By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS (BosNewsLife)– A Dutch group says it continues its “old-fashioned” evangelism campaigns throughout the Netherlands amid massive church closures and an influx of mainly Muslim refugees.
The Dutch Biblestudy Center (NBC) told BosNewsLife it is touring this crowded small nation of 17-million with its circus-like red and blue colored tent. Evening programs, starting daily at 20.00 hours local time, as well as morning and afternoon sessions, focus on the theme “Happy with the Bible.”
At least five week-long evangelistic campaigns have begun, including for the first time in the capital Amsterdam (June 4-11) after smaller towns such as Oldebroek and Heerde (May 22 – 27), Urk /Tollebeek (May 29-June 3) and Apeldoorn (June 12-17).
“The Truth that sets people free is found only in the Bible,” tour leader Albert Korving told BosNewsLife. “That’s why we want to confront people through these campaigns with the content of the Bible and we hope to make them curious,” the Dutchman added.
“Our ultimate goal is that they will find the Truth and really study it. Unfortunately we see that fewer and fewer people open the Bible, even believers.”
He spoke shortly after a new study found that church attendance and faith in a personal God continues to decline in the Netherlands, once known as a beacon for Protestant Christianity and mission activities around the world.
The survey ‘God in the Netherlands’, conducted on behalf of Dutch network Catholic Radio Broadcasting (KRO) concluded that a vast majority of Dutch citizens (82 percent) never “or almost never” visits church while only 14 percent believes in a personal God.
“For many Dutch people, Christianity has become an unknown or exotic world. Nearly a quarter of respondents calls himself an atheist, which was 14 percent in 2006” researchers said.
Agnostics comprise with 34 percent the largest group, according to the report, carried out among 2,100 citizens every 10 years since 1966.
Across the country, church buildings are rapidly disappearing or turned into concert halls, homes or shops.
The influx of tens of thousands of mainly Muslim refugees last year was also expected to increase the call for more mosques in the Netherlands. Christian aid workers have expressed concerns however over reports that refugees have been threatened in the Netherlands after converting to Christianity.
Yet amid these challenges and a changing religious landscape, the NBC said its message remains the same, including for migrants and refugees. Korving stressed that tent evangelism is “not as old” as many think. “The message of the Bible is simply timeless. We see that during each campaign people come to faith [in Jesus Christ] or deepen their faith and are touched by God’s Spirit.”
He added that the NBC doesn’t focus on reaching “huge crowds” during its campaigns. Every new believer sparks a celebration in Heaven, NBC supporters say.
Besides several speakers, audiences can expect gospel choirs, bands and other musical groups as well as solo artists.
The NBC was founded by Dutch Bible teacher Ab Klein Haneveld, who is among the speakers, including in evenings with his Bible Believing Christians (BBC) Combo, led by Dutch songwriter, journalist and BosNewsLife contributor Johan Th. Bos.
“There are also coffee mornings for women with Bible teacher Chris Raymakers, children’s programs and special meetings for seniors, youth and immigrants,” the NBC added in a statement.
The NBC began tent campaigns in 2005 after another organization virtually ended these activities after nearly six decades.
Klein Haneveld wanted to revive this way of evangelism, once launched by his late father, evangelist Jacob Klein Haneveld, and late evangelist Johannes de Heer.