By Carl Stagner
He was born in Czechoslovakia to Christian parents in a Communist society. She was born and raised in Australia under the influence of the Uniting Church (Methodist and Presbyterian), as well as the Assemblies of God. But after coming together in marriage, Viktor and Juli Szasz were drawn to the Church of God, and ultimately worked side-by-side with Tim and Cindy West to help plant a Church of God congregation in Australia. Several years later, they’re responding to God’s call to plant a church on Australia’s densely populated Gold Coast. To make Jesus known to their community, Viktor and Juli are preparing to launch a ministry designed to bust people’s postmodern perceptions of what church is.
On the Gold Coast, everything revolves around recreation. “One of the things I see all the time is people moving here for a laid-back lifestyle, and then over-committing themselves with a completely packed schedule,” Juli explains. “In many cases, weekend sport is almost a religion. Sunday is either packed full of more activities, the time to catch up on household chores and prepare for the week ahead, or a day to sleep in and relax at home.” It is in the midst of this culture that Viktor and Juli intend to make City Church “worth getting out of bed for.”
Viktor is no stranger to having to peel back the layers of culture and find solutions. Though he grew up in a Christian household, his surrounding culture was staunchly Communist. Some Communist modes of thinking and ways of doing things naturally had an influence on the church. “I have lived in both cultures—very conservative, controlling, restrictive, atheistic, humanistic, and legalistic—as compared to this culture, where there is freedom, and it’s permissive, relaxed, and open,” Viktor reflects. “Having experienced life, relationships and church in both cultures has given me a broad perspective across many areas. I believe this helps me to have a much larger view of God. We naturally tend to box God as he is in our own culture, but I am less likely to do that, having seen how God works across many cultures.” Additionally, Viktor’s deep cultural breadth has resulted in his ability to speak multiple languages.
Time spent with Tim and Cindy West in Australia had a powerful impact on Viktor and Juli. From excellence in work and ministry to practical ways to connect people to the gospel in everyday life, Tim and Cindy West planted seeds not only among the lost, but in the hearts of Viktor and Juli Szasz. Their broad cultural experiences finally led Juli to ask God what it was all for. Soon it became abundantly clear that “nothing that God accomplishes is ever wasted.”
“After years of experiences across many churches of many denominations, and many conversations with people from all walks of life, and especially about what people here are looking for in a church,” they explain, “we both feel passionate about creating a church that successfully blends the fun, exciting, enthusiastic atmosphere of the newest Pentecostal churches with the solid theological beliefs held by the Church of God—while honoring certain traditions at the same time.” Until City Church is fully operational, they say, a church with that blend does not exist on the Gold Coast.
“We are so excited to see people’s response when they see that church is not what they thought. Both unchurched people and some churched people here have a perception of church either being boring and traditional, unfriendly, irrelevant to their lives, small groups of weird people, or large, fake, money-hungry, and false-healing gatherings…City Church’s vision is to bring something new to prove these thoughts are not always correct, to show that church can be innovative, while still honoring tradition, fun, and anything-but-boring, very relevant to everyday life here, and a friendly and genuinely caring community that welcomes newcomers into a safe environment—all while showing that Jesus has an amazing plan for each and every person, no matter their background or circumstance.”
It also helps that the Gold Coast is the fastest-growing region of Australia. Thousands of people relocate to the recreation-hub every year. Additionally, Viktor and Juli report that more than twelve million visitors pass through the region on an annual basis. “People build or buy a nice house, they have a good job, they enjoy the beaches, but they have no connections, no family, and feel very lost and isolated. That’s where the church has a chance to meet a very real need,” they explain.
So pray for Viktor and Juli. Pray for City Church, and the golden opportunity God has revealed. Pray for people to come alongside and help form a launch team. Pray for suitable venues and that God will supply every need.
Viktor concludes, “We pray that in everything we do, every program we run, every service we offer, every event we host, our mission will always remain the focus—to share the message of Jesus in a hurting and lost world.”
Learn more about the global outreach of Church of God Ministries, Global Strategy, at www.chogglobal.org.