Seeing the leaf, stem and fruit of ICOMB

What does it mean to grow and flourish together as a global family of faith

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The 2022 ICOMB Summit saw delegates from diverse backgrounds develop a kinship, such as the delegates from Malawi and Japan. Photo: ICOMB/Multiply

“No one wants to suck on chalk,” is how ICOMB executive director Rudi Plett described the average reaction when told “structure” is important. Structure, he explained, is often perceived as a threat to freedom of expression. Yet what followed during the ICOMB 2022 summit was far from a series of lectures on how to impose predominantly Western structures upon global churches.

Instead, delegates were enriched by plenary sessions and diverse workshops presenting opportunities to better understand the MB historical context, examine Anabaptist theology through global lenses, hear practical suggestions for church growth and health and engage in lively (at times, deafeningly so) interactions regarding how to best apply this knowledge in vastly different cultural contexts.

“Vines and trellises” was a metaphor used to describe how ICOMB’s mission and MB theology and church structures support rather than direct growth. Missional Leadership Training (MLT) resources were held up as an example of such a trellis, with curriculum that can be unpacked by both established and emerging church networks in ways that encourage ecclesial cohesion and yet embrace cultural nuance.

Above all, the “vines” of global MB conferences were celebrated as an intertwining of leaf, stem and fruit—a vibrant and complex community meant to grow and flourish together.

Delegates to the 2022 ICOMB Summit did more than share their passions and prayers with one another. They also shared the coronavirus, resulting in changed travel plans for some when they returned home. Photo: ICOMB/Multiply

What does that look like?

It looks like Colombia leaning on Brazil for mentorship, learning more about pastoring their pastors. It looks like Portugal, overcome with emotion, acknowledging the grief and pain of an ongoing struggle to raise up leaders. It looks like Paraguay and Mexico arguing good-naturedly about how one assesses what is “credible” non-formal theological training and who makes that call.

Community looks like Malawi weeping with Uruguay over the poor and marginalized in their regions, Lithuania napping comfortably beside Austria on the lawn outside the church between sessions and Thailand blowing away others with the passion of their prayers.

It looks like sober faces and earnest prayer as delegates grieve over those who were not able to join from Ukraine. It looks like more than 15 delegates from different Latin American countries cramming around a table in an intense brainstorming session.

“First, we need to be honest,” one said, and all nodded. “A frank inventory. What are our strengths? What can we offer one another? But more—what are our weaknesses? We must put aside our Latino culture of shame and share our frailties, as friends do.”

They and others found that vulnerability and humility came more easily as the days progressed. We were in a setting in which everyone wanted everyone else to fulfill God’s calling in their lives, for the sake of reaching the lost.

As the summit transitioned into the Despertar 2022 conference, we were ready to worship. We reflected on God’s past goodness, gave thanks for the present faithfulness of his people and anticipated a future of growing together in a glorious tangle of leaf and stem and fruit, all for the glory of God.

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