The Missional Free Church: The Future of Free Chur


A symposium on the mission of Free Churches in secular Europe, in the form of a discussion of the new book by Dr. Philipp Bartholomä, Free Church Pastor and Lecturer in Practical Theology at Freie Theologische Hochschule Giessen (Germany).
The symposium will be conducted in English. Registration via website.

VU Amsterdam, main building, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands Please choose this link for a route description:

Room number: 11 A 33 (eleventh floor, A-wing, room 33).

Organizing partners
Freie Theologische Hochschule Giessen, James McClendon Chair (VU Amsterdam), Hendrik Bavinck Center for Reformed and Evangelical Theology (VU Amsterdam), Centre for Church and Mission in the West (Kampen).

For a long time the classic Free Churches in Europe have not just remained free from state influence or establishment, but also from secularization. They thrived while other churches waned. However, this seems to be changing in recent times. Generally speaking, free churches emerged as the anti-typical counterpart of the mainline churches within a Christendom society. Hence, they traditionally operated in a ‘revivalistic mode’, primarily reaching those who had already been religiously socialized to a significant degree. At the same time, free churches developed the natural tendency to define their ecclesiological (and thus also missional) identity in opposition to other Christian groups as their ‘significant others’. In a secular age, however, in which the former realities of a Christendom culture are quickly fading, these conventional procedures are no longer conducive to the accomplishment of the free church mission. Increasingly, it becomes clear how the free churches have been in symbiosis with the Christendom experience, and that they suffer just as well from the disappearance of Christendom.

In his recent extensive study of German free churches, dr. Philipp Bartholomä has analysed the current predicament of the Free Church ecclesiology and missiology in a post-Christendom society. This was done through extensive discussion of quantitative and qualitative data, including two best practice case studies.  In doing so he has tested several assumptions that underlie Free Church (revivalistic) missiology, but he has also pointed a way forward to the development of a sustainable and realistic missional praxis. In this symposium Bartholomä will present his research to an interested audience (academics, pastors, students, missionary practitioners), inviting us all to a lively and fruitful discussion about church identity and mission in a secular age.
13:00h             Room is open
13:15h             Opening by dr. Stefan Paas (Professor of Missiology and Intercultural Theology at VU Amsterdam and Professor of Missiology at Theologische Universiteit Kampen)
13:30h             ‘The Identity and Mission of Free Churches in a Secular Age’ by dr. Philipp Bartholomä (FTH, Giessen)
14:00h             Q&A
14:15h             Coffee and tea
14:45h             Three responses by critical readers:
-          dr. Sake Stoppels (Professor of Church Development, Christian University of Applied Sciences, Ede)
-          dr. Henk Bakker (James McClendon Professor of Baptist Theology, VU Amsterdam)
-          dr. Hans Schaeffer (Associate Professor of Practical Theology, Theologische Universiteit Kampen)
15:30h             Plenary Debate
15:45h             Case study of free church mission today by Oeds Blok
16:00h             Case study of free church mission today by Roeland Dam               
16:15h             Q&A
16:30h             Close and drinks


Friday 15 March, 01:00 PM

till Friday 15 March 05:00 PM


Room 11A-33 at VU University, main building, Amsterdam Room 11A-33 at VU University, main building, Amsterdam