Dear Church Family,
Most of us are familiar with the wise saying in Proverbs 29:18 – Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (KJV)
In the more modern interpretation of Eugene Peterson it says this:
If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed. (MSG)
Vision is incredibly important. None of us want to stumble all over ourselves or even worse, to perish.
Grace Communion International’s vision is “Healthy Church.” We began this journey when I became President in October 2018. We arrived at this part of our journey based on the miraculous works that the Lord had been performing in us for over two decades.
God has gifted GCI with:
- His amazing grace as he brought us out of the shadowlands of the old covenant into the glorious light of Jesus and the new covenant that he ratified by shedding his blood.
- Revealing to us the significance and depth of his triune nature. We have come to learn that the doctrine of the Trinity is the crown doctrine from which all other beliefs flow. The “one and three” Father, Son and Spirit are relational and have drawn us into loving, eternal communion.
- A stream of renewal to live out of this grace and communion as Healthy Church. It is our vision to become the healthiest expression of the church of Jesus Christ that we can be.
Some have observed that this vision is inwardly focused. This is mostly true. In our ongoing journey with Jesus we are seeing the need to become more focused and improved on how we worship, how we include newcomers, and how we grow deeper in our commitment to Christ and strengthen the fabric of our church family. Healthy church needs some inward focus so we are better prepared for outward focus.
I equate our season of focus and improvement to what it is like when we invite another couple over to our home for an evening dinner and entertainment. What goes into the preparation? We straighten the house and vacuum the carpets. There is intentionality in planning the menu. Do the guests prefer fish or beef? Do they have any special dietary needs? Would they like wine with dinner? Perhaps this will be an occasion to light candles and play background music. Would they enjoy playing a card game or watching a movie? Do you see how the planning details grow as you focus on the quality of the event and what the experience will be like for your guests?
During the years following the grace awakening of GCI, there was quite a lot of struggle. Not all members made the journey from the old covenant to the new covenant. Not all pastors were able to negotiate the changes. The high volume of leadership changes and the downsizing of our congregations created a dynamic that is best described as survival. As we settled into the “newness” of who we now were, the attention to the details on how we present ourselves as a church had waned. While we rejoice in having the incredible gifts of the New Testament gospel and the supreme doctrine of the Trinity, our means for how we live and share this has become worn and tattered.
Our congregational meetings and meeting spaces need attention. Is our hall clean and inviting? Is there ample parking and clear signage to get into the building? In what shape are the restrooms? Do we start our services on time and do they follow a meaningful and worshipful flow? If your Sunday service feels more like an informal small group gathering in someone’s living room, then attention is needed (small groups have their place, but the Sunday worship service needs planning, preparation, and intentionality in focusing on Jesus).
What is a first-time visit like for a guest to your church? Is there an order of worship outline that they can easily follow so they know what is going on? Is it easy to find childcare services or youth meetings? Is there an up-to-date information center with clear communication pieces that help a new person navigate what services are offered by the church? Is the congregation friendly and inclusive so that the newcomer feels like there can be a place for them in this church family? Will there be a new believers class available to them in a timely fashion? If we desire for guests to become members, then we must be mindful of clear pathways for this to happen.
Beyond sharing a weekly worship service, what is the fabric of the fellowship of your congregation? Is there sharing in how relationships are being nurtured and deepened? Is the gift of hospitality alive in your membership? Do members break bread in one another’s homes, and include the neighbors? Does your church host annual picnics, campouts, and other events? When was the last time the church gathered to do a service project? This project could be beautification of the church property, serving the needs of the widows, or assisting a need in the surrounding target community of your church.
For me, the renewal stream that began in 1995 is continuing 25 years later, and the vision is clear. The Lord is beckoning us to more fully join him through the leadership of the Spirit. He is calling and empowering us to become the vibrant lighthouse in the neighborhoods where our churches are located. It is time for GCI to rise up and become the Healthy Church the Lord wants us to be.
Moving Forward Together!