GCI Update

President’s Video: Faith Forward and Transitions

In this Update, GCI President Greg Williams talks about this year’s theme, “Faith Forward”. He shares about the different transitions happening in the life of the church and how we are aligned with our faith in Christ moving forward.

The Denominational Celebration 2021 videos are now available for all registered participants but will be released with open access on GCI.org on November 1st, 2021.

Program Transcript


Faith Forward and Transitions Hello church! Hopefully, you are aware that our 2021 theme for Grace Communion International is “Faith Forward.” Galatians 2:20 states it very clearly: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which 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 2:20 (KJV) It is by the faith OF the Son of God. It is the faith of Jesus in me strengthening my belief and quelching my unbelief. Back in July, we took a short detour from Faith Forward to “Focus on Hope” (the theme of our Virtual Celebration). Not everybody could fit into the rhythm of the schedule and participate in the live streaming. The good news is that we recorded most of the presentations and I suspect that many of you are watching and learning from the recorded videos. Enjoy! I am currently preparing to gather with some of our US pastors and their Faith Avenue champions to take a deep dive into all aspects of the Faith Avenue ministries. Please lift this weekend of training up in prayer. This can be a catalyst to move our Faith Forward. In speaking of moving forward, an ongoing process that I have been involved with has been to work through the reality of leaders who are aging toward retirement and entering retirement. It is a privilege to work with leaders who are proactively thinking about who their replacement will be, and how to end their current level of responsibility on a high note. There are no big announcements to make in this video update, but I can mention that we have a GCI Board rotation coming up in October and more news will follow. When I became President of GCI, I came alongside many of our senior, trusted, and faithful leaders and had the privilege of walking with them to their retirement (a responsibility that I never fully anticipated but is a privilege). Retirement is especially tricky as our old paradigm was to work in ministry until you die. Thankfully our good friend Joseph Tkach shifted the culture by his personal example. The “working until you die mentality” is problematic.  The most glaring concern with this thinking is that the demands of ministry may send you to an early grave. Another issue is determining what is the best scenario for the extended family. The more difficult piece is when you’re holding on too long and too tightly and possibly standing in the way of an emerging leader that the Lord has called and prepared. Walking through this season is a prayerful journey with many conversations, and it is good that we can reach out to others who have gone in front of us. == In alignment with our 2021 theme, Faith Forward is about growing deeper in relationship with Jesus and with one another who make up the family of the church. As your President, I have a clear responsibility to our leaders – the ones who are presently serving, and even the ones who will be coming after them. I solicit your prayers and support that together, we handle this responsibility well, strengthened by the faith of Jesus in us. Thank you for responding to the faithfulness and love of Jesus, and your ongoing support to Grace Communion International!

In this Update, GCI President Greg Williams talks about this year’s theme, “Faith Forward.” He shares about the different transitions happening in the life of the church and how we are aligned with our faith in Christ moving forward.


The Denominational Celebration 2021 videos are now available for all registered participants, and will be released with open access on GCI.org on November 1, 2021.

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Hurricane Ida

In the wake of Hurricane Ida, I reached out to the GCI pastors in Louisiana and Mississippi. The response has been minimal, but I was able to reach two of our leaders.

Anthony Rice, our pastor in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, LA, sent this note:

I wanted to give you an update on the aftermath of hurricane Ida. I’ve been able to contact most all of the members in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette area. Lafayette received only minor winds. However, Baton Rouge was much closer to the eye. Most of our members are still without power and internet. Only two suffered damage. Thankfully neither one was significant to their homes. We are hoping to hold church services at both locations this weekend. Since the Baton Rouge church has power, many will appreciate being in an air conditioned space! Praise God!

I also spoke with Mike Horchak, the retired GCI pastor in Tickfaw, LA (just north of New Orleans). We lost phone connection several times as communications are still sketchy at this point. He and Pam are OK. They rode out the storm in their home, which was hit with 120 mph winds and 25 inches of rain. He said it was awful. The storm was much more powerful and scary than he anticipated even after going through hurricane Katrina. Two large oak trees fell in their yard but the house is fine. The neighborhood is full of downed trees, power lines and cell towers.

No word yet on former Tickfaw members living in the area, but he will be reaching out.

Lord, have mercy on our GCI members and those in our human family who are experiencing the devastation of this storm. Compel the church to be helpers and loving neighbors in the recovery effort. We trust you, Jesus. Amen.

With you in Christ,

Anthony Mullins
GCI Regional Director, Southeast US

 

Healthy Church Challenge

Mark your calendars! The GCI Healthy Church Challenge launches next week on September 15. Youth will have only six weeks to submit their entries, so get the creativity flowing!

GCI Healthy Church Challenge. Want something fun to do with your church community? Launching this september, 15, 2021. Call your church friends and family! Express your creativity by telling us what healthy church means to you!

Ordination of Rebecca Johnson

Elizabeth and I had the privilege of participating in the worship gathering at Grace Communion Tallapoosa (GA) on August 22 to ordain Rebecca Johnson as an elder. Rebecca serves on the church’s pastoral team along with her husband Dara and the former pastor and faithful elder, Tom Mahan. Because Rebecca and Dara are dear friends (I once attended and served in a previous iteration of this congregation) it was particularly joyful to lead the ordination ceremony.

GC Tallapoosa has a good plan for engaging their downtown neighborhood. The Johnson’s are well known in the community – it helps that they live in the one square mile around the church building. The Johnson’s invested in a downtown building space (they call it The Union) where the church meets. They prayerfully hope it will become a center of community activity; they are starting to see traction in that regard. Let’s pray for their efforts to join God’s mission of love and grace to their community.

Rebecca, thank you for saying yes to God’s calling to serve his church. We will be cheering you on in prayer!

I am grateful to be a part of a denomination that values women and their contributions as ordained leaders in the church!

In Joy,
Anthony Mullins
Regional Director, Southeast US

 

Laser Tag Party and Carnivalfest

This summer, our congregation hosted two Love Avenue events: our second annual Carnivalfest and a Laser Tag Party.

I came up with the idea for our Carnivalfest a couple years ago inspired by the desire to bring back local events that had stopped happening in our community. There used to be an annual 4H Carnival and a Community Fest in town and those just slowly went away, hence the name Carnivalfest. I had lots of fond memories from them as a kid. I knew we needed to reach out to our community and thought this was a great way to make this happen as a congregation. As a congregation we are committed to involving every age group in the planning and hosting of these events. We need everyone to make this work.

The first year, our theme was the Armor of God. It was a huge success. By the time participants made it through each game or station, they were taking the whole Armor of God with them home. After the first carnival, we were sitting at the GCI conference in Dallas and the theme for our next carnival came to my mind: Mysteries of God, which turned into the Miracles of God Carnival. Even though I love the miracles from the Old Testament, I wanted people to see the whole picture of what Jesus had done for each person.

When you started through our Carnival, you walked in and were met by a huge rock mound, with a stone that was to be rolled away as they entered the tomb. The next room was dark with a bright light in the corner with a tomb with the words written “he is risen” and the cloth laid upon the tomb empty. This room had a fog machine to give it the full effect. They then went through the black plastic to an open room with bright colors and a display of taking a walk with Jesus. This is where the parents signed them in, with phone numbers and signed our waivers, received a crown of their choice, received their “God is especially fond of you” bags and our church information. Then Pastor David set them in our crowning chair and crowned them a child of God with: “Know that you were formed a child of God, placed in his heart and placed in this world for a purpose.” At this point they could play laser tag or walk through our Red Sea, welcomed by Moses. We had a photo booth, with take-home pictures with the name Carnivalfest 2021 Community by Grace. We had many games, a face painting booth, handprints (laminated with a magnet), Donut Bobbing, Cake Walk, Balloon Stomp, Cave walk to the Fiery Furnace and a Maze that brought you through to the Big Room. Each one of our booths had a miracle attached to it. The maze was dark and long. It took a good five minutes to get through it, and halfway through they changed it up. Everyone had a great time.

One of the highlights was seeing all the teens and adults coming together to work on booths. The hardest part for me was letting go and being ok with kids and teens taking creative license—things didn’t have to be perfect; God is not looking for perfect people. I had to be ok with whatever they produced for me! I knew it was in God’s hands and from the beginning I had to remember that. Too many times kids do things and get a “that’s fine,” or “that will work,” instead of a “Yes, great work! God would love it! Thanks so much for being here to help.” We have to meet them where they are instead of expecting them to do things exactly as we would. As a congregation, we live that, no judgment, none of us are perfect. God loves us and meets us where we are, and Jesus is present in our lives whether we accept it or not.

Several members of our congregation shared photos, insights, and highlights for weeks after the carnival on their Facebook pages, Snapchats and Instagram. We have had one new family start coming since the carnival, but when we have a game night, laser tag, or bonfire, everyone from the neighborhood shows up, whether they have been attending church or not. I feel this is great–we are meeting them where they are.

Even though our regular attendance is low sometimes, we have about 75 to 80 attend our church when they can or an event is planned.

My sister, Niki Katzenmeier, has been a huge asset to our church, since she moved here in June. She came up with the idea of laser tag and we planned it together. We purchased 32 guns and batteries and started gathering big boxes, used our half doors from the maze and put black plastic up and turned off all the lights. We used our whole church area. In our eating area, we had the laser gun table set up with waivers. While the first bunch played we would get the second bunch set up with the rules. Anyone who was not playing still could enjoy visiting with the parents, or the visitors.  During the first event we had a make-your-own-pizza station, which was a huge success as well. Thanks to Niki’s help we were able to make this event happen.

Niki has also completely revamped our bulletin board, so we have sign-up sheets for all the events, church service, anything we do!  It’s bright and pretty. We also have included a spot for prayer requests, and all our upcoming events are added to the board. People want to get out and need to see who we are!

Heather Ferguson
Love Avenue Champion
Wheatland, Wyoming

Devotional: Restoration and Revival

We are at a time now where we pray for God’s blessing to add new life and younger members to the body of Christ, and especially to our fellowship. Several verses in Psalm 85 resonated with me. In verses 4 & 6, we read, “Restore us again, God our Savior…Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?”

As Tim Keller writes in his devotional in The Songs of Jesus: “This psalm is a blueprint for how to respond when your church community declines…. We must also cry out to God in prayer that he ‘show us’ his unfailing love (verse 7). Revivals always involve a fresh ‘seeing’ of the Gospel of grace – grasping it theologically and knowing it experientially. Finally we must wait on him, listening faithfully to his Word” (page 208).

We have experienced a spiritual revival in GCI, and we rejoice in Jesus our Saviour. There has been a “fresh seeing of the Gospel of grace.” We have been waiting on God and listening faithfully to his Word. Despite the enormous problems associated with this pandemic, we haven’t seen a major turning to God by our populations yet.

This prayer is certainly needed at this time. Restore us again, revive us again! Despite all the problems that we see around us, God is still on his throne, and no evil is beyond his capacity to work out to his purpose and glory in the long term. We wait patiently on him.

Paul’s prayer in Eph. 3:14-21 is one that can be a regular part of our prayer life as well:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

This is the way to true revival and restoration: relying on God and his Spirit to fill us with his love, so that we stand strong in the faith, and that we live worthy of the high calling he has given to each of us. Our heartful prayers are heard on high, and God will answer in his time and way.

Prayer: Our Father, we thank you for your grace and love, and leading us to Jesus. May your Spirit restore us again, renew our hearts, and revive us each day, to your honour and glory. Amen.

 

By Bob Regazzoli, Pastor
Carina, Australia