How Dan and Nancy Painter turned their gift of hospitality into a Europe-wide network of churches
He served in Vietnam. He prayed weekly with the US ambassador to France. She translated for Billy Graham in a conversation with a French philosopher. He oversaw the departure of Soviet troops from the Czech Republic after the Velvet Revolution. But for Dan and Nancy Painter, the best was yet to come.
While they spent years in the heady world of of military generals and famous diplomats, the Painters had something that was even more important to them: their faith in Jesus Christ. Little did they know that God was using their first career to prepare them for a second.
While serving as attaché to the US ambassador in Prague in 1990, Dan and Nancy decided to host a Christmas gathering. They invited others from the diplomatic community, particularly those from the American and British embassies. This led to the formation of a Bible study, and eventually a full-blown church. The International Church of Prague continues to this day.
When Dan retired from the army, he and Nancy returned to the Washington, DC area, where they were involved with the historic Fourth Presbyterian Church. Dan also served as director of the CS Lewis Institute. But a new calling arose in their hearts, to return to Europe as missionaries in France.
Their diplomatic and military experience gave them a special heart for English speakers working abroad, whether in business, the military, the diplomatic community, or students. An international work assignment took a toll on marriages and families. Dan and Nancy knew that the best way to offer hope was through the hospitality, community, and Bible teaching of a vibrant church. And the opportunity for the gospel was even greater than they imagined, as immigrants, in-country nationals, and citizens from many nations found hope in the International church.
The Painters planted their second international church, this time in Aix en Provence. The International Christian Community of Provence (ICCP) was born in 1999, and it continues to this day. It was here that their trademark values and ministry events took shape: reaching people from many nations; building trust with the mayor and other city leaders; partnering with the French churches without being competitive; hosting city-wide Christmas caroling services; and organizing bi-lingual kids camps.
After turning ICCP over to the next generation of pastoral leadership, Dan and Nancy moved to the Jura Mountain region to care for a chateau and continue their ministry of hospitality and outreach. While there they connected with Jim Carlson and Mike DiGena, missionaries with Reach Global in the city of Lyon. They worked together to host a city-wide caroling service at Christmas in 2004. Out of these early days was birthed the International Christian Community of Lyon (ICCL), which continues to this day.
While the concept of international churches was not new, there proved to be a need and great interest in churches that were evangelical, missional, and centered on the gospel. God used the urging of friends to lead the Painters to launch a network of like-minded churches called International Christian Community (ICC). What began as an annual retreat for pastors has turned into a ministry that has attracted pastors and churches from cities across Europe.
The increased scope of ministry did not stop Dan and Nancy from planting one more church, this time in Marseille, France. The International Christian Community of Marseille was planted, and was recently turned over to a new pastor. The multi-cultural church continues to this day.
Dan and Nancy Painter have some rare qualities of leadership that have helped shape the culture and ministry impact of the pastors and churches affiliated with ICC. They are not high-control, so people tend to embrace their vision voluntarily. Dan shares power easily, so fellow pastors have joined with him to chart the course for the future. The Painters' trademark hospitality has fostered a caring and open environment, so that diverse groups of people have found common ground in ICC churches. And, their style of outreach has maintained a sensitivity to local cultures, so that gospel communities can flourish and grow in the cities of Europe.
Today, ICC is poised for the future. True to form, Dan has passed the baton of leadership to James Arnold, a seasoned pastor in Nice, France, with extensive vision and international experience.
The new wine of the gospel is finding new wineskins in Europe and beyond. In the lives of Dan and Nancy Painter, God in his grace has saved the best wine for last.
Mike Tilley is the senior pastor of Lake Baldwin Church, and serves on the ICC Euro Team. He and his wife, Molly, worked with a core group in Orlando, FL to plant Lake Baldwin Church in 2006. Mike loves teaching the Bible in a way that relates to real life. In his spare time, Mike enjoys good movies, long dinner with friends, snow skiing, hanging out with his kids and two granddaughters, and travel.