GCI Update

For what are we known?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

joeandtammyFred Sanders, professor of theology at Biola University, wrote a humorous blog post in 2009 that assigned alternate meanings to the word GRACE used as an acronym to stand for different Christian groups and perspectives. Though it’s a bit esoteric (and sometimes off-center), I’ve quoted below part of his post, hoping to bring a smile to your face and then to make a point.

What does GRACE stand for?

  • Existentialist: Genuine, Real, Authentic Christian Existence
  • Catholic Mysticism: Gazing Raptly At Consecrated Eucharist
  • Emergent church: Generational Resentment Against Conservative Evangelicals
  • Arminians: God Respecting Autonomy Conditionally Elects
  • Theonomist: Gospel Requires Absolutely Crushing Enemies
  • Pentecostal: Glossolalia Received After Conversion Experience
  • Evidentialist: General Revelation And Convincing Explanations
  • Charismatic: Gombala Ramazoody Alleluia Chombalahombala Essanahanashanahana
  • Cessationist: Generally Renouncing All Charismatic Experiences
  • Socialist: Government Redistribution Allows Communal Economics
  • Presuppositional Apologetic: Gospel Repentance Accomplished, Circularity Ensues
  • Feminist theology: Gender Revolution Anticipates Church Evolution
  • Open Theist: God reconsiders, And Cooperates Exquisitely
  • Eastern Orthodoxy: Greek, Russian, Antiochene Cultural Expectations
  • Anglo-Catholic: Getting Ritualistic After Cranmer’s Execution
  • Roman Catholicism: Getting Right Archbishop Catholicizes Everything
  • Fundamentalist: Gotta Really Agressively Confront Ecumaniacs
  • Calvinists: God Rejects And Conversely Elects
  • Dispensationalists: Getting Raptured After Charting Endtimes
Used with permission of Leadership Journal

This list makes me chuckle, though neither Sanders nor I mean any disrespect. We may not agree with all these groups and perspectives on every point of doctrine and practice, but all authentic Christians agree we are saved by grace and called to share this life-changing gospel with all people everywhere.

As a church, GCI proclaims that Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension is good news for all. We provide congregations where people are welcomed into fellowship and helped to grow in our Lord’s grace and knowledge through worship and sharing in Jesus’ ongoing works of service, in the Spirit, to the world.

That is what we are about—what we stand for, and I thank God that, more and more, we are known for what we are for, rather than (like the cartoon) what we are against.

As our name (Grace Communion International) indicates, we are for sharing God’s love for all people all over the world, and bringing them into communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We desire people everywhere to grow in right, loving relationship with the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. Rather than to be known for what we oppose, we aspire to be known for what we are for—actively sharing God’s grace, forgiveness, inclusion, hope, love, faithfulness, communion and mercy. This is our aspiration as a denomination, as congregations and as individuals.

In all things, we seek to be for what God is for. What is that? In John 3:16 we learn that God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son. Then in John 3:17 we learn that God did so not to condemn the world, but to save it. God, in Christ, is for us (all of us!)—that is the powerful lesson we rehearsed in the recent Advent/Christmas season. God’s desire is that we live in loving relationship with him and with each other. In this understanding we do not presume that we have all knowledge or have obtained perfection, but like Paul, we press forward, motivated by our “upward call” in Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14 ESV).

Of course, being for certain things means God is against whatever opposes those things. And we should follow suit, just as we are shown in Scripture. However, we ought not switch priorities—God is against what opposes his purposes in order to protect and bring about what he is for. He rescues and redeems us from sin and evil (which he is against) in order to accomplish what he is for, namely, making us his glorified children who share in Jesus Christ’s own sonship and communion with the Father by the Spirit. Were God not for something, there would be no reason for him to be against anything. This is the trajectory of Paul’s thought in Romans 5 where he acknowledges the fall, our sin, and the need for forgiveness and reconciliation. But then he uses the phrase much more (four times for emphasis) to show that we are saved for something: “Much more,” he writes, by receiving “the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness,” we will “reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17). Karl Barth makes a similar point in Church Dogmatics:

Divine grace is primary and the sin of man secondary, and…the primary factor is more powerful than the secondary…. We cannot contradict the order which [God] establishes. We are forbidden to take sin more seriously than grace, or even as seriously as grace. (The Doctrine of Creation, part 2, vol. 3, 41)

It is my continual prayer that as a church we be known for being a safe place where people find love, hope, recovery and healing from bad doctrine, church abuse and infirmed teaching and counseling. I pray we be known as a church that fulfills John 13:35—known for our love for one another. I also pray we be known for joyful participation in the work of God—the work Jesus defined this way: “The work of God is this, to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29).

What are we for? We are for God, who is for his people, just as we see and hear in Jesus. Our work is to introduce people to Jesus, helping them trust him, receive his forgiveness and share in his own faith, love, hope and joy. We are for following Jesus, the head of the church (Colossians 1:18), as he through the Spirit and the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17) leads us to participate with him in fulfilling the Father’s mission.

We are for living and sharing the gospel, giving birth to all kinds of churches in all kinds of places for all kinds of people. That is our motto, our mission/vision, and our passion. I pray it is our constant focus.

May we be known for what we are for,
Joseph Tkach

SEP Mexico youth camp

SEP Mexico was held on December 28-January 1 a couple of hours from Guadalajara, Mexico. The youth camp provided a great time of worship, learning, relationship-building and spiritual nurture for 35 campers and 9 staffers from different parts of Mexico including Mexico City and Francisco Villa—a community in the state of Tamaulipas (near the U.S. border) where there is much danger due to drug cartel activity.


Pastor Heber teaching

Speakers for most of the camp were Pastor Heber Ticas (pictured teaching at right) and his wife Xochilt Ticas. Through their messages, campers were immersed in the love of the triune God as they engaged in various topics including God’s universal love, forgiveness, our true identity, and God’s plan for relationships. The youth also had a great time participating in games and sports (mainly soccer and volleyball).

Morning sessions at camp were divided into two tracks. Some of the oldest campers participated in the leadership development track with Pastor Ticas while the rest took part in the discipleship track with Natanael Cruz, pastor of the GCI church in Mexico City. The discipleship track developed topics from the general camp sessions, presenting the loving, inclusive nature of our Savior.

Mexico4The highlights of the week came on Wednesday and Thursday:

  • During a time of prayer and worship on Wednesday morning, it was evident that the Holy Spirit was moving us to set aside scheduled presentations to give him room to work in a a special way in and through our youths. Many tears were shed as hearts were being healed by the love of the Lord that gripped those who were present.
  • On Thursday morning Heber and Xochilt shared their story of 24 years of marriage as an introduction to the topic of One Flesh (God’s plan for marriage). This topic really connected with the youth, especially the young ladies.

Mexico2Reflecting on the camp experience, Heber wrote this note:

At SEP Mexico we saw clearly that the Spirit is working in the lives of our young members in Mexico. We are thankful for the hard work that the Mexico camp committee did in making the camp a success. We also are thankful for the financial support from the Jon Whitney Foundation, the GCI Southern California Hispanic District and other partners in GCI-USA and GCI-Canada. Without their generosity it would have been difficult for many of the campers to attend.

Theology of mission

On The Exchange blog of Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer wrote recently of the “missional posture” presented by John in his Gospel. This is a posture of “sentness” grounded in Jesus’ words, which define a Trinitarian theology of mission. Here is a representative quote from the post:

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2016-01-11 20:12:04Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.com
Jesus sending his disciples

The missional impulse of sentness is found in John 20:21, where John records Jesus saying, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” [Holman translation]. It may seem on the surface that sentness means going. While sentness certainly implies going, the Johannine mode of mission stresses something far deeper and richer given that it connects the sentness of the disciples to that of the Father sending the Son.

To read the full post, click here.

“Must-haves” for church websites


Does your congregation have its own website? If so, is it effective? In a recent post on Thom Rainer’s LifeWay blog (click here to read it), Jonathan Howe noted that effective church websites prominently display the church address and worship service times on the home page, then make it easy to navigate to the following eight “must-have” sections:

  1. Staff names and titles (preferably with pictures)
  2. Information about children’s and youth ministries
  3. Sermon archives (video is best, but audio works too)
  4. Church calendar
  5. Contact information (with someone responsible for responding to inquiries rapidly)
  6. Statement of beliefs
  7. Links to social media profiles (being active on social media is vital in our culture)
  8. Major church news items

Note from editor: It also is vital to keep the website up-to-date (fresh). Showing out-of-date material (particularly on the home page) suggests the church is out-of-date (if not dead). Check your website today and see how you’re doing.

Roger Abels

Here is an update related to the prayer request for Roger Abels posted on January 6.

Donna and Roger Abels
Donna and Roger Abels

We’ve learned that Roger’s condition remains serious as he works toward moving to a rehabilitation hospital. Here is an update from Roger and Donna’s daughter Courtney:

Eighteen days ago, my dad fell down the stairs and broke his neck. He/we have been pulled through the roller coaster of heartbreaking diagnosis, continual fights for his life, victories and then more hurdles to overcome.

I ask for prayer that he can 1) breath on his own (he is off the respirator but breathing continues to be a potential problem) 2) overcome pneumonia, 3) not aspirate again, 4) permanently lower a mystery fever, 5) have full function of his stomach (eating continues to be a problem), 6) have relief from detrimental anxiety and panic attacks, 7) have mental and physical strength to endure procedures, 8) wisdom of doctors, 9) divine peace and wisdom for the rest of us, 10) glorification of the Lord in all ways, regardless of His answer.

I know prayer is more than positive vibes—it is a powerful plea to God for His intercession in the lives of His children. It is life-altering. It is a form of worship. We pray with reverence, yet bold assurance. If you wouldn’t mind pausing to pray for my dad, we’d be so grateful.

Hebrews 4:16—Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Cards may be sent to:

Roger and Donna Abels
1827 Ransom Dr.
Ft Wayne, IN 46845

Gary Dry

We received the following prayer request from GCI-USA elder Gary Dry. 

After a lot of poking and prodding, including an echo-cardiogram, my cardiologist found I have a congenital heart murmur. That led to a cardiac cauterization showing I have a 100% blocked artery in my heart and a dysfunctional aortic valve. Next stop is a cardio-thoracic surgeon for open-heart surgery to replace the valve, and perhaps bypass surgery to deal with the blocked artery. I should know more after an upcoming visit to the doctor.

I would appreciate your prayers, knowing that, as always, I’m in the best of care from the doctor known as Jesus. So, as my Aussie friends say, “No worries mates!”

Cards may be sent to:

Gary Dry
PO Box 174
New Melle, MO 63365-0174

Revised policy manuals

GCI-USA Church Development and Administration (CAD) recently emailed the primary pastoral leader in each U.S. congregation to let them know that revised editions of several GCI policy manuals have been posted at http://www.gci.org/go/manuals. Here are excerpts from the email’s summary of revisions to the manuals:

manual1. Church Administration Manual

  • The primary change has to do with defining three types of GCI-USA congregations: chartered churches, chartered fellowship groups and non-chartered fellowship groups. The “fellowship group” categories, which are new for us, are a response to the reality that we have many very small congregations that need the freedom to operate in ways more appropriate to their size and other constraints and opportunities. All congregations with an average attendance of 15 or fewer people will be classified as fellowship groups and your regional pastor will work with you to determine if such congregations should operate as “chartered fellowship groups” or “non-chartered fellowship groups”—the revised manual explains the difference.
  • We have set a new policy for the way our congregations are named. This policy applies to new congregations and to established congregations that wish to change their name.
  • We have eliminated all reference to the licensing of elders. Our experience has been that the licensing procedure is no longer useful and so has been altered. Under the new policy, elders will be ordained but not licensed. When an elder is ordained, they will be given an appropriate title (such as lead pastor) in accordance with their particular pastoral leadership assignment within the congregation in which they serve. That assignment is not permanent, but the ordination as elder is permanent so long as the elder complies with the code of ethics for elders and otherwise remains a GCI member in good standing, and continues to want to serve as an elder. In keeping with this new policy, we’ve posted a revised ordination/appointment application at http://tinyurl.com/hrhycay. This form is to be used to apply for elder ordination and to apply to be appointed as a member of a pastoral team or as a fellowship group facilitator.
  • We’ve made minor updates to the section that describes our denominational corporate structure at the international level. Further updates will be made in a few months with final approval of our new denominational articles of incorporation and bylaws. As Dr. Tkach announced in the 2014 regional conferences, we’ve been working toward this major step for the last few years and we’re just about complete.
  • We’ve streamlined our grievance, discipline and appeals process to make it less cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming for all involved. There now are fewer levels in the process with the final point of review for grievances and appeals being the relevant regional pastor.
  • The Pastoral Continuing Education Guide is now published as Appendix F in the Church Administration Manual. Pastors and pastoral team members, please pay close attention to this appendix as it pertains to steps you are expected to take in furtherance of your education as a GCI-USA pastoral leader.

manual2. Financial Management Manual
Changes to this manual mostly have to do with updating terms and a few procedures related to our standard financial management system used by chartered churches (and now by chartered fellowship groups). Pastors, please pay particular attention to the section listing financial reports required from chartered churches and chartered fellowhip groups. If you or your treasurer are having difficulty getting these reports completed accurately and on time, the folks in our Treasurer’s office in Glendora are happy to assist you.

3. Church Building Manual
Changes to this manual are minor, related mostly to updating terminology connected with our recently implemented regional structure.

4. GenMin Handbook

  • Added a section on reporting accidents/incidents
  • Added a section that prohibits using 15-seat passenger vans
  • Added a standard incident report form