GCI Update

Dying and living daily with Jesus

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

joeandtammyMy Dad’s sister, Aunt Lil, was the youngest of my grandparents’ daughters and the wife of my Uncle Art. I was in Aunt Lil’s home when she died. It brings tears to my eyes as I remember Art, a World War II veteran, holding Lil in his arms, crying and declaring over and over, “My dear wife, darling, honey! I miss you!” In the years that followed, Art told me that Lil’s death was on his mind every day. In his last years (he lived to age 86), he told me that all his friends were dying and funerals seemed a weekly occurrence. He said it felt like “dying daily.” The apostle Paul said something similar concerning the perils he faced in serving Christ: “I die every day!” (1 Corinthians 15:31 ESV).

Dying with Jesus is probably not our first thought each morning. Instead, we likely think about living with him. But, according to Paul, the two concepts aren’t so different: “I am crucified with Christ,” he wrote, “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 KJV).

Dying daily with Jesus

It is Finished by Liz Lemon Swindle. Used with permission.
It is Finished by Liz Lemon Swindle 
(used with permission)

You likely know the Black-African spiritual, Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? The answer, of course, is yes we were. In fact, we all were, for when Jesus died, we all died with him. Though that idea seems nonsensical at first, it makes sense when we consider that all humanity can be included in the life of the One who created us. The truth of the gospel is that all people are included in Jesus’ substitutionary, representative humanity (Romans 5:12-17). That means we have a share in what Jesus did through his death to cleanse us from sin and conquer the grave, and what he did (and continues to do) through his life to grant us new life and eventual glory (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:13; 3:1). Jesus’ story is our story, and as we embrace and live into that reality, we begin to experience all the benefits of what Jesus has done and is now doing on our behalf. Yes, we share the pain and sorrow of his crucifixion, but we also share the fruit of his faithful life leading to his resurrection and ascension to glory.

Several scriptures exhort us to take up our cross and die daily to self so we may live with Jesus and thus bear the fruit of his righteousness (see Mark 8:35; John 12:24; Romans 6:1-13; 1 Peter 2:24). Dying daily means putting to death the deeds of the flesh and plunging selfishness back into the grave. When I find myself taking offense, I try to remember that in Christ I died many years ago and thus words and individuals can’t hurt me anymore. Because Jesus died for me, I’m willing to die with him today and every day. That daily death to self and sin does not mean the end of my personality, but the beginning of becoming who God created me to be.

Living daily with Jesus: a journey of transformation

The Resurrection of Christ by Noel Coypel, 1700
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Only Christ has true life for us. Only his will for us leads to true freedom. Alive with Christ, we freely and gladly receive what he gives—no more and no less. Life in Christ means the transformation of the will and the heart that allows us to live and love as God intends for us. This transformation is a journey with Jesus by which, through the Spirit, we become more and more like Jesus. As I wrote last week, he gives us a new identity. Along the way, our old identity (in the first Adam) passes away while our new identity (in Christ, the last Adam), becomes more and more the defining reality of our lives.

These two identities (or natures) exist for a time side-by-side, competing for our time and affections. It’s often a struggle, but we have the responsibility to choose which nature we will follow: the old one with its lusts and pride that leads to destruction, or the new one with its self-sacrificial willingness to love and serve both God and people, leading to true, abundant life.

Christ promises to guide us on this journey, giving us strength to choose as he shares with us, through the Spirit, his own sanctification. We’ll find some sins easier to forsake than others (some are more enjoyable than others!). But all sin needs to go in order for us to enjoy fully the life that Jesus is sharing with us. Because he bought us with a price, our bodies are not our own—they belong to the One in whom and for whom we live.

Instead of doing what pleases us, in fellowship with Jesus we seek to do what pleases him. That leads us to discover that his way really is best. Amazingly, his way then becomes pleasing to us. This journey with Jesus involves thought and repentance, self-sacrifice and patience. It also involves yielding to Jesus who always is with us, living in us. As we do, we won’t instantly, or even gradually, become perfect. But we’ll journey forward, sharing Jesus’ abundant, new life as we go.

Notice this related instruction from Paul:

  • We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4).
  • Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body…. Offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:11-13).
  • We are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

It boils down to knowing who Jesus is—the truth that points to our own identity as God’s dearly loved children. No longer are we the old person we once were—our sins have been forgiven; that old person has died with Jesus. Now we are a new creation. Alive with Christ, sin has no power to force us to do its will. With Christ in us, we can choose to do what is right—what fits who we really are becoming.

We embrace this new identity as “slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18), obeying our Lord Jesus because we want to be with him and receive from him daily all he has to give us. We obey out of our trust or faith in him, and in his good purposes for us. No longer fearing condemnation (Romans 8:1), we aren’t afraid of God; we now see him as our perfect Father who loved us so much that he sent his Son to die for us. Because Christ now lives in us, his love for us and all people compels us to die daily so we can join him in his ongoing ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).

Joining you in dying and living with Jesus,
Joseph Tkach


This update is from Kalengule Kaoma, one of GCI’s mission developers in Africa.

Uganda camp venue
Uganda camp venue

I visited Uganda in June. There is a lot of excitement there among our youth—a youth camp is scheduled to be held for the first time this coming December. Church leaders, parents, and youth are willing to face the challenges of being camp trail-blazers. The camp needs are many and daunting, but spirits are high to get started. Parents and guardians in two sponsoring GCI congregations have pledged to meet most of the food requirements. We certainly need prayer that God will provide camp workers as we embark on this new youth ministry in Uganda.

On my June visit I also connected with leaders of congregations interested in affiliating with GCI. I met Pastor Patrick Alobo and his leadership team (pictured below) from Morning Star Pentecostal Ministries in Lira. Their burning enthusiasm to be part of GCI ignited a fruitful discussion. They invited me to attend one of their church services, after which we met with most of their leadership team. We reached mutual agreement to start the process of affiliation.

Lira congregation leadership team
Lira congregation leadership team

I also connected with Pastor James Arikosi of Christian Revival Center (CRC) in Kumi. Among CRC’s main aims are evangelism and church planting. Shared thoughts on these topics prompted us to proceed with steps toward affiliation. From Kumi I headed for Kisoro. On the way, I visited our GCI Uganda home office in Tororo where I visited with National Director William Othieno and his wife Jessica. Last year, the Ugandan government allowed the change of our name from Worldwide Church of God to Grace Communion International-Uganda. We thank God for this development.

In Kisoro I visited Pastor Deo Ziragora of Ebenezer Pentecostal Church. We discussed working together as partners. Deo likes GCI’s Christ-centered vision and approach to missions. Our next meeting will include board members to discuss further areas in which we can work together to reach people with the gospel of grace. Kisoro’s crisp morning air remained in the mountains behind me as I traveled on to Kyotera. There I joined GCI members for worship and a meal at Mutukula, a border town between Uganda and Tanzania. In the afternoon, we had a leadership workshop titled “What to do when church leaders face challenges.”

Uganda leaders workshop
Leadership workshop participants

Other areas I visited on this trip to Uganda included Jinja, Kalisizo, and Kampala, where I examined church planting opportunities. Like many other countries in Africa, Uganda has many churches, ministries, cell groups, Bible Study groups, lunch hour and evening fellowships, and other innovative ways that people are brought together for Christ. As a result, people are being saved and lives are being transformed. Leaders of these faith communities often search the internet for sound doctrines. When they land on GCI’s website, they often stay there and read extensively. Our website has become a resource site for a good number of church leaders who are inspired to be part of what they are learning. Please pray about this development—God is opening many doors to us in Africa!

Camp reports

Here are reports from two recent GCI youth camps.

YES Camp, Louisiana

This Generations Ministries camp was held in July at Fontainebleau State Park on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, north of New Orleans, Louisiana. The camp had two sessions: one for teens and one for preteens. There were about 60 campers each session, with a staff of 45 led by camp director Brandon Antwine. So many signed up this year that a waiting list was implemented for the first time. This year also saw the expansion of the camp’s Youth Leadership Team, which consists of older teens and young adults preparing for future leadership at camp and back home.

Camp chapels followed the GenMin Epic Story curriculum. Chapel speakers, led by camp chaplain Anthony Rice, showed how God’s love and mercy follow us in everyday life. One of the speakers, GCI regional pastor Ted Johnston, presented Anthony with a plaque and watch celebrating his 25 years of employment with GCI (including many years leading camps).

Various camp activities were provided this year. Teens enjoyed team/character building exercises and a banquet, where they were treated like royalty. According to Brandon, “It was a great feeling to watch God take over and lead us to greatness during camp.” Like the teens, the preteens enjoyed a wide array of sports activities including tubing (on nearby Lake Pontchartrain), arts and crafts, inflatables, basketball, swimming and volleyball. Here is a video from the teen session (http://youtu.be/PPguxNH98dM):

SEP 2015, Bahamas

On July 22, 18 campers and 15 staff members boarded a ship in Nassau, Bahamas and headed for Moores Island to attend SEP 2015. While on board, staff members were on security shifts throughout the night. Upon arrival they were greeted by staffers and campers who had arrived five days earlier, joining with church members there to prepare the camp. Later that afternoon more campers and staff arrived on a speed boat from Freeport.


Camp chapels followed GenMin’s Epic Story curriculum. Activities included basketball, volleyball, fishing, hiking, arts and crafts, novelty Olympics, a beach picnic, and community service where campers and staffers helped in painting the GCI Moores Island church building. The camp then joined in a worship service with the congregation, which is pastored by Robert McKinney. The congregation presented care packages from parents at home to each camper. A talent show topped off the evening. A highlight of the camp was a special dinner at which campers dressed as princesses and princes. The hall was elegantly decorated by one of the staff members. Campers were given certificates of completion for taking part in camp and special recognition was given to each staff member.


Leading in evangelism

What does authentic evangelism leadership look like? The Billy Graham Center for Evangelism (BGCE), partnered with Q Place, has created a YouTube channel to equip and inspire leaders in all levels and sectors of society to prioritize gospel witness. Below is the first video in the series featuring Ed Stetzer, the executive director of LifeWay Research and lead pastor of a new church that has grown quickly by prioritizing evangelism. Other videos in the series can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLQx-pX_bs2d-2FAKrjznzg

On YouTube at http://youtu.be/x4nwdMm-oXY.

Arlen Bryant

We have requested prayer for Pastor Arlen Bryant who is battling brain cancer (click here for the previous updates). Here is the latest report from Arlen:

I had an MRI recently and met with the oncologist who gave me some good news. He said the tumor had shrunk but was still there. He wants to step up the chemotherapy for the next year and then reevaluate the situation. I feel that God is answering our prayers in the matter.

Cards may be sent to:

Arlen and Jean Bryant
2054 Benton Young Rd
Cookville, TN 38501

Millhuffs’ grandson wed

Pastor Ted and Lila Millhuff of GCI’s Tucson, Arizona congregation, are pleased to announce the wedding of their grandson, Thales D. Millhuff, III, to Katelyn Jean Moen on August 8 in Snohomish, Washington. The wedding was held outdoors in a beautiful country setting. Grandpa Ted officiated. The happy newlyweds celebrated their honeymoon in Maui, Hawaii.


Leeds, England 50th

GCI president Joseph Tkach and his wife Tammy recently enjoyed sharing in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of GCI’s congregation that meets in Leeds, England. Here are pictures: