GCI Update

The written word reveals the Living Word

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In our Statement of Beliefs, in the section concerning the Bible, we say this:

The Holy Scriptures are by God’s grace sanctified to serve as his inspired Word and faithful witness to Jesus Christ and the gospel. They are the fully reliable record of God’s revelation to humanity culminating in his self-revelation in the incarnate Son. As such, the Holy Scriptures are foundational to the church and infallible in all matters of faith and salvation.

This is a carefully worded statement, and we took a lot of time to formulate it. It is important in what it does not say as much as in what it does. You see, although as Christians we must take the Bible very seriously, it is also possible to get into trouble by regarding it as more than what it is. It seems that we know that the Bible is not equal to God even when we sometimes mistakenly behave or speak as if this were the case. No one prays to their Bible or believes the Bible will forgive their sin or raise them from the dead. But there have been some well-intended theologians who have regarded the words of the Bible as the highest or most direct revelation from God – in effect worshipping Father, Son and Holy Scriptures. This error even has its own name – bibliolatry.

This was the problem the religious leaders of Jesus’ time had. Jesus told them, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40).

Notice that Jesus did not say that the written scriptures give life. Regarding the scriptures, of themselves, in this way, misses the point. Scripture testifies to the truth and reality of God’s Word becoming incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. The scriptures point to Jesus who is himself the resurrection and the life. This truth was something the religious leaders refused to accept, and so their whole understanding went awry, leading them to reject Jesus as their Messiah. Like many people today, they didn’t comprehend the distinction between the Bible as the written revelation that prepares us for and directs us to Jesus himself, who alone is the personal self-revelation of God.

I realize that statement may raise eyebrows in some circles. Some may worry that it downplays the importance of the Bible. But it does nothing of the kind. Rather, it properly relates the two different forms of revelation. I have tried to explain it in sermons by saying that Jesus is the Living Word and the Bible is the written word. The written word conveys life to us only because its author (the Living Word) is personally present by the Spirit and speaks again to our very spirits when we read and listen to it.

In the Bible, the Living Word is revealed using human language, expressed in multiple literary genres (poetry, prose, etc.), from within various historical and cultural contexts. The Bible tells the story of how God has worked in human history, most especially in ancient Israel, preparing them (and us) to recognize and receive in faith the salvation accomplished on earth by God’s Son, the Living Word. 

Thinking along these lines, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “We must read this book of books with all human methods. But through the fragile and broken Bible, God meets us in the voice of the Risen One” (Reflections on the Bible). Indeed, the Bible is the only ancient book you can read where the author is still alive and with you, opening and guiding you to faithful understanding and holy communion with him.

This is the glorious purpose for the Bible and we err in trying to make it serve other ends. But we also err by not receiving it in faith for all that it is, namely, a God-inspired gift given to reveal a perfect God (and his perfect plan) even while using a limited, human media.

The apostle Paul, who knew the scriptures inside out, spent much time in his letters explaining how what we call the Old Testament needed to be interpreted in the light of Jesus, even if that meant jettisoning some “carved in stone” ideas that people held about Scripture. Ironically, many today still approach the Bible without giving due consideration to the nature of language, the importance of historical context and the particular reason the various authors wrote what they did.

We should not demand that the Bible serve purposes and function in ways that it does not claim for itself. We do not thereby honor Scripture even if we assert that by doing so we are giving it some kind of greater “perfection.” Examples of this kind of mistake would be turning the Bible into a textbook of science or history, or regarding it as a handbook of instruction about every aspect of human existence.

Let us value the Bible for what it is – a unique, reliable and authoritative guide that, as Paul wrote to Timothy, can make us “wise unto salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15). How marvelous that God can use human language, with all its limitations, to give us an authentic revelation of his Son! Without the risen Lord, the Bible would be just another ancient book and could not lead us to eternal life. But since this written word belongs to and faithfully serves the Living Word, as we hear it proclaimed we are led to the Savior in whom we put our faith, hope and love.

In Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach

Update on L.A. church plant

The following update is from GCI pastor and U.S. district leader Heber Ticas concerning the new church he and his congregation recently started in Los Angeles, CA (for a previous Update report on this church plant see https://update.gci.org/2011/11/new-church-launched-in-l-a/).

Blessing families

We give God thanks that our new satellite church plant is prospering. Attendance is steady with an average of about 80 (including the church plant team). Because we’ve reached critical mass, it is no longer necessary to have families attending from the mother church.

Recently, we held a community outreach event where we blessed families and encouraged family unity. In February we celebrated our first Lord’s Supper. Ministry is falling into place from all angles!

Communion service

Now we are gearing up for additional community outreach events. We hope to see attendance increase to over 100 people. Planned events include special outreach services on Easter and Mothers’ Day and a community fair in June.

The ministry team in this new plant is doing a wonderful job! My primary responsibilities are to cast vision, mentor and preach. Recently, we commissioned Enoch Palacios to serve as campus pastor and my associate pastor. I am thankful to the Lord for Enoch – he is a gifted speaker and passionate for the community. Enoch and the rest of the team are now covering the day-to-day responsibilities of this church: cell group meetings, personal visitation, gathering for prayer and continuous evangelism. Their active involvement has allowed me to redirect my time back to pastoring the mother church.

Leading in worship

We are progressing well in helping people travel our discipleship pathway (connect to Christ, connect to one another, connect to Christ’s mission). New people are taking our discipleship course taught by Enoch. About 15 people have expressed interest in being baptized in June.

Please join us in prayer about these developments, as we continue to ask the Lord to give us the ability to discern where the Holy Spirit is working so that we might join him there.




VBS training offered

Carla Sethna, a member of the GenMin Mission Event Resource Team has announced that Freedom Church, one of GCI’s congregations in the Atlanta, GA area, is offering to other GCI congregations training in conducting a Vacation Bible School (VBS). The training will involve joining with Freedom Church’s staff in conducting their annual VBS (this will be their seventh time) on June 8-10.

The VBS will use Group Publishing’s Rocky Point Lighthouse – Shine God’s Light curriculum. It has a strongly missional emphasis, involving the kids in a community service project. To maximize the outreach focus, the VBS will be held over a weekend, beginning with Friday evening dinner and concluding with a Sunday afternoon barbecue that will involve the kids’ families and other guests.

The VBS will be for children ages 3-10. There will be a strong cross-generational emphasis, with Freedom Church’s middle schoolers serving as counselors and with adults of all ages from the congregation participating in various ways.

Anyone who comes for this VBS training will leave prepared to conduct one of their own. They will be given decorations and other materials to take home with them. Free lodging can be arranged for out-of-town guests.

If you are interested in participating, email Carla at cpsethna@comcast.net

Church websites

In an age dominated by digital media, having a church website can be a helpful (even necessary) means to communicate with the public and with members. The GCI Information Technology (IT) team assists GCI-USA congregations in setting up websites (and they provide site hosting).

For a tutorial from IT on launching and maintaining a church website (using WordPress), go to www.gci.org/go/easyweb.

For a list of GCI-USA congregations with websites, go to www.gci.org/participate/find (click on “All Church Websites”). Here is a screen shot of the home page of the website of New Hope Christian Fellowship, one of GCI’s congregation in Los Angeles, CA area (view their full website at http://www.newhope4all.org/):

Maceo Hampton

Retired GCI pastor Maceo Hampton has been battling prostate cancer. Here is his praise report.

Dear Family and Friends,

Maceo and Phoebe Hampton

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, for your prayers, supplications, fastings, cards, and all the thoughtful and wonderful messages that I have received these past months as I went through my evaluations and radiation treatments. GOD IS GOOD and MERCIFUL! I finished my last radiation treatment on January 23 and for the past several weeks I have been experiencing the lessening of the “after effects” from hormone therapy and radiation.

I had an appointment on March 7. The doctor was very pleased with my low PSA count. He said that all indications were that I am CANCER FREE! Thank God!! There will be another follow-up visit in four months.

Prayer is important and vital. We must never underestimate it in “holding up the hands” of all who request and need it. Again THANK YOU!

Maceo Hampton

A redemptive moment

GCI pastor Neil Earle recently wrote the following short article for his congregation’s website. We thought you’d enjoy reading it.

With the news media having a lot of tragedy to feast upon in recent weeks – the apparent slaughter of the innocents in Afghanistan, the ugly controversies swirling in Florida – there was one quiet, almost unreported, moment that can be seen as redemptive for the whole nation. A Christian lady stood in a courtroom in Jackson, Mississippi, and forgave the three killers of her brother, a man they had brutally murdered in June 2011.

Three young drunken toughs ran over and beat to death 48-year-old James Craig Anderson in an incredibly premeditated and despicable hate crime that seemed to come screaming out of the crypts of Mississippi’s darkest past. “Things have changed in this country,” offered one social justice activist, “but they haven’t changed as much as people think.”

This ugly reminder in Jackson was mitigated somewhat – indeed some say overwhelmed by – the merciful, Christian attitudes expressed by James Anderson’s family through the words of his sister, Barbara Anderson Young (pictured, left).  After publicly thanking God for the peace and strength that he had granted James’ family in the past eight months, she opened with the astonishing words:

We ask that you not seek the death penalty for anyone involved in James’ murder…Our opposition to the death penalty is deeply rooted in our religious faith, a faith that was central in James’ life as well. [48-year old James worked for Nissan and sang in his church choir.] We also oppose the death penalty because it historically has been used in Mississippi and the South primarily against people of color for killing whites.

Then she added:

Those responsible for James’ death wantonly ended the life of a talented and wonderful man. They also caused our family unspeakable pain and grief. But our loss will not be lessened by the state taking another man’s life.

Ms. Young also added that her family was praying for peace in the family of the condemned killer and for “racial conciliation” in the South and the whole country.

It was quite a dramatic moment, a showcase without intending to be so of the best Christian virtues on public display in an ugly time for all of us. What a shame the media did not make this their lead story last Thursday.


De La Rosa wedding

Jose Escalante leads the couple in their vows

On March 25, GCI pastor Gildardo De La Rosa was united in marriage to Karina Hernandez.

Gildardo pastors Comunion De Gracia, a GCI congregation in Santa Ana, CA.

The wedding, attended by 150 church members and friends, was officiated jointly by GCI pastors Heber Ticas and Jose Escalante. Pastors Ines Cante and Mario Lopez were also present.

The newly wedded couple (center) with Heber Ticas (left) and Heber's wife Xochilt Ticas (right)

Please join us in prayer for the new couple, asking God to be with them as they journey together in life and ministry.