Budapest, Hungary

Dec 22, 2016

Twenty-five years ago in downtown Budapest, the story of the International Baptist Church of Budapest, Hungary, started with a visiting card.

Although his English was somewhat limited, Lajos Kovacs stopped to help an American Baptist pastor. Even though they got on well and cards were exchanged, he was surprised to receive a phone call a couple of weeks later, inviting him to a church service on the following Sunday. Unfortunately the congregation totalled only four, including Lajos, so no actual service took place.

The following two weeks it was the same story until the breakthrough in week four, when five people arrived. Lajos recalls that it was a “Beautiful Service” and the first song they sang was “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” which he had never heard before. Slowly the numbers grew and Lajos suggested to the pastor that they really should have a piano. Thanks to the generosity of a millionaire from Texas, the piano arrived the following week, and Lajos was so grateful that he arranged for a brass plaque to be attached in the donor’s honor.

Four years later the building where the church was meeting was sold, and Lajos was asked to find a new venue in the neighborhood. He visited 10 possible premises and was immediately rejected by both former communists and other church denominations, but finally IBCB’s home for the next 21 years, the Mórich Zsigmond Secondary School, welcomed the church with love, a generous financial deal, and extensive facilities including classrooms, meeting and catering areas,as well as plenty of parking space for the congregation.

Our founding member, Lajos Kovacs, is still attending, now in the company of well over 150 other worshippers each Sunday morning. All continents and often up to 35 nations are represented. Because this is an international church, the population is constantly changing since expat families from multinational companies, embassy staff, missionaries, and students all come and go. However, in the last few years, a core group of longer-term residents has emerged, some internationals, others married to Hungarians, and locals who enjoy being part of an English-speaking environment.

The piano (with the plaque) is gone now but has been replaced by a Worship Team with keyboards, drums, and guitars as well as audio and sound systems. This technology is also employed to make IBCB’s weekly sermons available on YouTube. The Kingdom Kids Ministry makes excellent use of the available classrooms, with six age-groups from nursery to 12 years taught by a dedicated group of teachers. Families are encouraged to worship together, so the children (apart from the very young ones) stay in the service until it’s time for the sermon. The catering facilities are suitably employed also, with a Coffee Ministry before and after the service each week and a Fellowship Lunch each month in the large dining area. So God’s provision through Lajos’s perseverance can be clearly seen.

At IBCB, high levels of congregational participation are encouraged, not just to keep those already mentioned activities functioning, which requires a great deal of organizational work from the elders, ministry leaders, and church administrator, but also in preaching, running home groups, and organizing outside activities such as baptisms, prayer walks, and outreach to orphans and abused women. The home groups are also encouraged to coordinate and present headline events such as the Christmas Eve and Easter Services, often bringing new perspectives and ideas from around the world.

As for the next 25 years, this is of course in God’s hands, but a recent baby dedication, with five participating families is certainly evidence of a strong focus on the future.

Alan Godsave

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