Renewing the Church in Hungary

Date Posted: 
Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Around a decade ago, Doug McClintic got a phone call from a young Hungarian pastor named Dániel Püski.

Püski had heard about McClintic’s work as a church planter. And when he found himself in West Michigan, he decided to give McClintic a call. Püski explained that he needed to plant a church, and he asked if he could visit McClintic to learn more.

“Sure,” McClintic agreed.

“What about tomorrow?”

Püski ended up staying with McClintic for a week.

“We got to know each other, and I tried to help him with anything that I could. We went around and saw different church plants,” McClintic says.

After Püski returned to Hungary, he started Debrecen Reformed University Congregation, a church for university students in Debrecen. He also kept in touch with McClintic for support and advice about church planting. And as Püski’s church grew, so did his relationship with McClintic.

In 2011, the church planting partnership expanded beyond Püski and McClintic. The Synod of the Great Lakes and the Hungarian Reformed Church started the Luminex Global Collaborative, a six-year agreement to partner on church planting in Hungary.

A group of churches from Michigan agreed to serve as supporting churches for the Hungarian church plants: the Harbor Churches, Fifth Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Community Reformed Church in Zeeland, and Centerpoint Church in Kalamazoo.

Both McClintic and Püski admit that church planting in Hungary comes with significant challenges. In Hungary, even talking about church with people you don’t know well is taboo.

In fact, one of the biggest culture shocks for Püski in the United States was going to a restaurant and getting into a conversation about church with the server after just a few minutes. He says that would never happen in Hungary.

“We hardly ever talk about church in a public place,” Püski explains. “So it’s a much longer process to bring someone to faith. In my experience, in the U.S., if you start up a discussion with someone, you can bring faith up quite naturally. In Europe, it’s a highly private thing. You talk about this stuff with your relatives, maybe a few of your closest friends.”

Despite the challenges, through the Luminex Global Collaborative, McClintic and Püski hope to revitalize the faith community in Hungary. They’re already seeing small signs of renewal. Even the University Congregation building has a story of renewal to tell.

The building had originally housed what’s known in English as the Great Forest Congregation, beginning in the 1940s. But when the communists rose to power in Hungary, they took over the building and used it as their library. The church moved to a smaller building down the road in 1975.

Although communism fell in 1989, Great Forest Congregation never moved back to its original building. In fact, when Püski began to prepare the building to house University Congregation in 2006, its sanctuary was still brimming with books.

Today, it’s a place of worship once again, filled with the energy of young faith leaders.

And just down the road, Great Forest Congregation is thriving, too—under the leadership of Dániel Püski’s father. He has been pastoring the church since the fall of communism; he was the first pastor that the church was allowed to choose since before communism. And since he has taken the helm, the congregation has grown into one of the largest in Hungary.

Püski and McClintic are excited to expand this movement of renewal into other parts of Hungary through church plants.

“We think our churches are stronger if they’re planting other churches locally and cross-culturally around the globe,” McClintic says. “We strengthen our own church’s discipleship if we’re doing that Acts 1:8 type of witnessing and mission.”

Editor’s note: If your church is interested in becoming a supporting church for a Hungarian church plant, contact Doug McClintic at doug@luminexusa.org.

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