Throughout my letters and articles, you’ll notice I continually circle back around to the vision of Healthy Church. With Jesus as our chief cornerstone, Healthy Church is the clear path that the Holy Spirit is taking GCI. I am pleased there is enthusiastic support for this journey forward.
As I travel the globe building relationships and sharing a vision with pastors and churches in the 78 countries where GCI has a presence, I have my eyes open to Healthy Church sightings. I recently had multiple sightings on my trip to Accra, Ghana.
Under the leadership of African Superintendent Kalengule Kaoma and Regional Director of West Africa Emmanuel Okai, we held a wonderful three-day conference over the Easter weekend. During our leadership meetings, while sharing a story of one of the healthier churches in his region, Pastor Okai used the alluring word “vibrant.”
Vibrant means: energetic, bright and full of life. Energetic in the sense that there is passion and determination; bright refers to being brilliant, attractive and striking; full of life implies a life that is stimulating, dynamic, and life-giving. Vibrant is a powerful adjective to describe healthy church.
I quizzed Emmanuel on what factors fed into the vibrancy of the church he was praising, and he didn’t hesitate. He spoke freely about the following attributes:
This church is not only multi-generational, but they also have active families with youth. Did you get that? Families where parents and children are actively participating and serving in the life of the church.
There is outstanding worship with lively worship music. Not just a few songs that serve as an introduction for the sermon to come, but music where people are singing loudly, passionately and from their hearts. In Africa, the worship includes all ages dancing up the aisles to the front, waving their handkerchiefs, and worshipping with their entire being.
Vibrancy hinges on the value of including all members in places where they best fit, with an eye on the younger emerging leaders. Emmanuel is keen about seeing the existence of “farm systems” where younger leaders are being groomed to take on significant roles in the church. This is more than a value or system; this is a culture that is formed over time.
I loved how Emmanuel shared these signs of health and vibrancy. He was passionate in wanting the other leaders to move in this direction, and I am fully on board with this goal. A great reminder he shared with the group is that many of our younger ones hold responsible positions in their workplace, and yet we tend to hold them back from greater responsibilities in the church. He asked the group “How old were you when you were ordained or asked to pastor your first church?” It gave me pause to think. I was 26 when I was ordained an elder, and I pastored my first church at age 30. I am grateful I was given the opportunity to participate in ministry at an early stage in my life.
I encourage you to thoughtfully consider these attributes of vibrancy. I invite you to join me in the quest to identify even more signs of good health as we live out a Christian life in this community called church.
Praying for a vibrant GCI,
Letter from the Secretary-Treasurer: Leaving a Legacy
What Will Our Legacy Be?
Have you ever wondered why you are the way you are? Why you own and appreciate the things that you do? I have thought about this. I wonder, why do I think, speak and approach life the way I do? Why do I love being outside whenever possible? When I consider this, I realize that besides my Creator, many individuals have influenced who I am, just as I will influence those who come after me.
Just like my grandfather and father shared their fondness of the outdoors with me, I have shared it with my children. My dad was a logger who loved the scent of the forest and healthy trees, and I enjoy walks in the woods. My mom loved and broke horses for years. I enjoy horses, sharing a juicy handful of grass or carrot with any horse who will accept. I also find myself appreciating Christ’s love and sharing it because of my mother’s devotion to him. She used to sing the song, “I Come to the Garden Alone” about spending quiet time with God in the morning. That song still rings in my head in the mornings when I go outside just like she did and appreciate each day fresh.
Have you considered what you want to share as your legacy? Maybe you have children, maybe you don’t, but you have more influence on others than you realize as you walk through life and even after death.
What will you and I be remembered for? Will people know when we are gone? No matter what age we are today, I would like to challenge us to think carefully about what we may want to leave for future generations.
When thinking about the future, I hope we consider the spiritual and physical needs of our families and those around us. We can make a difference if we plan. Think of that person who has made a difference in your life because they cared and had a plan to bless you. What if we plan to share with others? That is what God did for us (Romans 5). His plan is the reason we sit on this amazing blue planet spinning in the middle of the cosmos and experience his love, grace, and care every day.
Our Spiritual Legacy
Have we shared a spiritual legacy with our families and loved ones? Have we shared openly the love and faith that God put in our hearts with those inside and outside of our households? Jesus says, using the metaphor of the harvest for those ready to accept him, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest!” (John 4:35).
Have we thought about those in our families and neighborhoods who need to hear about the gospel and may be ready to accept Jesus as their Savior? Is God using us to reach them? We don’t have to be young and energetic to share the good news with those close to us. In fact, sharing the love of Jesus with just one or two people could change the world for them and the many others that they know. Have our lives been changed by knowing Christ? Why wouldn’t we want to share? Let’s help others experience this joy!
Our Financial Legacy
What about our financial legacy? According to LegalZoom, approximately 55 percent of American adults have not completed a last will and testament allowing for the orderly transfer of assets after death.
What happens without a will in place? Often the state and courts determine how assets will be distributed, at great expense and delay to the rightful owners. Family assets can go unclaimed and end up the property of the state, bypassing the surviving family. I hope we will not allow this to happen to our families.
If you do not have a will in place, please begin today. Speak with an attorney and take the time to get these important documents in place so those who you want to receive your assets will be blessed and not burdened.
A respected attorney who helps people with trusts, wills and estates every day and knows the laws within the state where you live is a good place to start. The expense you incur may provide you and your family with peace of mind that is far more valuable than the amount you spend. If you prefer to do things yourself, documents can also be found online. LegalZoom, LawDepot, and others provide such services. If you choose to do it yourself, please know that there are pros and cons to relying on online legal advice. Read reviews or get referrals for whatever option you choose.
Completing your will or trust could be one of the most important decisions that you make, and your family will forever be thankful to not have the burden of trying to discern your wishes after you die. Please start today! Also, ask legal counsel about a living will that outlines your health directives if you become unable to make these decisions later.
Sharing the Gospel After We Are Gone
For those who already have wills in place and for those who will be setting them up, please consider leaving a portion of your estate to Grace Communion International so you can continue to support the preaching of the gospel even after you are gone. Many people have generously supported the church over the years, and that support has been vital to the work of the church. However, not many of us have stopped to consider how we might leave a legacy of sharing the gospel after our death. Let’s consider how we can bless others with the gospel even after our physical life is over.
Examples of Generosity
I will never forget a modest trust that was set up by the Dulaney family in the mid-1960s with funds set aside to provide an annual payout to the church. This trust now pays over $100,000 to the church annually and that payment is growing along with the trust funds! Just think, you or I may have heard about the good news of Jesus as a result of this family’s thoughtful and generous gift to the church nearly 60 years ago! What a legacy!
A schoolteacher, Ms. Elizabeth Giordano, gave approximately $500,000 to support the gospel by naming the church as a beneficiary of a stock portfolio. Though of modest means, she thoughtfully invested in the stock market during her career and her investments were a significant blessing to the church. Perhaps you heard the good news of the gospel because of this wonderful teacher and her generous gift!
Many others have given and continue to give in various and meaningful ways in support of the gospel. Thank you all for your love and concern for others. Your donations of a widow’s mite or large estate are all appreciated and make it possible for us to join with Jesus in sharing the good news of the gospel!
Ways to Give
After we have properly taken care of our families, let’s consider how to leave a financial legacy that would bless others after we have passed. Important ways you can support GCI and leave a legacy of sharing the gospel around the world:
Regular or recurring donations. Regular donations allow GCI to budget thoughtfully in support of the gospel. When regular donations are given, we can plan further ahead and avoid the uncertainty of future support. Thanks to all faithful and regular donors – you are a blessing!
Designate GCI as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. If you are in a place where your family doesn’t need a life insurance benefit, since the children or other family members are on their own, consider changing the beneficiary on the policy to name GCI. This is one of the easiest ways to support the gospel after your death.
Designate GCI as the beneficiary of your investment or retirement accounts. Members often name the church as a beneficiary of their IRA, 401(K), 403(b) or other investment accounts. Upon their death, ownership passes directly to the church.
Designate GCI as a beneficiary in your will.
Designate GCI as a beneficiary of a trust that supports the church in perpetuity. This is the option that was used by the Dulaney family in the example above.
Donate a house or other real estate to GCI with the right to live on the property until after death. This allows the donor to receive the tax benefit of the donation now but live on the property until their death.
Thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully care for your family first by preparing a will, trust or other legal instrument(s) to transition your hard-earned assets to your loved ones.
Thank you also for supporting the gospel now and after your death by using one of the methods mentioned to bless those who will hear about Jesus through your gift.
We are happy to help or to answer questions. Please contact us at email@example.com or by calling 980-495-3963. If you decide to leave a gift to the church that will continue your legacy of generosity for the gospel, please contact us and let us know what you have done, so we can know about it and send our appreciation to you. It is a joy to be on this mission with you.
Engagement of Jessica Morgan and Johnny Zeng
We are pleased to announce the engagement of our daughter Jessica Morgan to Johnny Zeng. They were engaged Saturday, June 15th in Los Angeles, CA. A wedding date has not yet been set. Both are currently working hard to finish their masters degree programs.
Mat and Pam Morgan
Passing of Ralph “Dewey” Peterson
Ralph “Dewey” Peterson passed away on Thursday, June 13. Dewey was the pastor/facilitator of New Beginning Fellowship a GCI home church in Crossville, TN for many years.
He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Georgia Peterson, his four children, Scott, Mike, Jennifer and Joel, along with 7 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren.
He lived a rich life dedicated to the service of others and faithfulness in Christ.
Condolence cards can be sent to:
Georgia V. Peterson
12 Mariners Pt.
Fairfield Glade, TN. 38558
Death of James Humphries
James Paul Humphries, age 79, of Poplar Plains, Kentucky, passed away Sunday, June 9, 2019, at Meadowview Regional Hospital in Maysville.
James pastored the GCI Mount Sterling, Kentucky church from January 1998 to June 2015.
He is survived by his wife, Phyllis Butcher Humphries; one son, James E. Humphries and wife Lynn, of Paris; one daughter, Tonya Ann Harber and husband Scott, of Elizaville; and three grandchildren, Cory Harber, Ariel Harber, and Melanie Humphries.
Funeral services were conducted Wednesday, June 12 at the Hutton Funeral Home with Pastor Tracy Crouch and Pastor Ron Dick officiating.
Condolence cards can be sent to:
Mrs. Phyllis A. Humphries
81 Barber Rd
Hillsboro, KY 41049-9167
Joseph Tkach Retirement Appreciation Dinner
Surprise Retirement Appreciation Dinner
On Saturday, May 18-2019, the GCI Snellville, GA congregation (Christian Family Fellowship), pastored by David Beckner, hosted a surprise retirement appreciation dinner for Dr. Tkach. The celebration was held at the beautiful Jade Event Banquet Hall in Norcross, GA.
There were over 100 in attendance, which included the Snellville congregation members, members of the GCI College Park Georgia congregation ( Living Hope Christian Fellowship ), two members of the GCI Hiram Georgia congregation (Grace Communion) and a few people not connected to GCI, but good friends of a couple in the Snellville congregation. Dr. and Mrs. Greg Williams were also present and Dr. Williams gave the toast.
The celebration featured song performances, comedy acts, special remarks, and plenty of delicious foods (most were prepared by the Snellville and College Park congregation members). Ms. Debbie Young, the wife of College Park congregation pastor Charles Young, baked a beautiful special cake.
Pastor David Beckner was delighted with the couple who organized and coordinated the celebration and with all the members of both congregations who helped in many ways.
Dr. Tkach, who thought he was only here to give the sermon on May 19, was very surprised and extremely happy with the event. Mrs. Tkach, who helped with the surprise, was also delighted with everything and stated, “that was the first time he has ever been surprised since their marriage.”
There were many of us praying for God’s blessing on the event and we are thankful that he answered our prayers in a very big way.
Alabama Women’s Retreat
I would like to invite all of you to attend our 2019 fall retreat at the St. Bernard Abbey Retreat and Conference Center in Cullman, Alabama. This retreat center is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy some time as “Girlfriends!” There is a beautiful conference room where we have our general sessions, and the bedrooms are adjacent to the meeting area. Each bedroom accommodates two people (twin beds) and each has a private bathroom. The dining area is a short walk across the campus, and anyone needing to drive over can do so.
The dates are September 20-22, 2019. Registration begins Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. Snacks will be available, but you will be on your own for dinner that evening. A Cracker Barrel and other restaurants are nearby. This evening is free for getting checked in and relaxing. If you will be arriving after 10 p.m., please let us know ahead of time if possible.
Our theme for the weekend will be Our Journey with Jesus. Each of us is on a spiritual journey, growing in the grace and knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18). One of the greatest gifts God has given us is the privilege of having “faith friends” to share the journey!
Speakers this year include Tammy Tkach, Ginny Rice, Ruth Miller, Pat Halford, Barbara Dahlgren, Becki Brown, and Gerrie Bayley. Ann Hartmann will be our guest singer again this year! You can go to Ann’s website (annhartmann.com) to learn more about Ann’s music and ministry. We also look forward to more of the inspiring and energetic sign language when Mary Jo Leaver shares her “Music to the Eyes.”
Dress is casual for the entire weekend. Bring comfy shoes, as you might enjoy a bit of walking. We now have a tradition of great fun playing games on Friday and Saturday evenings, so bring your “play clothes” or pajamas for this! Bring your favorite board games, and label them, please!
The retreat center supplies our bed linens, towels, and washcloths. You might want to bring your own water bottles, if you enjoy having bottled water. We have access to a kitchen and a refrigerator, so we are able to enjoy snacks throughout the weekend. The meals that will be provided are Saturday breakfast, lunch and dinner and Sunday breakfast (total of four meals). This year we are planning to have all our meals at the retreat center, as we did last year.
We plan to conclude the retreat by noon on Sunday so that those who need to get on the road will have the full afternoon for travel. For those who want to stick around and visit a bit, we can have prolonged “goodbyes” in the retreat center.
We hope you will help spread the word to others who might enjoy the weekend. If you have questions, need more information, or would like a registration form, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Registration and payment are due by July 30. This is important, because the retreat center is a popular place and stays heavily booked. They need us to secure the number of rooms we’ll need ASAP! Late registrations will be accepted if space is available for any who cannot register in advance.
I’m looking forward to sharing this weekend with you in September!
With love, Ruth Miller
Regional Celebration Registration
Harvest Your Blessings! Don’t miss out on registration for the North Central or East Celebration.
In 2019, GCI will host Regional Celebrations in the USA:
September 27 – 29: North Central – Noblesville, IN
October 25 – 27: East – Ocean City, MD
Click the image below to for more information and registration options.
Coach Clinic Registration
GCI Coach Clinic
For any ministry leader from a GCI church desiring to grow in areas of leadership, discipling others and building a healthy team through a dynamic relating style known as coaching.
ACCM Christian Leadership Intensive
Would you like to take an intentional step toward becoming a healthier leader in Grace Communion International?
Consider attending the ACCM Christian Leadership Intensive in Hickory, North Carolina on August 30-31. This two-day intensive has been carefully crafted for ministry leaders, pastors or any GCI member who desires to take a deeper dive in leadership from a Christian point of view. Grace Communion Hickory will be the host church for this training event.
GCI President Greg Williams, wrote about ACCM, “I have used and taught the ACCM material and in my opinion they are outstanding. These classes help fulfill the ongoing educational pathway for our bi-vocational pastors, so please take advantage of this opportunity.”
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 (NIV)
My granddaughters love the story of Cinderella, and I love reading it to them. The rags-to-riches story of the young servant girl has inspired many movie plots and fired the imagination of children around the world.
The Bible discusses the sacrifice of Jesus in terms of a rag-to-riches story: our rags to his riches. “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags”, it says in Isaiah 64:6. In this, Isaiah is explaining our need for grace. There is nothing we can do to gain or maintain salvation. All the rules we follow to that end, all the good things we do in order to try to qualify for salvation, are as filthy rags.
The problem is that, as hard as we may try to change and clean ourselves up, we remain stained with sin. It is only God who can remove those stains. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, God says to us, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you” (Zechariah 3:4). It is in Jesus that “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
Cling to this promise today! Because of the cross, we go from our rags to his riches.
Prayer: Loving Father, thank you for Jesus, who died for me and rose for me, and has clothed me with the riches of his righteousness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
By James Henderson