Thank you for taking a look at this first installment of this ICOM blog. For 36 years I wrote a column for the Kingsway newsletter called The Preacher’s Podium. When I retired a number of people encouraged me to continue writing in the form of a weekly blog. Now ICOM gives me that opportunity
The truth is that I have a boatload of issues I want talk about. So over the next few weeks each Tuesday we’ll add another subject to the discussion. We’ll talk about why an old, retired preacher would be serving as president of this conference. We’ll look at the reasoning behind the name change from National Missionary Convention to International Conference on Missions. I want to tell you the reasoning behind our theme, “Radical…Again!” I want to explain the very special focus of this “disturbing conference which demands a response.” And I want to introduce you to the phenomenal program the Lord has allowed us to put together. In addition, I want to advise you of my schedule so you can pray for me as well as attend events in your area. But having just returned from an ICOM related trip of 24 days, I’m anxious to give you a report.
From the time I accepted the presidency of the 2012 conference I made it clear that I wanted to spend as much time on the mission field with missionaries as I possibly could. I wanted to better understand the needs and challenges of these spiritual warriors so that the conference can better minister to them as well as to accurately communicate these things to conference participants. I’ve been blessed with several such opportunities in recent months.
The week between Christmas and New Years many of our European missionaries gather for what they call the Mid Winter Rally. So on Christmas Day Jan and I headed for Milan, Italy and then travelled about three hours north into the Alps to a decommissioned convent where this year’s meeting was held. There were 60 present from Italy, Germany, France, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, plus ten students from Cincinnati Christian University who came to take care of the missionary kids.
The theme for the week was “Pray!” and I brought a series of messages on “Our Weakness…God’s Strength.” While I was thankful for the opportunity to speak each day, my primary purpose in going was to listen and learn; and I came away with a whole new appreciation for the special challenges our European missionaries face. They minister in the midst of a society that is almost totally secular. And yet many Americans can’t fathom why we need to be sending missionaries to a continent that is prosperous and filled with church buildings (empty for the most part). Some insensitive church members even speak of how nice it must be to be able to live in Europe. Furthermore, the cost of just living there is not really understood by many supporting churches.
When it comes to methodology, what works in third world nations to get a hearing for the gospel is not even an option in Europe (i.e. providing clean water, feeding programs, medical care, or the building of homes). How do you communicate the gospel to a people who think of themselves as totally self-sufficient and not in need of God? These missionaries are constantly looking for open doors in that regard. A system of Christian libaries in such cities as Berlin, Prague, and Budapest is one innovative approach. But the challenges are great. The need for workers is great. And the lack of encouragement from the American church may not be unique to our European missionaires, but it is certainly an issue. Jan and I were able to counsel one on one with many of the participants and hopefully to provide some of that needed encouragement. If you know of someone who is laboring in Europe for the gospel let me urge you to write them a note or send them and e-mail right now while it’s on your mind.
Following the conference Jan and I celebrated the coming of the New Year in the beautiful Alpine town of Lovere before she flew back to the U.S. and I flew on to India. My first several days there were spent in Andhra Pradesh working with PV John and CARE India. There was ministry at the Boys and Girls Homes. I conducted two different pastors conferences, preached in several churches in the Remalle area, as well as the city of Gudivada where John Raj ministers. While these were not primarily evangelistic services there were more than 60 who gave their lives to Christ and I had the opportunity to personally baptize a number of them. It was a delight to reconnect with Nandini, the beautiful little nine year old girl Jan and I have sponsored since she was a baby.
However, the primary purpose of this trip to India was to participate in the All-India Christian Convention which was held in Cochin, Kerala. Bobby John accompanied me there where I had been asked to speak to approximately a thouands believers from all over India. Hundreds had ridden a train for three days all the way from northeastern India. Rajin Ipe, a former president of the National Missionary Convention was the president of this convention; and another former NMC president, Ajai Lall, was one of the speakers. While English was the primary medium of communication, those present spoke a number of different Indian languages.
The theme of the convention was “Grow in the Knowledge of Christ” based on II Peter 1:1-11. I was privileged to speak on “To Escape the Corruption of the World” from verse 4. There were teen sessions and childrens session, worshops, and special events. I was impressed with the number of participants who had attended the National Missionary Convention and the many more who plan to attend ICOM in Indianapolis this November. My time there was characterized by exposure to many testimonies of faithfulness in the face of great oppositioin and outright persecution.
There are a lot of exciting things going on in regard to the mission of Christ in the world. ICOM is very much a part of what is going on. It is more than an event, it is a ministry. I hope you’ll join me each week as we take a closer look at this multi-faceted ministry.
JOHN’S FEBRUARY SCHEDULE:
8 ICOM Executive Committee Meeting
9-10 ICOM Planning Meeting
15-16 Mega-Church Pastors Conference in San Antonio, TX
19 First Christian Church – Kissimee, FL
26 First Christian Church – Florissant, MO
27-30 Ozark Christian College Preaching and Teaching Convention – Joplin, MO