Moving toward our Mission and Vision
Moving toward our Mission and Vision
“So, then… I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.” Acts 26:19
God is at work in and through IBC churches. Getting to travel to churches almost weekly, I rejoice to see God moving in and through our churches, changing people’s lives. Many are following in believer’s baptism. They testify to the goodness of Christ and the Gospel. Last year we saw new church planters arrive on the field in places like Panama City, Panama, and Rome and Vicenza, Italy, to begin the work God has called them to pursue. This year, there are plans in numerous places to add campuses, start daughter churches, and begin other new works. Some of our new workers are starting new churches; others are helping recently planted churches to grow. I am encouraged to see that mobilizing and multiplying disciple-making churches is not just our stated mission, but it is becoming a reality in some of our churches. I appreciate the energy and vision of younger pastors who are setting a good pace in moving their churches toward church planting and person-to-person discipleship. Older pastors are also giving us good examples to follow.
Last year, our new strategy and structure were unfolded. The structure is streamlined and simplified, making it easier for leaders to build teams and make decisions. I am thankful for our five core strategy directors. Each of them deserves your thanks AND your support. They are all busy people, yet they give many hours seeking to develop our five core strategies of Multiplying Churches (Darryl Evetts), Strengthening Churches (Gary Preston), Empowering Leaders (David Fresch), Building Connections (Scott Corwin), and Developing Resources (Judith Lynn Maxwell). Along with our presidents (David Packer, Richmond Ofori, and Tim Faulkner), they are strong voices who form a visionary and complementary team.
In a recent planning meeting our Executive Leadership Team gave challenge and support to one another as each shared objectives for 2018, helping each other keep the focus on our IBC mission. Each core strategy director is seeking to accomplish much more than he or she can do alone. The vision for the future will be realized when it is shared by a growing number of leaders who connect with and are committed to the vision God has given us as a family of churches.
God is calling us forward. The word “movement” expresses our desire that not one or a few but all of us embrace God’s call to be “global-minded churches reproducing healthy disciples, leaders, and congregations.” I believe we can move toward our vision if we will hear God’s call to do three things.
1. A call to pursue God above and in everything we do — “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (Ps. 127:1). Our efforts at building and watching — creating and conserving — will either be the Lord’s doing or they will be fruitless. Activity does not equal progress or significance. The house we build and the city we watch over may even survive and thrive, but will the result be worth the effort? Only what is truly from God will remain strong and significant.
The psalmist said, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing” (Ps. 16:2). That is true self-awareness. And what is true of each of us is also true for our family of churches. Whatever we build or watch over, whatever we endeavor to do, we labor in vain unless we are pursuing and depending on the Lord.
We spent three years with a diverse team praying about and planning for the future of our family of churches. We received input from around the convention. We looked at all we were doing, trying to weigh the importance of our efforts together. Why the IBC? What was/is God’s plan for us? Our family of churches began in 1958 with two English-language U.S. military congregations in Wiesbaden and Frankfurt, Germany, with a vision to plant churches and make disciples of the nations. World events over the next 40 years helped to expand our vision and reach.
“Making disciples of all nations” is today much more a focus than before. It is God’s heart that longs for the nations of the world to hear the Gospel and to come to Christ, to join the chorus of God-worshippers awaiting the return of Christ. We see the nations/peoples of the earth coming in and out of churches in the international cities where we are located. They are international business people and students and refugees and soldiers and nationals and others. And they ALL need to hear the Good News.
But like churches in the New Testament times and throughout history, if we are not watchful we are prone to replace the Lord’s work with our own. This shift away from His mission may even go unnoticed in our busy-ness. The Laodicean church said, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But it had become “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.“ The builders were building the house without the Lord. The Lord stood on the outside knocking, inviting anyone who heard His voice to open the door and allow the Lord of the church back into His own house (Rev. 3:20). The Spirit still speaks to God’s churches, but we must be listening. He is calling us back to Himself. I hear that call in the challenges many churches are facing—problems of marriages and families, power plays in leadership, lukewarm participation in ministry, lack of harmony, decrease in conversions and baptisms, lack of generosity. All of these reflect heart problems that can only be solved as we pursue God individually and corporately.
With this in mind, we took advantage of the Lenten season to focus our praying. “Alive: A Response to the Gospel” was an IBC family-wide call to respond to God’s grace through prayer. It is recognition that we desperately need the Lord. We as leaders must lead the way in humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may lift us up in due time, casting all our cares on Him, knowing that He cares for us (1 Peter 4:5-6).
IBC leaders must lead by modeling dependence on God. Our presidents are responsible to pray for and to mobilize our churches in united prayer for one another and for our common work together. They can lead us in doing that. We cannot merely assume prayer involvement; we must practice dependence on God, pursuing God in prayer as a first priority.
2. A call to increase ownership in the IBC — We are more than independent churches that enjoy benefits of a network. IBC churches have entered into covenant with other churches — we are a covenant family. A covenant involves more than mutual obligations and benefits; it is about relationship. We are sister churches. We can do more together than we can do alone. We are autonomous but not independent churches; rather, we are utterly dependent on God; we are also interdependent—we rely on one another. If you are an IBC pastor, ask yourself how you can encourage and challenge other pastors and churches in their work.
Consumer Christianity is not only a danger in the pew; it easily creeps into the pulpit. We, too, quickly call or write or pray for one another only when a crisis arises. We, too, quickly suffer in silence, not making known struggles until the problems overwhelm or destroy us. The truth is, we need one another. God has given you to me and me to you. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church, “I have you in my heart” (Phil. 1:7). And he was certain that the believers in Corinth had him in their hearts because their prayers had helped him. Paul prayed for the Ephesian church that they would have power together with all the saints to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep” the love of Christ was (Eph. 3:18).
We are a family. Let’s own our family through friendship that leads to fellowship that leads to partnership. It is a privilege to be part of the larger movement of God. Leaders will be the ones to involve their churches in the life of our family we call the IBC. If you don’t do it, it will not get done.
3. A call to increase engagement in the IBC’s strategy — We are communicating with pastors and other leaders to get your input and cooperation to make the IBC more effective in mobilizing and multiplying. We can do more working together than we can individually. Can you picture a family of churches where its ministry was helping every church to be healthy and growing and mobilized? Can you picture a family of churches where we talk about “us” rather than “them”? Can you picture a family where pastors and leaders took ownership and then got engaged in an area of ministry that benefited other churches and in the process enjoyed the benefit of being a blessing to others?
Currently, people from less than one-third of our churches serve in some capacity on one of our ministry teams. We can do better than that. We must do better if we are going to reproduce healthy disciples, leaders, and congregations in ALL our churches. We have a strategy to do that, but it requires more of you stepping up in some capacity to serve.
Liaisons are one way you can broaden your participation and input in the larger IBC family. Has your church named your liaisons? They can help you to know what is going on through our churches and to find ways to engage. I want to express my appreciation to the churches who brought lay leaders to the Ministry Leadership Conferences in Argentina and Cyprus earlier this year. They represent the kind of greater engagement that we need. I pray your leadership teams left with a renewed vision and commitment to lead more effectively.
Our core strategy directors have shared objectives and goals as well as opportunities for you to engage. Each core strategy has room for some to serve in big and small ways. You can do something. And if we all do something, our vision will begin to become a reality.
Join us in having at least 35 of our churches directly involved in serving on one of our teams. Make it your goal for you or someone in your church to serve. Our core strategy directors will continue to share their vision and make their needs known.
Lift up your eyes and see the potential of multiplying disciples, leaders, and congregations. We can make it a movement bigger than any of us if we will all commit to do our part. If you need to know some of the opportunities to serve, let us hear from you.
The Christian life is all about movement — straining toward what is ahead and pressing on toward the goal. The verse at the top of this article was Paul’s statement of movement toward the vision God gave him. And we as a family of churches must move ahead together toward the vision God has given us. I hope you will join us.
Jimmy Martin, IBC General Secretary