Meet Carlton and Dottie Meredith
The Merediths are HPPC missionaries located in Brussels, Belgium. Carlton grew up in Texas and followed God’s leading into vocational Christian training at Dallas Theological Seminary. Carlton and Dottie have been serving in theological education for over 25 years in Belgium, where they teach weekly at the small theological seminary that they helped start in 1989.
Carlton serves as president of the Biblical Seminary of Brussels (French-speaking) with The D.M. Stearns Missionary Fund. The Meredith’s ministry revolves around three axes: the Seminary, pastoral (church-related) ministry, and other ministry activities such as weekend retreats, conferences, pastoral counseling, writing and mentoring.
Part of the Meredith’s ministry is sharing the Good News of the Gospel; surprisingly to us, few Belgians have ever even heard it. Evangelicals today represent 2% of Belgium’s population – while 4% attend a church of any kind on any given Sunday. Through years of immersing themselves in the Belgian culture and building relationships, several of their un-churched friends are beginning to ask personal and pertinent questions about the Christian faith.
What do you most enjoy about your ministry?
When people think about ministry, they usually think about being in front of people and interfacing directly with the public.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg; another facet of ministry takes place in private. Hidden behind the scenes are prayer, study and reflection on God’s Word in preparation for teaching, preaching and all the ministry-related decisions that have to be made.
On the mission field, there are also administrative, clerical and janitorial tasks to be done. These tasks may seem a bit less exciting to some, but they are also a vital part of ministry in a cross-cultural context.
Our ministry in Belgium involves pastoring on the weekends and classroom teaching at the Séminaire Biblique de Bruxelles during the week. On Friday evenings we lead a service for a church-planting effort near the university in a district of Brussels that does not have any evangelical church. We also preach regularly in French-speaking churches around Belgium and speak at retreats and conferences. As a result, Dottie and I do a lot of pastoral counseling as well.
The most exciting thing for Dottie and me is to just be there when people discover something in the Scriptures that helps them in their walk with God or their day-to-day life. We also love knowing that our students are involved in ministries of their own and are sharing the Gospel. And personally, we just love having the privilege of studying the Bible as a key part of our job.
We also deeply appreciate the relationships that God has given us – not only with the people who are taking classes at the school, but also with those who come to the Friday service and fellowship, with our neighbors and un-churched friends and with other pastors and missionaries who are ministering in Belgium. And nothing beats seeing someone understand the Good News of the Gospel and come to Christ for the first time!
Are you able to share the Gospel and disciple people freely in Belgium?
There is full freedom of belief in Belgium. However, there are increasing restrictions on the public expression of religious belief. State-approved religions are subsidized by the government, which pays the clergy their salaries and covers the cost of maintaining religious buildings. Belgians tend to be wary of non-subsidized churches and ministries. (Our ministry is not subsidized, by the way.)
Belgians as a rule consider faith to be a private matter. They feel that expressions of faith should be properly kept within the confines of houses of worship. They regard public expressions of faith (displaying religious symbols, wearing religious dress, talking about one's faith, etc.) as being in poor taste, a breach of etiquette, which they try to overlook as best they can. Sharing the Gospel and evangelism are often viewed negatively as proselytizing, even by some evangelical churches.
Although these attitudes are impediments to the progress of the Gospel, the Spirit of God is still actively bringing people to faith, even in post-Christian Belgium. As Jesus pointed out to Nicodemus when he came to Him in the dark of the night, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from or where it is going; so is every one who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8.
Please tell of someone whose life was impacted with the Gospel and the change you saw in his life.
Several years ago, a woman in our neighborhood (whom we did not know) called to ask for a pastoral visit. She was facing an urgent and life-threatening operation, she said, and wanted to set her life in order with God. Dottie and I scheduled a rendezvous with her before she went into the hospital, and found her eager to talk about spiritual things. She wanted us to explain the Gospel to her, which we were happy to do. At the end of our conversation she told us she wanted to pray for God's forgiveness and to invite Christ into her life.
Fortunately her operation was a success, and since that time she has been baptized and has been gradually growing in her faith.
What could HPPC do to help encourage you?
HPPC is already encouraging us, and has always been a great source of encouragement to us over the 30+ years since we left Dallas and have been serving the Lord in Belgium. It is always a joy to come home. Just being able to stay in the Mission House on McFarlin, across the street from the church, and to participate in the life of the church (singing in the Chancel Choir, attending men's and women's Bible studies, home groups and special events) is also a wonderful source of encouragement and fellowship. It has made it possible for us to come on furlough, connect with friends old and new, share our ministry vision, and look for new financial partners for the next season of our ministry. We couldn't have done it without HPPC’s hospitality through the Mission House.
What is really important to you in your time there that you want us to know? Belgium is one of the more difficult places in Europe in which to minister today. It is a prosperous, modern European country, highly secularized and atheistic, with a burgeoning Muslim population (between 25-30% in Brussels today).
The Belgians are proud that Brussels was chosen as the capital of the European Union. It is Europe’s Washington, D.C. They enjoy being in the forefront of creating a new, progressive and secularized Europe.
The average evangelical church in Belgium today comprises about 30-35 people and does not have a full-time pastor. Only about 4% of the population attends a weekly Christian service of any kind. So Belgium is indeed a mission field today.
What are some specific ways we can pray for you this next school year?
Because there are so many people who understand English in Brussels today, we are beginning to offer a few classes, conferences and seminars not only in French, but also in English. Up till now, the school has been exclusively French-speaking. We would appreciate your prayers for God's blessing and guidance on this new dimension of the school's continuing education ministry.
We appreciate and thank HPPC for its support and prayers over many years of ministry in the context of a modern European country like Belgium, a spiritually needy nation on one of our generation’s major crossroads, which has been largely overlooked in world outreach today.