Surprised by the Holy Spirit

Dear GCI Family:

Greg and Susan Williams

I often recall what Jesus said to Nicodemus in comparing the Holy Spirit to wind, which “blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going” (John 3:8). Though the Spirit is always at work in the world, we often don’t recognize what he is doing until after the fact. An example is found in the book of Acts where the Holy Spirit worked in new and surprising ways to lead Gentiles to Christ.

In Acts 15, Luke tells of the church council where there was “much discussion” about what should be required of these Gentile converts. I wonder how long the discussion lasted—was it over a period of days? In any case, at some point Simon Peter stood up and testified that the Gentiles had heard the gospel from his lips and that by grace, through faith (not works of the Law) they had been converted to Christ (Acts 15:6-11).

Students of the Bible know the backstory. In Acts 10, Luke tells how the Spirit had given Peter a vision (illustrated below) to convince him that God truly was including Gentiles in the body of Christ. Obedient to the message of the vision, Peter baptized the Gentile centurion Cornelius, along with a large number of people within his household (Acts 10:27, 47-48).

Acts 10 makes it clear that the Holy Spirit had moved with power to transform Peter’s thinking concerning a particularly controversial issue. He did so by cleverly, using the Old Testament custom of distinguishing between clean and unclean meats to show Peter that what God had declared clean, no person was to consider impure. To emphasize this point, the Spirit gave Peter the vision three times (Acts 10:9-16). Like us, Peter was prone to miss God’s point the first time (and maybe the second as well!).

Though what the Holy Spirit did at this foundational point in church history is in many ways unique, he has continued moving with power down the centuries to transform the church. In GCI, we’ve seen his transforming presence and power at work “up close and personal.” Just recently, the Spirit showed us that we need to make significant changes to our global denominational structure. With many of our leaders retiring and other leadership transitions occurring, we need a leadership structure that better matches our resources to the needs of our churches and pastors around the world.

The primary unit in our new global structure (to be implemented on January 1, 2019) is a group of leaders we call a Community of Practice (CoP). We’ll have six CoPs in order to serve the various regions around the world where we have members. Each CoP will be made up of key leaders within a region who share a common vision and meet regularly to share best practices and resources. Each CoP will be facilitated and supervised by a point person called a Superintendent. In future issues of GCI Update I’ll set out the details of the new structure, introducing the Superintendent and other members of each CoP.

In working out the details of the new structure, I found it fascinating that we were simply catching up with what the Spirit had already been doing in and among us. As noted above, we typically see his handiwork only in hindsight. The process of moving toward the new leadership structure began in January 2018 with my visit to South Africa (RSA) where I worked with our leaders there to form their national ministry team. Doing so involved an unforeseen, though meaningful caveat—RSA would come under the wider supervision of Kalengule Kaoma, who up to that point had supervised other parts of the African continent.

A companion piece to that experience was determining what would happen within our expansive Asian region, given the July 2018 retirement of Rod Matthews. The decision was made to add two Regional Directors, placing them under the direction of Eugene Guzon, who becomes Superintendent of the Asian CoP next month.

My work with Rod coincided with the Australian Conference held in June. During the conference I encountered one of those transformative “Holy Spirit surprises.” One of the conference participants commented that with the restructuring, all the leaders in Asia would now be indigenous to that region. I expressed my agreement with his observation, though I thought to myself that I wished I had been smart enough and intentional enough to have designed the structure with that important goal in mind. Thank God that the Holy Spirit works through us even though we often don’t fully grasp what he is doing until after the fact.

In my musings about our newly formed African CoP, I realized that all its members are also indigenous to that region. For that I praise God! While musing, I remembered a conversation I had with one of the men who stepped into the role of Regional Director (a title held by many of the leaders who work hand-in-hand with their Superintendent). This gentleman asked why he was being considered for that position. My response was that it was due to his long-time, faithful service, and because of the high regard the other leaders in his CoP display toward him.

For me, the primary takeaway from the experiences of this past year is this: Within GCI, our amazing Triune God has been preparing and calling leaders for a time such as this. I have high hopes for how our new structure will function. I truly believe that our best days lie ahead.

Holy Spirit, we will have more please!
Greg Williams, GCI President


PS: I hope you enjoy the new look for GCI Update. The changes we’ve made align this publication with the GCI branding now being used for all our denominational websites and publications. Also, we’re now sending the GCI Update email (that announces each new issue) to all GCI members for whom we have an email address. If you have not received the email announcing this issue, you can subscribe yourself using the “subscribe yourself” feature at right.

7 thoughts on “Surprised by the Holy Spirit”

  1. Greg,

    I very much appreciate the effort and Spirit guided desire to find an even more effective, scripture based team oriented leadership structure for our fellowship. The abuse of power has historically created much pain and destruction, even in Christ’s church. Many of us have probably been at one time or another either victims or perpetrators. Negative experiences can cloud the fact that there is also such a thing as „healthy authority“.

    Lewis S. Smedes formulated the issue well…

    “Authoritarianism and authority are related as sickness is to health. Authoritarianism is a pathological caricature of authority. Authoritarianism is sick compensation for weakness; authority is a healthy expression of strength. Authoritarian people stifle freedom; authority requires freedom to make it work. Authoritarianism works only when people surrender their own wills; authority works only when people give free and critical consent. Fear of authority is, in our time, actually a fear of authoritarianism, a confusion that cries for cure.”

    Source: Lewis B. Smedes, Mere Morality: What God Expects from Ordinary People (Eedrmans, 1985), 75.

  2. Thank you Greg for this information. Yes we often see the working of the Holy Spirit in retrospect, and when we do, we are surprised at how awesome is his power. Glory be to our God!

  3. Yes ,the holy spirit is always at work in and through the background,even in our darkest hours,we must trust that things are as they are for a reason,but being locked in a 3 dimensional universe gives us our hope in faith. The aspostle paul knew this,as he had many ,many trials,but his faith in Christ through the holy spirit,kept his resolve solid.

  4. Dear Mr. Williams,
    As I read your announcement about using the Community of Practice (CoP) approach in structuring GCI organization, I am reminded of the uncanny way God has “surprised” me with school-related and work-related experiences that I would not have volitionally sought for myself but God chose for me so that He could express goodwill and blessings to groups of people, some of whom I I have not known personally. Community of practice was employed by my superior, who, to my surprise, added to my pension fund administrator’s job the ad hoc job of task force chairman to build 1,101 housing units for our employees funded by the pension fund I managed. I declined af first rationalizing that “I am no engineer, nor architect. You have an army of such technical people at NPC, they will do a better job.” But he would not be persuaded. Little did I know that a Godly perspective is key to harnessing the knowledge and skills of people who do work that I do not know but they do best.
    So I commend my prayers and hope for the success of CoP at GCI .

    Sincerely,
    Nelson Roxas

  5. Hi Greg,

    It is refreshing to know of certain developments in GCI such as these that have the potential of changing the way we have been doing things according to the lead of the Holy Spirit. In the company I work for, we have also built several global communities where there is shared vision, best practice and resource. However, these communities are not “supervised” in the normal sense of the word. Rather, they are effectively facilitated, and, yes, by a designated leader. And, unlike this upcoming GCI set-up of communities which look to revolve around a regional scope (e.g. the African community, the Asian community), our company’s communities revolve around high-level processes or groups of common categorized activities. I wonder if you have also considered the advantages of this type of set-up which transcends regional or country locations and may be more globally GCI. Just a thought.

    Ezra

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