GCI Update

Discerning God’s Best

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

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!
Greg Williams

 

GCI Madagascar Outreach During the COVID-19 Lockdown

In the midst of the coronavirus crisis in Madagascar, GCI Tana has organized donations to help struggling families to survive. With more than 100 positive cases of Covid-19, the country is on partial lockdown, putting at risk the survival of already poor communities who rely on daily income.

GCI Tana has managed to get two organizations from France to sponsor the food donations to the poor. One of the organizations has previously helped GCI give complimentary meals for the children during the church’s children outreach every two weeks.

GCI has organized the donations for 70 families affiliated with GCI. Some of them have their kids attending the church’s children ministries, and some of them are from a village called Ankararana where weekly preaching was held by Pastor Rigobert over the years as part of the GCI Tana outreach program. Some of them are GCI members struggling to survive this present crisis.

Families were given food parcels organized by GCI Tana.  The food parcels for each family consist of 10kg of rice, 1kg of sugar, 1kg of salt, 1.5kg of pasta, 1L of cooking oil, 5 small packets of porridge, and 5 soap bars, and protective masks. The families with children are also getting a portion of cheese. Getting these products was quite challenging due to the lockdown but by God’s grace and mercy they could be sourced.

Extra precautions were taken during the donation process. People were given different times to come to collect their packages to avoid a mass gathering. Another outreach donation is planned for the children and the elderly.


What are you doing to impact the mission field God where has placed your congregation? Let us know at info@gci.org so we can share and encourage one another.

GCIgnite Australia

Following on from an Easter 2019 two-day face-to-face get-together of young leaders from the Australasian region, there were hopes of repeating such events.

And then, social-distancing measures due to the coronavirus upset plans!

An idea emerged during a National Ministry Team (NMT) Zoom meeting of the possibility of using a platform such as Zoom to host a GCIgnite event during Easter 2020.

Planning evolved quickly. Within a two-week period, young leaders from the Mooroolbark GCI congregation held Zoom planning meetings, and brought together two hour-long Zoom meetings for young leaders in the Australasian region, which were held on Easter Saturday. Unfortunately, due to the effects of Cyclone Harold, our young leaders from Fiji were unable to be involved.

Live music tracks were put together making use of local young musicians. The process: one musician records the master track and shares with other musicians via Dropbox. Each records their part guided by the master track. All parts were then mixed using Audacity and synchronised with PowerPoint display of lyrics for screen sharing during Zoom sessions.

There was an overall theme of “How do we creatively and with generosity live out our faith during these unusual times?”

The two hour-long sessions included prayer, scripture readings, discussion using breakout groups with young leaders facilitating each room, songs at start and end of sessions, Easter devotional led by Pastor Bharat Naker, Bible Project video on Generosity and a Q and A session with a panel of pastors.

Between the two sessions, participants were able to either take a break or chat, eat and even play Pictionary together, before reassembling – wearing funny hats of choice – for the second hour.

It was a very successful first time venture of this kind for GCIgnite, enjoyed by 30 attendees across several time zones from Western Australia, South Australia and the eastern states, along with Carl from Canada.

 

Pastor Randall Bourchier
GCI Mooroolbark

Death of Mrs. Margaret Ryan

Our condolences go out to Mitch Vasseur this week.  His mother, Mrs. Margaret Ryan, passed away on Friday, May 1, 2020, and was buried on Tuesday, May 5.  She had been in declining health for some time in Texas and thankfully Mitch and his sister, Julie Koch, were able to travel quite often to see her.  But because of the virus, they could not travel to Texas for the burial, and needless to say they were heartbroken over that.  But their prayers on her behalf are answered and she now rests in peace.

Please lift the family in prayer for comfort during their time of grief.  Cards may be sent to:

Mitchell Vasseur & Family
4042 Liberty Ave, Unit 3
La Crescenta, CA  91214-3752

Mrs. Julie Koch & Family
1523 Briarglen Ave
Westlake Village, CA  91361

Blessings to all during this trying time,
Celestine Olive

GC Surrey Hills Easter Celebration

 

At GC Surrey Hills, we were planning a huge community egg hunt when COVID-19 struck our nation. Like everything else, we had to cancel this event to respect social-distancing laws.

The closer Easter came, the more our neighborhood was longing for something to do to get the family outside. We, as a church leadership team, were longing to find a way our church could serve our community and “be the Church” in the midst of tragedy.

This pandemic forced us to rethink everything and what a blessing it has been. The idea we came up with was a bit “outside the box” for our love venue, but we love it “outside the box.” So, we created a digital egg hunt for our neighborhood.  We teamed up with neighborhood business and within a few hours one evening, we collected $1000 in prize sponsorships and donations to award 10 gift baskets to the first 10 families to successfully finish the hunt.

We know our target community well. There are so many young families with children and they are also a competitive bunch (we are in good company, ha!).  So, we came up with something we thought all ages would enjoy.

We hid large eggs all around the neighborhood in hard to see places and released a list of clues via our facebook event page.  The goal was for families to figure out where the clues were leading them, find the eggs, and take a picture of each of them without any need to get out of their cars. Once a family found all the eggs, we had them upload all the pictures on to the event page on Facebook.

We had over 500 people out and about participating in the competition and it was a total blast.  If you’d like to see all the pictures and see all the details and fun, the Facebook event page is “Surrey Hills Digital Egg Hunt.”  Be sure to click on the “discussion” tab.  Neighbors were so into it. They came out in war paint, team colors, and plenty of friendly, neighborhood smack talk.  Everyone had so much fun (even when storms and hail came down in the middle of the hunt) and so many neighbors asked if we could do this every year.

It was so great that most of our leadership participated in the hunt in some way! Pastor Joe went live on our church Facebook page as he and his family competed. It was so wonderful because many of our church members who were at home were able to participate through his video.  If anyone wants to see that video, our church Facebook page is Crosswalk Community Church.

I just wanted to share this in case anyone can take this idea and possibly morph it into a community digital scavenger hunt instead of an egg hunt (since Easter has now passed).  There are so many ways for the love venue to flourish in the midst of tragedy.  We just have to think outside the box.

Ceeja Malmkar
GC Surrey Hills, Leadership Team

 

Birth Announcement for Zade Davey Thomas

Marty & Yvonne Davey are excited to announce the birth of their grandchild, Zade Davey Thomas, born to their daughter Michelle Thomas and her husband Ric Thomas, of Gainesville, FL on April 25, 2020.  All are healthy and doing well.  Marty & Yvonne pastor the Jacksonville, FL and the Woodbine, GA GCI churches, and Michelle is a Teen Ministry Leader for the Jacksonville congregation.

“Be Still and Know”

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

This scripture is easy to remember, but much harder to live.

We often go through our lives trying to control every aspect.  Then the time comes when there is a job loss, a death of a loved one or a pandemic that shuts down the world.  In these circumstances it becomes crystal clear who is really in control.  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has every detail in his hands.

In the Bible, we see time and again where God says, “be still, stand and do not be afraid.”  Why? He knows that we will be fearful, want to move or want to help the situation along when the strongest stance we can take is to wait and trust his plan.  This does not mean we are to be inactive; applications may need to be filled out and some decisions will need to be made.  It does mean we follow his lead and his direction.

We need not worry or strive when we face challenges and difficulties.  The Lord is with us and he is our stronghold, security and strength.  So, let’s “be still and know.”

Prayer: “Lord, we give you praise, for there is no one who deserves it more.  We are grateful for your grace, mercy and provision yesterday, today and tomorrow.  We stand in amazement as nothing catches you by surprise.  Lord, we place our problems, our plans and our lives in your hands.  Our faith and trust are in you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”

 

By Tamar Gray
Pastor, Grace Communion Cleveland