Dear GCI Family and Friends,
The writer of Hebrews in his benediction provides great encouragement to the church for all ages.
Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21 NRSVA)
The entire book of Hebrews points to Jesus. He is Creator and the perfect reflection of the Father, his sacrifice alone is effective for the salvation of humanity, he is the eternal High Priest between God and humanity, and he is the Shepherd of the church. This is great news!
So, how has the Great Shepherd been shepherding GCI? Personally, I have been amazed and humbled by how Jesus has been leading us more closely into his ministry, both in style and purpose.
In 2014 I was asked by Grace Communion Seminary to create the class CM510: Polity of Grace Communion International. It was during the creation of this class that I introduced the concept of Team-Based, Pastor-Led. As I taught the course, I had wonderful discussions with students about this ministry concept, especially with regard to how it matched with our Incarnational Trinitarian theology and reflected the way that Jesus worked with and through his original disciples.
Notice again verse 21 of Hebrews 13, which reminds us the God of peace will “make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will.” Making us complete begins with justification and the process of sanctification in Jesus, and it moves forward to equipping us so that we can participate with him in his ministry to our neighbors. Certainly, the equipping from Jesus involves the calling and gifting that comes from the Holy Spirit, but how are we to be organized as a church? What structures help us to be the healthiest expression of church that we can be?
After having taught the Polity class three times and seeing the positive response from the students over Team-Based, Pastor-Led, it gave me the incentive to introduce this with greater confidence to our U.S. ministry leaders. We began sorting through the ramifications of this teaching with enthusiasm, and one of the greatest breakthroughs was when the media team decided to join the cause by creating visuals. (Since 65 percent of the general population are visual learners, this step made good sense.)
I am also a visual learner, and in the early stages of explaining the concepts I found myself drawing sketches of faith, hope, and love circles on napkins while sitting in restaurants with key leaders. I believe my good friend Jeff Broadnax saved one of those napkins. Thank God for Charlotte Rakestraw, our GCI Graphic Designer, who cleaned up my elementary artwork.
The U.S. Regional Directors (RDs) fully embraced the model of Team-Based, Pastor-Led with its three ministry avenues. In 2019 we held Regional Celebrations across the U.S. I was so pleased and proud to sit in on the sessions while the RDs so clearly articulated the Team-Based, Pastor-Led model.
In the COVID year of 2020, I was thrilled to watch the GCI Superintendents host zoom meetings across the world for the training of what is rapidly becoming our new ministry model.
The power of the Team-Based, Pastor-Led approach is that it opens wide the gate for all believers to find their place of participation with Christ and his church. Pastors no longer carry the ministry load on their shoulders—instead they share the ministry with others. In community they experience the joys and sufferings of participating in Jesus’ ministry, and thus more fully discover the presence of Jesus.
As our media team continues to create more tools around the Team-Based, Pastor-Led model, we continue to discover new depths. It is a lot like the more we get to know Jesus, the more we realize we have only begun to scratch the surface of this relationship, and likewise with his ministry. So, if you are just beginning to explore the Team-Based, Pastor-Led model of leadership, please don’t think of this is akin to a “paint by numbers” project. It is a framework to get you started. As you find the right leaders to oversee the Faith, Hope, and Love Avenues, and as they add team members with their own unique mix of personalities and gifts, you will see this model of leadership play out in the context of your church neighborhood. I believe this will change the culture of your church and the church neighborhood in ways you probably have never imagined.
I get chills just thinking about how our Great Shepherd is equipping us and positioning us to join him more closely and personally as we yield to his lead.
To him be the glory!