A Growing Spiritual Hunger in Hungary

by | Jun 8, 2011 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

The
passion for revival I saw in eastern Europe this week rivaled what I have seen
in Africa or Asia.

Europe
is often described as post-Christian, and some people have already given up on
the continent. We’ve heard discouraging statistics about mosques replacing
churches in England. We know about dismal numbers of churchgoers in Germany and
France. Some people assume that the region that gave us the Protestant
Reformation is now a spiritual wasteland.

But
that’s not what I found in Hungary this past week. On Sunday I preached to a
congregation that meets in what used to be a communist hall in the Budapest
suburb of Szigetszentmiklos. The Free Christian Church,
a lively Pentecostal group pastored by Josef and Lila Gere,
was celebrating its 20th anniversary—and the mayor of the town showed up for
the service along with the local minister of religious affairs.

“Blind eyes opening … in Europe?
Three-hour worship sessions … in Europe? Churches filled with teenagers and
young adults … in Europe? It’s all happening in Hungary, a nation that borders
seven other European countries—and could affect them all.”

The
congregation was full of young people. The praise team led us in Hillsong
choruses translated into Hungarian. A few people raised their hands when I
invited those who were not Christians to invite Jesus into their hearts.

I
saw encouraging signs of spiritual life everywhere I went in Hungary, from
Budapest and Vác in the west to the cities of Miskolc and Debrecen in the east.
After church on Sunday, I met a former communist leader who now pastors a
church for Gypsies.

Tamas
Soltesz was a former “comandante” in the Hungarian
police force, and a teacher of atheist philosophy. But in 1990 he had a
dramatic conversion—not unlike the apostle Paul’s—after a strange dream in
which a Gypsy man approached him and said, “I want to receive Jesus.” Soltesz
told the man he could not, but then he heard the voice of the Lord say, “If I
open the door, no one can close it.”

“My
father was called like the apostle Paul to preach to the Gypsies,” says Rita
Nagy, Soltesz’s married daughter. “He had many influential friends in the
police, and they all rejected him. They began calling him vajda, which means ‘Gypsy leader.’”

Today,
Soltesz leads a Gypsy church in the village of Serényfalva, and he has reached many others among Hungary’s nomadic Gypsy communities.
“Today we know Christians in every Gypsy village,” Nagy says.

On
Sunday night I spoke at a small charismatic church that meets in a former
lightbulb factory in the industrial city of Vác. The pastors, Balint and Eva
Nagy, don’t take money from the congregation because most of their members live
on small salaries. But that didn’t dampen the passion I saw in the
worship—which was led by a 20-year-old college student named Máté who learned to play the guitar only a year
ago.

When
I gave an altar call for personal prayer in the small church, people lingered
past 10:30 p.m. to receive ministry. The spiritual hunger in that place rivaled
what I have felt in some Third World nations where revival is common. But this
was Europe!

On
Monday I visited the industrial city of Miskolc, located in what was once a
heavily pro-communist region of Hungary. There I met Zsolt Budai, pastor of
Olive Church, another growing charismatic congregation. Budai told me that his
church has begun an outreach to Gypsies as well.

“Recently
in one of our meetings a 16-year-old girl who has been blind from birth
received her sight,” Budai told me. “And a Gypsy man who was preparing to kill
someone with a samurai sword ended up running into the church and giving his
life to Christ.” The miracles have stirred Budai’s congregation to seek the
Lord for a strategy to reach the marginalized Gypsy community more effectively.

After
visiting Miskolc I went to Debrecen,
near the Romanian border. In the 1500s the city was a center for Calvinism.
Then, in the 1970s, an unusual visitation of the Holy Spirit hit the
tradition-bound Free Christian Church and turned it into a flagship of
Pentecostal revival. Today the church is full of young Christians, and its
pastor, Peter Lakatos, hosts an annual summer worship school that attracts more
than 700 registrants for a week of training.

“Sometimes
during the school we worship for three straight hours,” Lakatos said, noting
that the evening services attract more than 2,000. “There is no air conditioning
in the building, but that doesn’t stop the people from praising the Lord.”

Blind
eyes opening … in Europe? Three-hour worship sessions … in Europe? Churches
filled with teenagers and young adults … in Europe? It’s all happening in
Hungary, a nation that borders seven other European countries—and could affect
them all. I’m not writing off this region. What I saw this week in Hungary was
enough to convince me that a new spiritual trend has begun.

J. Lee Grady is
contributing editor of Charisma. You
can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His most recent book is 10
Lies Men Believe
(Charisma
House). 

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