By Jimmy Martin, IBC General Secretary
24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. Colossians 1:24–29 (NIV)
The Apostle Paul had a vision for healthy, growing, Christ-honoring churches. Vision has been defined as “a clear, challenging picture of the future of the ministry, as you believe it can be and must be” (A. Malphurs). Paul’s letter to the Colossians gives a glimpse into the passion of the apostle to see the church in Colossae move toward maturity. He believed it could happen and must happen.
He speaks of his trials on behalf of the church, seeing himself as its servant. His unique calling was to unveil God’s mystery, which included bringing Gentile “outsiders” into God’s family as “insiders.” Christ, the hope of glory for all people, was the message Paul preached and taught. His desire was not for a select few but for “everyone” to hear and for “everyone” to become “perfect” (fully grown, mature) “in Christ.” Paul worked hard toward this end but realized that it was Christ who energized him.
The IBC has a vision for its churches. We believe that God has given us this vision for the future. “We envision a movement of global-minded churches that are reproducing healthy disciples, leaders, and congregations.” We see the convention as a servant to the churches. In other words, we exist to serve the churches and not the other way around. We see the local church as central to the plan of God. Our role is to help “mobilize and multiply” churches that are carrying out their mission “to make disciples.”
We are not there yet, but we are moving in the right direction. Having identified 5 Core Strategies — Multiplying Churches, Strengthening Churches, Empowering Leaders, Building Connections, and Developing Resources — we are now working to help every church to become mature. We know that Christ is working in our churches. He wants to bring health and multiplication in every church through healthy leaders who are making healthy disciples. Our churches are made up of “global nomads” who come from around the world. We want them to know that in Christ they are part of God’s family. They may be expatriate outsiders but they are insiders when it comes to being part of God’s family.
Recently I was privileged to worship with and speak at Frontline Community Church in Ramstein, Germany. Frontline is a good model in both mobilization and multiplication. The church is 11 years old. It continues to grow in a healthy way and has recently given birth to a daughter church. The church is focused on making healthy disciples and developing healthy leaders. People in their community are regularly coming to know Christ; they are unified around a strategy to accomplish this. And God is blessing the church. There are other IBC churches, big and small, moving in healthy and maturing directions. When this becomes the trend, we will see a movement in the IBC.
Meanwhile we want to help all IBC churches, whether they are healthy and growing and multiplying or plateaued or declining. The size of a church is not the determining factor of health. Large churches can be unhealthy and small churches can be very healthy. A shared vision is one of the things that can help any church to move from complacency or conflict toward healthy growth. It might be worth your church’s effort in the near future to have a discussion about the church’s vision. And once a compelling vision from God is clearly articulated, help the church to fully embrace and pursue that vision.
A strength of our churches should be that we are global-minded. Since most IBC churches have a rich diversity in their membership, it should be natural for us to lift our sights beyond ourselves toward the multitudes “from every nation, tribe, people and language.” Celebrating that diversity and directing it toward our unity in Christ through genuine love for each other is a powerful witness to a watching world. When that unity is encouraged and maintained by church leaders, a strong ongoing Gospel witness is the result. Disunity, most commonly caused by unresolved conflict or complacency, is among the most devastating enemies of IBC churches. I see a day when IBC churches are moving together as a powerful force for global witness.
At our recent IBC Ministry Leadership Conference, I was encouraged to see and hear the discussions about ways that we can pursue our IBC mission of “mobilizing and multiplying disciple-making churches.” I am thrilled to see the progress we are making in implementing our core strategies because the end result will be strong, healthy, mobilized, multiplying churches that are reaching people with the Gospel and bringing glory to God, AND we are doing it TOGETHER.
What picture do you get as you consider the IBC vision? How might God be calling you and your church to be a part of that vision? Let’s pray that our vision will become reality in the near future.
We envision a movement of global-minded churches that are reproducing healthy disciples, leaders, and congregations.
We dream of…
• … stimulating churches toward mission advancement. We see churches intentionally and consistently sending members to live out the mission of the Gospel. We see churches working in partnership with one another and with other Great Commission organizations.
• … helping churches to keep their focus on making and multiplying disciples. We see churches being equipped to teach and train their members to be lifelong, loving, and loyal followers of Christ who are actively sharing their faith.
• … developing pastors and leaders in essential ministry skills. We see pastors and leaders equipped with knowledge and skill and filled with passion for Christ and love for His people. We see churches where Scripture is being preached and taught with relevance, power, and clarity.
• … becoming a catalyst for strategic church-planting. We see churches praying for, contributing to, and supporting an ever-increasing number of church plants to reach people with the Gospel, blessing the communities and churches where they are located.
• … nurturing a spirit of love that bridges cultures, nationalities, ethnicities, generations, politics, privilege, position, and religious backgrounds. We see churches learning to manage, celebrate, and leverage their diversity to become worthy examples of grace and peace, encouragement and unity, acceptance and compassion.
• … fostering fellowship and connections among pastors and churches. We see leaders and churches taking initiative to start and develop deep relationships with one another because they view themselves as utterly dependent on God and mutually dependent on one another.
• … supporting churches in times of need and transition. We see leaders being assisted to help their churches take steps toward achieving and maintaining health and growth in their congregations.
Serving with you,