GCI Update

Vision

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

Greg Williams

 

Daphne Sidney Installed as Superintendent, Australasia

With much joy and celebration, Daphne Sidney was installed as the new Superintendent for Australasia. This milestone was a high point of the Australasian conference/celebration weekend and was performed during church services in Brisbane on Sunday, February 16th before a packed hall of enthusiastic worshippers. GCI President Greg Williams and his wife Susan were with us, and it was a special honour to have Greg pray over Daphne as hands were laid on her to appoint her into this role.

Daphne’s extensive experience includes pastoral ministry in Australia, India and the Solomon Islands. Her husband Bill was previously Regional Director in the Philippines, where Daphne earned a Master’s Degree and was deeply involved in ministry and mission. The plan for an intentional, prayerful, patient and professional succession for Daphne into the Superintendent’s role has been underway for the past three years, said retiring Superintendent John McLean. “She has served in various capacities in the national office, most recently as Supervisor of ministry for the past year. Daphne has a real heart for God, and for people,” he said. “She brings great experience in ministry and mission to the role. Daphne is a life-long learner, who really reflects Jesus in her Christ-like desire to serve the interest of others. She will do an excellent job as Superintendent’.

John passed a musical conductor’s baton to Daphne, rather than a relay baton, signifying that leadership is not a solo effort. GCI supports a service-driven, team-based model, which includes harmonizing the gifts and talents of others, and is orchestrated by the Holy Spirit.

President Williams commented on the positive spirit of friendship, fellowship and warm love that was evident among the group. He followed up after the conference, leading two days of Community of Practice meetings with Daphne in her new role.

There was a great spirit of enthusiasm, joy, and celebration for Daphne as we go forward together, participating in the faith, hope, and love of Jesus.

John McLean

 

 

GC Woodbine Relaunch

In December 2019, the Woodbine, Georgia congregation moved into our new location and held our first service Dec. 8th, with 32 in attendance.  There was a wonderful spirit of enthusiasm and bonding, and willingness to grow in the Lord.

The new location is in a church building with a sanctuary, baptistry, kitchen and dining room, and three classrooms. It is located along the main highway coming from the Interstate into town. It costs us only $400 a month, plus utilities.

The second Sunday, Dec. 15th, we had 41 in attendance, and all the households who came to the first service returned except for one couple. After the church service, we had a baptism, group lunch, and gift presentation for our newly baptized member. Prior to the relaunch, we were a fellowship group averaging just 11 people per month. The response and return from the community was encouraging to our members.

After three months now, we have an average attendance of 29-30 each Sunday. We’ve had one baptism, and two ordinations of ministry leaders, a deacon and deaconess couple. There are five new families attending regularly, and two other families who have returned twice so far, and will probably continue sporadically. We usually have 7-8 kids each Sunday, sometimes more. Our local elder has started a weekly Bible study on Wednesday night, and one of the members has started a food bank.

We still have a long way to go, and it won’t be easy to keep the momentum going and growing.  But so far, so good.  We are thankful for the Lord’s blessing and the new people he has sent our way!

Blessings,

Marty Davey
Pastor

GC Cleveland Outreach

Grace Communion Cleveland had a community Care Package Outreach Give-A-Way on February 23, 2020. 16 bags were distributed to a nearby apartment building for those who had made a request. Paper towels, soup, crackers, jelly, peanut butter, and more non-perishable items were delivered by our Men’s Ministry team to those who had a need.

All items were supplied by members of the church. We are excited that more people in the building have requested to be added to our list. This project was an extension of our Thanksgiving Meals outreach we had in November. We are looking forward to what is next in the community as we watch God continue to move.

Tamar Gray
Pastor
Grace Communion Cleveland

Servant Leaders Commissioned

From left to right: Rosie Cummings, Anthony M. Castro, Barbara Leatherman, Troy Roark, Walter Leatherman, and Dean Hesting

On February 23, Living Grace Fellowship in Kansas City, Missouri had the privilege of commissioning six servant leaders into ministry service in a special worship service centered around reflecting the servant leadership of Jesus.,

Anthony M. Castro, Barbara Leatherman and Troy Roark were commissioned into service as our Hope, Faith, and Love Venue Champions, respectively, along with Walter Leatherman (Youth Ministry), Dean Hesting (Men’s Ministry) and Rosie Cummings (Worship Director). Rosie began attending over a year ago as a result of our congregation’s neighborhood engagement efforts. She is very excited to answer this calling in her life.

We also took a moment to recognize our Advisory Council, bringing them before the congregation to show who they are and explain their roles. We introduced a newly appointed member of the council, Leila Ross, one of our amazing teens, who was very excited to be included in this team.

This time of celebration was followed by our annual Chili Cook-Off and fellowship meal, which showcased five delicious entries. It was won by Susie Cunningham, sister of our new Men’s Ministry leader, Dean Hesting.

The Journey

“We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:2  (NIVUK)

In his testimony, a Christian explained how he had found Jesus after looking for meaning in his life. We can understand what he meant, and perhaps we can relate it to the experience of the wise men who found the child Jesus after their long, arduous trip, probably on camels, some say possibly from ancient Parthia.

It’s interesting to note the progress of the wise men. They had a question about a star they observed in the sky and wondered what significance it had. Surely, they thought, it must mean the birth of a king. When they get to Judaea, the clue concerning the location of this king’s birth is found by turning to the Scriptures. Then they go to the house, over which the star is now shining, and there they find Jesus. So the Scriptures point them to Jesus. The wise men go from questions about the world around them to the Bible, which then directs them to Jesus: some would say that is the Christian journey, that’s how you find God.

It sounds reasonable enough, but it misses one essential point: God sent the star first. It was through an act of God that the wise men had questions in the first place. Their spiritual awakening was from God, not from within themselves or from their own culture. God drew them to Jesus. Jesus was later to say, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (John 6:44).

The spiritual reality is that we are found in Jesus, not that we find him. God brings us by what’s happening in our life, through the Scriptures, to his Son, Jesus Christ. This is what the wise men found out.

The Christian journey is that we come to Jesus, not because we have sought him out, but because the Father draws us to him. 

Prayer
Thank you, Father, for guiding us to your Son, Jesus. In his name,
Amen 

 

By James Henderson
Superintendent of Europe

 

 

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