Clearing Up Communication.
Dear GCI Family and Friends,
As President of an international denomination, I am learning more and more how clear communication is both difficult and rare. Some words and phrases can seem so logical and clear to a GCI team in one part of the world, only to find those same words have quite different connotations in another part of the world. Miscommunication happens more often than any of us like, and that is why in a healthy relationship or healthy organization we need to continue to ask clarifying questions, and we need to listen to the input of others. When we agree on language, the words and concepts that matter must be stated and restated.
In GCI we are striving to communicate the vision of “Healthy Church.” We have done this through a variety of platforms, including the monthly Equipper publication for pastors and ministry leaders. Another such platform is the GCI website, which offers support articles, video segments and podcasts on ministry practices that support the cause. On top of the media offerings, the denomination holds annual conferences, and our Regional Directors facilitate cohort groups of pastors who are making progress toward the vision of Healthy Church. We have been educating, training, consulting and coaching in the long journey toward Healthy Church. It is a good journey, and you have my word that we will stay on this path.
One important piece of “Healthy Church” is our style of church governance that we call Team-Based Pastor-Led, and the accompanying ministry priorities that are described as the Love, Faith and Hope venues. A recent meeting with the international supervisors showed me the need to adapt the term venues to “avenues.” Venues has a different, and sometimes negative, connotation in some international areas. What may work in one area of the world, simply does not in another. As a result, we need to be able to adapt. While the word “venue” seems to work in the US and some other areas, the word “avenue” gives a clearer picture in other parts of the world. Either works for me and we will include both as we move forward.
This is just part of our forward movement, a movement I see as the ongoing renewal of our fellowship. It is vital that we not only grasp the concepts but learn how to apply these concepts in how we live and operate as the church. After all, the ministry outlined in the three avenues of faith, hope and love is the ongoing ministry of Jesus, and they serve as markers showing us where to join in.
I think we are making good progress overall and this letter is an opportunity for me to restate the foundational purposes for the church.
Vision: Healthy Church
Mission: Living and Sharing the Gospel
We seek to make Christ known, to help non-believers become believers and be given opportunity to participate in the life of the church.
Love Venue (Avenue): We seek to make authentic relationships where the love and truth of Jesus is shared. This is practiced in neighborhood engagement as we serve and relate to our neighbors by the power of Christ’s love through us.
Hope Venue (Avenue): We seek to make worship meaningful and transformative for persons in our present culture, as we gather as a church, especially in our weekly worship services.
Faith Venue (Avenue): We seek to create environments and events that foster genuine Christian community, promoting relational growth with Jesus and one another. This often occurs in small group settings and other relational events where people gather to strengthen their walk with Jesus and fellow believers.
In my earlier years as an athletic coach, I discovered that success for the players and teams happened when we stuck to the fundamentals. If it was basketball, then dribbling, passing, and shooting had to be developed through much repetition and long practice sessions. Christian ministry has similar qualities in that we must first realize the basic skills that need attention, and then put in the days, weeks, months and years of practice that elevate us to the place where we are operating with consistency and quality.
I believe that GCI is in a good place. I believe that 2019 has been a good year of understanding the basics of ministry and many are beginning to practice these afresh. If you have never dribbled a basketball, it takes time to develop the eye-hand coordination to get the feel. First-time dribblers must watch the ball hit the floor and then return to their outstretched hand, and repeat. After enough practice and with muscle memory kicking in, a player can begin dribbling without looking down and can then play with their head up watching the activity around them. All of us are first-time dribblers in some aspect of Christian ministry, and that is okay. Go ahead and dribble with your head down for a while, and I bet when you first look up, you may very well see the face of the one whose ministry it belongs to.
As we collectively move forward toward Healthy Church, let’s not allow miscommunication to be a roadblock. Please access the vast array of ministry tools designed to serve you where you are in the journey and please feel free to access your ministry supervisors as well. It is imperative that we contextualize what it means to be Team-Based and Pastor-Led in our multiple cultures around the world, and in the midst of our cultural nuances that we share the Christ-like principles of understanding, respect, collaboration, and love, which apply in all circumstances.
As 2019 quickly draws to a close, many of you have held strategic planning meetings with your leaders, seeking the Lord’s direction for your congregation, and you have formed annual budgets. As you prepare to launch into 2020, it may be helpful to meet again and evaluate whether your plans and budgets fit into the avenues of Love, Hope and Faith. Let’s not miss what it means to participate with Jesus, the living and active Head of the Church.
My prayers are with you for this upcoming New Year and I am poised alongside you to receive the gifts that the Father may have in store for us. And there is none greater than “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Could the Father’s love be more clearly communicated?
Clearly, it is about Jesus!