God’s Vision for the IBC
As we enter the 60th year of the International Baptist Convention, we look back with gratitude. God had a vision for English-speaking churches among displaced peoples living on foreign soil. When twin brothers Herman and Herbert Stout and their families returned to Germany from Texas, they came because of vision. Ten years earlier, as 18-year-olds serving in the U.S. Army, their Sunday School program for German children grew from four to 1,000 in just two years. Back in Germany in 1958, the Stouts were convinced of the potential to reach Americans that were stationed there. Two churches were born.
The vision caught on. The two churches quickly became more than 30. By 1964, 32 churches were planted, predominantly American, military churches — 23 in Germany plus seven in France and one each in Spain and Luxembourg.
The vision spread. A new name, the European Baptist Convention, marked the next growth beyond the borders of continental Europe. God wasn’t done. Eventually this movement would settle on calling themselves “The International Baptist Convention.” By then, in 2003, there were 60 churches in 22 countries. Emirates Baptist Church International in Dubai had joined in 1997, and boundaries continued to expand as churches were welcomed from Central, South, and North America as well as Africa.
The vision has progressed for 60 years and according to the general secretary of another Baptist association: “When I consider the urgent need for the gospel and the significance of a strategic cooperative association of churches, no other international network holds as much potential for kingdom impact as the IBC. The best years for the IBC are directly ahead of you.”
I couldn’t agree more. As I visit IBC churches, I get to witness a vision that has developed into the expansion of 60 churches in 25 countries. Add to those encouraging numbers the presence of 144 nations worshipping together on any given Sunday. You cannot help but reflect on the impact of the IBC in our world today.
It was God’s vision: a family of international, English-speaking churches with significant resources to invest in serving one another to reproduce healthy disciples, leaders, and congregations. There is nothing else quite like it! In the year ahead we will find many ways to praise God for the 60 years of the IBC and renew our commitment to His vision for the next 60!