GCI Update

President’s Video—For God so Loved

In this month’s Update, Dr. Greg Williams talks about the significance of Jesus’ coming into our world and how our Father loves us beyond our comprehension.

Program Transcript


For God so Loved
GCI President Update | December 2022
Greg Williams

In late September I visited our brothers and sisters in Manila, Philippines. I arrived, either late in the night or early in the morning, around 4:00 am. To my surprise, I found the airport decorated with Christmas trappings. One Canadian-Filipino fellow traveler was so moved, she requested that I take her picture in front of the nativity scene.

In my mind, I was thinking “Jesus sure came early this year.” But we know, he is always here.

John 3:16-17 is one of the most important passages revealing the mind of God toward humanity. Both verses are of equal importance.

16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3: 16-17 (NRSVA)

“For God so loved” – what is the genesis of this love? When did it kick in? Was it at the fall of Adam and Eve? At the flood when God started over with Noah and his family? At the tower of Babel when he confused the languages. Perhaps when the prophets and kings failed?

Certainly, God’s heart was broken by the suffering of his children. The reality is that the Triune God was ahead of human history. John, the same author of the Gospel we just read, declares in Revelation 13:8 that Jesus was the lamb slain before the foundation of the world.

In essence, Jesus coming in the flesh was always God’s plan. The design for the second member of the Godhead to become a flesh and blood human was in the mind of God before the creation of Adam and Eve. In a small way, it’s kind of like a nativity scene in September.

God’s love is before what we call the beginning. And John 3 verse 17 tells us his love is a rescuing and restorative love. The incarnation of Jesus wasn’t intended for him to come and judge humanity in its fallen state. Humanity’s brokenness was highly visible, and the sting was felt by all. We were, as the line from O Holy Night says, “in sin and error pining.” So, Jesus didn’t come to rub this in. He came to make things right.

This child who came into the world, not in a palace with attending servants and nurses, but to an animal stall or cave, with lowly shepherds attending, was the embodiment of God’s love for the world. We celebrate this entry into the world because it was the greatest of miracles.

C.S. Lewis called the incarnation “the Grand Miracle.” He wrote: “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. … Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. … It was the central event in the history of the Earth—the very thing that the whole story has been about”
– C.S. Lewis, Miracles

Jesus always was, is, and will be, God’s plan of salvation. The incarnation is the central and greatest miracle that we all benefit from.

By a miracle that passes human comprehension, the Creator entered his creation, the Eternal entered time, God became human; it is reason to fall on our knees. And why did he come? Jesus became human with the life mission to die and rise again for the salvation of all people. Think of it this way, the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension do not happen without the incarnation. It is for this very reason that we walk through the season of Advent, to prepare our hearts and minds for the crescendo of the coming of Jesus into the world.

So to all the GCI family, I say, “Come let us adore him.” May your Christmas season be filled with Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father.

From Susan, me, and all your friends at the Home Office – A Very Merry Christmas!

Denominational Celebration—Register Now!

Leadership Transition in Europe

Left to Right: Susan & Greg Williams, Sinead & Gavin Henderson, Marie Angélique Picard, and Frans Danenberg

Greetings from Paris where Susan and I visited in October. We were able to meet with the church there, with the French leadership, and with the European Community of Practice (CoP), Marie Angélique Picard, Frans Danenberg, and Gavin and Sinead Henderson. It’s wonderful to talk to Christians of like mind and to feel their enthusiasm for Jesus and his work. 

Since his retirement some years back, James Henderson has served as the GCI Superintendent for Europe on a volunteer basis. My personal thanks go to James and his wife, Shirley, for their dedication to our fellowship and for the care they have shown as they ministered to others. 

One of the main priorities in the international areas has been to establish ideas about succession planning, and James and I reviewed the need for this in Europe. My idea was that James’ son, Gavin, the current UK national church leader, should take on the mantle for Europe. When James became aware of this, he stood back from the discussion because they are family. James also did the same thing when he stepped down from being a trustee of the UK Board. He excused himself from any discussions about his son to avoid suggestions that he might have influenced the UK Board when Gavin was appointed. 

I consulted with the other international superintendents about Gavin’s possible appointment as the new Superintendent for Europe, and all of them were in favor. The other two European CoP members, Frans and Marie Angélique, both consented willingly to the idea. The UK Board of Trustees was concerned about Gavin’s workload, as am I, but they gave their considered and considerable support for this development.  

With his ministry and office experience, his background within our church, and his GCS Master in Pastoral Studies, Gavin is a qualified and capable candidate for the role. Gavin and Sinead have a young family and are aware of workload implications. And they want to minimize the impact of frequent travel on their family. Bearing this in mind, Gavin has requested that his father continue to offer support to Europe should the need arise. I agree that this is a good idea, and James and Shirley will make themselves available when required. 

Therefore, it was with great joy that Susan and I were able to commission Gavin Henderson as the new GCI superintendent of Europe while in Paris. Sinead was with us, as were Frans and Marie Angélique. James and Shirley were child-minding in the UK, but they were with us in spirit! 

Congratulations, Gavin. Thank you so much for your support of our wonderful fellowship! 

By Greg Williams, President

 

Conference in the UK

 

The GCI church in the United Kingdom (UK) hosted a two-day denominational conference for Europe in June. This conference was the first time many of our ministers in Europe were able to gather together in person since 2019. It was an excellent chance to catch up and strengthen relationships.

With more than 100 attendees, the focus of the event was Healthy Church. We also explored how our theology and values are behind the Hope, Love, and Faith avenues and our move to embracing a Team based—Pastor led structure. 

By Gavin Henderson
Superintendent, Europe

Trunk or Treat—Surrey Hills, OK, US

 On October 30, we celebrated our 6th annual Surrey Hills Trunk or Treat. This year we moved the event to the parking lot of our church in Surrey. The location change was amazing. We had access to electricity and bathrooms and had ample space for all the fun! An estimated 3,500 people attended.

At GC Surrey Hills, we believe we are better together. This neighborhood event was only possible because an entire neighborhood worked together. We had 26 sponsors and more than 20 trunks passing out candy to all the kiddos. The Surrey Hills Lion’s Club joined the fun by volunteering at the carnival games, and even the OKC police cadets and Fire Department attended. 

Thanks to the generosity of neighbors and neighborhood business owners, we were able to provide inflatables (bounce houses), six professional carnival games, trophies, face painting, and loads of candy. We passed out more than 30,000 pieces of candy! 

It was an incredible day of family, community, fun, and relationship. We are blessed to be able to serve this amazing neighborhood. Our goal isn’t simply to get our neighbors to join our church, but for us to BE the church to our neighborhood. Jesus builds his church, and we are so thankful to be able to join him in everything he’s doing in this neighborhood. 

I want to give a HUGE shout out to our Love Avenue Team. Every person on the team had a job to do and worked hard to build teams and ensure the event went smoothly. The music was rocking, the parking crew was grooving, and the trunks and carnival games were popping! God is so good! 

Ceeja Malmkar 
Love Avenue Champion

 

Ministry Coaching Clinic

What’s an ideal outcome for you? What would it mean to you if you reached your goal? What do you need to move forward? Who can help you with that? When will you do that? These are the kinds of questions you’ll hear if you overhear a conversation between a GCI ministry coach and their coachee.  

What is ministry coaching? It’s a process of discovery where the coach supports the coachee to draw out their God-given potential through a series of thought-provoking questions.  Experience and research show that ministry coaching not only improves ministry effectiveness but develops ministry leaders themselves. The GCI Ministry Coach program trains coaches to support ministry leaders in their development towards healthy leaders and healthy church.  

In August, 10 leaders across the US with a gifting for coaching gathered at the GCI Home Office to attend a GCI Coach Clinic. Over two days, the participants were trained in practices and principles of coaching as the first step in the process of earning their GCI Ministry Coach Certificate.

We praise God for the gifted leaders he brought together to develop their coaching skills with the goal of supporting the development of GCI ministry leaders across the country. The development of ministry participants and leaders is a ministry of its own. We are called to be disciples who make disciples – so we thank God for the ministry of coaching and these coaches-in-training who God continues to work through.  

Left to right: Lily Aparicio, Cara Garrity, Jane Hill, Kelly Rakestraw, Afrika Afeni Mills, Bermie Dizon, Rebecca Johnson, Ceeja Malmkar, Julie Frantz, Pam Morgan, & Michelle Fleming

One of the participants remarked that the following statement stood out: “A good coach encourages thinkers to take action and doers to stop and think.” Coaching is a transformational relationship of empowerment that is personal and contextualized.  

Please continue to pray for our coaches-in-training around the world. They are preparing to support the ministry of Jesus Christ as expressed through GCI’s healthy church vision, putting to practice their coaching gifts, knowledge, and skills. 

By Cara Garrity
Development Coordinator

 

Celebration Childcare—Volunteers pay no registration fee!

GCI BUZZ—Worship Calendar

This GCI Buzz explains the GCI Worship Calendar, a tool that keeps worship alive and provides an inspirational and intentional framework for planning your congregation’s Avenue-led activities and events. Embracing a well-defined calendar brings clarity to how we worship in GCI and keeps us Christ-centered. #gcibuzz

Click the image below to check out the full PDF.

 

Devotional—Swaddled

Luke 2:7 – She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom. (CEB)

Jesus was swaddled. As a parent, I learned the importance of swaddling. A newborn has been snugly protected in the womb for nine months. For the first few weeks after they are born, babies love to be wrapped up nice and tight in their blankets as it gives them the same comfort they felt in the womb. It took me a while to learn just how tight to wrap the blanket, but I had lots of practice with four beautiful children.

In Luke’s birth account, Mary wrapped up the baby Jesus “snugly.” She swaddled him. Something Jesus could not do on his own. The Lord of lords and King of kings, the one through whom the Father created the entire universe, humbled himself to being swaddled by his mommy. When the humble aspects of Jesus’ birth are mentioned, it’s usually about the setting in an animal’s manger. But the humility of our Lord includes being fed, swaddled, diapered, and rocked to sleep by Mary and Joseph. This is part of the humility that God took on himself to be one with us, to be fully human.

To be counter-cultural during the busy holiday season, perhaps we can image to the world the humility of our Lord. During Advent, it is possible to slow down, to stop and humble ourselves by recognizing that we are completely reliant on God. Just as the baby Jesus was completely reliant on his human parents, we are completely reliant on our Father for his abundant life that he promises.

During this Advent season, let’s sink into God the Father’s arms. Let’s allow ourselves to be swaddled by God. And let’s be grateful for the humility that our Lord Jesus embraced for us.

Prayer: Loving Father, you swaddle us, you hold us, you rock us to sleep, you feed us; you are our shelter in sunshine and storm. Thank you for your abundant provision. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for sending your Son so that we might participate in his Sonship. We give you honor, praise, and glory in the Lord Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.

By Al Kurzawa
Pastor, GC Morwell and GC Seaford, Victoria, AU

Prayer Guide—December 2022

“And we pray, not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye clear. What we need is here.” ―Wendell Berry


Join us in prayer this month as we thank God for including us in his life and legacy. Click the link below on the image to download the full December Prayer Guide and check out what’s happening in our fellowships around the world this Advent season. #WeAreGCI