GCI Update

Retreating to go forward

The President’s letter this issue is from Greg Williams, GCI Vice President.

Dear Pastors, Ministry Leaders and Friends,

Greg Williams

The four Gospels tell us that Jesus regularly withdrew from the crowds with his inner circle of disciples to relax, recharge, refocus and deepen their relationships. Following the example of our Master, I recently led a two-day retreat with our five GCI-USA Regional Pastors (known affectionately as “the 5 Guys”). We gathered at a cabin near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Instead of following a fixed, demanding agenda focused on strategic planning, our retreat gave us time to deepen our bonds as brothers in Christ, and to revisit and refresh our shared vision for “healthy church” (and, yes, we did discuss some matters related to planning and organization).

The 5 Guys (L to R): Randy Bloom, Paul David Kurts, Mike Rasmussen, Rick Shallenberger, Tim Sitterley

In the spirit of “what happens at the cabin stays at the cabin,” I will not share a blow-by-blow account of what happened during our retreat. However, here are three things I learned from the time I spent with my five colleagues:

  • They are committed to being team-based. This was seen in how they eagerly deferred to each other as they worked together unloading supplies, preparing meals, and cleaning up. It isn’t that these five men always agree, but through their commitment to Jesus and by his empowerment, they are committed to being the close-knit team that the Holy Spirit has made them. Interesting side note here: though the cabin was equipped with billiards, foosball, table tennis, a pinball machine and other games, the group did not use any of these. All our time was spent talking, laughing, sharing and praying—beginning with breakfast preparation and ending each day with time together around a fire.
  • They are devoted promoters of unity. They all strive to be leaders worthy of being followed. As the Holy Spirit creates unity among them as careful stewards and guardians, they work diligently to spread that unity to others (Ephesians 4:1-3).
  • They are given to prayer. They don’t limit their prayer to giving thanks at meals and offering opening and closing prayers to bookend meetings. They practice deep intercessory prayer for each other and for the church. The prayers I heard from them expressed high levels of transparency and vulnerability with utter dependence on our Triune God. One of our times of prayer, lasting two hours, brought the healing and assurance we all needed. I do not have words.

Our retreat in the Smoky Mountains was transformational, setting the pace for retreats the 5 Guys will be hosting in 2018 in their respective U.S. regions for pastors and their spouses. I know that the participants in these “cabin retreats” will benefit greatly from their time together (see the report in this issue from RP Paul David Kurts about the two retreats he has already held in his Southeast Region). I’m praying that each retreat will be as life-giving and refreshing as the one I experienced with my dear friends, the 5 Guys.

Retreating together, so we may go forward in Christ’s power!

—Greg Williams, GCI Vice President

Retreats for pastors

During 2018, the five GCI-USA Regional Pastors are hosting retreats for the pastors and their spouses in their respective regions. Here, from RP Paul David Kurts, is a report on the two retreats he hosted recently in his Southeast Region.

I was blessed to be able to recently lead two pastors’ retreats in my region. Both were very rejuvenating—we all returned home refreshed and encouraged, with some new friends and lots of good memories.

Louisville retreat

Twenty pastors and spouses joined me on April 20-22 at a beautiful resort in Louisville, MS (see the picture below). We enjoyed fellowship, relaxation and lots of good southern cooking. The group enthusiastically embraced the vision I shared with them for a Ministry Training Center (MTC) that we hope to start in the Southeast Region. Though battling cancer, Pastor John Novick of Jackson, MS, was able to join us for half a day. We gathered around him and prayed for his healing and comfort. A big thanks to Pastor John Ross for helping to organize the retreat.

Bahamas cruise

On April 26-28, 13 pastors and their spouses joined me for a two-day cruise aboard Grand Celebration, which sailed from Florida to the Bahamas and back as we enjoyed good food and fellowship (see the picture below). Several of us disembarked at Freeport, Bahamas, where we spent half a day, including sharing lunch with GCI Bahamas Pastors Robert McKinney and Calvin Parker. As in Louisville, I shared with this group my vision for an MTC in our region. Again, that vision was enthusiastically received. A big thanks to Pastor Marty Davey for coordinating the cruise.

Youth retreat in Ghana

Leslie Asare-Akoto reports on a youth retreat held at GCI’s Kumasi church in Ghana, Africa.

With the theme, “2018, our year of involvement,” our retreat in February brought together youth from the Kumasi, Kutunse, Ashongman and Baatsonaa congregations, along with some students from Accra. The beginning worship led by the Kumasi youth was followed by workshops on relationships, music, maximizing potential as a youth, financial habits and peer influence. There also were team building exercises that involved both young and old.

In a talk on grace and spiritual gifts, the youth were encouraged to use their gifts to help their congregations grow (“When all hands are on deck, the ship will sail!”). A prayer session after dinner had participants overflowing with joy, singing songs of praise, and offering prayers. The retreat ended with a church service on Sunday. The youth and church leaders were all excited about the retreat and look forward to the next one, which will be held in the Volta region. Thanks to all who prayed and helped in various ways to make this retreat a success.

Team building exercise

Meeting in Uganda

Here is a report from Anthony Gachanja (pictured below left, first row), GCI’s National Ministry Leader for Kenya and Regional Pastor for five East African countries.

We recently held our first Uganda national GCI leader’s meeting in Entebbe, Uganda. Also attending were the National leader for Rwanda, Eugene Munyampama and two leaders from western Kenya. The meeting theme was “Which way Uganda?” Here are some pictures (click to enlarge):

(left to right: Anthony Gachanja, John Amadala, Jane Miana, Jessica Othieno)

Church as family

This article is from Dustin Lampe, Lead Pastor of one of GCI’s congregations in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Pastor Dustin Lampe

Last winter, Grace Communion Seminary (GCS) offered its youth ministry course as a short-term “intensive.” I took part, and left inspired to make the youth and children within the congregation I pastor (Christ Fellowship Church) more visible. The statement in the course that inspired me to change my approach was this: “The youth are not the church of tomorrow, but the church now.”

The goal of the GCS course was to help us see the church as a family in which all the members are important, involved, heard and respected. During the intensive, we discussed how to bring this concept out of the realm of theory into the lives of children, youth and adults in a church that values and loves them.

Recently, I witnessed some of what I learned at the intensive being translated into tangible church ministry. The idea that was developed in the course was that if the youth are the church now, we should connect the adults in the congregation to the things that are important to the youth who attend. In my congregation, we were already working to connect adults in the church to adults in the surrounding community. But we had to ask ourselves, “Do we know how to connect the children in our church to the adults in our church?” The answer was clear—many of the adults in our church do not know our kids in a personal way. So we asked, “Why?” The answer was not that our adults do not care for the kids, it was that they do not know what to say to the kids.

To facilitate these adult-to-kid connections, our youth ministry leaders turned our attention to what matters to our children. They pointed out that our kids are involved in various events outside church. These events are important to the kids, and our adult members can show love to the them by talking with them about the events and also by attending with them. To help that happen, we posted in our fellowship area a “church family calendar of events.” We then asked families with kids to write down their children’s events on the calendar. One of our newer families with children posted their six-year-old daughter’s dance recital. Though I would be out of town that day, I let the congregation know about the recital via email. The afternoon after the recital, I received an excited text from the girl’s mother: “My daughter did well, thank you so much for the support!” I assumed this meant that some of my adult members attended. Unfortunately, that was not the case. However, many of the adults in the church had asked the girl how the event went and rejoiced with her about her performance. The older generation in my congregation is beginning to build stronger relationships with the younger generation. Mission accomplished!

As an older congregation, we have tended to view ourselves as having “a leg down” on churches with more children and better, bigger children’s programs. But we have some good news—we are seeing a turnaround and some growth in our children’s ministry! Due to applying the belief that the children are the church now, we are learning that a lack of young adults and children is not a disadvantage to growing our children’s ministry. The advantage kids have in coming to our small church is that they are surrounded by church aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas who will love them and their parents with the love of Christ.

“We Believe” youth edition published

We are pleased to announce the publishing of a Youth Edition of GCI’s We Believe discipleship tool. It’s designed for adults to use in Sunday school, at home and elsewhere, in teaching younger teens and older children the core beliefs of our Christian faith. To view this tool on our new GCI Resources website, click here. To access all three editions of We Believe, go to https://resources.gci.org/we-believe.

New grandparents

Congratulations to GCI Pastor Brad and Trish Campbell of Florence, AL, who recently became first-time grandparents. Their son Nick and his wife Timber Campbell are proud parents of Brooklynn Skye Campbell, born on May 8, weighing in at 6 lbs. and 20 inches long.

L to R: Brooklyn, Brooklyn with parents, Brooklyn with grandma

Eric & Edna Vautour

Meet a GCI bi-vocational pastor couple who minister in Canada (click the image to enlarge).