From the seed of an idea . . . to a community of envisioned leaders
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
International churches and fellowships (ICs) have been around for over a hundred years. They come in all sorts of flavors with a diversity of demographics and emphases. They can be large or small, in developed and developing countries, denominational or interdenominational, and with a variety of visions for their place in God’s mission in the world. And the number of ICs is growing rapidly across the globe even as the world experiences the highest levels of migration ever. They bring a particular kind of joy to those who have made them home. The early story of MICN began in the heart of Warren Reeve.
Warren Reeve arrived in Indonesia August 1998 to lead the Bandung International church (BIC) three hours South East of Jakarta. In his prayer journey before committing to an overseas assignment he felt convinced that the church he and Debbie were to lead should “do evangelism in the church backyard.” In the largest Muslim nation in the world, this would be a formidable task, but one that God would guide them through. The second day in Indonesia he was introduced to Dwight Hill from the Navigators who was then helping with the Jakarta International Christian Fellowship. Dwight’s ministry with expatriates and the International Church (IC) was inspiring. Warren bought into the potential of discipled expatriates reaching the unreached people groups of Indonesia and he still reads Dwight’s “facts of the matter” life devotionals for expatriates. Check him out at www.factsofthematter.org
After the one year mark in Indonesia the following verse of scripture became a kind of mantra. He continues to draw strength from the inspirational imagery of Paul, “Pray that the Master’s Word will simply take off and race through the country to a groundswell of response.” (2 Thessalonians 3:2 MSG.)
The Reeves settled into Bandung and began learning Bahasa Indonesian. It took two years of cultural orientation, hearing God and pastoring BIC to apprehend vision, develop strategy and navigate IC ministry. Expatriates were coming to faith in Christ and were discipled toward maturity. However, Warren was primarily interested in the potential catalytic role of the IC and how BIC would win pre-believing nationals, disciple them and commission newly equipped national leaders into Indonesia. The empowering BIC leadership team facilitated structure and strategy for many expatriates within BIC to achieve the dream of discipling the nationals. BIC was doing evangelism in its backyard.
BIRTH OF A DREAM
Warren writes, “On a cold Saskatchewan Canadian winter day in 1994 I received a very warm invitation. TV Thomas recommended me to Leighton Ford Ministries Evangelism/Leadership seminar in balmy Alabama United States. Dr Leighton Ford became a significant mentor as I progressed through several leadership education tracks. Dr Ford impacted me then and now. Among numerous lessons learned that have become my ministry DNA are the values of Kingdom versus Empire, empowering leadership versus territorial controlling and association versus denomination. The differences between these three conceptual paradigms were to become the conceptual genesis of MICN.”
We asked Warren to explain these values. Kingdom versus Empire because Biblical ministry is owned by God, no one is supposed to possess, dominate or control it. Empowering leadership motivates to equip and release as opposed to Territorial Controlling that manipulates to command and demand. Association is conceptually inclusive and welcoming to all that desire to join whereas Denomination is structurally exclusive and requires outsiders to conform. MICN attempted to adopt and practice Kingdom, Empowering and Association values from the start.
In 2000, Harvey Matchullis facilitated a three day International Church think tank sponsored by the Canadian Christian and Missionary Alliance in Szepalma Hungary. Thirteen IC Pastors and spouses together with five International Executives that came from five continents to think and dream. The list included but was not limited to: Dave and Brenda Petrescue from Egypt, Bob and Louella Gould from Thailand, Larry and Barb Boss from Poland, Warren and Debbie Reeve from Indonesia, Shelley Ryan from France and Arnell Motz from Ethiopia. In addition to this list were two former IC Pastors and Harvey Matchullis, Brem Brentz and his wife Donna.
Warren again, “During these days of alluring case studies, sagacious reflection and synergistic discussion a dream to network the IC’s and leaders was unearthed within my heart. The potential of the diaspora collection inside the IC around the globe inspired me. This dream has never left me though I have tried to leave the dream. The DNA of MICN was affirmed in my heart in Hungary. The Szepalma Declaration (Appendix A) was a clear articulated confirmation of the Leighton Ford impartation that was now developing in my ministry expression. These convictions preceded an undeniable call that set the stage for the birth of MICN.”
God’s divine arrangement of high caliber, capable people in the IC’s across the globe is profound. Most IC’s are an assembly of Christians that are inordinately adventurous, highly educated, entrepreneurial, Biblically literate and living effectively outside their countries of origin. These ingredients and the right leadership are a recipe for exponential Kingdom expansion. The 21st century IC is a similar context to the church of Acts 13:1-3. The five personalities named Acts 13:2 captured my imagination. Why? The Antioch church could be more appropriately identified as the First International Church. The membership role includes: Jew and Gentile, privileged and persecuted, mentor and mentoree, national and international. Out of this motley crew came the missions movement, missional in action. The diaspora of first century Palestine is again common in our world, except now it is truly global. So, why not believe God for the same profound proliferation of the gospel through IC’s around the world? Since cross cultural church planting started in Antioch, maybe the same could happen in the IC in cities world-wide.
DEVELOPMENT AND STRATEGY
Although the birth of MICN was initiated in Warren’s heart, many have owned the dream and it is still catching. The BIC leadership team provided a launching pad for a vision beyond the local church, they invested time, effort, personnel and finances into planting, equipping and encouraging IC’s and leaders in Indonesia from 1998 onward. Later BIC invested into the IC in Malaysia and Viet Nam. Numerous individuals, including prayer intercessors, donors, unnamed International Workers and contributors helped the development of MICN. In 2001 Keith Webb from Church Resource Ministry moved to Bandung, and soon became the chairman of the BIC leadership team. The synergy Keith and Warren enjoyed brought life to these aspirations and birthed dreams of multiplying Kingdom impact globally.
Keith coached Warren through a Bobby Clinton based “Focusing Leaders” process that produced a Personal Calling Statement. It was three-fold; to pastor BIC, to develop a local mission agency reaching Indonesians in a contextual way, and to catalyze IC’s to be beachheads for the gospel in their countries.
Warren describes this experience, “As God clarified my vision, we merged our passions and experience. Keith used his outstanding implementation skills to develop structure, strategy, systems and a name for networking IC’s. The combination of vision and empowering structures combined made a unified and supportive IC network we called the Missional International Church Network.”
In 2003 MICN hosted the inaugural conference in Jakarta. Participants came from several countries including the United Arab Emirates IC’s. They then hosted the next conference in 2004. The ball was rolling…the dynamic was at work. In the UAE the first MICN leadership team was assembled. The original group was Graham Chipps from Cambodia, Brad Hillman from UAE, Jacob Bloemberg from Viet Nam, Keith and Warren from Indonesia.
At this MICN conference the vision was further articulated and documented: a vision which began with Warren’s BIC experience and the envisioning that was birthed through the Leighton Ford’s mentoring now was given concrete shape and a direction for continued development. Subsequent refinements and additions have produced strategy and substance as well as a strong interdenominational partnership of international church leaders. Appendix B, entitled MICN Strategic Intent, expresses the significant and stimulating development of the vision out of its early days in the 1990s.
Since 2004 the MICN leadership team has had people come and go. In addition to Jacob, Graham and Warren, Cam Arensen from UAE, Kyle Wisdom from Indonesia and Karin Thorne from Malaysia now make up the MICN leadership team. Each year as the leadership team meets, the vision of MICN is explored further with greater clarity and with increasing awareness of the many possibilities for how ICs can be participants and catalysts for a great variety of expressions of the missio Dei.
By 2006 a member care initiative was launched inside MICN. Michael Cusick from Restoring the Soul attended to the member care needs of MICN delegates during the annual conferences and beyond. In 2011 Eric and Rachel assumed the ever increasing need to pastor the IC Pastor’s. Michael, Eric and Rachel have addressed and are meeting a vital shepherding role within MICN.
After leading MICN for seven years it was time to pass the baton. Warren Reeve transitioned out and Jacob Bloemberg became MICN Lead Facilitator at our Malaysian conference in 2009. In many ways Jacob is the MICN poster boy! His story of IC leadership and growth in Communist Hanoi Viet Nam is incredible. Jerry and Jacque Zandstra from Kuwait attended MICN in 2009. He recruited Warren there to be one of his Pastors in Kuwait. Before Jerry died they decided together that Lighthouse IC Kuwait should host MICN for the 10th anniversary.
One lesson we have learned from this kaleidoscope story is that at least three components contributed to the development of MICN: individuals, local churches and organizations. MICN would not be what we are today apart from each of these contributors. Leaders from more than 25 countries, an untold number of agencies, organizations and churches make up the network. MICN is not about numbers but the specialized niche of the IC in the world today. Imagine all this happening without organizational funds, backing or covering … another sign of a movement.
The impact of MICN on IC leaders is exciting: great stimulation for expanding perspectives and seeing new possibilities, the richness of friendship with true peers, the strengthening of our theological foundations, healing and support from those who understand. This is a network that continues to have great potential to be a real player in the movement of God’s Kingdom through human history towards the new heaven and earth to come.
We welcome you to this eclectic assembly of God’s IC leaders. Our vision and commitment is to inspire and equip you as fellow IC leaders. We pray that our connection together will empower you to cast and implement a global missional vision for your congregation. We pray that enjoying this journey together will enlarge and nurture your soul. We pray that as we get to know each other, our relational connections and personal openness will help you to thrive in your ministry.
MICN Leadership Team, March 2013