GCI Update

Faith Forward

Faith Forward logo

GCI President, Dr. Greg Williams, gives an update on the life of Grace Communion International. Greg talks about the significance of the Faith Avenue as we move forward into 2021.


In light of recent events in the United States, Greg Williams has written an additional message this week. Click here to read it.

Video Transcript

Over the past two years, we have been teaching, promoting, and reporting about what we call the “Team-Based, Pastor-Led” model for congregational oversight. It is beginning to lodge in our thinking and vocabulary, and it is also being manifest in the shape of our ministry practices. I am impressed with how this expression of ministry is translatable to all 6 regions of GCI around the world. Our African Superintendent Kalengule Kaoma said this in a recent monthly report.  We re-stated our Vision 2025 of being a Healthy Church that is Living and Sharing the Gospel through the three ministry avenues of Faith, Hope, and Love. We then spent time discussing “How to create a Healthy Faith Avenue, Hope Avenue, or Love Avenue”. The seminar was very timely as it became clear that as we prepare to re-open our churches, we can make a clean break with the past, and chart a new journey of Faith, Hope, and Love towards 2025. We can develop new habits, new plans, and new ways of doing ministry in line with our Vision. This was music to my ears and to my spirit. Having common ministry practices supported by a common language and ministry tools positions us to better join with Jesus as a denominational movement. As we launch into 2021, we will emphasize the Faith Avenue. We are calling this “Faith Forward.” The COVID year has slowed us down on many levels, and yet it has created a season of deeper examination and reflection. I am happy to say that we have used this time to revise and update publications, manuals, etc. It has also provided space to create fresh ideas and new support material. An expanded view of the Faith Avenue is one of the new pieces. The Faith Avenue is about discipleship – believers growing in their walk with Jesus as well as their walk with their Christian brothers and sisters. Growing deeper in relationship with Christ and becoming more like him is the faith forward that we desire, and this best happens in the community and life of the church. We talk about the Faith Avenue in the “Three C” subsets: Community-building, Connect Groups, and Cross-Generational Care. Community-Building: Spending meaningful time with the church family in activities and events with the goal of growing deeper in relationships. Connect Groups: Small groups gathering typically in the comfort of members’ homes for relationship building and spiritual growth. Cross-Generational Care: Recognizing and meeting the needs of the different life stages in our congregation. These three areas define where we establish Faith Avenue ministries and help to provide spaces for ministry leaders and ministry workers. How will we know that our Faith Avenue ministries are making a difference? Here are some key markers.

  • Church Life is happening outside of the Sunday Service
  • New disciples are being formed
  • Existing disciples are growing in relationship with one another & in following the way of Jesus
There will be much more to come as we dive into 2021. We will not neglect the other Avenues of Love and Faith, rather we will highlight the aspect of the Faith Avenue. Many of our articles and church hacks will further educate our church about ways they can further develop the Faith Avenue. It is my hope that we can see the person of Jesus through the lenses of Faith, Hope and Love. If this is who he is, then it only makes sense that his ministry would exude his nature and find expression in practical application. I pray that 2021 will be the Post-COVID year we all hope for. I also encourage you to continue to learn and apply the Christ-centered aspects of Faith, Hope, and Love as you continue to live and share the Gospel. Let me end my message with a foundational Bible passage. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:19-20 (NRSVA) May the faith of Christ in you and the faith of Christ in me be the catalyst for our collective “Faith Forward.” I am Greg Williams updating you about the life of the church.

A Message from the President to the U.S.A.

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Following the political protests and the security breach of the U.S. Capitol, it is appropriate for us to be in prayer for the healing of our nation. As American citizens and Christ-followers we pursue the spiritual fruits of love, joy, and peace. We denounce the strife, quarrels, dissensions, factions that are so prevalent in our society. We ask our living Lord Jesus to bring wisdom to our leaders and that they will lead with integrity, especially in the transition of offices. We should actively act as peacemakers in our neighborhoods and all places where we have influence.

Lord God have mercy on us as a nation and draw us to yourself in the strong name of Jesus we pray, amen.

Greg Williams, GCI President

Photo Contest Winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in our 2020 Healthy Church Photo Contest, and congratulations to our winners! We are grateful for and encouraged by your images of our growth. Together with Christ, we are embodying Healthy Church.

“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Ephesians 4:16

GC Podcast: Faith Forward with Greg Williams

In GCI, as we launch into 2021, we will emphasize the Faith Avenue. We are calling this “Faith Forward.” Click the image below to listen to the latest GC Podcast episode, as President Greg Williams shares an overview of the Avenue with host Anthony Mullins. Also, click on the Faith Avenue link in the episode resources to check out the Faith Avenue infographic.

Death of Sammy O’Dell

Sammy R. O'Dell
Sammy R. O’Dell

Sammy R. O’Dell, 67, of Amarillo, Texas, passed away Thurs., Nov. 5, 2020. Sammy was born in Shelby, NC, Dec. 31, 1952 to Ernest Wade O’Dell and Macie Christine McDonald O’Dell. Sammy grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina in Murphy. His father died when he was five. He always had compassion and understanding for the widows and fatherless. His kind, Christian mother worked long hours to provide for her two sons and widowed mother. Church attendance, piano lessons and saving for college education were priorities. At age 12, Sammy climbed a nearby hill to pray and dedicated his life to God to be used as the Lord would lead him.

After graduation from Murphy High School in 1971, Sammy enrolled at Ambassador College in East Texas, where he studied theology, speech, and liberal arts. He met his future wife, Julia Lane, in college chorale. After graduation in 1975, he settled in Amarillo, volunteered to serve at church, and found a job that led to his life-long career in life insurance sales and service. Julia and Sammy married on May 30, 1976 in Big Sandy, TX. Two daughters, Christy and Karen Beth, were born in 1978 and 1982.

Sammy owned O’Dell Insurance Agency and represented many fine companies over 45 years.  He earned Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow designation in 1987. He was member and past-president of Amarillo NAIFA (National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors). They presented him the George Morris Memorial Financial Service Professional of the Year Award in 2005. He was recognized in 2011 for the many years he chaired the annual Tri-City Sales Forum convention in Amarillo. Sammy had hundreds of clients across the Panhandle and High Plains. He loved driving to give personal service to clients new and old. He was a kind, dedicated agent and advisor.

Sammy was ordained as an elder in 1984. He was asked in 1997 to serve as a bi-vocational pastor for what is now Grace Communion International in Amarillo and was honored for 20 years of pastoral service in 2017. He received a Master of Pastoral Studies degree from Grace Communion Seminary in 2014. The outpouring of love and kind words from so many longtime friends, church members, clients, acquaintances and extended family shows that Sammy’s ministry and life in Christ reached far outside the church walls.

Sammy’s interests included Bible study, jigsaw and crossword puzzles, computer chess and solitaire, bird watching, coffee drinking, playing hymns on piano, listening to gospel and classic rock, and playing basketball in his younger days.

He is survived by Julia, his wife of 44 years; two daughters, Christy O’Dell López and husband Nick of El Paso, TX, and Karen Beth O’Dell Strovas and husband Scott of Plainview, TX; five grandchildren, Timothy, Dominic, and Zoe López, and Sammy and Sally Strovas; and one brother, Danny O’Dell and wife Diane of Harrison, TN.

You can send cards of sympathy and encouragement to Sammy’s wife Julia at the address below:

Julia O’Dell
4122 S. Hughes St.
Amarillo, TX 79110

Death of Paul Sniffen

Paul and Leigh Sniffen

Please remember Mrs. Leigh Sniffen and her family in prayer.

Her beloved husband and faithful servant of God, Paul Sniffen, died peacefully in his sleep on December 23, 2020.  He had suffered a series of minor strokes in early November.

For more about Paul’s life and legacy, read GC Memphis’ tribute here.

You can send cards of sympathy and encouragement to Paul’s wife Leigh at the address below:

Mrs. Leigh Sniffen
9209 Speerberry Circle
Cordova, TN 38016-2399

Death of Stephen Dobritch

Stephen John Dobritch
Stephen Dobritch

Stephen John Dobritch, the beloved son of Pastor John and Mary Dobritch, died at the age of 35 at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center on December 26, 2020.

Stephen was an ordained minister in Grace Communion International, a gifted musician and vocalist who served as the worship leader at Word of God Christian Fellowship in Canfield Ohio. He graduated from Austintown Fitch High School and also attended Youngstown State University.

Stephen is survived by his parents, and three sisters Katherine, Theresa and Marianne.

Cards of sympathy and encouragement may be sent to:

John and Mary Dobritch
3312 Starwick Dr
Canfield, OH  44406-8201

Devotional: Holding Patterns

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2

Have you ever been at the end of flight, airport in sight, and then instead of descending to land, the plane begins to fly in circles? The repetition of a flight path is called a “holding pattern”. When we are not present and intentional in our daily lives, we can fall into holding patterns of our own. Small and seemingly insignificant habits can seem harmless, but over time our habits form our life. For example, trading out 30 minutes of TV time each day for a walk can drastically improve our health. This same principle applies to our spiritual life.

It is easy for the values and lifestyle of the world around us to shape us; shifting the focus of our identity from a beloved child who belongs to God, to comparing ourselves to the people around us and where we fall in the hierarchy of society. The transformation starts not with our behavior but by presenting ourselves before our merciful Father. As we experience being held by our gracious God, holding patterns are broken and we are transformed. He renews our minds and reveals the way forward. Take some time in worship today, presenting yourself before the Lord in worship. May he renew your mind and show you his perfect will for the patterns in your life.

Gracious God, thank you for loving me into who you made me to be.
Reveal the patterns in my life that are shaping me to reflect the world instead of you.
Transform me by renewing my mind by your Spirit. In my mind and life, may you be glorified.


By Michelle Fleming

Prayer Guide: January 2021

“The church is a hospital—a place where sick, broken, wounded, flawed people are made new by Jesus.” ― John Mark Comer

Join us in prayer as we come together this new year asking for renewal and thanking Christ for new mercies each day. Click the image below to download and print the January Prayer Guide, as we celebrate how God is working in and among our congregations.

Meet Bill Hall

“[Leading GCI Canada] is one of the greatest challenges and blessings in my life. I have the opportunity to help shape the future of GCI in Canada in partnership with our pastors, membership, and the Holy Spirit.” Check out this month’s GCI Profile to get to know Bill Hall, National Director of GCI Canada. To read his full profile, click the image below.