GCI President, Dr. Greg Williams, gives an update on the life of Grace Communion International. He talks about our plans for the future of the denomination and addresses the question, what is our greatest need?
For further reading on our denominational vision, please check out our next issue for an article from Dr. Kerry Magruder about the strategy for Ministry Training Centers (MTC’s) across the global landscape of GCI.
Additional content will be coming out in future issues as well, including a video interview with GCI Development Coordinator, Cara Garrity, who will oversee the development of current and future MTCs.
Gratitude Leads to Joy
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:4-5
One of the things God has been telling me lately is this: “I created you to enjoy life to the fullest, and to give thanks in every situation.”
With all the calamities that have occurred this year and those still occurring as I write, it seems counterintuitive to enjoy life at this time while practicing gratitude. How can I be joyful and thankful when it seems like the world around me is falling apart and everything I thought was stable is now crumbling before my very eyes?
There’s a reason why joy and gratitude are intimately connected. Joy and gratitude are often mentioned together throughout Scripture, and this is precisely because it is impossible to be negative when we are grateful. It’s as if God created this inherent connection between thankfulness and joy.
Author and mindfulness instructor, Tamara Levitt, said, “It is not our circumstances that create gratitude, but rather our perception of our circumstances.”
Contrary to what many might believe, gratitude doesn’t just come to us. Gratitude doesn’t just happen to us. The powerful practice of gratitude is a daily, conscious choice. And the more we practice it, the more receptive we are to the peace that surpasses all understanding in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). Our tendency toward negativity gets interrupted as we practice non-judgmental awareness of our thoughts. So the more we consciously and patiently choose gratitude in any given situation, the more we can enjoy life and enjoy it to the fullest.
I have a great quote that hangs on my wall at home and it reminds me every day: “Enjoy every single moment. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the inspiring, the not-so-glamorous moments. And THANK GOD through it all.”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, thank you that you are the reason I can give thanks in every situation and enjoy life to the fullest. I surrender my thoughts, beliefs, choices and actions to be transformed daily by you.
By Jillian Morrison
Associate Pastor Grace Life, Glendora, CA
A Letter from the CFO: Challenges, Opportunities, and Blessings
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I pray you are well during this unusual time. Who could have known that 2020 would be so full of surprises! COVID-19 pandemic, economic and job turmoil, civil protests, and an earthquake in North Carolina have made this a year to remember, and summer has just barely ended! I have heard some say that they are staying up until midnight on December 31, not to celebrate the beginning of a new year, but to make sure that 2020 does not stick around!
We are blessed to know that our future is secure in Christ. With challenges also come opportunities, growth, and blessings. Shared below are a few of these challenges, opportunities, and blessings as well as some insight into GCI finances so far this year.
As you might expect, the pandemic that has shuttered many organizations and forced many out of work has affected GCI operating income this year. Overall, income (excluding Paycheck Protection Program funds) as of June 30 was down roughly 6% from 2019. We pray that in God’s timing, the world will reopen fully, and that donation income will stabilize. Apportionment and estate income have been most affected by the pandemic since many churches have not met in person for many weeks. Thank you to the faithful donors who have continued to support and even increased your giving when others have not been able. Your faithfulness is inspiring.
Another challenge has been the necessary postponement of celebrations and learning and fellowship opportunities in the U.S. and abroad. Much work, preparation and excitement were focused on the international celebration in Charlotte, two regional celebrations in Africa, and other leadership gatherings in 2020. Most of these events have been postponed and funds reallocated to provide successful events for 2021. Like you, we dearly miss the opportunities to fellowship and learn with our brothers and sisters from around the globe, and we look forward to celebrating with you in 2021 knowing that this absence will make these celebrations even better!
Opportunities and Blessings
We have cheered as many Grace Communion International (GCI) congregations began offering online worship services and online giving opportunities. I believe Home Office efforts to provide tools to help congregations with online giving options starting last year was Spirit-led and has helped some congregations thrive in the middle of the pandemic. My hat is off to those who have taken advantage of these tools and have expanded their online ministry reach, despite ongoing challenges. Some congregations have reached new members online that they will have the pleasure of meeting in person when physical worship services resume. Recently, I spoke with a GCI pastor who said that donations have increased 30% from last year because of the online worship, Bible study, and prayer groups that they offered! Please see some giving resources that have helped congregations succeed with online giving. The COVID-19 closures may linger for some time so these tools may yet prove useful.
Another exciting opportunity moving forward during this year of challenges is the construction of a church and Ministry Training Center (MTC) in Oklahoma City. This facility will soon serve the vibrant local church and its surrounding community, providing a GCI training arena for new interns and pastoral residents in the U.S. Central Region and beyond. A groundbreaking ceremony anchored by prayer took place August 15 commemorating the start of this project. The construction phase is expected to take about 12 months.
The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (PPP), a bipartisan bill designed to help organizations, including churches, during this challenging economic environment has been a tremendous blessing. GCI qualified for approximately $1.2 million of PPP benefits, a majority of which were given to eligible congregations in the form of reimbursed salaries, benefits, rent and utility expenses.
With fewer events, we have been able to update the Planned Giving Reference Chart and mail it to all congregations and donors. It is also available online in pdf form. This chart can be used by individuals or congregations to help explore planned giving opportunities. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about planned giving options for your local members. See the contact information within the brochure.
The U.S. church was able to bless our brothers and sisters in the Philippines and the Bahamas through the Disaster Relief Fund this year. Approximately $9000 was sent to aid members affected by the Taal Volcano eruption in the Philippines, and $24,000 was also sent to the Philippines to stabilize church operations, fulfilling urgent needs caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Disaster assistance of $9,700 was sent to help members in the Bahamas recover from Hurricane Dorian in 2020, following $23,000 sent in 2019.
On behalf of our brothers and sisters in the Philippines and the Bahamas, “thank you” to all the churches who have contributed to this fund so that it stands ready in times like these. Just as God forgave us before we knew that we needed it, you have provided help before the need arose. Thank you for your generous examples!
Among other updates and blessings that are too numerous to mention, is the completion of our annual combined external audit of GCI and Grace Communion Seminary (GCS), both receiving positive unqualified reports, and the accreditation of GCS through 2025. If you are a life-long learner and want to receive a quality, accredited masters-level Christian education, check out GCS at https://www.gcs.edu/.
If you would like to receive a copy of the annual GCI audit and you are a member in good standing, you are welcome to receive a copy by requesting it in writing from Financial Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In closing, I would like to pass on a warm greeting from all of us in the Financial Services area at the Home Office. We are blessed to be working together with you as we join Jesus in his mission to reconcile all people to himself through the miracle of grace. Every time I read Romans 5 and other similar passages; I am overwhelmed by this grace that we have the privilege to share and I am proud that the word “grace is in the name of our church.
Mathew H. Morgan, CFO
News from Grace Communion Malawi
This month, our Bunda Congregation was able to provide an Under-five Clinic facility for the surrounding communities. For those unfamiliar, Under-five Clinics are clinics that provide special care for children under the age of five. For more photos, check out the GCI Malawi Facebook page.
Every second week of the month, Lilongwe Congregation Youths conduct a Full Church Service including fellowship, announcements, praise and worship, a short message, and the main message. For more photos, check out the post on their Facebook page.
Grace Communion Surrey Hills Worship Service
Our Surrey Hills, Oklahoma congregation hosted their first in-person Worship Experience this month. The service was held outdoors at the new property! It was a beautiful night filled with beautiful people.
Church members came together as a team, alongside volunteers to make the whole event happen. It included a coffee house hosted by church members Lucas and Ceeja Malmkar’s coffee shop. It was a great evening of sharing, singing, laughing, and loving each other. For more photos check out the Grace Communion Surrey Hills Facebook page.
A New Space in Eugene, Oregon
Our Eugene, Oregon congregation, has undergone quite a transformation this year as they transitioned from their old facilities to a new home facility.
To follow their journey from services under a tree, now on their new property, and soon to be in their newly renovated new-to-them building, check out the Grace Communion Eugene Facebook page.