By Greg Williams, GCI President
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Though some of life’s experiences seem unique at the time, as King Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 1:9, most of our experiences are shared by others in one way or another. Mike Rasmussen and I were recently reminded of this truth while in Minneapolis at a denominational executive’s meeting hosted by Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. As the assembled group shared personal experiences and prayer requests, Mike and I had several Déjà Vu moments. Though in GCI we’ve experienced a particular journey, we learned that other denominations have gone through similar experiences.
One brother told of the ongoing arguments within his denomination concerning open theism—the idea that, because God loves us and desires that we freely choose to reciprocate his love, he has made his knowledge of and plans for the future conditional upon our actions. According to this viewpoint, though omniscient, God does not know what we will freely do in the future. The brother noted that because churches within his fellowship hold differing viewpoints on this issue, the storm clouds are gathering in anticipation of a forthcoming meeting to address the controversy. We were told that lawyers will be present at the meeting since a division of property and money may result. In GCI, we know quite a bit about doctrinal-theological division and the painful losses that result.
Another brother, the leader of a major Christian movement, shared stories about the heartbreaking health-related challenges faced by key leaders on his staff. He told how cancer has impacted the families of three of these leaders. One case is considered terminal. The child of another leader was killed recently in a bicycle accident. Each of his leaders has been impacted in a major way within a single calendar year. There are times when we can feel under attack. When loved ones are affected, it tests our faith and greatly impacts ministry efforts.
Another brother, the leader of a missionary organization, told of a growing number of foreign countries that are prohibiting Christian workers from entering. One of his missionary teams, upon arriving by plane in a foreign country, was blocked from entering the country and put on the next flight out of the country. In GCI, we are experiencing similar challenges around the world concerning where we can and cannot go.
The most frequent prayer request we heard at the meeting had to do with leadership succession/transitions. Churches across the board are aging and all of us are looking to the Lord to raise up a new generation of leaders. One of the most significant leadership transitions mentioned involves Leith Anderson himself. After 11 years as NAE president, he will be retiring at the end of 2019. The NAE has a search committee seeking out qualified candidates who might be available to replace Leith. I ask you to join me in praying for that committee and the selection process. Leith has done a marvelous job bringing balance, wisdom and stability to the NAE. We are hopeful that the course he has set will continue.
Reflecting on the wisdom expressed in Ecclesiastes 1:9, we are comforted, being reminded of the commonality of human experience. Twenty leaders from multiple denominations experienced that commonality. As they shared their personal struggles and concerns, they received the understanding, encouragement and support of brothers who walk by the same Spirit, following our one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.