GCI Update

Being aware and alert

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

joeandtammyMy grandparents immigrated to the U.S. several years before the Russian Revolution. Seeing the signs of the times, Grandpa realized it was time for a change, so they moved. Way to go Grandpa!

SignsBeing aware and alert about what is going on around us is important. It helps us discern when and how to change, including how to participate with Jesus in the mission of God.

In grandfatherly fashion, the apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy about the signs of the times. In 2 Timothy 3:1-9 he warned of “terrible times” that would occur in what he referred to as “the last days.” He said that people would be “swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.”

Today, some mistakenly view “the last days” as a recent occurrence. But the Bible teaches that those days began nearly 2,000 years ago with Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection. Peter, Paul and John all taught this (Acts 2:17, 1 Peter 1:20; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 1 John 2:18), and the author of Hebrews associated the last days with Jesus’ ministry (Hebrews 1:2). Because those last days continue today, what Paul said to Timothy about “signs of the times” applies to us as well. 

In 2 Timothy 3:7, Paul refers to those who “are never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.” In striving for freedom, they refuse conversion to Christ, who is the truth. How ironic that in seeking freedom they miss out on the one way that brings true freedom. In their blindness and obstinacy, Paul says they actually oppose what is true (2 Timothy 3:8).

My grandfather used to rant about this reality—especially when watching television news commentators. He would exclaim concerning them, “That person has to go to college to develop such refined stupidity!” Obviously, my grandpa wasn’t concerned about being politically correct. His attempts at “sensitivity” were equivalent to dropping a bowling ball on your foot! He used to say, “Joey, listen to me—the world is becoming more and more stupid.”

Though I’m not sure about his conclusion, social scientists have noted in recent years that our ability to reason is becoming fragmented. This is due to the fact that much of the information we take in comes to us as disconnected, even conflicting “sound bites.” The media subject us to an onslaught of messages. As a result, our focus is fragmented. It’s not uncommon for people to cruise the Internet, watch TV and converse with someone in the room, all at the same time! We have become so steeped in this media-centric environment that our bandwidth increasingly overwhelms our brain-width! This flood of disconnected information can sway people away from what is true. In fact, much of the information promulgated by the media opposes truth.

Used with permission from Tallie Fishburne.

Have you noticed that the media tend to focus on bad news? They know that bad news gets and holds our attention. Though they occasionally throw in a heart-wrenching good news story (so we don’t get completely depressed!), the proportion of bad to good news in their reports inaccurately reflects what is really going on in our neighborhoods and around the world where there is far more good news than bad.

Because bad news sells, we face a significant challenge in sharing the good news that is the gospel. To do so effectively, we must understand the signs of our times, just as Paul exhorted Timothy. We must understand who we are communicating with so that we reach our audiences “where they are.” Let me illustrate: When I grew up it was common for sermons to last 90 minutes or more. Pastors quoted multiple books and commentaries, shared the etymology of words and gave lengthy explanations. But audiences today typically are reached with shorter sermons (25 minutes is common) with stories and illustrations. It’s interesting that Jesus used this narrative approach in his day.

Adjusting the way we preach is not about pandering to our audiences—it’s about “being all things to all people,” just as Paul exhorted the church in Corinth to do (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Preaching the gospel in ways that connect is not watering it down. After all, there is a great simplicity to the gospel, which declares the good news of God’s love and his desire for us to be in communion with him as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

When Paul wrote to Timothy about the signs of the times, he wasn’t using scare tactics. He was reminding Timothy that there is always good news no matter the condition of the world. Jesus himself is that good news. And in spite of the bad news constantly trumpeted by the media in our day, God, in Christ, by the Spirit is at work in the world accomplishing his good work of salvation. No bad news changes that!

Living and sharing the good news with you,
Joseph Tkach

PS: Please join me in congratulating Dr. Gary Deddo on his appointment as the next President of Grace Communion Seminary (he begins serving in June) and in thanking Dr. Russell Duke for his many years of faithful service to GCS and to GCI (see the announcement linked above, left).

GCI Intern Program update

GCI Intern Program coordinator Jeff McSwain met recently with GCI-USA regional pastors and other leaders to give them an update. Here are excerpts from his presentation.

On YouTube at http://youtu.be/jkwD3GA6clc.

An effective way to support the Intern Program is to donate to the GCnext mission fund. For information, go to https://www.gci.org/GCnext.

Interesting church facts


Here are some interesting facts about the church from the January 2015 issue of ChurchPulse, from the ECFA.

  • Church Racial Mix Changing. According to the most recent (2012) National Congregations Study, 80% of American congregants attend services at a place where a single racial or ethnic group comprises at least 80% of the congregation. 20% worship where no single racial or ethnic group predominates. This is up from 15% in ‛98 and 17% in ‛06–‛07. In addition, the share of white Americans who attend services with no one of another other race or ethnicity is dropping. In ‛98, 20% of U.S. congregants were part of entirely white congregations vs. 11% in ‛12. A similar dynamic is at work among Hispanic worshipers. (Pew Research Fact Tank 12/8/14)
  • The Average Church attracts fewer than 90 adults on a typical weekend. 60% of Protestant churches have 100 or fewer adults on a typical weekend. Just 2% of churches attract more than 1,000 adults on a typical weekend. (Barna Research)
  • Church Planting. Churches of 200 or less are 4 times more likely to plant a daughter church than churches of 1,000 or more. The smaller the size of the church, the more fertile they are in planting churches. (LifeWay Research)
  • Keeping the Faith. 56% of Millennials are keeping the faith of their childhood while 20% are switching to another denomination, 18% are leaving their faith and 4% are coming to faith. (Facts & Trends Summer 2014)
  • Fewer Married Millennials. While Millennials (21%) are half as likely to be currently married as their parents at the same age, Pew reports generally the “youngest generation has the strongest desire to marry” which is “a reflection of their stage in the life cycle.” However, Millennials are 5% less likely than those of older generations to say “successful marriage is one of their most important life goals.” (Focus on the Family Findings 6/2012)
  • Perceptions vs. Realities. In the U.S., the Center for Media Research says we get a lot of things very wrong. Aging Population: We overestimate the U.S. population to be much older than it actually is … The average estimate is 35.9% of the population is 65+ when it is in fact only 14%. Christians: Americans think 55.7% of the country identifies themselves as Christian vs. the actual figure of 78%. Muslims: We hugely overestimate the proportion of Muslims in the U.S. … thinking 15% are Muslims when the actual figure is 1%. (Center for Media Research Brief 11/22/14)
  • More Americans Foregoing Marriage. New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the number of Americans who have always been single and will never marry is at a historic high. About 20% of Americans older than 25 had always been single in ‛13, up from 9% in ‛60. About half of all never-marrieds would like to marry eventually; the younger people were, the more likely they were to say this. “Marriage hasn’t fallen out of favor,” says Kim Parker, Director of Social Trends Research, “but financial constraints and imbalances in the marriage market may be holding people back from taking the plunge.” (Pew Research Center 9/24/14)
  • Faith Sharing Online. In an average week, 1 in 5 Americans share their religious faith online, about the same percentage that tune in to religious talk radio, watch religious TV programs or listen to Christian rock music. And 46% of U.S. adults see someone else share their religious faith online in a typical week. These are among the key findings from a Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel. (Pew Research 11/6/14)
  • 19% Bible Lovers/19% Bible Skeptics. Bible skepticism is tied with Bible engagement for the first time in Barna Group and American Bible Society polling. The number of those who are skeptical or agnostic toward the Bible—who believe the Bible is “just another book of teachings written by men that contains stories and advice” —has nearly doubled from 10% to 19% in just three years. This is now equal to the number of people who are Bible engaged—who read the Bible at least four times a week and believe it is the actual or inspired Word of God. Digging into the population segmentation of Bible skeptics, two-thirds are 48 or younger (28% Millennials, 36% Gen-Xers), and they are twice as likely to be male (68%) than female (32%). They are more likely to identify as Catholic than any other single denomination or affiliation (30%) and are the segment most likely not to have attended church (87%) or prayed (63%) during the previous week. They are also most likely not to have made a commitment to Jesus that is important in their life today (76%). (Year-in-Review: Barna’s Top 10 Findings from 2014, Barna.org.)

Roger Guilbert

We received the following prayer request for Roger Guilbert, a long-time GCI elder in France. 

We are asking for your prayers for Roger who was hospitalized recently with a blood clot blocking the main artery to his lungs. Though the clot has been removed, particles remain in his lungs. Roger is experiencing much pain and his wife Christiane is deeply affected by all this. Your prayers for them are appreciated along with prayer for their four children and their spouses, and their grandchildren.

Cards may be sent to:

M et Mme Roger GUILBERT
9 rue Georges Jourdain
80540 Bovelles

New GCS President

The following announcement is from Dr. Russell Duke, President of Grace Communion Seminary (GCS).

gcs logo goldIt is with great satisfaction that I inform you that Dr. Gary Deddo will replace me as President of Grace Communion Seminary as of June 2015. Our GCS Board interviewed Dr. Deddo on January 16 and unanimously approved his appointment. Congratulations Gary!

Dr. Deddo has served as a faculty member with GCS for six years, so many of you have studied with him. Many others know him and his wife Cathy from their presentations on theology at our GCI conferences.

Moncton Gary preachingDr. Deddo (pictured at right) brings a wealth of academic experience as professor and editor to the role of President. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, a Master of Arts in Social Science from Azusa Pacific University, and a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from King’s College, University of Aberdeen. He has taught in seminaries for over 20 years, serving Fuller Theological Seminary, Zarephath Bible Institute, Eastern Baptist Seminary, and Grace Communion Seminary. He has been widely published in the area of incarnational Trinitarian theology, and has assisted dozens of authors in his former role as Senior Editor at InterVarsity Press from 1999 to 2012. He was hired as Special Assistant to GCI President Dr. Joseph Tkach in 2012, and will continue to serve in that capacity as well.

We welcome Dr. Deddo’s leadership. Since we are undergoing reaffirmation of our accreditation this spring, we are timing the change to coincide with the accreditation decision by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission in June. This will enable Dr. Deddo to observe the accreditation process from an administrative perspective.

I have felt it important to pursue a transition at this time so that we can deepen the impact that GCS can have for the Church, both within our denomination and for leaders in other churches in the Body of Christ. As we participate in Jesus Christ’s ministry, Dr. Deddo will be able to lead the seminary to connect GCI’s work in theology and our interviews with Trinitarian theologians and pastors to better serve the greater Christian body.

Though I will be retiring as President, I plan to assist in the transition of administration and teach a few courses as my career winds down in retirement. Thank you for your support during this time of transition.

Converge 2015

Converge 2014The Converge 2015 conference is coming up in March. Generations Ministries national coordinator Anthony Mullins recently announced that onsite lodging for the conference is full. However, there is plenty of room for people to attend who will then be lodged off-site. If you’re looking for nearby, offsite lodging, here are some good options:

In nearby Circleville:

In Grove City (about a 35 minute drive from the conference site):

  • Microtel  1800 Stringtown Road, Grove City, OH 43123   Phone 614-277-0705 Mention “Converge GCI” $ 55.95 +9.79 tax = $65.74  for 2 Double Beds $50.95 + 9.79 tax = $60.74 for small King Room
  • Red Roof Inn  4055 Jackpot Road Grove City, OH 43123  Phone 614-871-9617  Mention “Converge GCI” $68.39 + Tax  Double Queen room $74.69 + Tax  King Room $63.89 + Tax Single Queen Room
  • LaQuinta Inn 3962 Jackpot Road  Grove City, OH 43123 Phone 614-539-6200 Mention “Converge GCI” $99 +Tax Includes Continental Breakfast, indoor pool Currently King and 2 Queen Rooms available (10 rooms blocked currently)
  • Holiday Inn Express 3951 Jackpot Road  Grove City, OH 43123  Phone 614-801-9000 Mention “Converge GCI” $99 + tax  (no additional charges for addtl occupants) 7 King Rooms and 8 Doubles available

Note: If you decide to attend Converge, but stay offsite, you’ll still need to register and pay the registration fee ($25) and purchase the meal package ($80) unless you plan to eat all meals offsite. To register, go to https://online.gci.org/live/ScriptContent/Index.cfm?go=EVENTS-CONVERGE15. If you have any questions, email Anthony at anthony.mullins@gci.org or text/call him at 678.427.9967.