Dear GCI Family and Friends,
As President of Grace Communion International, one of my responsibilities is to cast a denominational vision for 542 churches and 230 fellowship groups in 69 countries, worldwide. For almost two years you have been hearing and reading my proclamations for GCI to become a healthier church; more vibrantly representing Jesus to the people we interact with in the neighborhoods where we are present.
In the first part of his letter to believers in Philippi, the apostle Paul offers this short prayer:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
Bible commentator Ralph Martin says, “The fulfillment of the apostle’s prayer will be that his friends have the ability to discern, and then to practice in their Christian living, the really important issues in their corporate life as a believing community.” Read that statement again and let it sink in.
Brothers and sisters, this is where we find ourselves, in a long season of discernment coupled with learning new ministry practices and trying new approaches.
Discernment is defined as sound judgment which makes possible the distinguishing of good from evil, and the recognition of God’s right ways for his people. It is putting on and exercising the mind of Christ so that we join him in his ongoing ministry to humanity. Discernment allows us to understand spiritual realities on practical levels and helps us guard against pitfalls.
I’m encouraged as we continue in the Spirit’s stream of grace and renewal, and I credit the Spirit with helping us discern and define the ministry of Jesus through the lenses of faith, hope and love. The construct of our pastors serving as under-shepherds to the Great Shepherd, and then—through the guidance of the Spirit—having ministry leaders and teams actively expressing the faith, hope and love of Jesus is not only appropriate but is practical and applicable. This healthy church construct provides a solid foundation to allow our congregations to continually discern God’s best for them and to participate in the building of God’s eternal kingdom.
In my travels around the world, I see and experience the love of Jesus in all GCI churches I visit. Our churches are made up of dear, sweet, godly people. I rejoice over this, and yet I also feel the sentiment of Paul when he expresses his desire for the growth of depth of relationship to Jesus and the adjoining thought of discernment to determine what is God’s best for them as they endeavor to bring glory and praise to the Triune God. Determining “God’s best” is an ongoing dynamic process through lots of prayers, conversation, and willingness to explore new ideas and new practices. If we are to be a vibrant church we cannot do “business as usual” we must build out the faith, hope, and love avenues and open lanes for the members to participate as the priesthood of all believers. Operating as an online church through the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to be creative and innovative, and when we can come together in public meetings again, we should continue to operate out of a fresh, creative spirit.
I believe Paul’s prayer established clarity of vision for the church in Philippi and is a good place for us to consider where we are in Grace Communion International today. Growing deeper in grace and knowledge of Jesus and then allowing this to overflow as we participate with Jesus as he moves in the lives of the people around us is what leads to impacting the mission field God has given to each congregation. Our vibrant relationship with Jesus stimulates our discernment to determine what God’s best is for us as we minister to the world around us. Operating in this manner sounds like Healthy Church to me.
Praying for God’s Best for You!