GCI Update

Relational God, relational world

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

For several years now, GCI’s auditor has been a firm named CapinCrouse. Some time ago, on a trip to our Home Office, their lead auditor mentioned that she grew up in a small town in South Dakota. Pleasantly surprised, our Treasurer, Mat Morgan, replied that he hailed from the same town! As the conversation ensued, she mentioned that her father was a long-time police officer in that town, and Mat (now both surprised and a bit chagrined) realized that he had received his first traffic ticket from our auditor’s dad! (I think Mat would want me to mention that he was just a teen at the time.) Anyway, all of us were reminded that, just as the Disney ride song says, “it’s a small world after all.”

Perhaps you’ve met someone for the first time, only to learn that you know some of the same people, or that your parents attended the same school at the same time. I’ve had such experiences, and the theory sometimes employed to explain them is called six degrees of separation. As illustrated below, the theory states that any person on earth can be connected to any other person through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries.

Wikimedia Commons, used with permission

There have been several tests of this theory, including the Small World Project at Columbia University where the project team instructed a large group of “searchers” to send out multiple emails intended for a particular recipient that they did not know. The catch was that they could not send the emails directly to the intended recipient. Instead, each email was sent to a person they already knew, who was then instructed to forward it on to someone they knew, etc. The hypothesis was that the email would eventually reach the targeted recipient. Unfortunately (perhaps due to lack of cooperation), most of the original emails never reached their target. However, confirming the six degrees of separation theory, hundreds of emails eventually did reach the intended recipient in six or less steps.

Used with non-commercial, social-media license

Though the six steps of separation theory needs further testing, its premise has been confirmed in research, and in our experience as we’ve discovered multiple, unexpected connections with other people. Such experiences should not be a big surprise to us, understanding as we do that our tri-personal, relational God created a relational world. And it’s not just humanity that God placed in relational networks—all creation exists in a relational web that reflects the fact that our triune God is relational in his being and doing. As part of the Body of Christ (the church) we participate in Jesus’ relationship with the Father and the Spirit. It is in and through Christ, by the Spirit, that we are interconnected with each other. No wonder we crave good and right relationships!

Angels at Mamre (Holy Trinity) by Rublev
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

At lunch recently, State of the Heart Ministries Director, Ross Jutsum, shared with me a “small world” story of his own. He later sent me this write-up:

On a visit to Vancouver, British Columbia to serve in our GCI congregation there, I spent a couple of days helping a dear and long-time friend of Tammy and mine—Martha Williamson, best known as Executive Producer and main writer of the television series, Touched By An Angel. Martha had asked me to record some piano music for a movie that was based in a restaurant where there was a grand piano and singing waiters. I played and recorded the actual piano music “backstage” on the set, while a tuxedo-clad Canadian actor was on camera “finger-syncing” what I was playing.

Ross and Tammy Jutsum

On the first break from shooting, I introduced myself and learned that the actor’s name was Glenn. I complimented him on his excellent “finger-syncing,” and asked what he did for a living. He answered that he was a composer. I then asked where he studied composition, and he replied “at the University of North Texas.” When I asked what years, he replied “1990 to 1994.” He also told me that he had completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition. I responded that I had been in attendance those same years and had received the same degree in conducting! In further discussion it became clear that we had been in some of the same classes and seminars. I explained that Martha had asked me to play the various tunes for this movie because she had heard me do something similar in the 1970s in Pasadena, California, where I was supplementing my income teaching at a small college.

During the next break in filming, Glenn approached me and asked if that college in Pasadena was Ambassador College. I answered is was, and asked how he knew about AC. He told me that while he was a doctoral student at North Texas, he was also a member of the WCG/GCI congregation in Fort Worth, Texas! We both had to admit that this was not blind chance—surely it was a “divine encounter.”

The magnitude and importance of the interconnectedness of God’s creation is something I appreciate more and more as I grow older. Whether pondering the micro-scale of quantum mechanics, or sharing in a gathering of hundreds of people at a family reunion, I find joy and amazement in experiencing God-ordained relationships, which I see as indicators that our triune God, who created and now sustains the universe, is inherently relational.

Thankful to recognize we are in relationship with God and one another,

Joseph Tkach

New African church in the Netherlands

This update is from GCI-Netherlands national leader Frans Danenberg.

We recently held a joyful inaugural service at Jesus Grace Church—an African GCI congregation planted in Koog aan de Zaan in the northern part of the Netherlands. Visitors from Rotterdam, Hoorn, Tiel, Almere, Leeuwarden and even Norway, joined in the celebration, which included music and inspiring messages. To begin with, the new church will meet twice a month as it moves forward in faith to spread the gospel, helping people know Jesus Christ. We appreciate your prayers for the further development and growth of this new church. Here are pictures from the first service:

Updates from the Philippines

Here are updates from GCI in the Philippines:

The church and its ministry (part 3)

Gary Deddo

Here is part 3 of an essay from Gary Deddo on the nature of the church and its ministry. For other parts of the essay, click a number: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 78, 9, 1011, 12. We encourage you to add your thoughts and questions in the “comments” box at the end of each post to get a discussion going. To read the full essay in booklet form, click here. To read the related essay, “Clarifying Our Theological Vision,” click here.

 A Brief Theology of the Church
(with a view to equipping the saints for the work of ministry)

by Dr. Gary Deddo

Part 3: God’s “gathered together” and “called out” ones

Last time we looked at four New Testament images that define and describe the church. From these we derived this important lesson: The church is the church by being in vital, living and dynamic relationship with Christ, its Lord and Savior. In and through that relationship everything the church is and does aligns with Jesus, its living center and cornerstone, set squarely on the foundation of Holy Scripture with Christ being the Bible’s source and interpretive key. Proclaiming and reminding the church of its relationship with Jesus is the first and foremost responsibility of ministries that truly belong to their Lord. The church’s primary task is to stay “centered on the Center”— to “keep the main thing the main thing.” Connected, aligned and centered in this way, the church lives out a communion and coordination with Jesus in a way that displays that it, with all its members, belongs solely to its Lord.

The Corner Stone by Tissot
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The ekklesia of God

With that reminder, let’s now begin looking at more literal and discursive or conceptual teachings concerning the church, beginning here with the meaning of the word “church,” which translates the Greek word ekklesia (sometimes translated “assembly”). Ekklesia is used about 111 times in the Greek New Testament, including twice in Matthew, where in Matthew 16:18 Jesus speaks of “building” his church. In the context of ancient Israel and the New Testament, the word of the Lord goes out, calling people to assemble before him to hear his word. The people who gather are God’s own assembly—his people. Responding to God’s call, they are called away or out from their previous ultimate loyalties and connections, and God forms them into a people gathered to worship him alone.

The Lord God with his Word and Spirit has always intended to gather ”a people for his name” (Acts 15:14). That is how ancient Israel came into being. God chose and spoke to certain persons, beginning with Abraham, and formed them into his people. The Lord God did this as an act of mercy and grace—calling nobodies and making them somebodies. They did nothing to deserve this calling—God chose them, spoke to them, and formed them into his people in order to demonstrate his freely-given mercy and grace. Thus ancient Israel was the assembly (the “church”) of the covenant of promise, called into being by the Word of the Lord.

Called together by and for proclamation

As an assembly, the church is called together. That calling comes via a proclamation—a word of announcement that addresses, invites and directs a people to assemble. As people respond, they collect around the one who has called them together by his Word. Jesus, God’s Word to humanity, speaks to us and calls us to assemble around him under his direction, to be built together upon him, the Living Word, with his written Word.

The church is sent out as representatives of Jesus the Living Word, to proclaim what the New Testament calls the “good news” or “gospel” (euangelion in Greek). The gospel identifies in words who Jesus Christ is, and announces the in-breaking and coming rule and reign of his kingdom. At the time of Jesus, “good news” could refer to the message delivered by a messenger after a battle between two kings. A herald would bring back to their town the “good news” that their king had won the victory, thereby letting them know that they would not be taken captive by the defeated king. In the context of the New Testament, this good news is the proclamation that originates with Jesus. It’s the message about who he is, and what he has done to bring us reconciliation with God and to give us a share in his victory over sin, death and evil.

Called to Jesus

Jesus is both the victorious king and the herald who proclaims the good news regarding the in-breaking of the reconciliation, rule and reign of God through him. His announcement reveals the appropriate response to him and to his establishment of the coming kingdom of God. It calls his people to believe (trust in) who he is and what he is doing, and to repent of (turn away from) all other loyalties to and ultimate trust in anyone or anything else. Consider this passage:

Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Mark 1:14-18 ESV)

Note the dynamics. Jesus, the Living Word, addresses Simon and Andrew, calling them to gather around him and to follow him daily. They are to stay with him, be in his presence and learn from him. But more than that, he promises to make them become far more than what they could ever imagine. As they gather to him, he declares that he will form and transform them. In relationship to him, they will become far more than they were—far more than the circumstances into which they were born—far more than what nature or society could make or mold them into. Jesus opens a door for them to come in under his rule and reign, and thus live as citizens in his kingdom. In response, they leave everything behind (their nets represent their way of life up to that point). It was the Word himself addressing them in person that set them free to respond to him, to freely join themselves to him, repenting of everything else—the good and the bad. With this calling of Jesus, his church began to assemble.

Gathered, sent, transformed

Gathered to him by his call, these first disciples were transformed as they followed him in his ways and trusted in his word regarding the proximity of the kingdom of God. But even more than that, they began to participate with Jesus in his ingathering to himself of those who would begin living under his rule and reign in a transforming fellowship with him. Through these apostles, Jesus was forming the core of his church—a growing number of people gathered around him. These “followers” would gather around the Living Word of God, and then be sent out by him with the spoken word of proclamation, the gospel. Those sent out as his apostles (apostellos in Greek, meaning “sent out ones”) would call others to gather around the King and share in his rule and reign, which had now drawn near. The others who believed in the gospel because of the apostle’s words would also be transformed by Christ and be sent out with the good news to live as his representatives, citizens of his kingdom.

In the Gospel of Mark, we are told that Jesus took Simon and Andrew with him and called James and John, who also then left their fishing to follow Jesus (Mark 1:19-20). A little later, they bring to Jesus those who are sick or possessed by evil (Mark 1:32-34).

In his letter to the church in Philippi, the apostle Paul gives his own testimony concerning being called by the risen Christ: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12).

To follow Jesus involves a total belonging to him that is both renewing and transforming. We become more than what we are or ever could be apart from him. What we are already in Christ’s relationship to us, we become in ourselves as we “grow up” into Christ, as Paul puts it in Ephesians 4:15 (ESV). The dynamic communion that his followers have with Christ reflects the vital connection shown in the image of the Head with the Body. Such a transforming and life-giving relationship reminds us of Jesus’ parable of the vine and branches:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-5 ESV)

Summary and application

In summary, we note that the church belongs to Jesus Christ as his “called out” ones, his people. We belong to him in such a profound way that we can regard ourselves as his Body; as living stones built on, supported by, and arranged in relationship to him as the cornerstone with his apostles; and as Christ’s bride, betrothed to him in a covenant fellowship of eternal love. These images remind us that the church belongs to God (through Jesus Christ and by the Spirit) totally and completely at the deepest level of its life and being.

In our day, we apply this truth as the church by continually recognizing our utter dependence on Jesus Christ—our need to live moment-by-moment in relationship, communion and fellowship with him. As the church, we are to find our life and mission in response to Jesus as the Living Word of God that he is.

The primary and central responsibility of the church (both its leaders and members) is to point each other to the Living Word, and his written Word. Under the direction of Jesus, the leaders of the church must lead according to his Word—they must know his written Word as deeply and completely as possible and then serve as examples of those who live under and in relationship to the Living Word of God according to the written Word of God.

Mat Morgan’s father

Richard Morgan, father of GCI Treasurer Mat Morgan, and husband of Edythe Morgan, is in the hospital with what doctors say is terminal cancer. Your prayers for comfort and healing are appreciated.

Back row: Mat (second from left) and his brothers. Second row: Mat’s parents.

Cards can be sent to:

Edythe Morgan
1203 East Mountain View Avenue
Glendora, CA  91741


Registration open for Converge 2017

This year, GCI Generations Ministries (GenMin) will host one Converge conference. It will be held in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 21-23, 2017. With the theme Reimagine Camp, the conference will focus on new developments, new directions and best practices related to GenMin’s camps and missions. Registration for Converge 2017 is now open—we encourage you to register soon. For further information and to register, go to gci.org/go/converge17 (login required).