Celebrating Our Core Values of Fellowship, Partnership

Jun 1, 2017

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea.  I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.  Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me.  Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.  (Rom. 16:1-4)

During our March Ministry Leadership Conference near Athens we had the rare privilege of visiting the ruins of the ancient city of Corinth.  Leaving from Athens we traveled through Corinth’s eastern port, Cenchrea.  Two busloads of pastors and wives, other leaders, and a few children enjoyed “walking where Paul walked.”  We saw the remains of a city that in Paul’s day was famous for some things and infamous for others.  It was a city where the Gospel took root, and a thriving church, not without its problems, was the result.

Paul was probably in Corinth when he wrote to the Romans.  He likely had Phoebe to deliver the letter for him.  He takes the time to acknowledge, accept, and affirm her to the Romans.  He also brings greetings to friends — more than 25 by name — starting with Priscilla and Aquila, “my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,” who in some way “risked their lives” for Paul.  Paul regularly acknowledged people with whom he ministered, and he did it publicly… by name. He knew the importance and joy of fellowship and partnership among God’s servants.

Although a major focus of our MLC each year is to empower leaders and provide biblical instruction and learning for ministry, we also cultivate and experience the benefits of fellowship and partnership.  I am grateful to the Empowering Leaders team for carrying the weight this year.  David Fresch, EL director, led with the help of Werner Swart, the Executive Leadership Team, and the IBC staff. Thanks for a job well done.

We are already thinking about next year’s MLC.  It is our hope that more lay leaders in the church — elders, deacons, and others — will join us.  This year, of the more than 110 adults who attended, we had 30 who were not IBC pastors and wives. Some were guests, but at least 16 were lay leaders in IBC churches.  I hope we can work together to have more of our church leaders to join us.

Among the values we celebrate when “servants of the church” get together are fellowship and partnership.  With this year’s theme, “Healthy Leaders/Healthy Churches,” the plenary sessions focused on soul care, the importance of leaders maintaining a close walk with the Lord to be emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and physically healthy.  “Healthy leaders build healthy churches.”  Beyond the formal times of teaching and breakout sessions with discussion, we enjoyed fellowship as we met together, ate together, prayed together, and talked about life together.  Friendships were made.  Bonds were built that will encourage and strengthen us in the future.  Partnerships were forged organically.  Churches decided to work together.  Information was shared.  In a word, family happened.

Among the greatest benefits of belonging to the IBC family are the opportunities for fellowship and partnership.  Over the years, I have seen many pastors and wives and other leaders come and go.  All face difficulties of loneliness in ministry, challenges in their churches, family issues near and far.  Sharing with one another in the presence of the Lord gives us courage and strength to face life’s difficulties. Kindling fellowship and partnerships between leaders and churches is vital.

Just as Paul recognized the importance of people with whom he served, I want to take some space to give a “shout out” to the many people who attended the conference because they are a great value to the Lord’s work.  They are a treasure to the people they serve and to me. I commend them all.  While sharing, I may steal a little of the Apostle Paul’s wording.

First, our pastors and wives.  Paul and Kathy Arneson are the new pastor and wife in Sofia, Bulgaria.  They are already making a difference in that strategic city.  William and Helen Colledgehave served faithfully in Zürich for three years. They will be missed when they move back to South Africa in July.  Roland and Hanlie Eskinazi, who are deeply committed to growing the church in Brussels, are also South Africans.  Tim and Jacki Faulkner are doing a great job of serving in Naples and working with Danilo Bozza in a succession process to secure the church’s future effectiveness.  I appreciate the work of these Neapolitans.

David and Scottie Fresch continue to serve in Stavanger, Norway.  They have led the church in the “best and worst of times.”  David grew up in the church he now pastors.  He is full of energy and zeal.  David and Tiffany Hamburger have been a breath of fresh air in Antwerp, Belgium. They represent a growing number of younger leaders in the IBC.  The church is growing in health and size under David’s leadership.  Jeff and Cindy Hinman continue to serve God’s people in Düsseldorf, Germany.  They have helped the church through some challenges, including a fire that devastated the education and children’s building.  Bob and Debbie Hnat lead two churches in Celle and Hannover, Germany. They have been tested and approved in Christ through service of almost 20 years in those locations.  Bob is the first person I met in the IBC; he served as chairman of the committee that called me as pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Kaiserslautern, Germany, 24 years ago.

Likewise Dave and Cathy Hodgdon have proved themselves to be faithful. They are true missionaries in the great city of Rome and are diligent servants to those who live and visit. Carsten and Melanie Lotz, Oberursel, Germany, are serving faithfully in spite of health issues.  They inspire others with their growing family of boys.  Carsten is my pastor.  Jeremy and Christina Woods are recently married.  Jeremy serves in Oberursel as Associate Pastor of Family Ministries.  He is doing a great job in a new field of ministry.  Bob and Carol Marsh are the dedicated, inspirational couple that planted Converge International Fellowship in Darmstadt, Germany.  They have done a great job of establishing this church that is committed to planting other churches.

David and Kristen Martin came to Cologne, Germany, as youngsters and have also proven themselves to be faithful.  Erik and Kim Nielsen, dear friends, continue to serve the Lord and His people in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Their close family and faithfulness during trying times of illness in recent days inspire many others and me. Gary and Suzanne Preston are a delight to many as they serve in Ramstein, Germany.  They have taken a thriving church plant to even greater health and strength, already planting a second church and looking at their next church plant. Alongside them are Josh and Teri Ramsay, also serving diligently in Ramstein, who delighted us with their new baby, Addie, in tow. Also connected to the Frontline Community Church are Mike and Jennifer Walk, who bravely stepped out over a year ago to plant Frontline City Church in Kaiserslautern, Germany.  A fourth couple from Frontline is Chris and Jeanine Carson, who served previously in Rota, Spain, but have been serving as pastoral interns in Ramstein for the last year.  They are a precious couple.

Dave and Gillian Stemmett have served in the IBC for a number of years, currently serving faithfully in Leidschendam, The Netherlands.  They are part of the growing South African contingent of pastors and wives. Taylor and Lydia Whitley both serve on staff in Stuttgart, Germany. They have brought youthful zeal to us.  Brian and Pearl Williams are newcomers to IBC Vienna, Austria. They are both involved in Christian ministry beyond the church also.  Parker and Kyrah Windle are indeed newlyweds, serving in Paris, France.  Parker has a vision to plant an additional church in the city of love, light, and romance. Serving alongside Parker and Kyrah are Justin and Rachel Hendricks, also young adults who are serving effectively.

Nick and Susan Howard are relatively new to the IBC, serving effectively in Wiesbaden, Germany. They bring a wealth of experience in ministry, having served as missionaries in the country previously.  Barry and Jeannie Cole are recent pastor and wife in Aviano, Italy, but not new to the IBC, having served effectively as associate pastor in Stuttgart, Germany.  Scott and Sandy Chadwick are serving IBC, Munich, Germany.  We are thankful for their faithful service and leadership now, and previously in Bulgaria.  Although Scott had to leave for a family funeral just before the MLC, he was with us in spirit.  Richmond and Esther Ofori, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, serve in the church where Richmond came to faith in Christ.

Dan and Sharon Maxton, interim pastor and wife in Budapest, Hungary, are a delightful couple — full of energy, wisdom, and humor.  Gerhard and Joan Venter came to Bratislava, Slovakia, after many years of effective service in South Africa.  They are leading the church in a steady, effective way.  Doug and Yvonne Johns, serve in Bielefeld, Germany.  Doug ran two half-marathons in the last month, at age 65.  We salute you, Doug!   Bill and Naty Tully, IBC Bucharest, came with their two daughters, Mina and Bella.  They have served in Bucharest for many years.  The last year has been exceptionally trying, with Bill’s heart illness and going through the adoption process for the girls. Through it all, they have served faithfully.

Several pastors whose wives were not able to come to the MLC, include Scott Corwin, Jürgen Ferrary, Werner Swart, Nathanael Fawcett, Kristian Bak, and Tim Melton.  My dear friend Scott serves with Laurie in Berlin.  IBC Berlin recently planted a new congregation in Berlin.  It was a delight to have Bruce and Mary Boeckel, new church planters, with us. Juergen and his wife, Alex, serve with Scott and Laurie in Berlin.  (And yes, his last name is Ferrary).  Werner and Adel Swart have brought a burst of spiritual energy to the IBC church in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Nathanael, along with his wife, Julie, has served for many years in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but only recently as lead pastor and wife.  Nathanael has a tender heart for God and for people. Kristian serves as assistant pastor in Aalborg, Denmark, along with his wife, Kylene.   Tim Melton currently serves as associate pastor at Immanuel, Madrid, Spain, along with his wife, Paola.  Tim will become pastor of the church in September when the current pastor, David Dixon, retires.

Paul Grinyer, dear fellow worker, serves in Bremen, Germany.  Paul is guiding the church toward new levels of leadership and effectiveness.  Our dear brother in Christ, Gilbert van Bueren, was able to join us this year.  As he mourns the death of his wife, Diny, he continues to serve the Lord faithfully.  Tested and approved.  My dear friend Lee Hanson continues to lead Koinonia church in Aalborg, Denmark.  Lee may be the funniest person I know.  He is also a faithful shepherd to a church made up mostly of young adults.

It was wonderful to have lay leaders from IBC churches.  Benny, Cristi, and Julie Stan, and Emma Tita came from IBC Copenhagen.  They served on the team that led our worship in music.    Stewart and Judith Lynn Maxwell serve as leaders in Darmstadt, Germany. They have served the church since its beginning and also led Bible studies in Darmstadt before the church was planted.  Pete and Vierka Miller have served as leaders in the Bratislava church for many years.  They regularly attend our MLC.  Pete is on a campaign to bring more lay leaders to our meetings.  Go for it, Pete!  Nicole Faulkenberry came with the Howards from Wiesbaden, Germany, where she serves as an intern.  I am glad she was able to meet the IBC family.

No MLC list would be complete without Lorraine Stringer, who not only serves as the IBC administrative assistant but is also a key leader at Bethel IBC in Frankfurt, Germany.  Lolly Raja, who came with the Oforis from Rotterdam, serves faithfully in the church.  Sam and Desireé Dyer, along with their precious kids, Ezra and Salem, from ICF Oberursel, Germany, are working with refugees in the Frankfurt area.  I love this family.  Hans-Joachim and Alexandra Rieger, from IBC Hamburg, are faithful servants there, having served in Africa for a number of years.  They have a heart for the world.

Special guests attending this year included Jim, Joy, and Katelynn Crockett, who were visiting from Oslo IBC of Sandvika, Norway.  David Simon, a lay leader in the church, also was there.  The Oslo church has ministered faithfully for many years and has had some interaction with the IBC.  We were honored to have them.  Earl Evans was a guest this year, unlike other years when he and Delma have attended as interim pastor and wife of several IBC churches.  Earl has worked very hard for us and is deeply loved.  Eric and Nicole McCrorey shared time with us as visitors of Bob and Carol Marsh.  Nicole is the Marsh’s daughter. They serve the Lord in the USA.

In addition, our speakers blessed us as they gave of themselves in teaching, counseling, and coaching.  They all came with servant hearts and deserve our thanks.  Bob and Myra Marsh are deeply loved encouragers, mentors, and friends to everyone in the IBC. To paraphrase Paul the Apostle, “not only I but all the churches of the IBC are grateful to them.”  Our friends from Missional International Church Network, Ken and Melanie Driedger and Warren Reeve, graciously shared from their hearts, giving counsel and encouragement.  Martin Sanders and Ingrid Davis, from Global Leadership, Inc., were also a blessing to the group as they spoke into our lives and spent time with many who had questions.

Along with Laurie and myself, Darryl and Debra Evetts were also present.  These dear friends have served in the IBC for many years, most recently spurring on our church planting movement while living in San Antonio.  Darryl led our Multiply conference that followed the MLC.   Tested and approved in Christ.  Finally, it was a thrill to have Loren and Alaina Holland, who are “almost IBCers” as they complete their support-raising in preparation for moving to Rome to serve at Rome International Church.

Paul concludes the book of Romans giving praise to God:  Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ… so that all nations might believe and obey him—to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ.  Amen. The names Paul listed in Romans 16 were precious saints to him, and the ones listed here are precious to me… and you.  I give the glory to God but am thankful for His people.

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