After completing a four-year Bible study curriculum (Mini Bible College) written and taught by Pastor Dick Woodward in the early 1980s, businessman Dois Rosser saw an opportunity. He wanted others to have access to the same life-changing material. In partnership with Trans World Radio, Rosser funded the translation and radio broadcast of MBC in Latin America, China and soon, India. In 1986, Rosser traveled from Hampton, Virginia, to India to evaluate the impact of the radio broadcast. There, he saw the people’s desperate need for church buildings after coming to Christ through the study of MBC in their own language. Rosser sensed a God-sized opportunity at hand.
The church building work of International Cooperating Ministries (ICM) began in India in 1986 when he provided funding to build several churches there to honor his family. Shortly after the initial work in India began, Rosser established a charitable foundation using a substantial portion of his personal wealth to fund the ministry. ICM’s outreach model contradicts many traditional approaches, in that there are no paid overseas staff members. The ministry makes a global impact while employing a small local staff, and private foundations continue to fund all overhead, allowing all gifts to ICM’s work to go directly to church building and Mini Bible College projects.
Today, there are thousands of ICM churches around the world. These projects include not only traditional church buildings, but also church orphanages, chapels, homes for church planters, learning centers, pastoral training centers and schools. And, as a result of ICM’s church planting strategy, the ministry has seen tens of thousands of additional church congregations established.
According to Pat MacMillan, a consultant with Triaxia Partners in Atlanta, Georgia, the ministry’s founding principles were 20 years ahead of their time. “I knew faith-based ministries, but here was one started by a businessman, and it was violating all the rules of the typical ministry. It talked about results and accountability and leverage. I just loved the sound of it.”
MacMillan contrasted the approach used by many other ministries, which involved high costs in time and financial resources—training and sending American missionaries to the field—with the way ICM started. By teaming up with indigenous ministry leaders around the world, MacMillan said, “…you have ministry impact right out of the blocks, for considerably less money, and it’s considerably more effective.”
This approach (working with indigenous people and leaders, creating strategic networks and partnerships, and leveraging technology) is now being adopted by other ministries. ICM has been at the forefront of what is now an emerging trend in missions work. “[If] you took a look at ICM, it started by doing all of those things, whereas many of the older, more [traditional]…missions [agencies] are having to retrofit themselves as they confront emerging trends…around the world,” MacMillan said.
ICM’s strategy consists of working together with indigenous partners to build “mother churches” in each country. The mother church strategy involves building new churches approximately 25 miles from one another. Each of these “mother” churches, in turn, commits to planting at least five “daughter” congregations nearby. ICM’s goal is to “blanket” each nation with churches and other projects. The churches are the catalysts that facilitate the ministry’s primary purpose: nurturing believers.
ICM nurtures believers primarily through the teaching of the Mini Bible College (MBC), a clear, systematic Bible curriculum developed by Pastor Dick Woodward. MBC consists of 215 individual lessons in audio, print and other formats. The teachings include an entire survey of the Old and New Testaments, and in-depth studies of the Sermon on the Mount and Marriage and Family. Woodward served as senior pastor of the Virginia Beach Community Chapel, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, for more than 20 years. In 1982, when Woodward was diagnosed with a rare degenerative disease of the spinal cord, he began creating MBC.
MBC was first aired in English locally in Virginia Beach, and then via Trans-World Radio (Bonaire) in 1986. Today, MBC has been translated into 36 languages and is currently broadcast via radio, the Internet, digital audio players, CDs and smartphone apps. Booklets, leadership materials and study guides are also available. Internationally, ICM churches use the materials for evangelism, pastoral teaching and nurturing believers in Bible study groups.
According to Janice Rosser Allen, ICM Executive Chair and Rosser’s daughter, the demand for teaching materials and church buildings continues to increase as the global outreach expands. The ministry’s growth plan is evaluated annually, and each year ICM establishes projections by region and/or continent.
The approval process for ICM to partner in a church building project requires that the partner organization have at least 100 congregants who are already meeting regularly, as well as a full-time or dedicated pastor. The congregation must also own the land where the new church will be built and provide proof of ownership by submitting a copy of the title deed. In addition, to be approved, the congregation must agree to plant a minimum of five daughter congregations within three years of their church’s completion, provide periodic progress reports with supporting photos, and use a portion of their tithes to help fund additional church construction.
ICM has established a long-term goal of 10,000 church projects, 50,000 daughter congregations and 100,000 Bible study groups to equip 1 million evangelists to reach their nations for Christ by the year 2020.