GCI Update

Our mission and vision

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We have just concluded the first of our 2012 US regional conferences. GCI members and friends gathered in Ontario, CA for three days of worship, dialog and presentations. I always look forward to these conferences—they are wonderful opportunities to renew old friendships and make new ones. Several more conferences are scheduled around the nation this year. I urge you to attend if you can.

Sharing our mission and vision

At our conferences, I’m often asked to cast a vision for our denomination’s future in the way a CEO might cast a vision for a business. Though, for practical reasons, churches must embrace certain business practices, the Biblical model for leading the church is that of a shepherd or farmer rather than a business executive. This does not mean, of course, that we are called to sit back and do nothing. However, it explains why my approach is not to cast a vision but to gather a vision. Let me explain.

In the fifth chapter of Romans, Paul wrote: “We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (Romans 5:3-5, The Message Bible).

This passage describes the sense of hope and expectancy that I feel as I receive reports concerning what our congregations around the world are experiencing in Christ’s service. We have moved from being a denomination where our congregations existed to support a work that emanated from a central headquarters, to a network of congregations that are working under the overall umbrella of the denomination. Now, each congregation seizes opportunities that God presents to them locally to advance the overall work of the church globally.

Ontario, CA regional conference audience (click to enlarge)

I have the privilege of telling the stories of many of these congregations in my presentation at the regional conferences. Like Paul who couldn’t “round up enough containers” to hold everything, I do not have enough time to tell all the stories about the marvelous things the Holy Spirit is doing through our congregations. From these reports, I gather a picture of what God is doing with and through us. And that collage, rather than grandiose ideas I might come up with, is what frames my vision for our future as a denomination.

With that in mind, let me now share with you some thoughts concerning our mission and vision that I shared at the first of our 2012 regional conferences.

What is our mission?

Grace Communion International is a people called together by God to share in the ministry that Jesus is doing through the Holy Spirit in our world. We are a communion of churches and denominational ministries with a shared mission, which is taking us toward the realization of a shared vision.

We are called to the same mission as all other followers of Jesus—it’s often referred to as The Great Commission. There are a number of ways to summarize this mission. We do so in our denominational motto: Living and Sharing the Gospel.

This motto, which appears in our denominational logo (see above), is not just a catchy slogan. It encapsulates our sense of calling to lock arms, sharing together in what Jesus is doing in our world, through the Holy Spirit, to fulfill the Father’s mission. We can expand this into a more complete mission statement: Grace Communion International is committed to living and sharing the good news of what God has done through Jesus Christ.

We pursue this mission by:

  • Building healthy, Christ centered congregations that are sanctuaries of worship, friendship and nurturing pastoral care.
  • Providing sound biblical teaching through our congregations, media and personal outreach in ways that are relevant and meaningful to people of diverse backgrounds and ages.
  • Equipping people for Christian service so that the gospel can be known, understood and experienced.
  • Sharing in the work of the gospel with the broader Christian community, acknowledging that we can learn from one another and that Christ’s love goes beyond denominational boundaries.
  • Expressing the love of God to all through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The result of this mission focused work is lives transformed by the gospel, one person at a time. This is actually Jesus’ mission—and we are called to share in it with him. Through eyes of faith, we are able to see the transforming presence and activity of God that others are not yet seeing. It is not about us “taking God to people,” but rather helping people see the God who already is sharing his life and love with them. It’s not about helping people “find” Jesus, but of showing them the creative, life giving Savior who, through the Holy Spirit, is already present and at work in their lives.

What is our vision?

Our vision is a faith and hope-filled glimpse of what GCI will continue to become as we pursue our mission to live and share the gospel. We summarize our collective vision this way:

All kinds of churches for all kinds of people in all kinds of places.

Expanding it, we can say: Grace Communion International exists to help each congregation of Grace Communion International attain its God-given potential. Why this emphasis on local congregations? Because it is my belief that God’s primary instrument for realizing our collective vision is healthy local churches—here in the US and around the world. As I look ahead, I see us becoming more and more a growing, loving community of congregations that are dynamically living out God’s mission in a broken world, and that excites me!

Our core identity (who we are) is founded on our communion with the Father and Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. And who we are drives what we do—our passionate participation in what God is doing in the world. In this way, our mission gives shape to our vision.

I look forward to sharing more about these things at future US regional conferences and on trips to other parts of the world. I hope to see you there!

Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach

P.S. For locations and other information of future US regional conferences, see our web site (www.gci.org/event/12/conferences). Also, be sure to note in this issue the article (linked above, left) telling about our new US military chaplain support ministry.

Growth via Bogota marriage classes

The following update is from Hector Barrero who pastors GCI’s congregation in Bogota, Colombia.

Introductory meeting

An important part of our outreach in Bogota is conducting marriage enrichment classes that are open to the public.

We began a new round of classes on February 25, with an introductory meeting attended by 31 nonmember couples. We connected initially by publicizing the classes on our radio program.

Marriage class leaders

The members of our congregation who will teach these classes have been trained to present a Trinitarian, grace based perspective on marriage enrichment.

Those who signed up for the classes, which last about four months, will attend in various locations around the city. The largest of these groups with eight couples will meet at our church hall.

Holding these classes in the past has brought new members into our congregation. To accommodate this growth, we have recently added a second Sunday worship service. One starts at 8:00 am and the other at 10:30 am. Having two services provides ample room to receive newcomers, opportunities for additional preachers, and possibilities for developing other leaders within the congregation.

Avoiding ministry burnout

The following post is from GCI regional pastor Ken Williams.

Ken Williams

Ministry burnout is a real threat (see the March issue of Equipper now posted at http://mindev.gci.org/equipper.htm). I think most GCI pastors understand the threat, though not all seek help when experiencing burnout symptoms. Perhaps my story will be a source of encouragement.

In 1995, I was pastoring a church in decline (many of you reading this can relate!). I was experiencing many depression-like symptoms, but not doing much about it. But then an article in Leadership Journal on depression among church leaders got my attention and led me to consider the symptoms I was experiencing.

At the same time, my wife and a couple other friends were concerned about me and encouraged me to get help. I agreed, and visited a competent, experienced counselor who understands Jesus’ gospel. After completing five sessions I understood that what I was experiencing was unresolved grief. I was grieving the loss of the departing members. I was willing to take medication to help me, but in my case the symptoms were relieved through the interaction with the counselor who helped me walk through the grief process.

Through that experience and others I’ve learned over the years that to avoid burnout it is vital that pastors have close, honest friends. Indeed, such friends are a gift from our loving heavenly Father! My wife Nancy is my best friend but it complicates our marriage if I rely solely on her for emotional support.

We all need friends who can be objective and honest with us. And from time to time (as was my case) we may need professional counseling services. Most U.S. health insurance plans cover counseling (such is the case for GCI’s plan). Please avail yourself of this benefit. Self-diagnosis can be inaccurate and incomplete.

Brothers and sisters in pastoral ministry, you are not alone! Please seek help when you need it.

Free books by Steve McVey

Steve McVey

We have taped several You’re Included interviews with Dr. Steve McVey (view one at www.gci.org/YI112). Steve is author of several books on theology and Christian living that reflect a Trinitarian, incarnational theology. His books in English are listed at www.gracewalkresources.com/.

One of our French pastors recently informed us that several of Steve’s books are published in French and other non-English languages as PDF files downloadable for free on Steve’s website at www.gracewalk.org/web/pageid/107325/pages.asp.

PD Kurts appointed GCI chaplain coordinator

The US military requires that its chaplains be endorsed by a denomination or other recognized religious institution. Recently, GCI was contacted by two chaplains who feel connected to GCI and want us to be their endorsing denomination (we’ll profile these men in a future article). To facilitate these and other endorsements, GCI recently joined the National Association of Evangelicals Chaplains Commission (NAECC), which provides endorsement and support and training for evangelicals who minister as chaplains within three branches of the US military and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Captain Paul David Kurts

GCI now offers its endorsement to appropriately qualified US military chaplains. Such endorsements will utilize NAECC services. Paul David (PD) Kurts has been appointed by Dr. Dan Rogers of GCI Church Administration and Development (CAD) to serve as GCI’s military chaplain coordinator. PD will continue serving as a GCI pastor and district pastoral leader and part time in the North Carolina Air National Guard.

PD enlisted in the Guard in 1999, served in Guard chaplaincy from 1999 to 2003, was commissioned an officer in 2003 and has served since as assistant director of Equal Opportunity for the North Carolina Air National Guard (where he deals with unlawful discrimination and advises commanders concerning human relations and morale). PD is currently a Captain and is scheduled to be promoted to Major in a few months. Congratulations and thanks to PD!

If you know of a U.S. military chaplain who might be interested in receiving GCI endorsement, you may email PD at paul.d.kurts@gci.org.

For a video profiling a day in the life of a US Navy chaplain, watch this: