GCI Update

Honoring our mothers

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach

In a recent online search, I learned that 54 countries, including the United States, celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May (May 13, this year). Other countries celebrate something similar on other days of the year. For example, the UK celebrates “Mothering Sunday” on the fourth Sunday during Lent. The roots of that celebration are the tradition of visiting one’s “mother church” (where you were baptized). As time progressed, the day became a time to give honor to one’s birth mother. While I believe it’s appropriate to take a day each year to give honor to our human mothers, I also think (in the spirit of what Jesus said in Matthew 12:46-50) that it is good and right that we give honor to our spiritual mother, the church.

Honoring our mother, the church

Though some Christians ignore and even dishonor the church, Scripture teaches us to give her the highest honor. Protestant reformer and theologian John Calvin did just that, teaching that the church is necessary for the spiritual growth and well-being of all believers:

John Calvin (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Let us learn even from the simple title “mother,” how useful, indeed how necessary, it is that we should know her…. I shall start, then, with the church, into whose bosom God is pleased to gather his sons, not only that they may be nourished by her help and ministry as long as they are infants and children, but also that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith… so that, for those to whom he is Father the church may also be Mother. And this was so not only under the law but also after Christ’s coming, as Paul testifies when he teaches that we are the children of the new and heavenly Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26). (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.1.1)

In a couple of books on evangelical theology, Sung Wook Chung (Professor at Denver Seminary) notes that Calvin identified six functions of the church as our mother:

  • Conception: God’s people are conceived in the womb of the church through the power of the Spirit and the Word.
  • Birth: God’s people receive life (regeneration) by the Spirit within the context of the church.
  • Spiritual nourishment: The church “nourishes us at her breast” (Inst. 4.1.4).
  • Care and guidance: The church takes care of us throughout our lives, offering direction and counsel.
  • Forgiveness and salvation: We cannot hope for either forgiveness or salvation “away from her bosom” (Inst. 4.1.4). As bearer of the gospel and as led by the Spirit, the church is God’s agent of forgiveness and salvation in the world.
  • Cultivation of godliness and piety: In the fellowship of the church we are shepherded by and for good works.

The apostle Paul, whom God used to establish the church among the gentiles, compared his ministry to that of a nursing mother caring for her children (1 Thess. 2:7). He also compared Christ’s relationship with his church to a husband’s relationship with his wife (Eph. 5:25-32). Closely aligned (though not perfectly parallel), Jesus, the head of the church, compared himself to a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings to provide protection (Luke 13:34). Down through the ages, teachers of the church, including Calvin, added these biblical images and metaphors up, and recognized how fitting it is to identify the church’s ministry as spiritual “mothering.”

Happy Mother’s Day!

As Mother’s Day draws near here in the U.S., I am remembering my baptism and the care I have received from my spiritual mother, the church, and the good works of my human mother who nurtured me in the ways of God. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you reading this who are human mothers, and also to our spiritual mother the church.

—Joseph Tkach

PS: In the We’re Often Asked section of the GCI website, we addresses the importance of our mother, the church (also referred to in Scripture as “the body of Christ”):

God calls sinners into the fellowship of the saints, which is the body of Christ. Regardless of denomination or choice of Christian congregation, the spiritual nurture of fellow Christians is essential for a faithful life in Christ. It is from Christ that “the whole body [is] joined and held together by every supporting ligament… as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:16). Speaking of the importance of the church in the lives of Christians, Paul wrote: “It was [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13).

For more about the nature and functioning of the church, see Section 9 in GCI’s new publication, We Believe.

Jacksonville outreach

GCI’s congregation in Jacksonville. FL, recently held its third annual Neighborhood Fun Day on the grounds of their church building. Here is a report from Lead Pastor Marty Davey:

God blessed us with beautiful, sunny, spring weather and approximately 150 guests from the community. Activities included pony rides, petting zoo, face painting, kids’ carnival games, three-point shooting contest, bounce houses, free burgers and hot dogs, a dunking bucket, live music and a prayer booth with free Bibles. Our Fun Day is a big project. Though it takes about 60 church member volunteers to make it happen, it’s well worth it to us. Through this and other outreach events, the folks who live in the community surrounding our church are getting to know and trust us more and more. We enjoyed seeing many happy faces among the children and parents who attended. We were glad to share the love of Jesus with them.

Here are pictures from the Fun Day (click on the pictures to enlarge):

Women’s retreat in Zimbabwe

This article is from Gill Khoury, bivocational pastor and member of the GCI-RSA board. 

What do mind-boggling potholes, amazing fellowship, long border queues, superb music and incredible talks have in common?—the 20th edition of GCI’s Southern Africa Women’s Conference. Held this year in Zimbabwe, Africa, over 100 women attended, with delegations coming from Zimbabwe, Canada, South Africa, Malawi, Zambia and the United States.

Zimbabwe delegation
US delegation

Some travelled long distances from rural villages by minibus taxi—inefficient borders delayed their arrival by almost 20 hours. But they came. Others flew in, some bussed in, but they all came. Among those attending was Tammy Tkach (at center in the picture at right), who attended the first conference in 1998 and now was reunited with some of the conference founders who are still championing women’s ministry in Southern Africa.

The conference marked two decades of progress for GCI in Southern Africa. Twenty years ago there were no female pastors and few female church leaders otherwise. Reflecting the society at large, women were mostly relegated to unseen service within the church. Yet in the midst of that landscape, women’s ministry was birthed and the transformation began. Now 20 years later, standing side-by-side at the conference, were female pastors, medical doctors, missionaries, accountants, journalists, teachers, nurses, lecturers, entrepreneurs and farmers—all leaders in their local congregations. As a result, many of our churches have a much healthier balance with regard to leadership, actually reflecting the demographics of the congregation.

Talks at the conference targeted the issues faced by women: reconciliation, developing children’s ministries, listening and counselling techniques, and living with thanksgiving in societies where life for many is a constant struggle. Many women face discrimination, poverty, patriarchy and inadequate food security even though huge strides have been made over the past years. Each region represented at the conference outlined their particular challenges and successes. In many cases, women make up the bulk of the membership of GCI’s congregations in Africa. They must forge new social patterns that will allow for churches not only to survive but to grow.

The conference was not all serious. There was plenty of time for spontaneous worship and laughter. On Saturday evening, there was a “MasterChef Africa” event, with four regional teams competing for the trophy (a large bucket of ice cream!), amidst singing, dancing and chanting from supporters.

Though communion and a banquet ended the main conference, pastor’s wives gathered for two more days under the watchful eye of Nsama Kaoma, director of women’s ministry in Africa. Between times of laughter and worship, teaching sessions, the pastor’s wives attended sessions on children’s ministry, working in pastoral teams, thanks-living, marriage development and spiritual growth.

All too soon, the second conference ended, leaving no doubt that though these conferences are costly in time, travel and money, their impact is far-reaching. The networking alone allowed women across six countries and two continents to share ideas and a common faith, and to return home refreshed, energized, and equipped to serve the local church. The conferences also helped bind together women from generally isolated congregations into one international church. Participating in the divine nature knows no borders!

Zambia delegation
RSA delegation
Malawi delegation
Canada delegation


We are delighted to report recent baptisms in GCI congregations in the Philippines and the United States. Congratulations to all!


Nine members of GCI’s congregation in Binan, Laguna, Philippines were baptized recently by pastors Gemma Venus and Jun Osillos.

United States

GCI’s congregation in Rochester, New York, baptized three people at their Easter service. Here is a picture of one of the baptisms, conducted by Lead Pastor Leonard Banks (left) and Elder Lloyd Elwell.

May Equipper

Here are links to the articles in the May issue of GCI Equipper, which was published last week:

From Greg: Hitting the Refresh Button
Greg looks at the benefits of moving GCI’s Home Office to Charlotte, NC.

Church Growth: Up, In and Out
Santiago Lange explores the example of the Acts 2 church.

On Leadership: Multiplying Mentors
Rick Shallenberger offers advice on how to multiply mentors.

Prayer Guide for May
Here are topics for prayer for each day in May.

Kid’s Korner: GCI Resources Website
Ted Johnston shares information about the new GCI Resources website.

RCL sermons for June 2018
Here are Revised Common Lectionary-synced sermons for June:
Sermon for June 3, 2018
Sermon for June 10, 2018
Sermon for June 17, 21018 (Father’s Day)
Sermon for June 24, 2018

New website launched

GCI’s Home Office recently launched a new website that provides a wide array of resources for pastors, ministry leaders and ministry workers—anyone seeking resources to equip them for a disciple-making journey with Jesus. You’ll find the new website at https://resources.gci.org/.

With the launch of this website, GCI’s Home Office is also publishing two new discipleship resources:

  • We Believea resource congregations and members can use in teaching the core beliefs of our Christian faith. We’ve posted an edition for adult and older teen students as well as an edition for their teachers to use. In the near future, we’ll also be posting an edition to use in teaching older children and young teens.
  • Small Groups Starter: Ready, Set, Growa resource congregations and members can use in starting and facilitating small groups.

We encourage you to explore the content of the Resources website, then let others on your ministry team know of its availability. We welcome your feedback—post questions, comments and suggestions in the box below or email them to info@gci.org.

Death of Rudy Mills

We were saddened to learn of the death of Rudy Mills, pastor of GCI’s congregation on the island of St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean. Rudy had been suffering with colon cancer over the last several months. GCI Caribbean Regional Director Charles Fleming shared this about Rudy’s recent passing:

Rudy and Angela Mills

Rudy’s wife, Angie, told me that, in spite of the pain, she could see that Rudy was at peace to the very end. She is especially grateful that she had five hours of one-on-one time with Rudy in which she was able to thank him for being such a good life partner. As I think about that, the words of Psalm 116: 15 come to mind: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.” It is clear that God’s presence was felt in very intimate ways.

Pastors from neighboring islands have been flying into St. Lucia to preach and encourage the congregation, and a local leadership team is being formed to fill the vacant pastoral role. Charles requests prayers for Angela and for the Spirit’s guidance in commissioning a new leadership team in St. Lucia.

Cards to the family may be sent to:

Mrs. Angela Mills
PO Box 2113

Death of John McDuffie

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of John McDuffie, associate pastor of GCI’s congregation in Athens, GA. Here is a tribute to John from the congregation’s lead pastor, Bill Tollner.

Mr. Mac, as we affectionately called him, was strong in the Lord to the end. It was simply inspiring to be in his presence. He exuded the strength of God in his weakened state, and will be remembered to that end by many. One of his favorite scriptures was 2 Cor 1, the God of Comfort. That was, I believe, a cornerstone of Mr. Mac’s ministry.

Mr. Mac’s obituary will be posted on the website of the Gardenview Funeral Chapel at http://gardenviewfuneralchapel.com/. Cards and notes may be sent to:

Mrs. Reba W. McDuffie
1203 New Kings Bridge Road,
Athens, GA 30607

Jim Kissee

We have been praying for GCI Pastor Jim Kissee for several months as he continues to battle cancer (click here for the original prayer request). Here is a recent update from Jim.

Jim Kissee

I’ve now completed radiation, and my doctor says I survived it well! A follow-up CT scan shows the tumor in my abdomen has not grown, though it is in contact with five of my internal organs. In surgery, set for June 27, they will determine if the tumor is “stuck” to any of the organs (it wasn’t at the time of my first surgery). I will be in the hospital five to seven days following surgery, with the recovery after that lasting six to eight weeks (longer if there are complications, though my surgeon assures me that he will utilize the best surgical techniques to avoid complications). Though it will be major surgery, Kaye and I are thankful to have this option. We feel it’s the direction God is leading us. We also are very thankful for the kindnesses shown to us by so many of you. Thank you especially for your continuing prayers.

Cards may be sent to:

Jim and Kaye Kissee
601 N. 36th St
Nixa, MO

GCS registration

Registration is in progress for the Summer 2018 semester at Grace Communion Seminary (GCS), and ends at the end of the day on Monday, May 14. The first lecture in the semester will be posted on Monday, May 14 with remaining lectures posted each Monday from May 21 through July 23 (no assignments are due during the holiday break from July 1-8). Final assignments in the semester are due by August 13.

Here are the courses being offered in the Summer 2018 semester with the course instructor noted:

Traditional Classes (online only):

  • CM510 — Polity of Grace Communion International — Greg Williams
  • NT504/BI524 — Epistles of Paul — Mike Morrison
  • TH502 — Nature of Humans and Salvation — Russell Duke

Intensive Classes (online and on-site, requires travel):

  • CM508 — Church Planting and Development — Randy Bloom
  • CM511 — Homiletics (Prerequisite BI501) — Dan Rogers

Special note about Homiletics: Students are required to participate in the intensive portion of this course, which will be held during the 7th week of the semester (June 25-28), at Christ Fellowship Church in Cincinnati, OH. The face-to-face portion of the course will begin on June 25 at 1 pm Eastern time, and conclude on June 28 at noon. Further details about the schedule will be available on the full course syllabus. GCS does not cover expenses related to travel, lodging or meals. Students need to arrange their own travel, lodging and meal arrangements, and cover those expenses. Because all the work must be done within seven weeks, the amount of work per week will be more than the average GCS course. Due to the nature of presentations for this course, the instructor has limited the number of enrolled participants to 10. Audits will be permitted as enrollment allows.

Special Note about Church Planting: This intensive will be held at the new GCI Home Office in Charlotte, NC, during the 10th week of the semester, July 23-26. We recommend arriving July 22 and departing late July 26 or on July 27. GCS does not cover expenses related to travel, lodging or meals. Students need to arrange and pay for their own travel, lodging and meals.