We’ve just announced a new Learning Community for South Holland. We spoke with Kees Van Kralingen, the Lead Mentor to find out a little about him, the Dutch church and why he’s looking forward to starting this new community.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Kees van Kralingen. I’m married to Lydia and we have three grown-up children. We live in Barendrecht near Rotterdam and we’re members of the Independent Baptist Church in Papendrecht.
I grew up in a Christian family and came to personal faith in Christ through the preaching of the gospel when I was 21. Following my PhD in chemistry from Delft University of Technology, I joined Unilever for a career in Research and Development and from 1988-1994 we lived near Chester in the UK. I obtained an MA in Theology in 2007 after which I served as a teaching elder in our church between 2007 and 2014. During this time, I was also director of Evangelical Press and since 2013 I’ve been the editor of the UK-based magazine Reformation Today. I’ve recently completed a PhD in theology (with a thesis in the area of apologetics) and have just re-joined the eldership. Together with a good friend, I’ve also just started a Dutch branch of The Gospel Coalition.
The Dutch church has a strong and varied history, what’s the current context like?
The situation can be very different depending on where you are in our small country. A very significant part of the population is completely alien to Christianity and to the gospel. At the same time, there are still many cities and towns where the gospel can be heard. There is still something of a bible belt running approximately from the south-west to the mid-eastern part of the country.
However, the church scene is highly fragmented. There is a variety of Reformed (Presbyterian-type) denominations (in some cases with significant differences also within these denominations) Although smaller in overall number, there are also several groups of Baptist churches. Few of them would call themselves reformed (which in The Netherlands is simply equated with paedobaptist). There is a wide variety of independent, evangelical churches across a wide theological spectrum. There’s also now an increasing number of immigrant churches.
Like everywhere in the western world, the church faces many challenges, both external and internal. The main external challenges are the general indifference and relativism of our (post!?) post-modern society and internal challenges are presented by ongoing debates and divisions, especially around biblical views on marriage and sexuality.
How do you think the Learning Community will serve churches in Holland to raise up and equip more leaders?
There is a spectrum of theological training opportunities ranging from denominationally linked universities and seminaries to non-affiliated training institutions. However, many of these programmes aren’t suitable for those wanting to study today. The unique opportunity offered by a Union Learning Community is the combination of a solid reformed-evangelical theological emphasis combined with the possibility of part-time learning together with building up practical experience in a local church. An increasing number of young people are attracted to the reformed faith and the doctrines of grace and it would be great to see them developing as pastors, preachers and church planters.
What are you looking forward to about the Learning Community and being the mentor?
I am particularly looking forward to mentoring a number of students based on the vision and theological identity of Union, and to see how this can especially support new church plants as well as existing churches across Holland.
How can we pray for you?
Please pray for the students who are already keen to start and also for guidance and wisdom to know how to encourage others to consider formal training.
To find out more about the new South Holland Learning Community and the GDip programme that is offered, please visit this page.