Okay With God

Europe

Budapest, Hungary—a city filled with stunning architecture that has withstood the test of time. Archetects carefully crafted each building with intricate detail. Trim with precise patterns, smooth concrete walls, and stones aligned like perfect puzzle pieces define the core of these structures. Engraved tin roofs along with soaring arches in shades of dusty orange, green, and gray top each building, protecting them from the winter snow, spring rain, and summer heat. The historic architecture renders each building unique. Among the shops, homes, schools, and workplaces housed in these architectural pieces, are churches filled with deep religious ritual and rich tradition. Yet, these churches are also full of spiritual apathy.

These spiritually apathetic churches represent Hungary’s complex religious history. May 1955 marks Hungary’s tie to Communism under the Soviet Union. This Communist domination greatly impacted the generational, religious, and cultural attitudes Hungarians hold toward Christianity. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, however, the Hungarian church is slowly rebuilding the foundation of Christianity after its three-decade long eradication under Communist reign.

“[Hungarians] see themselves as a Christian nation. Because of this, they sometimes don’t see their need to develop a relationship with God,” said Aaron Morgan, Assemblies of God World Missions missionary to Hungary. “[They believe] I’m Hungarian, therefore I’m Christian; therefore, I’m okay with God.”

Hungarians commonly define their Christianity based on what they are not: Muslim or Jewish. This has resulted in a much slower discipleship and conversion process because of the Hungarians’ misconceptions about God, His purpose, and His love for humanity.

In a country marked by historic defeat, Hungarians are often hesitant, process-oriented, and cautious. This has also contributed to spiritual apathy. People have a lack of urgency when they hear the gospel and are challenged to deepen their relationship with God or remove sin from their life. This attitude leads to a religious, rather than relational, approach to Christianity.

“There’s a steadiness, not a rush into something. People are not willing to commit unless they can truly commit,” said Morgan. “[They’re] afraid they will fail, mess up, and not do it right.” Due to this steadiness and hesitancy to commit, deciding to follow Christ often comes slowly, after much consideration and relationship-centric discipleship.

Because of Hungary’s predominant Catholic, Reformed, and Lutheran background, most Hungarians grow up in religious circles. Through catechism, Sunday school, and church services from their childhood and youth, many Hungarians have a basic understanding of who Christ is and what He has done. But this is only an informational knowledge of Jesus.

“[Hungarians have a secure] contentment that ‘I’m Hungarian, I grew up in church. I’m going to send my kid to catechism. I’m okay with God,” said Morgan.

Often, these people see Jesus in a transactional, impersonal sense. They ask for forgiveness and Christ cleanses them of their sin. This creates a sense of spiritual apathy, as they do not seek to deepen their relationship with the Lord after salvation. Instead, they work to satisfy the manmade requirements that render one a Christian. The Morgans are working to shift this perspective.

“I think people often think of God as a transactional God who ‘clears my sins and we have a business transaction.’ However, God’s design [for humanity is], ‘hang out with me in the evening’ … ‘let’s spend time together.’ [He is] relational,” said Morgan. “[The gospel] is you getting to know the God who made you and wants to get to know you.”

Due to this transactional view of the gospel, those with religious backgrounds typically encourage their children to receive basic Christian principles through catechism or Sunday school. People believe this will make them “okay with God,” even if they do not actively attend church or practice their faith.

The Morgans are challenging this belief and practice through their evangelistic ‘Round the Table outreaches. Instead of trying to draw Hungarians into the church, the Morgans are entering secular spaces to reach those who need to know Jesus in a more intimate, relational way. They accomplish this through consistent relationship building.

The Morgans host a variety of board games nights, craft nights, language clubs, and other activities to connect with Hungarians who may not know Jesus. At the end of each event, there is an optional God Chat that participants can attend to learn more about the Bible, God, and His design for creation. These interactions provide opportunity to learn about Jesus.

The greater purpose of these God Chats is not just to evangelize or increase Hungarians’ relational depth with the Lord, but to gently question Hungary’s self-proclamation of being a Christian nation. These events challenge people to look beyond the label of external Christianity and to truly begin walking with the Creator who loves them and seeks to dwell within them.

Through these evangelical outreaches, the Morgans are bringing the church out of its concrete walls and stained-glass windows, and into neighborhoods, coffee shops, and public spaces. With the rising popularity of these ‘Round the Table outreaches—and the need for their own space to conduct their ministry—the Morgans are hoping to secure their own ‘Round the Table outreach center soon.

“We felt that God opened our eyes to the possibility of not just doing something like this in our house or something small scale, but on a bigger scale,” said Morgan. “The idea of the outreach centers comes from the evangelical churches in Hungary. They want to do outreach but are either renting space on the weekend, or meeting in a house in a neighborhood. These churches would be able to use the center. We’re looking for a prime location that is reasonable but allows us to have enough room and flexibility to do multiple events.”

The goal of this center is to bring the church to a nonconfrontational, hesitant people, regardless of ritualistic tradition, apprehension, and perceived knowledge. Through time and patience, the Morgans are praying Hungarians won’t be just “okay with God,” but communing with the one who seeks to make their heart His home.

By Holly A.V. Smith

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