GCI Update

Walking, talking ads for the gospel

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joe and Tammy TkachAs you well know, our lives are constantly bombarded by advertising. Ads appear about every five minutes on television and radio, pop up as we browse the Internet, and are ubiquitous in print media and on billboards, benches and even buses. Though some of these ads are clever, I find most to be annoying, intrusive time-wasters.

To believe many of these ads you’d have to practice what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called “suspension of disbelief”—the temporary acceptance of events or characters as credible despite that they ordinarily are seen as incredible. The movie series Star Wars is a case in point, asking us to suspend disbelief to accept the idea that a gorilla-like character named Chewbacca can copilot a futuristic starship named Millennium Falcon! Many ads these days are equally fanciful, though once in a while one comes along that aligns with reality. My prayer is that the testimony of our lives is one such credible advertisement—a walking, talking ad for the gospel!

Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

When the apostle Paul proclaims that we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV), he is reminding us that our lives should positively advertise Christ and his gospel. Though some of us are more colorful or clever in the way we do so, all of us, through our union and communion with God, are living, flesh-and-blood, walking, talking ads for the new life in Christ. That, of course, is a rather sobering thought since we want our lives to turn people to Christ, and not be an annoying, obnoxious promotion that prompts people to turn away from him.

Having the mindset that we truly are walking, talking ads for the gospel will, no-doubt, impact what we say and how we behave. It will keep us mindful that our day-to-day lives, which can seem so routine, have great meaning and purpose. It’s easy to lose sight of the reality of God’s omnipresence and of our enduring union with Christ by the Spirit. But these are realities, and God truly does want to use us as channels of his redeeming grace to the world. He does so in many ways, both ordinary and extraordinary. Sometimes he calls upon us to share a meal with an unbeliever—“eating and drinking to his glory” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33). Other times he calls upon us to verbally share the gospel story with an unbeliever, or to extend forgiveness in Jesus’ name to one that has wronged us. Sometimes God acts in and through us in miraculous ways to restore a broken relationship or participate in his healing of a person’s broken body. There are many ways for us to be walking, talking ads for the gospel.

We need to think about the topic of evangelism in light of the truth that Jesus already is Lord and Savior of all humanity. The kingdom already has been inaugurated and those who are following Jesus live already in communion with the Father, Son and Spirit. Though we live life now in a temporary human frame, and much of what we say and do is conditioned by our physical limitations and the circumstances that surround us, our true identities are found in the reality that we already are children of God who are co-heirs with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:1-5). This being so, our lives should reflect (advertise!) these profound, though somewhat hidden realities. Jesus promised to give us power by his Spirit to do so and thus be his faithful “witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

Being a walking, talking ad for the gospel means that what we do and say is highly significant. While our behavior does not earn us salvation, living faithfully in Christ does have behavioral expectations. Because we represent Christ, our lives should reflect who we know him to be—one with the Father and the Spirit in a triune communion of love. God, who is relationship, has created us in and for relationship. This reality should impact the way we interact with other people (unbelievers included). First, we should interact with them knowing we are children of God and wanting to reflect his love out to others. Second, and of equal importance, we should interact with unbelievers knowing that they too are children of God who need to experience the love of their heavenly Father.

Paul put it this way, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16). His point is that our behavior matters because we no longer live our lives for ourselves—we live it for God and for others. “For the love of Christ compels us, because 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).

Paul follows this up by calling us “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20) in the context of telling us that we are called to participate with Christ in his ongoing ministry of reconciliation. I sometimes wonder what the world would be like if every follower of Jesus lived with a mindset of reconciliation based on love rather than condemnation. What if we treated others as who they truly are—children of God—doing everything we can to help them turn to the One who died for them? What if we looked at others the way God looks at them, knowing that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV)? Although the salvation of others does not ultimately depend on our witness, we experience joy knowing we were involved in God “making his appeal” to others “through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

It is a pleasure and privilege to take part in what God is doing to transform people as they receive the good news of their reconciliation and enter into loving communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And though I can’t change the way people think and act, I can (and do) pray that God will continually remind me that I’m a walking, talking ad for the gospel. I also pray that he will guide me to be the most joyful and effective ad (ambassador for Christ) possible. I encourage you to join me in this prayer.

Living and sharing the gospel,
Joseph Tkach

Snowblast camp

This report is from GCI pastor Doug Johannsen.

GCI members and guests from Wisconsin, North Dakota and Minnesota gathered recently for Snowblast 2016. What typically is a camping experience with lots of outdoor activities ended up being held indoors due to extremely cold weather (20 degrees below zero, with a wind chill of 35 below). It was a family-style event with participants ranging in age from 6 to 80 (click on the pictures below to enlarge).

The event was held at Inspiration Point, a Christian camp/retreat located on Spitzer Lake in west-central Minnesota. The facility provided us with a worship center, dorm rooms, dining hall and recreation center. Indoor activities included volleyball, basketball, knitting/crocheting, pottery, wood pen turning, Zen Tangle, static electricity, DIY natural body care, perennial flower jugs and game room. These events were taught by members who offered special skills passed on to them from their parents or acquired from their professions and hobbies.

The theme for Snowblast 2016 was Ministry of Presence—Love God, Love Others, Make Disciples. Chapel messages included Listening by Doug Johannsen, Discerning by Carolyn Lane, and Loving without an agenda by Tom Kennebeck. Interactive adult breakout sessions were conducted by Troy Meisner and Becky Deuel. A live band accompanied worship.

Snowblast collage

South Africa camp

This update excerpts a report prepared by Johannes Maree (camp director) and Tim Maguire (camp chaplain) concerning the youth camp held recently in South Africa.

small groupSince about 1974, we have been conducting an annual youth camp here in South Africa named SEP (which stands for Summer Enrichment Program). Our camp in 2015 was held in December at a beautiful facility about 60 miles north of Pretoria with 57 staff members serving 35 teen, 37 pre-teen and 13 young adult campers. With about 50% of the campers being unchurched, evangelism was a primary emphasis for us. The camp is a joint effort of GCI South Africa congregations and Youthworx, a Christian non-profit that has several GCI members in its leadership. Together we run the camp, manage the facility, and are working to purchase the facility.

worship SEPThis year our camp had three Christ-centered programs that ran concurrently: a VBS for pre-teens, traditional camp for teens, and leadership development for young adults. Our aim in all three was to develop the campers emotionally, physically and spiritually, with a focus on helping them build their relationship with Jesus. As mentioned in a report following SEP 2014 by Pastor Tim Maguire, “SEP has really become a powerful tool in evangelizing youth.”

Every morning camp began with an hour-long chapel service that included praise and worship and a presentation by one of our key speakers on the sub-theme of the day. That sub-theme was linked to the overall camp theme of EPIC, which focused on our journey through life with and in Jesus. The EPIC curriculum was provided by GCI-USA Generations Ministries. Campers regularly commented that chapel was the highlight of their camp experience. Other camp activities included mountain biking, obstacle course, rock-climbing, soccer, softball, swimming, volleyball, dancing, life skills Christian living, crafts and a camp banquet.

Evangelize with confidence

PatheosIn this issue of GCI Weekly Update, Joseph Tkach highlights our calling to evangelism (click here), and we share a tool to use in proclaiming the gospel (click here).

On this page we share a recent post on the Patheos blog titled “Trinitarian Confidence in Evangelism.” It’s a helpful reminder that the basis for our confidence in evangelizing is not ourselves, but the being and activity of our Triune God. Below is an excerpt from that post; to read the full post, click here.

How can we go out boldly and share Christ with confidence? God not only saves us, God IS our salvation. It makes sense then that God Himself should be the ultimate source of our confidence when we are sharing about His great salvation. We can trust that God is working in us and the people we speak to about Christ.

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2 ESV)

God works together as Father, Son and Holy Spirit to perform our salvation, to be our salvation and to bring men and women to salvation. Sharing the gospel works because God works when we share the gospel. Our confidence is in God –God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Evangelism tool

A recent post on The Surprising God blog highlighted a brochure produced by GCI pastor David Gilbert (with assistance from Ted Johnston and Gary Deddo). The brochure gives a simple presentation of the gospel grounded in incarnational Trinitarian theology with an invitation to the reader to attend the church that distributes the brochure. David has made this evangelism tool available to anyone who wishes to use it within their congregation or ministry. To download it in Word for Windows (.docx format), click here. To download another GCI-produced gospel tract click here.

You're Included!

Sheila Graham

In a previous post we announced the death of Ed Graham and asked for prayers for his widow, Shiela Graham. Here is a note of thanks from Sheila:

Ed and Sheila Graham

A huge thank-you to my church family! During these tough days of Ed’s illness and death and aftermath, I’ve been constantly encouraged by your loving comments, cards, phone calls and especially your prayers. During his illness, I read your comments to him. He loved them all but especially smiled at the references to his softball playing days. Please continue to pray for me. Love to you all.

Cards may be sent to:

Sheila Graham
111 Pueblo Drive
Gainesville, TX 76240-9473

Arlen Bryant

Here is a follow up to previous prayer requests for GCI pastor Arlen Bryant.

As noted in previous prayer requests, Arlen Bryant, who pastors the GCI congregation in Cookeville, Tennessee, is battling brain cancer. He made a trip recently to Vanderbilt University for an MRI to check the tumor and discuss options for further treatment. Please pray that the tumor has not grown and that additional treatment can get going quickly and be effective. Arlen is very weak and in need of our prayers.

Cards may be sent to:

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

Roger Abels

Here is an update to previous prayer requests for retired GCI pastor Roger Abels. It was provided by Roger’s daughter Courtney (Abels) Harmon.

Donna and Roger Abels
Donna and Roger Abels

Thanks to all who have asked for updates about my dad. We have been in a waiting period for the last ten days; waiting for the pneumonia to clear up, for him to breath on his own enough to not be considered “critical” and for the fever to stay down with medicine.

Doctors have just cleared dad to move to a long-term rehab facility, and although we are concerned about additional complications (that have had a track record for arising every time he has tried to move to a different hospital), we are hopeful about him leaving ICU permanently this time.

Thanks for continuing to pray for him and us! I have a peace in the midst of this storm that I know is the result of your dedicated prayers.

Cards may be sent to:

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

June mission trip to Cincinnati


Great Commission Trips, one of Generations Ministries’ short-term mission organizations, recently announced it will be leading a short-term mission trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 14–27, 2016. The trip is open to participants age 16-30.

During the trip, participants will assist Christ Fellowship Church (a GCI congregation) with various outreach activities including a community festival and a children’s camp.

For additional details and to apply to participate, click here. Space is limited so make contact soon.