Why I Returned to the Netherlands to Plant a Church - Radical

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Why I Returned to the Netherlands to Plant a Church

On October 22, 2023, six of us partook of the Lord’s Supper and covenanted together as a church in the Netherlands. After years of preparation, the Gereformeerde Baptistengemeente Rotterdam-Zuid (Reformed Baptist Church of Rotterdam-South) had become a reality. Twenty more joined us for our first Sunday gathering. One was baptized and became our seventh member. We heard God call us to worship from his Word, we sang hymns with one another, heard readings from both the Old and New Testaments, prayed, and then I stood up to preach from the first chapter of Ephesians. It may not sound special, but it was glorious.

The Need for Gospel Proclamation in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has a rich Christian heritage, yet nowadays more than half of the population consider themselves “not religious.” Only 4% identify as evangelical Christians. Large urban centers, like Amsterdam, are known for being godless. Moreover, about 1.5 million people are considered unreachedmostly immigrants from Muslim countries. Worst of all, healthy churches are few and far between.

The faithful remnant has little hope for the Dutch church.

Though God graciously preserved a remnant of faithful Christians in the Netherlands, my experience is that many have given up hope in the church altogether. Most major denominations succumbed to cultural pressures, the gospel watered down or thrown out altogether, and very rarely is the Bible preached. “Get out of the church!” is the battle cry for many, “she has become like Babylon.” The faithful remnant has little hope for the Dutch church. And I felt the same.

That is, until a few years ago.

Learning to Love the Local Church

In 2016, I moved to the city of Rotterdam to attend university. Rotterdam is a major port city and the second-largest city in the Netherlands. On the weekends, I attended a Bible study hosted by the man under whose preaching I had come to faith. He put great emphasis on the study of the word of God, radical holiness in our daily lives, and the call to personal evangelism.

These early days of my Christian walk were very formative. This Bible study equipped me for a faithful life in a post-Christian country, more specifically, on an anti-Christian university campus. During these days, however, the local church was not on my radar at all.

For starters, every meaningful event in my Christian life had occurred outside of the context of the local church. In my experience, churches were filled with people who were rather uninterested in living a life of holiness and evangelistic witness. So, I was uninterested in being part of a local church.

That was until I stumbled upon a video by a man named Mark Dever. His calm but charismatic personality intrigued me. His preaching was powerful and enlightening. But the thing that most piqued my interest was the way he talked about the church. According to Dever, the local church was central to God’s mission in the world.

He showed me, from the pages of the New Testament, that the Great Commission is fulfilled by and through local churches. I learned that a faithful Christian life is a life in and among the members of a local church and that Jesus Christ himself promised to build, protect, and be present in local churches.

Three years later, with the necessary personal growth, discipleship in the context of a healthy church, theological education, and a pastoral internship behind me, my church in Louisville sent me back to the Netherlands.

With this burden on my shoulders and excitement in my heart, I moved to Louisville, Kentucky, to pursue a Master of Divinity at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Since no one seemed to be interested in planting a church like that, I thought to myself: I guess I should pursue it. After all, God had graciously opened my eyes to see the need, so what else was I supposed to do?

Three years later, with the necessary personal growth, discipleship in the context of a healthy church, theological education, and a pastoral internship behind me, my church in Louisville sent me back to the Netherlands.

Why I Returned to the Netherlands

Though I felt the temptation to stay in Louisville, I never forgot what had brought me to seminary in the first place. After all, though campus life was great, the world needed the gospel. A month later, I was on a plane back home. And by God’s grace, four months later, a church was planted.

Whoever you are, wherever God has placed you, let me encourage you: commit yourself to the local church. The local church is the center of God’s action in the world, so that’s where you want to be. Christ is building his church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. And if you have a desire for missions, let me encourage you: commit yourself to the local church. The local church is how God is fulfilling the Great Commission, so that’s where you want to be.

If you don’t know where to go yet, consider Western Europe. It’s a mission field. Come over and help!

Laurens Pruis

Laurens Pruis is the Preaching Pastor at Gereformeerde Baptistengemeente Rotterdam-Zuid (Reformed Baptist Church of South-Rotterdam). After completing his Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he was sent out to plant a church in the city of Rotterdam, in his home country the Netherlands.

LESS THAN 1% OF ALL MONEY GIVEN TO MISSIONS GOES TO UNREACHED PEOPLE AND PLACES.

That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs on the planet are receiving the least amount of support. Together we can change that!