GCI Update

More than “just a kiss”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

Did my title get your attention? I’ve chosen to write about kissing, not to help you improve your marriage (though more kissing might help), but because the Bible talks about a holy kiss, and kissing is one of the most common things we do in life. We start kissing our children at birth, and often kiss people in their last moments. By God’s design, kissing has great power and value.

In the lyrics to the song “As Time Goes By,” popularized by Louis Armstrong’s record and the movie Casablanca (“Play it again, Sam”), song-writer Herman Hupfeld famously declares that “a kiss is just a kiss.” But as research in our day indicates, there’s much more to it than that.

You may have heard that about 400,000 tourists visit Cork, Ireland each year to kiss what’s called the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that if you bend over backward and kiss it, you’ll be rewarded with the “gift of the gab.” Though this is clearly superstition, and few of us would want to bend over backward to kiss a stone, as I note below, research shows that kissing is good for our health.

Kissing the Blarney Stone (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Kissing the Blarney Stone
(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

The anatomy and benefits of kissing


One study showed that the exercise involved in kissing helps prevent facial wrinkles. A “peck on the cheek” uses only about two muscles, but a full-on, passionate kiss can involve as many as 23 to 34 facial muscles and 112 postural muscles (note the diagram at left).

Other research indicates several other benefits: kissing three times a day significantly reduces your weight (kissing burns about 2-3 calories per minute); long, passionate kissing helps regulate your heartbeat and lower your blood pressure. Kissing strengthens the immune system, relieves aches and pains, and even prevents cavities!

Research also shows that men who kiss their wives before heading out to work live five years longer than men who don’t. Perhaps Italians get the greatest benefit here—though only about 50% of the world’s lovers are passionate kissers, 75% of Italians are (besame mucho!). Talk about “much kissing”—according to the Guinness World Book of Records, Ekkachai and Laksana Tiranarat of Thailand hold the record for the world’s longest kiss. They locked lips for a total of 58 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds!

The language of kissing in science and scripture

In the language of science, the study of kissing is called philematology and the person who studies it is called an osculologist. Perhaps those of us who enjoy studying the Greek and Hebrew words for kissing qualify as osculologists! The Hebrew word for kiss is nāshaq, also translated “brushing against” (as in the gentle contact of the living creatures’ wings in Ezekiel 3:13). The Greek words for kiss are phileō, philēma, and kataphileō. In the New Testament, the Greek verb phileō is usually translated love, but when associated with the strengthened form kataphileō (meaning kiss repeatedly, effusively), it’s translated kiss, and the noun philēma is always translated that way.

The Judas Kiss by Gustave Dore
(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

The apostle Paul refers to the “holy kiss” (en philemati haio) in four passages: Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 13:12, 16:20; and 1 Thessalonians 5:26, and the apostle Peter refers to the “kiss of love” (en philemati agapēs) in 1 Peter 5:14. The Greek words in these verses denote a kiss that is sacred—physically pure and morally blameless. Such a kiss is called “holy” to distinguish it from a sexual one, and from hypocritical and deceitful ones like Joab gave Amasa (2 Samuel 20:9), and Judas gave Jesus in betraying him (Matthew 26:49). In New Testament times, the holy kiss was a sign of greeting, much like our modern handshake. Commentator R. Kent Hughes puts it this way:

Paul’s injunction was brilliant. First, because to call another person “brother” was a breach of Roman protocol, as it was unlawful to call people brothers or sisters who were not of one’s family. Thus the everyday language of Christianity asserted that Christians were family in spiritual relationship. Second, the kiss was an expression of affection among family members—a token of deepest relationship and unity. (Preaching the Word: 2 Corinthians—Power in Weakness)

We’re part of one, spiritual family

Though I’m not suggesting we give up shaking hands and start holy kissing each other when we meet, I do think we should give thought to the meaning behind what Paul calls the holy kiss and what Peter calls the kiss of love. We’re part of a spiritual family. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we love each other as family and treat each other as family, valuing our relationships and unity. As we spend time together, we affirm each other and we encourage each other—iron sharpening iron, together.

Together we worship the one, triune God

One of the Greek words used for worship in the New Testament and Septuagint (Greek translation of Old Testament) is poskuneou, which is translated kneel down, bow down, bend one’s knee, prostrate, pay homage, fall down in reverence, and occasionally, kiss or adore. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary defines the word as, “literally, to kiss toward someone, to throw a kiss in token of respect or homage.” This definition may suggest to many of us what we call “blowing a kiss.” I remember when my two children were very young and would blow a kiss to Tammy or me. That was over 25 years ago, but I remember it as if it was just yesterday.

It’s a pleasant thought to consider that when we worship the one, triune God, we are bowing our hearts in reverence to him, and in that sense, “blowing a kiss” toward God in recognition of his greatness and holiness. In worship we express our love, appreciation and respect toward our God, and that, dear family, is a real holy kiss!

Delighting (on multiple levels) in God’s gift of kissing,
Joseph Tkach


John McKenna

PS: Our thoughts and prayers are with our friend Dr. John McKenna, one of the professors at Grace Communion Seminary. Despite his recent health struggles, John is writing a book on Genesis, and is further developing his earlier work on the sixth-century Alexandrian scientist, Coptic Christian John Philoponus. Dr. McKenna’s focus is on how Philoponus’ impetus theory concerning the dynamic nature of light, relates to the singularity theory of the hot big bang black hole beginning that is posited by physicists and cosmologists in our day. Philoponus’ revolutionary insights were grounded in his understanding of the triune God as uncreated light with us. Because Dr. McKenna’s work on Philoponus is highly regarded by the Christian Coptic Church, one of their scholars recently sent John this note of appreciation:

Dear Dr. McKenna,

Your heroic sacrifices to defend our beloved Johannes Philoponus will never be forgotten, and for your name to shine for 13 million Copts in Egypt and 2 million in the Diaspora, we have a plan to translate your Arbiter book into Arabic, so that all Copts will forever pray for those who stood with the truth of John’s faith.

I am also in Cairo, as our first project has just started, translating Christ in Christian Tradition, The Church of Alexandria, with Nubia and Ethiopia, after 451. It would be completed next June. I sincerely hope that all I wrote about John transmits the brilliance and diffuses the fragrance of your research, restoring the orthodoxy of his Alexandrine faith confession.

Joseph Badir

Children’s Ministry training in Ohio

“When you take a child by the hand, you take a parent by the heart.” With this thought in mind, GCI Generations Ministries recently hosted a Children’s Ministry Training seminar in Cincinnati, Ohio. Fifteen children’s ministers attended from GCI congregations in the area.


The seminar was led by children’s ministry expert Becky Jarrett (standing in the picture above), who facilitated interactive discussions on these important topics:

  • Clarifying the “win” in children’s ministry
  • Partnering with parents
  • Creating the environment
  • Community outreach
  • Partnering with volunteers
  • Storytelling

According to GenMin National Coordinator, Anthony Mullins, “The feedback has been very good and we hope to provide this kind of high support to other GCI congregations in the future.”

Seminar in Peru

GCI’s congregation in La Huaca, Cajamarca, Peru, recently held its annual seminar. Mission Director Hector Barrero was the featured speaker, hosted by the congregation’s leader, Juan Carlos Florian, who is a prosperous farmer and a mayor in the region. Among seminar participants were 60 adults and 25 children. The focus of the seminar was a study of the book of Colossians. As seen in the pictures below, the atmosphere was one of great joy and celebration. The food was delicious and plentiful.



Is your church friendly to visitors?

Many churches have friendly members, but are they friendly to visitors? In a recent post on his blog, LifeWay president Thom Rainer offers “Six Reasons Why Your Church Members May Not Be Friendly To Guests” (click here to read the post)—it offers some good food for discussion on the importance of extending hospitality to visitors.


Deben Sam

deben-samHere is an update related to an earlier request for prayer for Deben Sam, GCI’s ministry partner in Nepal.

Deben is out of the hospital and recuperating at home. He is still experiencing dizziness and is unable to walk very far or sit up for long periods. The doctors have prescribed complete rest.

Deben is most grateful for the prayers of so many people around the world. He appreciates your concern because he has a way to go to recover completely. He also appreciates your prayers for the children in Nepal who are being cared for in Christian orphanages.

Joseph D’Costa’s wife

Here is an update concerning the earlier prayer request for Joanna D’Costa, wife of GCI Pastor Joseph D’Costa.

Joseph and Joanna
Joseph and Joanna

After being given a clean bill of health following her recent stroke, Joanna stayed in the hospital to undergo physiotherapy for knee and ankle problems. This helped a lot and she was discharged on September 23. In order for Joanna to rest, the couple has moved to the home of their daughter in Bangalore where they will stay for several weeks.

Joseph reports that Joanna is recovering well—gaining strength and getting exercise. She will have a final check-up next month and it is expected that she and Joseph will be able to attend the south Indian festival at the end of October.

Joseph sent this message: “Please pass on my deepest thanks to GCI members all over the world for their prayers, love and encouragement. May God bless them abundantly.”

Cards may be sent to:

Joanna D’Costa
Post Bag Nol 3786
Bangalore 560 037

David Orth

Please pray for David Orth, associate pastor of GCI’s congregation in San Antonio, Texas. He recently had a heart attack. Here is David’s report:

David in 2012
David recovering in 2012

On September 5, I returned to the hospital following another heart attack (I had one in 2012). The doctors found a blockage and inserted a stent. I returned home three days later. Then on September 15 I had a follow-up visit with the doctor. Finding problems, he sent me back to the hospital for another angioplasty, which showed that the damage to my heart had worsened. I returned home on the 16th, wearing a “life vest” that monitors my heart 24 hours a day. If I happen to have another heart attack it will automatically shock my heart to get it restarted. In 30 days they will re-evaluate my condition. If it does not improve, I could continue wearing the vest, or have a pacemaker-defibrillator installed.

God is good—he is my healer, I continually give praise to him for all he has already done and will do in my life.

Thanks to you all for your concern and prayers.

David Orth
4326 Parkwood Dr
San Antonio, TX 78218-5028

Pastoral care of LGBT persons webinar

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) recently hosted a webinar with Mark Yarhouse addressing the pastoral care of LGBT persons and their families. The webinar was recorded, and can now be viewed at https://vimeo.com/183694588 (use password: 092016NAE).

Ordinations in Texas and Africa

We are rejoicing in the recent ordinations of several elders in GCI congregations.

In Dallas

Joe and Megan Brannen
Joe Brannen with his wife Megan

Joe Brannen was ordained an elder in GCI’s Dallas (Central) Texas congregation on September 18. Joining the congregation’s Lead Pastor, Gabriel Ojih, in conducting the ordination ceremony were Associate Pastor Mike Urmie and Regional Pastor Michael Rasmussen. Joe’s family members and friends came from Oklahoma. Michael Rasmussen offered encouraging remarks following the ceremony, sharing a the story of Joe’s journey and commending the congregation on their “Outside the Walls” missional posture.

In Africa (Togo and Ghana)

Kalengule Kaoma, GCI Mission Developer in Africa, announced the ordination on September 18 of five elders serving GCI congregations in Africa—two serve in Togo and three in Ghana. Here are their pictures: