Several years ago Walter Birney, longtime National Missionary Convention director, said something to me about someday being the president of the NMC. Not being a missionary but the pastor of a local church, I basically laughed it off. Then a year or so before my retirement from a thirty-six year ministry at Kingsway Christian Church of Avon, Indiana, David Empson, current executive director of what has become ICOM made an appointment with me and asked me if I would consider accepting the presidency. I offered even more objections. Not only had I never been a missionary, at least in the traditional sense of that word, but I would be retired and who knew if I would even live long enough to serve?
I did, however, begin praying about what my answer should be if I actually was asked. And I must confess that because I love the NMC/ICOM, because I am totally sold out to the need to reach the lost wherever they may be found, and because I consider this conference to be a powerful force for the cause of world evangelization, I began to get excited about the possibility; and I even began to dream dreams of what I would want thte conference to look like if I had the privilege of leading it. So when David came back some months later and extended an offical request from the executive committee that I serve as president of the 2012 conference in Indianapolis, I knew my answer had to be, "Yes."
Most of the opportunities for ministry that I have enjoyed through the years have come not because of anything special I have to offer but because of the church I've been privileged to serve. I am better aware than anyone else that there are far better preachers, leaders and visionaries who labor in virtual anonimity. But because I served a congregation that was innovative, mission-minded, and grew to a mega-church, I have had many special opportunities to serve, including the presidency of the two major conventions of our fellowship of churches, the North American Christian Convention, and now ICOM.
I'm sure it was the missions program at Kingsway that drew the attention of the NMC leadership of the past that allowed me both to speak at the connvention on various occasions and to serve on the executive committee as well. Missions was a priority right from the start at KCC as ten percent was taken out of our offerings from the very first Sunday. Then we increased our percentage of giving again and again. I dreamed of the day that we would give fifty percent to others, but that day never arrived, at least it has not as yet. However, we did increase missions giving to where twenty percent of the tithes and offerings of the people went to missions. The last two years of my ministry that amounted to well over a million dollars per year.
Kingsway also developed a unique approach to missions. Every missionary we supported was given complete living link support (their entire salary and benefits) and in some cases complete service link support (ministry funds). This insured a closer relationship with each missionary and greater accountability both of the missionary to the church and the church to the missionary. Part of that accountability has taken the form of visits to the mission field by staff and lay leaders. And while it has not all been with KCC related missionaries, I've had the privilege of working alongside missionaries in at least twenty-five countries, having travelled in nearly one hundred.
Even as I write, a large team from Kingsway is serving in India, including my successor, Matt Nickoson. Chris Fowler serves as KCC's missions pastor, and is doing a great job of helping that congregation accomplish even more in missions than in the past.
As for my retirement, it has allowed me to commit this whole year, my schedule, my energy and my efforts to the conference. Being from the Indianapolis area, site of this year's conference, is of added benefit. For that matter, Jan and live only fifteen minutes from the ICOM offices.
I have so much more that I want to say, and yet I know it can't all be said in one blog. So let me simply say that I am humbled, honored, and genuinely excited to be serving as president of the 2012 ICOM. God has allowed us to put together such an awesome program that I can hardly wait to tell you all the details. But suffice it to say that by intention it will genuinely be a disturbing conference that demands a response!