Core Values-Why We Do What We Do
By Jimmy Martin, IBC General Secretary
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
Can you remember when people still used maps? For the benefit of those who were born in this century, a map is defined as “a diagrammatic representation of an area of land or sea showing physical features, cities, roads, etc.” Maps helped people go from point A to point B. I have never been great at following maps. Today, we don’t use maps; we use GPS (Global Positioning System), referred to in Germany as a “navi.” For those of you still living in the last century, a GPS is “a space-based navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites.” Laurie and I have a navi. Her (its) name is Gretchen. Gretchen tells us how to get from point A to point B and warns us if there are problems like heavy traffic on the way. She corrects us when we make a wrong turn. We are usually lost without Gretchen. She keeps us on track.
The IBC’s core values help us to stay on track. They drive our decisions and ministries. With the Bible as the authoritative guide for all we believe and practice, there are certain values that enable us to live and serve together in the most effective, God-honoring way. They are the soul of our family of churches. If a church is considering whether or not to join us, our values should be compatible and embraced because incompatible values will eventually invite conflict and/or inaction. Our values keep us together. They guide us. They correct us. What are the IBC’s Core Values?
• We value Fellowship. We believe that community among Christ-followers facilitates encouragement, prayer, edification, and accountability. We believe that Christian friendships develop when we take the time and effort to share our joys, sorrows, and challenges. (1 Thess. 5:14, Gal. 6:2)
We are not independent churches but rather self-governing churches that are utterly dependent on God and interdependent on one another. This is our choice. We choose to carry one another’s burdens, encourage one another, warn one another, and help one another because we care about one another. This does not happen accidentally but only when we choose to get to know one another personally.
Not long ago a member in one of our churches died suddenly. The church informed us, and we informed other IBC churches. We stepped in to help because it is what family does. Koinonia is the Greek word for fellowship. At its root is what we have “in common.” Every church is unique but there is more that unites us than divides us as followers of Christ, and we can celebrate what we hold in common.
• We value Church Planting. We believe that every church should be involved in some way in helping to start new congregations. We desire to expand our reach to strategic places around the world where the Gospel is needed. (Acts 1:8, Matt. 28:18-20)
The IBC started as a church-planting movement in the late 1950s. We believe that the local church is God’s most strategic weapon in the battle for good and against evil. It is key to world evangelism. Every IBC church, whatever its size or location, can be involved in efforts to multiply disciple-making congregations.
Whenever the IBC family comes together, we discuss how we can start new churches. Through the planting of English-speaking churches around the world, we are seeing people reached who were not reached before. Not long ago Laurie and I visited one of our newest churches — Frontline City Church in Kaiserslautern, Germany. This daughter church to Frontline Community Church in Ramstein, Germany, is reaching out to the Kaiserslautern military community in a fresh way. Recently our church planting teams (we call them LEAD teams) conducted feasibility studies in Frankfurt, Munich, and Mannheim, Germany; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We hope to match God-called planters to these and other strategic places in the near future.
• We value Diversity. Since Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations, we celebrate that people from many nations and cultures come together in our churches. We believe that our diversity expresses the creativity and eternal plan of God. (Gen. 12:3, Rev. 7:9-10)
I regularly hear churches describe their fellowship as unique. They then usually tell me about the mosaic of people from around the world who make up their fellowship. They describe their worship as “a foretaste of heaven.” Our churches ARE different, and we celebrate that diversity as a gift from God. Recently I counted five nationalities on the worship team at ICF Oberursel, Germany, on a particular Sunday. That is not unusual in our IBC family. Many of our churches have more than 40 or 50 nationalities among their members. Diversity brings it challenges, but boredom is not one of them.
The IBC currently has pastors that come from 10 different countries and many more denominational backgrounds. Our pastors differ in age, experience, gifts, leadership styles, and personalities. In humility, we learn from each other as we bring together our diverse family.
• We value Unity. The unity of the Spirit among our churches exhibits the oneness of all believers in Christ. We will seek to work out differences that may arise because we believe the power of the Gospel to unite us is stronger than the power of our enemy to divide us. (John 17:20-23, Eph. 2:19-22)
A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God writes, “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow.” Christ unites us. He is the barrier breaker. To be united to Him is to be united to each other.
Our mission of “mobilizing and multiplying disciple-making churches” and our vision of becoming“a movement of global-minded churches that are reproducing healthy disciples, leaders, and congregations” also unite us. It is a mission and vision larger than any single church, requiring a common commitment and a common dependence on the Holy Spirit’s leadership in each of us and among all of us.
• We value Healthy Churches. Because we believe that the local church is God’s primary means of presenting the Gospel and establishing His kingdom, we will seek to help churches achieve their unique, disciple- making mission in relevant and effective ways. (Acts 2:42-47, 1 Thess. 1:2-10)
In the same way that a healthy body is desirable for productivity, quality of life, and happiness, so God desires for every church to be healthy. Church health is not a matter of size or wealth or education or age or giftedness; it is a matter of genuine love and commitment to people and to the mission of God.
A healthy church is a mobilized church. A mobilized church may be defined as a church “that has a shared vision and effective strategies for impacting its community and the world by reproducing healthy disciples, leaders, and congregations.” Healthy, mobilized churches will make an impact where they are and beyond.
Every church has problems, struggles, and conflict at some point, but a healthy church is able to confront its challenges together. It is able to put Christ and His mission above all other agendas and preferences. A healthy church is characterized by joy and belief that God is at work in and through its members.
We value helping churches that are unhealthy to become healthy and also encouraging and assisting healthy churches to remain healthy. I recently visited an IBC church that in the past had been very unhealthy — members accusing one another, lack of a common vision or strategy, and a spirit of competition and divisiveness. Today the church, through effective leadership, is healthy and growing and happy. Its members support each other. The church has a common vision to impact its community. And people hang around after worship services to encourage and enjoy one another’s company. Needs are being met. People are coming to Christ. Others are joining. They are making a difference.
• We value Partnership. We believe that working together with other churches to reach common goals enriches churches. Every church has something to offer. We also believe in connecting with other Christ-following groups. We can achieve more in this way than working independently of one another. We believe that cooperation is a gift of God. (Phil. 1:3-11, Eccl. 4:9)
Our type of cooperation has been described as a “rope of sand with the strength of steel.” True partnership in the Gospel cannot be forced or mandated. It can only be encouraged and bought into because of common beliefs and aspirations. Partnership does not diminish the autonomy of any local church but rather it expands every church’s effectiveness through voluntary commitment. Partnership is a bond with strength that is not easily broken.
Partnership is more than nominally belonging; it is active, meaningful participation with others for a greater cause. We believe that every church in the IBC should see itself as a partner in the Gospel with other churches in the IBC. Together with fellowship, partnership links us in both friendship and mission.
This year we ended a four-year partnership with the Baptist Union of Moldova. I believe we are a stronger family of churches because of this partnership. We gave a lot and received a lot. IBC churches worked together with Moldovan churches to minister to hurting people and reach them with the Gospel. One of our IBC strategies is “building connections.”
Aubrey Malphurs, in his book Advanced Strategic Planning, defines core values as “the constant, passionate, biblical core beliefs that go deep and really, truly empower and guide the ministry.” Read the biblical text printed above. You will find some of the core beliefs of the early church. The IBC core values are beliefs that empower and guide our work together. I pray that these values will not only be aspirational but actual values for us as we work together to “mobilize and multiply disciple-making churches.”
Serving with you,