GCI Update

Living the redeemed life

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

Dallas Willard was one of the visiting professors I enjoyed immensely while in my doctoral program. A professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California, Dr. Willard had just finished writing The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. In the book, he goes through the Sermon on the Mount, addressing what it means to be an “apprentice” of Jesus. In doing so, he gives a clear picture of what it means to participate in the redeemed life that God gives us in Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. In class, Dr. Willard would often address the topic of daily living, saying, “Winter comes but nothing beyond the redemption of God can happen to you—no matter how bad the sinful mess you might create, God is able to redeem you.”

Dr. Willard also often repeated a sentence I still find myself repeating: “Living an authentic Christian life is different from the consumer image of it in our popular culture.” He would then offer an illustration of someone doing something selflessly to help others, then say, “Now, that’s authentic Christianity!” His point was that we do not serve others to get something in return. His emphasis was always on authentic participation in the life that is ours in Christ—an emphasis found frequently in the apostle Paul’s writings:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

Jesus, through his acts of redemption, purchased us and made us his own. Having affirmed that truth, Paul and other New Testament authors admonish us to live into that truth—to live the redeemed life.

Unfortunately, as the apostle Peter warned, there will always be false teachers who will spread “destructive heresies… denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” (2 Pet. 2:1). Thankfully, these teachers have no power to undo the reality of who Jesus is, and what he has done for us. Paul tells us that the Lord Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14). This purifying, which comes from Jesus, through the continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit, enables us to live the redeemed life. Peter explains it this way:

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Pet. 1:18)

This knowledge enables us to appreciate the significance of the Incarnation by which the eternal Son of God came to us in human form, having assumed our human nature, which he then transformed, and now, through the Spirit, shares with us, enabling us to live the redeemed life. We live this life in grateful response to the truth that we belong to the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ.

The atoning work of Jesus is the center of God’s plan for humanity. While most New Testament writers speak of this work by proclaiming us to be children of God, only Paul speaks of it using the word adoption. Are these identifying labels referring to different things? The answer is no. Confusion on this matter likely comes from our modern use of the word adoption to signify what happens when a child, born in one family, is legally and physically placed into another. But this is not the way the Bible uses the word. In Scripture, adoption and regeneration (being born again, or born from above) are two aspects of the same redeeming work, that having been accomplished on our behalf by Jesus, is being worked out in us by the Spirit.

Through the indwelling Spirit, we are able to share in Jesus’ humanity, which means sharing in his sonship—his fellowship and communion with the Father, by the Spirit (Titus 3:4-7). The early church fathers put it this way:

He who was the son of God by nature, became a son of man, so that we, who are the sons of man by nature, might become by grace the adopted sons of God.

As we receive and surrender to the work of Jesus and the Spirit, we are born into a new life—the life that has already been worked out on our behalf in the humanity of Jesus. That new birth (adoption) does not merely place us into the family of God in a legal sense, leaving us with an unchanged (unregenerate) nature. No, via our adoption (spiritual rebirth), we share in Christ’s own humanity, and we do so by the continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit. Paul put it this way: “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old is gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17).

In Christ, we are made new—we are given a new identity. If we were to compare this to human adoption, it would be like an adopted child receiving the DNA of their adopting parents! As we receive and respond to the indwelling Spirit’s ministry, we are born from above, thus becoming the adopted children of God who are sharing, through the Spirit, in Christ’s own humanity. Here is how John put it in his Gospel:

To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become the children of God; who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13, NRSV)

In being born from above, adopted as God’s children, we become in ourselves what we already are in Christ. Scripture uses the word adoption (just as it uses the word regeneration) to speak of the deep change in our natures that takes place so that, by grace, we can live the redeemed life—the new, reconciled relationship with God. What Jesus did for us as the Son of God and son of man, the Holy Spirit works out in us, so that by grace we become in our being (nature) the adopted children of God. God is the one who places believers in this renewed relationship with himself—a relationship that affects us down to the roots of our being. Here is how Paul phrased this stunning truth:

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Rom. 8:15-16)

This is the truth, the reality, of the redeemed life. As we head into the season of Advent-Christmas, let’s joyfully worship and praise our triune God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Let’s continue celebrating his glorious plan of redemption, brought about by Jesus, the incarnate, eternal Son of God.

Living the redeemed life and loving it,
Joseph Tkach

PS: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday next week, the next issue of GCI Weekly Update will be published on November 29. See you then!

Pastor transitions

Here are reports related to “passing the baton” of pastoral leadership in two GCI-USA congregations where, after many years of service, the lead pastors are retiring from GCI employment. 


L to R: Rick Shallenberger, Julie and Jason Frantz,
George and Vicki Hart

As reported by GCI-USA Regional Pastor Rick Shallenberger, November 5 was “a day of celebration, reflection and affirmation” as George Hart and his wife Vicki were recognized for 33 years of service to GCI, with 21 years serving as lead pastor in one of GCI’s Cincinnati, OH, area congregations, and several years serving as a district pastor.

After presenting the Harts with a special gift, Rick prayed, asking God to bless the coaching and consulting ministry George and Vicki are launching. Rick then installed Jason Frantz as the new lead pastor of the congregation. Following that, George ordained Julie Frantz as a GCI elder. After the service, all shared a meal where members shared stories of affirmation and thanksgiving for the Harts.


Sandy and Mike Swagerty

As reported by GCI-USA Regional Pastor Tim Sitterley, November 4 in the Sacramento, CA, congregation was a day for celebrating the 50 years that Mike Swagerty has served in full-time, employed pastoral ministry (including several years as a district superintendent). During the celebration, which included a formal dinner, Mike’s long career was highlighted along with the many ministry contributions of his wife Sandy. The celebration included the presentation of a certificate of appreciation given Mike by the mayor of Sacramento.

In January, 2018, Mike will be retiring from GCI employment. At that time, he will be replaced as lead pastor in the Sacramento congregation by Dwight Sanders, who currently serves as a pastoral resident in the congregation.

Mike Swagerty and Dwight Sanders
at the celebration dinner

All the best to the Harts and Swaggertys. We deeply appreciate these two pastoral couples, and are thankful to them and to God for their many years of ministry within our fellowship.

Cards may be sent to:

George and Vicki Hart
8133 Eastdale Dr
Cincinnati, OH 45255-4559

Mike and Sandy Swagerty
8331 Northvale Way
Citrus Hts, CA 95610-0802

Flood relief in Nepal

This report is from GCI Mission Developer Rod Matthews who works in South Asia and the Pacific.

Along with Northern India and Bangladesh, the country of Nepal was inundated by flooding resulting from exceptionally heavy monsoon rains. Over 100,000 were displaced in Nepal by the flooding. Many of the villages, scattered throughout mountainous areas, and in the plains of Southern Nepal, were devastated.

Our ministry partner in Nepal, Deben Sam, reported that the flooding destroyed food, clothing and household goods along with sources of income including rice fields, chickens, goats and fish. Books and other educational materials used by the children in their schooling were also destroyed. Many dozens of church members in the congregations Deben works with suffered such losses.

Deben immediately initiated an emergency relief program starting with the affected church members in five locations. GCI sent emergency relief funds to help. Deben was most grateful to our members in the USA for their contribution from the GCI Emergency Assistance Fund, along with ssistance from GCI in New Zealand, India and Fiji.

In addition to the personal losses for the dozens of members affected, in Chitwan, the church building was damaged and because the river had changed course, it was not possible to rebuild the church in the same location. In Makwanpur, the church had established a chicken farm to generate income from the community, so they could become financially self-sustaining, but this too was destroyed. Milanchok’s church building was damaged and a simple structure needed to be built so members had somewhere to meet again.

The summer months in Nepal are usually dedicated to conducting the Mobile Bible School in selected mountain villages. This year, Deben and his team have had to deal with the added pressure of this natural disaster. He is most appreciative that so many people in many parts of the world pray for him and for those God is serving through him as a result of the long partnership with GCI.

Safeguarding against sexual assault

A great deal has come to light recently concerning women (and some men) being sexually assaulted by people (typically men) in positions of authority and influence. Given this reality, pastors have the responsibility to give extra attention to protecting those entrusted to their care.

How do we do that? Click here for helpful advice from Rob Hurtgen on the LifeWay Pastors blog. Note also that GCI has policies in place to safeguard people from sexual and other types of abuse, and to protect people from false accusations. Those policies are outlined in the GCI-USA Church Administration Manual (sections,, 3.15, and C.2), and in the GCI-USA Generations Ministries Handbook (section 4.4). It is the responsibility of pastors and ministry leaders to see that these vitally important policies are carried out in their congregations and ministry segments.

The CT Pastors blog also has a helpful article on this topic titled “How to Care for Abuse Survivors in Your Congregation.” To read it, click here.

Death of pastor’s father

Our condolences to GCI-USA Pastor James Newby, his wife Karen and the whole Newby family. James’ father, Raymond Newby, died suddenly and unexpectedly on October 21. Here is information about Ray taken from his obituary.

Ray, who died at age 73, is lovingly remembered by his wife of 55 years, Verna Mae, by six surviving siblings, by his son James and his wife Karen, and by Ray’s six grandchildren.

Three generations of Newbys:
James (grandson), James (son) and Ray (grandfather/father)

Born in Dundee, Scotland, Ray immigrated with his family to the U.S., where they settled in Yonkers, NY. It was there that Ray developed a love for gymnastics, becoming NY state champion. In 1962, he married Verna and they moved to the San Francisco area, where their son (now GCI pastor) James was born. As Ray pursued college and a career, the family moved to Michigan, New York and then Connecticut. Ray worked in construction and manufacturing, then turned to writing industrial technical manuals, which led to a consulting business.

Music filled Ray’s life, singing in choirs, tenor solos and ensembles. He dabbled with harmonica, guitar and piano and wrote many songs and poems. His music ministry blessed many. His duets with Verna were especially beautiful.

A world traveler and adventurer, Ray visited Kenya with Verna when James worked there for a time. James fondly remembers his father, including the times a few years ago when Ray, James and three of James’ children enjoyed xome wilderness canoe trips.

Cards may be sent to:

James and Karen Newby
920 Prairie Path Ln
Joliet, IL 60436-9737

Rod Matthews

Thanks for praying for GCI Mission Developer Rod Matthews (click here for the original prayer request). Here is a note from Rod concerning his progress:

Rod Matthews

I am deeply grateful for the prayers, encouragement and love that has come my way through communication from all over the world leading up to and following my cancer surgery on October 20.

Last week the surgeon said he was very happy with how my recovery is progressing. He also presented me with the gift of good news that the biopsy results on the lymph glands removed during the operation indicate that the cancer has not spread beyond the prostate. In early February, I’ll have the first of a sequence of three-monthly blood tests to ensure there continues to be no further indicators of cancer.

I feel privileged to know so many people who are my loving and caring brothers and sisters in Christ, and I give thanks to God for bringing us together into such warm and nurturing fellowship in the body of Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Many thanks again, and all of God’s blessings to you and your families,