GCI Update

The “R” Word

From time to time, I invite a guest writer to share meaningful experiences and information with our church audience. This issue is a contribution from my good friend John McLean. In February 2020 John handed over his mantle of leadership of Superintendent of Australasia to Daphne Sidney. However, John’s stepping down has not meant stepping away. John remains active on the Australian Church Board and he faithfully oversees Ambassador College of Christian Ministry, and I am deeply grateful for his leadership of the many cohort learning groups around the world that he facilitates.
– Dr. Greg Williams, GCI President


Let me introduce you to Randall. Randall officially retired from his role as pastor of a large capital city church. This gave an opportunity for a younger minister to pastor the congregation. Randall continues to serve and contribute in many ways – in worship, teaching, fellowshipping, mentoring and continuing with his connections and service into the local community. He does this without the same office, or title (or pressure), and remains a highly valued elder within the church community.

Many of our pastors are sharing this same journey.

Yet, “Many think that approaching Retirement is like approaching death”, writes a well-known management expert. Retirement is often one of those words we often don’t like to hear, let alone talk about. For some, the word conjures up loss of identity, meaning, purpose, respect—something to be devoutly resisted!

We never retire from being a Christian. Yet it is normal and healthy that we do retire in a timely fashion from roles, offices, ministries and functions within the church. And, yes, sometimes this can be challenging, even daunting. There can be a tendency to want to hold on, even a feeling that it is not responsible to “let go” or step down. And sometimes there is the accompanying notion that Retirement means the end – the end of being useful, engaged, productive. The erroneous notion that stepping down means stepping away.

This approach to retirement is not a recipe for healthy church cultures and healthy, vital congregations. Healthy church cultures of faith, hope and love understand, affirm and support the reality that there are seasons in life, as Ecclesiastes so eloquently tells us. And retirement, rotation, renewal is a healthy and desirable part of church life.

Leader as Steward: Making Room

The church belongs to Jesus. The congregations are not ours. Our identity is in Jesus, not in our roles. While we take any role, ministry or responsibility seriously, we hold such responsibilities as stewards in trust for others. That is, servant leaders do not think in terms of personal position or power, but always hold their leadership on behalf of, and for the serving of, others. We are given gifts from God, including sometimes ministry responsibilities and functions. These are from God, not of ourselves.

What we do is important. Who we are, in Christ, is foundational. The reality is that it is Jesus’ church, and he takes care of it. We participate in the ministry of Jesus through our union with him in the Spirit. We don’t run our own ministry. It’s not about us, but about Jesus.

The church emerges from the deep Trinitarian relationship of Father, Son and Spirit – a communion of mutual love and caring. Indeed, it’s a beautiful, rich fellowship of mutual indwelling, of continuous self-giving and self-emptying one into the other. This relationship is often described by a theological term which translates as “making room” for one another.

Servant leaders don’t just hold on to their positions. They actively seek to make room for others.  They intentionally seek to engage, equip, empower and encourage others. And there’s not much point empowering others if we also don’t “make room” for them.

That means prayerfully, professionally, and responsibly developing succession plans and preparing for stepping down and stepping aside for others. This means training and giving others experience and opportunities for development in advance – opportunities for leading. This is really about translating the theology into good, healthy practice!

Have you heard something like this: you will know when it is time to retire, because you will wake up one morning and not want to do what you are doing any more. While understandable, that is not a recipe for a healthy congregational life! It’s a very individual-centered approach, rather than congregationally-centered approach. It’s not the approach of servant, stewarding leadership.

Of course, there are many factors to consider. Context is always important. Health, age, family, and financial circumstances may impact how we do all of this. And we all understand the challenge of finding the right person at the right times. So, this whole process is a vital part of our collective prayerful walk of faith, involving the pastor, the leadership teams and the whole congregation.

Healthy congregations need to value, appreciate and affirm those who currently serve, and give due honor and respect to those who have gone before and served over many years, and who may be stepping into different roles and functions. Because many individuals, and congregations, may not like change, it’s often easier to go with the status quo than to risk what might appear to be loss or discomfort. Yet we are engaged in this journey of faith, looking for the lead of the Holy Spirit. And looking to Jesus to shape his church as he wills. We are not just talking about change for change’s sake, but prayerful involvement and inclusion of people God has called into ministry. Healthy churches really want to see members grow in faith and service.

Stepping Down, not Stepping Away

Stepping down doesn’t mean stepping away. What healthy congregation wouldn’t want to utilize the gifts and wisdom of someone who has accumulated much ministry experience?

Stepping down means making room for others and creates new opportunities and challenges for those who take the initiative to step down. Opportunity to creatively explore things you have not had time or energy to pursue. Being able to focus on a particular area of ministry that resonates with you and your personal gifting. Acting as a mentor rather than doing all the things you once did. (As long as you recognize that others will not do what you did the way you did it!) It means “giving room” – including the room for people to make mistakes. (And who hasn’t made mistakes?) It means helping to equip and develop and grow other leaders enveloped in an atmosphere of encouragement. It means opening up new avenues of service and contribution, in faith.

This season of Easter, right up to Pentecost, we celebrate the new era of the new covenant – the new life we share in Christ through the Spirit. We celebrate the church as the creation of Jesus himself. We often reflect on good analogies of renewal, refreshing, revitalizing, and regeneration.

We never retire from being a Christian. And the “R” word doesn’t have to mean Retirement from Christian ministry, from making significant contributions to our congregations, our denomination and the world. Stepping down from one role, moving into other areas of service, can mean Renewal and Regeneration – for the congregation, and for the individuals involved.

May God bless our congregational and individual renewal.

John McLean Portrait

 

By John McLean
Brisbane, Australia

 

GCI Denominational Celebration & Project Hope

Project Hope

Don’t forget to share Project Hope with the kids in your congregation! For more info on the challenge, click here.

Celebration Registration

Registration for the virtual 2021 Denominational Celebration is open!  We will be focusing on the Hope Venue, shaping our worship services to be inspirational experiences that center around our hope in the person of Jesus.

Individual Registration for members and Watch Party Registration for leadership teams to participate and debrief together are both available. Make the Celebration a retreat for your congregation. Click here for ideas on how to host a watch party.

Our Main Session Speakers

We are excited to present our GCI Superintendents and 2021 speakers! Each Superintendent will share stories of hope, revealing how the Spirit is moving in their regions. The main sessions will also feature an interview by GCI President Greg Williams with each Superintendent. Click here to visit our events page and read the Superintendents’ bios.

We Are GCI Series | Leadership Profile | Pam Morgan

In this episode of We Are GCI, GCI President, Dr. Greg Williams interviews Pam Morgan, the Operations Coordinator for GCI. Pam tells the story of her journey in working for the denomination and the challenges and blessings she encountered along the way.

National Ministry Leader for UK & Ireland

Just over two years ago the Board of Trustees of Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland established a National Ministry Team as the leadership model for the governance of the Church. The team consisted of three individuals.

In December 2020 the board was asked to review this model with the intent of making the governance procedure more straightforward, and to address certain clarifications to facilitate a smoother process.

A board sub-committee was formed to look at these issues, and after much consideration and consultation, decided that a National Ministry Leader position would be a more suitable role for the future. The Board then initiated a process of legal consultation to ensure the relevant regulations related to creating a new role and subsequent employment issues were addressed as well as guidelines from the Charity Commission.

An interview process followed and after prayerful consideration, Mr. Gavin Henderson was selected as the National Ministry Leader for the UK and Ireland.

Gavin will begin his new assignment shortly and the Board of Trustees wish him and his family every blessing for the future.

David Silcox, Board Chair UK & Ireland

 

P.S. Gavin has already been actively working alongside our other GCI Superintendents and will continue to do so. Join us in praying for Gavin and his leadership. – Greg Williams, GCI President

 

A Heartfelt Thank You

thank you

My family and I would like to thank you for all the prayers and support people have given us during Alan’s illness and recent passing. It was so encouraging for us to hear from so many with words of comfort.

God’s love is enduring and we can all look forward to being reunited with our loved ones in the future.

Carolyn Redmond

Death of Cynthia Oglesby

flowers

It is with sadness that we pass along the news that Cynthia Oglesby, wife of Pastor Larry Oglesby in Columbus, GA, died unexpectedly Tuesday, May 11, due to pneumonia complications caused by COVID-19. Please remember Larry and his two sons in your prayers.

If you would like to send a card:

Larry Oglesby
5000 Bondale Court
Columbus, GA 31907-1781

Devotional: Eagles in Flight

30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:30-31, English Standard Version

The Philippine eagle is an endangered species and one of the largest in the world. The one I saw was being cared for in captivity, but I can only imagine what it must be like in its natural habitat, flying freely, strong and able to rise above the storms. The image of a soaring eagle is used in this popular verse in Isaiah 40, to describe how God renews those who wait on him.

People do not normally want to wait. Waiting usually feels like one is being tied down, hindered or delayed. In verse 31, the term wait comes from the Hebrew word qavah, which means to bind together as by twisting. Imagine plaiting together strands of cord to produce a rope. This brings an interesting perspective to our waiting. We are being told that as we wait, we are to entwine ourselves with God. We abide in him, even as he abides in us. Waiting is not a passive act, but one wherein we come together with the Lord.

It is also important to remember that it is the Lord whom we wait upon. We hope in the God who is good, who is for us, and who is able. As we wait on him, we bind ourselves to the divine source of inexhaustible strength, which renews us as we keep going.

In this verse, the prophet Isaiah was providing comfort to the people of Israel, who were longing for consolation and freedom. It was a long and difficult wait.

Our present-day journey is also full of delays and detours – some are minor inconveniences while others are difficult, life-altering challenges. What do we do when we find ourselves feeling lost, helpless, or unsure of what lies ahead?

The exhortation to us is the same. Wait on the Lord. Seek him, cling to the everlasting God who never grows weary and allow him to renew you. Waiting time is not wasted time. May this assurance liberate us as we wait and help us withstand the hardest circumstances, overcome the deepest disappointments, and soar above the fiercest storms. When we wait on the Lord, we are like eagles in flight.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for being our comfort and our hope in the midst of life’s delays. By your grace may we trade our fears for your faithfulness; our tiredness and inadequacy for your sufficiency. As we receive your peace, may we also pass this on to others in their waiting time. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Eugene Guzon Headshot By Eugene Guzon

 

May 2021 Prayer Guide

God is a God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful and painful.” ― Henri Nouwen

Join us in corporate prayer this month as we thank God for the good work he includes us in. Click the image below to download and print the May Prayer Guide, celebrating how God is working in and among our fellowships around the world.