GCI Update

God loves everyone (atheists included)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

Through his incessant trashing of Christian beliefs, German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche (d. 1900) became known as the “ultimate atheist.” He claimed that the Christian narrative, particularly with its emphasis on love, is the byproduct of decadence, corruption and vengeance. Rather than admitting the existence of God, his now famous statement, “God is dead,” proclaimed the death of the very idea of God. His goal was to see traditional Christian belief (he called it “old, dead belief”) replaced with something radically new. He said that upon “hearing the news that ‘the old god is dead,’ we philosophers and free spirits feel illuminated by a new dawn.” For Nietzsche, the new dawn was a society of “joyous wisdom”—a place free of repressive beliefs that set narrow limits on people’s joy.

How should we relate with atheists?

Nietzsche’s philosophy has motivated many people to embrace atheism. Even some Christians endorse his teachings, thinking they condemn a form of Christianity that operates as though God were dead. What they fail to realize is that Nietzsche found the idea of any god absurd and any form of faith foolish and hurtful. His philosophy is thus contrary to biblical Christianity, though that does not mean we mock him or any other atheists. Our calling is to help people (atheists included) understand that God is for them. We fulfill this calling by living in a way that exemplifies for others a joy-filled relationship with God—or as we say in GCI, we live and share the gospel.


You’ve likely seen posters or bumper stickers that mock Nietzsche (like the one above). What these fail to account for is that during the year before he lost his sanity, Nietzsche wrote several poems that seem to indicate a change in his perspective on God. Here is one of those poems:

No, come back, with all your torments!
All the streams of my tears run their course to you.
And the last frame of my heart – it burns up to you!
Oh come back, my unknown God! My pain! My last happiness.

Misunderstanding God and the Christian life

It seems there is no end to the false representations of God that fuel the fires of atheism. God is falsely represented as vindictive, restrictive and punitive, rather than the God of love, mercy and justice revealed in Jesus Christ, the Savior who invites us to abandon the life that leads to death to embrace the new life of faith in him. Rather than one of condemnation and repression, the Christian life is one of joy-filled participation in the ongoing ministry of Jesus, the one who said he came not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:16-17).

To understand God and the Christian life rightly, it’s important to understand the distinction between God’s judgments and condemnation. God makes judgments not because he is against us, but because he is for us. Through his judgments, God is pointing out the ways that lead to eternal death—ways that block fellowship with him by which we receive, by grace, his many benefits and blessings. Because God is love, in judgment he stands against all that is against us, his beloved.

While human judgment is often meant to condemn, God’s judgments show us what leads to life compared to what leads to death. His judgments enable us to avoid the condemnation due to sin or evil. God sent his Son into the world to conquer the power of sin and to rescue us from its bondage and its ultimate result, eternal death. The triune God wants us to know the only real freedom there is: knowing Jesus Christ, the Living Truth who sets us free.

Contrary to Nietzsche’s misconceptions, the Christian life is not a narrow one of repression. Instead, it is a joy-filled life of living in and with Christ, by the Spirit. It involves participating with Jesus in what he is doing. I personally like the explanation that some give using a sports analogy: Christianity is not a spectator sport. Of course, some even misinterpret this to push people toward working for their salvation. There is a big difference between working for salvation (which puts the emphasis on us) and participating with Jesus, who is our salvation (which puts the emphasis on him).

Christian atheists?

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “Christian atheist.” It speaks of those who profess belief in God but, not knowing much about him, live as though God does not exist. A sincere believer can become a Christian atheist by ceasing to be a fully-devoted follower of Jesus. They can become so consumed with activity (even activity labeled as Christian) that they become part-time followers of Jesus—more focused on activity than on Christ.


Then there are those who, believing that God loves them and that they have a relationship with God, see no need to participate in the life of the church. In holding that view, they (perhaps unwittingly) reject being incorporated into and living as a member of the body of Christ. While they may trust God for occasional guidance, they don’t want God taking charge of their lives. Like the poster at right, they want God to be their co-pilot. Some even prefer that God be their flight attendant—merely providing what is asked for from time to time. But God is no co-pilot, and certainly no flight attendant. God is our pilot—he gives the directions that lead to real life. In fact, he is the life, the truth and the way.

Participate with God in the fellowship of the church

God calls believers to join with him in what he is doing to bring many sons and daughters to glory (Heb. 2:10). He invites us to participate in his mission to the world by living and sharing the gospel. We do that together as members of Christ’s body, the church (ministry is a team sport!). No one person has all the Spirit’s giftings, so all are needed. Within the fellowship of the church, we give and receive from one another—we build each other up and strengthen one another. As the author of Hebrews admonishes, we do not neglect coming together in community (Heb. 10:25), we join with others in doing the work to which God has called us as a community of believers.

Enjoying real, eternal life with Christ

Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, sacrificed his life that we might have “real and eternal life” (John 10:9-11, The Message). This life is not about guaranteed riches or good health. It’s not about always being free of pain. Instead, it’s about knowing that God loves us, and having forgiven and accepted us, has adopted us as his child. Rather than a restricted, narrow life, it is a life filled with hope, joy and assurance. It is a life of becoming what God intends for us to become, through the Spirit, as followers of Jesus Christ.

God, having judged evil, condemned it at the cross of Christ. Therefore evil has no future, and all history has been set on a new direction in which we, by faith, can share. God has not allowed anything to happen that he cannot redeem. Indeed, “every tear will be wiped away,” for God, in Christ and by the Holy Spirit, is “making everything new” (Rev. 21:4-5).

That, dear friends, is the gospel, and it is very good news! It tells us that God does not give up on anyone, even when they give up on him. As the apostle John explains, God is love (1 John 4:8)—love is the nature of his being. God never stops loving us, for to do so, he would be contradicting the essence of who he is. Therefore we can be encouraged to know that God’s love includes everyone who has ever lived or will yet live, and that includes Frederick Nietzsche and all other atheists. We can hope that as God’s love reached out to Nietzsche, near the end of his life he experienced the repentance and faith God intends and provides for all. Indeed, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).

Loving that God never stops loving any of us,
Joseph Tkach

Updates from the Philippines

Here are links to updates on recent GCI events in the Philippines:

Vacation Bible School

Trip to Papua New Guinea

GCI-Australia pastors Rod Dean and Mark Latham recently returned from a visit to our brothers and sisters in Papua New Guinea (PNG). What follows is Rod’s report.

The trip to PNG took months to prepare to maximize the time there while allowing for the unexpected. Our trip was interrupted by a political demonstration and after arriving we expreienced a severe earthquake. Despite these disruptions, it was a wonderful trip.

Our biggest emphasis this trip was youth and children who make up the majority of the Mt. Wilhelm congregation (pictured above). For the growing number of youth, we introduced our first speaking club (Life Club) with 35 teens and five adults attending. The club is part of an effort to motivate our youth to improve their English and think about their future. This program accompanies our ministry at the high school, youth meetings and talent shows.

The children’s class has been challenging. We have around 70 children on our rolls, and the coordinators and teachers have decided that we need to raise the standards, especially as children approach the age of our study center. We put together a curriculum for the rest of the year and held a meeting with middle school (grades 6-8) parents to encourage them to learn English and read with their children. At present, the middle school has 150 students up to grade 3 and they will be adding a new grade every year, perhaps up to grade 8. Of the 150 students about 80 are disadvantaged and 20 are orphans living on site. There are still clothing needs for the disadvantaged children, and the school is $25 a day short of nutritional food. We plan to bring a supply of clothing on our next visit and the focus of our Ulladulla Charity Appeal will be on the school’s food needs.

I spent the remainder of the trip with the congregation’s leaders and worship team, giving an ACCM preaching intensive, a worship intensive, and a talk on how to approach the Bible. I also introduced reading materials I brought with me, among them, GCI’s Discipleship Series, sermon notes, and Speaking of Life transcripts. Lastly, we had the annual pastoral advisory council meeting in which we shared the importance of accountability. We audited the books and encouraged appropriate counting and storage of money. While I met with the pastoral team, Mark coordinated various work projects, which necessitated walking over the mountain range about five times! Mt Wilhelm now has running water for the showers and flush toilets in the orphanage.

Mark and I are very aware that we were accompanied on the trip by the prayers of the church. I told the church in PNG that we do not come alone. So many people contributed in different ways to the trip—we are truly grateful for their support.

Innovative outreach

Anthony (“Tony”) Caputo, pastor of GCI’s congregation in Lakehurst, NJ, is “practicing what he preaches” about outreach, utilizing a rather innovative approach to connecting with unchurched people in the community where the church meets. Here is what Tony wrote:

As I work as an Uber driver, I try to be friendly and start some conversation. Depending on the passenger and the tone of the conversation, I often mention that I pastor a small church. If the person asks questions or otherwise expresses interest, I invite them to visit our church.

So far, a daughter and her mother have begun attending as a result of one of these invitations. Just recently I picked up someone else who expressed interest in attending. I would appreciate prayers that Jesus will lead me to more such “divine appointments.”

Pastor transitions

Here are reports of two recent pastor transitions—one in the United States and one in Australia.

Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA

Congratulations and thanks to Pastor Earl Jones (pictured below) who recently retired after serving for 11 years as Lead Pastor at The Carpenter’s House, GCI’s congregation in Fayetteville, NC. Members and friends gathered recently to give Earl a surprise retirement party.


Melbourne, Australia

On June 24, Mooloolbark Christian Fellowship (GCI’s congregation in Melbourne, Australia) hosted a special service to mark the (partial) retirement of the congregation’s Lead Pastor Randall Bourchier and the installation of his successor, Matthew Gudze. The service was conducted by Mission Developer John McLean. According to John, there was “a wonderful, positive ‘vibe’ in the room,” as the group honored the contributions of Pastor Randall and his wife Mary and rejoiced in the installation of Pastor Matt. The hall was packed with members from congregations around the state, including many youth and representatives of the local and state governments.

Installation of Matthew Gudze

As seen below, as part of the installation service, outgoing Pastor Randall “passed the baton” to incoming Pastor Matt. Instead of a relay baton, Randall passed a conductor’s baton—an appropriate symbol considering the musical talents of both families.

L to R: Pastor Randall, Sandra, and Pastor Matthew

According to John McLean, Pastor Randall and his leaders were creatively and innovatively involved in locally pioneering many aspects of church life through GCI’s transitions—from worship, to team ministry, to community involvement by the congregation as a whole. During the celebration, John gave a brief history of Randall’s ministry, highlighting his service to the Mooroolbark community. Pastor Randall took the opportunity to reflect on his and Mary’s many years in ministry and gave thanks for the people they had gotten to know and serve with over the years.

Pastor Randall and Mary

Both Randall and John mentioned how the transition had been in God’s perfect timing, with both pastors ready for new challenges. Matt and Sandra thanked Pastor Randall and Mary for their service and wisdom in preparing for the hand over, and expressed their joy that Randall would be continuing with part-time ministry in teh congregation.

Theological alignment seminar

This announcement is from Greg Williams, Director of GCI Church Administration and Development.

We’re looking forward to seeing many of you at the upcoming Denominational Conference in Orlando. Our theme is “We are GCI.” You will hear reports and stories from around the globe that will inspire and inform you about what the Lord is up to in our fellowship. To launch our time together, all pastors and interested members and friends are invited to a pre-conference seminar conducted by Dr. Gary Deddo titled “Theological Alignment.” It will be held on Tuesday, August 1 at 1:00 to 4:00pm in the conference hotel.

Gary Deddo

In the seminar (which includes time for Q&A), Gary will summarize the significant work he has been doing over the past year at the request of GCI President, Dr. Joseph Tkach, leading to the publishing of two essays: “The Church and Its Ministry” and “Clarifying Our Theological Vision.” From my viewpoint, these essays help us to be more aligned in our theology, doctrine and ministry practice. As is says in Psalms 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

So that you can familiarize yourself with the content of Gary’s essays, they are posted online as PDF documents at https://www.gci.org/2017/theologybooklets.