Sandor Nemeth: Biography


Sandor NemethSándor Németh was born on the 21st of November, 1950, in Gelse, during the Communist dictatorship, when Hungary was under occupation by the Soviet Red Army. Németh grew up in a Roman Catholic family. He graduated from High School in 1969, in Nagykanizsa.

In November 1969, Sándor Németh was arrested at the Yugoslav-Austrian border for attempting illegal immigration, and was imprisoned in Maribor for six days. This is where – for the first time in his life – he turned to God and made a solemn oath: if he is saved from criminal proceedings, he will enter into the service of God for the rest of his life. A few days after this prayer Németh was released from prison, and the Yugoslav authorities – following their amazing decision – did not inform their Hungarian counterparts of the criminal act.

Once he was released, the first thing Sándor Németh did was obtain a Bible, and ever since then, he is a regular reader of the Scriptures. He settled down in Budapest and until February, 1971, Németh worked at the Hungarian State Television and the library of the Museum of Natural Sciences. Between 1971 and February, 1973, he completed his compulsory military service. From 1973 to 1977 he was enrolled at the Roman Catholic Seminary, and also sat in as a guest student at the Old Testament and Jewish Literature classes of Rabbi Sándor Scheiber at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

While studying the Charismatic Movement of Christianity, he came to the realization that he is lacking a true conversion experience. This took place in April, 1976, in an ecumenical prayer group, the members of which were dominantly from a Calvinist background. Following his baptism in the Holy Spirit, he immediately started playing an active role in the activities and organizations of prayer groups and home churches, which were generally located at private homes and parishes. He became one of the founders of the Hungarian Catholic Charismatic Movement, and through his personal influence many Catholic theology students and intellectuals arrived at a personal relationship with God. One of them, Judit – who received her English and Russian teacher's diploma at Eötvös Lóránd University, Faculty of Humanities, and who was a practicing Catholic at the time – later became his wife and closest ministry partner. They got married in April, 1977.

In the following year, the authorities initiated an investigation against Judit – who was pregnant at the time – for the possession of illegal Christian literature and the "influencing" of young people. At this time, Judit decided on giving up her secondary school teaching job. In order to make a living, the young couple had to work as house cleaners and were also forced to take up temporary jobs. In this time, Judit also translated at different evangelical, independent Christian and Charismatic churches and – being a trained musician – she also became actively involved in the music ministry.

In June of 1978, following their water baptism as adults, Sándor and Judit parted ways with their former religious traditions and affiliations, and became Full-Gospel Evangelical Christians.A difficult, conflict-ridden time followed: Catholic acquaintances, friends and family members did not While studying the Charismatic Movement of Christianity, he came to the realization that he is lacking a true conversion experience.understand their beliefs, but rather harshly criticized and rejected their new faith and the new way of life that they were trying to realize. In this way, the young couple lost their social contacts and friends, because they were now regarded to be "sectarians." In 1978, Sándor and Judit established contact with the internationally known and influential Bible teacher, Derek Prince. Up until his death in 2003, the couple maintained an intimate, disciple- teacher relationship with Dr. Prince. From this point on, they received Christian literature and study materials from Derek Prince Ministries (which was initially called Church Growth Ministries) and other American Christian organizations – through illegal channels, of course. Judit translated these writings into Hungarian.

As a result of this, in 1979, in a suburb of Budapest called Budaörs, an evangelical prayer group was formed, founded on faith in the Bible. Initially a private house gave home to the charismatic church services. More and more people joined the fellowship which took up the name Faith Church, and a number of – mostly American – internationally known Bible teachers, preachers visited them.

In 1980, the ministry of Sándor and Judit Németh was strengthened, when they were ordained as pastors by the leaders of Good News Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Sándor Németh was active in preaching, teaching, counseling and the leadership of the church, while his wife – in addition to doing counseling – became the founder and leader of the music ministry of the congregation. In the 70s and 80s the couple had four children: three girls and one boy. The fellowship continued to grow, and prayer groups and local churches were started in many cities around Hungary.

From 1980 until the fall of Communism in 1989, the church operated as an illegal, underground movement. Due to this, a number of atrocities (surveillance by the secret police, harassment, house searches, arrests, etc.) took place at the orders of the Communist regime. Sándor Németh became a target person in the eyes of the regime and he was forbidden to travel to the West from 1980 to 1989. The authorities felt that his travels would violate public interests, so his requests to travel abroad were continually denied. During these years, many young intellectuals of the opposition – among them artists –, who were outcasts of society and had been marginalized, joined their movement.

In 1980, the ministry of Sandor and Judit Nemeth was strengthened, when they were ordained as pastors by the leaders of Good News Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. From the beginning of the 80s, Sándor Németh cooperated with the underground democratic opposition, among them the Hungarian Zionists and revolutionary-minded Jewish intellectuals. During the Kádár regime, Faith Church was the first organization to publish a Religious Reform Bill in the underground newspaper, "Hungarian Jew." Sándor Németh was among the founders of the Network of Free Initiatives (May 1988), and was instrumental in the establishment of one of the parties responsible for bringing down the Communist regime, the Alliance of Free Democrats (November 1988). Sándor Németh and members of the congregation founded by him regularly took part in the anti- Communist initiatives and demonstrations which finally resulted in the fall of the Communist regime.

Faith Church was acknowledged as a legitimate church by the Hungarian government in May, 1989. In the same year, Sándor Németh established the theological journal of the congregation, New Exodus, which became the first charismatic theological periodical in Hungary. In 1990, Sándor and Judit Németh received degrees in theology from the Central-Eastern European Bible School and Pastor Training College, which had been operating illegally in the years prior to 1990. Teachers of the college included notable figures of the charismatic movement like Derek Prince, who gave a series of lectures at the institution more than once in Budapest, Marilyn Hickey and Jerry Horner – both members of the Board of Regents at Oral Roberts University, and lecturers of Kenneth Hagin's Rhema Bible Training Center. In 1990, the Central-Eastern European Bible School and Pastor Training College received an official accreditation from the Hungarian State. Based on an agreement between Sándor Németh and Pat Robertson in 1989, several teachers of the institution took postgraduate courses at Regent University in Virginia in the 90s.

In 1989, the Németh couple met pastor Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho in Seoul, where they took part at the church growth conference of the South-Korean congregation, at which Sándor Németh spoke several times.

After the fall of Communism, extremist, neo-Nazi, and anti-Semitic rhetoric reappeared in Hungarian politics. Consequently, Sándor Németh continued his active public involvement in the nineties, alongside his pastoral duties. He expressed his opinion largely in relation to human rights issues, for which – in addition to being criticised for his role as a religious leader – he was regularly targeted by the media through slur campaigns and slander- offensives. Alongside prominent intellectuals, he was one of the main organizers of the public demonstration of the Hungarian Democratic Charter, which mobilized a hundred thousand people against anti-Semitism, as well as other events jointly organized with various human rights organizations.

Sándor Németh visited Israel for the first time in 1992 with his family, and this left a lasting, significant imprint upon his life. Since then he returns to the Holy Land every year. Following his initiative, regular pilgrimages and educational trips ensued; altogether 70 groups have traveled to the Holy Land since 1992, with a total number of 5000 visitors having visited Eretz Israel.

Besides his ministry in Budapest, Pastor Németh held regional conferences in Hungary and also the neighboring countries in 1993-94. Partly as a result of this, the congregations throughout the country significantly increased in number. The group which started out with five people in 1979 already had over 10,000 members by then.

Along his pastoral, teaching and church planting work, in solidarity with the downtrodden and the poor, in the year of 1994 Sándor Németh founded the charity organization of Faith Church, the Network of Faith Givers, which operates over 30 offices within and outside of Hungary. Already in the year of its establishment, the charity organized a transport of 40 tons of aid on three Lufthansa chartered airplanes from Frankfurt to refugees in Rwanda. The aid was taken to location by the American Christian pastor Lester Sumrall's Feed the Hungry mission.

In 1994, on the 50th anniversary of the deportation of Jews to death camps from the Hungarian countryside, at Sándor Németh initiative, members of the church restored many neglected Jewish graveyards throughout the country. He also launched a series of sixteen full-day academic and arts holocaust memorial conferences in Budapest and the country.

Sándor Németh and his wife Judit were conferred the title College Educator by the Prime Minister of Hungary in July 1995. The same month the two of them – along with some of their associates – founded Saint Paul Academy, which was granted an outstanding rating by the Hungarian Accreditation Committee in 1999, and subsequently in 2008. So far 469 graduates have received their theological degrees at the Academy. The Prime Minister appointed Judit Németh to be President of Saint Paul Academy in August 1995, then Rector in March 2006. Currently there are 600 students enrolled at the Academy.

In solidarity with the downtrodden and the poor, in the year of 1994 Sandor Nemeth founded the charity organization of Faith Church, the Network of Faith Givers, which operates over 30 offices within and outside of Hungary. Every two months between February 1995 and June 1998, Sándor Németh held several-day-long Charismatic revival meetings in the 12,000-seat Budapest Sports Arena, which filled up to capacity. In total around the 157 services were attended by approximately 80,000 people, of which 15,000 publicly repented of their sins, and 6,800 were baptized. These events played a vital role in the promotion of Faith Church in Hungary and internationally as well. By then, there were around 150 local churches under the leadership of Sándor Németh in Hungary and in the surrounding countries. Visitors arrived from five continents, from nearly sixty different countries to these conferences, where translation was provided into six languages. Faith Church took part in the Procession of the Nations in Jerusalem first in 1995 at the Feast of Tabernacles in honor of the 3000th anniversary of the capital of Israel. Sándor Németh initiated a four-day international conference and pilgrimage to Jerusalem called We Forget You Not with the participation of around 5000 German and Hungarian Christians in January 1996. The Israeli organizer of the event was Yair Hendl, Director of Rechovot Tours.

At the initiative of Sándor Németh, a primary and secondary school named after the Hungarian reformer Péter Bornemisza was founded in Budapest in May 1997. Following this, the church opened five further educational institutions in larger towns in Hungary, with a total attendance of 2,500 of students. In December 1997, Sándor Németh established the weekly political newsmagazine Hetek, which analyzes social and global political issues. The paper has become one of the most popular and influential weeklies in the country. Ever since the establishment of the newsmagazine, Sándor Németh has been actively involved in its work as the Editor in Chief.

Faith Church suffered severe internal and external attacks in 1998, as a result of which a number of people left the community. In spite of the media attacks and the slur campaign, the church was able to celebrate the opening of its new national center, Faith Hall, in October of the same year. In the midst of an orchestrated campaign against the community, Faith Church successfully built new assembly halls and church facilities in 19 cities in the following years. All the legal and financial inspections by the authorities, which were instigated by the attacks against Sándor Németh and the church, were officially closed by 2001, and no criminal offense was found.

In 2001, Sándor Németh's book The Scandal of Faith was published, the first book written by a church leader that was ever to get onto the national bestseller list. In the years following, he published many articles and studies, and further books as well, namely, The Ten Commandments, Thanksgiving, and The New Birth. He became producer and director of the nearly-two-hour-long movie Tour of the Holy Land, which was successfully screened in 2008. The documentary guides the viewer through the most important sites of Biblical and modern Israel.

Sándor Németh was one of the main organizers of the International Israel Day, which was held in association with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and El Al at Saint Paul Academy on December 7, 2001.

Since December 9, 2001, the interactive live broadcast of the church service of Faith Church called Happy Sunday airs every week on the commercial television channel ATV. The host and preacher of the TV program is the senior pastor. Happy Sunday is the best known and most widely watched religious program in Hungary. Since 2005, the same network broadcasts the Hungarian dub of the 700 Club, produced by American television network CBN, which was established by Dr. Pat Robertson. Since its inception, over the past eight years, Happy Sunday has reached approximately 10 million viewers in Hungary and around the region. The program significantly contributed to making a positive turn in the level of public acceptance of the congregation in recent years. The fellowship has now become the fourth largest denomination in Hungary, after the Catholic, Calvinist and Lutheran churches.

At this time Sándor Németh played a key part in rescuing, renewing and developing the financially struggling television channel, ATV. Today this media outlet – which features many political and public life programs – is one of the main opinion shapers for Hungarians living inside and outside of Hungary.
In 2004, at the invitation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Sándor Németh took part in Israel's first Prime Minister's International Tourism Conference in Jerusalem. Before the conference, Israel's Minister of Tourism, Benjamin Elon gave an audience to the senior pastor Sándor Németh.

Later in the same year, Faith Church supported the victims of the tragical South-East Asia tsunami with a 40 thousand dollar aid distributed by the Hungarian Baptist Aid.

In September of 2005, Faith Church sent an aid of 25 thousand dollars to help the victims of the American hurricane Katrina. The gift of the Hungarian evangelical Christians was sent with the coordination of the American Embassy of Budapest to the organization Operation Blessing. The charity founded by Pat Robertson television host and preacher spent this money on distributing 50 thousand servings of food to the survivors who were stranded in New Orleans and in the area surrounding the unfortunate city, just six days after the hurricane hit. The 700 Club television program also aired this project.
In the same year Faith Church raised 60 thousand dollars for the victims of the Transilvanian flooding. The offering was distributed on location to the unfortunate Romanian families.

In 2008, Sándor Németh paid a solidarity visit to the Southern Israeli town of Sderot, which has been subject to continual rocket attacks by Palestinian terrorists. At Pastor Németh's initiative, in the summer of the same year, 50 children from Sderot had the opportunity to spend a vacation in Hungary.
At Christmas the same year, 1,500 kilograms of clothing, blankets and conserved food was distributed in the Romanian cities of Marosvásárhely, Gyergyószentmiklós and Székelykeresztúr by the volunteers of the Network of Faith Givers in the value of 1 million Hungarian Forints. Thanks to the contribution of the Transylvanian churches, besides this aid, the students of the primary school of the church could surprise the children of needy families with Christmas presents as well. The charity organization of Faith Church has continued to support those in need during the now two-year-long economic crises.

In 2009, at the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, a monumental celebration took place in Faith Park, with 12 thousand in attendance.

In October, 2009, Sándor Németh was awarded the "Contribution to Hungarian Jewry" Award by the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities. The award was given in acknowledgement of the propagation of the teachings of the Bible, a common Judeo-Christian heritage, for the "strengthening of the relationship with Hungarian Jews; for taking a stand by the independent Jewish state, which was established after several thousand years of anticipation by the Jewish People; for the unwavering stand against anti- Semitism."

Besides a successful ministry of over three decades as senior pastor of a congregation with a nationwide membership of now 70 thousand and a support base of several hundred thousand, Sándor Németh also has a widespread international ministry, reaching the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Romania, the Ukraine, Kirgizstan and Cambodia.

Faith Church is the largest and most dynamically growing evangelical congregation within the European Union, being a branch of the Pentecostal- Charismatic movement, which boasts 600 million members worldwide. Faith Church grew out of an evangelical Christian prayer group that was led by Sándor and Judit Németh in 1979. During the years of the communist regime this independent congregation was forced underground and had to conduct its services illegally. The Hungarian government recognized Faith Church as a legitimate religious organization in 1989, prior to the fall of communism in Hungary. In the next ten years, based on the voluntary tax contributions that Hungarian citizens are allowed to offer, Faith Church grew to become the fourth largest denomination in Hungary. The church has an active membership of over 70 thousand, with over 300 local groups all over Hungary, in the neighbouring countries, Western Europe and the United States as well.

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