GCI Update

Jesus: our true worship leader

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

joeandtammyIn his first letter to his young protégé Timothy, the apostle Paul shared this profound truth: “There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Though the Christian church is blessed with many inspiring and skillful worship leaders, only Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, leads us into the presence of God. He is our true worship leader.

Regardless of the particular form or style, behind all true worship is the mediating ministry of our high priest, Jesus Christ. According to the author of Hebrews, Jesus is “a great priest over the house of God” (Hebrews 10:21), “a minister [leitourgos] in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man (Hebrews 8:2 NASB).

When we hear the word “worship,” we typically think of worship practices like praying, singing and receiving an offering. But worship is much larger than that. Properly defined, worship is a lifestyle that expresses grateful response to God for all he has done for us in Christ. Included is the way we treat others, based on the truth that we have been reconciled to God through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Paul reminds us that this life of worship is one of self-sacrifice: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1). “Proper worship” translates logikos latreia hymeis, which is translated as “reasonable service” in the NKJV, “spiritual worship” in the NRSV, and “intelligent service” in the YLT. True worship includes all of these.

Jeish High Priest
From Wikimedia Commons

In the Old Testament, Israel’s worship was led by the high priest who served as the representative of all Israel, standing in solidarity with the people. In his full humanity, Jesus stands in solidarity not only with Israel, but with all humanity. And in his full divinity, Jesus reconciles humanity to God. Jesus’ once-for-all, self-offering sacrifice brought complete redemption and forgiveness. In referring to Jesus as the one and only God-man priest “in the order of Melchizedek,” the author of Hebrews was explaining a special aspect of Jesus’ role as our high priest in representing us to the Father and the Father to us. Unlike Melchizedek, however, Jesus’ priesthood is eternal.

The God-man Jesus, who has rightly been referred to as “the perfect fusion of undiminished deity and complete humanity,” is both the recipient and the giver of worship. By always being in communion with the Father in prayer and worship, Jesus modeled for us throughout his earthly ministry what it means to be in relationship with the Father and the Spirit. Whereas Israel’s high priest temporarily carried the names of Israel’s 12 tribes on his breastplate, Jesus, our high priest, forever bears the names of all humans within his own representative humanity. Our Lord affirms this through the prophet Isaiah in declaring that, “I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16 NRSV).

As our high priest, Jesus reveals the Father to us. In his high priestly prayer to the Father, he declared, “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known” (John 17:26 NRSV). As the one mediator of a new covenant, Jesus shows God to be a Father who desires his children’s presence (Hebrews 9:15; 12:24). This gives us cause for worship, reminding us that Jesus is both the center and mediator of that worship. In Jesus, humanity meets God in person!

In Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace, James B. Torrance notes that our worship is Unitarian when it’s about techniques of experiencing God on our own. But our worship is Trinitarian when it’s about Jesus, our elder brother and great high priest who draws us into the eternal communion of love that characterizes God’s life as loving Father, beloved Son and Holy Spirit. As our true worship leader, Jesus goes to the Father in our name and simultaneously comes to us in the Father’s name.

The author of Hebrews makes the same point in this way: “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says, ‘I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises’” (Hebrews 2:11-12). As we worship in spirit and in truth, we join our voices with that of Jesus in praise to God. Jesus stands in our midst as one of us, taking us into God’s presence. And he stands with the Father, bringing God into our presence in perfect unity and holy love for all eternity.

Worshiping with Jesus,
Joseph Tkach

PS: I was pleased to read in the October 2 issue of The Behemothan article entitled “Already Friends of God.” The article, by Christianity Today editor Mark Galli, quotes T.F. Torrance in showing how the gospel is not about a transactional God but about the God of love and grace revealed in Jesus. You can read the article at www.christianitytoday.com/behemoth/2014/issue-6/already-friends-of-god.html.

Sharing God’s love in the Philippines

Here is a video of one GCI’s congregations in Oriental Mindoro, Philippines. What a blessing it is to witness their sharing together even if they may not have much.

On YouTube at http://youtu.be/zhwAXqhbZ8s.

Church joins GCI

Ron and Sherri RatliffRon Ratliff, pastor of Creek Valley Church in Edina, Minnesota, has been tracking with GCI for a couple of years, leading to his being accepted as a GCI elder and commissioned as a GCI pastor earlier this year at our Chicago regional conference. Ron and his wife Sherri are pictured at right.

We’re pleased to announce that the members of his congregation met recently and mutually decided to become a chartered congregation of Grace Communion International. Pictured below are some of the Creek Valley Church members. We welcome these brothers and sisters in Christ to the GCI family!


Southern Asia & South Pacific update

This update is from GCI mission developer Rod Matthews.

India: festivals celebrate God’s grace

Early in October, GCI members met in two locations for a week-long festival celebrating God’s grace. Members from across southern India met at a Christian retreat facility on the outskirts of Mysore (see group picture below).

Mysore Group Shot

A highlight of the festival in Mysore was the appreciation expressed to pastor Joe and Joanna D’Costa on the celebration of 25 years of employment in the church (see picture of a presentation to the D’Costas below). The D’Costas also celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary during the festival. A stimulating session of the Life Club (a personal development and speech club) and an afternoon of swimming capped the activities.

Presentation to D'Costas

Members from northern India met for the festival in a retreat center on the outskirts of Hyderabad (see group picture below). Some traveled from far north India and overseas, including the USA. The festival enjoyed a range of speakers including messages on the challenges of sharing the gospel in a modern Hindu nation while facing associated legal restrictions. Everyone laughed and learned from the movie night feature, a personal story of missionary work in New Guinea called The Pineapple Story. The pastor of a small group of churches who is building a relationship with our church in his area, attended part of the festival. Another young man took great efforts to seek us out as a source of teaching aligned with incarnational Trinitarian theology.


New Zealand – celebrating 200 years of Christianity

Inside Life coverOn December 25, New Zealand will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first time the gospel was preached on its shores. Here are some related facts:

  1. The preacher was Samuel Marsden, chaplain of the convict settlement at Port Jackson, New South Wales (now Sydney).
  2. Marsden became chaplain on the recommendation of William Wilberforce, famous anti-slave reformer in Britain.
  3. Marsden had learned the local Maori language before he arrived in New Zealand.
  4. On his first voyage, Marsden introduced sheep, cattle, pigs, poultry, horses, goats, dogs and cats to New Zealand, all on a single journey, a veritable “Noah’s ark” said a sailor. The Maori were amazed.
  5. The spread of Christianity in New Zealand is credited largely to the indigenous Maori peoples.

GCI’s Auckland pastor and office manager Rex Morgan tells the story in an article in our New Zealand church magazine, Inside Life (cover pictured above, right) found online at www.insidelife.org.nz/files/8699/InsideLife21%20200Years.pdf.

Thanks for Falam Chin literature

Discipleship Course book in Falam ChinThe Discipleship 101 course is now in print in the Falam Chin language of northern Myanmar! After being translated by GCI friend and partner Van Thawme Lian, we recently printed 2000 copies, which he shared with pastors, students at the seminary where he teaches and other interested Christians.

When someone receives rare Christian literature in their own native language, their thanks can be quite effusive. Van Thawme Lian has shared the following letter of thanks:



Missional church book

GCI Church Administration and Development, USA recommends the book Tradecraft for the Church on Mission, by Caleb Crider, et al. It provides practical information that helps churches participate actively in mission with Jesus. The book in print and Kindle versions is currently offered at Amazon.com. Go to www.amazon.com/Tradecraft-Mission-Larry-E-McCrary/dp/1479300918/ref=tmm_pap_title_0.


Death of Elaine Vernon

We were saddened to learn that Deb Paz’s aunt Elaine Vernon died following her lengthy battle with cancer. Here is an announcement and tribute to Elaine from her sons Bill and Rick Guthy who are shown with Elaine below.

10393743_10152503626964135_2080679544651081232_nIt is with enormous grief and sadness that we announce the passing of our Mom, Elaine Vernon. She was forever a beautiful guiding light and we will miss her so very much. We believe and know that she is in a far better place, smiling down on us with those very same beautiful, loving and caring eyes that radiated kindness, joy and hope to everyone that she came in contact with.

She was an amazing and unwavering example of love, generosity, humility, compassion and self sacrifice—always putting the needs of others ahead of her own. She never wavered in her faith in God, love of family and the golden rule. She leaves behind a beautiful and enduring legacy. Her life has truly blessed ours and we hope to carry on her extraordinary, life-long example. She definitely “walked the talk” and taught us that life is all about giving, serving and caring for others.

To honor Mom, we will be holding a celebration of life service at a future date. We want to thank each and every one of you for continued prayers and support at this time.

Equipper correction

The cover letter in the recently distributed issue of Equipper was incorrect in stating that Susan Williams will become the registrar at Grace Communion Seminary in January 2015. It should have stated that she will be serving as assistant to the current registrar. A corrected version of Equipper is posted online at https://www.gci.org/files/Equipper9.12_0.pdf.

Paulina Barrero graduates

Congratulations to Paulina Barrero, wife of GCI-Colombia pastor Hector Barrero. Paulina recently received her master’s degree in Religious Studies (Ciencias Religiosas) after five years of online study at Javeriana University in Colombia. Here is a picture of Paulina at her graduation, surrounded by family.