The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of twelve provinces in North-West Europe and several islands in the Caribbean. The European portion of the Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east. The capital of the Netherlands is Amsterdam, and its seat of government is in The Hague. About twenty percent of the country (both in area and population) is located below sea level, and fifty percent of its land lies less than one meter above sea level. This fact contributes to the country’s name: Nederland (Dutch) or “Low Country.” In 2011, the Netherlands had the tenth-highest per capita income in the world, and its economy ranked seventeenth out of 177 listed countries in the Index of Economic Freedom. In May 2011, the Netherlands was rated the “happiest” country according to results published by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).
Despite the Netherlands’ glorious history of religious liberty and mission, Christianity there has reached an all-time low. More than fifty percent of Dutch people claim no religious affiliation, and only twenty percent attend church with any regularity. The attendance in traditional Protestant churches has declined from sixty percent in 1900 to eighteen percent in 2010. As a result, the younger generation is swept up in a tide of secularism, materialism, rampant immorality, false spirituality, and hopeless nihilism. Only four percent of the population claims affiliation with an Evangelical church, and overall growth is less than one percent annually. Compare this with six percent of the population claiming affiliation with Islam, which is growing at an annual rate of 2.3%. There are also many mega-mosque building projects throughout the country.
Evangelism and Church Planting in the Netherlands
By Jacques Brunt
Jacques T. Brunt is an itinerant preacher, teacher, and evangelist in the Netherlands. He was born in 1979 and converted to Christianity in 2000. He is the youngest of five children and was raised in a Dutch Reformed family. He was married to Annette in 2004, and they have three children: Levi, Boaz, and Jesse. Jacques’ ministry can be divided into three specific areas: he is a leader and teacher for Heart Cry Netherlands (separate from HeartCry Missionary Society), he is a teacher in his local Baptist church in Alblasserdam, and he is an itinerant preacher throughout the Netherlands.
Recently we were moved by the following story about Charles Wesley, entitled “The Power of a Hymn.” We would like to pass it on as encouragement:
Charles Wesley was looking out of his open window at the beautiful landscape. Suddenly, he saw a small songbird being chased by a hawk. The hawk kept flying above its prey and then would quickly drop itself onto the other bird, but the little creature skillfully kept dodging out of the way. The predator, however, would not cease and kept repeating its attacks. The unequal struggle could not last much longer, because the little bird seemed exhausted and was already flying more slowly. It looked desperately for a hiding place. Finally, it spied a very unexpeted one and flew straight through the open window and hid itself under the coat of Wesley – to his great surprise! Its little eyes looked frightened, and its wings were still trembling; but it was beginning to calm down in the safety and shelter of the garment, near the heart of its rescuer. Soon the hawk disappeared, and the little bird was able to go find its nest. This incident was of great significance to Wesley. Even as he had been standing there, he had been sad and filled with inner turmoil over trials and difficulties. He didn’t see a way out, and inside it was dry and dark. Through this little bird he suddenly saw the solution. The desperate creature had been saved by its only refuge. Did he himself not have a Refuge? Could he not flee and hide from danger with his almighty Savior? This day was a turning point in his life. He thanked his Master for this lesson taught, and deeply impressed, he wrote the hymn that was actually a prayer: “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.”
Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.
Recently, the Lord has enabled us to do a lot of work. It was a tremendous privilege to speak at the Heart Cry conference in Belgium. It is encouraging to see how several young families in Belgium have found one another and have a mutual desire for spiritual revival in their country. There is much darkness in Belgium, but the Lord is at work. It was a blessing to speak the Word of God there.
Over the last few weeks, I have been given the privilege to speak at various evangelistic events in Holland. Much like tent meetings in America, a large tent is erected in the middle of a village, and meetings are held all week long. During this time, the Gospel is preached to young and old. These tent meetings are interdenominational and open to people that do not have much or anything to do with church but would like to know more about the Bible. During the day people can walk in, ask questions, and drink a cup of coffee. There is Biblical literature available, and people who do not own a Bible can receive one in the tent. After a week the tent is set up in the next village. Our children go with us during these tent events and consequently become involved with this beautiful and necessary work at a young age.
For six months, I have been involved with planting a new church in an extremely Orthodox village. After I had preached in the village several times and had organized a day of prayer, we decided to plant a Baptist church there. There is an enormous spiritual hunger in that village for the Word of God. Several families stay home on Sundays because they no longer know where they should go to church. There is a tremendous spiritual need. Meanwhile, an older Baptist pastor has stepped forward to help with planting this new church in the village. Most likely there will arise much opposition to this new church from the existing churches. But the brethren truly feel that this is the way of the Lord and are willing to stand up as men and take their responsibility towards their wives and children and above all towards God. It is a blessing to be involved with this work, and it has become a new phase in my life and ministry.
This month, I will finish teaching a study series from the book of Romans. I taught through the epistle in twenty lessons. For me personally, it has been spiritually enriching, but the visitors also experienced a spiritual deepening. It was a blessing to study the book verse by verse. By doing this, all sorts of topics are brought out. The interest is overwhelming each time. We pray that the Lord will use these evenings to the glory of His Name and that the blessing will spread like wildfire in the area where we live.
During this study, I met a man who was supposed to serve a prison sentence, but had decided to allude the police and not to report to jail. That has now changed: four weeks ago, he voluntarily registered himself at the jail. I am currently trying to get access into the facility so that I can pastor and disciple him. He is open to this. This is an important prayer need!
During the summer vacation season in Holland, we start our evangelistic work at various campgrounds. Our family stays at a campsite in the north of Holland for two weeks. I try to teach ten Bible studies there and to enjoy the peace and quiet and the time spent with my family.
In September, after summer vacation, we start a new Bible study series in Ephesians. During eight evenings, I hope to go through this beautiful epistle verse by verse. We believe that these expositions are meeting a huge need, and we are looking forward to starting this new series. We have made a flyer for these evenings to spread the word. It is a great encouragement to see how many young people are attracted to the Bible studies.
We are deeply amazed and grateful that the Lord is willing to use us for the salvation of lost sinners and the building up of His church. It is a joy to be able to do this work. There is spiritual warfare, but that is to be expected. Where the Lord is at work, there will be struggle. But we find such encouragement from Nehemiah 8:10: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Thank you for your involvement in our family and ministry. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. Thank you for your financial support. We need it all. It is great grace that you have given ear to the call of the Lord in your hearts to support us. Please know that we deeply appreciate it!
Across oceans we are closely united in our Savior!
Jacques, Annette, Levi, Boaz, & Jesse