GCI Update

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.

“We Believe” study completed

The pastoral team of GCI’s congregation in Santa Rosa, Laguna, Philippines, led by Pastor Len Joson, recently finished its study of “We Believe“—a GCI teaching tool that addresses core doctrine and theology.

The group (pictured above) studied “We Believe” over a period of several months. Here are comments from several participants:

  • In our study of “We Believe,” done bit by bit every meeting, we had frank and open discussions that led to clarity about our denomination’s theological positions on fundamental biblical issues.
  • We not only achieved clarity in this study, but more than that, we were able to achieve a greater level of understanding in personal relationship with each other.
  • I strongly recommend “We Believe” to our congregations and encourage our pastors to try this with their leaders and members. It has helped me in my Christian walk, in the ministry and in dealing with other people in many ways.
  • Thank you to the authors whom God used to write this teaching tool. All praises to God in the highest!

Spiritual formation seminar

In October, GCI’s Champlin and Bloomington, MN, congregations hosted day-long seminars titled “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality—Journey to Maturity.” Both Odyssey in Christ seminars were facilitated by Larry Hinkle, Gracie Johnson, and Ron and Rebecca Hickman. The seminars helped participants understand the connection between emotional health and spiritual maturity; the symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality; the nature of our true selves, hidden in Christ; and how contemplative practices lead to emotionally healthy spirituality.

Odyssey in Christ leader Larry Hinkle addresses the Champlin group.

Here are comments from seminar participants:

  • The seminar opened the way for a closer walk with God.
  • I learned how God’s love is working in peoples’ lives.
  • I learned to take time for inner contemplation—reflecting on inner stress, motivation and the richness of deep feelings.
  • I learned to be honest/vulnerable with God—knowing who I am by drawing closer to God. I was overwhelmed by his presence and love. The seminar awakened a desire to be intimate with God.
  • Dr. Hinkle said we were created in such a way that often our bodies (through feelings/emotions) know something before our minds do. He urged us to not ignore these feelings/emotions and take them to the Lord in prayer. He will reveal the source of those feelings (whether negative or positive, recent or buried deep in the past) and bring about transformation and healing. Personal stories from Gracie Johnson, and Ron and Rebecca Hickman showed how this unfolds.
  • The seminar provided eye-opening insights into past wounds that trigger negative behaviors and hinder growth in emotional maturity. We were challenged to identify feelings that have been stuffed and festering, and given tools to bring those feelings into the light of Jesus’ love so that healing can begin.

Nothing new under the sun

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.

December Equipper

Here are links to the articles in the December issue of GCI Equipper.

Death of Jerry Backhus

R.I.P. (Rejoicing in Paradise) Gerald (“Jerry”) Bachus.

We were saddened to learn of Jerry’s recent death. He died at age 77 after many years of service to GCI in New Jersey as an elder and pastor.

Born in Clifton, NJ, in 1941, Jerry graduated from high school in 1958 then entered the Air Force and was stationed in the Azores. Following honorable discharge, he married Joan Sprick in 1964. Jerry and Joan (pictured together above) enjoyed a loving marriage for almost 50 years. Jerry was employed as a salesman for packaging and paper companies.

Jerry is survived by a son and daughter, eight grandchildren, and a sister. His wife Joan and his parents preceded him in death. A memorial service for Jerry was held on December 3 in Parkesburg, PA. Another is being planned for the spring in New Jersey. For information email Craig (CMBackhus@hotmail.com) or Kym (Kymberlys@verizon.net).

Here are excerpts from an obituary written by Jerry’s son-in-law:

I’ve been involved in the Emergency Medical Services for a large portion of my life and the most dreaded dispatch of all is when you hear your home address come across the airwaves followed by “A Cardiac Arrest!” I want to thank the Oxford Fire Company, Medic 94 of Southern Chester County EMS, and the Pennsylvania State Police for their expeditious response and heroic efforts. They worked tirelessly to revive Dad but God had other plans. We will miss him but we are comforted knowing he is at peace with his soulmate, Joan, who preceded him in death four years prior. I know he’s looking down on us now, smiling.

Pat Evans

Jack Evans, pastor of GCI’s congregation in Kenai, Alaska, reports that his wife Pat continues to struggle with pain and cognitive impairment since being in an auto accident in 2016 (click here for a prayer request at the time).

Jack and Pat Evans

Recent medical tests indicate the possibility that Pat has autoimmune encephalitis. Further tests are planned to determine how to treat her medically. Jack notes that he and Pat are going through a lot of stress and uncertainty, though they know God is with them. Please lift them up in prayer. Cards may be sent to:

Pat and Jack Evans
308 James Street
Kenai AK 99611

Meet Judith Dalm

Click on the image below to learn about GCI-Netherlands member Judith Dalm.