Broad Public Response Following the First Televised Baptist Service in Croatia
C a k o v e c / Z a g r e b – In mid-October a Baptist church service was shown live on Croatian television for the very first time: The Sunday-morning service was broadcast from the church’s annual conference being held in a conference centre in the northern Croatian town of Cakovec. The Baptists with 2.000 members in 50 congregations form a small minority in this heavily-Catholic country. Roughly 88% of the country’s 4,5 million residents are Catholics. According to General-Secretary Zeljko Mraz (Zagreb), positive responses are still coming in two weeks after the broadcast. Throughout the country, TV-watchers are approaching Baptists regarding this service. Mraz states: “As Baptists we had already been accepted as a part of Croatian society. But the TV broadcast has helped to reduce lingering bias about us.” Viewers have repeatedly praised the fact that young persons participated in holding the service. The lively character of the service was frequently stressed. Croatia’s leading daily, „Jutarnji list“, also referred to the broadcast afterward. A religion column compared the Baptist service with a Catholic one broadcast later. “The speakers in both services made clear that the matter of Jesus is not about a teaching that needs to be accepted, but rather about a person who needs to be followed.” The paper has a circulation of 120.000.
The annual conference had the motto "That the World May Believe". Major speakers were the President of the Croatian Baptists, Toma Magda (Cakovec), and the General-Secretary of the European Baptist Federation (EBF), Tony Peck (Prague). Magda, who is also a Vice-President of EBF, noted that divisions and separations are one mark of humanity. People compare themselves with each other, which leads repeatedly to differences of opinion, hate and even death. True unity is only possible in God, who helps people achieve a true identity. All human efforts to achieve unity have led to uniformity, yet liberty is possible through God. Peck invited the 900 conference visitors to take seriously their call to mission in this world. One should thereby learn from God, who loves the world. Peck drew a positive conclusion to the conference during his talk with EBPS: “I was impressed by the good spirit, lively and dynamic worship and an excellent programme. It felt like the gathering of a much larger union.” The many youthful visitors encouraged him in particular.
Mraz also told EBPS that his Union is not growing at present – but it is also not shrinking. The congregations are reaching approximately 3.500 persons. Goal for the coming years will be to strengthen first and foremost the small congregations and also to plant new congregations. There are 10 missions stations at present. One major location of missions outreach will be the capital of Zagreb, where a fourth of all Croats live. The objective is to place a Baptist congregation in each of the city’s sectors.