Church Planting in Croatia

Church Planting in Croatia

Daniel Trusiewicz - May 26, 2011

Baptists in Croatia

The roots of Croatian Baptists are to be found in the missionary outreach of J.G.Oncken who is often called the ‘Father of European Baptists’. The earliest conversions and home gatherings happened in 1872-73 however the first Baptist congregations in Zagreb and Daruvar were founded as late as 1890s.   

The better growth of Baptist movement came in the years 1922-39 (after the World War I) under the leadership of Vinko Vacek who was known for his vivid energy to travel across the country in order to visit groups of people, preach the gospel, teach the Bible and form new churches. At that time the Croatian Baptists numbered about 600 and were part of Yugoslavia.

Further growth came after the World War II, when the Baptist congregations were planted in the industrial cities (Rijeka, Sisak, Karlovac) and some religious publications were possible. Baptist believers migrated a lot in the 1950s and 1960s from villages to towns looking for jobs and they also started churches in order to fulfill their spiritual needs.

In 1991 Yugoslavia ceased to exist and the Croatian Baptist Union was formed. The Baptists enjoyed further growth since doubling the number of members and congregations. The current vision is to plant a Baptist church in every of the 21 counties.

There are 50 churches and mission stations that number the total of 1900 members. The president of Baptist union is Toma Magda and the general secretary is Zeljko Mraz.


Church Planting in Croatia

One of the church plants is located in Novi Marof, about 100 km from Zagreb. There are about 20 people who regularly meet for a Bible study and worship. The meetings take place in a rented hall and are led by indigenous church planter Jonatan.  The group has been meeting there for about one year and a good deal of growth has been notified since. There are counseling sessions twice a week in the same hall where the group meets for a Bible study on Friday night. People can come to talk or find advice about some spiritual or practical issues.

Jonatan says: “There are only two reasons that prompt me to plant a church in Novi Marof: the Great Commission and God’s love towards lost people who need to be saved. The target group is especially the young people burdened with various problems (addictions, unemployment, depression etc). In order to accomplish this goal we have started the Christian counseling. This ministry serves all who need advice and encouragement, and who seek the true meaning of life.” Jonatan is married to Daniela and they have two small children.

Jonatan owes a lot to the strong support from the mother church in Varazdin, where his father Nikola Vukov is the pastor. The mother church is 15 km away from Novi Marof. The Baptist congregation of Varazdin is located in a typical building where there is a hall for about 50 people downstairs and a pastor’s flat is arranged upstairs. Nikola explains that the church was planted 15 years ago and has grown well since. He proudly stresses that several of the church members hold university degrees.

The church is also exceptionally missions minded and they have developed a program of planting some more Baptist congregations in the region. One of them is of course in Novi Marof where Jonatan is the main leader and the other is Ivanec.

There are 15000 inhabitants in the town of Novi Marof and the new group is the sole Evangelical fellowship there. In the region of Varazdin – Novi Marof there are about 200000 people but only three Evangelical churches.

According to Zeljko Mraz, ‘the union has always been involved in church planting even when there was no written strategy for it in the past. But the time has come for the much more intentional mission work so the union has worked out a document called Strategy 2020. Our hope and prayer is that our new strategy will be effectively implemented.”  

Both Toma Magda and Zeljko Mraz can see a lot of positive changes among the Croatian Baptists during the last two or three decades. They emphasize that the union has doubled in size and the number of congregations has increased. The union leaders are also very happy about the good fellowship among the pastors and they appreciate effective partnerships with the other unions like: England, Germany, Scotland and mission organizations in Europe and overseas.

Prayer requests

  1. Pray for unity among Baptist churches in Croatia and effective implementation of Strategy 2020.
  2. Pray for the evangelistic outreach and church planting in Croatia.
  3. Pray for the mission team in Novi Marof.

In Christ,