A new church for the city of Amsterdam

Church Planting is… (Part 3)

I’ve sort of stumbled into this series on the nature of church planting. Read the first two posts here and here.

Church planting is not about glamour

Last week my pal Luke Daviyiditis (possibly not correct spelling) retweeted this:

@johnwbryson: Most of the work of church planting is incredibly mundane & not tweetable. Work the field. Plow, sow, pull, pray for rain.

I was pleased to discover it wasn’t just me. That’s not to say that church planting isn’t enjoyable, exciting, terrifying etc. But, it’s not all cruising in a convertible Ferrari. Come to think of it, I don’t have a car at all, let alone an italian speedster, maybe next year…

I could give you a whole list of examples to prove the point but, well, they truly are mind numbingly mundane. Just google ‘Kerkgenootschap’ and you’ll get a small glimpse into my world right now.

If you think church planting is about glamour you’re severely misguided. However, church planting is about germination.

Church planting is about germination

I’ve been fortunate to meet a number of church pastors in Amsterdam over the last month or so. I’ve been making many friends along the way and this week I had a coffee with Eric Pickerill from the Vineyard church here in Amsterdam.

Eric planted the Vineyard here seven years ago and has become a bit of an expert in church planting here in Amsterdam.

I asked Eric for his advice for us in the season we’re in at the start of this church. His advice was strikingly simple - recognise that at the moment a lot of stuff is going on underground. Progress may feel slow and signs of growth limited, but God is slowly germinating the seed.

It’s called church planting for a reason.

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Church Planting is… (Part 2)

When I first came across the concept of church planting I was just a wee pup. My teeny tiny teenage mind understood church planting as a series of glorious adventures, scripted in Hollywood and played out on the golden streets of a sparkling metropolis somewhere. 

I anticipated my role would be a sort of cross between the Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost and an Alan Shearer hat-trick in the World Cup final (I’m still half convinced that a World Cup hat-trick isn’t yet beyond me).

Though, as my previous post attested, the reality is (of course) somewhat different. 

This week it was our kids who took up perhaps the hardest challenge of this whole adventure. Anyone who has ever moved abroad with small children will know the feeling well.

The night before they started school I was reading the The Lion, The With and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis) before bed. I came to the bit where Peter, Susan and Lucy are having dinner with Mr & Mrs Beaver. Lucy asks them if Aslan is ‘safe’. Mr Beaver replies: “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you”. (If you’ve ever been in a prayer meeting with Joel Virgo you’ll be familiar with the quote).

Now, sending your daughters into a context where they know no-one and know none of the language is, well, not ‘safe’. At least it doesn’t feel safe, not in the slightest. 

Mr Beavers description of Aslan is a fair allegory of Jesus Christ. Following Jesus isn’t supposed to be ‘safe’, read Luke 9.23, the books of Acts (or basically any of the bible) and try and disagree.

However, He’s thoroughly good. Not only does He intend good for us, He ensures good for us

Church planting isn’t supposed to be safe either (nor is parenting), or glorious for that matter, but we can fully expect God’s goodness at every step along the way, as we’ve seen in abundance this week with our children.

Typical #Amsterdam street (minus canal) in Indische Buurt #Oost
Typical #Amsterdam street (minus canal) in Indische Buurt #Oost

Typical #Amsterdam street (minus canal) in Indische Buurt #Oost

Church planting is…

We’re three and a bit weeks into our new life in Amsterdam and three and a bit weeks into this new church plant.

So far our experiences of church planting look something like this:

Mosquito Nets

Anyone who’s ever lived in Brighton will be all too familiar with the dreaded Seagulls ruining your sleep, washing and car windows. We were delighted to leave them behind but immediately discovered a new blight - Mosquitos. Nets were quickly purchased to stop our kids from being eaten alive every night. They don’t tell you about that in the church planting manuals…

Massive Tables

Following mosquito nets our next purchase was a big dining room table. We literally bought the biggest we could find. We fully expect this new church to involve a lot of eating.

Translating chick peas

Arriving in a new city, in a new country is definitely an exciting/daunting experience. Throw in the added difficultly of a new language and life gets that bit more interesting. Both Jo and I have spent many hours (at least that’s what it feels like) so far in supermarkets staring at packets, tins etc and trying to utilise our limited Dutch to figure out if we’re buying chick peas or chicken feed.

David Bowie

I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of preaching in the Netherlands at Redeemer International Church in The Hague. However, I’m sad to inform you, that their evening service didn’t get my David Bowie gag. It went something like this:

Matt cracks Bowie gag.

Congregation: *blank faces*

Matt: “So, you guys didn’t get the David Bowie joke then?”

Congregation: *blank faces*.

Matt: “Do any of you know who David Bowie is?”

Congregation: *blank faces* 

Acts of the Apostles on loop

There are 100s of great resources for church planters; books, manuals, blogs, podcasts etc. However nothing beats the book of Acts. I’ve been reading it on loop over the last few weeks, praying through the various stories and believing for similar things in Amsterdam as took place in Jerusalem, Antioch, Athens, Ephesus, Corinth etc (though perhaps with less rioting).

Perhaps the most striking thing about the book, particularly the early chapters, is the utter ordinariness of the key protagonists. Acts 4.13 puts it like this:  

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

We’re a whole different bunch of ordinary people BUT with the same God.

So excited about what Jesus is going to do in this city. Bring it on!

Joel Virgo talks about the past, present & future of CCK Brighton including church planting into Europe, specifically in Amsterdam & Berlin.

We made it

After years of planning, dreaming and praying Amsterdam is now our home. The next chapter starts now.

Looking back over the last few weeks we can reflect on a great send off from so many in Brighton. We’ll miss Church of Christ the King hugely. We’re leaving behind so many great friends from there who’ve been incredibly supportive, particularly over the last few months and weeks. Thanks to you all for your generosity; for the countless encouragements and all the practical help offered and delivered. What a church.

We’ll also miss the kids School back in Portslade. There were many tears, and so many warm words at the kid’s farewell assembly. 

Our new home

We arrived on Saturday to a baking hot Amsterdam summer’s day. Unloading boxes in 36c is an experience I don’t want to soon repeat. Within about 30 minutes our house was full of kids from our new street who all wanted to say ‘hallo’ and have an explore, and within a few days we’d all enjoyed some American brownies and the best BBQ I’ve ever had courtesy of our new neighbours.

Navigating life in a new culture has its challenges. Everything seems twice as complicated, not withstanding the obvious language barriers, even our first successful food shop felt like a small victory. Thankfully our existing Dutch friends have been super helpful, and our new Amsterdam neighbours have patiently been helping us along the way too.

Looking forward

We can’t wait till the rest of our fledgling team arrive in the city over the next few month. We’re excited about the many new faces that will join us too.

Also, I’m speaking at Redeemer church in The Hague this Sunday, come and say hi if you’re in the area.

Boxes, boxes, boxes.

Any visitor to our home this afternoon will be met by a wall of cardboard boxes. Partly because we’re packing but also because I’ve built a HUGE cardboard fort from which to attack our daughters when they arrive home from school. Armed with an array of Nerf guns I’m reasonably convinced that I WILL WIN.

Of course the ultimate purpose of the cardboard boxes is to box up our possessions prior to our impending move - in just under 4 weeks time we move to Amsterdam.

After over a year of planning, preparing and praying it’s all happening. Deep breath… 

We’ve found a wonderful apartment in Watergraafsmeer to rent and we’ve sent in the kids school application forms, hopefully that should all be straightforward. 

We can’t wait to get there, though we’re presently in the process of saying lots of goodbyes. We’ve been buzzing round the various sites of CCK here in Brighton, paid a short visit to Kings Church Eastbourne and we’re looking forward to visiting Reading Family Church in a few weeks.

About two weeks after we arrive a second family from England will arrive in the city and other members of our team will then trickle in over the coming months, arriving from the UK and elsewhere in the Netherlands.

We’re so excited about what God has ahead for us and for this new church in Amsterdam.