The Church of God in Budapest is blessed to have two young emerging leaders working together to reach the city. Peter Kiss (27 years old) and Laszlo Debreceni (33 years old) are pastoring churches that are experiencing growth, unity, and the formation of a vision to reach one of the most beautiful cities in the world. They have surrounded themselves with mentors from Europe and North America and are looking to create healthy ministries that can impact the entire region. 3W sat down with Kiss and Debreceni at the European Theological Conference in Fritzlar, Germany to learn more about their long-term goals for ministry.
3W: Describe the overall spiritual environment in Budapest. Are people very religious or very secular? How interested are they in issues of faith and religion?
Peter: I would say most of the people are secular, but they have a deep need for spiritual stuff. They are searching for the meaning of life, but not in the church anymore. More like bookstores and esoteric stuff.
Laszlo: They're searching for the meaning of their life, not as a philosophical question. "What is the meaning of my life?" They would read Paulo Coelho. If you go into a bookstore, half the books have to do with spirituality, but they don't think the church has anything to do with that.
3W: Is their prejudice against the church. Do most people have a pretty negative feeling of Christianity and the Church?
3W: They would say 'I don't like the church because...' what?
Peter: I think they would say the church is not authentic anymore. It's not real. It doesn't meet the real needs of people. They found in the past that the church didn't live the truth and were separated from the Word.
Laszlo: After the commnist era and the new system, they would still very much think that the church is on the take. They want to take your money. EIther it's the Roman Catholic Church--big cathedrals and everything is with gold. And the new Charismatic movement has the same perception.
Peter: People think they are looking for the answer in their own spiritual life, but they think everything is relative. So I think one reason they would say, 'why go to church,' --they would say you can only find one part of the truth there.
Laszlo: They are very concerned about the Christian church especially. They think it's very exclusive. We have other religious movements like Hare Krishna which is viewed as more open, as well as Reformed Buddhism. It's just thinking and going to Yoga classes. I get something and they don't think of something as institutions that are on the take. They think they want to give so they feel served.
Peter: What did we do wrong? I would say we didn't listen, but only spoke. This is a problem. People want to not only hear the truth, but they want to share.
3W: Hungary was one of the first Eastern Block nations that took off, but recently I've heard that there's a lot of negative feelings about the situation right now and the future. WHat do you see happening right now with the society, the economy, and the political situation. Do you see people in a negative mode?
Peter: Yes, and I would think it's getting worse, because for them it seems hopeless. We can also see the Right Wing party growing. I think they are very depressed and getting aggressive.
3W: You are young leaders with churches in the European setting, what kind of things are you doing to make sure at the beginning of your careers to make sure your churches are healthy. You have the opportunity that many churches don't have, you are just starting.
Laszlo: The first step we had to take was to create unity in between our churches, because in the past we had issues about that. Really it wasn't us. It was God who put us together. The churches are still different, but we are not quarelling about the differences but using the differences to help each other. We are chaning the attitude to be more outward focused and into the community. We have quite a few that come from an Atheist background.
Peter: One problem in the past was the church didn't take care of the needs of the people. The other thing is that people think Christians are proud and that they are "in" and others are "out." We are inviting people into the circle. Everyone needs to get closer to Jesus.
3W: What exciting things do you see for your 2 churches?
Laszlo: The next step is a new kind of structure in between our churches and in the future of the CHOG in Hungary. A simple structure that helps us grow, which is not a bureaucracy system. We had to re-think these by-laws and structures because of new religious laws. And right now with Peter, we are thinking of a campus structure, so that we can have more efficient resource sharing if there are new church plants. We want to be ready by the time we plant a new church next year.
3W: So there is a church plant in the horizon for Budapest?
Peter: Yes, actually downtown Budapest. It's a very exciting place. It's the only place where the 3 metro lines meet and it's very crowded with artists, students, and professionals. We want to make events that are not sub-cultural, but the music and style would be a part of the culture--and trying to influence these people and sending them out and influencing Budapest.
3W: Tell me about your families.
Laszlo: I'm 33 and I'm at the turning point of Gen-X and Millenials. I married 10 years ago and I have 3 chidlren, 8, 6, and 1. Daniel is 8, goes to school 2nd grade. Hannah is 7 and goes to 2nd grade. And Adam is the tiny one who is 15 years old. My beautiful wife is Bernadette and she has an Irish name. We live right next to the church that I pastor because we wanted to live there to build up relationships with people. We left a house in the suburbs, we couldn't sell it because of the crisis, and it worked. In 2010 we changed the name from Rakospalota to our new name "Feszek" and it means "nest." It's quite a good word in Hungarian because it means "home." So we call it "Nest Christian Community Church."
Peter: I have a wife, she is 27, her name is Szabina and she's pretty hot. The name of the church is Budakalasz Evangelical Community. We tried to pick a name that can be understandable for many people. We thought it is important to put the name of the city and to say who were are "Evangelical" and "Community" not just our church community, but the community around us.
3w: And how can the church in America, Europe, and the MIddle East pray for you and support the CHOG in Hungary?
Laszlo: We have big plans with the campus and the church plant and we have set 3 levels of partnering with people and churches. The first is prayer--it's very important for us. We'd like to have very committed prayer partners. We'd like to have feedback that 'this are the churches that are praying for us.' Finances is the 2nd level. We will need finances and other resources, such as musical instruments and a care. Third is mission: you can come and help with the mission, with the church plant, with outreach, and we are in the middle of planning a program for emerging leaders in the Hungary CHOG. As it's growing, we need to train these people well and quick. So we need people to come.
3W: We wish the best for the CHOG in Hungary and are very excited about this young emerging leadership.