FEIC Church Member Spotlight
Centraal Church, Antwerp, Belgium
Robert Suarez, Team Leader
Share a brief overview of the history of your church and where it is today.
We began with no help and no church presence. There are no A/G missionaries in Flanders. We began attending language school upon arrival and quickly began networking amongst our new friends. We decided to host a series of expat events, dinners, and interest meetings in our home for the Centraal Church concept.
After meeting and researching for 6 months we began holding small group meetings in a burger restaurant. After the first month the owner told us we could no longer meet on Fridays so we moved to Sundays. When that happened our attendance dropped. We quickly resumed Friday meetings in our home and continued Sunday mornings at the restaurant for 3 months. Our group grew to about 20.
In March we began looking for a more permanent location due to the imminent arrival of our MAs. We understood that in order to begin a children’s ministry or college ministry we would need our own building. We found a great location, completed renovations and began holding Friday night services in August. Since that time we have remained steady and have begun launching interest based groups starting now in September.
We are also beginning to receive requests for a Youtube channel so that our international members who are moving abroad can continue to hear the messages. Our website is live, our Youtube channel is beginning, our groups are rolling out, we are getting multiple leads and visitors, and our Grand Opening is Sept. 23rd.
What is the next step for you in terms of growth and future?
I intend to foster community growth and networking amongst our groups, enlarge our online presence and reach, in order to see the church financially independent and stable. Lastly I would like to see a CTS student or national pastor join us within the next 3 years in order that I may first bring them on staff and then prepare them for an eventual handoff.
Describe your church in terms of ‘international-ness’.
We have mostly agnostics coming. Occasionally I have a Muslim or a Hindu. I have mostly eastern and western Europeans, and Americans and an occasional Indian, Latino, or African. Most of them are between 20-40 and highly intellectual, well-traveled, know multiple languages and hold a degree or two.
Tell me about some challenges you have led your church through.
Starting with nothing is challenging. I was able to design a concept and package it into a vision that has communicated well into Antwerp culture. Mentoring my MAs and preparing them for a new approach to church planting in a new culture and giving them a world class staff experience that we all wish we could have. Also attempting to partner with CTS in getting students over to volunteer and provide mentoring and opportunity for them hasn’t been easy but seems to be breaking wide open now. We should have at least 5-10 students this semester. And renovating the building, getting the legal documents and certifications in Dutch has been a challenge. We are finally ready to apply to have our place rezoned into a community center.
Are you facing any challenges right now that you’d like to share?
I am paying a large portion of the church bills. I need to figure out how to get the secular Europeans to give. I think I will plan 1-3 fundraisers a year, and I’m planning to begin selling coffees this weekend, but eventually I need tithers. This is extremely challenging.
How can fellow FEIC churches pray for you guys?
Pray that the city will approve our proposal to become a community center, that the word will get out that we are here, and that people will begin giving so as to finally become financially stable.