Church of the Nazarene welcomes Belgium as 165th world area

Church of the Nazarene welcomes Belgium as 165th world area

by
Daniel Sperry for Nazarene News
| 01 Mar 2024
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Belgium
Caption

For the first time, the Belgian Church of the Nazarene meets at a rented church space in Mechelen.

The Church of the Nazarene officially recognized Belgium as its 165th world area on 23 February during the 100th session of the General Board, held in Overland Park, Kansas, USA.

“I am very excited about the new work in Belgium and the great partnership that has developed with the Netherlands District to support this new church plant,” said Eurasia Regional Director Jim Ritchie (who was later elected Global Missions Director). “I believe this new work represents a powerful opportunity to expand the mission in the challenging, ever-secularizing climate of Northern Europe and serves as a great encouragement to the church that God is not finished with this part of the world, and he is still building his church there.”

Carla Sunberg, general superintendent in jurisdiction for Eurasia, grew up in Europe and watched first-hand as the denomination developed in Germany and the Netherlands. 

“While the Church of the Nazarene has been active in the Netherlands for many years, we’ve not had the opportunity to reach into Belgium,” she said. “This has genuinely been a work of the Spirit, and we express our gratitude to all those in the Netherlands who are supporting this new work. I am inspired to see the passion for missions that is growing in the hearts of our churches and leaders in Northern Europe.”

The work of the Church of the Nazarene in Belgium began in the fall of 2023 when Willem Kolpa found himself missing the Church of the Nazarene. Kolpa grew up in a Nazarene church in the Netherlands before moving to Mechelen, Belgium, with his wife.
Kolpa emailed the Netherlands District to see if there was interest in planting a congregation in Belgium. Netherlands District Superintendent Antonie Holleman said that in the past, that email would have been politely turned away.
“But things were different now,” Holleman said.

Some pastors in the Netherlands District had begun to feel that God was placing Belgium in their hearts. Stephen Overduin, who pastored a church in Breda, felt that call. Overduin told Holleman that he not only felt called to serve in the church in Breda but also felt God had been calling him to church planting in Belgium.

Holleman says God had already been preparing the ground, even before Kolpa wrote his email.

“When I read his email, there was only one response possible,” Holleman said. “’Yes. We want to explore what we are able to do.’”

Another piece of the puzzle came in when a lay minister at Breda, a woman named Christel Filippo, was in the process of receiving her district license. She happened to have family in Mechelen.

Together, Kolpa, Overduin, and Filippo planned a series of worship services for the fall of 2023 to help introduce the Church of the Nazarene to the wider Christian community and explore whether there was enough interest and support to start a church in Mechelen.

“For Willem, this was a dream come true,” Holleman said. “As the host, he welcomed people into his Nazarene church in Mechelen.”

According to Holleman, the community’s responses to the worship services signaled that the soil was ready for planting.
“This needed to be our response to what God has been doing,” Holleman said. “This was not a decision coming out of strategic meetings in which targets were formulated. It was our response to the surprising providential work of God preparing the way.”

The Mechelen church currently meets in a building rented from another denomination and has a regular service and a small group called “The Holy Club” meets weekly. In the absence of altars, they place pillows on the floor at the front for people to kneel.

“As a district, and together with the small group in Mechelen, we take this step in faith that God is faithful in sustaining the work that he has started,” Holleman said.

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