GCI Update

Real love

                       A Leadership cartoon by Lee D. Johnson.|Copyright © 2010 Christianity Today International. |Used by permission.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Unlike the man in the cartoon above, we don’t view love as an esoteric theological concept. For us, love is real and living, for as the Bible tells us, God is love (1 John 4:16).

How sad then that some preachers and teachers declare that God does not love everyone. They say that God created some people for the purpose of damning them for eternity. I find it astonishing that anyone could actually believe, let alone teach such a distorted and ugly picture of God. Such a view cannot be true for multiple reasons:

  • It portrays God as working within a mechanistic system that in effect robs God of any freedom to love.
  • It renders Scripture incoherent since all humanity is called to repent, yet some cannot since God (supposedly) has already assigned some to damnation.
  • It presents God as capricious, arbitrarily choosing some and rejecting others of his own creation who bear his own image.
  • It divides God’s will between two opposite ends, since God purposes and wills to bring about both life and death for his good creation.
  • It makes God’s character incoherent and untrustworthy since God is equally predisposed to bless and damn his good creation.
  • But worst of all it creates a split in God’s very being so that the Son is the merciful Savior and Reconciler of the world while the Father is only concerned for a righteousness that is entirely satisfied with rewarding the good and punishing the evil. The Son does not, then, show us the Father, but is actually at odds with his mind, character, purpose and will.

Whichever way you look at it, to believe God predestined some people for condemnation is inconsistent with a God who says love is the very essence of his being.

Since God is a relational being living in perfect oneness as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, he did not have to create us – or anything. He was not lonely or lacking anything. He created all that exists because he wanted to share his love, his light and life. Note what the apostle John says:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5).

So it is tragic when God is presented as a harsh, cosmic sheriff; or when Jesus is portrayed as the good cop, playing us against his bad cop Father. This dualistic viewpoint has Jesus running interference for us behind the back of His Father. It ignores the fact that God the Father sent Jesus to reveal God to us. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us that Jesus is the true Son of the Father and that God’s triune nature is one of pure, perfect, and to our limited minds, incomprehensible love.

Love is the nature of God’s being – that is, love is not something God has; it is what he is.

It is one of my passions for people to know of this life that we have in Christ. It is a joy to point out that the gospel is a message of good news from beginning to end.

Scripture describes the gospel in numerous ways. Here is how the word is most often used:

  •  good news of Jesus Christ — 15 times
  •  good news of God – 9 times
  •  good news of the kingdom – 7 times
  •  my gospel, our gospel – 6 times
  •  the gospel of peace – 2 times
  •  good news of God’s grace – 1 time
  •  good news of the glory of Christ – 1 time
  •  gospel of your salvation – 1 time

From infinity, God has reached down, touched the earth, and redeemed it with the blood of his only Son. Whether one believes in him or not, the life that we all have exists only in him. The more we acknowledge and live in that knowledge, the quality of our life is enhanced. It makes no difference whether we are wealthy or poor, healthy or ill. Any joy we experience is the echo of his life, love and light in our lives.

Our ultimate delight, through the Holy Spirit, is to come to know the divine love of Christ. The love that God has given his sons and daughters in Christ is not a philosophical contemplation, a scientific theory, or a theological treatise, but a living and binding love to be shared with one another and with our Lord.

Blessings from my family to yours,

Joseph Tkach

P.S. Last week we reported on GCI pastor Rick Shallenberger’s recent visit to Africa (see https://update.gci.org/2012/02/gci-zambia-report/). This week we continue that report with an update about his visit to Malawi (see https://update.gci.org/?p=8487). I’m grateful to Rick and others who assist me in keeping in contact with our churches in Africa. In some cases (as with Rick), these trips are financed by their home congregations. Thanks to all for their generosity in helping us spread the love of God around the globe.

Tammy Tkach visits Tucson

Tammy Tkach visited Grace of God Fellowship in Tucson, AZ, on January 29. She gave a sermon entitled “Our Relationship with Jesus, Part 2.” She showed how eternal life, which is knowing God through his Son, Jesus, is a close, affectionate relationship. And that relationship needs to be our main focus, the centerpiece of our lives. The occasion of her visit was very festive, with a visiting praise band, and a  special meal.

Left to right: Pastor Ted & Lila Millhuff, Tammy Tkach, Michelle & Pastor Tom Landess


GCI Malawi report

GCI pastor and district pastoral leader Rick Shallenberger recently traveled to Africa on behalf of GCI President Joseph Tkach. For a report on his time in Zambia, click here. Following is Rick’s report on a Q&A meeting he held with pastors and other leaders in Malawi. Next week, he will share more about Malawi, introducing the pastors and giving information on the congregations.

Rick Shallenberger

On Saturday, January 14, I had the opportunity to speak at our congregation in Numenjale. On the way to the service I was informed that Malawi TV, one of two Malawi television stations, would be taping the service to be played later (it was played on January 21). This was one of those Holy Spirit moments, because when I realized I was preaching to all of Malawi, I shared the story of the Prodigal Son-Dancing Father and told the audience that all in Malawi are included in God’s love and plan. I’ve since been informed the response to the message was so favorable, they’ve played it two weeks in a row.

Following the service, I held a Question and Answer meeting with a group of our pastors and other leaders from that area. For four hours that day and two the next, we met at a lodge owned by Franklin Likupe, Chairman of the Board for the Malawi churches, and Chairman of Ambassador School. Here is a summary of what we discussed:

  1. Day of worship. I noticed that the congregation holds its worship services on Saturday. I asked if there was a particular reason. The first thing a few said was, “Well since the day doesn’t matter, we decided to not change it.” So I posed the question, “Not matter to whom?” After a few minutes of discussion, they came to agree the day does matter. All had stories about people wanting to come to church, but then not coming because services were on Saturday, a business day. After a while, I said it seems that their own culture tells them the day does matter. Then I talked a bit about the error in thinking that because it doesn’t matter to us, it doesn’t matter to others, along with the error we used to make, saying that it’s no concern of our to make it convenient for others. I suggested we focus on making it as convenient as we can for others to participate in worship by coming to church. They were looking forward to continuing this discussion among themselves.
  2. Name of the denomination. They asked what I thought of our name, Grace Communion International. I told them I could not think of a better name to describe who we are as a denomination. We talked about each of the three words in our name and their meanings and then the power of the name when all three words are put together. The more we talked the more excited they became about the name and its significance.
  3. Grace. One of the pastors asked me to help him understand grace better. So I pulled out two 50 kwacha bills (local currency). I then asked another pastor to name the four Gospels and told him if he did, I’d give him the money. He did and I gave it to him. Then I walked over to another pastor and handed him 50 kwacha. I told him it was simply because I loved him. He got very excited (not about the money) because he suddenly got what grace was all about. Then we talked about grace being undeserved. That led to a discussion among the men on how to handle various situations in their congregations.
  4. Grace based ministry. We had an animated discussion concerning how we can use a grace based approach in our ministry to people. One pastor was insisting that our chief responsibility is to point out to people their sins so that they repent and turn to Jesus. It was fascinating to see the group gather around this pastor, to help him come to understand a more grace based approach. It was beautiful to see this pastor (who sincerely wanted to understand) grow right before our eyes.
  5. The Lord’s Supper. On Sunday, I was asked to lead the group in communion, which I did. I commented that communion can be sober, however, it can also be joy filled. Communion is about us being one with the Father, Son and Spirit and about remembering that we are one together because of Jesus. I then led communion in a spirit of rejoicing and we ended with a shout of “Hallelujah.” There were many positive comments about seeing communion in a different light.
  6. Preaching. Because my sermon on Saturday included stories, I was asked how I come up with them. I told them I take stories from the Bible and my life experience – always to illustrate a key point in the sermon – relating it to real life. We discussed how Jesus taught using stories. I noted that the Bible is full of stories that we can use – in fact the Bible is God’s story, a story that, through Jesus, now includes us! And so we can use our life experiences to tell the story.
  7. Divorce and remarriage. It is common in their culture for a man to leave his wife to marry another, then not support the first wife and her children. Should this practice be allowed in the church? I shared that our responsibility is to teach about God’s love and forgiveness, not to condemn people in judgment. However, part of teaching about love is helping men understand that not supporting their wives and children is not showing love. This led to a discussion about men marrying girls as young as 14, and other related topics.
  8. Reaching the unchurched. A follow-up to the question about grace concerned how to reach unchurched people. We spent a lot of time talking about how we view the unchurched. We need to consider this before we talk about how to reach them. That discussion linked back to the sermon I gave about seeing people as God sees them and loving them because they are God’s beloved. This led to an animated conversation about being included and sharing the good news with others.

We discussed other topics including blessings and cursings. I ended by encouraging them to meet more regularly to let “iron sharpen iron” within their group of pastors. It was a profitable six hours – I felt like I was living in the time of the early church when Jesus told the disciples not to worry about what they were going to say, for the Holy Spirit would lead them. I had no way to prepare for this meeting, nevertheless, I felt that God used it to encourage, enlighten, comfort and uplift a group of dedicated servants of God.

GCI Mozambique report

Click here to watch a video report from GCI South Africa national leader Tim Maguire concerning GCI’s churches in Mozambique, Africa.


GCI Philippines update

50th anniversary celebrations

2012 is the 50th anniversary of Grace Communion International in the Philippines. Plans have been underway since last year to celebrate this “jubilee year” in events held throughout the year. Happy 50th anniversary GCI Philippines!

Leadership conference

Jerome Manriquez, area superintendent for Mindanao, recently visited Zamboanga to conduct a conference with about 15 area pastoral leaders Topics addressed included Trinitarian theology, church management and finances, and the roles of pastors, pastoral teams, leaders and members.

Free preaching webinar

A free webinar (web-based seminar) on preaching is being offered on March 15 from 1:00-4:00pm (U.S. EST). For information and registration, go to http://preachbettersermons.com/.

Death of Ina Moore

The following is from Gary Moore, GCI national director in Canada.

I’m saddened to announce the death of my mother, Ina (Donna) Moore on February 10 at age 86.

My Mom lived in Toronto and was a member of the Toronto East GCI congregation.  She died at the Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto where she was fighting pneumonia. Though the care the hospital provided was first class, she was not able to recover.

My brother Karl and I are very grateful for the long and full life our mother lived. She was a wonderful mother to us, and died in the faith. We commit her to our Lord in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection, and his eternal love. Her funeral will be held on February 15.

Cards may be sent to:

Gary & Wendy Moore
33263 Meadowlands Ave.
Abbotsford, BC V2S 6V1
Karl & Brigitte Moore
1092 Greene Avenue
Westmount, QC H3Z 1Z9



Jason Richards

The following update on Jason Richard’s condition was sent on February 11 by his grandfather, Martin Manuel. It updates us on what was reported last time.


It is with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts that we report that Jason returned home today feeling good and strong. The doctors are not sure of what triggered last Sunday’s episode; they found his PICC line (an IV that carries medicine) out of place and moved it yesterday. Although these adventures are difficult for all of us, especially Jason, we see the benefit of having more thorough examinations than he can receive at home or in monthly outpatient clinic reviews.

While in the hospital, Jason told us that he can now take the shots, IVs, blood draws, and dressing changes without pain. He was awake during the procedure yesterday and took it all in stride. That is tremendous progress! He is now much more prepared for his heart transplant when it comes.

Your prayers mean so much to Jason and all of us, for we know that our wonderful Father, Son and Spirit hear and act upon them. We look forward to reporting what we hope is the next step – the transplant.

Thank you! And praise our God!


Naomi Biswas

In the last Update, we asked for prayer for Naomi Biswas. She is feeling better, though she is up and down and the cause of her breathing problems is still undetermined. She is resting, and will be having further tests. She still plans to go to Bangladesh with her husband John for the GCI Asian conference.

She thanks everybody for the cards and continued prayers.

Big Sandy members honored

This report is from Sonny Parsons, senior pastor of the GCI church in Big Sandy, TX.

George and Sarah Strub with their children

Greetings from Big Sandy! At the Chamber of Commerce banquet here last week George and Sarah Strub were named Big Sandy’s “man and woman of the year” because of their leadership and service in the community and their church. This prominent annual event is well attended by citizens from Big Sandy and the surrounding east Texas area. In the past ten years, seven of our members have been named man or woman of the year. One member has been named twice.

Anna Peterson (at left, as Mary in the Christmas play)

Also this year, Anna Peterson, daughter of GCI members Rick and Lois Peterson, was named “Miss Big Sandy”! She will represent our city in events around the area during the coming year.

Anna, George and Sarah will be riding in convertibles representing their honors in the Big Sandy Fourth of July and Christmas parades.

We are very proud of their accomplishments.