A revival in Hungary has made one charismatic congregation the largest and fastest-growing church in Europe.
It is 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning on the doorstep of Faith Church in Budapest, Hungary. Today’s service, like every Sunday’s, will start at 10 a.m. No special event is planned–there is no guest speaker, and no conference is in progress. Today, senior pastor Sándor Németh will preach, and the service promises to be business as usual.
But “business as usual” is precisely why Faith Church represents a miracle within this former communist country, which in the years before 1990 suffered brutal political crackdowns and stiff religious restrictions as a satellite member of the Soviet Union’s Eastern bloc nations.
Outside the church, people are arriving and entering the building–not by the dozens–but by the thousands. The parking lot is a sea of activity as busy guards and ushers direct cars and make room for the church’s shuttles that bus attendants from the nearest subway station.
By 10:30–half an hour after the service officially begins but before it has started moving in earnest–some 15,000 people have gathered. The main hall is full, the balconies are full, the overflow area is full–and the professional worship band is quickening the beat.
With a regular Sunday attendance of 12,000 to 15,000 people, this charismatic congregation in Hungary’s capital city is–by far–the largest in all of Europe. Nationwide, about 40,000 believers gather at 250 separate Faith Church congregations every Sunday, and the numbers are increasing. During one recent month, the Faith Church pastors baptized 400 new converts.
Across Europe, such figures are staggering. Few European churches number more than 1,000 members. For a typical charismatic or evangelical congregation here in Hungary or elsewhere in Europe, the numbers rise no higher than the low hundreds or freeze at several dozen.
For Németh, the unprecedented growth of Faith Church is a mystery because there is “no method, no recipe,” he says, that he consciously has applied to attract the many thousands who attend every week. It is a result of what he calls the “invisible aspect”–the sovereign work of God’s Holy Spirit.
“I always tried to do my job,” he says with a shrug of his shoulders during an interview with Charisma recently in Budapest. But after a thoughtful pause, he adds: “Our growth is miraculous–even to me.”
Healing the People
“Miraculous” is the word–and it is one understood by those whose lives have been changed at Faith Church, such as Olga Kadét, a 50-year-old grandmother from the village of Boldog (Hungarian for “happy”). There is no question in her mind about what God has done for her through Faith Church.
In 1993 Kadét had made up her mind to commit suicide. All hope of a meaningful life had been quenched by the long list of her insurmountable physical problems detailed in her medical record.
At the time, Kadét already had been bound to a wheelchair for 18 months. Four spinal-hernia surgeries had been unsuccessful, and in the end she had been left paralyzed by them. After the fourth operation she could move only her head and hands. Doctors had told her that her chances of getting better were about 1-in-100.
“While I was contemplating how to end my life, it happened that a family in our street accepted the Lord,” Kadét told Charisma. “I saw them about, and they were radiating with joy.”
The family took her to a Faith Church meeting in the nearby city of Hotvan. It was the first time she had attended one of the church’s meetings, and Kadét gave her life to Jesus.
“I started attending the weekly Bible studies,” she recalls. “After three weeks, there was a teaching on healing based on the story in Mark 5 about the woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. There was no prayer, just teaching.
“Sitting there listening, I saw a vision of Jesus from behind, and myself moving up to touch His garment,” she says. “At that very instant I felt something like electricity running through me from the top down, and I knew that I was healed. I got out of my wheelchair and started dancing, and I did not stop for three days!”
On the day before her healing, Kadét had gone–as usual in her wheelchair–to visit her mother in the hospital. When she returned to the hospital after her healing, and the doctors saw her walking–her wheelchair nowhere in sight–they just stared.
“They asked me what had happened to my wheelchair,” she says, smiling happily at the recollection. Her own doctors later examined her and declared her 100 percent healthy.
Kadét is only one of many people in the brief history of Faith Church who have received miraculous healings.
Another is Gyula Horváth, 56, a businessman in Esztergom. Because his business is demanding, Horváth likes to keep in shape by playing soccer.
“My doctor tells me I have the heart of a young man,” he says proudly.
But five years ago Horváth’s life was very different. He could not climb stairs or lift anything heavy. He was too weak to retain his position as the head of three restaurants and had retired with a disability pension.
Then 51, Horváth suffered from a severe heart condition. His coronary artery was blocked, and both laser therapy and medication had failed to correct the condition. Final preparations had been made at the hospital for him to have an arterial transplant. But Horváth was a member of a Faith Church congregation and believed in the power of prayer.