GCI Update

Why bother with theology?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Many people find theology to be complicated, confusing and even irrelevant. They wonder why they should bother with it at all. “Surely,” they exclaim, “the Bible isn’t that difficult! Why read the works of head-in-the-clouds theologians with their long sentences and fancy terms?” 

Sadly, it is common to ridicule what we don’t understand. But doing so is a formula for continuing in ignorance and possibly falling prey to heresy.

I acknowledge that some academic theologians are hard to understand. In fact, it is unusual to find a genuine scholar who is also a gifted communicator. People in academic circles often deal in lofty ideas, and speak and write mainly with their peer group in mind. They leave it to others to bring those ideas down to earth. The situation is not unlike the difference between the practices of science and technology. The experimental scientist in his laboratory discovers a new process or material, and leaves it mostly to others to harness the idea into something practical for the ordinary person. 

Theology has been called “faith seeking understanding,” and we should not despise it. As Christians we trust God, but God has made us to want to understand the one we trust and why we trust him. Our God apparently wants us to grow in our knowledge and trust in him, having our minds more and more transformed. But knowledge about God is not something that we humans can just come up with on our own by thinking it out. The only way we can know anything true about God is to listen to what he tells us about himself.

God has chosen to preserve the revelation of himself to us in the Bible, a collection of inspired writings compiled over many centuries under the supervision of the Holy Spirit. However, even the most diligent study of the Bible does not automatically convey to us a right or full understanding of who God is. Most heresies come from wrong understandings of who God is, often promoted by one or a few individuals who fail to grasp how God has revealed himself in the Bible and ultimately in Jesus Christ, and who have given little or no attention to the biblically based teaching of the church down through the ages.

What then do we need? First, we need the Holy Spirit to enable our minds to understand what God reveals in the Bible about himself and give us the humility to receive it. The Bible and the work of the Spirit together are sufficient to bring the humble reader (or hearer) with a mustard seed’s worth of faith to an initial trust that repents of unbelief and acknowledges that Jesus is Lord and that he alone brings us God’s gracious salvation. Second, growth in our knowledge of who God is calls for a comprehensive grasp of the whole of Scripture with Jesus Christ standing at the center of it all. No one can do that for themselves in even a lifetime. We need the wisdom of others. Third, we may misunderstand some or much of what we read in the Bible due to assumptions we bring with us into our study of the Bible. We need help to remove these obstacles to spiritual growth. Fourth, we will not instantly know how best to communicate our understanding to those around us. Some are specifically called to help sort all these things out. And this is where theology comes in.

The word theology comes from a combination of two Greek words, theos, meaning God, and logia, meaning knowledge or study—study of God. Theologians are those members of the body of Christ who are called to synthesize and sum up the biblical witness to the nature, character, mind, purposes and will of God. In doing this they survey the results of others in the history of the church who attempted to do the same. They also analyze our contemporary context to discern the best words, concepts, stories, analogies or illustrations that most faithfully convey the truth and reality of who God is. The result is theology. While not all theologies are equally faithful, the church is wise to make use of those results that do help it keep its proclamation of the Gospel resting on the firm foundation of God’s own revelation of himself in Jesus Christ according to Scripture.

The church as a whole has an ongoing responsibility to examine its beliefs and practices critically, in the light of God’s revelation. Theology, therefore, represents the Christian community’s continuous quest for faithful doctrine as it humbly seeks God’s wisdom and follows the Holy Spirit’s lead into all truth. The church ought to make use of those members of the Body who are specially called to help it do just that. Until Christ returns in glory, the church cannot assume that it has reached its goal. That is why theology should be a never-ending process of critical self-examination. Theology can thus serve the church by combating heresies, or false teachings, and helping us find the most faithful ways we can speak the truth in love today in our current context.

My point is that theology – good theology based in a profound respect for the biblical revelation and a sound understanding of its intent, background, context and comprehensive meaning for today – is a vital ingredient to a growing Christian faith. The 21st century is posing unprecedented challenges that are not addressed directly in the inspired Scriptures. Times change, but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). At the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you” (John 16:12-15).

So let’s not despise the understanding that comes from good theology, even though it sometimes comes wrapped in difficult language. As the “resident theologian” to the people you serve, strive to understand it and then serve it up to your people in a way they can also understand.

With love, in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach

PS. At www.gci.org/God/theology you’ll find a useful article on this topic. It might provide you with material for a sermon or two. You will also find an ongoing discussion concerning Trinitarian theology on The Surprising God blog at thesurprisinggodblog.gci.org/.

Africa update

This update is from Kalengule Kaoma, mission director for Central Africa.


The Zambia-based pastors’ wives hosted a Pastors’ Wives Retreat for the region that includes Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For the first time, the women received a visitor from Nairobi, Kenya. Anne Kimani, wife of East Africa Area Pastor Kimani Ndungu, attended. With her counterparts, Anne shared insights on prayer and being a participant in the ministry of Christ.


While in Angola I conducted a two-day leadership seminar. The church has made a remarkable turn towards Christ-centeredness, growing in their understanding of the new covenant. With a lot of enthusiasm and positive outlook, we discussed the future of GCI in Angola. “We are just waiting for registration. When we are registered, we will go to many regions of Angola and share the gospel with other people,” assured Oliveira Kitambala, National Director for Angola. Fragoso Lunji and Andre Kaliale from Luanda Kilometro and Estalagon church areas respectively echoed positive sentiments. Fragoso emphasized: “We have many opportunities to share God’s word with other people. What we have in Grace Communion is too good to keep to ourselves.” In Luanda, two of Oliveira’s pastors invited me to speak in their well-attended congregations. Oliveira is networking with clergy in his community.

Part of the Angola leadership team. Oliveira Kitambala is third from left.


Pictured below are the leaders from Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe who met recently in Harare for their annual leadership conference. Gordon Green, Regional Pastor for Natal, South Africa attended as a resource person. Among other topics, Gordon encouraged leaders to Cultivate People Skills in Leadership.


Kimani Ndungu, Area Pastor for East Africa; Anthony Gachanja, National Director for Kenya; and I traveled to Kisii to meet pastor Javan and his team, who have expressed interest to be part of Grace Communion International. We are watching this developing story.


William and Jessica Othieno, pastor of Tororo, Uganda, congregation

There is a surge of interest in GCI here, particularly from three groups of children age five to sixteen. Most live with grandparents who are not able to feed or clothe them well. These children carry sad memories of losing their parents to HIV/AIDs. Often I ask Jesus to show me what he is doing in the lives of these seemingly hopeless children. We are telling them that Jesus loves them. What a joy to see them smile!


Charles and Comfort Akuwoah, pastor of Kumasi congregation, hosted me in their home. In a Bible Study with 22 attendees, I pointed out that each of us matter to God. We are very close to his heart because God has included us in his circle of love.


Immigration officers at the border welcomed Pastor Alfred Ablordeppey and me. Seeing Pastor Daniel Yovo again brought joy to my heart. I recalled my few French words of salutations and greeted him. Over the weekend we attended leaders’ workshops and church services. We shared communion and tasty meals. God is building close-knit communities among us.


Before our Saturday morning leaders’ training session, we went to the river for a baptism ceremony. Herbert and Jane decided to go through baptism.

Besides leadership training, we spent time with the youth and general membership in Bible Studies. Eagerness shown by members to learn God’s word made me want to spend more time with God’s children in Benin.

Nepal update

This update is from Rod Matthews, GCI mission director in Southern Asia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

Deben and Manju Sam

We are privileged to walk together in the ministry of Jesus Christ with the Himalayan Gospel Church based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Led by Deben Sam with his wife Manju, this church is a growing network of about 20 congregations. On March 24, Rick Shallenberger and Danny Richardson from Cincinnati, USA, Mohan Jayasekera from Perth, Australia, and my wife Ruth and I joined them in worship as part of our visit to strengthen our on-going relationship and discuss how we might further assist in the work of the gospel in Nepal in the year ahead.

Deben’s main congregation of about 70 people meets in a rented building once used as a carpet factory. We were led in worship by Pastor Joseph. The main message was given by Mohan in English, translated into Nepali by the pastor, one of only a few in the group who is bilingual. A group of very competent young people provided the music for our worship in song. We were impressed to see members arriving with bags of various vegetables and fruits from their gardens, which they put on a table at the front of the hall to be distributed amongst the poorer and needy members who have no land to utilize.

About two years ago, Deben leased some farmland on the outskirts of Kathmandu to grow vegetables and small crops to provide for the poor of his congregation and to generate income for the church. Several of the poorer member families live on site, working the fields. The farm is producing well. Deben tapped the expertise of his brother (who is studying agriculture) to educate the farmers through classes and manual labor. Under Deben’s leadership, the farm has become very profitable by breeding pigs and fish.

In Nepal there are vast numbers of very poor people – many work in slave-labor conditions in brickyards around Kathmandu, in quarrying gravel from river beds, or in other low-paying tasks such as sweeping streets. Deben and his wife have hearts of compassion for the poor and a deep concern for their circumstances and needs. With help from their extended family, they look after 14 orphans in their home in Kathmandu. These young girls and boys, who come mainly from rural areas, now have a secure future of Christian love, education and development.

Several years ago, some of Deben’s church members who worked in a brickyard were prevented from attending church when the brickyard owner penalized them for being Christian and required them to work seven days a week. This prompted Deben to propose that, together, we demonstrate the love of God in a very practical way by opening a medical clinic near many of the brickyards to offer free health care to the poor with particular emphasis on the needs of small children and nursing mothers.

The pharmacist and Raju, Deben’s brother-in-law, serving at the clinic

None can afford medical care or medicines provided by the hospitals in the city; so the clinic is open each weekday afternoon with a pharmacist present to dispense free medicine. One afternoon a week a doctor is on duty to deal with more complex issues. This medical service is in much demand and Deben has proposed that we consider extending the operating hours to five full days each week. That means we have to double the hours for which the pharmacist is employed and cover the cost of the additional medicines needed. He does not plan to increase the doctor’s hours at this stage. So we are evaluating this and hope to be able to meet the additional costs so we can give him the go ahead in the near future. To date the Cincinnati congregation in the USA has been generously supporting about 80% of the costs of the clinic on an on-going basis.

Deben’s compassion for his own people, his own rural background and his gift of evangelism, has drawn him to start congregations in some very remote villages. His most recent trip to a village in the far northwest of the country started with an 8-hour bus trip to a regional city, then an hour-long flight in a small plane, culminating in a 4-day walk over a high mountain. How does he interest the people in the gospel message when he gets there? He shows the Jesus film in Nepali. But there is no electricity, so he and his travelling companions carry the projector and a generator on their backs. The people are amazed at the movie and, invariably, some commit their lives to Christ. And so a congregation is born. This is followed up with further communication and biblical educational material to aid them in their journey of discipleship and, if feasible, an annual visit from Deben and his support team during the summer months.

GCI has been involved in funding the translation and printing of our literature in Nepali, the distribution of Nepali Bibles, and the reconstruction work of several rural church buildings and homes after a severe earthquake in eastern Nepal last year. This year, we need to reprint our Nepali translation of Basic Christian Teachings. It is in high demand from pastors of other churches after they learn about it.

As we reported in an earlier issue of Weekly Update, Deben was attacked by a mob a few weeks ago while on an evangelistic mission trip. The mob accused Deben of bringing “cultural and religious pollution” into their society. We offered to help Deben with his medical expenses. He gratefully declined, indicating that he could manage on his own. However he heard that the wife and eldest son of one of his pastors in a remote village in northwest Nepal had been badly injured when lightning struck their home. The local doctor referred them to a distant hospital, which they cannot afford. Deben said he felt a personal responsibility to help. So yesterday we sent Deben some money for that purpose. We also asked Deben to let the family know that hundreds of friends from the Body of Christ around the world are praying for their speedy recovery.

Philippine leadership training

This update is from Pastor Rex Dela Pena, National Youth Director for GCI Philippines.

GCI Philippines recently conducted a three-day seminar for 48 young emerging leaders from 11 congregations in Mindanao. The training, led by Rex Dela Pena, focused on preparing these individuals to step into pastoral team and church leadership positions in five to seven years.

The seminar started with a discussion concerning assessing current ministries. This was followed by discussions concerning missional leadership and spiritual formation. Participants then shared their desires for their local churches and their plans to help serve those churches and their existing pastoral teams.

A workshop on how to plan for the local church as a pastoral team was conducted, after which each church presented their monthly plans including budgets and topics for sermons and small group meetings. Reynan Fernando from Ipil Church in Zamboanga shared, “Indeed, we’ve been equipped and the training has been a channel for us to see the need of the church. It prepares the hearts of the young leaders and widened our perspective as junior pastoral team members in our local churches. We have enjoyed the cool and relaxing place, the fellowshipping, the lectures and the workshops. We crave more training like this to enhance our leadership skills and equip us to lead God’s people in our local churches, especially in these new, upcoming generations.”

On the last day, Pastor Rex shared a devotional on “In the Storms of Life” where he emphasized Jesus’ experience with his disciples when he walked on water, following Mark 6:45-52. Kevin Mugot from Cagayan de Oro City added, “The devotional was my favorite topic. Personally I have been struggling recently with issues of typhoon recovery and deaths in my family. I came for a vacation, but received far more.”

Christine Adelle Rico commissioned

The training ended with the commissioning of Adelle Rico from Iligan City as the Youth Ministry Coordinator for Mindanao. She was commissioned by Pastor Rex and Pastor Jerome Manriquez (Area Superintendent of Mindanao). This was followed by a photo opportunity and a final round of volleyball.

The training was a realization that God has been preparing these emerging leaders for ministries in their respective congregations. Truly, God has blessed these churches with young people who have the passion to serve God. Follow-up sessions will be held in the next few months.

Small church resources

For a helpful list of resources for small churches, see the links posted on Small Church.com at smallchurch.com/resources/.

This website also includes a blog that discusses small church issues.

Leslie Schmedes

Leslie Schmedes was admitted recently to Foothill Presbyterian Hospital in Southern California, experiencing extensive bleeding. Doctors gave him blood, then performed emergency surgery to remove a small section of his colon. The surgery was successful and the bleeding has stopped.

Les now needs prayer concerning his recovery – he is in a lot of pain. He is in the ICU (so no visitors). His wife Darlene is at home trying to get some sleep.

Thanks for your prayers for Les and Darlene.

Cards may be sent to:

Leslie & Darlene Schmedes
840 E Foothill Blvd Space 82
Azusa, CA 91702-2607


Charles Shelton

In a previous update we requested prayer for Charles Shelton, the pastor of the London, KY congregation. Here is an update written by Charles.

Hi all,

The doctors have determined that my cancer is follicular lymphoma, type B small cell. The good news is that it is treatable. The bad news is that it is regarded as incurable.

The doctors will not comment on the mortality time frame. The internet says I have from less than one year to 20 years (with a median of 10 years).

I began chemo recently. I guess we will have to see how the cancer responds. Regardless, I know I am in God’s hands, and that is good enough for me.

I want to thank all of you for your calls, cards and prayers. They have been a comfort to me and my family.

Yours in Christ,

Charles Shelton

2674 Climax Rd
Orlando, KY 40460-8939


Denise Olson

A few weeks ago, we requested prayer for Denise Olson, wife of GCI pastor Ray Olson (click here for the original request). Here is an update, written by Denise.

Dear friends and family,

My first memory after the surgery was pain. So when the staff asked me my name and when and where I was, I stubbornly declared my name is PAIN. I thought to myself, they know my name why are they bugging me? Leave me alone or lessen the pain, then I will tell you my name and where we are!

I was pretty much out of it – so some things were said intentionally and some not (drugs make one have to apologize a lot!).

Thursday and Friday were not too bad but Friday night until Saturday night was the worst. My pain and nausea were increasing as my activity increased. I actually felt weaker instead of stronger. I never had an appetite so trying to eat was hard.

I can tell you all in no uncertain terms of the change that followed. God gets all the credit!

My hero Ray came Sunday after church and brought an audio recording of the Bible. From noon Sunday to Monday at 9:00 am, God’s New Testament was read out loud without ceasing. Every hour God’s word strengthened me. I went from pain, nausea and hardly talking or eating, to walking and talking. Everyone was astounded at the advancement in just a day!

My doctor said I was a strong lady. I stand on The Rock – he is my strength. God’s spoken Word was my healing and I will give glory to no other!

I was transferred to a regular room later Monday and discharged Tuesday morning.

How can I thank all of you? I don’t know how, but know this: I felt your prayers and I truly was carried upon them. God heard and acted. Thank you Almighty Lord! And may the Jehovah Rapha who is healing me, bless you.

Mushy, gushy, love to all.

Denise Olson

W6711 State Road 33
Juneau, WI 53039


Joe Dailey

This update is from Evelyn Dailey, who serves as Bernie Schnippert’s administrative assistant in GCI Legal Services in Glendora, CA.

Evelyn and Joe Dailey

My husband Joe, who has had kidney disease for 16 years, now has end stage renal failure. He is on dialysis and is scheduled for kidney transplant surgery on May 4 at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Joe’s sister, Kris, is his donor. We seek your prayers for a successful outcome on that day and a quick and complete recovery for both.

Kris with her brother Joe

We are deeply thankful for God’s guidance and benevolence through this entire process and are profoundly grateful for the gift that Kris is providing. Her willingness to undergo this procedure will allow Joe to discontinue dialysis and regain near optimal health and kidney function. Her acceptance as a donor means that she is in exceptional overall health and should do just fine with the one remaining kidney.

Your ongoing prayers and support have truly been felt and have upheld us through this journey.

With deep appreciation and gratitude,

Joe and Evelyn Dailey

480 S. Orange Grove, Unit 24
Pasadena, CA 91105-1720



Death of Al Yeager

We are saddened to learn of the death of Al Yeager, husband of Sheila Yeager and the pastor of one of GCI’s congregations in the Phoenix, AZ area.

Al recently entered the hospital with pneumonia and other conditions. He had been struggling for over a year with dialysis and other serious issues related to diabetes. He was transferred from the ICU to hospice care and died on April 29. Details concerning the funeral are pending.

Cards may be sent to:

Sheila Yeager
1773 W El Monte Place
Chandler, AZ  85224