I recently responded to a Facebook post by a good friend in South Africa who asked to tell more about the church that we attend in the Netherlands. I honestly believe CLC is fulfilling the purposes of God for this generation in this city; because I see the blessings that God is pouring out. But, it is impossible for me to put label on the thing that could sum up what CLC does that brings all that blessing. I suspect it is not a thing, but a heart attitude; I’m going to call it a culture in this post, for lack of a better word.
When we joined CLC in 2009, they had one service on a Sunday morning, which was attended by around 350 people. In September 2011, they started with a 3rd Sunday service – which is attended by almost 1500 people on a Sunday; not counting the 80 volunteers per service that perform various tasks. And they have two daughter churches. This growth goes against the trend in Europe.
When we walked into CLC the first time, we were very warmly greeted by someone who stayed with us for the full time until the service started. It is now almost 3 years later & she still greets us with a big smile every Sunday. After asking a couple of questions, we were introduced to some other people who live close to us. I have heard the same story from other newcomers; there seems to be a culture of hospitality. This warmness makes people feel welcome; causes them to return on a later date.
The worship was a bit of a culture shock to us. The best way to describe the style is to call it a gospel show; with seemingly professional musicians and TV cameras, rather loud music and colored lights. The service is recorded in high definition, wide screen format; to be edited and broadcasted the next Sunday on national television. I joined the media and creative arts team & now I am part of the camera crew. I experience a culture of excellence. The professionalism attracts the city people who often goes to events and concerts.
City people seems to be lonely people. The church reach out to them; ‘adopting’ lonely grannies, visiting them, taking them shopping. We tend to think of European people as rich, at least richer than their African counterparts. But big cities have their share of unemployed and poor people. The church reach out to them too, offering the only place where poor women can go for a pedicure or are welcome to join a glamorous girls night. And those girls nights are such a treat. A place where women can take their girl friends. I know, I’ve seen it from behind the lens of the TV camera.
There is much more, but let me just describe one more prominent area – the children. One of the main reasons that we initially stayed at CLC is because our children found it amazing. I have someone in my cell group that have never been in a church before in his life. But someone took his children to church & they demand to go every week. So he went along to double-check on what they are being tought there. This year he started with the Alpha course. The children has such fun at church. And they like to take their friends along.
All in all, it seems that people get invited to some event & then they think “If this is what church is like, then I want to be a part of it.” Church is attractive. And relevant. But, where does it all start? With the leadership.
There is one story that Erald told one Sunday morning that stays with me; it was about church leadership going on a retreat. Each one had to go and sit on their own for a full day & just pray. One by one some of them came back & showed the list of things that they took to God for his blessing. And then there was a number of them that came back with a short list; this time of things that God showed them about their own lives; things that God spoke to them about. Now you can probably guess which of these two groups were the leaders of the fastest growing churches. It spoke very directly to my life; I often start to do things, running with my program & then stopping shortly to ask God’s blessing. But it seems that God bless the people, and the churches, more when they are willing to be changed by Him first. Isn’t that just what James 4 teach us?
Our pastors understand 1 Cor 11:1 very well, I think. They go to conferences and they talk to pastors of successful churches. They are willing to learn from anyone that receives abundant blessings. A lot of what we do is modeled on the way Hillsong Australia does things. We even sing their songs on Sundays. And they put a lot of effort into training the leaders and volunteers. Their idea of spoiling their volunteers is to give them extra training; I initially found that very strange. And the preaching is very very applicable to every day life. Practical things that you can go and do this coming week. And we are often challenged to live a life that does not conform to the world; having our minds renewed.
Is there a golden thread running through all of this? I believe the leaders of the church have figured out how to make the church attractive; because an attractive church, well, attracts people! They are not watering down the Message, on the contrary, but they are presenting it in a way that is understood by this generation; by making it relevant to the people it touches. I love the Message’s version of Ephesians 1:23 “The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” CLC is relevant; she makes a difference in the world around her.
I honestly believe CLC is fulfilling the purposes of God for this generation in this city; because I see the blessings that God is pouring out.
http://www.clcdenhaag.nl/ – CLC Den Haag website
http://www.youtube.com/CityLifeChurchDH?gl=NL&hl=nl – CLC Den Haag YouTube channel