apparent needs for additional missionaries.
“If we can get several churches to make a commitment to Armenia and go there yearly,” George says, “building relationships and investing strategically in the churches, I think Armenia has the possibility of planting new churches and reaching the nation for Jesus. A husband and wife team would be a great advantage to the churches.”
Through discipleship, encouragement and training, The Foursquare Church could progress and reach more Armenian citizens than ever in the next few years. George plans on visiting Armenia again in the future, this time taking between three and five pastors with him to help strategize and encourage Foursquare churches in the area. Meanwhile, he is seeking Foursquare churches in the U.S. who wish to actively engage in missions.
Visit Foursquare Missions International to find out more about missions opportunities in Armenia and around the world.
By: Anthony Siwajian, a second-generation Armenian in the U.S. and member of Hillside (Reno Foursquare Church) in Reno, Nev.