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Missionary Spotlight-Evangelicalism in the Netherlands

August 2001 | by Kees van Kralingen

What do UK Christians think of when the Netherlands is mentioned? Maybe the Synod of Dordt and its five points of Calvinism? Or Abraham Kuyper and the Free University of Amsterdam? Or do they think of our moral decline and the passing of permissive laws, such the law legalising marriage between homosexuals?

Crisis

Holland is no longer a Christian country. More than half its population have no connection with any Christian church. It is a society in spiritual and moral crisis, with many, especially among our leaders, deeply influenced by post-modernism. Large numbers of young people have not even the most rudimentary understanding of Christianity.

But the Lord has left the Netherlands with a vital Christian witness. We do have Christian political parties that give clear testimony to honouring God’s laws in public life.

There is an Evangelical Broadcast Institute, and there are places where the Christian influence is still strong. On the day the Dutch First Chamber discussed the new euthanasia law, more than 10,000 people gathered near Parliament in silent protest.

The churches

What is the situation among the churches? The Dutch Reformed Church is composed of groups ranging from liberal to truly Reformed. The Reformed wing is strong in some regions, with large, growing churches and excellent preaching. The ‘Liberated’ Reformed churches emphasise Christian doctrine and covenant theology.

There are three groups of Baptist churches: the Baptist Union, the Fellowship of Independent Baptist churches, and the independent Baptist churches. Among them the 1689 Baptist Confession is hardly known.

Many independent Evangelical churches have begun in the last 50 years. Common to most is a minimum of organisation, an absence of full-time pastors, the practice of believers baptism, and a theology that is Arminian and pre-millennial. There are also many Charismatic and Pente-costal churches.

The independent churches’ lack of a strong theological position has been due to over-reaction against the nomin-alism, liberalism and dead orthodoxy of the main denomi-nations.

However, there is a growing sense of need among these independent churches for greater theological depth. This re-presents a major opportunity for strengthening the Reformed Evangelical position in our country.

Unity

There are strong calls for unity among Dutch Evangelicals. Talks have gone on for decades between the denominations, but with slow progress. Yet Christians from various church backgrounds do work together, at least, in para-church org-anisations.

Christians talk about this ‘ecumenism of the heart’ that ignores ecclesio-political diff-iculties. But there is a real danger that it could become ecumenism at the expense of truth.

The churches struggle with biblical evangelism. The flawed ‘Willow Creek’ approach to church growth has many supporters in Holland. A major challenge is to reach the growing ethnic minorities with the gospel.

Above all, we need preachers filled with God’s Spirit, full of zeal for the biblical gospel. Only a mighty work of the Holy Spirit can reverse the situation in our land.

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Netherlands