In April 2017, Martin Turner (UK) returned to Belgium to take up field leadership, having seen enormous changes in the mission world, and in OM itself, since his initial service there in the 1970-’80s.

“In the 1960-’90s, there was a great emphasis on going into Europe to share the gospel. Belgium was a strategic location—OM's building in Zaventem was a busy hub for teams travelling overland across Europe as far as India, and a vibrant place for mission-minded people to come, share their stories and encourage others to take God at His Word. But we also had teams reaching out in evangelism within Belgium itself,” Martin said. “However, in 1998, the Belgian government attempted to ban ‘evangelical cults,’ including all Protestant churches, until a Christian stood up in the European Parliament and pointed out that such a banning would get Belgium expelled from the EU. The campaign was dropped.  Nevertheless, by the 2000s, the focus of the mission world turned to the Muslim world, then China, with an emphasis on poverty alleviation in the Global South. Europe seemed forgotten.”

But the reality is that Belgium is a mission field. Less than 1.2 per cent of its population is Christian*, and 0.5 per cent of those are Belgian nationals. Out of the 589 official districts, each with an average of 19,000 inhabitants, 382 have no Bible believing church, according to Administrative Council of the Protestant-Gospel History (ARPEE) statistics. There is very little evangelical presence in Belgium.

Yet in the last 20 years, the Belgian church has more than doubled, as migrant workers have arrived from Uganda, Brazil, China, Philippines and Japan. Brussels has become a reached city, with 250 new Bible-believing churches established over the last five years, mainly immigrant ones.** Operation World now states Brussels is 8 per cent evangelised. Antwerp hosts 100 churches of which 12 are Belgian, the rest are immigrant churches. The growth is not through ‘church hopping’; people are genuinely coming to Christ. “There are five times the number of believers in Belgium’s cities than there were 20 years ago! This indicates to me that there is a harvest in progress,” Martin explained.

“Just as the city of Rome’s strategic location enabled powerful spreading of the gospel, so, too, do I believe that the whole country of Belgium, by being spiritually transformed, has its strategic part to play in Europe and the world, and that OM’s contribution is in helping a church planting movement to grow, even though Belgian Christians have in the past said: ‘You do the work, and we will provide the harvest!’”  Signs of change were evident when, in November 2017, a European prayer breakfast welcomed 400 committed born-again believers, coming from every nation in Europe, to enthusiastically pray!

Subsequently, in January 2018, OM Belgium launched its Vibrant programme to encourage nationals in reviving struggling churches to reach the unreached in Belgium. OM Belgium plans to start two model church planting projects, a visible demonstration that communities can reach out to their neighbours and bring the gospel to transform their areas and districts, in spite of the cultural mindset that says it can’t be done. The plan is to form small groups, which when they grow to 12 people, can attract more people as an official church through a website, then form offshoot churches as numbers increase. “The average size of the local church in Belgium is 30 people,” Martin said, “which seems to be a good cultural shape resembling a meeting in a local café, like a local unit of community. There are now 45 church-planting churches, but our vision is for 70.”  He readily acknowledged, “It’s not about OM making it happen; it has to come from the local believers seizing the vision and running with it themselves. Two couples are ready and willing to start the ministry, but unless the Lord endorses the vision, it will not happen. We need pray-ers and workers, essentially French and Flemish speakers, but people can learn those: I did!” he laughed.

“A key aspect is to develop the next generation of believers, particularly those leaders, artists and thinkers with a Christian mindset who can cause cultural shifts in society. The church needs to help equip young believers to be able to answer society’s questions, even those yet to be asked,” Martin said. The fACTOR programme, OM’s new volunteer-mentoring programme of personal discipleship, is for exactly those influential believers of the future. Inspired by the concept of Francis Schaefer’s L’Abri and by a recent volunteer to the ZavCentre listening to missionaries’ stories of what God was doing in and around the world, fACTOR aims to train young leaders through serving in the conference centre as well as receiving training, reflecting, mentoring and seminars.

The OM team is currently 38 strong, but Martin hopes it will extend to 45 by 2019, and grow to 70 within the next five years, from many nations. He also has a vision for international church participation in OM Belgium’s vision: “I would love to encourage international churches from wealthy nations to sponsor those less wealthy to send volunteers and develop migrant language speaking communities. There is a 500-person Spanish-speaking church in Brussels with no one to get alongside them, for example.”

“We would love to see believers from all over the traditional Protestant world coming to Belgium throughout the 2020s. But we need to prepare. In one of Jesus' parables, the sower sows, but nothing appears to happen. Then suddenly shoots come up, and not long after that the harvest is ready. This is exactly what happened in the 2/3 world, where vibrant communities now transform societies. I believe the Belgian harvest is coming, through a movement of God, as Europe returns to the mission focus of reaching the unreached.”


*Operation World [2010] figures state that if 1.5 per cent of population or less are Christian, the nation/people group is considered 1/3 least evangelised.

**Figures for immigrant believers are published government estimates.

Share this Resource

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print

Leave a Reply

You might also like:

Illustrator/Animator Belgium    Go & Live    As soon as possibleOM in Belgium is looking for an illustrator/animator to work in the world’s leading nation for production of graphic novels and comic books. The role will involve working with writers and translators to produce online and print content which can be quickly seen by thousands of people and will open the doors to sharing the gospel in depth among those who have never encountered it before.
Full Details
Coordinator Training Belgium    Go & Live    As soon as possibleOM in Belgium is looking for a Training Coordinator who can complete the work of establishing a Bible-school level study programme, develop the language learning programme, and help people to develop professional competences which are valuable in missions now, and will be valuable in their careers when and if they move out of full-time ministry.
Full Details
Language Specialist Dutch Belgium    Go & Live    As soon as possibleOM in Belgium works in a sophisticated trilingual environment. Our ambition to plant churches, reach the unreached and mobilise believers is often limited by our capacity in language. We are looking for a language specialist in Dutch, and a language specialist in French, who can unblock these ministries and multiply our work. For Dutch, this also includes taking part in the Flemish Bible translation project.
Full Details
Head of Creative Outreach Belgium    Go & Live    As soon as possibleThe Head of Creative Outreach recruits, develops and leads a team of content creators who will work online, face to face and through street and venue events to share the love of Jesus with people who have never encountered it.

The team will be made up of artists, musicians, dancers, sports people, writers, directors, producers and others from the creative industries willing to invest a year or more for God’s kingdom. Spiritual maturity and an openness to all ideas are key to this role.

Full Details
Team Leader: Music Belgium    Go & Live    As soon as possibleThe team leader for music leads a team of musicians as part of the creative outreach ministry. A musician yourself, you will recruit, organise and direct a team of contemporary and orchestral musicians to produce a variety of content for online, face to face, venue-based and street outreach. An experienced musician yourself, you will be ready, able and willing to lead by example in investing your talent for wide-sowing among the least reached.
Full Details
Street Evangelist Belgium    Go & Live    As soon as possibleOM in Belgium is looking for a street evangelist. If that’s you, you don’t need any further explanation. If it isn’t you, further explanation is too much.

A friendly smile is all you need to strike up a conversation. You love people, and you love Jesus. Whether working with musicians, street food, actors, stunts, pop-ups or flashmobs, or just a shared interest in waiting for the bus, you always find a way to share a little bit of your faith, and part as new friends.

Full Details
Sports Evangelist Belgium    Go & Live    As soon as possibleOM in Belgium is looking for a sports evangelist. Sports and fitness are by far the most important cultural activities, with ⅓ saying they play sports regularly, and 70% saying they regularly do fitness. The gym industry was booming up to Covid-19, and people are looking for ways to get back looking good and feeling fit. This role is for someone who can be a credible sports or fitness coach, or build relationships by joining a local team or club, possibly playing in ranking competitions.
Full Details
Web developer Belgium    Go & Live    As soon as possibleOM in Belgium is looking for a skilled and creative web developer who is equally at home designing bespoke websites, coding and integrating smart-components, configuring CMS sites and developing bespoke themes.
Full Details
Evangelism Outreach Coordinator Belgium    Go & Live    As soon as possibleAre you passionate about evangelism and don't mind doing some work behind the scenes?  Our Campaigns Team is looking for organisers and leaders who feel called to break down barriers for the global church to come and share the good news of Jesus with people in Belgium.
Full Details
Member: Music Team Belgium    Go & Live    As soon as possibleOM in Belgium is recruiting a music team to write new music, record new music and perform new music supporting outreach, church planting and mobilising believers. We are looking for skilled, committed people who want to grow as believers and also extend themselves as musicians.
Full Details
Member: Creative Team Belgium    Go & Live    As soon as possibleOM in Belgium is looking for members for the new Creative Team. While bringing your own special talents to the mix, you’ll enjoy working with other creative people and trying things out which you’ve never done before, and never imagined you would. You could be running a pop-up coffee shop in the market in the morning, recording a music video in the afternoon, and leading a Bible study in the evening.
Full Details
Head of Fund Raising Belgium    Go & Live    As soon as possibleOM in Belgium is looking for a head of fundraising. We are fifty people, part of the OM family, working among the least reached in one of the world’s most technological, bureaucratic and advanced nations. Our vision is to move from a position of just breaking-even to be able to be generous partners and standard-setters.
Full Details