GCI Update

Truth or trendiness?

Dear Brothers and Sisters is Christ,

joeandtammyHave you noticed how it’s getting harder to determine if news reports in print, online, and via radio and TV are true? It seems that no matter how serious or sobering the topic, such reports are more about entertainment than accurate information. And with the way news is typically being reported, it’s increasingly difficult to determine what we actually need to know.

Let me illustrate with a pet peeve of mine—the conflicting information concerning global warming (often referred to as “climate change”). On the one hand, dramatic news reports tell of rapidly melting polar ice-caps that may result in whole countries being inundated. But other reports say that the amount of sea-ice in Antarctica has been increasing since satellite measurements began in 1979. [1] So it’s hard to know what to believe, given the complexity of this topic and the penchant the news media has for sensationalism.

Reporting news accurately is, of course, a great challenge. It requires facing the conflict between truth (accuracy) and trendiness (to achieve high ratings). We face a similar challenge in presenting the gospel. These days we hear a lot about the need to be relevant in order to connect with a younger demographic. Of course, we would be shortsighted not to use available media tools to communicate the gospel to younger audiences. But in doing so, we must not become bedazzled with gimmicks, sensationalism and special effects. To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, we must not let “the medium become the message.”

Sadly this has happened in some Christian circles, where the focus has shifted from truth to trendiness. We guard against this shift when we remember that the ancient, biblical gospel is relevant in all places and times, within all cultures and generations. Certainly we need to communicate its timeless truths in ways that are clearly understood within different cultures, but let us not forget that the gospel’s fundamental, truthful relevance really cannot be improved upon.

Copyright 2014, Dennis Fletcher. Used with permission from Leadership Magazine.
Copyright 2014, Dennis Fletcher. Used with permission from Leadership Magazine.

Today, culturally-bound distortions of the gospel abound: the health & wealth gospel, prediction-addiction schemes and concepts that make God out to be a cosmic sheriff or an on-demand vending machine. Other distortions include equating the gospel with a political party, a social cause, an ethic group, or a particular style of music. Such ideas load the gospel with “cultural baggage,” resulting in little or no gospel at all. We should remember Jesus’ warning: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9, ESV).

Our challenge in presenting the gospel is to be both truthful and relevant. Martin Luther once said that if we are not preaching the gospel in ways that people understand, we are wasting our time. Theologian N.T. Wright emphasizes that “translating the New Testament is something every generation should be doing.” In the fourth Gospel, John writes that “The Word became human and made his home among us” (John 1:14, NLT). Here John used the Greek word logos, which we translate “Word,” but also can be translated “logic” or “reason.” The Greeks associated logos with divinity. William Barclay comments:

Jesus is the expression of the mind of God. It is as if John said to the Greeks: “For the last six centuries you have been speaking about the mind of God in the universe. If you want to see what the mind of God is, look at Jesus Christ. Here, full-displayed, is that mind of God about which you have always been thinking and talking. The logos has become flesh. The mind of God has become a person.”

Jesus, who is Truth personified, is always relevant. He spoke about and lived out the truth about a right relationship with God and the fruit produced by that relationship—right relationships with people. Such relationships are always relevant—important for all people everywhere in all times. In fact, “We live and move and have our being” within such relationships—first with God (including our right or wrong ideas about God) and then between people—parents and children, men and women, neighbor with neighbor.

As we strive to accurately present the gospel on the cluttered stage of today’s sensationalist media, let’s be careful not to let our efforts become “trendy” in ways that might distort the truth of the gospel. God, who in Christ reconciled the world to himself, calls us to live reconciled to him and to be his ambassadors of that reconciliation to the world. Let us be about that gospel mission.

Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach

P.S. I often receive from Weekly Update readers links to entertaining videos. I like sharing the fun! Here’s one that shows a good way to recycle beer bottles: http://youtu.be/NkbZlautuUc.


[1] Cryosphere Today, Polar Research Group, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/.

Robert McKinney

Nathania and Robert

Robert W.T. McKinney, GCI senior pastor in the Bahamas, was born in Freeport, Bahamas. “I was born on December 19, 1961, then born again on December 20, 1981.”

Robert first became aware of WCG when only eight years of age. “I grew up in Freeport, where I graduated from Hawksbill High School in 1979. One week later I began my employment as a banker, and was fast-tracked to become a bank manager. My experience was to prove very beneficial later in pastoral ministry. I became pastor of our congregation in May 1995 after the senior pastor left over the changes. Prior to that, I served as assistant pastor.”

Robert was always interested in attending Ambassador College, but it took a dramatic event to get him to actually send in an application. “When my childhood friend Nathania Curling was accepted in 1984, my interest in attending intensified. At that time I was interested in her and the thought of losing her led to my applying. I was accepted the following year (1985). We were married a year later and continued as married students. We both graduated in 1989, and since then, she has been my partner in ministry.” Robert continued: “My wife and I thank God for GCI (she grew up in the church as well), and there is no other place we would rather be than right here with God’s people in this part of his vineyard.”

Robert and Nathania have been married 28 years this month (July). “We have three children, Robert Jr, (24), who is completing a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering Technology, Gabrielle, (22), who is a pre-med student at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad, and Ann-Marie, (12), who will enter the 9th grade in September.”

Robert says what he loves most about being a pastor and being part of GCI has to do with connections. “As a pastor I really enjoy seeing people connect with Jesus and begin to grow spiritually. I also enjoy performing weddings. I truly treasure our international and local connections as a church fellowship.”

When asked about his passion, Robert said, “One of my greatest passions is helping the young people see that Jesus and his way of life is really fun. I especially enjoy working with them at summer camps.” In his personal home life, Robert said he also enjoys gardening.

His most memorable pastoral moments include his family. “Over the years I have baptized a lot of people, but my most memorable moment as a pastor has been baptizing my three children. Other memorable moments have been planting a Sunday congregation in our fellowship and overseeing the purchase and acquisition of our church premises.”

Living in the Bahamas, it’s no surprise that Robert loves the beach. “I feel closest to God when I go to my particular spot on the beach, which I have been doing for more than 20 years. There I enjoy a nice, gentle breeze on my face, smell the ocean, listen to the waves lapping in and meditate on the goodness of God. I always find it to be a time of refreshing and renewal.”

Salute to veterans

Portland quiltOn June 29, GCI members from the Portland and King City, Oregon, areas hosted the annual King City veteran’s celebration. Eighty four community participants, including 17 WWII and Vietnam veterans (pictured below) enjoyed the festivities, which included a surprise salute to the veterans in the form of a gift of hand-crafted quilts (pictured at right) from Oregon Quilting.

Portland group

GCI pastor Dee Bulante emceed the event, which included patriotic music and a flag presentation by members of the Portland squadron of the Civil Air Patrol. Pastor Dee then showed two video interviews of local veterans, including a World War II vet who had been awarded the Bronze Star and a helicopter pilot who served three tours of duty in Vietnam. Local resident Jennifer Lamaye then spoke about Mission Mahalo which she formed in 2010 to acknowledge the service of those serving in Afghanistan by sending them over 1,000 care packages to date. A picnic-style lunch was then served by church members.

GCnext meetings

Church Administration and Development (CAD) held important meetings last week in Asheville, North Carolina related to GCI’s GCnext mission to plant new churches and renew established churches.

Church planting consultation

From left: Tom Nebel, Heber Ticas, Greg Williams, Randy Bloom.

Members of GCI’s Church Multiplication Ministries (CMM) team met with church planting expert Tom Nebel who helps denominations develop church planting cultures and improve church planting processes. Tom has authored several books on church planting, including the soon-to-be-published, Leading Church Planting: Locally, Regionally, Nationally (co-authored with Steve Pike).

To participate more effectively in Jesus’ disciplemaking mission, Tom suggested that GCI move from a denomination that says, “We have church planters,” to one that proclaims, “We are church planters.” In pursuing that goal, CMM and other CAD team members will help congregations participate in GCI’s church planting movement serving, as God calls them, as a parent (that plants churches directly) or a partner (that helps others plant churches).

ChurchNext Training

Following the church planting consultation, CMM trainers Heber Ticas, Travis Jarrett and Randy Bloom conducted a two-day-long session of ChurchNext Training (CNT). Participants (pictured below) included prospective church planters, pastors of established churches and regional pastors.


CNT equips leaders who are planting a new church or re-planting (re-missioning) an established church. The trainers presented basic church development principles and practices including identifying a focus group (focus community), developing church leadership teams, evangelism, gathering people, disciplemaking practices, and steps for starting new worship services.

CNT trainers Travis Jarrett (left) and Heber Ticas.
Prospective church planter Chad Pendergraft presents his team’s “disciplemaking pathway.”
Left to right: Effie and Chad Pendergraft, Heber Ticas, Rick Shallenberger and Mark Queener.

Multiplying Filipino disciple-makers

GCI Philippines denominational leaders Rex de la Pena and Rey Taniajura recently attended a discipleship trainers’ seminar at the invitation of Efraim Tendero, national director of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches. A similar seminar was held in another location where Terrence Santibanez and Rannie Suan, both GCI-Philippines area superintendents, attended.


The purpose of the seminars was to equip trainers to teach disciple-making in the Philippines. It is hoped that this will spark a movement of multiplying disciple-makers all over the country. Those trained will be responsible to hold workshops and plan, recruit, host and equip small group teachers in their home churches and denominations. The invitation letter to those invited said this:

This nationwide disciple-making initiative is already in progress across Thailand and India, so we are inviting your personal participation as well as your prayers for Asia during this coming decade’s strategic emphasis on returning to the first century’s proven life-to-life methodology. To our knowledge, this is the largest coordinated Christian disciple-making effort in Asia’s history, so this is why we are earnestly requesting your regional spiritual leadership.

The seminar incorporated material from Operation Multiplication, which addresses one-on-one and small-group approaches to disciple-making. GCI plans to incorporate the material from this publication into its own disciple-making methodology, which is referred to as the D-Star Discipleship Pathway.

Stories of transformation

Stories of the transformation of established churches are told by Ed Stetzer on The Exchange blog at www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/july/stories-of-transformation.html. These stories are related to the Transformational Church consulting services that are offered to U.S. churches by the CAD team. For information about those services, see www.gci.org/CAD_Services#consulting. For additional detail, see the issue of Equipper posted at www.gci.org/files/Equipper6.10.pdf and watch the video embedded below. If your congregation would like to discuss these services, contact the CAD office or any CAD team member (including your district or regional pastor).

On YouTube at http://youtu.be/nyfjnfarp8Q?list=PL2140E4217CC25B78.

Death of Greg Williams’ father

We are saddened to learn of the death of Greg Williams’ father, Dean Williams. Greg is the associate director of GCI Church Administration and Development, USA. Here is a note from Greg:

On July 16 I asked several of my GCI coworkers to pray for my dad, who was suffering from various physical ailments and seemed near death. The Lord answered those prayers by giving us two weeks for my family to say our final farewell. Dad breathed his last on July 29 with me, my two brothers and my son Glenn at his side.

My dad meant so much to us and his passing leaves a big void. But we praise God that his suffering is over and he is with the Lord forever! Please keep my mom lifted up in prayer as she grieves the loss of her husband.

Cards to Greg and his family may be sent to:

Grace Communion International
P.O. Box 5005
Glendora, CA 91740-0730
Attn: Greg Williams, CAD office

John Halford

Here from his daughter Becky (Halford) Brown, is a praise report concerning John Halford. John, a long-time GCI leader and editor, recently underwent surgery in his battle against esophageal cancer.

HalfordDad’s doctor just came in smiling from ear to ear and pronounced my dad CANCER FREE!!! His pathology report indicated that no live cancer cells were found in his body following surgery. They got it all! No more radiation or chemo is needed.

We are so very thankful for each one of you. Your support and prayers got us through this difficult time. We have a whole new view of cancer and the “fight” required to get through it. Dad fought hard and we give every bit of the credit to God working through the amazing doctors to bring about this wonderful outcome.

Dad still has a long recovery ahead but somehow it just got a lot easier. We can’t wait for Thanksgiving this year. We have so much to be thankful for.

Cards may be sent to:

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

Death of Ginny Deitrich

We were saddened to learn of Ginny Dietrich’s recent passing. Ginny was the wife of GCI elder Larry Dietrich who serves on the pastoral care team in the Long Beach, California congregation. Here is a note from Larry, following up on the previous prayer request.

Dear friends and family,

It is with the deepest sorrow that I must inform all of you that my dear Ginny passed on July 22. Just the evening before, I was with her, and she was alert, aware and responding, and her vital signs all seemed to be near normal. But the day of her death I received a call from the hospital that she was suddenly failing, and asked my permission to re-install the ventilator. I gave permission mainly so there would be some time for us to go there and say our goodbyes. So that is what they did and when I arrived, I was told that Ginny had already “died” and been resuscitated twice. The end was obviously near. They said she could hear us even though she couldn’t respond. So I told her it was OK to go to sleep—she would be in a much better place. With that, they turned off the IV that was stimulating her heart to beat, and very soon all indicators zeroed out.

Please know your heartfelt prayers on her behalf have meant the world to me. I firmly feel God heard and answered by showing us she had suffered enough, was facing an impossible battle with cancer ahead, and he spared her the agony and pain. I am grieving, of course, but also am at peace with his answer, because in my heart I know it’s best. Time will heal the hurt.

Cards may be sent to:

Larry Dietrich
11791 Onyx Street
Garden Grove, CA 92845-1213