The last GCI Denominational Conference was held last August in Orlando, FL (click here for videos). The next one will be held in 2020 at a location near GCI’s new International Home Office in Charlotte, NC. It will start on July 29 and end on August 2 (this is different than previously announced).
We were saddened to learn of the recent death of retired WCG/GCI pastor, Carlton Smith. Carlton graduated from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, in 1956, where, as a student, he participated in two U.S. baptizing tours. Carlton then pastored WCG congregations in Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Washington and California. Following retirement, he resided in Visalia, CA, then most recently in Solvang, CA.
Carlton is survived by his wife of 59 years, Beverly, his son Douglas Smith, his daugther Aletha Mann (wife of GCI Assistant Pastor Brad Mann), and his daughther Carlene Jones. Carlene wrote this in tribute to her father:
One of his greatest joys was serving the church for nearly forty years. We experienced so much through him and appreciated his favorite and often-quoted Bible verse, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). He has now achieved that glory and left us with a love for Christ and the pursuit of our Christian faith with deep reverence, sincerity and confidence that all things work for the good of those who believe. We joke that he made it from Mississippi to the resurrection, a tremendous journey in which we were privileged to share.
February 7-14, 2018 will be celebrated by many churches in the U.S. as “National Marriage Week.” Endorsed by the National Association of Evangelicals and the U.S. Congress, its purpose is to advance a “collaborative campaign” that will “strengthen individual marriages, reduce the divorce rate, and build a culture that fosters strong marriages.” To learn more about National Marriage Week and to obtain related resources, go to https://www.nationalmarriageweekusa.org/.
Looking for sources to help you address marriage and family in your congregation or small group? Try these:
Prayer is requested for Pedro Rufián, GCI pastor in Spain. He entered the hospital on January 16 to be treated for urinary tract problems. Though some of the problems were resolved, and he was released from the hospital, he is now being treated for a prostate condition and further tests, including a biopsy, are forthcoming. In a note about his health, Pedro wrote this:
We trust in our all-powerful Healer and loving Father. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, I’m ready to accept his wise will for my life, but I would like to be healed to be able to continue serving my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. I will appreciate your prayers very much.
Cards may be sent to Pedro and his wife Brigida at:
Mr and Mrs. Pedro Rufian
Here from GenMin national coordinator Jeffrey Broadnax, is a report on the GC Ignite conference held over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend (January 12-15) at a Christian camp near Dallas, Texas.
Though the weather was chilly, GC Ignite was filled with warmth, love and lots of Southern white gravy! The conference was designed for young adults age 18–30 who provided a high-quality worship team, event organizers and a highly-motivating young pastor. Participants included 43 young adults from the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands, along with a few GCI pastors and denominational leaders. Focused on the theme, Inside & Out, the group celebrated Jesus and discussed ways to grow as a Christian community within GCI. Workshops led by the young adults addressed prayer, worship, biblical literacy, self-care, multi-cultural ministry, identifying community needs and other topics.
As noted in the pictures above (click to enlarge), GC Ignite gave participants opportunity to be creative, to converse in a safe place, to find peace, reconnect with friends, eat, worship and be still with the Spirit. If these things sound good to you as a young adult in this age group, please consider attending GC Ignite 2019. We are grateful for all the prayers, hard work and donations that made GC Ignite 2018 possible. Shared experiences like this keep GCI young adults connected and rejuvenated, creating memories that will last for decades. For more GC Ignite 2018 pictures, click here.
I enjoy reading about archaeology—it’s an important and fascinating field of study that helps us understand how ancient people lived and how their civilizations developed. Though archaeology adds greatly to our understanding of the ancient world (including the world of the Bible), it is not accurate to say that archaeology “proves” the Bible. Though the Bible contains history, it is not primarily a book of history. Its main purpose is to share the story of God’s love and faithfulness, pointing us to Jesus. That information is primarily theological and thus cannot be “proved” from the artifacts of history. Such truths must be revealed to us by God himself, and he has used Holy Scripture as his tool.
That being said, archaeology does add to our understanding of the Bible. With the unearthing of ancient artifacts in the Near East, many archaeologists have seen the need to take a fresh look at the biblical account. The reality is that no archaeological discovery has ever contradicted those aspects of the biblical record that can be corroborated by archeological means. Steven Ortiz, professor of archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the Charles D. Tandy Institute for Archaeology, teaches that when irregularities occur, or conflicts arise between the findings of archaeology and the Bible, it has turned out that it is our interpretation of scripture that needed correcting. That’s a lesson worth remembering.
There are many reputable books and magazine articles that show how archaeology confirms the historicity of the biblical record. A 2014 article in Biblical Archaeology Review summarizes the archaeological evidence for the existence of 53 biblical characters (click here to read it). An article in the archaeology journal Bible and Spade provides the following list of archaeological findings that verify the historical and cultural accuracy of the Bible:
The palace at Jericho where Eglon, king of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud (Judges 3:15-30).
The east gate of Shechem where Gaal and Zebul watched the forces of Abimelech approach the city (Judges 9:34-38).
The Temple of Baal/El-Berith in Shechem, where funds were obtained to finance Abimelech’s kingship, and where the citizens of Shechem took refuge when Abimelech attacked the city (Judges 9:4, 46-49).
The pool of Gibeon where the forces of David and Ishbosheth fought during the struggle for the kingship of Israel (2 Sam. 2:12-32).
The Pool of Heshbon, likened to the eyes of the Shulammite woman (Song of Songs 7:4).
The royal palace at Samaria where the kings of Israel lived (1 Kings 20:43; 21:1; 22:39; 2 Kings 1:2; 15:25).
The Pool of Samaria where King Ahab’s chariot was washed after his death (1 Kings 22:29-38).
The water tunnel beneath Jerusalem dug by King Hezekiah to provide water during the Assyrian siege (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chron. 32:30).
The royal palace in Babylon where King Belshazzar held the feast and Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5).
The royal palace in Susa where Esther was queen of the Persian king Xerxes (Esther 1:2; 2:3, 5, 9, 16).
The royal gate at Susa where Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, sat (Esther 2:19, 21; 3:2, 3; 4:2; 5:9, 13; 6:10, 12).
The square in front of the royal gate at Susa where Mordecai met with Halthach, Xerxes’ eunuch (Esther 4:6).
The foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus cured a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28) and delivered the sermon on the bread of life (John 6:25-59).
The house of Peter at Capernaum where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and others (Matt. 8:14-16).
Jacob’s well where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman (John 4).
The Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a crippled man (John 5:1-14).
The Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a blind man (John 9:1-4).
The tribunal at Corinth where Paul was tried (Acts 18:12-17).
The theater at Ephesus where the riot of silversmiths occurred (Acts 19:29).
Herod’s palace at Caesarea where Paul was kept under guard (Acts 23:33-35).
The biblical record has been confirmed through many archaeological excavations, including these three:
Excavation at Bagazkoy, Turkey
Though mentioned 50 times in the Old Testament, the Hittites were once thought to be nothing more than a biblical legend, casting doubt on the validity of people mentioned in the Old Testament such as Ahimelech the Hittite (1 Sam. 26:6) and Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam. 23:39). The first mention of Hittites in Scripture is with the story of Abraham, who bought a field from Ephron the Hittite (Gen. 15:20; 23:3-18). Later, Esau took two wives from amongst the Hittites (Gen. 26:34; 36:2). Archaeologists excavated the ancient Hittite capital city of Hattusa (modern day Bogazkoy, Turkey) in the late 19th and early 20th century. They found many records, which were corroborated by other extra-biblical references of the Hittite civilization.
Excavation at Ebla, Syria
At right is a picture of one of the 1800 clay tablets (dated from around 2300 B.C.) discovered in the 1970s in Ebla, Syria. Critics and skeptics said that the name Canaan was not in use at such an early date and the word tehom (“the deep” used in Gen. 1:2) was said to be a late word demonstrating the late writing of the creation story. When archaeologists failed to find widespread destruction of Canaanite cities, they at first dismissed the Bible’s account of Joshua’s conquest. But when they looked at the book of Joshua more closely, they realized that only three cities were destroyed: Jericho, Ai and Hazor. This Ebla tablet demonstrates that the word tehom was in use at Ebla about 800 years before Moses, and it included the term Canaan. Ancient customs reflected in the stories of the Patriarchs have also been found in clay tablets from other archeological sites including Nuzi and Mari.
Excavation at Tel Dan, Israel
In 1993, a broken fragment of basalt stone was discovered at Tel Dan (at the foot of Mt. Hermon) in the north of Israel. The fragment came from a large stone about 12.5 inches high and 8.7 inches wide. Apparently, the stone had been purposely broken in antiquity. The fragment mentions King David’s dynasty, “the House of David.” Two additional fragments were recovered in two separate locations in 1994. According to pottery fragments recovered in probes beneath the flagstone pavement where the fragments were found, they were laid at the end of the 9th or beginning of the 8th century B.C. This discovery provided an archaeological connection to the biblical references of the ruling dynasty established by King David approximately two centuries before the events mentioned in the inscription. Not only is this the first mention of King David, it is also the earliest mention of a biblical figure outside of the Bible.
These and many other archaeological discoveries have confirmed the historicity of the biblical account. That does not surprise me, though it does fascinate me! If you’d like to read about more such discoveries, I recommend the e-book, Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries. To request a free copy, click here.
Appreciating how archaeology confirms the Bible,
PS: GCI Update will not be published on January 31 (the fifth Wednesday this month) or on February 7 (Equipper will be published that day). The next issue of GCI Update will be published on February 14.
In the United States, February is Black History Month—a time to celebrate the important (though often overlooked) contributions made to this country by its African-American citizens. Here are some resources you may find helpful in celebrating Black History Month in your congregation:
This “From the President” letter is from GCI Vice President Greg Williams.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Shortly after our Denominational Conference in Orlando, GCI President Joseph Tkach and I were on what we call a “field trip”—an extended lunch to talk and share. On the drive to the restaurant, Joe looked over at me and said the time had come for him to decrease and for me to increase. His plan is that I “ride shotgun” alongside him throughout 2018, gradually taking on the duties of GCI President. This transition plan calls for me to write half of the GCI Update cover letters (like this one) and to be a guest presenter on our Speaking of Life program (click here to watch one). It is humbling and exciting to be on this journey, and I am thankful for Joe’s guiding hand. In this letter, I want to share some of the details of what lies ahead.
A major focus for us in the Home Office over the next few months is our move to Charlotte, the “Queen City” of North Carolina. After being in California for 70 years, we’re relocating 2,400 miles to the east, where we’ll be housed in the office building pictured below. We refer to the move as MOCHA (short for MOve to CHArlotte), and since it will be completed in April (only three months away!), we’re calling it MOCHA express!
MOCHA express involves a good deal of physical and mental exertion as we reconfigure Home Office operations to fit the new location: Is the server working? Where is the copy room? How do I get a cup of coffee around here? Then there are the many personal adjustments related to setting up new homes in Charlotte: Where is the post office? What’s the best grocery store? Who can I trust to work on my car? What’s the best route to the office?
Reconfiguring the Home Office team
The move also brings the emotional challenge of saying good-bye to California friends, family and some long-time GCI employees who are retiring or not making the move for other reasons (Joe will share details in a future issue of GCI Update). These changes in the Home Office team will leave some big holes that will need to be filled by adding new responsibilities to the employees who are relocating and by adding some new faces to the team. While it will be exciting to bring in some younger employees, it will also be a challenge to find our new “operational balance” as we land in North Carolina.
Strengthening international connections
A big challenge I face in preparing to take on the mantle of GCI President, is to gain greater insight into GCI’s international operations. I’m grateful that over the last four years I’ve been able to attend Joseph Tkach’s annual planning meeting with our international Mission Developers and National Leaders. These fine men and women have graciously accepted me, and I feel like I already have a strong, collegial connection with most of them. I look forward to getting to know all of them better as we partner together in the gospel work of Jesus.
I’m already laying the groundwork for what lies ahead. I’m surveying the international leaders to gain their insights and knowledge related to needed modifications to structures and working rhythms. I’m also making plans for the 2018 international planning meeting to be held in Charlotte in October. During this year, I’ll be making three strategic international trips to help me understand more clearly how the Lord is moving within GCI around the globe. I’m tremendously excited to have a direct part in all of this.
Passing the baton
In my work as Director of GCI-USA Church Administration and Development (CAD), I’ve greatly enjoyed making deep investments into the CAD team. I have great confidence in these trusted brothers and sisters, and can easily brag about the good job each is doing in serving our U.S. pastors and churches. Though I will still be available to the CAD team, what we’ve achieved together over the past three years makes it possible for me to focus more of my time within what Joe calls the exchange zone—the area on the track where, in a relay race, one runner passes the baton onto the next.
As I write, what lies ahead feels a bit weighty. Yet, because of Joe’s guidance, and the assistance of the other good people surrounding me, it also feels like a good fit. I have the peace of God that truly does pass human understanding. Thank you, Holy Spirit!
I solicit your prayers for Joe and for me as we traverse through our exchange zone, preparing to pass the leadership baton between us at the end of this year. I ask that you be in prayer concerning the many transitions that will be happening throughout 2018. Joe and I deeply appreciate those prayers, feeling in a tangible way the energy and comfort they provide.
With great appreciation,
Greg Williams, GCI Vice President
In addition to preaching, teaching and providing pastoral care, pastors are charged by Scripture to be leaders (“overseers” is the biblical term). The LifeWay Pastors blog helpfully addresses this calling in a post titled “Face Reality: You Are the Leader.” Here is an excerpt:
Pastors, whether we like it or not, we… have been charged to be more than the preacher, more than the lead counselor, and more than the door opener. We are the overseers of the churches to which we have been called. We have a responsibility to lead well….
To read the full post, click here. Also watch for the February issue of GCI Equipper, which will be published on February 7. It will feature articles on what “leading well” looks like.