December 17, 2017

Olde World Baptists: Mihály Kornya (9)

David Potter

Kornya’s ministry had a remarkable range, both in time and in space. He traveled in what is now western Romania from beyond Oradea in the north to Arad and Timisoara in the south. He concentrated on this area and the corresponding area on the other side of what is now the Hungarian-Romanian border. At Mayer’s invitation, he also preached extensively in and around Budapest. Usually he traveled either on foot or by train, if the place he was going was too far to walk. His biographer estimated that in forty years of ministry he traveled on foot the equivalent of six times around the globe.

Not all of Kornya’s problems came from opposition from the outside. He subscribed, as all Baptists do to one degree or another, to the covenant view of the church. The church is a group of believers who agree to organize themselves into a community based on a certain agreed set of standards of conduct. Failure to live up to the standards of conduct is grounds for church discipline.

Kornya’s standards were strict. The churches he started practiced strict discipline concerning matters of worldliness. By 1894, many had turned away from Kornya’s strict standards. For a period of about six years he was not welcome in many of the churches that he had started. He and Andras Udvarnoki, pastor of a large Baptist church in Budapest, were on bad terms for a time, owing to what Kornya regarded as Udvarnoki’s worldly clothing. Perhaps our times are not so different from his.

He continued active until 1915, when, at age 71, he was too sick to travel. He was also burdened by the loss of his only son in the First World War. He blamed himself for not praying for his son enough. Mihály, Jr., had written from the front, “Dad, pray for me. Because when you pray for me, I always feel it.”

On January 3, 1917, he made his last trip home to glory.

The news of Kornya’s death spread rapidly and a large host of mourners gathered for his funeral. Henrik Mayer attempted to speak at the service, but was overcome with emotion. Zsigmond Alafi, a Baptist preacher from a nearby town, who had often visited Kornya during his final illness, preached the funeral sermon on John 11:25, “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

Kornya is said by his biographer to have started more than 325 churches and to have baptized more than 11,000 converts. These numbers are extrapolations not based on hard evidence, but even if the real numbers are only half as large, this man of God left a remarkable legacy. Hungary has not seen his like before or since.


David Potter serves as a missionary in Hungary with Baptist World Mission.


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