GCI Update

Christ-centered Traditions

In this month’s Update, Dr. Greg Williams encourages us to establish more deliberate Christ-centered traditions that focus on Jesus for all seasons, impacting individuals, families, and church communities.

When Greg mentions that his primary voice is pioneer, he is referring to the leadership tool, The Five Voices

For more information, see The Church’s Worship Calendar

Program Transcript

GCI President Update | April 2023
Greg Williams

In February, the US managers had a two-day retreat to share work-related items for the year ahead. This, and other similar retreats, have become valuable for the teams of people who make up our church leadership. Not only did we cover work-related items, we also shared in the meal preparation and the fellowship of breaking bread together. We have conversations around the evening firepit, and we deepen our bonds of friendship. And all of this serves to make the overall work environment better. These retreats are becoming an annual tradition and a strong part of our GCI culture.

A couple of things that happened during the US manager retreat made me pause and think about the value of traditions.   

Most of you know that my primary voice is pioneer, hence I am a future thinker. The ears of my closest work colleagues perk up when they hear the words “what if?” coming out of my mouth. Something futuristic is coming.

Back to the retreat. In the first session we participated in an exercise called “Worthy of a Toast.” We begin our time together by reflecting on the good works God has done in us and through us over the past year. We need to stop and remember, then celebrate and praise the goodness and faithfulness of our triune God. This will continue to be our starting place as we come together to plan. We must have meaningful pauses and reflection before we seek God and his direction for the next steps.

We begin our retreat by remembering and then we bookend the retreat with communion – remembering Jesus. This year North American Superintendent Mike Rasmussen led the group in celebration of the Lord’s table. Through the scriptures, he walked us alongside the two disciples and Jesus on the road to Emmaus. As the travelers took the seven-mile walk, they hashed out the events of the past week, including who Jesus was and what he allowed to happen to him. The remarkable piece of this story is how the grief-stricken disciples were not recognizing this stranger who had joined them. It wasn’t until Jesus enacted the newly instituted service of communion with them that their eyes were opened. When the bread was broken and the wine poured out, the recognition of Jesus happened.

Isn’t it fascinating to consider that this is only the second Biblical recording of the Lord’s Table being observed, and it is on its way to becoming a tradition that will stand the test of time for the life of the church? When I took the symbols with my dear co-workers, I was somehow translated to the communion table of Emmaus and the revealed Jesus.

The tradition of communion that we call a church sacrament is critical. It establishes our foundation for all other structures, all other expressions of ministry, and everything that the church is about. It speaks to the resolute comment of the Apostle Paul when he said, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Jesus for who he is, and Jesus for what he has done. Period.

The sacrifice of Jesus and the completion of his work on behalf of humankind achieves the deep human needs of belonging, believing, and being. I think about the sense of comfort and centeredness that comes over me as I approach the table and then ingest the bread and wine that demonstrates my secure union with Jesus, and the additional blessing of connection to the believers around me. It’s a place where you want to linger.

I am seeing the church, across all 69 countries where we exist, starting to more fully embrace the Christian calendar and to establish traditions around the annual seasons that keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

One activity I took note of was a group retreat in Tasmania, Australia during the Advent season to better understand and be immersed in how these days lead to Christmas and the Incarnation. I’ve heard it said that you get out of Christmas what you have put into Advent.

The same is true for this season of Holy Week and Easter. What have the weeks of Easter Preparation looked like? I’ve observed a movement, especially in some of our younger members. They embrace this season with spiritual practices that demonstrate creative ways of attending more to Jesus in their daily lives. In many instances, that may mean skipping some routine activities to read Scripture, dedicating more focused time to prayer, and even experiencing Christ-centered periods of fasting.

I am pleased to see more corporate services being offered on Good Friday to remember that dark day when Jesus willingly took up the cross and went to Calvary. And for Holy Saturday as we anticipate his resurrection.

As your president, I am asking you to please be more considerate and deliberate about how we are establishing Christ-centered traditions. This is more than turkey at Thanksgiving or figgy pudding at Christmas. It is about Jesus for all seasons. This will impact our individual lives. It will impact our families and hopefully impact our children for generations to come.

A traditional expression for this coming Easter is, “He is risen!” You respond by saying, “He is risen indeed.” He is risen – now you.

Susan and I, along with your friends at the Home Office, wish each of you an inspiring Easter!

I’m Greg Williams speaking about the life of the church.

Register for our Denominational Celebration while there’s still time. Registration ends April 30. Reserve your place, in person or online, today!

And video submissions for our Healthy Church Challenge for GCI youth will be accepted through May 1. Enter today!

Devotional—Because Jesus Lives

Jesus reassured his disciples before his death in John 14:19, “Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live.” Jesus’ promise isn’t just for the future, but for now.

As we approach Easter, our thoughts are focused on Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. I’ve been thinking about my own journey and how my relationship has evolved. Initially, it was mostly going through the motions of prayer and reading Scripture. But along the way, Jesus became more of a friend, comforter, encourager, and guide. My dependence on him has grown to get through each day of life.

Sometimes I think, what would I do if I lost this or that? But Easter is a reminder that the one thing that I cannot live without is Jesus. A few years ago, I had a lot going on in my life on all fronts: work, church, and family. I felt myself approaching a breaking point. One day during my lunch break, I walked down the street to a church near my office. I went to the altar, and my prayer was simply, “Jesus, I need help.” I laid on the altar and wept. As I picked myself up and walked back to work, I felt immense relief.

I knew, somehow, that Jesus would work things out and that everything would be okay. This is just one time, out of many, when my precious Savior helped me live. As I reflect on my personal journey and prepare for Easter, I know I can face each tomorrow because Jesus lives.

Lord, open the eyes of our hearts to see you more clearly. Please give us the reassurance we need to face each day with confidence, knowing because you live, we can also live.

Debby Bailey, pastor                                                                  Pikeville, KY, US

Learning to Live as the Sent Church

In John 20:21, Jesus shares with us his mission of being sent. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we have been sent. How many of us know that? How many of us understand what that means? In Cincinnati, we are aware that we have been sent. But we do not fully understand what that looks like, so we have prayed that the Lord would lead us in being sent. We have asked him to teach us and help us walk in that reality.

Last year, we began to visit a local nursing home. As a group, we visited each resident in a particular wing and delivered Christmas gifts. We introduced ourselves to each resident and asked if we could pray for them. No one refused. In fact, most were eager and visibly touched that we would care for them in such a way. We have continued to participate in loving the residents of this local nursing home. We visit each month and are considering increasing our visits. Word has spread in the home about this church that visits and prays with the residents. One of the nurses recently asked about our church and expressed interest in visiting.

Here we have learned to pray for one another, to sit and listen, to laugh together, to cry together, to witness to God’s love and care, and to be the church. We have learned that God is presently working in the lives of others and is constantly inviting us to join him – not to fix their problems, but to love them in his name. We have learned the joy of boldly sharing Jesus and loving others without ulterior motives. We have learned that we are the church, and we have been sent.

Julie Frantz, pastor
Cincinnati East & West, OH, US

Diversity in Unity

On Sunday February 26, GC Fayetteville celebrated Black History Month with the theme, “Christian Unity in Diversity.” More than 100 people gathered for this special occasion, including many from other local churches. We invited Greater Love Church of God to be our special guest. Their members led praise and worship, helped with ushering, and their pastor delivered a message on unity. We were also joined by Pastor Ken Hygh and his wife, Lana, and many members from the GCI Apex, NC congregation. We’re grateful to our assistant pastor and Hope Avenue champion, Elder Carolyn Cooley, for leading this combined service.

Let me just say that it was a beautiful sight to witness a diverse group of Christians worshiping in unity! God blessed us with spiritual songs, instruments, praise dancing, and solos. Several of the participants taught us the meaning behind the music. The age of the worshippers ranged from 10 to 80. I am reminded that we are never too young nor too old to serve God.

At the end of the service, my wife and I, on behalf of our church family, honored our dedicated leaders. We surprised them with words of thanks, trophies, roses, and books.

In the fellowship hall, a gourmet buffet was provided for everyone. Foods of many cultures and nations were prepared and served by GCF. Our God blessed us like he did the people in Matthew 14:13-21. There was so much food that all our guests took home a plate, and we still had leftovers.

Everyone had an amazingly blessed time. Hallelujah to a true and living God who has given us freedom to receive his love and share his love with the world.

Billy Cooley, pastor
Fayetteville, NC, US

Baptism Celebrations

A couple times a year, GC Surrey Hills plans a special Sunday worship experience called, “Beginnings Weekend.” It is focused on baby dedications and those who wish to be baptized. On January 29, we had the privilege to share in a baby dedication of a new little one who was unable to be dedicated in her first year due to COVID-19.

On the same day, we were able to witness and participate firsthand in what Jesus is doing in the lives of six people through their decision to join Jesus in his baptism through their own baptism. Five were ages 7-15. After having a one-on-one conversation with each of them, it was very clear that Jesus is working in their lives and they know it, even at a young age.

It was a grand celebration with more than 120 people present and hundreds watching online. As the worship team played quietly the song “I’m Alive in You,” each person would enter the baptistry. As the person was being immersed into the water, the worship team would get louder with a crescendo of the song. Cheers filled the room as each person came up out of the water into new life. It truly felt like a heavenly sound of worship!

All we can say is thank you, Holy Spirit! We will have more!

Joe Brannen, pastor
Surrey Hills, OK, US

Prayer Guide—April 2023

“The baptized life … is characterized by a prayerfulness that courageously keeps going, even when things are difficult and unpromising and unrewarding, simply because you cannot stop the urge to pray. Something keeps coming alive in you; never mind the results.” ― Rowan Williams

Join us in prayer this month as we lift up our members and leaders. Click the image below to download and print the April Prayer Guide and check out what’s happening in our fellowships around the world. #WeAreGCI

Australian National Board Meeting

Australian National Board L to R: David Jordison, John McLean, Daphne Sidney, Janiece Harper, Kathy Regazzoli, Randall Bourchier

The weekend of 24-26 February held a much-valued space for the Australian National Board. The Board members, along with two invited guests, gathered on the Gold Coast, Queensland, for a retreat. The vibrant blues and greens of the Pacific Ocean, the surf, and sand provided an inspiring environment for time together, which had not been possible since the onset of COVID in 2020.

Board members commented that being able to meet face-to-face for two days was a wonderful gift. To experience the warmth of fellowship, shared meals, times of prayer, reflective conversation punctuated by both soberness and laughter was a restored joy! We joyfully and reflectively shared in worship, including Board Chair John McLean’s encouraging devotional on hope. The communion presented with Jacqui and Matt, who provided worship music, was refreshing. We enjoyed the company of our two committed and gifted young leaders, which added joy to joy and gratitude upon gratitude.

Matt Sianidis and Jacqui Gold, leading worship

John’s devotional on hope flowed into a discussion of the members’ hopes for 2023. Hope and love are inextricably tied together as love for God and love for neighbour are key to flourishing and to bringing hope to the world. This is key to healthy church and revitalisation of our mission and vision, which was a focus of the retreat. Discussions included societal and cultural challenges faced by churches today and best practices in this regard. Having time to discuss and pray over future plans and for the church across the region was uplifting and encouraging.

Another feature of the retreat was a presentation on board roles and governance. Linking this to the theme on hope, we were encouraged that as the Board cradles the vision of the church, so it cradles the hope of the church, as the church is to be a beacon of hope to the world.

Daphne Sidney PortraitDaphne Sidney, Australasia Superintendent

Death of Tom Smith

On March 7, 2023, Tom R. Smith, 74, of Chillicothe, OH, went to be with our Lord and Savior.

Tom was born March 19, 1948, in Cincinnati, OH. On March 21, 1971, he married his best friend, Pam, who survives. Also surviving are their children: Tonya Smith, of Garland, TX, Brandon Smith, of Avella, PA, GCI Pastor Carrie (Greg) Osborne, of Chillicothe, and Katie (Matthew) Wilson, Avella, PA.

Tom served as a GCI pastor for more than 40 years. Even before Tom was called to pastoral ministry, he had always been one to offer a helping hand and do whatever was needed to gather people. Tom and Pam met at Ambassador College in Big Sandy, TX in 1964. Their friendship provided a foundation of love, laughter, and faith as they shared the next 52 years in marriage and building a family together. Though life together began in Texas, Tom’s willingness to serve where he was called led them to Montana for a few years, and then to Southwestern Pennsylvania in 1988, where the Smith family made impactful connections throughout several communities for more than three decades.

Tom was best known for his passion to teach and engage children and youth about God and how to build positive relationships with Jesus and each other. Tom was also known for his kind heart, encouragement, and talent for telling corny jokes. It’s a talent inherited by his children, who proudly share with others.

If you would like to share stories and memories of Tom with his family, email to: smith.pamela.s@icloud.com. They would love to receive your dad jokes too.

His celebration of life service, including a eulogy by Craig Bellis, can be viewed here.

2023 Healthy Church Challenge

Join the 2023 Healthy Church Challenge and help us

Remember Our First Love 

at the Denominational Celebration.

Hey there, all young GCI members between the ages of 8 and 17, we’ve got an exciting opportunity for you! You’re invited to take part in the Healthy Church Challenge. We invite you to showcase your creativity and talent by submitting a video. Your video will be featured at the Denominational Celebration if it’s selected in the initial screening. And guess what? The final winners will receive a special prize! 

The deadline to enter is May 1, 2023, so there’s plenty of time to plan your video if you start today. To learn more about the challenge and how to participate, head over to www.gci.org/challenge. We can’t wait to hear your stories! 

The GCI Swag Store Is Now Open

GCI Gear is Here!

We are excited to announce that GCI clothing and accessories are now available as part of our Denominational Celebration! 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. 

Volunteer at the Denominational Celebration

Would you like to volunteer? Send an email to home.office@gci.org and we’ll get back to you with the sign-up info.  

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.

Do you have additional questions? Please send your questions to home.office@gci.org 

Denominational Celebration—Register Now!