This dissertation raises the question of the apparent weakness and reluctance of the Reformed Church in Hungary (RCH) to plant urban churches and develop innovative ministries on the housing estates of Hungary. It is argued that a new paradigm of pastoral leadership is required in this situation, one I identified as missional leadership. Based on the missionary ecclesiology of Lesslie Newbigin and the Gospel and Our Culture Network in North America, three elements of missional leadership – vision, equipping and spirituality – are examined. It is claimed that missional leadership differs both from the traditional, maintenance model of ministry in a church shaped by Christendom and from the pragmatic, functional approaches that promise effective solutions related to the programs and functions of the church. Missional leaders minister out of missional vision, which is holistic, transformational, and extends beyond the local congregation to the whole community.
An exploration of the church, the gospel, and the housing estate is carried out. By doing so I make an attempt to map out the ecclesial, the theological, and the social contexts in which the present project intends to introduce missional leadership. First, it is argued that the RCH’s functional self-identity is not missional. In addition, its understanding of pastoral leadership and its structures are also less than adequate in relation to mission in an urban and global world. Nevertheless, some housing estate churches have been born and have developed creative holistic ministries, even if these developments often had to happen in the midst of misunderstanding and in the lack of significant support. Second, it is demonstrated how the gospel was reduced to be an individual and spiritual method of salvation during the history of the Western church. As a correction to this reduction, a fresh listening to the good news as God’s reign is proposed. The communal, holistic, and narrative/eschatological aspects of the Kingdom of God are emphasized. Third, consideration is given to the social and economic realities of the housing estates in Hungary. It is demonstrated that there are considerable differences between housing estates, some being on the verge of serious deterioration. Community identity and the sense of ownership are usually weak, which creates an opportunity for the church to be the sign of God’s Kingdom in its communal life. Children and youth are at an exceptionally high risk on the housing estates.
Based on my findings, I propose two distinct, but not independent ministry projects that serve to develop missional leaders for urban ministry in housing estates. The first, starting regular consultations for pastors ministering in housing estate churches, builds on what has developed earlier and focuses on existing leaders in order to further assist them in their leadership to shape missional churches. The second element, developing and teaching a seminary course which builds on the experiences and the teaching skills of pastors participating in the consultation, targets students who might become leaders of urban churches; thus both present and future pastors are challenged and transformed by introducing the idea of missional leadership.
My research indicated that both ministries initiated processes of pastors and students growing into missional leadership. As a result, missional vision was being shaped, contextual mission practices were emerging, and a fellowship of pastors that can be called missional community intensified and grew deeper. Also, relationship between students, pastors and housing estate churches started to form. A definite breakthrough concerning housing estate mission has not taken place, but awareness of its possibility, relevance, and necessity has grown. All this transformation happened in the context of prayer and the Word of God, thus affirming that missional leadership cannot be imagined without devoted spirituality.