GCI Update


Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

A few months back, Communications Director Michelle Fleming shared an assessment tool that Replicate Ministries uses in helping to debunk several myths about ministry. Replicate Ministries encourages all the churches and leaders they serve to come on board to what they call, “All Play, Everyday Disciple-Making Movement.” I really like this catchy phrase. It points to the biblical posture of a priesthood of all believers. It also reminds me of a slogan we sometimes use in GCI, “making disciples who make disciples.”

In the spirit of an “all-play” mentality, I am writing a short series on the 4 Es of pastoral ministry – engage, equip, empower, encourage. (Keep in mind that our Avenue champions need to think and operate out of the 4 Es too.) My first entry is on engagement.

To engage, in the purest sense, is to recognize and recruit. Everywhere we look, we see people who need Jesus. When I say need, the needs can run the gamut from forgiveness, to healing, to meaning and purpose in life. Maybe the person you see is simply looking for acceptance or true friendship.

Several years back, Christian researcher and author George Barna informed the church that the greatest need in Christianity was for Christian believers to be engaged in relationships with non-believers. This engagement runs deeper than just hanging out and being friendly. It means befriending another, taking the time to listen and hear the good and the bad, and everything in between. It means sharing life experiences and making lasting memories. It means being there in tough situations and in times of celebration. It means talking to God about your friend as well as talking to your friend about God. It is life-on-life; it is place-sharing.
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Devotional—Life in the Body

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’” Luke 15:3-6

This parable speaks to God’s movement toward each of us being profoundly personal. God seeks and pursues the one. Yes, we are each being sought after individually by God. But if we stop there, could we be missing some of the beautiful imagery and meaning?

In the metaphorical language of Luke 15, to be rescued from wandering, to be saved from individual lostness is only the shepherd’s first saving act. The story is incomplete without the shepherd restoring the lamb to the other ninety-nine. “He finds it … and goes home.” This is important! We have all been gathered back—not just into union with God but into a flock.

Our engagement with one another as active members of the body of Christ matters greatly. It is within this context of the church that we participate in God’s renewal and that we experience being conformed to Jesus’ image.

Be encouraged that your story does not end at Jesus saving you from your personal sin and private darkness. You were saved for life in the Body.

Prayer: Father, Son, and Spirit, open our eyes to the wonder and hope that we belong to one another. Plant it in our imaginations, to be expressed in our creativity, and to be lived in our bodies. Thank you for the privilege of participating with your eternal, loving purposes through your body, the church.

By Elizabeth Mullins
Publications Coordinator, Update Editor

Spiritual Practices for Easter Preparation

Lessons from the man with the impure spirit (Mark 5:1-20).

Easter Preparation is the 40-day (not counting Sundays) season preceding Easter in the GCI worship calendar when we individually and corporately acknowledge that Jesus is saving. This year’s dates are February 22 to April 8. During this season we seek to open ourselves to more fully appreciate our deep need for Jesus as we nurture a posture to receive the overflowing graces of Good Friday and Easter.

For some, this season may bring to mind somber traditions of fasting and sacrifice, shame and scorn, striving and suffering, or worst of all, no coffee! For this reason, many of us may be particularly hesitant about this liturgical season. Thus, we miss out on an important time of renewal.

This season is about more than sentiments of suffering, feelings of unworthiness, or acts of arbitrary self-sacrifice. It’s about Jesus and going deeper into relationship with him. We go into the season under the reality and the hope of the resurrection, which changed everything,

In Jesus’ resurrection we encounter humanity’s great hope—the good news that makes sense of the past, gives peace for the present, and provides hope for the future. By leading us to encounter our need for Jesus, Easter Preparation prepares us to receive the good news of our risen Lord anew each liturgical year.

Opening ourselves to an appreciation of our deep need for Jesus is a humbling experience. The Gospel accounts are full of examples of those who came before Jesus in humble recognition of their deep need. There is one account in particular that I want to explore to illuminate Easter Preparation season.

In Mark 5:1-20, Jesus encounters a man with an impure spirit that was beyond the help of human effort. No one was able to save him or even ease his suffering. He lived his life in the tombs amongst the dead. Upon meeting Jesus, the impure spirits knew they had finally met the only one who could save the man they had seized. After an unusual exchange between Jesus and these spirits, we read that the man is found “dressed and in his right mind.” Beyond the help of human hands, this man was saved by Jesus alone.

I believe that in this account, we encounter the heart of Easter Preparation. In more ways than we care to admit, we are beyond the help of human effort. While we may not find ourselves in the exact predicament as this man, apart from Jesus we are also the ones who live our lives in the tombs. We are in deep need of Jesus, and he is the only one who can save us.
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Hot Dogs & Jesus—Mt. Sterling, KY, US

When Love Avenue Champion Jimmy Crouch approached me last May about an engagement idea that he and his wife had for the neighborhood, I had no idea how impactful it would become. It began as setting up a simple hot dog stand on the front porch of the church on Sunday evenings for a couple of hours and offering free hot dogs, chips, and a drink to anyone stopping by. But it soon became a regular gathering place each and every Sunday thereafter to sit and talk with those who stopped by.

The attendance started with a handful of people and has continued to grow every week. Now we average around 30 people, many who come every week to join in fellowship. From something so simple, we have three people who are now attending church with us, and two were baptized on January 8. It just goes to show that something as simple as a hot dog can be a ministry to others. To God Be the Glory!

By Tracy Crouch

New Year, New Building—Lancaster, CA, US

Praise God! After almost three years of gathering virtually through Zoom and YouTube Live, God opened a door for GCI Lancaster to come together again in a church building. During that time, we had a few different spaces that we considered, but for one reason or another (including one of our signatory’s cars almost being broken into), we knew the Holy Spirit was not opening those doors. While we waited for the right door, we continued to serve our community through winter clothing drives, local resource centers that serve the homeless and moms in crisis pregnancies, and luncheon invitationals.

On January 1, 2023, we held our first in-person Sunday service since March 2020. It was such a blessing to come together again! Some of our members, who had not continued when we moved online, have said they are so glad to be back with us again. Within the first three weeks, we have had a few new visitors and one that is becoming a regular.

This month has been exciting and challenging, transitioning back to an in-person gathering in a new building. Our young people are really enjoying being involved in every aspect of the service, from running the online chat to being greeters and ushers. We were able to purchase new equipment to continue live-streaming. *See editor’s note below.

We look forward to all that God will do with us in this new place and the people that he will bring us to, to participate in the work the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are doing in West Lancaster.

By Susanna Martinez





*Editor’s note: It’s an important service GCI Lancaster is providing. If you’re not already, prayerfully consider how your church can provide both an in-person option and a digital option. With some planning and intentionality, you can include your neighbors who may not be able to attend the in-person gathering. See our Church Hack for more information.

Shop the GCI Swag Store

GCI Gear is Here!

We are excited to announce, as part of our Denominational Celebration, GCI clothing and accessories will be available! Represent our fellowship and reflect your personal style. Shop now, by clicking on the image below.

We chose the vendor for our on-demand store based on their high-quality and ethically sourced items, as well as their ability to ship internationally. However, please note that the shipping costs are per item. You can get detailed shipping information here. 

Denominational Celebration—Register Now!

Volunteer at the Denominational Celebration

Are you considering volunteering, but you have questions?

Check out our Q&A.

Q: The conference is 3+ days. Will I be expected to serve the entire time? Every session? What’s my time commitment?
A: Each shift or session is 2.5 hours or less. We ask that you choose and serve for one shift. Of course, you can choose more than one shift.

Q: Do I have to create my own lessons / curriculum?
A: No. We will provide a lesson and activity with all supplies for your session.

Q: How many other adults will I be with?
A: Depending on the age group, you will be with at least two other volunteers during your shift.

Q: Can I request which age group I help with? If I’d rather serve with teens, can I request that?
A: Absolutely. On the sign up, you will see that the shifts are organized by grade/age and times. You can pick any open slot.

Have additional questions or want to volunteer? Please send an email to home.office@gci.org 

Prayer Guide—February 2023

“The first kernel of wisdom to start with is to let our dependence and trust in God permeate all our worries of today.” ― C.S. Lewis

Join us in prayer this month as we thank Father, Son and Spirit for the way they move in and through our fellowship of believers. Click the link below to download the February Prayer Guide and check out what’s happening in our churches around the world. #WeAreGCI #FellowshipOfBelievers