Celebrating graduates

Many GCI churches are celebrating the graduations of their teen and young adult members from high school, college, vocational schools, etc. Here are reports on celebrations in two GCI congregations.

Jenners, Pennsylvania

Here is a report from Bruce Metz, who pastors GCI’s Jenners congregation:

We recently celebrated the graduation of five high school students. They each selected a favorite song to be sung at the worship service. The sermon, from Acts 2, compared the birth of the New Testament Church as a new beginning to the graduates’ new beginning as they move forward in their lives. Though it was an exciting time for the first disciples as the church began with 3,000 new converts, it was also a bit scary. Just as the graduates are excited by their futures they too are a bit concerned about the unknowns ahead. Just as God empowered the New Testament Church with the Holy Spirit, he will empower the graduates by guiding their lives into the future. The congregation prayed for and presented gifts to all five graduates and then joined in a picnic honoring them after the church service.

(back, L to R) Sheldon Taylor, Elohim Jackson, Ryan Ream (front) Alana Pfister (Nathan Rininger not pictured)

Big Sandy, Texas

Here is a picture of the high school graduates honored by the Big Sandy congregation:

(L to R) Jaden Fountain, Isaiah Brown, Triston Beason and Rebecca Strub

GCS applications

Grace Communion Seminary (GCS) is accepting applications! With Fall Semester registration beginning on August 27, now is a great time to send in an application. Though GCS classes and degrees support our mission of Equipping the Saints for Pastoral Ministry, we encourage those not currently serving in ministry to consider what we offer. For more information, go to our website at www.gcs.edu. Questions? Phone our Registrar, Georgia McKinnon (980.495.3978) or our Dean, Michael Morrison (980.495.3951).

Big Sandy’s 65th

The GCI congregation in Big Sandy, TX, recently celebrated its 65th anniversary. Visitors came from several area congregations that sprang from this congregation over the years. A theme that ran through the comments of the participants was the willingness of the pioneer members to sacrifice in serving one another, producing an ethic of fellowship that endures in the Big Sandy congregation to this day.

Pastor Ken Swisher

Attitude of gratitude

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The quote shown above, though funny, is all too true! I have a copy of it on my desk and often chuckle when reading it. It reminds me of the stupid things we humans sometimes do. A case in point is seen in the picture at right. Where is this guy’s eye and ear protection? He apparently never read the instruction manual!

Reading (and heeding) instructions can save lots of self-inflicted pain and heartache in life. Consider these instructions from the apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Thessalonica:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thess. 5:16-18, ESV)

Practicing what he preached, Paul maintained an “attitude of gratitude.” At all times and in all circumstances, he remembered that God was always with him and for him, and so he gave thanks.

When I typed the phrase “attitude of gratitude” into a search engine, millions of results popped up. I read several of the linked articles—some sharing stories and others quoting Bible verses. Some noted the physical benefits of cultivating such an attitude. One put it this way:

Over the past decade, numerous scientific studies have documented a wide range of benefits that come with gratitude. These are available to anyone who practices being grateful, even in the midst of adversity, such as elderly people confronting death, those with cancer, people with chronic illness or chronic pain, and those in recovery from addiction. Research-based reasons for practicing gratitude include:

  • Gratitude facilitates contentment. Practicing gratitude is one of the most reliable methods for increasing contentment and life satisfaction. It also improves mood by enhancing feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, and other positive emotions…. Gratitude also reduces anxiety and depression.
  • Gratitude promotes physical health. Studies suggest gratitude helps to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, reduce symptoms of illness, and make us less bothered by aches and pains.
  • Gratitude enhances sleep. Grateful people tend to get more sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more rested upon awakening. If you want to sleep more soundly, instead of counting sheep count your blessings.
  • Gratitude strengthens relationships. It makes us feel closer and more connected to friends and intimate partners. When partners feel and express gratitude for each other, they each become more satisfied with their relationship.
  • Gratitude encourages paying it forward. Grateful people are generally more helpful, generous of spirit, and compassionate. These qualities often spill over onto others. (Dan Mager, Psychology Today, November 2014)

For Christians, an attitude of gratitude flows from rejoicing in the Lord—praising him for his goodness, love, faithfulness, mercy and grace. Since our Triune God oversees all things and works all things together for our good, we can give him thanks, no matter our circumstances. This grateful mindset helps us see more clearly how God is working in our lives. As noted by James, the half-brother of Jesus, the closer we draw to God, the closer he draws us in (James 4:8). As King David noted while thanking God, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy…” (Ps.16:11 ESV).

Being thankful to God in times of trouble and hardship involves humbly surrendering to him—acknowledging that we need him, remembering the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)

As Paul noted in his first letter to the church in Corinth, part of following Jesus involves a willingness to “die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31, KJV). We do that by following him in close communication—listening to his Word, responding to him in prayer and in other forms of worship. Then when we encounter difficult or troubling situations, we know that whatever suffering is involved, we can trust him to draw our burdens up into his sufferings on our behalf at the cross. He then redeems our sufferings, leading us to share, by the Spirit, in the new life of his resurrection. Throughout this process of redemption and transformation, we experience an attitude of gratitude, for the Spirit reminds us of our Savior’s invitation:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28-30, ESV)

The more closely we follow Jesus, surrendering to him and trusting him, the more grateful we become as he takes our burdens upon himself and gives us his peace—his rest—even in the midst of life’s storms. This brings forth in us a life-giving “attitude of gratitude.”

Thankful for Christ and the rest he provides,
Joseph Tkach, GCI President

PS: Due to the publishing of GCI Equipper on July 11, and the July 4 (Independence Day) holiday in the U.S., the next issue of GCI Update will be published on July 18. I’m grateful to God for the freedoms we enjoy in the United States. I pray that our citizens will not take them for granted.

Coach Clinic in Florida

GCI Ministry Coaching recently conducted a Coach Clinic for GCI pastors and ministry leaders. The clinic, which was held in Titusville, FL, was hosted by Charles Fleming. Anthony Mullins, GCI’s Coordinator of Ministry Coaching served as trainer. Most of the 12 participants (some are pictured below) came from the Caribbean (including the nations of Grenada, Martinique, Bahamas, St. Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago). Others came from the U.S. (Florida, California and North Carolina).

According to Anthony Mullins, Coach Clinic participants spent two days

learning the empowering rhythms of intentional coaching conversations, mastering the dynamics of the C.O.A.C.H Model of coaching, and seeking to understand how coaching relationships can be implemented in pastoral leadership, discipleship and in developing emerging leaders.

Here are comments from participants:

The Clinic was a liberating experience. This has opened up a new way of connecting and seeing my own needs. (Elisha St. Louis)

It was a great learning experience. (Robert McKinney)

It was an exciting and delightful coaching session. I am praying for powerful renewal in our churches. (Kernani Cheny)

The Coach Clinic was timely—God’s timing. (Clifton Charles)

Anthony also noted that

upon returning home, several of the pastors have implemented a coaching posture in their leadership meetings, are using coaching in their personal relationships, and are charting a course for how coaching can enhance and facilitate discipleship within their congregations. Some of them are planning to host coach training in their areas next year. In the U.S., Daniel Leon and Elizabeth Mullins are taking the necessary steps to complete being certified as GCI Ministry Coaches.

Thanksgiving conference in Canada

GCI Canada is excited to announce this year’s Thanksgiving Conference. It has two segments: Joining Jesus (for all age groups, October 6-12) and Engage (for teens and young adults, October 6-7). The guest speaker at Joining Jesus will be U.S. Regional Pastor Michael Rasmussen.

For additional information and to register, click here. Reduced rates for early registration expire on August 1.

Conference in England

GCI congregations in the UK and Ireland gathered on June 17 for a denominational conference in Northampton, England. Guest speaker Gary Deddo (pictured at left) gave two presentations: “Worship and Witness: Life as if Jesus is Lord of the Church,” and “Worldview and Vocation: Life as if Jesus is Lord of All.” During the conference, GCI European Director James Henderson commissioned Gavin Henderson, Pete Mill and Barry Robinson as the 2019 National Ministry Team for the UK and Ireland.

(L to R) Barry Robinson, Pete Mill, Gavin Henderson

Thankful for small church pastors

Though our congregations are small, the hearts of GCI’s pastors and facilitators are big—wide open to the lead of the Holy Spirit who forms and sends the church. However, because their congregations are small, some GCI pastors suffer under the unjustified perception that there is something wrong with them. Karl Vaters seeks to correct that misperception in a Christianity Today article, where he notes that

there are millions of small church pastors doing great, kingdom-building work with little or no budget, little or no facilities and little or no salary. Yet every day they bear as much, if not more pastoral burden as their full-time big church counterparts. All without recognition for the extraordinary sacrifices they make (not that they’re expecting any). They teach the Word, pray for the sick, comfort the hurting, visit the forgotten and more. Often while putting in 40 or more hours at another job to pay the bills. (Click here to read the full article.)

We in GCI are very grateful for our pastors (they are superheroes in our book!). We encourage you to join us in the Home Office in praying for them. May God bless each of them, and through them bless our congregations as we seek to fulfill our vision of Healthy Church.

Baptisms in New York

Hands for Christ Community Church, GCI’s congregation for the deaf in Staten Island, NY, was blessed with a wonderful baptismal day recently. Six members were baptized into Christ in Pastor Mary Bacheller’s swimming pool. Here are pictures and a video (Pastor Mary is in the dark blue shirt):

  

On YouTube at https://youtu.be/uQA8sPzUiRg.

Owen Willis

We recently requested prayer for Owen Willis, GCI Pastor in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (click here for the original request). Here is an update from Owen:

I am deeply grateful for all the cards and kind concern from all over the world regarding my eye injury. I am making good progress in a slow recuperative process. The eye will not see again (without an unprecedented miracle!) and the main decision up ahead may be whether to keep the eye or not. I have low-grade, bearable pain, need to sleep every five or six hours, and am extremely light-sensitive (necessitating wearing two pairs of sunglasses outdoors). I have struggled for many years with my eyes, and the vision in my “good” eye, which has had two corneal transplants, is quite compromised. I hope to return to church before the end of the year. My wife Tina has been an angel. Without her, I cannot imagine what the last month would have been like.

Cards may be sent to:

Owen and Tina Willis
5845 St. Margarets Bay Rd.
Head of St. Margarets Bay, NS  B3Z 2E3