GCI Update

The simplicity that is in Christ

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

joeandtammyThe cartoon below gives me a lasting chuckle, though my laughter is mixed with a tinge of sadness from my past. When I was a child, my parents taught me to take notes in church. There was “a method to their madness”—they wanted me to pay attention in church rather than retreat into my own thought world. Note-taking was a good way to help me concentrate. No matter how riveting or boring the message, each week my parents would check my notes to make sure I had been listening. The better my notes, the better I enjoyed my weekend. However, as we have all experienced, some sermons were easier to listen to than others.

Cartoon by Doug Hall
Used with permission from Leadership Journal and cartoonist Doug Hall

The standard sermon format in the church of my youth had seven points, though some had 12 and others had three. Some sermons were pointless (pun intended), but that was not the norm. We were told to “inculcate” these various points “into our lives.” One advantage of listening to such sermons was that my vocabulary increased immensely, adding words like inculcate, admonish, reprehensible and proleptic (words you don’t typically hear a 10-year old say!). But there also were disadvantages. One was that by the end of the year I had 364 points that I was admonished to inculcate. By the end of the second year the list had grown to 728! Such is the burden of a “works-righteousness” approach to sermons and life. For a humorous take on this, see my video at http://youtu.be/YAPnszQ_V_E. By the way, I’m not against having points in sermons—some of the points I learned as a child were helpful.

Once when I was attending one of his week-long seminars, I joked with presenter John Maxwell about the proliferation of points in his presentations and books with titles like, 25 Ways to Win with People, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth and 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork. John laughed when I said that I was still working on memorizing over 2000 of his points, and was wondering how many rules there are to efficient memorizing! Please understand that I’m not picking on John—there is much helpful information in his books and seminars.

Rightly used, lists and points can be helpful, even necessary. We have our own in the various GCI policy manuals. In some ways, I wish they weren’t necessary, but in a time when a growing number of people look to file lawsuits, we must have policies that minimize risk. Most importantly they help us stay focused on the simplicity that is in Christ, even as we function within a world of great complexity.

Though lists can be helpful, the ones I endured as a child often obscured the reality of who Jesus is in relationship to God and to us. It is on these things that our sermons should focus. The simplicity of our relationship with Christ is where we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He is the one who places us in right relationship with the Father and Spirit. He is the one to whom we belong, with all our being. He brings us together and makes us one by his Spirit.

The church is a place where people should sense that they are wanted and loved—by God and his people. When they experience that belonging, their lives begin to change and unity of purpose is experienced despite differences of age, gender and socio-economic status. Let me illustrate this with a couple of examples.

One of our U.S. pastors, David Perry, led a fundraising project to buy bicycles for GCI pastors in Mozambique. In sharing his gratitude for the contributors, he told me where some of the donations originated. Six elderly people in a small house church gave $50.00—an amount that was all they could afford among them. David got misty-eyed as he explained that they just wanted to participate in an outreach project, despite limitations of age and finances.

Our church in Guadalajara, Mexico, pastored by Alfredo Mercado, has had an increasing focus on mission. Recently they had several baptisms. Last year, they hosted a GCI conference coordinated by Lorenzo Arroyo. Others attending from the U.S. included Lorenzo’s wife Rita, Heber Ticas, Gary and Cathy Deddo and Tammy and me. It was a delightful, joy-filled time. One family who drove several hours to attend was inspired to go back home and plant a house church. The conference was made possible by donations from GCI congregations pastored by Robin Chester in Bend, Oregon, and by Mike Swagerty in Sacramento, California.

There are many more such stories that illustrate a focus on the simplicity that is in Christ—churches where members see a need, then join together to meet it. Some of our churches are supporting church plants, others are supporting summer camps and several are covering the travel costs for elders to come to our Glendora office and other far-flung places to receive needed training.

When we focus on the simplicity that is in Christ, we focus on what Christ is doing—sharing with us the love and life of the Father, Son and Spirit. As we join with Jesus, we are transformed into his likeness. This is what the church is all about—living and sharing the gospel. I am more grateful than words can express for the ways our churches are joining Jesus in this gospel ministry. But I will just keep saying “thanks.”

Working together for the gospel,

Joseph Tkach signature




Mission trip to Korea

korea1GCI Missions Philippines, headed by Dr. Rey Taniajura, visited Seoul, South Korea in May on a short-term mission trip. Eleven GCI members along with seven people from other churches participated.

The group was hosted by the Jesus People Church in Seoul. From there they traveled to Paju City near the North Korean border where they prayed for the reunification of the people of North and South Korea. The group also visited a memorial to the Korean War that includes a tribute to the Filipinos who fought beside the South Koreans in that war.

Back in Seoul, the group received street evangelism training. They reviewed and practiced sharing the gospel with each other, then worshiped together, singing and dancing for God’s victory over the streets of Seoul. Following lunch they paired up with young people from the host church and went to Korea National University and Cheongnyangni Train Station where they shared the gospel with everyone they met. Though they experienced some rejection, they made many new friends. They prayed for them and talked with them. Sharing the good news is a blessing whether it is received then or later.

korea3In the days following, the group participated in worship services at the host church and took part in classes and small group discussions concerning salvation and the power of the cross. They also toured Seoul City, including visits to several local attractions. On the last day of the trip, they shared breakfast with their host families. One commented: “We will forever remember their kindness and generosity. They not only took us in, but gave us gifts to bring home. We felt so loved.”

Here are reflections from other participants on the trip:

“God exposed me to a different path, a path I never expected to take. The mission trip revived the fire in my heart. I saw how our Korean brothers and sisters are striving to do their part for the Great Commission that God has given to every Christian. I am inspired. I realized how much I can do by the power of prayer and faith.”

“In this short-term missions exposure, I saw how the Koreans love their country and also their love for their North Korean brothers, always remembering them in their prayers. South Koreans go to the northern border to pray for the unification of the nation. We too should pray, not only for the unification of the Koreas, but for all the nations to hear the good news of Jesus’ love for us.”

“In doing the mission of the Lord, our nationality does not divide us. Instead, it unites us to do his mission together.”

“I thank the Lord for letting me experience this trip, for it inspired me a lot. I am touched and very much amazed on how God works not only in the Philippines but also in other countries like Korea. For me, mission was limited to serving in our local church. Now, I thank God for making me realize that his love knows no bounds. Wherever he sends you, he will surely guide and protect you. All glory and praise to our God!”

Cross-generational church life

This update is from Anthony Mullins, Generations Ministries national coordinator.

One of the great joys of my life was serving as a youth pastor for nine years in the Atlanta area. It was a privilege to be part of the journey in the lives of the parents and their teens. One important factor to the life and vitality of that ministry was the senior pastor and I seeing eye-to-eye on an important point: The teens aren’t just the future of the church, they are its present reality. With that in mind, we went about including the teens in the weekly worship service. But most importantly, we included them in the ongoing life of the church. We wanted to make sure that they knew they were included and valued.

I note all this by way of a lead-in to the video below. It captures a discussion that GCI pastor Paul David Kurts had with his sons Jimmy and Mikey concerning their involvement in ministry in their church near Hickory, North Carolina. Jimmy and Mikey are both actively involved there and are developing as leaders in the congregation. If you watch closely, you’ll see that they know they are wanted and needed in their congregation.

This video is on YouTube at http://youtu.be/4kqCFjbw3EE

John Halford

John HalfordThis update on John Halford is from his daughter, Becki Halford Brown. The original message was posted in Facebook on May 31.

According to dad’s oncologist, he is responding well to his treatments, though he has lost a signficant amount of weight. Following another week of chemotherapy and radiation he will finally get to rest for three weeks before having surgery. The doctor will be setting dad up with a feeding tube in hopes of building up his strength. We are praying that he is able to put on a little weight once that is done.

Thanks for your continued prayers. They are certainly felt and have given dad an extraordinary sense of peace about his condition.

Cards may be sent to:

John & Pat Halford
5836 South State Road 129
Versailles, IN 47042

Please pray for a sister congregation

This prayer request is from GCI pastor Rand Holm.

A couple of days ago, I was shocked to learn on TV about a tragic accident at Port Heuneme First Assembly of God church where the congregation I pastor meets in Southern California. An elderly member of the Assembly of God church who deals with disabilities was leaving the parking lot in her car. Evidently she confused her accelerator with the brake or had some sort of episode that sent her car through the retaining wall surrounding the church parking lot. In a profoundly sad and unbelievably painful accident, one of the other members of the church was killed and another was critically injured.

I called the First Assembly of God pastor and both of us were choking on tears as we spoke. I struggled with what to say to him as he struggled with this unspeakable horror. He told me that nothing in his 45 years of ministry had ever hit him like this. That’s quite a statement, knowing that he has seen a lot as a chaplain serving in New York City following 9/11 and serving with the police and fire departments in Port Hueneme. But this was different. This was home. I told him that I am grateful he is their pastor in this time of great pain and that I believe his whole life prepared him to help his congregation through this worst moment in its history. I also told him that we are united together in the body of Christ and that our prayers and hearts would be and are with him, with the families, with their congregation and community.

Please join me in praying for these brothers and sisters in Christ. Here is a prayer that I’ve offered:

Father in heaven, where do we go, what do we do when something like this happens in our body? Where do we put our emotions, our losses, our sight, and what do we do with our hope which feels so battered? We come together at the foot of the cross—the only event and place that can help us through this. Hear our pleas, hear our cries for healing for the injured, for comfort for those who have lost a member of their family and for a reason to live for those who are in shock. Please help our brothers and sisters, Lord. As they lift their hands and hearts to you, please comfort them with your presence and heal their wounds and heal their hearts. And for the ones who are right now too weak to reach out their hands to you, well, I’ve been there before too. Please reach down and don’t let them go. They need you. We all need you. Thank you for great faithfulness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Harry Sullivan

Harry Sullivan
Harry and Tina Sullivan

Harry Sullivan pastors three GCI churches in the United Kingdom. He says that, growing up, he often learned the hard way: “An early photograph shows me with a bandaged hand. My grandmother had a cooker in her farmhouse. Apparently, it was explained to me that I shouldn’t touch it. But I have to prove things for myself and so I put my hand on it. The predictable result was a painful burn. I’m more careful with hot things now, but I still have to prove lots of things for myself.”

Harry grew up outside Belfast, Northern Ireland where he developed a love of nature. At age 15, he started listening to the radio. “I used to listen to pop music on Radio Luxembourg, often in bed under the blankets when I should have been asleep. The World Tomorrow came on at 11:30 pm on Mondays and Tuesdays. I started reading The PlainTruth and various booklets and began the Bible Correspondence Course. All these made sense to me. They appealed to my rather argumentative nature, overturning the teaching of main-stream churches. A lot of things I did as a result were essentially negative: not eating unclean meat, not celebrating birthdays and Christmas. This was not well received by my parents and they were opposed when in 1963, at age 18, I began attending Radio Church of God services in Belfast.”

Harry then determined to attend Ambassador College. “Despite going to a good school, I disliked the petty (in my view) discipline. I made a lot of serious mistakes in my teenage years and knew I needed to make wide-reaching changes in my life. Unhappy at home, I decided to go to Ambassador. My parents were totally opposed, but I applied and was accepted. I began college in Bricket Wood in October 1963.”

Harry says college turned his life around. “Bricket Wood had students from many different parts of the world and one learned a lot from interacting with them. Many of the friendships made then still continue. Ambassador shaped me and my thinking. I came to repentance in April 1964 and was baptized a week later. I graduated in 1967.”

After graduation, Harry started working full time for the college. “I started in Buildings and Grounds—the campus was still being developed at this time and I was involved with many different departments helping in the building process. Later I worked in the Purchasing Department until Bricket Wood closed in 1974. Then I found a job in purchasing in Watford, England where I became a director of the company.”

In 1971, Harry married Tina Knudsen, and they are in their 43rd year of marriage. “God gave me a Proverbs 31 wife, supporting me throughout my time in ministry. She often visits with me and provides insight in many counselling situations. She leads worship and runs ‘Open the Book,’ telling and performing Bible stories in the local primary school.”

Harry and Tina have two daughters. Shevonne (born in 1973) is married to Gerald McLarnon. They have two sons, Charles (5) and James (4). Meaveen (born in 1975) lives in Australia.

Harry was ordained an elder in 1983. “I was still working in business and my church duties fitted in on weekends speaking in various congregations and doing some visiting.” In 1981, the family moved to their present home in Bedfordshire adjacent to the farm where Tina grew up. Harry was hired into full time ministry in 1987 and was laid off in 2006 due to UK financial difficulties. “The salary stopped, but the pastoring didn’t. I continue to pastor Luton, Cambridge and Peterborough to this day.” In 1999, Harry had began working as a bereavement counselor. Then in 2007, after being laid off from employment with the church, he went to work as a relationship counselor with Relate Bedfordshire (formerly the Marriage Guidance Council).

Harry’s favorite part of being a pastor is “being able to play a part in people’s lives at significant times. Such times include baptism, marriage and blessing of a child, but most often it is a time of crisis like bereavement. Although one cannot take away their pain, one can walk beside them as they go through it, seeking to put a spiritual perspective on it all.”

Speaking about GCI, Harry appreciates, “our commitment to recognize where and when we are wrong and our preparedness to change. I like the opportunities to come to a deeper understanding of God and the Bible with our emphasis on on-going repentance and change. My spiritual journey with GCI has been a positive one, out of exclusivity to understanding God’s transforming grace. I am also thankful for the friends around the world—some made many decades ago.”

When asked about his passion, Harry said, “I dabble in lots of things. But a consistent hobby begun in college is enjoying good wine (at least as good as we can afford!). I used to buy wine for the college in my purchasing department days. I like trying different grapes, vintages and styles—a small part of God’s amazing creation (Psalm 104:15).”

Harry says performing his daughter’s wedding ceremony would stand out as his most memorable moment as a pastor. This is followed by, “blessing both grandsons at ‘Naming Ceremonies’ (a combination of our church blessing ceremony and a children’s party).”

Like many others, Harry said he feels closest to God “in the beauty of the creation, particularly when it is quiet and one only hears birdsong and insects. We have that blessing around us where we live.” Harry also feels close to God during counselling. “Sometimes I am able to convey a spiritual principle to a person. Afterwards, I reflect on what I said, how I said it and think ‘that wasn’t me’ and realize it came from the Holy Spirit, reminding me that we don’t ‘use the Holy Spirit’ he uses us, as we let him.”