This historic gathering in Budapest on Saturday, was the culmination of a 25 year dream. Noel Richards shares the full story
“The sporting coliseums of this world are not just for football. They are for the last big breath of God” - Lester Sumrall
These words went through my mind on Saturday evening, as I witnessed 40,000 people being led in worship by Pintér Béla – one of Hungary’s best known Christian songwriters - at the national stadium in Budapest.
For me, stadiums are cathedrals of praise, and the sound of thousands of voices joined together in worship from all different streams and denominations, is wonderfully inspiring and moving.
Béla was one of many Hungarian worship leaders featured at Ez Az A Nap 2022 (This Is The Day 2022). Supporting artists such as Tim Hughes, Martin Smith, Noel Robinson, Planetshakers and Bethel Music came from neighbouring nations to participate in the eight hour programme of worship, prayer and teaching.
The majority of those in attendance at this iconic venue were Hungarian, with six specially chartered trains transporting people from 24 cities in the country. A fleet of 200 buses brought people from eight neighbouring countries in what was a huge logistical undertaking.
The history of Christian stadium events
The vision was the culmination of a journey that began when Viktor László, a Budapest entrepreneur saw the video of ‘Champion of the World’ at Wembley Stadium in 1997. It birthed a vision in him to see a gathering like that take place at the national stadium in Budapest.
Through a mutual friend, I met up with Viktor in Budapest, in April 1998 and with a few friends, we prayed together at the old national stadium there. Thus began a journey that neither of us imagined would take all these years to complete.
This event will have repercussions throughout the nations of central Europe and beyond, for many years to come
Since 2001, Viktor and his team have been building towards this, organising dozens of worship events. They began in the early years of the millennium with outdoor events in Budapest. In 2010, they moved their events inside, into the Papp László Arena with a capacity of 10,000 people. Over these years, Viktor has invited internationally known worship leaders and teams to participate and they have become his friends.
In 2019, the brand new national stadium - Puskás Aréna - was completed on the site of the old stadium and plans began in earnest to stage the event in the summer of 2020.
In the latter part of 2019 and early 2020, I was privileged to participate in the promotional ‘Roadshow’, that visited major cities in Hungary, Ukraine, Romania, Austria, Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia. More than 30,000 attended these events which built a great momentum for 2020 at the stadium.
By March of that year they had sold 20,000 tickets.
Then came Covid 19!
The event was postponed and a provisional date pencilled in for 2021 which in the light of the ongoing pandemic was postponed yet again.
At the start of this year, Viktor and his team began to promote a new date - 23rd July. With war in Ukraine breaking out in February, there was the possibility of yet another postponement. Yet in spite of this they continued to work tirelessly to re-build the momentum that had been lost; and slowly, the ticket sales began to pick up.
Impacting the nation
Hungary has a population of around 10 million people, so it is truly remarkable to gather 40,000 people for worship in it’s national stadium. The event has generated interest within the general population, the business community and the government. Everywhere you looked there was advertising for the event – on billboards and public transport. On Sunday evening the main TV channel carried a report about the event and an interview with Viktor.
I remember one Christian government minister joking that the new stadium had been built for Christian events! Indeed it is only the second music event that has been held there.
After the last song had been sung and the crowds had dispersed Viktor and his team along with all of us who participated in this journey with him, gathered in the VIP room at the stadium. We gave thanks to God for the fulfillment of this unique vision which will have repercussions throughout the nations of central Europe and beyond, for many years to come.
These events might not change the world, but they change the worlds of those who attend them.
I believe that the vast majority of those who attended Ez Az A Nap 2022, left the stadium with desire in their hearts to further the Kingdom of Heaven in the villages, towns, cities and nations where they live. Who knows what fruit will be seen, as they pursue the dreams and visions that were planted last Saturday?
As they do so, they will be following the example of Viktor László. A businessman with a Kingdom heart, who carried faithfully for 25 years, the dream God gave him.