The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of twelve provinces in North-West Europe and several islands in the Caribbean. The European part of the Netherlands, with more than 17 million inhabitants, borders the North Sea in the north and the west, Belgium in the south, and Germany in the east. The capital of the Netherlands is Amsterdam, and the seat of government is in The Hague. Despite the glorious history of religious freedom in the Netherlands, Christianity has reached a low point. Since the 1960s the number of church-goers has drastically decreased. In the year 2000, 62% of the Dutch were not affiliated with any religion. This percentage is expected to rise to 72% by the year 2020. Research predicts that Islam will continue to grow annually. In the year 2000, 5% of the Dutch were Islamic, but that is expected to increase to around 8% by 2020. Compared to fifty years ago, religion has sharply declined – baptism, marrying in the church, and weekly church attendance is now considered something of the past. Today, church attendance is significantly less than 10%.
The secularization of society has changed the personal religious affiliation of the Dutch significantly. After a period of ‘peripheral churchliness’ we can no longer see a clear connection between church attendance and faith: there are unbelievers within the church who for a sense of community or for other reasons keep attending church services; there are believers outside the church who are distancing themselves from the ‘institution of the church’; there are ‘free-thinkers’ who follow only parts of doctrine, conviction, and rituals; and finally there are people who have left the church (and the faith), but still feel a warm connection with it/or still often associate themselves with it. The Netherlands is the least religious country in Western Europe. We may conclude from this that despite a rich Christian history, it has become a great mission field. At the same time, there is a faithful remnant of believers in the Netherlands. The Lord is still at work and there are encouraging developments. Christians are finding one another at the foot of the Cross. They are organizing meetings together and are growing more aware of the need for intercessory prayer. The prayer of many Dutch Christians is expressed in Psalm 85:4-7“Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your indignation toward us to cease. Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations? Will You not Yourself revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your lovingkindness, O Lord, and grant us Your salvation.”