“I am Making Everything New”
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. … He who sits on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Rev. 21:1, 5)
Our faith is a hopeful faith. Hope motivates us as we minister in a world that is so far removed from what it could be…. as we serve in churches that struggle to be what they should be…. as we ourselves fall short of what we are called to be. The IBC is not yet what we want it to be. But we do not lose hope because we know that the One who sits on the throne of heaven offers hope and help. The NEW is coming! Every life transformed by the Gospel is a life eternally changed. Every church is a trophy of God’s grace and brings the message of hope in Christ, an eternal hope. Christ is building His Church one person at a time. His Gospel never changes, but we must constantly seek to minister in new ways that enable us to present the Gospel most effectively because we are looking for “a new heaven and a new earth.”
I view my role as General Secretary as leading the mission and vision of the IBC. I aim to lead in the areas of strategic thinking and planning and to lead our team of leaders in the Convention to think and act strategically. We do this prayerfully and with a view that we are utterly dependent on God and mutually dependent on one another. The reason I believe I can focus on this kind of leadership is that I work with a great team of leaders and because we can dare to hope for the future.
For the past three years, our Strategy Team worked, with input from IBC pastors and other leaders, to consider God’s mission and vision for us, to identify core values for our work together, and then to seek to reshape our structure and strategy to accomplish what God is calling us to. That is a big assignment because it involves change, and change is never easy, especially when it involves many people. Having named our five core strategies that we believe will best enable us to accomplish the mission and vision God has for us, we needed to name directors or leaders for those five strategies.
God has helped us. We made a good start at our Annual Convention Meeting in October as we discussed and made decisions about the future. We looked at a new budget that reflects our strategy. We looked at a new constitution and operations manual that reflect the structure and strategy, mission, vision, and core values. (You can see all this and more at our newly designed website, www.ibc-churches.org).
Perhaps the greatest challenge is not behind us but before us. A part of that challenge is to communicate the directions and decisions we believe God is leading us toward in such a way that you — the IBC family — will decide to commit to play your part in working together to accomplish what cannot be accomplished by a few. As pastors, leaders, and church members we are all busy. We have to choose carefully and wisely the commitments we make. Each of us must decide where he or she can contribute best. At the October meeting we heard from our core strategy directors. They have been praying and planning for the future. They shared some of their ideas about moving ahead. Now they need your prayers. They need your support. They need your personal involvement if we are to accomplish the mission and vision God has given us. They are building their teams, and you can be involved in some way.
I believe God is calling us to have a greater impact locally where IBC churches are located and also globally. As international churches scattered in more than 25 countries of the world, with people from well more than a hundred countries represented, we have an opportunity to impact the world in a significant way. People with “many faces” are coming from “many places” with many different personal and spiritual backgrounds and need to hear and learn and worship and grow. Then they are going to the ends of the earth to live and work and minister. The world is at our doorsteps as international churches and military congregations. We are located in strategic places.
As a family of churches, we believe the local church to be the “tip of the spear” as we battle to extend God’s kingdom and spread the Gospel. Strong, healthy, growing, global-minded churches led by strong, healthy, growing, global-minded leaders that are focused on God’s agenda and doing it together are the means God has chosen for Gospel penetration around the world. No one church can do it all or do it alone. Nor are we so prideful to think that we as a family of churches are the only or the best ones accomplishing this task of world evangelization. Rather we see ourselves as partners with many, many others around the world, each of us doing our part in cooperation with others and, more importantly, in step with God’s Spirit and His Word for the glory of the “One seated on the throne… who is making all things new.”
Mission: “We exist to mobilize and multiply disciple-making churches.”
A mobilized church is a healthy church, a church united to accomplish the mission God has given it. Our call as churches is to make disciples—loving, learning, lifelong, loyal followers of Christ. We want to multiply those kinds of churches. The IBC will not make disciples—only churches can do that. But we can help to strengthen and empower and undergird the work of planting and building disciple-making churches.
Many of our churches are struggling. They need encouragement and sometimes assistance to recapture the dream God has for them, to plan prayerfully for the future so they can be mobilized to reach people with the Gospel and make disciples. I plead with our leaders and churches to embrace the vision as your own and commit to praying for and doing your part as we join in God’s mission for us. I invite friends of the IBC to pray and support us as you are able.
Vision: “We envision a movement of global-minded churches reproducing healthy disciples, leaders, and congregations.”
If we were to accomplish the mission God has given, what would that look like? As we look at the future, we envision not just a few churches with great impact, making a difference, but a movement of churches. We want every IBC church to be strategic and effective. We see God moving us ahead as a family of churches that has the world on our hearts. We have an incentive to embrace the world since we come from around the world, but we all know how easy it is for churches to become consumed with themselves and lose the dream. We want to encourage one another not to let our own challenges, struggles, preferences, and ministries cause us to miss the heart of God, which is for the whole world.
With that in mind, I pray we will develop disciples who are World Christians—committed to going, giving, and sending people to the ends of the earth. Churches and the disciples they make will only be as healthy as the leaders who lead them. And leaders will only be as healthy as their personal relationship to Christ. A focus for us will be to help provide opportunities to train and encourage and assist pastors and other leaders to grow in their relationship with Christ and to grow in their effectiveness as leaders to be spiritual, global-minded, humble leaders of God’s people. And this is not just for some of us; our vision is to embrace all of our leaders to be mobilizing and multiplying leaders.
f we want to see God use us a family of churches, we need to treasure certain core values. With Scripture as our guide for all we believe and do, how can we best relate to each other so that a movement becomes reality for us rather than a dream?
Core Values—Fellowship, Partnership, Church Planting, Strong Churches, Diversity, and Unity.
There are more than 1,000 international English-language churches scattered around the world—all shapes and sizes, different denominations and non-denominations. We are thankful for the privilege of working with other churches and groups around the world. The IBC is a family of churches. We have chosen not to be independent but to recognize our utter dependence on God and our interdependence on one another.
If we are to make progress as a family we need to cultivate, encourage, and hold each other accountable to certain core values. I challenge you to embrace our core values. Make them your own. Determine to practice them as we serve together. Let me share them in pairs.
Fellowship and Partnership — I have served in the IBC for almost 24 years, 10 as a pastor and 14 as general secretary. I have seen many leaders come and go, even churches come and go. IBC life and ministry can be lonely. It challenges us all. I believe a key to maintaining and persevering is building deep personal relationships in the family. As I have heard Denton Lotz, former Baptist World Alliance General Secretary, say several times, “We belong to each other because we belong to Christ.” We need to work at fellowship in the IBC family just as surely as you need to spend time together in your own family. Our times together need to be times of sharing and praying and encouraging one another. And we need to build on those times of fellowship so we can partner together as leaders and as churches. There are things we can accomplish better together than we can separately. Just as the “one another” passages in the New Testament are important to the health of your church, they are also important to us as a family of churches. Partnership, working together for the sake of the Gospel, needs to become more natural to all of us.
Church Planting and Strong Churches — We have put a focus on church planting for some time now. We have developed resources, a strategy, and a system that we believe will result in multiplying churches if we will all embrace it. One of the healthiest things a pastor and a church can do is to be involved in planting a new church. It helps us to look beyond ourselves and invest in kingdom growth. I pray that one day every IBC church will be able to say, “Here is a church we are planting or helping to plant or praying to plant.” Our LEAD teams give every pastor an opportunity to be involved in church planting. If we are to multiply, it will take all of us. We need new churches to shine the light of Christ. We can all help with encouraging and supporting our church planting efforts.
But we dare not neglect the churches we already have—some that are struggling, discouraged, perhaps plateaued, or declining. Churches that are healthy today can be struggling tomorrow. Leading a church in a healthy way is not an easy task. Sustaining that health is a challenge. I am very eager to see our ReFresh process continue to take root in churches around the IBC. I think it is healthy for every church to take a look at its mission and vision every few years to see if there are changes that need to be made, if there are things you need to start doing or stop doing, if there is a need to expand or shrink ministries. There are some encouraging things happening in churches that have gone through that process. We want to encourage strength and health in all our churches. If your church is healthy, what can you do to continue in health? If your church is struggling, what might God want you to do? If your church is declining or toxic in some way, what can you do to cooperate with the Spirit to nurture a more healthy spirit and life in your church?
Diversity and Unity — The IBC is scattered in more than 25 countries. Our churches have internationals and nationals in them. They have students and business people and their families. They have diplomats in them. They have refugees. They have military personnel and their families in them. We have all these and in different proportions. We have churches of less than 20 and more than 750. As I visit IBC churches, I see things we share in common and things that make each church unique. We have common struggles and characteristics but each church is, and should be, unique in some ways. We accept and celebrate that.
We have people from all over the world in our churches. We have pastors from North and South America, north and South Africa, Europe and the UK. Our backgrounds are different—we have different stripes of Baptists. We have pastors who do not come from Baptist backgrounds. Our church members come from dozens of denominational backgrounds and some with no church background. We don’t have to fear diversity; we can celebrate it. In addition to our common language, we have a lot that holds us together—principles like a missionary church, congregational government, believer’s baptism, a commitment to Scripture, local church autonomy, the necessity of rebirth for every person, and other evangelical distinctives. We have a common statement of faith that we call our “Summary of Basic Beliefs.” We hold both our unity and diversity as treasures.
Under our new structure, we have identified five core strategies that reflect our mission and vision. These five core strategies are focused on priority ministries:
- Multiplying Churches
- Strengthening Churches
- Building Connections
- Empowering Leaders
- Developing Resources
The new structure is streamlined, efficient, and participative. It will help us to make decisions quickly by those tasked with ministry. It also offers an opportunity for churches and leaders to be involved in their areas of giftedness and passions.
Finally, let’s never forget that God works in our lives and in our churches in proportion to our prayers. In His sovereignty, God has chosen to act when His people pray, and He often does not act until we pray. We have planned and discussed and strategized. We have restructured and reorganized. And we have done so prayerfully. But now the living out of the dream commences. We need God’s blessing and guidance and power if anything we do is going to have eternal value. We must not neglect prayer. We must pray. We need to be a family of churches that prioritizes prayer. We must pray. As we pray, God will do a new thing.
Please pray with us and pray for us.
Serving with you,
Jimmy Martin, General Secretary