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October News 2007

Greetings all!

I am writing from my parents house in Indiana, where I've been visiting since last weekend. It's been wonderful to be here in the midwest for a few days in the "Fall" season. The leaves on the trees are changing colors and it's been so nice to walk through the woods with leaves and sticks crackling under my shoes. My time here is short because I'm traveling to Cincinnati, Ohio tomorrow (October 18th) to attend an International conference along with 8 others from Zolder50 in Amsterdam and a Pastor and his son from the Philippines.

Please pray for us as we participate in "equipping ministries" seminars and training times through Equipping Ministries International between now and October 27th. We will be attending a range of seminars — including leading life-giving small groups, listening skills, speaking the truth in love, renewing the mind, conflict resolution, healing prayer and evangelism. We are not only excited to learn a lot ourselves, but our heart has been to come back to the church and teach the seminars here in Amsterdam. We don’t want to have a handful of experts that everyone in the church turns to in times of need, but to give everyone the opportunity to grow and learn to love, challenge and build one another up and to encourage a culture of authentic, healing relationships. As a second opportunity, Zolder50 is hosting an evangelism training called 3-Story Evangelism in November and December.

Also, please pray for our church in Amsterdam. We believe God for new development in the areas of evangelism and building community seen mainly through our home groups. As you'll read below, we are going through some very significant transitions this fall.

Part of this growth and new development involves the significant change in that beginning in November we will multiply into two churches, meeting at different times for worship gatherings and with a focused emphasis on "doing church" or "living our Christian lives together" through our small group ministry.

It’s exciting to have our first multiplication as a church happening! For a more in-depth explanation of the plans and direction of our church right now, please continue reading what has been written by our pastor, Eric Asp:

Since the establishment of Zolder50 in Amsterdam , our vision has been to follow the example of the first-century church, as recorded in the book of Acts. As such, we’ve organized our ministry around concentric circles of ministry, starting with Life Groups (single-gender groups of 2-4 emphasizing accountability, in-depth personal Bible study, and prayer for unbelievers), then expanding to Home Groups (“family” units of 5-15 people “doing life together”—growing spiritually, growing relationally, and uniting to serve others in the community), and ultimately gathering in Neighborhood Churches (50-150 people meeting regularly for worship, teaching, and community)... We had always hoped that there might also one day be a network of Neighborhood Churches, loosely organized as a City Church (potentially thousands of people, meeting once every two or three months for worship and envisioning)—but this has been more theory than practice up to this point. Going on faith, we’ve sought to build a culture of making disciples—particularly in the context of Home Groups and Life Groups—developing seeds to what we hope will be a continually-multiplying network of churches that will allow God’s love and His people to spread throughout the city of Amsterdam and, eventually, even beyond that to cities all around the Netherlands and Europe (Luke 13:20-21). As we’ve come to phrase it, our church’s goal is to “know Jesus, become like Jesus, and make Jesus known.”

Over the past several months, we have been looking more closely into the subject of multiplication (making multiple churches from one). We’ve experienced quite a bit of growth in the five years since our church was first started, but it’s only been within the last year or so that our leadership core has become substantial enough and strong enough to realistically consider branching out further. Also, as we’ve moved toward occupation of a new ministry center in the heart of the city (which automatically restricts us to smaller spaces, with greater limitations on the number of people allowed in a single meeting location), we’ve also felt the need for creativity in managing church growth.

Therefore, throughout our times of conversation and prayer on this subject, we’ve discussed a number of different strategies for multiplication, looking at various factors such as how Jesus led His disciples, how the first-century church was formed, how Amsterdam society works today, what the learning-style in a post-modern society looks like, and other such considerations. More and more we came to the conclusion that the Sunday service may not always be the best place to showcase a life of faith or to make Jesus known to them—at least not in the context of Amsterdam’s younger generations. In fact, we started to wonder if, by keeping the emphasis on our weekly worship gatherings, we might be teaching Amsterdammers the very same misconception which the church has been subconsciously perpetuating over the past centuries: Christianity is merely something for Sundays in a building we call 'church'.

But that's not what we want to teach them! We want to show them the Church as God intended it, the church described in Acts 2:42-47, the church where people live their lives together, care for each other, and actively multiply God’s love to others. We want to bring the church to the people—instead of just bringing people to the church. And in order to do this, we have to create time and space to build (new) relationships with people outside of the church and invest time in them. Such relationships work best if they take place in familiar territory: among our colleagues, classmates, neighbors, friends, people from our sports clubs, or any of the other countless subcultures of Amsterdam—those whom we already know or with whom we can easily get into contact. We believe that it is these kinds of relationships which have a lasting impact and which can be life-changing.

Consequently, starting next month (November), we have decided to shift from one community meeting weekly for worship to two communities, meeting every-other week for worship and thus putting more emphasis on our home groups and life groups and creating an expectation for greater penetration into other subcultures throughout the city. Four of our church’s home groups will gather as one Neighborhood Church for corporate worship on the first and third Sundays of the month, and the other four home groups in our church will meet together as a second Neighborhood Church on the second and the fourth Sundays of the month (in months with five Sundays, we'll do something special as a “City Church” on that fifth Sunday of the month). Consequently, we should have more room for growth in our Sunday worship gatherings (essentially doubling our capacity) and more of a need for people to step up into key areas of serving and leadership, while simultaneously avoiding the trap of over-extending ourselves and burning out our leaders in the process. Also, with such a schedule, our hope is that the people in our church would have extra time in their regular schedule to invest, together with others from their home groups, into the relationships for which they might otherwise never seem to find the time.

Without a doubt, such a transition is an ambitious undertaking. We’ve been building up to this change for months, and we realize that it will be several months (if not years) before the transition is fully realized. We understand that blazing new trails and building new relationships does not just happen overnight. It will take time and effort and perseverance. And it will take lots and lots of prayer (that’s where you come in!)! Still, we’re confident that God is with us and for us, and the He is calling us in this new direction. We look forward to keeping you updated throughout the coming months. In the meantime, though, please keep praying.

Thank you so much for your prayers and financial support. I'll update you more in November with the latest transition and evangelism news.

Serving a Great God with you, for His glory!