IBCM8: Enabling Collaboration and Engaging the Next Generation
By Joel Hernandez
Every four years, believers worldwide meet at the International Brethren Conference on Mission (IBCM) for spiritual reflection, fellowship, and networking and to glimpse what God is doing in the world. I first attended IBCM in 2007. At the prompting of my mentor, Ken Fleming, we traveled to Wiedenest Bible School in Germany, where IBCM4 was held. The experience was deeply moving. I left the event with several conclusions: First, IBCM enlarged my perspective of God’s worldwide work. Second, young people needed to experience it. So I decided to bring teams to future conferences.
A time to learn and connect
IBCM8 was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this past June. More than 1,200 believers came together from 104 countries, breaking all previous records. Many missionaries attended. You might recognize about 30 of them listed in the Missionary Prayer Handbook and many others whose ministries have become known in the US. Speakers Ramez Atallah and Nate Bramsen (both MPH Day 25) ministered to all. They wove their messages into the theme “For Christ’s Love Compels Us” to deliver stirring keynotes, “encouraging us to believe that anything is possible with God [and] that God wants to redeem, reconcile, and transform this broken world with His love, bringing beauty from ashes.”1
Also in attendance were representatives of missionary service organizations (MSOs). MSC Canada, Echoes International (UK), Australians in Mission Together, and Global Connections in Mission (New Zealand) serve assemblies in their respective countries, just as CMML serves US assemblies. Lesser known is a growing body of MSOs in the Majority World. Some have emerged recently; others have a long trajectory. All of them attest that the Lord is calling believers from their countries to take the Gospel abroad. At IBCM8, MSOs had the opportunity to meet and discuss current trends, challenges, and issues that require collaboration, such as responding to global crises.
An emphasis on young people
Remarkably, more than 20 percent of attendees were younger than 35. This notable proportion was not an accident. It resulted from a conversation among the few young people who attended IBCM7 in Rome. “How do we encourage more youth to experience IBCM?” we asked them in an impromptu forum. The answer took shape over the following years and came to include three things: youth representatives from every country, youth-focused elements in the IBCM program, and international short-term mission trips—teams that would meet at the conference and go out from there.
That final element caught the attention of CMML.
Scholarships and mission trips
CMML’s appreciation for short-term missions is on the rise. When missionaries tell how the Lord led them to the field, the theme of mission trips recurs. Many missionaries participated in a short-term mission trip that deeply shaped their sense of God’s call. Missions exposure is critical in the process of forging a missionary. So how do we encourage more young people to connect with these opportunities?
Some MSOs have developed short-term missions programs. Echoes International, for example, encourages young people to devote their gap year to receiving training and serving in short-term missions through their FirstServe program. Other MSOs support schools and training institutes that provide short-term missions opportunities. For several years now, CMML has provided training and some services to students from Emmaus Bible College during their cross-cultural missions internship. But might we do more?
With the news that IBCM was organizing post-conference short-term mission trips, CMML got on board and offered a 50 percent scholarship to young people eager to attend the IBCM conference and participate in a post-conference trip. Though the scholarship amount was generous, it was far from a free ride. Young people still had to finance their own airfare plus half of the conference and short-term mission trip fees. So those applying had to have skin in the game. We praise God for 15 enthusiastic young adults from the US, passionate about missions, who received the scholarship and took part in these events.
At IBCM8, 1,000 believers joined in prayer for 10 international short-term mission teams that went out from the conference. Each of the teams had a clear structure, destination, and mission. They went into Malaysia’s capital and interior, neighboring Cambodia, and more distant Pakistan and the Philippines. Some teams participated in church-planting efforts. Others taught
English at local schools, participated in training at camps and conferences, or evangelized among unreached people groups. Preliminary feedback from the participants about their trips is positive. We have enjoyed hearing the 15 Americans’ stories, and more importantly, we look forward to seeing how the Lord leads each of them in their next steps.
God’s community working together
God is still at work in the world. His church may be declining in some places, but in others, remarkable progress is happening. Increasingly, Brethren missionaries from around the globe are awakening to the reality of their larger community and are exploring opportunities for collaboration and engaging the next generation. We praise the Lord that IBCM8 contributed to these efforts. We pray that the Lord will continue to guide CMML and the organizations that play a vital part in this process.
Joel Hernandez, CMML vice president, communication, and IBCM Network board of trustees.
Originally published in Missions magazine, September/October 2023. For more content, sign up for a free subscription (US) to Missions at CMML.us/magazine/subscribe.