Serbian society is a good mix of traditionalists, communist-seculars and MTV culture moderns.

• Traditionalists believe they can save themselves by belonging to the mainstream church, by being religious and good. Salvation and truth is through religious institutions and mythical nationalistic mega narratives. Individualism is not encouraged, but belonging to community is.
• Most middle-aged people who grew up under communism are deep in secular atheism. This may be hidden behind Orthodoxy (just for the sake of national identity) by keeping religious festivals, but there is no personal belief in God.
• There is a growing MTV modern culture of young people who see spirituality not as a collective thing but rather as personal and private. Their story is not part of the Serbian mega narrative, and it is replaced by their own mini narratives that have their own taste. They choose what to believe according to their needs. Friendship and being accepted are big on their agenda.

Serbia may be a European country, but it very much has an Eastern mind-set and way of thinking. While in the West the dominant drive behind the culture is “choices and respect of people’s choices”, Serbia is driven by an “honour and shame” culture, thanks to 500 years under the Ottoman Empire. The shame culture controls people, and the opinion of others is very important, which is a big obstacle to the gospel. People are closed to non-mainstream churches and to the gospel out of a fear of being different to others, and therefore betraying your collective.

Another aspect of the Serbian mind-set is a fear of the Christian God. That fear is closely connected to Gnosticism, spread by the Orthodox Church, and by superstition. Almost every day in the Orthodox Church calendar is a red letter day on which a certain saint is celebrated, or there is a religious festival. And this God or that saint is more likely to punish than bless if you don’t behave in a particular way and don’t show him the honour he deserves.

A good example of this is a lady who was very happily visiting our church until she had an accident. It turns out that it happened on a certain saint’s day, which she interpreted as God is punishing her for leaving the Orthodox Church and going to a “sect”.