How do you adequately summarize an event that has consumed most of two years of your life? You can't! However, I want to share some reflections on ICOM 2012 and put some thing in proper perspective.
Statistics don't begin to adequately tell the story. But Dave Empson tells me there were at least 11,000 different people in attendance. Nearly 8,000 picked up registration badges, not counting 2,500+ who attended the student conference, the hundreds of children, the hundreds who attended but didn't pick up their badges due to long lines, and hundreds more who simply never registered. We fell short of the offering goal I had set but the total given of approximately $70,000 was also a record, even with a tithe of that amount going to IDES to aid churches hard hit by hurricane Sandy. Whatever the category - missionaries in attendance for the pre-con, workshop attendance, exhibits, programs given out - you name it - most set new records.
The one area in which we fell far short of our goal was in new missionary recruits. But I praise God for the 84 believers who did make such a commitment, including a special couple from the church I served and whom I married. Since the conference I have heard from several others who did not respond publicly during ICOM 2012 but who have since made the decision to follow the Lord's leading into vocational, cross-cultural, Christian ministry. We should all continue to pray the prayer that our Lord told us to pray, the prayer for laborers for the harvest.
One of the highlights of the conference that was confirmed again and again was the presentation of the Radical Mission Church Award to six congregations in six different size categories. I wish all of you could hear the full stories of the special missions efforts of those six. But let me at least tell you who was chosen: Truman Church of Christ from Truman, Minnesota (up to 100); Vernal Christian Church of Vernal, Utah (101-250); Crosspoint Christian Church of Conyers, Georgia (251-500); Blue Ridge Church of Christ from Fishersville, Virginia (501-1,000); Churchill Meadows Christian Church of Toronto, Canada (1,001-2,000); and Crossroads Christian Church of Newburgh, Indiana (2,001-up). Notice that the churches recognized for their radical mission programs came from the west, the east, the north, the south, and Canada. The scores of nominated churches that were not recognized are all worthy of our respect and admiration.
Something we hope will be a regular part of the annual event is the live streaming of the main sessions. I'm sure our technical people can give us all sorts of statistics. But I personally heard from people in Zimbabwe, the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, and a number of states here in America. My assumption is that hundreds if not thousands were able to participate in the conference, some from thousands of miles away. I even heard of churches that met as satellite venues projecting the live streaming on the large screens of their worship centers.
I must commend the Indianapolis area churches that supported and cooperated in putting on the conference. I've never seen cooperation like that in the 38 years I've been a Hoosier. From the smallest to the largest, all of our sister congregations got involved. And how about the Crossroads Christian Church of Newburgh, their music and worship pastor David Rinehart, and the hundreds of vocalists, instrumentalists, and technical people they brought to musically lead our corporate worship! From their kids choir to their adult choir, from their praise band to their big band, and from their worship team to their soloists, they were simply outstanding, and such a blessing to work with. And they all came to serve the Lord and us at their own expense.
Let me mention a few more individuals and then, while I'm not done, I'll quit. Steve Ranson was God's man for the prayer chairman position. Every prayer time was powerful as Steve, a man who is obviously on speaking terms with God, led us in the most meaningful times of intimacy with God I've ever experienced in corporate worship. Furthermore, the band of prayer warriors he put together this year was incredibly powerful. Then finally, Dave, Jim, Jennifer and Nicole - the professional staff at ICOM - are remarkable. For such a small staff to accomplish so much and to do it with a humble, servant attitude is something very special. It was a joy and a privilege to work alongside them the past two years.
When asked to serve as this year's president I was nearing retirement at Kingsway; and while I've always had a heart for missions and have spent a lot of time on the mission field, I had never been a missionary in the traditional sense. Other presidents have served on the foreign field or have headed various mission agencies and parachurch organizations. So it seemed a strange fit for me. However, as I'm reminded again and again, God's planning is far better than ours. Serving with ICOM has been a high point of my ministry, something God knew I needed when I retired from ministry in the local church, and hopefully something that has served ICOM well as I've basically been able to give full time to the conference. So to those who gave me this opportunity, and to those who have prayed for and encouraged me along the way, I offer my heartfelt "thank you!" Now, let's go and be the radical disciples Jesus has called us to be and take this world for Him!
John Caldwell, President ICOM 2012