From Surviving to Thriving: How One Hungarian Church Has Defeated Communism

This update is related to the Global Pastors Book Sets campaign.

From Cleaning Toilets to the Pulpit: Glorifying God through Daily Faithfulness

“All along I knew that I wanted to serve God, but I [didn’t have] the courage to step into full-time ministry. . . . I served by doing whatever I could do in my church, whether that was with the Sunday school or just cleaning toilets. Whatever needed to be done, I was all in.”

Nil Silva’s voice finds itself in the refrain of many other eventual pastors. Growing up in Brazil with a broken family, a call to ministry was far from Nil’s mind. At the time he had no context for the future and no context for who God was. “I remember feeling very lonely and observing my classmates who were Christians. I knew from them what God and faith were all about . . . but I didn’t know freedom. . . . When [I became a Christian], it was life-changing. I encountered Jesus, and God really did change the story of my life.”

While pursuing a career as an English teacher, he found himself far from home in western Hungary. The Lord then began to pull more firmly on Nil’s heart to become more involved with the church and move into ministry. This began with cleaning toilets and serving in youth ministry, but his commitment to the church and passion for the Word resulted in an invitation from the pastor of the church to join him in a pastoral role. The key for Nil at the time of accepting this position was to nail down his Hungarian so that he could speak fluently to his congregation—and to his new Hungarian wife.

Churches in Hungary Are Now Safe Places, Not Persecuted Places

Nil’s wife represents the general Christian population in Hungary as a first-generation Christian, having come to faith in her teen years. “Those people in Hungary who are at the age of 35 or below are the first generation that is free to choose their religion since World War II. They are the first generation that could simply walk into a church and not fear being persecuted.” For much of the twentieth century, Hungary was dominated by Communist dictatorships that strongly opposed and oppressed the church. Few churches survived, and as a result Christianity became nearly extinct.

Despite the official ending of Communist control in 1989, the Communist rejections of God still reigned supreme. Children grew up being taught that Christianity and any ideas of God were wrong, and adults were generally too fearful of the ramifications they had witnessed for those who publicly professed faith in God. Nil recently worked on the church finances with an older member of his church who “was really concerned about us leaving a paper trail because he didn’t want the tax authorities knowing anything about what we are doing. It’s not because we’re doing anything illegal, but because [in the past] you didn’t want the government knowing that you even existed. . . . When he was a young man, he could have lost his job [or much worse] because he was a Christian.”

The few Christians who remained and survived in Hungary during the Communist dictatorship remain very private about their faith and have passed that fear on to many of the next generation, which is the challenge that now faces Nil as he encourages his church members to more boldly and confidently share their faith with others. “We are in a situation as a church to know that we need not fear persecution, but we don’t quite know how to go out into the world. . . . The Hungarian church is now moving from survival and maintenance to healthy growth and healthy living.”

Although the Hungarian church’s presence remains small, little by little it is rising from the ashes of the devastating influence of Communism. Nil reports that there is more curiosity than ever as Hungarians consider Christianity as a possible answer to life’s big questions. The town where he lives and does ministry with his church—Veszprém—has been named one of the three European Capitals of Culture in 2023, and Nil recognizes that “the eyes of Europe will be focused on Veszprém. This brings a very exciting time for the church, but it also brings a lot of questions. How do we connect with people and become a flourishing church in our town during this time?”

For Nil, these questions loom large, in addition to another reality: he has been trained to be an English teacher, which he practices during the week at a local high school. But how can he grow in his theological training as he leads his church in this strategic moment in time?

Supporting the Hungarian Church’s Growth

By God’s grace, Nil has been able to attend classes at an online Bible school, and through it, Crossway has had the opportunity to connect with pastors like Nil who are faithfully serving their churches but would benefit greatly from theologically sound resources to support their ministry work.

Crossway was recently able to provide Nil with a Global Pastors Book Set, which he has found helpful in both his personal faith journey and in his ministry. In the coming months, he plans to read Lead by Paul David Tripp with his leadership team as they continue to shepherd their flock.

Through the Global Ministry Fund, Crossway is able to regularly provide pastors around the world who are sacrificially leading those in their care. These resources have helped to support the ministry of those like Nil: “I say that I didn’t choose to be a missionary. The mission field chose me, because I found myself in a context where the gospel is in desperate need of workers.”

Pray that Nil would be faithful in this time of formation and learning as he studies the Word. Pray that this would provide him with increased confidence and reliance upon the Lord as he ministers to his congregation.

Pray that Nil and other pastors around the world would be equipped by God’s Word and biblically faithful resources.

Pray for confidence for the church in Hungary to reach out to their neighbors with the gospel, so that the good news would more widely spread throughout the country and continent of Europe.

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