Christianity in the Netherlands seems to have reached a low point. Its glorious history as a Christian nation includes ministry to refugees and Jews, and a long record of service in foreign missions. But secular society today turns its back on its Christian past. Less than 10% of the population now attend church weekly. The Netherlands leads the world in promotion of secular and New Age views or values. Few restrictions exist for drug use, deviant lifestyles, prostitution, euthanasia, and abortion. Half the nation’s church buildings are now either destroyed or converted for other uses such as bars and mosques. Pray for revival that restores the nation spiritually.
The Roman Catholic Church is rapidly decreasing - from 41% in 1975 to 26% (other reports claim 18%) in 2010 - and every year has fewer priests and missionaries. Weekly attendance is reportedly as low as 300,000 on any given Sunday, and the aged composition of the faithful points toward further decline. However, there is also clear growth in the charismatic and evangelical groups within Dutch Catholicism, and a proliferation of Alpha Courses.
The historic Protestant churches also suffer calamitous losses, from 60% of the population in 1900 to 18% in 2010. By 2015, over half their membership will be over age 65, in both the many Calvinist denominations and in most of the Free Churches.
There are signs of hope amid the decline. Pray for:
- Growth in the number and strength of many independent churches, and continued vitality among charismatic Pentecostal Christians. Pray that spiritual depth, lasting discipleship and effective outreach might be strengthened. There are new international churches and small congregations being planted which demonstrate the openness of some hearts to receive the good news.
- Immigrant churches bring diversity, vitality and a new sense of hope to the Netherlands. Pray for the effective integration of these 700,000 immigrant Christians into Dutch church life. Pray also that they might have dynamic partnerships with indigenous congregations and a burden for cross-cultural church outreach to their host nationality and to other immigrant groups.
- The Gereformeerde Bond and Evangelisch Werkverband are growing evangelical expressions in the PKN (Protestant National Church) with over 500 pastors involved. These movements are increasingly respected and instrumental in sending missionaries, fostering unity and planting new churches using new models.
- Unity within evangelicalism sees progress, but remains a challenge. The Evangelische Omroep and the Evangelical Alliance are important in this regard. Evangelicals come from a very wide spectrum and are often fragmented and isolated. SKIN is an interdenominational network bringing together the growing number and diversity of migrant churches. Pray for spiritual unity that draws denominations, institutions, agencies and ethnic groups into a single vision for reaching the nation and the world, and for their willingness to financially support this with generosity.
Pray for the least evangelised:
- The highly secularized and international cities. Only 1-3% of Amsterdam attends church; of those, the majority are migrants. The vast majority of natives and many immigrants are unchurched. Nearly half of Amsterdam's population are immigrants. Other large cities in the Netherlands face similar challenges and opportunities. Pray for the outreach efforts of the small minority of lively churches. Pray also for YWAM, Agape, OM, IZB, Serve the City and other Dutch ministries seeking to make an urban impact. Churches are increasingly taking initiative in urban ministry.
- Migrant ethnic minorities are increasing in numbers and diversity. By 2050, it is predicted that one-third of the whole country will be immigrants. Many form an urban underclass, unassimilated and with high unemployment, involved with drugs and crime. They also constitute the least-evangelized peoples of the country. Pray that there may be spiritually effective and vigorous outreach to every culture.
- Muslim numbers are still increasing, as the many mega-mosque projects around the country demonstrate. But this growth is overwhelmingly through immigration (which is being reined in) and birthrate (which is falling) and hardly on a scale that will threaten atheism or Christianity. The Muslim community is troubled, seeing a backlash from a suspicious Dutch majority, facing a violent faction within its midst and struggling with spiritual apathy and even apostasy (to atheism and Christianity) among many. Now is an opportune time to reach out in friendship with the love and power of Christ.
- Specialized efforts and committed friendship are needed to reach Muslims. Pray for those seeking to minister to them, such as Gave, Evangelie & Moslims, OM and others. However, these ministries tend to focus only on refugees, who represent just 30% of the Netherlands' Muslims. Pray for outreach that is sensitive and appropriate.
- There is a steady trickle of Muslims believing in Christ; pray that the trickle becomes a stream and then a torrent. Pray for these believers to be integrated into groups of likeminded disciples with whom they can walk the walk of faith in Jesus. Pray also for their safety; there are risks, even in Europe, associated with conversion from Islam.
- Turks (230,000) and Kurds (55,000), among whom are now several groups of believers.
- Moroccans (270,000), the majority being Berber Rif and Shilha rather than Arab.
- Smaller Muslim peoples, who, in their frequent status as asylum seekers, often receive much outreach. These include Indonesians, Tunisians, Iraqis, Somalis, Iranians, Afghans, Arabs, Farsi-speakers and others.
Freedom for the gospel in the Caribbean Islands connected to the Netherlands (Bonaire, St. Eustatius, Saba) has not resulted in a great harvest. Nominalism, superstition and growing marginal sects show how few understand the message of salvation. Catholics are the largest denomination on all islands but St Eustatius, which is predominantly Protestant. Pray that the large majority who call themselves Christian might discover a dynamic relationship with the living Saviour.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.