by Susan Thorson, CTC
In the summer of 2003, a group of reformed churches from Amsterdam sent a letter to Redeemer Presbyterian Church. It was a request for help. The pastors of these churches feared that if the spiritual climate stayed as it was, the day could come where there would no longer by any reformed churches in their city. They wanted to plant churches, but they knew they were very much in need of training, coaching and vision.
Redeemer City to City answered their request for help and has since walked closely with them and their city. But Amsterdam is struggling.
Bas van der Graaf is a local pastor of a church in Amsterdam. Bas was just recently in New York for the Network Leaders Forum (NLF), and he spoke of the ongoing challenges in Amsterdam. “Amsterdam is a very, very secular city—it’s very, very hard soil. We were early adopters of Redeemer City to City’s training model. We planted many churches, but we are in a period now after 10+ years where some of our church planters are in danger of burn out or just feeling disappointed and discouraged.”
Their churches have members, but most of these members were already Christians when they came to these church plants. Bas explains, “We succeeded in bringing Christians together in a new place, but only a few people from the outside were reached. We have not seen many new converts.” He repeats, “It’s hard soil, so we are really praying for breakthroughs by the Holy Spirit in this secular context.”
Bas was glad to receive information on training at NLF. “What was helpful for me was again hearing about training—how to organize training, and also how to organize movements and networks, because in Europe that is one of our challenges. Until now, the movement in Europe has been a movement of inspiration. We have had conferences, but we didn't have organized training. It is starting now. We will have our first Train the Trainer event in April in Madrid. But I take with me a lot of ideas that help me to move further and to think more in organizational terms about training and network building.”
When he thinks about where future church planters should consider planting in Amsterdam, he responds, “I would advise that they listen very carefully to the context. When they start listening to God, to their context, to their own heart – they can identify when it’s a good neighborhood. We have learned to take much time for thinking and praying. We need that in our culture.”
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”
I Corinthians 3:6
Bas van der Graaf, Network Leader and Pastor