by Jimmy Martin
Former General Secretary
2020: An Interesting Year for Us All
LORD, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God. … Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. … Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. … May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:1-2, 12, 14, 17)
A Year of Surprises
2020 has been an “interesting” year for us all. Beginning in March plans and schedules were dramatically altered. The IBC was no exception. Beginning with the last-minute need to cancel/postpone our Ministry Leadership Conference in Dubrovnik, IBC events one-by-one had to be cancelled or postponed. Our Annual Convention Meeting, while not cancelled, was held online for the first time.
2020 has also been a year of transition in the IBC. In March we called an online meeting to vote on the recommendation of the GS Search Team to elect Tim Faulkner as general secretary. Tim was approved overwhelmingly. I am full of joy and optimism, knowing that Tim will bring fresh ideas and strategic plans to ensure the health and growth of our family of churches
Nick Howard and the GS Search Team did a great job not only in their selection but also in working through the search process.
Last year in Naples I set forth three major objectives for the year —transition, progress, and partnership. The goals and action plans related to these primary objectives were closely tied with the work of our five core strategies and the Executive Leadership Team. In October I reviewed with our core strategy directors their progress in achieving their objectives and goals, especially in light of the unexpected challenges that the coronavirus brought
I am pleased that much of what we hoped to achieve has been accomplished although not in the ways we anticipated. We do not minimize the discouragement and negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic. However, our online meetings were a resource that helped us to connect as we prayed and struggled together to minister effectively.
Let me mention a few of the areas where I have seen significant progress and participation. Interest and participation in church planting efforts have increased through our online Church Multiplication Networks. Church participation with RightNow Media and other online helps for churches increased dramatically, especially in the area of children’s ministries.
Leadership empowerment and connections were made possible through webinars and a Facebook group for pastors, as well as a new online training opportunity with our partner, B.H. Carroll Seminary. Pastoral care for our leaders was planned and executed. Our women’s, men’s and youth teams continued to plan for the future in spite of their conferences being postponed in 2020. In the area of missions, we have been able to assist the people most affected by the COVID-19 virus — the refugees — in Lebanon, Greece, and Turkey. We have continued our missions support of church planters in Latvia and began new support in Albania in the midst of the pandemic.
Church visits, an essential investment for the general secretary, were put on hold for six months. This was a disappointment for me. Not being able to see pastors and leaders at our regular IBC conferences was also disappointing. I am grateful for the few churches that we were able to visit from the end of August to October.
Working with the IBC leadership — our presidents and core strategy directros, is the most important work I do strategically. The Executive Leadership Team members are the committed carriers and dedicated implementers of our mission to “mobilize and multiply disciple-making churches,” as well as our vision of seeing a “movement of global-minded churches that are reproducing healthy disciples, leaders, and congregations.” This year we made important decisions and took significant steps that will help us in the next year to improve our help to the churches. The ELT deserves your support and thanks.
Another team to thank is the IBC Finance Team, led by Erik Nielsen. They have done a splendid job of putting together the budget for the upcoming year by enabling our ministry priorities to be funded in spite of a “leaner” income this year.
The IBC staff continues to function well in every way. This year required agility as circumstances were in constant flux. The rapid changes to more online platforms, greater communication with our leaders, and sensitivity to “Zoom fatigue” were handled effectively. The staff also put a lot of time and energy to ensure a smooth transition of leadership. Lorraine Stringer and Judith Lynn Maxwell, our two IBC support staff members, are a treasure. They are great examples of servant leadership.
Laurie and I have walked together on this journey. I cannot express the depth of my appreciation and love for her support and care. There have been numerous times when her impact was far greater than mine in the lives of people in the IBC. She has also served faithfully alongside me in our local church through the years.
In our early days of ministry, we struggled with a “call to missions.” We agreed that God would lead us where He wanted us to go and were committed to follow His leadership. Our years in the IBC have enabled us to see and experience more than we could have imagined. God has been good to us. Although we look forward to being closer to family in the U.S., the IBC family will always have a fixed and warm place in our hearts.
You, the people who make up our IBC family, are the focus of all we do as convention leadership. As I have talked with IBC pastors and leaders I have been encouraged by the creativity and commitment around the convention. Moving to online worship services, mobilizing discipleship and ministry in new ways, and seeking to lead sheep that were widely scattered and isolated — all were significant challenges that church leaders faced and met. In the process, we made discoveries that will enable us to minister more effectively in the future as we seek God’s wisdom to put into practice lessons learned and opportunities realized.
IBC churches have carried on with their ministries effectively. Many churches reported increased participation in worship services, often reaching newcomers and others who had never participated before. Church discipleship and home groups met online through Zoom or other online platforms. Church plants found ways to move ahead even without the possibility of physical meetings. In this time of need, people who had never served in significant ways in our churches stepped up to serve. The Holy Spirit-empowered church has found new and creative ways to “be the church.”
God’s faithfulness to us during these days provides a solid assurance that He will continue His good work in and through us. Jesus’ promise to build His church and to overcome the gates of Hades is still valid. We can move forward with the same confidence that Moses expressed in his prayer, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.”