Moving Ahead … to the Glory and Praise of God
And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:9-11)
At the Annual Convention Meeting of the International Baptist Convention in October we marked our 60th anniversary as a family of churches. 2018 was also my 15th year to serve as General Secretary. At the ACM we also marked the end of the second year of our new strategy and structure.
In my report to the convention I shared a few key objectives for the coming year. We have begun our third year under a new structure and strategy. We are in a good place. We need to build on the progress we have made in our five core strategies of multiplying churches, strengthening churches, empowering leaders, building connections, and developing resources. We need to continue moving toward our mission of “mobilizing and multiplying disciple-making churches” and toward our vision of becoming a “movement of global-minded churches that are reproducing healthy disciples, leaders, and congregations.”
Our IBC logo expresses the heart of who we are. At the center is the cross. We are a family of Gospel-believing churches. Our desire is to exalt and proclaim the crucified/buried/raised/exalted/returning Christ in every IBC church and in our work together — both in what we do and in how we treat one another. The church local and universal belongs to Christ. He is building His church. As we follow Him, we can be certain that our labor is not in vain and that we can participate in a work that is bigger than any of us.
The four green pieces of the pie remind us that the life of our churches comes from Christ, who brings growth and health. We can do nothing of eternal value apart from Him. And our convention is dependent on Him if we are to accomplish anything of value to the churches. Our convention must be Christ-centered and church-focused. We exist to equip, inspire, assist, come alongside, resource, and strengthen the local church. Life and growth stem from our connectedness to each other and to Christ, our Lord.
Together the life-infused churches form a circle, a globe. We do not exist for ourselves but for Christ and the world that He loves. We are called to be global-minded churches that are making global-minded disciples. We are a small family but are part of a global family of believers and churches. Our mission is the Great Commission. Our vision is a global vision.
The C of IBC is an arrow that represents movement. It denotes our role as a convention to be a mobilizer. We exist to mobilize disciple-making churches. We want to help all our churches move toward mobilization. We define a mobilized church as a church that is filled with the presence and power of Christ, expressed in a biblical mission, clear vision, shared values, and effective strategies to impact its community and the world by reproducing disciples, leaders, and congregations. We want to assist our churches of every size, age, location, and makeup to fulfill their God-given Biblical mission. We desire to help every church to be moving toward greater health and growth and effectiveness.
Finally, our expanding lines of blue speak of multiplying. We want to see mobilized churches multiplying. We have put a renewed focus on planting new churches in strategic locations. Church planting is the most effective way to spread the Gospel to new places. We want to do all we can to inspire and assist churches to plant churches. And as it happens, we will celebrate. We are building some pathways for church planting, but we know that multiplication will happen when churches begin to plant churches that plant churches. That is a movement. Our Multiply conference following the ACM focused on churches planting churches.
The IBC is an ever-evolving group of churches. Every IBC pastor learns sooner or later that he is “pastoring a parade” as people come and go constantly with their jobs, military assignments, and visa statuses. Our pastors and leaders have mostly been expats, coming from outside their passport country. In IBC churches, learning to develop teams, to make disciples who make other disciples, and to train healthy leaders have tremendous potential to touch the world, but they are also a challenge. It is a moving target. The IBC’s new strategy, working with our ever-changing churches and leaders, is also a moving target. It is somewhat akin to building a plane while it is flying (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2zqTYgcpfg).
In this next year we intend to focus on building better and deeper relationships between church leaders and the IBC leadership. If we are going to meet needs in the churches, we need to hear from our churches what those needs are. Developing deeper relationships among leaders often makes the difference in whether or not a pastor and his family stay in a church or how healthy he remains as a leader. We belong to each other because we belong to Christ, and we need each other.
A final goal I have for the coming year is to help one another by focusing not only on the struggling churches but also on the churches that are thriving and moving in the direction of growth and health. These churches can provide inspiration, encouragement, and an example for others. They can also reach out to help struggling churches. I want to encourage our healthy churches and find ways to come alongside them in their work. They have a lot to offer our family of churches.
We want to celebrate the wins of IBC churches where health and growth are happening. We also want to share challenges.
I have asked our leadership to make the effort to know what is happening in all our churches. I will also make this more of a priority by visiting with and talking with pastors more often. But all who are leaders need to take initiative to give us feedback and let us know your needs and share your joys so we can all share in our mutual struggles and victories. We will continue to help churches to remain true to their God-given mission and purpose. If they are in need of reviving their focus we want to come alongside. Perhaps you are familiar with the life cycle of an average church. This diagram shows how churches easily move through stages similar to other living organisms.
In the IBC we have churches at every stage, from birth to growth and maturity and from maintenance to decline to death. How can we help churches to return to their first love for the Lord and renew their vision, zeal, and effectiveness in seeing people come to the Lord and make disciples? One way is to remind each other often of the purpose for which God started our churches and the mission He has given us. We want to help churches who see their need and desire help. We want to encourage thriving churches to continue to move forward and to help others who might be struggling. And we want to celebrate with you as God begins to work in new ways of revival and spiritual awakening in your church.
These are some of the objectives I will strive to accomplish in the next year. I welcome our new Presidential Leadership Team—Tim Faulkner (Naples, Italy), Nick Howard (Wiesbaden, Germany), and Nathanael Fawcett (Sao Paulo, Brazil), who will be working with me this coming year.
At the recent ACM, I also shared my future plans for retirement. I feel it is time to pass the leadership baton on to others. I have served in the IBC as general secretary for 15 years now and for 10 years before that as pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Kaiserslautern, Germany — 25 years so far. My closest friends and partners in the Gospel are in the IBC.
I am still excited about what God is doing and will do in and through the IBC. I want to leave the convention stronger than it has ever been and want to see it move ahead to more effective ministry than ever before. This is why I announced my future retirement for the end of 2020. Announcing early gives the convention two years to think about the future.
An important part of the search process is getting input from the IBC churches regarding members of the search team. We also are asking for input on important considerations such as qualifications and core competencies needed for my successor. Our written guidelines give us direction in the process, starting with the presidents naming a seven-member team. I will not name my successor but will give advice when asked and will seek to help in every way. Ideally, we will have a successor in place before I leave, with some overlap between myself and the new general secretary to allow for a healthy passing on of information and ideas.
The process began after our ACM concluded, with a letter going out to all our churches, followed by an appeal for input. We will not rush the process but want to get started as soon as possible to ensure we have a healthy, diverse team that represents the breadth of the convention. They will take input and the written guidelines that relate to the work of the general secretary to develop a profile of the person we are seeking. They will consider those inside and outside the convention to determine the best candidate. We need your prayers every step of the way as we seek God’s direction.
Meanwhile, I want to finish well. I plan to continue to serve with all the energy I have until the end of 2020. God has a future for English-language international churches. We are at the tip of the spear for Gospel penetration in the future as the world continues to become more and more international.
A paraphrase of the prayer at the top of the article is one I pray often for our family of churches and especially our leaders. It is a paraphrase of Paul’s prayer for the church in Philippi.
And this is my prayer, that our love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Goals for 2018-2019
- Making progress in each of our core strategies
- Developing deeper relationships between church leaders and IBC leadership
- Placing greater focus on helping all our churches to make progress toward the mission, vision, and values we share.