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Posts Tagged ‘Belgium’

I think Belgium has a government, but I’m not sure.

This small divided country went at least 482 days without a government because the French-speaking parties and the Flemish-speaking parties could not—would not agree on how to go forward. Belgium is a parliamentary democracy, but without any single party having a super majority and governing independently, the only way to form a government is by coalition, that is, several parties joining together and agreeing to share power.

A country with no government because of radically self-interested political parties—now there is a lesson to be learned here, for us Americans and for us Christians.

Sherrylee and I have spent the last four days in Belgium and the Netherlands, visiting our good friends Paul and Carol Brazle in Antwerp and Hans and Ans van Erp in the Eindhoven church.  The times are interesting in both of these established works.

Maturing church works have different problems than church plants. Although both of these works are approximately twenty-five years old, they are reaching critical stages in their existence.

All of Western Europe should probably be classified as post-Christian, meaning that the forms of Christianity still permeate society, but personal faith and relationship to God through Christ is relatively uncommon.  Christianity is generally viewed as an old superstition that a more enlightened society has moved beyond.

Bringing the Good News of Jesus to Europeans requires patience. Those missionaries who choose to serve here are often choosing to leave home and stay for decades, not years!

Paul and Carol Brazle have been in Belgium since 1986, faithfully representing Jesus among the Flemish-speaking people.  The church they serve in Antwerp has been evangelistic and has fluctuated between 20-50 members over the years, depending on the Christians who move away and/or move back.

Currently they are ministering to a much larger group of people because of the influx of Africans into Europe. A group of Christians from Ghana began collecting, then growing, until they far outnumbered the other nationalities in the Antwerp church.  Along with the blessing of new members came the struggles of trying to be one church and blend Euro-American church culture with Afro-Ghanaian church culture.

You’d be surprised at how strongly everyone feels about how church is conducted—or maybe you wouldn’t!  I’m talking about totally innocuous questions like how you start songs, what melodies to use with a set of words, what to do with the children during worship times, what time will the service really start on Sunday—all mostly cultural issues, but ones that can create tension, especially if anyone insists on their own answer to the question!

And I have not yet mentioned any issues!  The church in Antwerp—all parties—are doing their best to be one church and not take the easy way of just splitting into two groups who do whatever they each are most comfortable doing.

The Dutch church of Christ in Eindhoven was begun about 1987, when Hans and Ans invited us to bring an LST group there. They have grown in the ensuing years to be a model church in Europe in many ways. Eindhoven has always been an indigenous church, self-supporting, self-ministering, and quite international as well.

At yesterday’s service, we had Belgians, Chinese, Africans, Americans—and Dutch people, singing, praying, and breaking bread together.  Their challenge now stems from their success as a church.

This wonderful church family may be reaching that time in a church’s life when they are so busy taking care of their own needs that they quit reaching out to others.  I’ve seen this happen many times in European churches. Usually the church plant is very evangelistic, fresh and enthusiastic until they reach30-50 people coming regularly.  Then church life begins to take all of their energy just to care for one another. Besides,  there is much less threat of painful rejection when only working among yourselves—so they quit reaching out!

Typically, this church will continue to feel good about itself for a while longer, maybe even grow more because of its good reputation, but then it begins to decline and no one understands why!  Decline, however, is inevitable when the community of believers is no longer consciously and intentionally shining the light into the darkness.

Some think this pattern is absolutely determined and unavoidable, but I do not. These two good churches have good leaders, people of great faith, and my prayer is that they will continue to depend on His power and Spirit for guiding the flocks which they oversee.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4

Would it make a difference in the Belgian government, would it make a difference in our churches, if we really believed and practiced what Paul taught the early church in Greece?

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