GCI Update

Expulsion from the Garden: protection, not punishment

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

It’s a common misconception to think that Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden was God’s way of punishing the first man and woman for disobeying his instructions. In line with that wrong notion, artists (as in the picture below) typically portray the expulsion scene with an angel, serving as God’s agent of wrath, rather violently ejecting Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (Paradise) and then preventing their return.

Along with this misconception comes another, namely that when Adam and Eve sinned, God had to come up with “Plan B” to replace his original plan that mankind would not sin and thus live “happily ever after” with him in Paradise.

The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise by Benjamin West
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
MMT223881 God Clothing Adam and Eve, from a Book of Hours (vellum); by Brailes, William de (fl.c.1230); 9.7x6.7 cm; Musee Marmottan, Paris, France; Giraudon; English, out of copyright
God Clothing Adam and Eve 
(public domain)

But then there’s the truth conveyed in the Genesis narrative where the God of grace, continuing to implement his one and only plan, is shown extending his loving care to Adam and Eve—both within the Garden, and then outside. Having judged as being inadequate the fig-leaf coverings with which the couple had clothed themselves (Genesis 3:7), God (as shown in the painting at right) clothed Adam and Eve with garments he made of the hides of animals (Genesis 3:21). Only then did God usher the couple out of Paradise. Thus their expulsion should be understood as protection, not punishment. Note this:

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. (Genesis 3:22-23 NASB)

Because his love for Adam and Eve (and all humanity with them) was so great, God did not want them to eat the fruit of the tree of life and thus live in their fallen condition forever. God always was, and still is, for his beloved.

I find it just a bit humorous that some, despite knowing God to be Creator of all things and all-knowing, nevertheless believe he was caught off guard by the events in the Garden of Eden. Perhaps they see God, resting after creation, and proud of all he had accomplished, being startled when an angel approaches and declares, “We have a problem!” But the omniscient Creator was not surprised by Adam and Eve’s disobedience. He did not have to “punt” and move to a hastily-devised plan B. God foreknew what Adam and Eve (representing humankind) would do and, to use a modern cliché, “had it covered.”

The death of the animals, whose skins provided Adam and Eve’s covering, is seen by many as foreshadowing the death of the ultimate sacrifice for covering the sins of all humanity. That sacrifice, of course, is Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29; Revelation 13:8).

Lamb of God by Zurbarán (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Lamb of God by Zurbarán (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

From before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20 ESV), God’s plan included what he would do to restore humanity to fellowship with God (pictured by the Garden of Eden). God’s clothing of Adam and Eve with animal skins pointed forward to Israel’s animal sacrifices that, in turn, pointed to the sacrifice of Jesus, the second (final) Adam, who “covered” the sins of the world by sacrificing himself. Thus we understand that Incarnation and Atonement were part of God’s plan from the beginning.

God’s plan of redemption was not Plan B—it was the only plan, because it was a perfect plan—coming directly from the heart of our Triune God. Though death is the consequence for disobeying God (Romans 6:23), God did not leave us in the state of death. He rescued us by giving, as a gift of sacrifice, his only Son for the sake of bringing life out of death.

Prior to man’s first breath, the Son of God chose to become the Son of Man to save us from the sin that easily ensnares us, bringing horrific consequences, death included. The father of lies whispered into Adam and Eve’s ears the idea that they must go their own way—shape their own identity. The deceiver continues to spread the same false idea today. He does so, in large part, by convincing us that we are unlovable and thus unloved—not worthy to be God’s children because we are “not”—not good enough, not talented enough, not even skinny enough; and, therefore, we must find our own way.

Understanding Satan’s tactics, we can understand that Adam and Eve suffered from the first case of a stolen identity. Rather than believing the truth that they were God’s masterpiece—his beloved children—they believed the lie that they could not count on God and must make something of themselves. Not trusting God, they disobeyed, declaring that they would be whom they decided to be, and would not depend on anyone or anything to do so. As a result, Adam and Eve (and humankind along with them) became a false version of who God made us to be—his image! But because of his love for us, God would not allow Adam and Eve to enter into eternity bearing a false image. So in love, he removed them from Paradise and thus from access to the tree of life. Doing so was always part of God’s plan that, ultimately, would come to fullness in Jesus Christ.

God says we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and “precious in his sight.” He calls us all to be his children and heirs to his promise. He tells us that we are unconditionally loved, and he proved that by dying for us while we were still sinners. God, in Christ, became the Lamb slain prior to the foundation of the world—prior to the fall—because he knew humanity would try to do things its own way before realizing the value of doing things his way.

God’s plan for us has always been to give us eternal life as his glorified sons and daughters. So, prior to the first sin, God set his plan (his only plan) in motion. That plan was and is to restore us to the image and identity he intended for all of us from the beginning. Before we sinned and believed ourselves to be unloved, and God to be untrustworthy, God’s plan for salvation clearly demonstrated his love and grace towards us all. As a result, God was much more interested in protecting Adam and Eve than in punishing them. That’s the type of God we serve and are called to share with others. He is a God who, in Christ, has proved himself willing to do anything for us. He is a God who sees us according to our true identity—his children, created in his image.

Rejoicing in the true identity that is ours in Christ,
Joseph Tkach

Outside the Walls in Baltimore

New Life Fellowship (GCI’s Baltimore, Maryland, congregation pastored by Timothy Brassell) recently hosted an Outside the Walls (OTW) event. Pastors, ministry leaders and interns from other GCI congregations traveled to Baltimore to assist and join in the training.

20160813_120632A day of training was held on Friday. It focused on the “paradigm shifts” characteristic of churches experiencing renewal. It also addressed some of the structural modifications that facilitate renewal, including clear and consistent community-to-congregation “connecting points.”

The training was conducted by Heber Ticas (National Coordinator of GCI Church Multiplication Ministries and Lead Pastor of one of our Southern California churches) along with Dustin Lampe (Lead Pastor of one of our Cincinnati, Ohio, congregations). Both shared examples of the renewal that is occurring in their congregations.

20160813_120552On Saturday morning, as part of the training, participants went into the community around the church to invite neighbors to a “block party” that was held at the church that afternoon. Though it was an extremely hot day, many neighbors attended the fun-filled event, which featured live music, food and games for the kids.

The goal of the block party was to provide a hospitable presence for the church in the community, thus creating relational “spaces” where long-lasting relationships might be forged. New Life achieved this goal by meeting their neighbors in a non-religious, non-threatening fashion. Block party participants were invited to a worship service held the next day that included a special “blessing of children” ceremony.

Here is a short video with excerpts from a couple of block party music performances by Intern Xiara Lee and Pastor Timothy Brassell (on YouTube at https://youtu.be/1-Z3noIRkw0).

Youth camp in Ghana

This report was compiled from material provided by Assistant Camp Director, Leslie Asare-Akoto.

GCI in Ghana recently held their youth camp (called YEP Camp) with the theme “Come to Jesus” from Matthew 11:28. The 37 staff members served 49 campers age 12 to 18. The campers came from throughout Ghana and included a few from Liberia who are living in the refugee camp at Buduburam. Most campers were supported financially with grants from the Jon Whitney Foundation.

camp2The camp, directed by Pastor Francis Ablordeppey, featured swimming, music appreciation, soccer, soft-ball, fireside chats, volleyball, hiking, Christian living classes, and Bible studies. Other activities included dancing, film shows, lectures, ice-breakers, debate, variety entertainment, Bible quizzes, a “prayer and exaltation night,” and a banquet.

Campers went into the surrounding communities to inform parents and their wards about the youth camp and its benefits. They shared some brochures and invited children in the community to attend the camp’s opening day. As a result, 36 children from the community (pictured above) visited the camp, partaking in some of the camp activities and enjoying lunch and a presentation from the camp director.

camp5The campers toured the Ghana Air Force Base in Accra (picture at right). On the trip back to camp they visited a trade fair and shopping mall. During camp, ten campers accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and were baptized.

Camp ended with a banquet where campers and staff were awarded. Many campers shared how camp had helped them do many things they had not done before, both physically and spiritually.



Refugee churches in Kenya

This report is from Anthony Gachanja, who visited GCI’s congregations in Kenyan refugee camps.

Last weekend, Pastor Stephen Kinoti and I visited our two churches in the Kakuma refugee camp in the northern part of Kenya. Our idea as we left Nairobi was to go and encourage our brothers and sisters who are refugees due to the instability in their home countries. But during our visit, they ministered to us as much as we ministered to them. We learned that the joy of our Triune God is not dependent on earthly possessions, or where one lives. The joyful singing and the quality service we experienced there gave testimony to the fact that our brothers’ and sisters’ living conditions, though substandard by any definition, are nothing compared with the joy they experience in their relationship with our Savior.


We had sessions with leaders because we felt a need to ground them in Incarnational Trinitarian theology, which they had no problem grasping. We also had sessions for couples aimed at strengthening their families. And we had sessions aimed at helping the young discover who they are in Christ.

Leader's meeting

In their worship services they enjoy a variety that is not common in many places. We also shared meals together, we had three baptisms, and seven babies were blessed.

Church service

Pastor Kinoti, in expressing his joy for these churches, said, “When I was coming this way, my expectation was that I would find people with low morale because of their poor living conditions and the fact that some are separated from their families. I thank God because I am going home with a testimony of amazing things God does for his people. ”

Con 1

September Equipper

The September issue of GCI Equipper focuses on conducting worship within fellowship groups (very small congregations) and includes a sermon summary and an article on children’s ministry. Here are links to the five articles in this month’s issue:

From Greg: It’s not about numbers
Drawing from his childhood experiences, Greg Williams discusses the advantages of worship in fellowship group-sized congregations.


Here’s what it looks like: demonstration of a fellowship group worship service
Ted Johnston shares a video of a demonstration of a fellowship group worship service, and offers related observations.

Tips for facilitating discussions in fellowship groups
Lee Berger offers tips on how to effectively facilitate group discussions like those held in fellowship group worship services.

Sermon Summary: Parable of the fig tree
Lance McKinnon, in a sermon titled “Is God an Ax Murderer?,” shows how Jesus challenged misconceptions about how God relates to us.

Kid’s Korner: Is your children’s ministry in survival or creative mode?
Learn what the video game Minecraft has to do with children’s ministry.

Pastoral housing allowance challenged

Here is a topic for prayer and perhaps some financial planningIt applies to pastors employed by GCI and other churches and denominations in the US.

ECFA-SealAccording to the ECFA, an important development has occurred this month in the most recent court challenge to the minister’s housing exclusion (parsonage allowance) brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).

The federal government, who has the responsibility for defending this provision of the U.S. tax code, made its first filing in the case, and in doing so, conceded that based on its understanding of the facts, FFRF has the legal standing required to challenge the housing allowance exclusion.

To read more about this development, click here.