by Jimmy Martin
Who is the IBC?
“Who do people say I am?”… “Who do you say I am?”
The Gospel of Mark centers on the question of Jesus’ identity. A key question of the book is, “Who do you say I am?” After spending time with Jesus, hearing His teaching and watching His actions, Peter answers for himself and the other disciples, “You are the Christ” (8:28-29). Later, an unexpected confession comes from a Roman soldier who observes Jesus’ death: “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (15:39).
Since Jesus is the One who founded the church, His identity is tied to that of His followers. The term “Christian” tied the early followers of Jesus to Him. So it is for us. We are the church of Christ. Our identity, our stories, our very existence are inseparably linked to Him. He is unique! By belonging to Him, so are we!
Who is the IBC? The IBC is a family of churches. We are not a church per se but a family of like-minded churches joined in covenant with God and with each other. Rather than choosing to be independent, every IBC church has expressed its intention to be totally dependent on Christ and interdependent on the other IBC churches. We are a family—a diverse, widely scattered family of English-language churches. We share finances through our Cooperative Program of giving to help every church when needed and to enable the ministry and mission efforts we agree to pursue. We share experiences of life and ministry every time we meet — learning from each other, encouraging one another, challenging one another, and supporting one another. We share a common goal of reaching the world with the gospel. We share a deep commitment to the Bible as our standard of belief and life. We share a common vision and mission.
We partner with each other to pursue our mission of “mobilizing and multiplying disciple-making churches.” We pray for one another on a regular basis, especially in times when churches face challenging situations. We rejoice with each other when God wins victories in our churches and with individuals. We plan together to increase our effectiveness as vessels of evangelism and missions to the multitudes of expats and other internationals scattered in the 24 countries where we are located and in the many other places where we have ministries. We worship in our churches with people representing more than 130 nations of the world.
Who is the IBC? The IBC is the people who make up our churches. It is the pastor and leaders of each church and the many who serve in visible and not-so-visible ways. It is the “trophies of God’s saving grace” whose lives are being touched and transformed into the likeness of Christ. It is the refugee who fled his home country due to war, economic devastation, or political danger only to find a home in a Bible-centered, Christ-honoring gospel church that ministers to him and shares the Good News of Jesus Christ.
It is the international business person who, along with her family, has found a place and a people who welcome them as fellow pilgrims on the journey of life and commit to love them, disciple them, and be discipled by them for the time they are together. It is the young military member whose family has found an oasis in the midst of the turmoil of loneliness, deployments, stress, and uncertainty. It is the young person who is never comfortable answering the question, “Where are you from?” because he has moved so many times, and yet he is making lifelong friends at EuroVenture and in his youth group.
It is the national who had never heard the gospel until she visited an English-speaking church in a country where English was not the official language or who found a Christian home in his home country when he visited a church made up of many nationalities from all over the world. It is the diplomat who discovers that her most important citizenship is in heaven and that heaven’s kingdom is made up of people of faith from every nation, tribe, people, and language.
It is the international student who, at a formative time in life, joins with other students and people of all ages for fun and fellowship, and in the process makes life-changing commitments that will go with her for the rest of life. It is the single adult who finds a church family where he is welcomed and accepted fully. It is these and others who find themselves in IBC churches where learning and growing and doing life together develops disciples who love and follow Christ, where people are accepted regardless of their baggage, and where spiritual and practical help are offered by others.
Who is the IBC? I could put a name to every type mentioned above. And the churches of these people are beacons of life engaged in effective ministry. A church translates into German, Korean, and Arabic every week to make it possible for more to hear the gospel in their own language. Another church with few financial resources regularly serves an orphanage in Ghana and ministers to parents and children in Rwanda who still suffer from the results of the genocide in that country. And it is the numerous other churches that have partnered with them in this effort.
Another church located in a city with many scientists and students of science offers an annual forum on how Christianity speaks to science. Another church offers a food kitchen to feed the homeless in their international city. Another helps to sponsor a ministry in a large refugee camp in Greece to be the hands and feet of Christ to those in need. Another sponsors an annual soccer camp for refugees, locals, and internationals, opening the door to share Christ with them. Another sees the desire of some members to plant a church in a nearby city not as a challenge of fewer members in their own building and a depletion of needed resources but rather an opportunity for greater kingdom impact, selflessly getting behind the project in every way.
Another helps to support a ministry that extends Christian compassion and practical help to women trapped in human trafficking or unwanted pregnancies. Another church joins with church planting ministries in Moldova, Iraq, Latvia, and other places to reach people with the gospel. Another church crosses the border every year into Nicaragua to reach young people and their parents with the gospel. Another works to support the drilling of water wells in countries where water is scarce, empowering the local church to reach its community with water and the Water of Life. Another church supports student workers who are sharing Christ on university campuses. Another supports a village in Moldova by providing needed firewood for the winter, as well as a gospel witness.
Another church has surveyed its city, one of the largest in the world, with a view of planting English-language churches to reach the hundreds of thousands of English-speakers scattered throughout the city. Another church, small in size, works with other churches to plant churches in several neighboring cities. Another joins with military chapels to share Christ and minister to military families who struggle with life and who need the gospel. Another church supports missionaries going from the church to serve in various places around the world.
These IBC churches and others look beyond themselves to go into their Jerusalems, Judeas, Samarias, and ends of the earth. At the same time, people from the ends of the earth are coming into their churches or meeting their members. Many of them are eager to hear the Good News.
Who is the IBC? The IBC is a book full of pages with inspiring stories that are being written because of God’s transforming work. It is the story of an Iranian family who flees their home country for political reasons and finds Christ when they move into a city where an IBC church is located. Upon hearing the gospel from the IBC pastor they begin a journey of new life that brings them into four countries throughout Europe. In each country Farsi-speaking Bible studies and churches have been formed to bring the Good News to many who are eager to hear. It is the story of a Chinese student doing Ph.D. work who begins attending an IBC church to improve his English, even though he is an atheist. After a few years of getting more and more involved in the church, hearing the gospel preached and taught and seeing it lived out in the lives of church members, he returns to China to bring the gospel to his family and others in his home country.
It is the story of a Ugandan Ph.D. student who is discipled in an IBC church. Upon returning to his home country, he shares the gospel and disciples students in the state university where he teaches. It is the story of an Ethiopian student who, while being discipled in an IBC church, begins to share Christ with a national who is asking questions about Christianity through an online chat room. The time comes when God touches her heart, and the girl is ready to commit her life to Christ. The student helps her to step across the line of faith. Their relationship begins to develop since they live in nearby cities, and they are married a few years later.
It is the story of a military member who comes to know Christ through the witness of an IBC church, is discipled in another IBC church, develops into a church leader in a third IBC church, and becomes an IBC church planter and leader. It is the story of a military member whose life and family and career were almost wrecked before an IBC church member gives the man Christian encouragement. He is later reassigned and comes to hear and respond to the gospel in another IBC church and is now being discipled. His life and family and career have all been rescued. The IBC is the story of countless military members who were discipled in IBC churches and leave those churches to serve the Lord in all parts of the world as Christian teachers, counselors, doctors, lawyers, businessmen and women, pastors, missionaries, and other professionals.
It is the story of a man who struggles with alcohol and the law, who hits rock bottom before finally coming to hear the gospel in an IBC church. His life and family are changed, and he is now preparing to serve the Lord as a ministry intern in the same IBC church. The IBC is the story of two Christian singles that meet in an IBC singles’ group, are married, and now serve the Lord in an IBC church plant. It is the story of a Dutch Indonesian girl whose life is touched with the gospel in an IBC church. She is discipled in an IBC church and now is a vibrant witness to everyone she encounters and an inspiration to fellow disciples. It is the story of an Iraqi soldier who fought in the first Iraqi war. Later, he comes to Germany and becomes a part of an IBC church whose pastor is a retired U.S. soldier who fought in the same conflict on the opposing side. The two discover they are brothers in a family that goes far deeper than racial, national, political, and cultural barriers.
It is the story of a refugee from an oppressive Muslim country who found Christ in an IBC church and who is currently reaching numerous refugees like him, sharing the love and hope of Christ. It is the story of a German scientist who finds Christ when he visits an IBC church because his wife insists he go with her to evangelistic meetings. His intellectual and moral barriers melt as he observes the difference Christ makes in people’s lives. He commits his life to Christ and serves for many years as a church leader in the same church.
The stories that make up the IBC story are so numerous that only eternity will reveal the greatness of our God who continues to write the stories on the tablets of human hearts as His Story is told and lived out in the lives of people.
The IBC is many things. We are organized, but we are more than an organization. We have a structure, but the structure is like the trellis that holds a vine of delicious fruit. We are people and churches deeply committed to Christ and His mission in the world. Every person’s story is an expression of the power of the gospel. Every church’s story is being written locally and globally as people from around the world come and go.
It is an honor to belong to a family of churches whose vision is to become a movement of global-minded churches that are reproducing healthy disciples, leaders, and congregations. It is a joy to serve with a family whose core values are fellowship and partnership, church planting and healthy churches, unity and diversity. Who is the IBC? You and I are the IBC.