GCI Update

The Dilemma of Good Works

face of man eyes closed sweat on forehead
Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Many Christians have a passion to want to do something “for” Jesus, with perhaps an underlying motivation to impress Jesus. The apostle Paul speaks of this conundrum in his letter to the Romans. He talks about having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2). Even if the intent is energetic and well-meaning, when it isn’t channeled in the true knowing of Jesus and flowing through his power accomplishing his purpose, then it easily moves in the wrong direction. Often it results in tearing down rather than building up. In Paul’s case, his zealousness found him actively persecuting and destroying the church.

Our western culture values being active and productive, and this creates the dilemma of thinking we can somehow achieve and earn salvation with our energy, our hard work, our effort, our sweat, and our pain. Doesn’t that count for something? It does count if it is channeled toward the knowing of Jesus. Notice what Paul shares about his personal journey in his letter to believers in Philippi.

Yet whatever gains (earthly accomplishments and credentials) I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11 NRSVA)

Jesus didn’t become human and fulfill his mission to then throw us back on ourselves. He rescued us from our sins and our human treadmills. He created us for relationship, and it is through knowing him that we can now see our brothers and sisters under the same umbrella of grace. This motivates—even compels us—to make strides in loving our neighbor as ourselves. It really is about the two great commandments.

Paul offers the clarity we need concerning works and grace. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, he clearly stated that we are not saved by works, only by the grace of Jesus. He adds, because of grace and our relationship with Jesus we now engage in good works. It is with and through Jesus that we are saved, and it is with and through Jesus that we engage in good works.

Many years ago, I attended a Youth Specialties conference where one of the speakers made an over-the-top challenge. In his attempt to spur us on toward making new followers of Christ, he submitted the idea of us in the next life standing in front of Jesus and being asked by our Lord why we didn’t share the good news about him with every single person that we had encountered in this life. The implication is that somehow, we are responsible for any of these people who may find themselves in the speaker’s version of hell. This rang loudly in my ears with the sensitivity of “What am I doing for Jesus?” Certainly, he must be disappointed in me. I found the “motivational speech” de-motivating and quite perplexing. Is part of our heavenly reward an arena of guilt?

As I continued to sort out this concept of evangelism and making disciples I came upon a fresh approach from another author and speaker from the Youth Specialties circuit, Andrew Root. I found that he had the same perplexities I held. He had discovered that the love of Jesus was unconditional rather than transactional. He had discovered that salvation of humanity was through the vicarious work of Jesus, who was 100% God and 100% human. He discovered the “place-sharing” ministry of Jesus that Dietrich Bonhoeffer had written about in the early 20th century. And he had written a book, Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, that was a huge gift to me at that stage of my life and journey with Jesus.

I count this as one of the huge benchmarks of grace in my life, and it prepared me to be a better minister, educator, and Christ-follower for the roles I have served within GCI.

It is in the true knowing of Jesus, and experiencing his unconditional love and acceptance, that now prepares us to join with him in accomplishing good works (dilemma solved). It isn’t about our individual striving and the “look at me, look at me” attitude that takes us to where we want to be with Jesus. It is not the good works that somehow bring us to Jesus and make us right and just, it is only Jesus who makes us right and just and then from there the good works can flow.

In His Grace and Unconditional Love,

Greg

Youth Baptisms—Lancaster, CA, US

On June 5, 2022, as part of our celebration for Pentecost Sunday, we were privileged to baptize two of our youngest members, Christian Knight Martinez, age 8, and Valiant Peter Martinez, age 6. It was especially meaningful to my husband, Pastor Jonathon, and me because they are our sons!

Christian and Valiant had been asking for more than a year to be baptized. As part of our preparation for the day, we explained the event and what would happen. They were so excited they didn’t want to wait even one more day. Then they asked, “Will we feel any different after we get baptized?” I replied, “Maybe you will, maybe you won’t.”

After church on Zoom, we met at a friend’s house. This church celebration also became a Love Avenue event, as our kids invited school friends and their family. We had 21 in attendance.

After the baptism we had a meal and pool party. The kids and their friends enjoyed holding their own “baptisms” in the spa, while the adults enjoyed time fellowshipping. It was a very special time, and everyone enjoyed the opportunity to meet new friends and have fun in person.

The following day, when asked if he felt any different, Valiant (6), said, “Yes, mom, I feel like a new man!” Praise God for this wondrous blessing!

By Susanna Martinez


For more from this fun family, watch this episode of We Are GCI.

 

OTW—Ladson, SC, US

From my perspective, an Outside the Walls (OTW) event is a spiritual practice that Christians believe to be a part of the call from Christ to go and make disciples. Going outside the walls of the church is a way for members to share the love and goodness of Jesus Christ. OTW means meeting and loving people as Jesus did. As the Love Avenue champion, I lead the team in planning activities and creating spaces that allow Jesus’ love to be shared and grown with other people who are not members of the congregation. I am honored to be a part of this great work.

For our first OTW activity, the team made plans for a summer celebration. Since we’ve hosted picnics many times before, we felt confident we could provide a fun day for the neighborhood. We know that our target neighborhood has many families, so we planned activities that would be appealing to them. We hoped that our neighbors would come out to enjoy the day, meet us, and each other.

We have already engaged with this neighborhood through our weekly meal service and two other picnics we hosted in the neighborhood park. I had hopes of seeing at least 50 people come to our OTW event on the church grounds, less than a mile up the road from the target neighborhood. I feared, however, that more people would come and that we would be overwhelmed serving and managing that many people.

Just under 15 people, mostly under the age of 18, showed up. From this turn-out, we have concluded that this neighborhood, which is one of four near our church, may not be our only focus. We are discerning that our church has many kids and several members who have spent many years teaching and planning for kids and that we should capitalize on that strength. So, moving forward with future events, kids will be our targeted group.

One thing our committee can improve for future events is the engagement of people. More could be done by our group to start and maintain conversations with our guests. Next time, I hope to have a select group of people who had been trained and equipped for engaging guests as they come.

Now that the event is over, I am pleased with how our church members participated and arrived ready to serve. Everyone I asked to be a part of the team was willing to help, some offering to do anything they could to be a part of the event. Church members had a great time and enjoyed being together again since this was our first big gathering after being apart during the pandemic.

I encourage other churches to develop a thorough plan that is within the range of their God-given talents and step out of the church walls. God will absolutely be there—God is already in your neighborhood!

By Mary Robinson
Love Avenue Champion, Ladson, SC, US

Meet Doug Tomes

“I feel called to service. I try to be involved with what needs to be done, wherever that may be.”—Doug Tomes

Check out this month’s GCI Profile to get to know Doug Tomes, member of the pastoral team in Clarksville, Tennessee, U.S.

To read his full profile, click the image below. #WeAreGCI

Briana Grant Graduates

Briana’s proud parents are Robin and Pastor Tommie Grant, of GC Ladson, South Carolina, U.S.

Let us share in the excitement and joy of Briana Denise Grant’s accomplishment! On Saturday, May 28, 2022, she received her high school diploma from Summerville High School. The ceremony was held at the North Charleston Coliseum in Charleston, S.C.  Briana earned two academic award letters and a silver medal for her grades above 90.

Briana aspires to become a nurse and passionately desires to enroll in ministerial college.  According to her mother, Briana has an unrelenting devotion to Christ, a passion for learning more about our Lord, while living out his purpose for her life.

Briana, you are a lovely image-bearer of our loving God. Your desire to share the good news of Jesus with others is contagious. Congratulations!

Wedding of Kelly Meade & Andrew Rakestraw

Kelly Meade and Andrew Rakestraw were married on Saturday, May 21, 2022. They had a beautiful, small wedding in the backyard of Kelly’s parent’s home in Fort Mill, South Carolina, with Anthony Mullins officiating. Kelly’s brother, Chris, in South Korea, Andrew’s brother, Matthew, in Washington, DC, and a few other guests joined the wedding from zoom.

Shortly before the wedding, Kelly graduated Summa Cum Laude from Montreat College with a major in Psychology and Human Services. Andrew graduated Summa Cum Laude from Florida State University with a double major in Political Science and Public Relations. They will make their home in Tallahassee, Florida.

Paternal grandparents of the bride, Kim and Jimmie Meade (elder in Kenokee, MI)

Congratulations, Kelly and Andrew, on your graduations and wedding! As you begin your life together, we share in your joy and hold you in our prayers.

 

 

Prayer Update—Santiago Lange

Below is a prayer update for Pastor Santiago Lange in Stuttgart, Germany. In April, we asked for prayer for his diagnosis of advanced colon cancer.


Dear Friends,I am writing to you after receiving my fifth Chemo/Anti-body treatment on June 28. After the sixth treatment on July 12, there will be a CT scan to help determine the effectiveness of the therapy. And the next therapy steps will be determined with my oncologist on July 25.

The chemo/anti-body therapies pack a heavy punch, with side effects like skin rashes with water blisters, mouth sores and dryness, pain, weight loss, and weakness. I am glad to be able to share that my [pressure] wounds continue to heal nicely. After some losses I have been able to gain weight, but I would joyfully welcome another 13-16 kg.

I am every day deeply thankful for your partnering support as our family goes through this health crisis. I pray that the Lord may bless your kindness a hundredfold.Every blessing,Santiago

 

 

Notes may be sent to:
Santiago Lange
Birkenweg 13
55490 Gemünden
Germany

santiago.lange@gci.org

Death of Norva Kelly

The following is the obituary shared with Update from Norva’s family.

A beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend, Norva Lee Kelly passed away at her home in Duarte, CA on June 11, 2022, at the age of 86. She left behind her husband Ronald Kelly, her children Ronda Perry, Kara Zebrowski, Randel Kelly, Shari Campa and Michelle Suckling, her son-in-laws Marty Perry, Dan Zebrowski, Jorg Kelly, John Campa, and Bruce Suckling, along with her sisters, Natalie and Kaye and her brothers Jack, Dennis and Ray. She was blessed with ten grandchildren, two grandchildren by affection, six great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. She extended her family to include those not just related by blood but those that she loved as her own.

Born in Yellville, Arkansas, Norva was the daughter of Norvel & Alvah Pyle. While the family may not have had an abundance of money, they had an abundance of love, laughter, and joy. She always drew fondly on her Arkansas roots, for it is there she learned to love family, traditions, and most importantly, Jesus. Throughout the years she resided in Yakima, WA; Pasadena, CA; Sacramento, CA; Oakland, CA; Longmont, CO; and Big Sandy, TX. It was in college in Pasadena, CA that she met and married Ronald Kelly. They were wed on August 28, 1960, and were blessed with sixty-two years together, with the last thirty-six years spent in Duarte, CA.

If you knew Norva, you loved her. She loved God, her husband, and her family above all else. She inherited her cooking skills from her mother and spent countless hours in the kitchen making meals, first for her growing family and eventually adding friends who became family, spouses, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren around the dinner table. Friday night dinners became sacred gatherings. She enjoyed many years of traveling the world with Ron, supported his love of landscape photography, and even indulged him occasionally by posing for a picture. She cherished her friendships and was always the first to reach out to others when they were hurting in any way. She was one of the godliest women you could ever meet, and a prayer warrior who loved sharing scripture in a tender-hearted way with those who mattered most in her life. Being a grandmother and great-grandmother was a role she cherished. She embodied love in a multitude of ways — she was a baby whisperer, a reader of countless children’s books, a supporter of academics and the arts, a shoulder to cry on, and the one to call to celebrate any achievement. She was our angel on earth.


Cards may be sent to:

Ron Kelly
841 Swiss Trails Rd.
Duarte, CA 91010

Devotional—Words of Blessing

Editor’s Note: Our overarching theme for devotions during the next five months of the liturgical calendar called Ordinary Time is Jesus is sending his Church. Using Michael Frost’s B.E.L.L.S. acronym as a framework, the topics will relate to missional living.

    • As “sent” people, we are invited to…
  • bless others generously, in word and deed (July),
  • eat with others hospitably (August),
  • listen to the Spirit while engaging with others (September),
  • learn Jesus’ teachings as a disciple (October),
  • and, sent people share the good news with others (November).

Numbers 6:23 – 26
Tell Aaron and his sons,
“This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
‘The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.’”

pennant banner spelling out God BlessThe crowd lined the road to Jerusalem and shouted, “Peace in heaven” as Jesus rode the donkey colt down from the Mount of Olives. From Palm Sunday a seed was planted for a tradition. As Christians gathered to worship, the worship leader would begin with the blessing “The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you,” and everybody was invited to respond, “And also with you.” In this act of reciprocal blessing, the historic church was living, growing, and maturing into its role as a royal priesthood. (1 Peter 2:9)

When we picture the priests of the Old Testament, most of us probably have images of men in robes sacrificing animals and making offerings to God on behalf of the people. This was one of their roles but not their only one. Another significant role the priests performed is found at the end of Numbers 6. They were to offer a blessing over the nation of Israel.

With the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on believers young and old, women and men on that special Pentecost after Jesus’ ascension, we each participate within the ministry of all believers. With words of blessing, we can encourage, uplift, sustain, and comfort others. As a member of God’s royal priesthood, we are invited and gifted to bring glory to God through words of blessing to others. Begin small, begin big, begin with the phrase “The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Begin by offering a prayer, begin with “God bless you,” but most importantly, begin. Bless someone today.

Loving Father, thank you for giving us the gift of blessing others. Give us the eyes to see and the courage to act on those opportunities where we can sustain the weary and encourage our brothers and sisters through the words of blessing. Amen.

Pastor Al with his family

By Alaric Kurzawa
Pastor of Seaford, Australia

 

 

Prayer Guide—July 2022

“Wisdom is not gained by knowing what is right. Wisdom is gained by practicing what is right, and noticing what happens when that practice succeeds and when it fails.” — Barbara Taylor Brown

Join us in prayer this month as we ask God for peace and discernment, thanking our creator for continued blessings upon our fellowships and our neighbors. Click the link below to download and print the July Prayer Guide, and check out what’s happening in our churches around the world.

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