GCI Update

Simplifying Complexity

Photo of a paper map of Indonesia with pins
Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Have you ever considered the complex world that Jesus came into? It was plagued with politics and domination from the Roman empire. The state of the Jewish religion was all over the map with as many as 72 different factions and sects of Judaism. A common hope that many Jews shared was for the coming of a Messiah spoken of by the Old Testament prophets. The expectation was the Messiah would be a socio-political leader who would overthrow the Romans and restore Israel to dominance. But then here comes Jesus, a non-celebrated rabbi from the back-water town of Nazareth. You can only imagine the external forces he faced.

Throughout this season of Epiphany, we have been focusing on Jesus being the light of the world. Throughout his teachings we see him continually boiling down and refining difficult topics, often using stories with commonplace examples to make his point. The climax of his teaching and effort to simplify is when he expounds on the two Great Commandments—loving God with heart, mind, and soul and then loving neighbor as self. He declares that all the Law and all the Prophets are summarized in these commands. Can it be any clearer than this?

Fast forward to our 21st century. We too face external forces. Political strife, religious confusion, economic struggles, etc. We also have internal forces to deal with. Think of Jesus and his organized band of 12 disciples. He brought them alongside himself to watch him minister to the people of Israel, to join with him in the ministry, and ultimately to be prepared to be founders of the church. Internally they were plagued with dullness in learning, competition among themselves, and a frequent lack of faith, yet Jesus never gave up on them. The church was successfully founded and continues to our day.

In GCI we face our own challenges with external and internal forces. Have you ever considered that we operate in 66 countries across the world? Do you know that translates to 40+ languages and dialects our superintendents work with? There are 2,000 languages and dialects in Africa alone. The seemingly simple task of communication is incredibly complex. For example, when working with the superintendents we were talking about the skill and process of welcoming new people into our churches, referring to this as “assimilation.” Daphne Sidney raised her hand and shared with our group that in Australia there was a government move to assimilate the indigenous people (the Aboriginal people), and this ultimately meant the ending of their culture. We made a quick pivot and dropped the word assimilation and replaced it with “integration.” This challenge to use words that are properly conveying the intended meaning is an ongoing struggle, and relies on the Spirit’s lead.

As Jesus worked with his band of 12, at times we see him working with a smaller group of three. No doubt Jesus was the perfect mentor/teacher, and he was intentional with how he developed those around him. In walking in his steps, we too seek to be intentional in how we work with our groups of leaders. By now you have heard about “Team-Based, Pastor-Led.” This model stresses that ministry is not a “solo” endeavor, but a shared work that ultimately includes all believers. The leadership role of the pastor is extremely important, and yet it is clearly lined out in Paul’s letter to Ephesus when he says that the pastor is to engage, equip, empower and encourage the saints so that they are actively participating in the ministry of Jesus in their time and space, and through the vehicle he designed – the church.

As President, I, along with other GCI leaders, are working long and hard to move us toward the team-based approach. It is our desire that we have a simple, understandable structure and system whereby we more actively join Jesus in his mission to the world (described plainly in the Avenues of Love, Hope and Faith). It is my prayer that the mosaic of our churches and pastors in 66 countries can be organized so that all believers utilize their personal giftings, passions and calling that the Lord has for them individually and can express those gifts corporately through the life of the church.

This all circles back to the two Great Commandments and the clear instruction of Jesus. Before we jump into our response of whole-heartedly loving God, think about this – the Father sent his one and only unique Son Jesus into the world to save us from sin and death and to prepare us for eternal glory. The Son in turn sent the Holy Spirit to be our Guide, Intercessor and Helper, actively transforming us into the image of Jesus. To grasp the understanding of Father, Son, and Spirit, and what they are actively doing in us and through us which compels us to fully accept, receive and engage in loving him with our entire being. With the fullness of his love in us, how can that not spill over to our neighbors?

The amazing Triune God who holds ALL things together, who makes the complex simple and understandable for us, certainly has GCI in the palm of his hand – loving us, caring for us, shaping us regardless of any external or internal forces. The ministry of Jesus we celebrate as we review the scriptures is continuing to minister through us the church in 2022.

Praising him for the simple and the complex,

Greg Williams

Death of Bob Taylor

Head & shoulders portrait of an older white manRobert (Bob) Paul Taylor passed away at his home in Franklin, TN on Thursday, January 6, 2022 at the age of 82 from Covid complications. He will be remembered as a loving husband, father, and granddaddy. Bob was born August 19, 1939 in Greeneville, TN to the late Paul Dean Taylor and Willie Irma GeFellers Taylor.

Electronics was Bob’s chosen field.  He became a computer engineer with GE at the time when working on a computer actually required walking inside of it. After several years in the profession, he took early retirement from Honeywell. His continued interest in computers led him to begin setting up computer systems and software programs and into computer accounting.

As much as he enjoyed computer work, his most beloved job was pastoring which he began in 1995. He served congregations of the Worldwide Church of God (now Grace Communion International) in Nashville, Clarksville, Crossville, and Bowling Green. In 1999, he began serving as a District Superintendent over several states. It was in ministry that he met and came to love so many dear friends. After retiring in 2006 he helped many churches set up and maintain accounting software programs and performed financial reviews for them as well.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a brother, Clark B. Taylor, and sister-in-law Sylvia Taylor of Greeneville. Bob is survived by his wife of 43 years, Jan Jones Taylor, originally from Lewisburg, TN. Children: Deborah Taylor of Murfreesboro, TN; Mike (Mimi) Taylor of Joelton, TN and Stacie (Tony) Whaley of Murfreesboro, TN. Grandchildren: Jennifer (Matt) Prior; Brian (Shandi) Patterson; Jay (Rachel) Taylor; Brody Taylor; Chaz Taylor; Jack Whaley. Great-grandchildren: Hayden Prior; Taylor Prior; Brycen Patterson; Baylor Patterson; Brooks Patterson. Several nieces, nephews and cousins.

A celebration of life was held February 5, 2022 at Williamson Memorial Funeral Home in Franklin, TN. Regional Director Rick Shallenberger and GCI Board Chair Randy Bloom officiated.

Cards may be sent to:

Jan Taylor
115 Chester Stevens Court
Franklin, TN 37067-5838

 

Meet Donna Jones

“As an 83-year-old widow of an unbeliever and as a great-great-grandmother, I want to show everyday people that we can all serve in the ‘little things’ and still have a positive impact on others.”

Check out this month’s GCI Profile to get to know Donna Jones, a member of Grace Communion Big Sandy. To read her full profile, click the image below.

GCPodcast – Season 3 New Host

We are excited to welcome Cara Garrity as the new host for season three of the GCPodcast! Cara is the GCI Development Coordinator, ordained elder, and host of GCPodcast, who, at 21 connected with GCI after being brought to the local church in Boston. Cara will continue exploring best ministry practices in the context of Grace Communion International churches, through warm, insightful conversations, filled with joy and laughter.

 

To listen to GCPodcast, check out https://resources.gci.org/media/gcpodcast or search for “Grace Communion International” on your favorite podcast app.

Ministry Training Center (MTC) Dedication

God is so faithful, friends.  It’s been 5 years of dreaming, following what God placed in our hearts, stepping out in faith, and joining with the incredible generosity from our denomination, sister churches, and amazing members.  It’s been 5 years of tears, prayer, awe, and more joy than can be expressed.  After 5 years, and by the grace of God, we celebrate the dedication of our brand-new Church and Ministry Training Center facility in Surrey Hills!  Praise God!

While my gratitude cannot be fully captured with words, my heart is exploding with so much humility and thankfulness.  This year, my family and I celebrate ten years with GCI.  The ways in which God has used this denomination to impact and change the course of our lives are indescribable.  I’ve always believed that God has a plan for our denomination and churches in ways that we cannot fathom.  Not only have I believed that, but I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

As I write, there is so much joy filling my heart, as I celebrate the fact that I have the honor of being the Ministry Training Center Coordinator for this incredible program.  I look forward to working with young people who have a calling to pastoral ministry and spending time alongside them as God uses their hearts and gifts to participate in His Great Commission of making disciples.  I am so excited to think “outside the box” and empower and equip these young people to be healthy leaders, being careful to fuel their passions, rather than suppress them.

After years of searching for land, God moved through relationship, and we were able to secure the most beautiful place in Surrey Hills nestled on an amazing pond in the heart of our target neighborhood.  Three years later, here we are! We dedicated this building to the amazing God who gave it. This special event took place on Saturday, January 29th in the new MTC building. We dedicated the building to our great God and to the furtherance of His kingdom work. Dr. Randy Bloom (GCI Board Chair), Dr. Greg Williams (GCI President), Michael Rasmussen (GCI Superintendent, North America & Caribbean), and Mathew Morgan (GCI Chief Financial Officer) joined us for this special occasion. The day started at 9:30am in the Welcome Center where drinks and light snacks were served. We then moved into the Sanctuary for a thirty-minute Dedication Ceremony.

As we celebrate all God has done and continues to do, we also pause and relish in his goodness with so much gratitude for all the people he has used to help make this happen!  We are so excited.  We are overflowing with joy and hope.  We are compelled by his love to celebrate this momentous occasion.  We are GCI!

By Ceeja Malmkar
Ministry Training Center Coordinator

 

 

GCI Prayer Guide – February 2022

“Prayer should not be regarded as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty.” ― E.M. Bounds

Click the image below to download the February Prayer Guide and join us in corporate prayer and communion.

Devotional – Lost Flavor

Matthew 5:13-16

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Many western cultures are in the second month of a new calendar year. In the US in particular, the new year is a time of making resolutions and setting intentions. Having a way to mark time and seasonal rhythms is beneficial, and most of us can positively relate to the idea of a reset or fresh start.

Sadly, the setting of New Year’s resolutions has been co-opted by the self-help industry in the US. The promise of a successful, limitless life is within your grasp! Simply choose these behaviors, these products and you can avoid pain, suffering, mourning, persecution. But that’s not the message of Matthew 5 that begins with The Beatitudes, is it?

After Jesus implores his listeners to be the salt and light of the world, he goes on to teach extensively on healthy relationships and our impact on others. Yet with a culture that focuses on individualism, we’re often malformed to set goals and resolutions only for self.

The second person of the Trinity, who chose to self-empty (kenosis) and conform to humanity, is now conforming us to his redeemed humanity. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus seems to be saying, Pay attention! This is what it looks like to be fully human.

It looks like being other-centered and relational. It looks like mutuality, interconnectedness, and showing up with love in community. We don’t light a lamp on its own, and salt is distasteful when eaten alone.

You are the salt and light of the world because that is your identity in Christ and who you were made to be. Therefore, be salt and light! Is there hope for us if we lose our flavor, our saltiness? Absolutely! The Bible, taken as a whole, teaches us that Jesus goes after and restores that which is lost. He is in pursuit of you, and he is relentless. What good news!

Beloved church, blessed are we to be compelled by love. How might you set an intention today to show up as the flavor and the light of the kingdom for your neighbors?

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thank you for pursuing us. Jesus you are the true salt and light of the world.  Conform us to your image and compel us to love another. Amen.

Photo Credit: Rex Dela Pena

By Elizabeth Mullins
GCI Media, Publications Assistant