Victories and Promises Fulfilled but not without Struggles
“Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive… So here I am today, eighty-five years old! … I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hilly country that the LORD promised me that day … the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” (Joshua 14:10-12)
Caleb is one of my biblical heroes, especially as I get older in life. He recognized that God was faithful to fulfill all His promises. He was also willing and eager to claim those promises even when he knew there was struggles ahead of him. He built on a solid foundation of experiencing God’s faithfulness in the past. He did not let age keep him from pursuing new ventures. He would trust in the Lord as he pursued God’s future for him with all its challenges and opportunities.
I am reflecting on some of the ministry opportunities and challenges I have been involved with these past months and those coming up in the next few weeks. IBC churches, like churches everywhere, experience times of celebration and victory but never without significant struggles. Someone once told me about trials, “Every person has either just come out of a trial or is in the midst of a trial or will soon be going through one.” It is true for each of us, and it is true in our churches, both young and old. Knowing the ultimate end as a believer brings us hope and confidence that “our labor is not in vain.” Knowing that God is with us and for us and in us brings us comfort and strength and even joy in the midst of trials. We have every reason to be realistically positive.
Early in July my home church, ICF Oberursel, Germany, hosted for the second year “Champions in Life,” a soccer camp aimed at ministering to refugee children and youth, as well as Germans and other internationals. Many in our church helped with the camp. Afterward, we hosted a celebration meal at the church, giving us an opportunity to show love to the families of those who participated. A week later, we showed a movie about the life of Jesus in several languages. I was not able to participate during the week but was very proud of how our church demonstrated love to the community. I was part of the prayer team and know that a lot of people put in a lot of effort to make the ministry effective.
At the same time the camp was starting, I was privileged to visit IBC Zürich, Switzerland, as it welcomed its new pastor and wife, Bob and Daniela Weniger. The Wenigers have served a number of international churches around the world, most recently in Malaysia. The church is poised to move ahead, having been helped tremendously by the excellent leadership of an interim couple, Jim and Anne McVicar.
Immediately after our visit to Zürich, Laurie and I took part in EuroVenture, the IBC Youth Camp in Grindelwald, Switzerland. More than 200 youth and sponsors were challenged to live holy lives as followers of Christ. The Gospel was presented clearly. Breakout sessions spoke to the needs of youth. As a result, many of the youth made first-time commitments to Christ; others made significant spiritual decisions. The team of leaders and sponsors put in many hours before, during, and after the camp praying, planning, organizing, implementing, ministering, and evaluating. Victory followed struggles.
The next Sunday I visited Waypoint Christian Church, Kaiserslautern, Germany, a church planted several years ago by Frontline Community Church, Ramstein, Germany. Waypoint, led by Mike and Jen Walk, has grown to the point of being eager to move out of the movie theatre where they worship to find a place where they can do weekday ministry more effectively. Their focus of ministry mirrors the IBC’s mission of making disciples — to “encourage and lead families and the community to pursue an authentic relationship with Jesus.”
The following Sunday, I celebrated with Pastor David and Lana Packer and IBC Stuttgart, Germany, as they broke ground on their new church building that will allow them to improve the quality of their programming and reach more people for the glory of God. It was a day of joy. The church knows that the days ahead will be challenging and will demand church-wide sacrifice to see the vision fulfilled. I believe they are up to the challenge because they are looking to the Lord to complete what He has started.
The next Sunday we visited IBC Cologne, Germany, and its new church plant, IBC Bonn. Pastor David and Kristin Martin are leading the church to move beyond itself. They are a beautiful example of the IBC vision of seeing a “movement of global-minded churches that are reproducing healthy disciples, leaders, and congregations.” The new church, which plans to launch publicly on 16 September, has a vision to reach internationals in this strategic city of Germany. They already have a strong core team. IBC Cologne has gone through significant struggles to get to the point where they are now. Like Caleb, they are depending on the Lord’s help.
By the time you read this, I will also have visited Il Faro IBC in Naples, Italy and IBC Berlin, Germany. Both churches reflect the IBC mission of “mobilizing and multiplying disciple-making churches.” Tim and Jacki Faulkner have served in Naples for a number of years. Tim is not only training disciples and elders but is currently working with Danilo Bozza with the hope of passing the baton of leadership to him in a few years. Scott and Laurie Corwin in Berlin have been faithful to expand the church’s mission vision. The church is involved locally and around the world.
Bethel IBC, Frankfurt, Germany, is celebrating its 60th anniversary as a church. At the same time, they are re-launching as Multination Church. The church has seen wonderful days of effective ministry and challenging days of struggles, particularly as they transitioned from being a mostly U.S.-military congregation for many years to becoming an international church in the 1990s. The church changed its meeting place and is currently meeting in the heart of Frankfurt. The ministry of the church is growing in the city, around the country, in Europe, and beyond. I appreciate Pastor Rodrigo Assis da Silva’s visionary leadership and their passion to reach out beyond themselves to others. The new name reflects their mission and vision as a church.
We are currently working with several struggling churches in the IBC. These churches are seeking to move ahead after significant decline in recent years. They are being helped by interim pastors who are working with them to move forward toward growth and health. We are praying and working with them as they pursue God’s future.
Such is life in the IBC. Caleb’s faith and faithfulness set a good course of life for each of us and each of our churches. A few applications to consider:
- God is most glorified when we give him our WHOLE lives THROUGHOUT our lives. What a testimony when we start and finish well. God knows the transitions and other challenges we are facing and will face. Being faithful is a “plodding” experience of living one day at a time, day after day.
- Dependence on the Lord is the only way to live. It is key to meeting present challenges and opportunities. It is key to facing past failures and successes. It is key to facing the future, which He alone knows fully. As our dear friend Bob Marsh pointed out in a recent Highlights article, we cannot keep from getting older but we never have to get old. People and churches that are depending on the Lord for vision and effectiveness in ministry have a bright future.
- God is our Helper. He never calls us to do anything or go anywhere but that He also promises to be with us, to enable us. He promises His grace to help in our time of need. As the hymn says, our faithful God offers “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”
- There is no victory without struggle. This world is no friend to God’s work or God’s people. Our struggle is not only against “flesh and blood.” We have an enemy who is always seeking to “steal, kill, and destroy.” BUT God is on our side. Our battles are His battles. We may find ourselves in situations far beyond what we are capable of handling, but He will enable us to endure… and to come out as “more than conquerors” in the end. And HE is our end!
- We are not alone. Joshua blessed Caleb in his decision to take Hebron. The “men of Judah” were with Caleb in his venture for the future. Two of our core values are fellowship and partnership. I love the way many of our pastors and churches have committed to “being there” for others. Churches planting churches; pastors mentoring and coaching other pastors; believers encouraging one another. “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable from him” was a wonderful decision of God for Adam. It is also a truth for each and all of us.
God has been faithful to our family of churches for 60 years! I am convinced He has a bright future for the IBC and its churches. With Him as our Helper and with each other as fellow-strugglers and pilgrims on the path, we will “drive out” whatever hinders God’s future for us.
Jimmy Martin, General Secretary