Mladen Jovanović (1945-2013)
Thoughts from our Director, on the passing of Mladen Jovanović
The shadow of Mladen Jovanović originates in Croatia but stretches across all of Eastern and Western Europe, and even to the USA. It is difficult to understand how one man could bless so many lives over such a diverse geographical area. Such an impact can only be explained by the unique anointing of the Holy Spirit in a life yielded to the will of God.
As a young university instructor, Mladen was challenged to study the primary source, the Bible, for the truth of Christianity. The Holy Spirit, working through the Scriptures, captured his heart, made the message of the Gospel alive, and brought faith in Christ. Up until that time Mladen had dreamed of being a university professor, but God had other plans, bigger plans! He would teach on university campuses in Croatia, in Hungary, in Poland, and in the USA. His teaching provided the challenging opportunity to plant churches, train leaders and future leaders of the Kingdom, and challenge students to give their lives in the service of Jesus Christ.
Teaching also gave way to preaching. Sunday after Sunday Mladen delivered carefully crafted sermons, first in the small Zagreb congregation that he and others planted. Then radio preaching exposed much of Yugoslavia to this effective communicator of the simple but powerful message of the Gospel. One leader of the Roman Catholic tradition said, "You in the Church of Christ have in Mladen Jovanović the most effective preacher in Croatia." Not only did Mladen personally preach, but he trained and taught his craft to many who are now preaching throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
The message Mladen preached, he sought to live. The love of God was a constant theme in his messages. "This love must express itself in love and acceptance of others," he would say, in conversation as well as sermons. Part of a tradition that is often thought to be exclusive, Mladen's love and acceptance produced a reputation of inclusion rather than exclusion. Uniting churches as well as individuals was always on Mladen's heart. Theological convictions are real and too often divisive, but with this man of God, the unity of the Spirit, found in love for Christ, would always supersede personal understandings. "Trust the Spirit to work through Biblical study," he often said. "If in humility we are teachable, we will all grow to a fuller understanding."
Our brother loved people, especially young Christians, with a love that expressed itself in the Apostle Paul's description of love. He was patient with those growing in their understanding. He was kind to others who disagreed with him. He was not rude, but sought to affirm the best in all. He was quick to protect, especially young churches and their leaders. His was a love that was confident that Christ would unify. His hope was in God working through the ever new generation of Christian leadership.
As the reputation of Mladen grew, his thoughts and views were sought out by the secular media as well as the religious community. He rose to leadership among preachers and churches throughout Croatia and south-central Europe. When a moral or ethical issue surfaced in Croatia, Mladen's voice was heard, but always his comments reflected the truths he found in Holy Scripture.
This was a man with a contagious smile and a funny story, but he was also a man of letters and culture. He read widely, loved music, and appreciated the arts. His sermons demonstrated a broad education, with illustrations from history, literature, and current events. Educated and cultured, but always the student, Mladen sought new understandings and deeper truth.
Many were his accomplishments and great was his influence. Church plants and trained Christian leaders were his legacy. But above all this, Mladen was a man of God, committed to Christ and His truth as revealed in the Bible. Mladen Jovanović was my friend and brother. God used him to extend our call to Croatia. We shared leadership in the local church. We shared an office and we shared a dream to help train and equip effective servants for the cause of Christ. But even more, Mladen and Dragica shared their family. Sandra and I were invited to become part of the Mladen Jovanović family. This dear man was, and is, God's gift to me in a very personal way.
The note below has been written at the request of Dragica Jovanović and the family:
The Mladen Jovanović family with broken hearts must inform you that Mladen, our dear husband, father, and grandfather passed away on Friday, September 6, 2013. It appears that he suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly. All of us are in shock! By all appearances, Mladen was in good health and has been as active as ever in service of Christ and His church.
His sudden death has left all of us stunned and broken hearted. But we are proud of the life that he lived! His love for Jesus Christ and His Kingdom has served as an example for all. Each of us are blessed by his love of God and the way that he loved our family. His passionate concern for the Church produced a life of faithful service, not only in Croatia but throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
The family asks that no flowers be sent. Instead, contributions can be sent to the memorial fund that is being established to honor his life and legacy. Mladen had one dream left unfinished. He wanted to complete plans for a much needed expansion of the church building.* It is our desire to see this dream fulfilled. The Bammel Church of Christ in Houston, Texas has agreed to receive these funds and establish the Mladen Jovanović Memorial Fund to help make Mladen’s dream come true. The addition to the building will be named the “Mladen Jovanović Memorial Fellowship Center and Library.”
We ask that you remember us in your prayers as we grieve, but also join us in prayers of thanksgiving for the grace and peace that God through His Spirit is providing for us. Also join us in thanking God for the life of our Godly husband, father, and grandfather.
The Jovanović Family
*(for more information contact Bammel Church of Christ or the Biblijski institut in Zagreb)
Remembrances about Mladen from our faculty
I have worked together with Mladen for quarter of a century. With all heart he sought to proclaim and apply the Word of God in everyday living: by preaching, teaching, writing, counseling, fellowship, correcting, organizing events and friendship. He used his “gift of grace” (1 Tim 4:14) fruitfully until the last moment of his life, and was a blessing to generations of believers and spiritual leaders. In my memory stays his love for Jesus Christ, the zeal of the Word of God and brightness through which he expressed this experienced love and lived zeal in contacts and life with people.
To Mladen Jovanovic – friend, brother and partner in the Gospel!
For the past nearly three decades, as I have known Mladen, this is how I saw him – as a friend, brother in the Lord, and versatile partner in the Gospel. In the most literal meaning of that word, Mladen was a man of word and deed. He was of the word in such a way that a man could rely on him and his word. But Mladen was also a man of the word in such a way that the biblical author of the book of Ecclesiates has expressed, “The Preacher tried to find appropriate words and to express the truth directly“. (Ecc 12:10) This is exactly what Mladen did, a man of chosen words, by his profession, but also a man who would never “wrap“ the truth in just pretty words.
In his versatile engagement, Mladen was from the Church of Christ, that is, the Church of our Lord, up to theological and biblical undertakings of his effort and work, a preacher who proclaims “the truth directly.“ But in chosen words. As we are by our very Lord taught and encouraged, and called friends, so was Mladen in all of this a friend. A man who did not allow himself to float in academic heights.
Thus, thank God for my friend, brother and partner.
“May the Lord make His face shine upon him“ (Nu 6:25)
Friend Danijel Berkovic
I will remember Mladen by one event which happened a few years ago in Mimara: we had a graduate promotion. In honor of his work and ministry, his daughter Andrea surprised him by singing a song which she wrote for him. What does that say to me about him? Mladen may have done these or that great things for God, but when you live to see your own child sing that kind of a song in your honor, then that speaks more about him than all of his work, books he wrote or conferences he spoke at.
Mladen's funeral on Croatian television, you can see here:
In Memoriam Mladen Jovanović - "Spiritual Challenges"