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!
GCI Update: Best of 2019
We’ve enjoyed connecting with you in 2019. Here are the 5 stories you, our readers, have engaged with the most this year:
Thank you so much for your continued readership and story contributions every two weeks. Without your participation, GCI Update wouldn’t exist. We appreciate you and look forward to hearing from you in 2020.
Your GCI Media Team
GCI and GCS Board Transitions
Welcome and Farewell! Recent Board transitions on the GCI and GCS Boards
By Mathew Morgan, CFO and Secretary of the Board
During the October Grace Communion International (GCI) and Grace Communion Seminary (GCS) Board of Directors meetings, several important transitions occurred! Although the Bylaws are set up to facilitate routine and orderly transitions of board leadership, it never feels quite routine to say goodbye to long-serving loyal Board directors we all know and love. Over 150 combined years of GCI service are represented by those taking off their director hats this year! Thank you all for your exceptional service to GCI and GCS!
The emotional equation is partially balanced by the excitement of new directors who will now serve for their 4-year terms. Welcome new directors, thank you for sharing your time, energy, wisdom and leadership skills for the benefit of the gospel!
GCI Board transitions
Chair Tkach and other Directors expressed their deep appreciation to Mr. Franklin Guice and Ms. Celestine Olive for their significant service on the Board. Dr. Tkach presented each with a letter of appreciation and a crystal globe inscribed with “Well Done Faithful Servant.”
Franklin Guice has served as a Director for GCI and previously as a Director for Ambassador University (now GCS). His business experience leading a team of IRS auditors, and his church experience as a long-time elder, contributed to the rich diversity of knowledge on the Board. He continues to serve as an elder at Grace Communion Monrovia.
Mr. Guice reflected,
I want to thank the church, its officers, employees and other board members for the participation I was afforded and for the relationships formed. These years on the board have been a highlight of my life. The interaction with so many faithful individuals has been encouraging to me and I’ve observed other board members who were equally inspired and encouraged by the diversity represented on the board and in the church. The growth of the church that I’ve witnessed, particularly in understanding changes that needed to be made and in disseminating truth related to those changes, is immense and not easily encapsulated, but oh so important. We are closer to Christ and the way forward is clearer.
I have been particularly pleased with how the church finances have been faithfully managed by the home office in budgetary considerations and investments and in the board approval process. I have been pleased with the financial consultants that have contracted to assist us. Equally pleasing is the openness to innovative ideas to stimulate and support the growth of our church ministry groups and individuals around the world.
The selection of committees to perform needed work and to report to the full board has been an enhancement to board participation and performance. I was pleased to have been appointed to both the audit committee and the compensation committee and appreciated the interaction with and cooperation with other board members.
The change in the upward trajectory of love and outgoing concern for “others” has been palpable both on the board and in the church at large. I have confidence that the church board will do well in the future, having come to positive resolutions with those who are remaining and now knowing that those who are coming on the board are competent and very well-qualified.
This period, of having some small part in the effectiveness of spreading the gospel and supporting Christian growth, has been more than gratifying. The grace of God allowed us to make decisions together that continued and extended the work of Jesus Christ on earth and for the world he came to save.
The memory of our triune God and the continuity of thought gives me assurance that GCI is in good hands and will increasingly do “exploits,” because the aforementioned component parts know who is their God and who they are, in him.
Again, I would like to thank the church, the home office and the board for the beautiful piece of crystal given to me and for the thank you letter that I received reflecting on my service. My wife, Cora, and I will hold them as cherished mementos of time well-spent and of permanent dear friends.
Thank you, Frank, for sharing your love of Christ and GCI, your wisdom, calm leadership and your life experiences for the benefit of the Church. We wish Frank and Cora every blessing in this new, quieter phase of their lives.
Celestine (Cella) Olive holds the distinction of being one of the first women to serve as a GCI Director. She also served in the Accounting and Member Services departments at the Home Office and as Assistant Pastor and Director of the Music and Arts Ministry and Praise Choir for 18 years in her congregation in Southern California, before retiring and moving closer to her grandchildren. Cella continues to serve as an elder in the GCI Desert Oasis Community Church, where she continues to bless others with her leadership and musical abilities.
Cella spoke of her Board service:
I felt so honored to be invited by then Board President, Joe Tkach Jr, four years ago to become a member of the Board, actually quite incredulous that I would be selected. Not having a clue exactly what would be expected of me, it was scary at first, but the kindness, grace, and patience from the Board members that were already present made it very easy to participate.
And I say that because everyone listened respectfully to what everyone else had to say; everyone’s opinions were considered even if there were differences expressed by other members; at each meeting whether in person or by video, there was an obvious desire to promote, protect, and provide the best possible decisions on behalf of our denomination. The meetings also strengthened the friendship bonds between the Board members, since most of us have known each other for years.
So once again, thanks so much for the privilege of participating, and also for the unexpected gratis trips to the Home Office that Leonard and I enjoyed so much (Leonard sends his thanks as well). We were treated royally. I love the “transitioning off” gift that I received from the Board and will treasure it “till death do us part”! A hearty thanks also to our Board Chair Joe, Vice Chair Russell, and President Greg! As it says on my gift, “Well Done Faithful Servants.”
Thank you Cella for sharing your positive attitude, your love of people and your quiet wisdom which has blessed the Church. We wish Cella and Leonard the very best.
Dr. Randy Bloom and Mr. Tommie Grant, Jr. were welcomed as new Board Directors.
Randy Bloom has journeyed with GCI for 50 years, serving as a GCI pastor in Atlanta, GA, Summerset, KY, Syracuse and Utica, NY, and Memphis and Jackson, TN. He has also served in other leadership positions, including Church Multiplication Ministries, District Superintendent and Regional Director, where he continues to serve. Dr. Bloom holds a Master of Arts in Religion, a Master of Divinity and a Doctorate in Biblical Leadership and Ministry. He brings a wealth of knowledge, pastoral and leadership experience, a warm sense of humor and a gift for asking the right question to the Board.
When asked about his upcoming term on the Board, he said, “The board has been a stalwart example of faith and courage through many years of difficult transitions. Board members have followed the Spirit in making difficult but necessary decisions to guide and protect our denomination. It is a distinct honor to have the opportunity to serve alongside such experienced and Christ-centered leaders as GCI moves with great hope into the challenges the future brings.”
Welcome Randy and Debbie to this new Board leadership position.
Tommie Grant started attending GCI in 1968 with his parents. As a youth, he enjoyed participating in church youth activities, which helped him to stay focused and interested in “church.” As a young adult, Tommie was heavily involved in working with youth and coaching. He has always enjoyed being part of the choir and serving as a worship leader.
During the beginning years of transitioning from legalism to embracing grace, the biggest impact that helped free his inner battles was the Holy Spirit opening his mind to the undeniable fact that his real rest was not ON a day (Saturday), but IN Jesus. That’s when his life began to be more about a relationship than the thought of what he needed to do to “get in.”
After graduating with a degree in computer programing in 1984, Tommie ironically started working in retail until he would be able to find a “real” job working in the field of his degree. After leaving the company for a short while, he returned and has been working with the company in different levels for over 32 years, and he now serves as a general manager for Walmart.
Tommie has been married to his wife, Robin, for over 20 years. They are a beautiful blended family of 4 children (3 boys and 1 daughter).
Tommie shared that he has “found it an absolute blessing to be a part of and serve the congregation and the community in which I live, work, and worship. Acknowledging that God is in control is not a cliché but very real and an affirmation that re-energizes me to embrace the grace that has been so lovingly bestowed upon us.” Mr. Grant volunteers as pastor of Grace Communion Ladson.
When asked about his upcoming Board service, he said, “With privilege comes responsibility. In this case it means that, since I have the privilege to serve on the board, I have a responsibility to serve for God’s glory and not my own agenda.”
Welcome to the Board Tommie and Robin!
GCS Board transitions
At the October GCS Board meeting, several important transitions also occurred.
Chair Tkach, President Gary Deddo and GCS Board members expressed appreciation to Mr. Ron Kelly and Ms. Pat Shaw for their outstanding service as their terms ended. Dr. Tkach presented them with a letter of appreciation and a crystal memento, inscribed with their name and years of service.
Ron Kelly has served GCI, Ambassador University, and GCS in many leadership roles for nearly 60 years. He has been a pastor, presenter, professor, Dean of Students, Deputy Chancellor, Editorial Department Manager, Controller, in addition to other positions. His diversity of experience, education and depth of knowledge has been a blessing to the Board and will be missed.
Ron reflected on his years of service within GCI and GCS.
As I transition off the Grace Communion Seminary board, I am thankful to look back on some 59 years of WCG/GCI experiences. It all started with Ambassador College, where I attended 1956 – 1960.
After a stint in the field ministry, I was privileged to be part of the startup of the third Ambassador campus in Big Sandy. I served 12 years as Dean of Students and two years as Deputy Chancellor.
After some further shuffling to the field, I was sent back to start up Big Sandy again in 1981 and on to Pasadena in 1982. There I was part of the Editorial department as a staff writer and then department head for a few years.
As the sale of the college campuses and headquarters facility in Pasadena got underway, I served as the financial controller, working with Bernie Schnippert and Mat Morgan. As I turned 67, and the church had established a pension plan, I entered retirement in late 1995.
However, Mr. Kelly has never fully retired. He has served as an interim pastor when needed and on the GCS Board until October 2019. He continues to serve on GCI Board Committees and as an elder in West Valley Church of God. Mr. Kelly commented, “Life goes on and I enjoyed making a contribution well after retirement.”
Thank you, Ron, and Norva, for your longstanding and continuing loyal service and for being Christian pillars in the Church. Many have benefited from your work and your examples.
Pat Shaw has the distinction of being the first woman to serve as Director on the GCS Board. She and her husband Eric have also served GCI and GCS in many other ways. Pat worked for the Church Admiration Department at the Home Office in many varied and essential roles, starting in 1988. She retired as Administrative Assistant and Budget Analyst in 2012.
During her long service at the Church, she also served in their local congregation in California, with her husband Eric, who was a pastor.
Pat continued to serve by teaching “Women in Leadership” for GCS, where she gained valuable experience with this educational arm of the Church. Thank you, Pat and Eric, for your long and generous service. We pray that you will find continuing joy and fulfillment in this phase of your lives.
The Board welcomed with excitement Dr. Michael Morrison, GCS Dean of Faculty, as a new Board director.
Michael grew up in a small town in southern Illinois. His family did not go to church, but they had weekly Bible studies at home. After Mike moved away to go to college, he became more aware of his need for Christ, and he began attending the Worldwide Church of God when he was 23.
After he graduated from Ambassador College, he began writing lessons for the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, and later, other church publications (Youth magazine, The Good News, The Plain Truth, Reviews You Can Use, The Pastor General’s Report, The Worldwide News, and Christian Odyssey). He was encouraged to get additional education, and with part-time study, he completed a Master of Divinity at Azusa Pacific University and eventually a PhD at Fuller Theological Seminary. In 2004, he began working at what would soon become Grace Communion Seminary, and he was appointed Dean of Faculty in 2010. He teaches courses in the New Testament and coordinates the development of the curriculum and the work of the other faculty. He hopes that the seminary will grow in its effectiveness in helping leaders in GCI, attracting students from other denominations, and sharing our compelling vision of how the Triune God is sharing his life with us. He and Janet have been married since 1984 and have two children and one granddaughter, all living in southern California.
Welcome Mike and Janet to your new role as Director and for your ongoing work with the Seminary.
Announcement of Engagement: Mathew Morgan and Natalie Price
We are pleased to announce the engagement of our son Mathew Morgan to Natalie Price. They were engaged on Sunday, November 10, in San Diego, CA. The wedding date has been set for May 9, 2020.
Her husband, Leonard, GCI Pastor in Rochester, NY, sent this recent update for Home Office and GCI members globally to stay informed and keep Patama in their prayers:
Tuesday, December 9, Patama will start the fifth (and second to last) cycle of chemotherapy for 96 straight hours. Please pray for her strength as she suffers the side effects of the treatment. Her last round of chemotherapy will be on December 31.
“All by himself he stretches out the heavens and strides on the waves of the sea. He designed the Big Dipper and Orion, the Pleiades and Alpha Centauri. We’ll never comprehend all the great things he does; his miracle-surprises can’t be counted. Somehow, though he moves right in front of me, I don’t see him; quietly but surely he’s active, and I miss it.”
Job 9:8-11 (MSG)
I don’t know about you, but I feel that the world could do with some miracles right now. In fact, quite a few of them!
On a personal level, things happen in my life that make me stop in my tracks. Sometimes they’re small and, at other times, they’re not so small. It’s often an unexpected moment of grace, a gift that I did not see coming. It may be a word of encouragement that God sends via someone else; a thought that brings peace into my troubled mind; a crisis suddenly and inexplicably averted; an opportunity that changes my perception.
I can see how God is involved in my life, and I am thankful for it. Not that we are delivered or rescued from all of life’s trials, as Paul noted in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NIV), “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
I like Albert Einstein’s statement, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Let’s live the miracle.
Father in Heaven, thank you for the miracle of life. I am humbled that you care for me. And I pray in Jesus’ name.
By James Henderson