GCI Update

Small Church Is Okay with Jesus

Greg and Susan Williams

A recent Christianity Today article stated that “Sixty percent of Protestant churches in America average less than 100 people in weekly worship.” And the abundance of small churches is growing. I found encouragement in this that we are not alone in this trend, and I believe we should take heart that this similar pattern in GCI is commonplace among the body of Christ.

Small is not automatically indicative of bad or unhealthy. Yet when a church is small, it is easy to become fixated on growth strategies. How do we get new people through the door? How will we fill the seats? Will there be people to contribute to the offering basket? The downside of this thinking is that we start thinking about people as projects, and not as beloved children of God who are made in his image.

Because Jesus Christ is the center of our theological understanding, we understand that all humans are under his spilled blood. And because atonement has been made for all people, we cannot look at anybody outside of that atoning blood. This core understanding not only prevents us from devaluing people, but it also prevents us from approaching evangelism as a growth strategy.

In GCI, evangelism is relational and invitational. Relational evangelism teaches us that people matter, that building chemistry, and trust is hugely important, and that as believers we are to be prepared to give an answer of our hope when the conversations turn toward God. That’s when invitational comes to play. Once a relationship is built, then we invite them to join us in worship. Regardless of their initial response, we continue the relationship.

At a recent US Regional Celebration, I watched how the Spirit guided the speakers as each of them made presentations about how they are connecting with the neighbors around their church buildings. One presenter discerned that the word engage was better than outreach. Outreach sounds as if we are extending ourselves to help others who are somehow less than us, and it can subliminally make us treat them as a project rather than as a person created in God’s image. Another presenter said, “We want to be in face-to-face relationships with our neighbors.” I liked the movement toward deeper, personal connections.

We’ve also come to learn that beyond our individual efforts, the church must work together corporately through active engagement with the neighborhoods where we meet, and develop an annual rhythm of activities that allow us to invite new people in (see the Equipper articles in April, May and June on the Love Venue).

I hope you have noticed that our GCI leaders around the world are working diligently to help your church be healthy, vibrant, and effective at the size it is right now. Being healthy, vibrant, and effective is what allows us to be the light on the hill that radiates Christ’s love and truth.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15).

It is within our movement toward health, vibrancy, and effectiveness that we glorify our Heavenly Father and more readily represent the light who is Jesus.

The Lord is not surprised by the condition of the church that Christianity Today documents. And Jesus, the Head of the church, continues to work through his church no matter how large or small. It is simply our calling to actively participate with him in the opportunities he provides and allow his light to shine through us, and we trust him to add to the church daily as it pleases him.

May your church shine brightly in your little corner of the world!

Loving our small, but far-reaching denomination,

Greg Williams


Belong Church Launch Celebration

This past Sunday, October 20, I had the privilege to attend the launch service for Belong Church in College Park, Florida. Over the last 10 months, Howard Salter and his team have been taking the necessary steps to make the launch of the Church a reality. 83 people were in attendance, including nine children. The service was an awesome celebration of the good grace of our Triune God.

Howard and Becky grew up in the old WCG but when our theological transformation occurred, the Lord took them in a different direction. After participating in different Baptist churches, Howard felt the call to come back home to GCI. They made their way back through Grace Communion Orlando (GCO) where they already had a relationship with Pastor Steve Shantz. Pastor Shantz had married them back in the day and had stayed in touch with them throughout the years. Ish and Beatriz Beloso, and Felix and Mirelly Gaetan, from GCO joined Howard and Becky in the adventurous journey of starting a daughter Church. 

Howard shared how the Lord’s calling on his life to start a daughter church goes back to his wife’s (Becky) childhood. Becky and her family moved to College Park when Becky was a child. Her father was murdered in College Park in a botched robbery when Becky was just a nine-year-old girl. As Becky grew older, she also grew bitter at the person who took her father’s life. In short, the Lord did a wonderful work in Becky’s life, bringing her to the point of forgiveness and healing. When they moved back to Florida some 7 years ago, they could not get close to College Park. Becky would have panic attacks and was not able to cross the town.

When Howard felt called to plant a congregation with GCI, he never envisioned starting the church in College Park. When he was initially exploring the different areas where he can connect with the age demographics that he felt called to, College Park was the community that was the best fit. The Lord continued to work in Becky’s heart, bringing her to the point of fully reconciling her past and comprehending that the residents of College Park belonged to the Lord, hence the name, “Belong Church.” She slowly warmed up to the idea of launching the church in her old town, and Sunday was a testament to the grace of God.

Four months ago, the Salters moved their family to College Park and started engaging their community. The Lord opened many doors for ministry, including a school across the street from their home where Belong Church now meets. GCI is catching the wave of the Spirit and joining Jesus in his everyday mission in our communities. Please join me in lifting up prayers of thanksgiving for the Salters and their team as they continue to missionally engage their neighbors in College Park.

Heber Ticas
National Coordinator of Church Multiplication

Filipiniana Celebration at GCI Glendora

Photos by Janet Morrison

On Sunday, September 29, Grace Life in Glendora, CA hosted our first annual Filipiniana celebration. A Filipiniana is a special occasion where Filipino heritage and culture are celebrated through traditional Philippine folk songs, folk dances, and most importantly, food. Since we have a large Filipino community in the Los Angeles area, we wanted to celebrate them because we value diversity and unity in the body of Christ.

Grace Life had a combined worship service with Grace Communion Fellowship (GCF in Eagle Rock, CA) and we were blessed to have the GCF team leading us in worship that day. Four speakers gave short devotionals about identity, family, resilience and community as related to their unique experiences as Filipino Christians: (respectively) Jillian Morrison, Manny Quiray, Eva LaMonica, and Bermie Dizon.

Following our worship service was a bountiful potluck of traditional Filipino foods like pansit, lumpia, chicken adobo, cassava cake, and much more! Pastor Bermie also gave some brave souls the opportunity to try more exotic foods (by American standards) like durian (a fruit with a scent sometimes described as “stinky feet”) and balut (a fermented duck egg with a partially developed duck embryo). We were pleasantly surprised to see how many showed up for the durian-eating contest afterwards, and that all the balut got eaten during the potluck so we couldn’t have a contest for it!

After the delicious potluck was the entertainment portion of our celebration. This consisted of five different traditional Philippine folk dances (four groups from Grace Life and one from GCF), a medley of folk songs, and a fun opportunity at the end where we invited the audience to come up and attempt to dance the “Tinikling” (this involves jumping between two moving bamboo poles).

We are grateful to God and give him all the glory for the success of our first Filipiniana celebration! In the future, Grace Life intends to make this celebration more of an outreach to the wider community so that those who aren’t attending a church can join in the fun and experience the amazing unity and diversity we have in the Father, Son and Spirit.

-Jillian Morrison

Alabama Women’s Retreat Retrospective

September 20-22, forty women gathered in Cullman, Alabama, for the Fall Women’s Retreat. They met at the St. Bernard Retreat Center for a wonderful weekend of spiritual renewal, relaxation and recreation. The theme for the weekend was Our Journey with Jesus.

Speakers included Gerrie Bayley, Becki Brown, Barbara Dahlgren, Pat Halford, Ruth Miller, Ginny Rice and Tammy Tkach. Singer/songwriters Ann Hartmann and Tammy Vice provided wonderful special music. Mary Jo Leaver shared her special ministry of Music to the Eyes, which utilizes American Sign Language and lyrical dance to bring music to life to those who are hearing impaired.

Friday and Saturday evenings were devoted to free time for board games, fellowship, and “downtime” – much needed in our fast-paced lives today.  The retreat concluded Sunday morning with a communion service.

The dates for next year’s retreat are October 9-11, 2020.  For more information, please email Ruth Miller at ruth.miller@gci.org.


GCI Memphis Steps Up for Down Syndrome

GCI Memphis joins the Clarke family in volunteering at the community event.

On Sunday, October 6th, the Charles and Dyann Clark family were joined by members of GCI Memphis along with family and friends at the annual “Step-Up for Down Syndrome” event, which draws thousands of people to mid-town Memphis each year. The Clarke’s daughter Ebonee, a committee member, spearheaded a fundraising drive that helped her place second in her division for the second year in a row.

Ebonee and co-pastor Neil Earle at the Step-Up community event.

This event came on the heels of the local church sponsoring an Information Booth at the local Bartlett Fair in Bartlett, TN, and the church’s move to a new location with six weeks’ notice in July. We thankfully acknowledge the Lord’s blessing as we look back to say “Missions Accomplished.”

Death of Pastor Jim Kissee

Jim and Kaye Kissee

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of Jim Kissee, Pastor of the GCI church in Springfield, Missouri. After a long fight with cancer, Jim passed away Saturday, October 19. The following is his obituary which was first published on his tribute page at Adams Funeral Home.

Jim loved and he lived. He was a kind and caring person who valued faith and family above all else. He believed in forgiveness, had immense biblical knowledge, and wanted people to know hope and love through Jesus Christ.

James Everett Kissee was born on June 29, 1943 to Sherman Everett and Goldie Katherine Kissee. He grew up on a farm with four brothers in Marshfield, Missouri. Jim married Kaye Pyle on June 7, 1969 and they had three children – Jim, Janna, and Joe.

Jim was interested in sports from a very young age and had a particular fondness and aptitude for basketball. He excelled as an athlete and continued to put high importance on discipline, mental strength, and physical activity throughout his entire life.

After high school, Jim played basketball for two years at Arkansas City Junior College in Kansas and then for two years at the University of Arkansas where he earned his first Bachelor’s Degree. After graduation he moved to Big Sandy, Texas to attend Ambassador University, where he earned his second Bachelor’s Degree. It was there that he met Kaye and found his calling in life to minister and teach. Education was a lifelong passion for Jim. During his time as a professor at Ambassador, he earned both a Master’s Degree and a Doctorate from Texas A&M Commerce.

Jim’s love of helping others through education and counseling made a lasting impact on countless lives. Some of his fondest memories were of the years he spent teaching, counseling, and working with students at Ambassador University. He encouraged us and others to embrace and love one another, to share knowledge unashamedly and without fear, and to strive to reach our highest potential.

Jim was a pastor, faithfully served the Lord, exemplified positivity and always had a hopeful outlook on the future, even in the face of adversity. He loved his family and got great joy from his grandchildren.

Jim’s earthly body succumbed to cancer Saturday, October 19, 2019 but he continues to inspire. He will be remembered by family and those close to him as a caring intellectual that exhibited great strength and grace.

Jim is survived by his wife Kaye; son Jim Kissee; daughter and son-in-law Janna and Nate Jones, grandchildren Zander and Lilah; son and daughter-in-law Joe and Rachel Kissee, grandsons Andrew, Evan, and Isaac; and brothers Archie, Les, and Bob Kissee; and many beloved in-laws, nieces, and nephews.

Jim is preceded in death by his parents Sherman and Goldie Kissee, his brother John Kissee, and numerous other loved ones.


Cards and letters may be sent to:

Mrs. Kaye Kissee
601 N 36th St
Nixa, MO 65714-7558

Save me, O God

Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God.
Psalm 69:1-3 NIV

There are days in our life when even putting one foot in front of the other seems too hard. Days when we feel overwhelmed by the challenges life throws at us, when even the well-meaning request of a friend can feel like too much; like the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. What do we do when we are struggling in these moments of darkness? When our lives seem paralyzed by regrets about the past and anxieties about the future?

The scripture above was written by King David in a moment of brutal honesty and is a prayer to which many of us can relate. David bares his soul to God, refusing to hide the emotions, turmoil, despair and anger that he is feeling at his present circumstances. He even acknowledges that the bleakness of his situation is affecting his relationship with God. In his darkest moment, he cannot see God, he cannot see his Savior, but rather than hide this from God, he confesses it to him. As the psalm continues, David finds solace in who he knows God to be—a God of great love, of great mercy, and who answers with a sure salvation (Psalm 69:13,16).

It is worth remembering in these moments that in Jesus Christ, we have a great high priest who knows what it is like to go through dark times. Jesus’ anxiety about his crucifixion was so great that it caused him to sweat “like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). On the cross, the Bible records Jesus’ feelings of separation from God (Mark 15:34). Yet God did not forsake Jesus, and he will not forsake us. In Christ, there is always hope beyond our despair, and like David we must cast ourselves upon God’s great love, great mercy and sure salvation.

Our Father in heaven, in our moments of darkness, your light can seem so far away. Do not abandon us to our sin, to our pain and to our suffering, but let us feel your presence, your love and your comfort. And let us never forget the sure salvation we have through your Son, Jesus Christ. In his name, Amen.

By Gavin Henderson,
Operations Manager of the National Ministry Team
UK and Ireland

GCI Mexico City

GCI Mexico City is a congregation of Grace Communion International. Though going through difficulties in life, Natanael Cruz surrendered to God’s calling on his life to be a pastor. Through his faithfulness, the church is a community that is engaging and making an impact on their neighborhood. The church continues to be the church that lives outside its walls.

Healthy Church

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