GCI Update

The Measure of a Healthy Church

 

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Friends and Family,

A significant Christian author and church leader is how I describe Dr. Gene Getz, a long-time friend of GCI. A few years back Gene hosted me for his annual men’s retreat and ski outing in Beaver Creek, CO. He is a kind, welcoming man with loads of spiritual depth.

Gene wrote a book in 1995 called The Measure of a Healthy Church (updated in 2001 and 2007). He recently sent me a signed copy and it has stimulated more thoughts and ideas about our shared quest toward Healthy Church.

Throughout the book, Gene shows how spiritual growth must be the focus above monitoring numerical growth. He also points out, however, that spiritual growth and numeric growth are not mutually exclusive – it is recorded in Acts chapter 2 that about 3,000 were added to the church after Peter’s compelling sermon about Jesus, the true Lord and Messiah.

Gene tells stories about several of the New Testament churches, and the one that intrigued me the most is the back story of Ephesus. Paul made this large Roman city of 300,000 people his base of operations for nearly three years. In Acts 19:9-10 we see that Paul met with people on a daily basis in the lecture hall of Tyrannus for a stretch of two years. Can you imagine what that lecture series was like?

An important factor in the growth of the Ephesian church that often gets missed is this raising up of other leaders. In Acts 19:6-7 Luke tells us that there were 12 men raised up and gifted in a similar way as the original apostles on the day of Pentecost. Recruiting, equipping and empowering other leaders matters.

The most encouraging and conforming section for me was chapter 4 – “A Divine Trilogy.” Gene demonstrates how faith, hope and love are a trilogy that jump off the pages of the New Testament and form a comprehensive perspective for evaluating corporate Christian life. He cites a quote from C.K. Barrett, a British Bible scholar who says, “Faith, hope and love are the central, essential and indefectible elements in Christianity.” Not only are these three qualities the true measure of the church, they are the best words in our English language to describe the person of Jesus. Jesus is faith, hope and love personified.

In GCI we encourage our members to manifest the spiritual virtues of faith, hope and love as Christ lives and shines in them. We have taken this a step further to design and structure our church ministries around this divine trilogy.

        • The faith avenue is about discipleship. As individual believers, are we growing in our walk with Jesus? Are we growing deeper as a community of Christian believers?
        • The hope avenue is about worship. Is Jesus being proclaimed in our church gatherings? Is corporate worship inspiring and are lives being transformed?
        • The love avenue is about engaging in our church neighborhood and witnessing to the love of Christ. Are we out there daily as we see demonstrated by Paul in Ephesus? Are relationships being built and cultivated so that witnessing naturally happens?

So, what have we learned from this thumbnail sketch from Dr. Getz?

        • Healthy churches preach Jesus and trust the Lord to add the numeric growth.
        • Healthy churches multiply leaders for the work of the church.
        • Healthy churches are centered around faith, hope and love (we can abbreviate this by saying healthy churches are centered in Jesus).

As President of GCI, my goal is to make the main things as plain as possible. I sincerely believe if we are attending to the basic principles outlined in this letter, we will see an abundance of spiritual and numeric growth in ways in which we have only dreamed.

A big thank you to my friend Dr. Gene Getz for his teaching and most of all for his loving support.

 

Growing Healthy Together!

Greg Williams

 

 

A Strong Case for Ministry Training Centers in GCI

Over the last decade, we have attempted the development of younger, emerging leaders through the U.S.-based Intern and Pastoral Resident program. There has been measured success and we have several graduates of the program who have entered pastoral ministry, congregational ministry  or engaged in para-church ministries.

A major weakness that was discovered is that many of these younger ones were placed in congregations that were lacking essential resources for adequately training and mentoring the young leaders. There was an expectation on the young, inexperienced leader to bring new life and growth to the church. This was unrealistic and fostered a sense of frustration and perceived failure.

A major course correction that is underway is to group interns and pastoral residents together in the life of congregations that already have established ministry avenues of Faith, Hope and Love, and there are layers of capable ministers to offer mentoring and positive ministry experiences. When younger ones are adopted into the life of churches with team-based ministry, the hope is that they will learn and grow within this existing structure and be prepared to replicate ministry beyond this educational experience with the ultimate goal of all healthy churches becoming natural ministry training centers.

I conducted an informal question-and-answer review with Dr. Kerry Magruder about the strategy for Ministry Training Centers (MTCs) across the global landscape of GCI. Dr. Magruder is Curator of the History of Science Collections at the University of Oklahoma, where he holds the John H. and Drusa B. Cable Chair in the History of Science. He was ordained as an Elder by Grace Communion Surrey Hills and is an adjunct professor with Grace Communion Seminary.

Grace Communion Surrey Hills is the first official MTC site, and it is no accident that Dr. Magruder is part of the community of leaders alongside Superintendent Michael Rasmussen, who has lived with his wife Juli in the Surrey Hills neighborhood for more than 20 years.

There are other potential MTC sites in the U.S. and overseas. Our newly appointed Development Coordinator Cara Garrity is already engaging leaders from potential sites to talk about “what could be.” She is skillfully crafting the development to happen in multiple stages to assure that progress is being made carefully and steadily. We solicit your prayers that the Spirit will guide our steps and the Lord supplies our provisions.

Q: Kerry, as an educator, can you articulate the benefits of creating a learning center like an MTC?

Training for ministry that is Trinitarian and Incarnational will be both relational and embodied. First, Trinitarian theology is relational at its core. Love is the ultimate reality: a love that is acted out in life together, that will never give up, and that is nourished in real community. Second, Incarnational theology is embodied in the full circle of created reality. Jesus took on our flesh, the fullness of our created life together. Thus, relational and embodied modes of ministry training are central to living out our Trinitarian and Incarnational theology. It was the same for Jesus, who prayed, slept, walked, worked, wept, and feasted alongside his ministers-in-training. The MTCs will ensure that ministerial learning and training does not take place on only a cognitive level, but is of a kind that unites the head and the heart in a context of community and real-world shared experience.

The MTC offers pastoral residents an experience similar to that of graduate students in major universities. Graduate Assistants devote about half of their time to academic study, in which they immerse themselves in coursework. They complement that mode of training with half-time service, for which they receive a livable wage, supporting the activities of their department. Graduate assistants work in a cohort together, learning from one another and from mentors. Such embodied, personal relations comprise a community of professional formation. This is a tried and tested mode of training adopted by universities around the world. In a similar way, the MTCs will work in synergy with academic study through GCS to enhance ministry preparation with relational and embodied practice in a community of spiritual formation.

Q: And thinking on a grander scale, what could it look like for an organization to have a global network of these centers?

GCI is a geographically-dispersed community of believers (30,000+ members spread across 66 countries with some 700 churches). The MTC model, embodied in various locations around the world, will provide the needed residential complement to GCS online education. Moreover, they will scale to a global network, united personally as people move to and fro over time, and united virtually as events and workshops are jointly hosted across multiple MTCs.

Q: Then if these centers truly express the Spirit-led dynamics of healthy church and they replicate leaders who can form church planting teams, what will that mean, not only for the mother organization but for expansion of the kingdom of God?

One of the historic strengths of GCI is an appreciation for the significance of gathering together, whether in the practice of the feasts in the earlier times, or in the regional and denominational celebrations of today. Wherever I have traveled, I have been impressed by the way that GCI members in far-flung congregations invariably recall memories of being physically present with one another. So and so in the UK worked one summer at a camp in North America with so and so from Australia, etc. From such shared experiences, long-lasting personal relationships were formed. To me, this relational intertwining of people across different regions and countries is a hidden strength of GCI. The MTCs will reinforce this denominational identity by contributing to embodied, relational connections that unite us in a profound sense of shared mission and support. The implications for church growth on a more regional level are equally profound.

Q: The Lord’s training of the Twelve is the paradigm example for ministry training. Many of our churches today also have small community groups for lay training. From the New Testament to recent times, the history of the church provides countless examples of relational and embodied approaches to ministry training. As you reflect on your own experience, were there experiences of that sort that played a role in your own spiritual formation?

One effort that greatly influenced me is the L’Abri community, founded by Francis and Edith Schaeffer in the mountains of Switzerland, which has had a widespread influence among evangelicals over the last 50 years. Francis was not kidding when he insisted that more people came to Christ “through Edith’s muffins” than through his talks and books! Although visitors came to L’Abri because they were seeking “honest answers to honest questions,” as he put it, everyone, no matter who they were or what they had come for, balanced a period of study each day with a shift in either the garden, kitchen, housekeeping, or taking care of the grounds. The life of the community was marked by prayer and worship together. Through the integration of all these activities, the multi-dimensional reality of the Lordship of Christ over all of life became manifest. Knowing God was never limited to cognitive apprehension alone.

Another example is that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. As a teenager, growing up in rural Missouri, I had never heard of Bonhoeffer. But I was privileged one summer to attend a week-long church camp in North Carolina. This camp was not anything like the camps I knew in Missouri. Most importantly, it had a bookstore — it was the first time in my life I had ever seen a theological bookstore. Every day, in awe, I spent the lunch hour in the bookstore, poring over which books I might buy with my food money. At the end of the week, I came away with a geography of the Bible and four books by Bonhoeffer including Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship. Back in Missouri, I stumbled into my house gaunt and faint from the sacrifice of the moment, but I still have those books and treasure them to this day! The books by Bonhoeffer describe the embodied experience of ministry training for the Confessing Church in Germany during the rising years of the Nazi party. Many young ministers in training came to Bonhoeffer’s underground seminary at Finkenwalde. Books and pamphlets read in isolation during those trying times would not have been enough — only through shared life together could they be fortified for the challenges of ministry that lay ahead. Reflection upon these books was formative for me.

Q: What are some of the lessons we might learn from Bonhoeffer’s residential training center?

At Finkenwalde, Bonhoeffer deliberately put into practice an Incarnational approach to ministry training. In a helpful book on the subject, Paul House explains that Bonhoeffer’s residential center reflected his view that disembodied theological education is not enough. Paul House shared some of the insights from his study in a Beeson Podcast, where he said: “All fully Christian ministry is Incarnational… person to person… face to face… life on life….” Bonhoeffer reminded the church in his day that “God sent his Son, not a phonograph record.” Indeed, it is true that Bonhoeffer loved his phonograph records! He played recordings of African American spirituals for his students at Finkenwalde, to convey to them what true spirituality sounded like. Yet Bonhoeffer never mistook the recordings for the reality they pointed to. For the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; God did not merely produce some online media for us to watch, nor did he count on a Zoom chat as the primary way to connect with us. Paul House observes that Bonhoeffer “was asked to accept an industrial, technological, pragmatic approach to education. He rejected that trend in favor of a biblical, theological, wisdom-based approach…” In other words, in an Incarnational approach, students in fellowship, on mission day-to-day together, become responsible to one another; they learn not to see themselves as independent agents, but as walking together in the Spirit. Ultimately, ministry training is not about gaining a credential or a degree, but about becoming brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. By analogy with Finkenwalde, then, the MTCs will provide a needed complement to the online education of GCS. There’s much more in the book, but start by listening to the podcast.[1]

Q: What might we learn from other evangelical ministry training centers?

Centers of Christian community and learning have sprung up near major universities across the United States and Canada as supplements to the university experience. Charles Cotherman has written a history of the evangelical study center movement over the last 50 years, and he offers stimulating food for thought regarding the possibilities of training centers.[2] Cotherman points to James Houston, the founder of Regent College (who was also a friend of T. F. and J. B. Torrance), as providing the central model. Houston wanted education “to do away with the trappings of technocracy in favor of personal relations.” As these study centers provide evangelical students an essential residential complement to university study, so our MTCs will add an Incarnational and personal dimension to seminary study at GCS.

Q: MTC residents will be mentored in the ministry avenues of Faith, Hope and Love in the context of healthy church communities. But at the same time they will also be devoting their time to seminary study through GCS. How will residential life together help the MTC residents with their studies in GCS?

Seminary study is not an individual sport, but a team effort. Similarly, in Bandersnatch, Diana Glyer explores how “writing groups” are essential for writers, using the Inklings (C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and others) as a case study. Practically everything she says about writing groups also applies to graduate students generally, including ministry training groups and seminary student cohorts. This book is full of practical wisdom and advice for pursuing a life of study together, and I have already recommended it to my graduate students here at the University of Oklahoma. Glyer deepens our understanding of how relational, embodied life together is essential to any activity — writing, study, or, we can say, ministry training.[3] I learned a lot from Glyer about how students today benefit from real-life interaction on multiple levels, from the renewed focus that arises from casual conversation over a meal together, to the importance of parallel study in proximity even when conversation is at a minimum. Glyer suggests that in community we serve as “resonators” for one another, helping each of us develop our own skills and projects and understanding of how to live out our calling. An analogy is a violin, where the wooden case resonates at the same frequency as the string — the string by itself would hardly make an audible sound, but with the resonator, our voices ring out. In MTCs, the students will be resonators for each other.

Q: Thank you, Kerry, for sharing these reflections.

It’s been a privilege. I’ve been excited and inspired about this ever since I first heard Michael Rasmussen begin to talk about GCI’s vision for a global network of MTCs!

 

 

By President Greg Williams

 

 

 

 


[1] Paul House, Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision: A Case for Costly Discipleship and Life Together (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015). Listen to Paul discuss his book on the Beeson podcast (for the section quoted, fast forward to 25 minutes in): https://www.beesondivinity.com/podcast/audio/beeson-podcast-episode-248-house.mp3.

[2] Charles Cotherman, To Think Christianly: A History of L’Abri, Regent College, and the Christian Study Center Movement (Wheaton: InterVarsity Press Academic, 2020); See the review at Christianity Todayhttps://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/charles-cotherman-think-christianly-study-centers.html.

[3] Diana Glyer, Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings (Kent State University Press, 2015). Give a listen to a recent discussion with Glyer on The Habit Podcast: https://omny.fm/shows/the-habit-podcast/s2-e20-diana-glyer. Whenever Glyer says “writing group,” just substitute “ministry training cohort” and the insights transfer quite nicely to student experience in the MTC.

 

We Are GCI – GCI Development Coordinator, Cara Garrity

We Are GCI Series is a collection of videos where various GCI family members are highlighted. In this episode, GCI President, Dr. Greg Williams interviews GCI Development Coordinator, Cara Garrity. Cara shares a little about her life experience and her goals for development in GCI.

Street Praise and Worship at GCI Cape Town South

8:15 am, Sunday, August 23, 2020

Cape Town South is one of two congregations in the city of Cape Town. The congregation is under the leadership of Pastor Mark Powell, supported by pastors Europa, Visagie, and Christoffels.

It was a Love Venue initiative led by Grant Erasmus, GCI CTS Worship Ministry Leader. The aim was to serve the neighbours in their street who were not able to attend church services at their respective churches due to the lockdown resolution still in place in South Africa.

The residents in Runge Street were excited as the session was opened in prayer by one of the neighbors. Families gathered outside their homes on the pavement and lifted their voices in song. The church sound system was set up in the Erasmus’ driveway to play the music.

Tim Maguire and his wife Veronica from GCI Pretoria, who were visiting Cape Town, joined Trevor Weber, Regional Pastor, and his wife Virginia at the praise and worship morning. Tim also prayed for the community, who face many challenges as a result of the slump in the economy leading to unemployment and hunger concerns.

Pastor Freddie Europa, who is well known in the community, closed the praise and worship session in prayer. The residents immediately requested another morning of praise and worship, but requested that a Communion service be added as well.

8:15 am, Sunday, September 6, 2020

The day dawned as God blessed us with beautiful sunshine and no wind. Praise and worship was again enthusiastically received. During the service, Sandra Mumpies, a member of GCI CTS, gave a short testimony.

The Communion table was set up on the pavement with disposable glasses as part of the symbols and plastic gloves, per recommended protocols.

Pastor Trevor gave a short message from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, after which the symbols were served by deacon couple Basil and Cristal Benjamin. The residents waited outside their gates on the pavements to maintain social distancing and the servers had to go from house to house.

After a few more songs, the morning presentation ended with the residents again requesting another praise and worship morning.

Dominique Erasmus, the GCI CTS Children’s Ministry Leader, then handed out “Dignity Bags” to some of the young girls. These contain items of personal care products. Dominique had seen the need for these essentials as families had to make the tough decision between food for survival or toiletries. Dominique made a call to the GCI CTS Women’s Ministry and church members for donations to this ongoing “Dignity Bag” initiative.

GCI CTS will continue to strive towards the GCI RSA Vision 2025 of Healthy Church as we share the love of God and the gospel of Jesus with the community.

 

Death of Gene Michel

With a heavy heart, we must announce the death of a former long-term employee and member, Gene Michel. He was the longest-serving GCI full-time employee before his retirement in 2005. As of Gene’s retirement, he had 51 years and 6 months of full-time employment. He was a wonderful man and a faithful employee.


Gene Michel passed away peacefully in his sleep. He has been in a care facility in Pasadena for over a year along with his daughter, Elizabeth. Being in the same facility was a comfort to both.

Gene attended Ambassador College beginning with the class of 1951. That is where he met his wife, Betty Bates, who was in the first-ever class at Ambassador. Gene headed the Accounting Department for many years and later was responsible for all church properties worldwide.  He was a gentle, capable and faithful employee who served well for 51 years.

According to his wishes, Gene will be cremated, and his cremains will be placed with a mausoleum with his wife. There will be no ceremony. Just a few family members will gather at some time in the future for a time of remembrance.

Please keep the Michel family in your prayers as they go through the natural process of grieving and celebrating a life well-lived.

Gene’s brother Bernell specifically asks that no flowers be sent. However, cards of encouragement, love and support can be sent to the family at the address below.

Bernell Michel
2878 Sycamore Lane
Arcadia, CA 91006-6352

 

 

2020 Healthy Church Photo Contest

What does Healthy Church mean to you? Snap and submit photos from your GCI church events to enter our 2020 Healthy Church Photo Contest.

Individual prizes include up to $150 in GCI Spreadshirt Web Store credit.

For more information go to: https://resources.gci.org/photocontest

Listen

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)

We live in a culture of hyper-communication. We are bombarded incessantly with verbiage (written and spoken). There are “news” channels, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and much more. Everyone is an expert. Everyone knows what is right. Those who get or take the most “air time” (speaking the loudest, the most frequently, or most “cleverly”) capture the minds and hearts of multitudes. And what is the result of this cacophony of voices? Greater confusion, unrest, and disunity. Anything but a sense of hope, security, and peace – all of which are promised by Jesus, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.

 

In this and the previous passage, Jesus clearly expresses his love for us. He shares his life, and all it entails, with us. Peace, security, and stability are ours in him. But we need to listen to him. He needs to be the one we pay the most attention to. His is the voice we need to seek. His is the voice we need to believe. His is the voice we can trust to know the truth, which begins with knowing him, who is the eternal embodiment of truth.

Important questions we must ask ourselves, especially at a time when so many voices are calling, no, shouting, out to us, are: “Whose voice am I listening to? Whose voice am I seeking out? Whose voice am I relying on?” The answer to these questions can determine whether we will experience peace, safety, and even joy as we navigate life’s challenges.

Dear Lord, help us hear your voice. Help us yearn for it; keep our ears attuned to it and follow it with faith, hope and courage, wherever it leads us. For we know we can trust you to be with us at all times and in all things. Amen.

 

Randy Bloom Portrait

 

By Randy Bloom