Simple Churches & Cultural Innovation, Netherlands


Notice how everyone is riding a bike…’ I was definitely in Holland…a flat land, with 21% of it’s 16 million, seemingly tall people, below sea level, a land bedecked with windmills, architectural innovation and canals in almost every city and most towns. A leading innovator in Food & Nutrition, Life Sciences & Health, Water & Energy technologies, making the country an ambassador for clean water in the world with cafes with open kitchens serving fresh food…and perhaps some of the healthiest people I’ve met…

This is my second trip to the country, having come here previously for the Simple Church EU Consultation 2011. So I’ve already had a taste of Amsterdam with its Rembrandt and Van Gogh Museums. But this, was my first introduction to ‘kokosbrood‘ a coconut slice you eat on brown bread…anyway…

What am I doing in Holland? (well actually, I’m informed thecorrect terminology is ‘The Netherlands‘)…I’m continuing my current missional adventure, aiming to go to One Country in Europe each month, this time staying with Jonathan Fokker and his family

Jonathan met Jesus in 2003 and opened his home for prayer, attracting many young people from his city. They saw many young peoples lives changed! Wanting to focus primarily on how they could make disciples in smaller groups, train local leaders and multiply; Jonathan got in touch with Floyd McClung– who was also talking about making disciples and raising up local (indigenous) leaders. Through CPx training– Jonathan learnt a lot about church planting movements and disciple multiplication movements and began putting these principles into practice by going to Cambodia’s capital city to reach Vietnamese people….which he describes as ‘one of the best times of my life; seeing people healed, casting out demons, baptising people.’

On his return to the Netherlands, Jonathan joined Marc Van Der Woude and the Simple Church EU Team who are spreading the word and connecting simple organic missional churches; a movement gaining momentum across Europe.

With Jonathan, we are hosting our first Newforms Level One Training in the Netherlands.

Around 15 people came to the training over the weekend; the majority are part of ‘Connect Network‘, which began in 2011, when 2 couples began to meet in one of their homes. The church soon grew to 30 or so people within 3 months, and then within a year to between 80-100 people. The Network now consists of 5 simple churches consisting of 4 in Voorthuizan and Barneveld and 1 in Zeewolde areas.

Each simple community has 15-25 people (some including children and teenagers). When they meet, they eat together, connect, share stories or prophesy to one another. Sometimes they watch a movie and talk about it- they also rotate the gatherings so they take place in different members homes. Once a month, leaders meet together in a coaching circle

A few other people came to the training from Amsterdam who have been working amongst immigrant communities in the city and involved in social action projects…as a result of the training, they are hopeful about finding People of Peace that will gather their social circles together to form new simple communities

One team traveled from as far away as Maastricht…once a month, one of the team members opens their home and invites people from the neighbourhood over for food. There have been many challenges in this work; sometimes family members come who spend most of the evening fighting each other. So they’ve had to put in place a new rule: they now begin each gathering with a Jesus-centred meditation or a scripture and everyone has to remain silent (no talking allowed, in order to resist the urge to break out into a fight)…then after a while people have chance to discuss the meditation or scripture. In one of these sessions, a lady in the group shared a personal dream she had received, and the rest of the group helped her interpret it. In her dream she was in a coffin…so the group then discussed from this dream the subject of ‘the fear of death’

It was great hearing their stories during the weekend over lunch as we ate ‘kroket‘ and drank Heineken, and look forward to hearing how these groups develop into disciple-making missional movements in the years ahead

Utrecht and Ede
With our first Newforms Training completed, I spent a few days in the Ede and Utrecht area with Marc Van Der Woude and his family.

Marc and I are on the Simple Church EU Team…who work with any church or agency involved in relational, simple, organic, house churches with a focus on missional movements. Marc was previously involved, with a variety of denominations, in a simple church network in Utrecht, working in a disadvantaged neighbourhood…but his main focus is strongly international; to start and cataylse instead of being involved for the long haul.

Over the next few days we went on a cultural tour visiting innovation centres, business hubs and museums including The Dutch Museum of Christianity…very inspiring learning more about historic pioneers in the Netherlands. People like…

St. Willibrord, a Celtic Missionary who travelled from the British Isles as far as Utrecht and founded a monastic community that became the base for the work of spreading the Jesus movement, making disciples and establishing new spiritual communities across the nation. Willibrord dedicated the city of Utrecht to St Martin of Tours

Desiderius Eramus lay the foundation for religious freedom in the Netherlands and beyond, inspiring, ironically, both the reformation and secular humanism

Abraham Kryuper, a Dutch theologian, established the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and believed that God was to be venerated not only in the church sphere, but also in the societal spheres of Media, Government and the Family

Coming back to the present day, Marc invited 21st Century Pioneers in the area involved in Pioneer Mission and Newforms of Church to his home for a sort of Newforms Taster, where we share Simple Stories, Kingdom Vision (what’s it going to take to catalyze movements in our city or region) and have lots of Q+A

Timmy, formerly involved in the mission work of an established Free Reformed Church stepped out to start a simple church 2 years ago with two other families, with a desire to be actively present in their local community. They are a small group who meet every week, eat, pray and encourage each other. But their desire is to connect with people who don’t yet know Jesus as they believe that community is very attractive to those not enamoured with institutional christianity.

The Lunch‘- is a missional community that began 3 years ago working with a variety of people, some of whom have previous church background and some who have never been involved in church

Ian, a teacher in business, is fascinated with new church concepts and a strong sense of being missional… He’s inspired by the concepts of Mike Breen and Alan Hirsch and is developing new ways of being church. Last summer, they purchased a property in a poorer neighbourhood where they do different activities. Coming together with 4 families, it started internally, then after 2 months they opened it up and youth started showing up- so he ‘became a youth worker- even though that is not my background. We had 10 young people last week- we were eating and had a multicultural football match. We are a church because we come together to worship God and attract other people.’ Ian works with Nigel…

Nigel has lived in his neighbourhood for 11 years and 3 years ago they planted a church out of their home and invited people on their street and other christians to model a new form of church. ‘We received a building through gifts/donations. We want to show God’s face to the neighbourhood and see what happens then. Since we had a building it opened opportunities. Like Ian’s group (above) who use it. We run 2 youth groups. Once a month we run a meal for single mums and their children in the hall. There’s a bible study group of youngsters who come from different churches- their own missional discoveries. Also Alpha courses in our community homes…there’s also a group who do sports with. It’s a challenge to reach women- espeacially out of the muslim community- but we gather them every week in the year apart from the month of Ramadan. We work in one neighbourhood and are already planning a living community of 30-40 homes together- where some christians are trying to live together in the community with muslims- but that’s in a few years time.’

During the evening we explored; how to be or find People of Peace, how to think and act movementally, committing to acting intentionally; modelling what we do on the work of Jesus and the multiplication of simple ekklesia to spread the mission of God.

On the Friday, Jonathan and I travelled to Apeldoorn to spent an evening with Peter Vlug and his extended family. In 2004, Peter received a revelation from God to go to a mountain in Switzerland where God would give him a new assignment. So the family moved there and waited to receive the heavenly vision and to pray. The whole process took seven years. They returned to Holland in 2011 and launched housefeasts to share what Jesus has entrusted to them

There are now ‘housefeasts‘ in Switzerland, Holland, Germany and some Asian countries. A group also recently started in Lithuania

For the past 3 years, they’ve been developing a permaculture and fish farm in East Germany and hope to set up many other permaculture farms in asia; building whole families together

I also had some time to rest, doing what I love to do best…explore…(particularly places as historic and artistic as Utrecht) before sitting in a nice cafe (Tastoe) to read, reflect and complete this blog post…I also met Nijntje (‘Miffy‘) and went to the Dutch Museum with some of the All Nations team

Today, the Netherlands celebrates as it transitions from ‘Queen’s Day‘ to ‘King’s Day…’ we continue to anticipate and point towards the fulfilment of the heavenly vision of the Kingdom’s of this world becoming the kingdoms of our King Jesus


(in various places in this post, I’ve changed names for privacy purposes)

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