GCI Update

The Posture of Grace

"power to the peaceful" sign at a protest march
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

What does it mean to “think theologically” about current issues like politics, social justice, and worldviews? It begins with key questions: Who is the God revealed in Jesus? What is God’s nature? And what is God up to? These fundamental questions help us to think theologically and help form a foundation for informed conversations concerning societal issues.

Leaving God out of our thinking (or adding him when it suits our purposes), is the core issue facing a large part of our world (especially the English-speaking countries). Also problematic is an overarching under-developed view of God. Is it simple, perhaps naïve, for a Christian to believe that Jesus is the answer, no matter the complexity of the issue? When we plumb the depths of who Jesus is, then we know he is the answer; he is the deep, profound answer to complicated human issues. This doesn’t give Christians permission to stay uninformed about the world in which we live—rather, it challenges us to be aware of the times in which we live, while simultaneously being aware of the Lord’s presence.

What I often see in the news—especially among passionate Millennials—is that many conversations dealing with societal issues begin with the problem (be it abuse, injustice, or anything that “needs to be fixed”). The passion builds around the wrongness of the offense and is followed by a demand for action to fix the perceived problem. If God enters the conversation at all, the question is often: “How can a loving God allow such evil?” So where and how do we as believers enter the conversation and initiate a relationship?

You may recall the apostle Paul’s charge for the church to follow him as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). The posture Paul took with the church at Corinth is applicable to the question “How do we gracefully and truthfully represent Jesus in the emotive polarized world of today?”

For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand—just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you (2 Corinthians 1:12-14 ESV).

Paul met questions and contentious issues head-on. He spoke confidently about his approach—the moral sensibilities of his conscience (a Spirit-guided sense of right and wrong), enhanced by his knowledge of God’s Word, and understanding the mind of Christ. It was from this platform that he shaped his conduct and communication in his relations with the Corinthians.

There are three important things to note about Paul’s conduct.

      1. It was with “simplicity” or the sense of singlemindedness that Paul wrote. He always pointed toward the Triune God, and the grace that flows from Father, Son and Spirit.
      2. His conduct was sincere, honest, and genuine. Being authentic carries a lot of weight.
      3. His motive was not in the vein of worldly wisdom, which is ultimately self-serving. He was instead guided by a love for others and sought what was in their best interests.

Paul’s letters matched his conduct: simple, sincere, and filled with God’s grace (I suspect that you notice in Paul’s tone that he operates out of “High Support”—love for the brothers and sisters and their best interest, and “High Challenge”—not backing down from ungodly behavior and failings within the church). Paul had no hidden meanings or ulterior motives in his correspondence with the Corinthians. With Paul, what you see is what you get, and he was the same way in his letters.

Paul knew that he had been more corrective with the believers in Corinth than with any other church, but he also believed his sincere motives and genuine love would win them over in the end. Compelled by the love of Jesus, Paul was tenacious and unrelenting in pointing them to Jesus. I believe his hope was that they would eventually come to vindicate him and even boast of him in the day of the Lord Jesus.

We can learn a lot from the consistency of Paul’s message, his motives and his conduct. Paul knew how to become all things to all people that he might win some to Jesus.  We would do well to follow him as he so closely followed Christ. We would do well to allow the love of Christ to inspire us tenaciously and unrelentingly point others to Jesus. We would do well to be sincere, honest and genuine, and to let Christ’s love be our motivation.

My final thought is this: As followers of Jesus, Christians are uniquely empowered to display patience and tolerance. This is because we are well-founded in our relationship with Jesus and we know the convictions for which we stand. And just like the apostle Paul, our goal is about winning people, not arguments. We, who have been transformed by God’s grace, can operate out of the posture of grace no matter what the social climate brings.

Living in that posture in grace,
Greg Williams

GCI 2020 Denominational Celebration

Disaster Relief – Helping The Bahamas

hurricane aerial viewWe have sent $10,000 for emergency needs, made available by generous donors, to help with disaster relief for members in The Bahamas and we are standing by for additional requests.  We wish to express our sincere appreciation to the GCI congregations and members who have donated to the GCI Disaster Relief Fund, so together, we can assist those in need.

The following is an update from Charles Fleming, Mission Developer, on our members in The Bahamas, following the devastation of Hurricane Dorian.

I spoke with Robert McKinney, National Director for the Caribbean, this morning. He says there’s a lot of work to be done in the months and years ahead but for now, all the GCI members who were evacuated from Marsh Harbor have been relocated to relatives in Nassau. Thank God, Nassau was largely untouched and so the majority of the population, as well as the economic heart of the country, is still in good shape. Nassau is now the base for relief and recovery efforts into the Abaco chain of islands.  Robert mentioned that moving forward, it is probably best to send money instead of supplies. Of course, if you have already collected supplies please go ahead and send them by whatever method you have in mind.

In terms of long-term prayers, pray for wisdom for the government and blessings for the economy. Freeport and Marsh Harbour are the second and third major economic centers of the nation. They are hoping to rebuild in a way that is sustainable. Pray also for the relationship between the native Bahamian population and the large number of migrants from Haiti. There have long been tensions between the two communities, which this crisis seems to emphasize.

Here is Robert’s update:

Tania, Gillian, Lydia and I have been working late into the night comforting evacuees as they disembarked planes coming out of Grand Bahama and Abaco. Officials are trying to get all Abaco residents off the island as soon as possible. The population was believed to have been around 20,000. I understand the plan is to burn everything that remains and start over, as the level of contamination is severe. The hurricane brought 185 m.p.h. winds, storm surge, and spin-off tornadoes.

Our members, who we thought were safe in Moores Island, were among the evacuees coming out of Marsh Harbour. Imagine how happy we were to see the eight of them make it here safely. They all came out with only the clothes on their backs and what little they could carry. The storm was horrendous, but every person who survived tells a story of God’s grace and mercy. Recovery will no doubt take a few years, but most are determined to rebuild.  Thanks again for all the prayers and support, and until next time, may God continue to be with you.

_____________________

GCI Disaster Relief Fund

If your congregation has a heart to help members impacted by major disasters like the one in The Bahamas, consider donating to the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. The Fund helps provide members in disaster areas with emergency needs such as food, water, medicine, clothing, temporary housing, home and/or church hall repairs, temporary local pastoral salary expenses and other emergency needs. Monies received into the Fund that are not immediately needed will remain in the Fund to be allocated in future disasters. In previous years, money from this Fund has been used to help members recover from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, storms and flooding in Bangladesh, an earthquake and tsunami in the Solomon Islands, typhoons in the Philippines and an earthquake in Haiti.

If your congregation would like to donate out of local church funds, you  may do so at www.gci.org/go/chdonate

Individuals who wish to donate may do so at www.gci.org/disasterrelief

If your congregation prefers to send a check, make it out to Grace Communion International, indicating on the memo line that the donation is for the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. Send the donation to:

GCI Disaster Relief Fund
Grace Communion International
3120 Whitehall Park Dr.
Charlotte, NC 28273

A Letter from the CFO: Listen to the Spirit

Listen for His Lead

My experiences during the Home Office move to North Carolina reminded me of the amazing work of the Holy Spirit and the blessings of following his lead.

Mat Morgan,
GCI Chief Financial Officer

When the Board made the decision to move the GCI Home Office to Charlotte to be closer to more of our congregations, lower the cost of doing business, improve the quality of life for employees, etc., my job was to find a new office. This search was not successful immediately, and I found myself becoming impatient and asking God why this was not going as quickly or smoothly as anticipated. I felt that the Holy Spirit had led the Board to this decision and that he would provide a clear path to make it happen. The path ended up being clear, but it didn’t happen the way I envisioned!

One of the sites first focused on was a beautiful vacant piece of land in an area that seemed well-suited for the office. It would have been a purchase/design/build project. The project was pursued with enthusiasm, and it seemed like the right path:  a great fresh start with a building designed for our purposes in a great area. However, one of the sellers was very difficult to deal with and quite unreasonable at times. The progress was excruciatingly slow with much effort.

On a particularly lengthy and difficult negotiation with the seller, I was calling from a snowy parking lot outside a hospital in Montana where my dad was dying. The call was not going well, so I shut my ears for a moment, put aside my frustration and asked God silently if I was pursuing this against his will. For the remainder of that conversation, I found myself clearly led to exit this deal, which I did at the end of the call.

After hanging up, I felt an amazing sense of peace and appreciation for the nudging of the Spirit, even though the time to find another property was very limited. I thanked God for his patience with me, because looking back from a new perspective, it seemed more obvious that I was just pushing a rock uphill in pursuing this deal. It was not his will. Through some tears of frustration and relief in that cold parking lot, I asked for his lead in finding a more suitable location for the office and nicer people to deal with. To make a long story short, he answered that prayer!

Enter negotiation #2 – after giving up on the deal for the design/build project, we re-visited a building that appeared suitable but required a lot of foundation repair. The building was more affordable and the people were more reasonable to deal with. Negotiations were proceeding well but it just didn’t feel right.

Soon, I felt strongly moved to visit a real estate website that I previously had checked regularly and was set to send me new property listings. I didn’t expect to find anything new that day. However, the building that is now the Home Office showed up almost immediately. I shared it with the Board, and they were as excited as I was. President Greg Williams and I visited the facility and it felt like home from the beginning. It was already built; we closed the purchase on the facility in just over a month and the rest is history! The completed building cost less than the previous facility would have cost, was in a better location and the purchase closed easily within our planned moving schedule with limited effort. But God wasn’t done yet!

Once the facility in California was sold, we had a hard deadline to vacate the property, but our facility in Charlotte was remodeled and ready to move in. Our IT Manager had purchased a house and moved to Charlotte to help facilitate the set-up of our IT infrastructure. The GCI moving team was on-site to receive two forty-foot long trailers full of records and office furnishings sent from California. After a very long day, we went to dinner to rest and celebrate this positive milestone. Everything was on schedule and we were happy.

Not everything continued smoothly, however. I will never forget the call I received the next morning from the construction supervisor, John. He phoned me early and said, “I have some hard news for you, Mat. A pipe has burst at your new facility, and you need to come over right away!” I thought to myself, we can handle some water clean-up.

I was not prepared for what I saw upon arrival. I walked into the lobby of the building and started wading in water. All around me water was falling from the ceiling, and ceiling tiles were dropping into the water, plop, plop, plop! The water leak was on the second floor, flooding both floors with two inches of water! All the remodeling work was ruined, some of the records we moved in the previous day were destroyed, and wood furniture and doors had soaked up water and were starting to swell. We were devastated. All our hard work was for nothing, it seemed, and we didn’t have time to fix it before employees arrived in just a few weeks. Through the lump in my throat, I wondered what God had in mind now. I knew he was there.

We were referred to Randy, the owner of a ServePro franchise, a water clean-up company, who had a close working relationship with another ServePro owner named Randy.  Due to the size of the job, both companies had to tackle the cleanup. I firmly believe they were both God-sent. They are both wonderful Christian men who were well-organized and caring. Their teams were there that day, and the building was swarming with dozens of workers, green water vacuums, dehumidifiers and fans.

Before a reconstruction contract could be signed, they were cutting the newly painted and now very soggy drywall out of the building; the ceiling tiles, carpet, cabinetry, furniture, insulation and doors were put in huge green dumpsters and hauled away; damaged records and books were sent to a restoration company for repair; water-damaged computers that controlled the building HVAC and security systems were being dried out, and data restored where possible.

I am sure that God led us to these companies and to the construction company that started putting the building back together almost immediately. What seemed an impossible timeframe became possible through a construction supervisor named Brian. Although he was new to ServePro construction, and this was his first job with them, he led a team that restored the building in time to receive all the relocating employees, and remaining furniture and files. The only delay incurred was caused by the permitting department at the City of Charlotte. Brian is also a wonderful Christian man who had once had his home restored by ServePro. He knew what it was like to be on our side during this process, and it showed. Again, God was with us and ahead of us in this process. I firmly believe we were led to these people, companies and the artisans who walked with us through this reconstruction with skill and encouragement. I still consider some of them friends today.

The result of this event, which we thought was a disaster, was a remodeled Home Office from nearly floor to ceiling with new furnishings. All with limited expense to GCI, because the insurance claim was subrogated to the plumbing company, who was found responsible for the water leak. But God wasn’t done yet!

When we purchased the Home Office facility, we also tried to buy the vacant lot next to the building through a local broker. Although we had the permanent right to use the driveway and parking lot for our new facility, part of the driveway and the parking lot was owned by someone else. We preferred to control any development or use of the adjacent property. The broker approached the owner with a reasonable offer on our behalf, but she refused to sell. We had accepted this reality.

Some months later, I felt moved to reach out to the owner of the adjacent lot and see if I could get to know her without pushing for a purchase—just building a relationship and getting to know her as a neighbor was my goal. I invited her to have a cup of tea and to take a tour of our building. She accepted, and we spent about an hour talking and discussing GCI’s mission and plans.

Through the Holy Spirit’s hand, by the end of that conversation, we had agreed on a deal for the lot. Instead of buying the lot at full price, she donated over two-thirds of its value to the Church and GCI paid the remainder. This donation was worth nearly a quarter of a million dollars. The Holy Spirit was way ahead of me, preparing the way and working through a person that I had not met before and who was of a different faith.

I was reminded through this process that God does his work, and we have the blessing of participating with him. He is not surprised by our circumstances nor short on love or resources. He is in front of us in every way. The latter part of the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28:16-20 means more to me daily. Jesus told his disciples that day, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

He is with us always. May we practice looking for his lead and join him in his perfect will, as we live, work and share the good news about Jesus.

Listening for his lead,
Mat Morgan

Vacation Bible School in Ladson, SC

ladson vbs group photo

Grace Communion Ladson held its third annual Vacation Bible School, July 24-26, 2019. Sixteen young people ages 3 to 18 attended the ladson vbs sitting down for a lesson“Super Training with Jesus University” where they learned to “Put on the whole armor of God…” (Ephesians 6:11) each evening session by learning: To trust God; Having the courage to be bold; Knowing the power of prayer and praising God. The teachers taught the same lesson to each grade level using unique approaches. The group started each night with prayer and praising God in songs and worship.  They ended each night the same as they began.

ladson vbs children dancing and singingAfter three nights of learning ways of being clothed in the armor of God, the youth celebrated on Saturday with “Funday.” They enjoyed a cookout, jump castle, face painting, games and loads of fun. The young people were able to showcase what they learned during VBS by participating in services on July 28. Our youth participated by leading the service in opening prayer, scripture reading, ushering, singing two selections of special music, and closing prayer.

ladson vbs girl with face paint

Our youth even participated in the message. Pastor Tommie Grant, Jr.’s message was, ” Humbleness of Children.” He gave an interactive message. He began by having our youth stand as he asked a few questions and they answered from their heart. One question was “What are you thankful for?” The various answers included: (1) The privilege to be alive (2) Thankful for having a roof over my head (3) Thankful for food to eat (4) Thankful for family and friends.”

ladson vbs children on bounce houseIt was a humbling and insightful experience for the congregation to hear of the things that were on the minds of the youth. It became crystal clear to all why we are encouraged to be as humble as little children. They are thankful for everything big and small. Matt. 18:4 (NLT) “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

 

Come & Drink Crusade – Nassau, Bahamas

Register Now!

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.”

You are invited to join us for four days of celebration, fellowship and Christian outreach at our 12th annual Come & Drink Crusade.
It takes place at Courtyard by Marriott, Junkanoo Beach, downtown Nassau, Bahamas, October 11-14, 2019. This hotel is the ideal site for a fall get-together for the entire family. Rooms rates are $160.00 per night double occupancy, all taxes included. Space is limited, so register today.
For more information, email Robert.Mckinney@gci.org  or call (242) 424-4062.

Regional Celebration Registration

Harvest Your Blessings! Don’t miss out on registration for the East Celebration.

In October, GCI will host our final Regional Celebration in the USA:

  • October 25 – 27:  East – Ocean City, MD

Click the image below to for more information and registration options.
Regional Celebrations 2019 Banner

 

A Love that Frees Us

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:16-19).

One of the deepest meanings of freedom for me is to be free from fear. Often, people fear what lies beyond or outside of us. But at one point or another in our lives, the struggle we face is overcoming what lies within.

Doubt. Guilt. Insecurity. Fear that we will fall short, that we will be irrelevant, that we will not be able to bear a credible enough witness to the Christ we profess. These visit us in different seasons. As a working mother, pastor’s wife, and ministry team member, there are still moments when fears like these cast shadows on my heart. Ironically, these shadows are borne out of something good — a deep desire to please those whom I love and pursue a purpose I believe in.

In the midst of this, God’s Word offers a tender and yet powerful reminder. 1 John 4 points to the true gospel about who God is, what he has done, and what that means for us as his children. Verses 16–18 mention God’s perfect love—a love that we can rely on; one that inspires confidence; a love that drives out fear. Verse 19 goes on to mention that we love because he first loved us.

It is in this premise of perfect love that we find our freedom. Rather than focusing on failure and judgment, we can embrace the freedom to be relentless and joyful in pursuing God’s call of loving one another, to nurture untiringly at home, to serve generously in our churches, to minister compassionately in our communities. We can keep going, certain that even in times when we are seemingly “not enough,” we need not fear because God’s love endures.

Prayer: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–thank you for the bold gestures and gentle whispers of love that you surround us with. Continue to replace our fear with confidence in who you are, and out of that confidence, help us to love and serve generously as you have done.

 

By Joyce Tolentino
Mandaluyong, Philippines

We Are GCI Series | Julie Frantz

Watch video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDpYX0MDA2U

We Are GCI Series is a collection of videos where various GCI leaders and members are highlighted. In this episode, GCI Pastor, Julie Frantz, shares a little about herself and why she likes to serve in GCI and what she likes to do in her personal time.

Prayers for Patama Banks

It is with hope that we share Leonard Banks, GCI pastor in Rochester, NY’s, request for prayers for his wife Patama, who has been diagnosed with lymphoma and is preparing to undergo chemotherapy.

They ask for your prayers and thank you in advance for them.