GCI Update

Another plane conversation

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach

I’m half-way convinced that I should write a book titled Transformed by Airplane Conversations. I have two reasons: First, over the years I’ve had some interesting conversations on airplanes with a variety of people, and at times the conversations have addressed the Christian faith. Second, your responses to my sharing these conversations in the past leads me to want to share some more.

Though Christianity is not always the topic of my airplane conversations, sometimes it does come up—typically when my seatmate asks what I do for a living. When I reply that I’m a Christian pastor, the conversation often quickly ends. However, sometimes it continues. Let me share one of those times with you.


As the flight was taking off, I began privately thanking God for the first class upgrade, which meant a more comfortable seat, some wine and lunch. My thoughts were interrupted when the man seated next to me introduced himself as a Jewish lawyer. Before I could reply, the flight attendant started serving lunch. First, she brought us shrimp cocktail, revealing that my seatmate was not a practicing Jew—he was eating his shrimp so fast that I decided to offer him mine. He gobbled it up right after telling me his doctor had told him to cut back on cholesterol! As we continued eating, he asked what I do for a living. I replied that I was a Christian pastor—fully expecting that he’d reply with silence, and I’d then be putting my earbuds back in to listen to an old Beatles’ album. But to my surprise, he continued the conversation, telling me that he respected me for being a Christian pastor!

As the conversation continued, we talked about our favorite foods, wine, beer and music. Then he asked me a question that seemed to come out of nowhere (though I suspect he had wanted to ask it as soon as I mentioned I was Christian). “What reasons,” he asked, “would you give me for believing that God exists?” Though I had not anticipated that question, I quickly replied, “Let me count the ways!”

Thinking that he probably was at least an agnostic, I began by noting that, from my perspective, apart from God there is no logical, philosophical or reasonable explanation for how everything exists in our universe. I continued by noting that atheism is a false religion in that it requires an irrational faith commitment to believe that life comes from non-life, and that everything popped into existence on its own by accident, without any purpose. He agreed that the creation question was huge for him. I then attempted to illustrate the nature of atheism as a religion by showing that it makes its own faith statements and has its own evangelistic ministry. I mentioned the names of atheism’s two “apostles”: Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss; and its four “evangelists” (pictured below, left to right): Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett.


Amidst our give-and-take, I made several points concerning atheism, noting that its belief in blind chance as the origin of an unimaginably complex universe takes as much or more faith than belief in a loving, sovereign God who created it all. I also mentioned that the atheism peddled by Dawkins and his cohorts focuses largely on what it doesn’t believe in and why it hates religion, especially Christianity. Though that approach might satisfy some people, it is not enough for me and many others who grapple with the great mysteries of life and reality.

He asked why I have concluded that atheism is inadequate as a rational worldview. I replied by noting that atheism is unable to provide a consistent explanation for the origin and order of the universe. If an atheist argues that matter is eternal, they are going against modern science, which states that the universe had a beginning and is gradually running down. If they affirm that the universe had a beginning, then they must account for what caused that beginning. Either way, atheism cannot adequately explain the universe and a world full of complex life forms. I also noted that the atheistic worldview is incapable of providing the necessary preconditions to account for the universal laws of science and logic. In short, it is unable to account for the meaningful realities that people encounter in life, especially considering the atheistic view that we have no free will and all our choices are an illusion.

I then noted that atheism cannot furnish a rational basis for determining good and evil, or the human need for absolute moral standards. If there is no God—who by definition is absolutely good—then there is no absolute standard for judging something to be good or evil. Ironically, atheism objects to the existence of God due to the presence of evil in the world, yet it is unable to account for the difference between good and evil, much less provide a solution, apart from God, to the problem of evil.

My seatmate and I had an enjoyable exchange, and he said he appreciated most of my points. He confirmed that, while he is not an atheist, neither was he following any religion. He said he was searching, and felt he had not found the right place yet. Then he got up from his seat and headed for the restroom. While there, the smoke alarm sounded. Immediately, he was interrogated as to whether he had been trying to smoke a cigarette in the restroom. The flight attendant even asked me if I had seen him holding a cigarette when he entered and exited the restroom. When he was permitted to return to his seat, I told him that I know a good Jewish lawyer if he needs one! At first he laughed, but then he asked who I was referring to. He laughed again when I replied that I was referring to Jesus Christ, though this time his laugh was somehow warmer.

As we deplaned and went our separate ways, I wondered what he had been thinking when I mentioned Jesus to him. I’ll never know, though I’m happy I had the chance to do so. On my way into the terminal, a quote from G.K. Chesterton came to mind: “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” Something to think about.

Grateful that God has revealed himself to us and we can share that knowledge with others,
Joseph Tkach

Updates from the Philippines

Here are links to reports on recent events in GCI-Philippines:

Participants in the preaching class

VBS in Los Angeles

This report is from Hazel Tabin of Grace Communion Fellowship, one of GCI’s congregations in the Los Angeles, CA area.

We are beyond grateful that our first Vacation Bible School (VBS) was a success! Though only three kids were registered just a few days before the event, we ended up having 22 attend—12 five through eight years old, and 10 nine through twelve years old (pictured below).

The VBS theme was “Game On,” which focused on sports. It allowed the kids to talk about their favorite sports and warm up quickly to one another. The theme helped the kids understand how God wants every one of us to be a part of his team. The topics focused on Jesus—that he cares, gives us hope, helps us believe, loves us, and gives us joy. The children listened to stories, learned Bible verses, sang, danced, played team games, and created crafts. All these activities focused on the lesson for the day.

In one of the crafts, the kids decorated water bottles with the words “Jesus loves you” and the name of our church, its location, and the time our service starts. On our last day of the VBS, the older kids went on a “mission” and handed out the water bottles to people at a nearby park. It was great to see their friendly smiles as they joyfully gave these bottles away. One of the kids even emphasized the information of the church service and invited them to come!

The Sunday service following the VBS was different than usual. We invited the kids from the VBS and their families to attend. The kids performed in the service, telling about God’s great love. The VBS teachers shared a summary of what they taught the kids. The sermon expounded the message, “Let the little children come to me.” A primary goal of the service was to let the parents and everyone else know that we value children and want them to experience the love Jesus has for them. We were encouraged to hear the parents’ positive comments and invited them to return the following Sunday.

How do you find new church leaders?

Finding new leaders in a church can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. For “3 Places to Find New Church Leaders,” an article by Ron Edmondson that helpfully addresses this challenge, click here.

August Equipper

Here are links to the articles in the August issue of GCI Equipper:

From Greg: Worldview Conversion
Greg Williams introduces a series on worldview conversion, facilitated by whole-life discipleship.

Worldview Conversion: What and Why
Ted Johnston defines worldview and shows how it shapes our sense of personal identity and ethics.

Healthy Church: Faith, Hope & Love Venues
Greg Williams begins a series on healthy church, looking at the venues where church health emerges.

Kid’s Korner: Back-to-School Blessing
Georgia McKinnon looks at conducting a back-to-school blessing service.

Prayer Guide: August 2018
Here are topics related to our GCI family to pray about each day in August.

RCL Sermons
Here are sermons for September that sync with the Revised Common Lectionary readings:
September 2, 2018
September 9, 2018
September 16, 2018
September 23, 2018
September 30, 2018

In case you missed them last month, here are the sermons for August:
August 5, 2018
August 12, 2018
August 19, 2018
August 26, 2018

Death of Susan Endres

We were saddened to learn of the death of Susan (Blackwell) Endres, wife of former WCG/GCI Pastor Gary Endres. Susan died on July 26, at age 60, following a nearly year-long battle with cancer. Here is a note provided by Gary:

Susan and Gary

Susan loved life, and the time she spent on earth was filled with love, creativity and hope. She was a friend to all and quick to smile and share a contagious laugh.

Born in 1958 to WCG Pastor Lowell Blackwell (now deceased) and his wife Margaret, Susan is survived by her husband of 35 years, Gary Endres, her children Brittany Hendrickson (married to Jack), her son James, her grandson Jax, along with her mother, brothers (Lowell Jr., David, Tim and Jim Blackwell) and sister Marcy DeShong as well as many nieces and nephews.

Susan was a Master Barber by trade for close to 40 years, a profession she dearly loved and excelled in. She served with her husband in the ministry of WCG in Pasadena and Glendora, CA, and Kingsport, TN for many years. She was always looking for a way to serve others and was a natural born leader. Her talents and interests were wide and varied from decorating cakes to motorcycling and scuba diving. She loved to travel and especially going to the beach.

Susan loved Jesus and was ready to be accepted into his arms as she died with her husband and children at her bedside. After sharing stories, laughing and everyone expressing how much they loved one another she simply said, “I’m ready to go now.” Within a half hour she passed in her husband’s arms, peacefully with no pain.

Cards to the family may be sent to:

Gary Endress
150 King Drive
Johnson City, TN, 37615

Death of Diane Rosenthal

We were shocked and saddened in learning of the tragic death of Diane Rosenthal, age 76, wife of former GCI Pastor Jim Rosenthal (deceased). Diane died in an automobile accident on August 1 in Saratoga Springs, NY. She is survived by two sons, their wives, and a granddaughter (pictured at right with Diane).

Diane, who served WCG/GCI as a pastor’s wife until Jim’s death in 2006, was also a nurse—a job she dearly loved. She was known for her deep commitment to her patients, communicating with many of them well past their initial visits. One of Diane’s friends noted that she would want everyone to know this about her hope: “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10). Now Diane is in her true home with her beloved Jim.

Death of Billy Taren

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of Billy Taren, an Elder in the Rory, Vanuatu congregation. Here is a report from Rex Morgan:

Lina and Billy

I met Billy in the 1980s while visiting Plain Truth readers in Vanuatu. Baptized in 1996, he became the prime mover in establishing a WCG congregation in Rory. In 1998 he donated land  for a church building and arranged for the building of a guest house and church dining area.

As the chief of the village, Billy actively supported community relationships and projects. In 2016 he was awarded a medal by the Vanuatu government for his humanitarian work. He poured his life into the Rory church, leading it faithfully over the years.

Billy’s health declined recently and the lack of medical facilities made it hard for him to obtain needed treatment. The church was about to send him to Port Vila for medical help when he died at about age 80.

Billy is survived by his wife Lina, four sons and two daughters. His funeral was conducted by his son Marius, who is now fulfilling many of his father’s responsibilities in the church. As a faithful pillar of the Vanuatu church and a leader in the community, Billy will be greatly missed. Please pray for Lina and the family as they adjust to life without him.

Wayne Blair

Wayne Blair, Pastor of GCI’s congregation in Richmond, IN, fell while tending his garden and broke his hip, requiring surgery. Though Wayne is in good spirits, he will be unable to do much for a few weeks. Please pray for his rapid and complete recovery.

Cards may be sent to:

Wayne Blair
1617 W Country Club Rd
Connersville IN 47331

GCI Burundi

Eugène Shibomana, GCI’s representative in the Central African nation of Burundi, requests prayer for the GCI congregation in Carama, Burundi. The President of Burundi recently issued a decree that churches in that nation will not be permitted to operate unless they have a modern church building (click here for a related news article). Unfortunately, the building our congregation recently built on the land it purchased does not meet the decree’s criteria and must be torn down. There is concern that this might lead to loss of attendance and other hardships.

Grandson born

GCI-Germany Elder Santiago Lange and his wife Elke are thrilled to announce the recent birth of their fifth grandchild, a grandson, Samuel Jonas Lange. At birth he was 9 pounds and 20.5 inches. It was a difficult birth with serious complications and Samuel had to be rushed to another hospital for special emergency treatment. Concerning the outcome, Santiago wrote this:

We are most thankful to report that the prayers of many were heard. Samuel has been reunited with his parents and is now doing fine and looking extremely handsome:

ACCM intensives offered in Charlotte

Ambassador College of Christian Ministry (ACCM) invites you to participate in either of two intensive courses that will be held in GCI’s Charlotte, NC, Home Office over the weekend of October 20-21, 2018.

The two courses being offered are Christian Leadership and Jesus and the Gospels (choose one—they will be conducted simultaneously). Both are designed to fulfill ACCM’s motto, “Equipping for Ministry.” About these courses, GCI Vice President Greg Williams wrote this:

These two courses, to be taught as “intensives” in Charlotte in October, present a great opportunity for our ministry leaders to learn and build community together. I’m thrilled they will be conducted in our new Home Office building. I encourage you to sign up for one of them—you’ll be blessed by doing so, and in turn be a blessing to others in your ongoing ministry. I have used the material and taught both courses, and in my opinion they are outstanding. These courses help our bivocational pastors fulfill GCI’s continuing education expectations, so please take advantage of the opportunity.

Who Should Attend: employed pastors, bi-vocational pastors, interns, ministry leaders, pastoral team members, members, students—all who want to deepen their biblical understanding and personal walk with Christ, and be better equipped for ministry and mission.

How to register: go to www.ambascol.org/charlotte2018 or contact the Registrar at registrar@ambascol.org

Cost: Credit: $150.

Lunch and breaks provided.

3120 Whitehall Park Drive
Charlotte, NC 28273