GCI Update

President’s Video—Living and Sharing the Gospel

In this month’s Update, GCI President Greg Williams reminds us why “Living and Sharing the Gospel” continues to be our mission statement. He goes on to share the activities that are happening in our denomination as we give light to this year’s theme, “Compelled by Love”.

Program Transcript

GCI President Update | June 2022

Hello GCI.

You can see our Mission Statement handsomely displayed on this large wooden plaque gifted to the denomination by the UK Church in the 1990s. It looks good in our office and is a constant reminder of what God has called us to do.

Our Mission Statement – “Living and Sharing the Gospel” is historical and still spot on. This first part of the slogan is alive and vibrant. As I travel the world and meet with GCI folks, I see the fruit of the Spirit in the members. I see the amazing,
Christ-like qualities of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Our members shine brightly as they live out the Gospel in their personal lives. However, the second part of the slogan, “Sharing the Gospel” needs attention.

The good news is that when we talk to pastors in all regions around the world, no one argues against this observation. I think we have a consensus that we need to attend to this matter, and I can assure you that we are.

The theme for 2022 is “Compelled by Love” – which means being fueled and driven by the love of Christ that fills our lives to the point of spilling over to our neighbors around us. This is the only fuel that will properly operate the church in the manner that Jesus intends. Any other fuel of clever tactics or schemes that are empty of the authentic, unconditional love of Jesus will not do.  

Permit me to come back to the example of Nehemiah. My mind has been captured by this story. Nehemiah’s mission was to rebuild the walls of his beloved Jerusalem. He began with prayer, seeking the Lord’s will, favor, and provision. Like Nehemiah, we acknowledge that all ventures of the church must begin with seeking the face of God, and the continued reliance on him.

The Lord answered Nehemiah’s prayer and gave him favor with the king, and the Lord worked through the king to supply the provisions (security guard for protection and then physical supplies to accomplish the project). We would call this arrangement a “strategic partnership.” We have more to learn about these types of partnerships as we journey forward.

I get ahead of myself in the story. On Nehemiah’s first trip to Jerusalem, he saw the rubble and ruins.  He was “broken-hearted” and lamented. The context of the story sounds as if this was a lingering lament, not just a passing emotion. What are we lamenting? Rather than a broken wall, hopefully, our lament is lingering because of people we know who are living broken lives because they do not know the salvation and joy of a relationship with Jesus.

After the period of lament and utilizing the resources supplied by the king, Nehemiah rolled up his sleeves and got busy. Ministry is work that requires diligence and a great deal of energy and sweat. And the real genius in Nehemiah’s God-backed plan was that he was gifted to organize others and achieve the goal of including all the returning refugees. In church speak, we would call this “ –” You have probably heard me say that we are better together. It was true for Nehemiah, and it is true for you and me.

While Susan and I recently met with leaders across three of the four regions in Africa the notion of “intentionality” kept coming up. May I recommend that we be intentional in three areas? Intentional in prayer; intentional in lament; and intentional in our thought-out plans and execution. During our trip to Africa, the leaders agreed that we can’t just gather and talk about ministry concepts, these ideas need to become actions. The church needs to join the Lord of the Harvest in the white, abundant harvest field.

Speaking of ministry actions, it is my good pleasure to announce the efforts of Outside the Walls events that will be happening in the US this summer. In June we will be having OTW weekends in Grace Communion Ladson, SC, then in Grace Communion South Kansas City, MO. In July we will be on the west coast on Grace Communion River Road.

Behind the scenes, work has been happening working with the local pastors, their Love Avenue Champions, and Love Avenue team members to do the prayerful planning and preparation. Many Zoom video meetings have occurred as part of the training and preparation. Church Multiplication Ministries Coordinator Heber Ticas has been serving as a consultant for these events and the US Regional Directors have been actively involved as well. It has been “all hands on deck.” That’s how important it is for us to learn how our churches can better connect with our neighbors to spark meaningful relationships that can lead to knowing Christ and joining his church. Sharing the Gospel is a priority for us to become Healthy Churches.   

These purposeful events are now upon us. Join me in a prayer of blessing…   

Father God
Jesus, Lord of the Harvest and Holy Spirit the transformer of lives
We call on you our great Triune God to bless our OTW events that will happen in June and July
From the east coast to the middle of the country and the west coast
Please inspire the last-minute preparations
Bless us with comfortable, temperate weather
And most of all, please bring new people to us that we can love with your love,
and tell them about you
May each of these events be launching pads for other Love Avenue events to come in the future
We join you Lord Jesus in the Harvest Field, and we trust you for the growth
It’s in your strong and true name that we pray

I am Greg Williams, speaking about the life of the church.

Devotional—What Does This Mean?

In Acts 1:8, Jesus promised, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Several days later at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit dwelt among the believers, and they began to speak in different languages.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” (Acts 2:5-8 NASB)

Some witnesses to the event ridiculed the disciples. But many were amazed and perplexed by this unprecedented occurrence, and they asked this very important question, “What does this mean?” (2:12).

What does this mean? That miracles are signs pointing to Jesus. The miracle at Pentecost pointed to Jesus Christ and his redemptive work for humanity. The passage says that as the disciples spoke in different languages, they proclaimed the mighty works of God (2:11).

What does this mean? That God is faithful to fulfill his promise to bless the nations through Abraham’s seed. The spread of the gospel across the known world is attributed to this event by many scholars. Visiting Jews who became believers at Pentecost would later travel home, even to regions outside Jewish territory. The gospel message would begin to reach the Gentiles.

What does this mean? That salvation is not limited to a specific race but is for all humanity. The love of God crosses geographical, racial, generational, and cultural borders. In GCI, we see a glimpse of that—we are one family across different countries, with different languages and cultures, but we are partakers of the same salvation through Jesus. In this, we see the heart of God for all people.

Thank you, God, for including all humanity in your work of salvation. Give us the clarity and empowerment so that we can participate in Jesus’ ministry, in and through the church, for the proclamation of the gospel. Amen.

Aron Tolentino
Pastor, GCI Manilla, Philippines

GCI Prayer Guide—June 2022

“Praying is letting one’s own heart become the place where the tears of God’s children merge and become tears of hope.”—Henri Nouwen

Join us in prayer this month as we thank God for community and ask for continued healing and unity. Click the link below to download and print the June Prayer Guide, and check out what’s happening in our fellowships around the world. #weareGCI

Equipper—In Their Own Language

This month we’re highlighting an article from Equipper. Click the preview below to read the full article by Dishon Mills.

Enjoy and subscribe today!

Eula Doele Graduates

Eula’s proud parents are Esther Carlisle Doele and Phil Doele, the pastor of GC Snellville, Georgia, U.S.

Let us share in the joy of Eula Brigitte Doele’s accomplishment! On Sunday, May 15, 2022, she received her high school diploma from The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia.

Eula will be attending Yale University this fall. Her intended major is Ethics, Politics, and Economics.

Eula’s older sister, Christianna (guest host of GC Podcast), preceded her at The Westminster Schools. As Eula enters her undergraduate program, we know Christianna will be cheering her on from Georgetown University, where she is studying Foreign Affairs. Prayers would be appreciated for Esther and Phil as they transition to an empty nest. (This is a term used in the U.S. to describe when children move away from home.)

Eula, all who know you have seen your heart for those who experience injustice. May the God of Light guide your steps as you bear the triune image of love to a hurting world. Congratulations!

Retirement of David Beckner

Join us in honoring David Beckner, who retired in April after 15 years as a part-time GCI employee. David served as the pastor of GC Snellville, GA.

A retirement celebration will be held Saturday, July 30 at Living Hope Christian Fellowship in Atlanta, GA. If you would like to attend, please email Phil Doele for more information. phil.doele@gci.org.

Cards may be sent to:
David & Gayle Beckner
15 Magnolia Walk
Covington, GA 30016-1153

Congratulations, David and Gayle! We are very grateful to you both for your many years of faithful service.

We wanted you to hear from David, in his own words.

I am married to the greatest female on earth, Gayle Grimes Beckner. We were married on April 1, 1984—thirty-eight years of a wonderful relationship.

I have been a member of GCI since 1973, baptized in Kingsport, TN, the same year. I was always involved in the activities of the church—everything from Spokesman Club, to ushering, to teaching children’s classes.  The thought of ever doing more was never a serious consideration for me until I was ordained a deacon by Earl Williams in 1991.

I became an elder in 1999 and began giving sermons at that time. Public speaking had never been easy for me, but the years in Spokesman Club certainly helped. This ordination put me closer to becoming a pastor, although the possibility had not taken root. When our current pastor stepped down, I believed the Home Office would find someone to take his place.

In 2005, our pastor Howard Shadoan invited Gayle and me to lunch. You guessed it! He asked me to consider my calling and proposed that he mentor me for the next two years until his retirement. For some reason, I immediately said yes without even telling him to give me time to pray and think about it. Maybe I was more ready than I realized—God’s timing is always perfect.

The thing I enjoyed most about pastoring was preaching directly from God’s word. I would have never imagined this years ago. I also enjoyed interacting with people in small groups.

My main concern was meeting the needs of people in my church. I worried whether I was really fulfilling that role. I lost many a night’s sleep thinking about this. Eventually, I reached a point where I had to acknowledge that I was limiting God’s role in people’s life in my ministry. God deals with people effectively whether we as pastors do or not. We need to do our part, but God will do his work despite of what we as pastors do or think. When a pastor realizes this, a lot can be taken off his back and mind.

I have deeply appreciated and enjoyed my time in GCI and will forever treasure the relationships I have developed over the years.

In Him,
David Beckner

Final Celebration—Orlando, FL, US

Recently the congregation I attended in Orlando closed. The reasons for closing congregations are many and varied. Yet one thing is true: their closure is often a time of sadness. Yet it can also be a time to celebrate Jesus by focusing on the God who raised it up and was at work in the congregation over many years.

Steve and Carol Schantz

Pastor Steve Schantz decided to make it a celebration, so I asked him to tell me the specific things he had in mind when framing the service as a time of celebration.

“We had three things in view as we planned a celebratory worship service together,” Pastor Steve replied. “First, we sought to honor all the ways God has blessed this part of the body of Christ during our time together. Second, we wanted to provide a time of fellowship and food together. Third, we sought to provide the opportunity to stay connected though no longer meeting together regularly. The printed programs had room to write a note or share an address or phone number, and my wife and I added a handwritten note to each one.”

We certainly experienced a time of celebration. It was a time of worship as we reviewed some of the collective and individual ministries where the Holy Spirit worked in and through the congregation. It was a time of fellowship as invitations were sent to people who were no longer attending the church. More than seventy people showed up. The catered meal that followed the service was a time of joyful reconnecting, reminiscing, and rejoicing in ways God has been at work in people’s lives.

Ruth Haley Barton has said that God is so faithful that any little space we open up to him, he fills with his presence. And he certainly did just that. One of our members asked if her great granddaughter could be blessed during the service. God blessed us by allowing profound ministry to happen at our closing service. A new life was formally welcomed into the family of God.

The juxtaposition of closure and new life made me think of Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, which affirms that human experience is framed by lifecycles. We were reminded that even churches have a lifecycle in which closure can be a reality, but God’s work through his people does not come to an end. That which looks like death can lead to new birth. That which is uprooted can be replanted. A season of mourning can turn into a time of laughter and dancing.

Maybe another way of saying that is to remember that God does not allow anything to happen in our lives that he cannot redeem. With that in mind, there is no better way to face life’s varied circumstances, including the closure of a church, than Paul’s encouragement:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col. 3: 17

By Charles Fleming, Southeast Regional Support Team

NAE Mourns Recent US Tragedies

As a member of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), and we join them as the body of Christ, praying for those affected by the loss of life and asking God to help us pursue sustained efforts towards love and justice. Click the link below to read the full statement by the NAE.

Are there specific ways your church is comforting your neighbors at this difficult time? Write to us about it: update@gci.org

Death of Sonny Parsons

Our beloved brother, Sonny Parsons, died on May 12, 2022. He pastored the GC Big Sandy congregation for 13 years and was a current member in his retirement. His memorial service on May 22 in Big Sandy was attended by many whose lives were deeply impacted by his kindness and service. He will be deeply missed.

Frank “Sonny” Parsons grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, and has a long history of community service. He went to Provine High School, where he met his wife, Jane. They enjoyed more than fifty years of marriage before Jane passed away in 2017.

As an Eagle Scout, the Boy Scout organization was important to him. Sonny helped found one of the first camps for children with intellectual disabilities in Mississippi. He attended Mississippi State University and Ambassador University and served many years as a school administrator and educator.

He believed we should never stop learning, growing, and serving. Sonny served on the Big Sandy City Council, was the mayor of Big Sandy for three terms, and served on the Volunteer Fire Department. He was a loving, peaceful, kind man, and a loving husband and father. Above all, Sonny loved our Lord and Savior.

Cards and notes may be sent to his daughter:
Amy Peeples
420 VZCR 4503
Ben Wheeler, TX 75754

Visit here to read more about Sonny’s full life of service.