God inscribes in Hebrews 11, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. … By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command. …
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice. …
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. …
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went. …
By faith Isaac …
By faith Jacob …
By faith Moses …
So goes the names, which are found in the “Hall of Faith” until we read in Hebrews 11:39:
These … were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. For God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
And so it with those who are called to be members of God’s Household Hall of Faith. And such are you. You are a people of faith through whom God has planned something better for those who follow after you “so that only together with YOU would they be made perfect.”
It is most humbling for me to be in your presence today. Your collective devotion as humble servants of God overwhelms me. You, and others like you, are the very ones who have composed the remarkable 50-year history of the work of the member-churches of the IBC.
Without your selfless acts of service and generous financial sacrifices, which you and others like you have made, what we see in the life and ministry of today’s English-language, international churches would have been entirely different. You did this, not for yourselves, but for the glory and honor of God because God had planned something better for those who have followed you.
Therefore, as brothers and sisters in Christ from among these unique churches you value highly the common bond of your shared experiences from the Lord. This is the very reason you are present for today’s meeting. No other group on planet earth has more vested interest in the future of these churches than you.
While the Sovereign Lord could have done any and all of these things with or without you, the fact is that He chose you to do it. He chose you because He had planned something better for the people of faith who have followed you.
Other than the word “faith,” it is my observation that there is one word, which most accurately describes our 50-year history. It is the word “change.” It takes people of faith to work through such frequent changes.
In spite of these changes, the foundation, which was laid two-score and 10 years ago, is strong and secure in Christ with His followers who serve Him today around the world. While today’s world-wide fragile geopolitical and socio-economic structures will continue to produce changes in the churches, changes which both delight and sadden our souls, we can only rejoice in the role that God has given us to be participants in His glorious history. By faith we must trust God to work through today’s servants in these churches to help them walk by faith through a plethora of continual change.
One such embarkation of change took place in 1997 with the establishment of the International Baptist Church Ministries (IBCM) to benefit the churches and encourage generosity among US citizens, who are either current members of English-language international churches or they are friends and former members of such churches.
As a 501c3 non-profit corporation IBCM enables and encourages expatriates who live overseas and are members of English-language international churches to make U.S. tax-deductible designated grants to their overseas church. Likewise those of us who are individual members of IBCM and live in the United States can also make both designated and undesignated gifts, which are used for grants to the churches. In recent years $2,500,000.00 to $3,000,000.00 have been contributed annually.
IBCM is in need of a large endowment. We believe that such funds will eventually come from members such as ourselves.
IBCM is chartered under the laws of the State of Texas. IBCM is solely governed by a Board of Directors in accordance with its Bylaws. Directors are elected from individuals who are members of IBCM. Each director may serve up to two consecutive 3-year terms, and may serve again after a 1-year absence.
IBCM was founded under the extraordinary leadership of Dr. Charles McIlveene and four other founders: Mrs. H.C. (Ruth) Bryson, Dr. Rudy Oswald, Mrs. Pam Oswald and Dr. Larry Jones. Influential in its founding were such individuals as former IBC General Secretary, Dr. James Heflin; Texas attorney Cary Quillin, and CPA Randy Stevens. All gave their time, energies and personal resources to bring this organization into existence.
With this particular Annual Meeting we acknowledge yet another change. It was during the June meeting of the IBCM Board of Directors when I was asked me to serve as IBCM’s Executive Secretary, which, by the way, is principally an honorary position. Therefore this is my first Annual report to this body.
The Board had thoughtfully and prayerfully considered this position for a lengthy period of time. I was not surprised when asked to serve. Like some of you, Linda and I have invested a considerable amount of time, energy and personal resources into the life and ministry of IBCM. We believe in the values and goals of IBCM.
We believe that God has charged us
1) to cast the vision, values and purposes of IBCM to the members and our prospective members;
2) to provide oversight for all operations, which are associated with the organization and
3) to facilitate good communication by every means which God provides.
We believe that it pleases God to expand our membership with a broader base of donors, because we see by our own experiential walk of faith that God uses mightily English language, international churches to win to Christ all kinds of people of every race, ethnicity and nationality. We have seen first hand how many of these very people have become and are becoming church leaders, as well as world leaders, whom God is using in greater ways than any of us has ever thought possible.
It is important to fully realize that IBCM is no Sunday School class. Neither is it a church. It is not a fellowship, nor is it a convention or an association of churches. IBCM is not a missionary-sending agency nor does it provide grants to individual missionaries.
IBCM exists as a Great Commission organization to provide and facilitate the provision of financial support through designated and undesignated grants to English-language Baptist churches and similar ministries. Our focus is upon the churches. Most nearly all are affiliated with the International Baptist Convention (IBC). In recent years this membership has expanded to Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and even the United States.
The key to the success or failure of this business enterprise rests upon our Board of Directors, and how well our Board and our individual members work together to fulfill God’s purpose for us corporately. This Annual week-end is set aside not only for us to enjoy the special friendships that are ours, but also to strengthen our resolve to financially support these unique English-language international churches.
Our success or failure could determine the fate of many of these churches; in particular the churches, which have an ever decreasing influence from Americans, and an ever increasing influence of both believers and non-believers, whose background is third-world and emerging countries.
Someone might ask: What difference does this decreasing influence from Americans and increasing influence from third-world and emerging countries make?
I submit to you that the difference is substantial.
In 1979 when God called me to serve as a pastor to an English-speaking congregation in Stuttgart, Germany, our church was exclusively an American congregation, comprised of US military personnel and their families, and one American scientist at the Max Plank Institute, and his family. All were Americans. In a short span of fourteen (14) years the church became an international congregation comprised of more than 40 different nationalities on any given Sunday.
After the fall of the wall in Berlin in 1989, this very model of change with a focus upon English-language international congregations became the standard model for most all of our churches.
In 1979 all of the 37 member-churches of the European Baptist Convention were served by America pastors. Most were sent there by the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Furthermore, all of our convention personnel were appointed by the International Mission Board.
Today none of the churches are served by appointment of anyone from the International Mission Board. None of the staff of the IBC are served by anyone from the International Mission Board. ALL pastors and all convention personnel serve as indigenous, independent missionaries who got there in a wide variety of ways by following their hearts after God.
My goodness, how things have changed!
Yes, “change” is the most consistent thing that can be said about these churches and their leaders. Whether because of geo-politics, socio-economics, terrorism, persecution or war, the migration of diverse cultures, tribes, ethnicities and nationalities has caused the world map of the IBC to drastically change.
The focus of most of our churches has completely shifted from serving believers, who for the most part are US expatriates, to serving extraordinarily diverse peoples. Many are refugees and immigrants from emerging and third-world countries. A large number are non-believers whose religious background is incredibly diverse. They are attending our churches. They are Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Hindus, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics. In surprisingly good numbers they are turning to Christ through the ministries of English-language international churches.
These are changes worth noting. These are changes worth celebrating.
Needless to say these kinds of churches lack spiritual leaders and financial resources. Such leaders and resources were found in abundance in the churches of yester-year..
Once our churches were led by such giants as C. W. Bess, Terry Carter, Tom Hill, Jim Leeper and Richard Page. Along beside them were such gifted church leaders as Greg Green, Dennis Jackson, David Bolton, George Hayner, Rudy Oswald and Jerry Porter.
Listen to the names of some of our pastors today. I will attempt to pronounce their names: Roland Eskinazi, Rodrigo de Silva, Sylvester Peprah-Kwakye, Branislav Beocanin, Peter Oberhor, Nikolaus Seferiadis, Luigi Esposito, Richmond Ofori-Tawiah.
While these leaders are godly leaders, many have little formal biblical or theological education. Many came from the emerging countries to which I referred earlier. They need the tools, which are necessary to preach and teach the Word of God more effectively. They need the training to shepherd the flock under their care with greater skill.
They lack the resources of deacons, elders, teachers, workers and financial contributors. They carry the burden of being outnumbered by non-believers who drain them emotionally and financially. These pastors and church leaders are serving at great sacrifice. Such leaders and churches are radically different from the churches in which we of yesteryear are accustomed to serving in various places overseas.
The work and ministry of our General Secretary, Dr. Jimmy Martin, and his staff has never been more challenging. The contributions of ministry, which are made by such gifted leaders as Dr. Terry Carter and George and Dorothy Hayner, at such places as Interlaken and the Spring Leadership Training Conference, as well as in individual IBC churches, has never been more important. The financial gifts given from outside the churches have never been more needed.
We, who members of IBCM, are a key ingredient of hope for the future of particular churches in need, as well as our beloved IBC Convention. We must enlarge our base of donors. We must increase our own giving. We must pray into existence resources which only God can provide.
We need to develop good communication among ourselves to inspire each other in generosity and personal sacrifice. We need to cast our vision to expatriates in the present-day IBC churches before these expatriates return home. We must learn how to communicate well the values and purposes of IBCM because our opportunity to be a Great Commission people and win this world to Christ has never been greater.
We are people of faith. Therefore may we, who are members of today’s Hall of Faith, be found faithful for God has planned something better for those who come behind us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.