I received a call from Mike Horchak and he requests prayer on behalf of his family and all those in the Southeast affected by Hurricane Ida and then again, Nicolas. He said a downpour of rain is causing additional flooding and hindering the efforts of the men and women working around the clock to restore power. Mike & Pam are still without power from Ida, with no internet service or home phone service.
Please take a moment now to beseech God’s mercy and intervention.
GCI Regional Director, Southeast
Pastor Rick Shallenberger asked me to share with you something that happened here in Cincinnati. Two of our members, Mike and Mindy Lockard, are in the hospital with Covid pneumonia. They have been there for a week and are not expected to be out anytime soon. They are both very ill.
Today after church, our Cincinnati West congregation made some poster boards and a small group of us traveled over to the hospital. The nurses marked the windows with blue paper so we would know which rooms they were in. We stood outside waving the poster boards, waving to our dear friends, blowing kisses, and praying for them. It was a beautiful moment. Mindy told us that the nurses were really touched by what they witnessed from Mike and Mindy’s rooms. Mindy, still shining the light of Christ, told them about her church family and that the church is the one on the hill that overlooks the hospital.
We went to encourage Mike and Mindy, but God had more in mind. Today, the nurses at Mercy West Hospital witnessed the love of God. Oh, how I love the way God works!
Julie Frantz, Pastor Cincinnati East and West
Disclaimer: GCI congregations are following recommended CDC guidelines in their areas.
Ric and Michelle Thomas are overjoyed to announce the birth of their son, Layne Oliver Thomas, on September 14, 2021. Layne is the fourth of their sons, preceded by Ethan, Reed, and Zade. All are happy and healthy and enjoying their first week back home together.
Michelle is a Teen Ministry Leader for the Jacksonville, Florida, congregation and the daughter of Marty and Yvonne Davey, who pastor the Jacksonville and Woodbine congregations.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Pick one of the 4 E’s from the Pastor Avenue and let us know, how has your pastor engaged, equipped, empowered, or encouraged you.
The GCI Healthy Church Challenge is live! Young people of GCI, now is time to share your gifts while exploring the faith, hope, and love avenues.
Visit gci.org/challenge for more information and remember to get your entries in by Monday November 1, 2021!
I am not sure where the year has gone, but it is already time to wrap up the 2022 budget planning season at the GCI Home Office. As we look at 2022, we also look forward an additional three years to see how to sustain the path where Jesus is leading. We know that unless he builds the house, our work is not effective.
We also look back to see what is and isn’t working from this year and make prudent adjustments looking forward. Wow, what a year it has been! We expected to have been looking at Covid in the rear-view mirror, but here we are still planning around its impact.
As I look back on the impact Covid has had on GCI financial operations, it is evident that our Lord has been faithfully providing for GCI in unanticipated ways. It is easier to see his faithfulness looking back sometimes and connecting the dots where his hand is evident.
During the Covid pandemic, my prayer has been with those who have been affected by loss of loved ones and jobs. My heart goes out to those affected, and my prayer has also been that GCI could maintain operations in the face of Covid-caused financial challenges.
Despite concerns about how Covid would impact donations and the ability of GCI to carry out its mission of sharing the gospel, he has provided. Let me reflect briefly on how our heavenly Father has been faithful to GCI in the financial area.
God has been faithful in unexpected ways. Members who maintained jobs and congregations have donated more to help offset losses. Previously donated trusts have helped provide stability. The federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was expanded to include churches, and GCI was able to receive funds from that program to help continue operations and employment at the pre-pandemic level. Investments have provided positive returns and helped bolster the church’s balance sheet. Reduced travel and the expanded use of Zoom have reduced expenses and taught us how to use technology more effectively. Looking back, we can see that God has provided for the church, as he always does. Through this provision, we expect to end the year on or above budgeted income projections and under budget in the expense category.
Through God’s provision during Covid, we have also been able to start construction on a new facility! The church and Ministry Training Center near Oklahoma City is nearly complete (see attached photos). This exciting $3. 95 million joint construction effort between the Home Office, Central Region, and the local church in Oklahoma City (Surrey Hills) is nearly complete, and it will be a blessing to the local church and GCI well into the future. Members have been serving the neighborhood for years in preparation and have developed deep relationships with those they serve. Local leaders have focused their efforts on sharing the gospel through the love, hope and faith avenues, even while face-to-face meetings have not been possible. I look forward to the completion of this facility near the end of the year and seeing its impact for Christ in the years ahead.
The Board also recently approved the purchase of a church facility in Eugene, Oregon, where GCI started in the early 1900s. Much has changed since that time, but this purchase will provide a secure foundation for an already thriving congregation to better reach their neighborhood and community. We hope to finish the acquisition and start some improvements before year end.
The Home Office Operating Budget for 2022 projects income and expenses near 2021 levels at approximately $4.6 million. This does not include income and expenses processed at the Home Office for local congregations of approximately $3 million.
Through the challenges we face corporately and individually, I pray we always see that our Lord is faithful and is walking with us. He is not surprised by our struggles and will lead us faithfully in his plan for us.
I encourage you to pause and read the Psalm 23 passage below from the New International Version and thank him for his daily faithfulness. What a blessing to participate with him in sharing the good news of the gospel. In him, we lack nothing, and he is faithful.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Thank you, friends, for your continued support and faithfulness in support of GCI as we strive to follow our shepherd and share the good news of the gospel.
Mathew H. Morgan, CFO
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:10-12
We’ve all made mistakes. Accidentally knocked something off a shelf in a store or gotten in an argument that landed us in hot water in school or work. If you’ve been fortunate in those moments, you’ve had a parent, friend, or supervisor who was willing to stand up for you when you were falling short.
It’s not the easiest thing to look past the heat of the moment when we fall short. Perhaps we’ve had thoughts like, “How could I be so _____?” You fill in the blank. It can be easy for us to let our faults define who we are in our minds. Thankfully, if we’re blessed to have good friends or coworkers, they can remind us (and those who could punish us) that our mistakes are not who we are.
Praise God that he sees beyond our sin and loves us. Let us be reminded that our God is the God who chooses to take upon himself the sin and death we earned and give us his own life.
In this way God gave us an example of what love is.
So how do we apply this to our lives?
We should do the same in loving others even when it’s difficult.
Let us pray.
Great God, thank you for your perfect love and sacrifice that bought my freedom. Help me live into the truth that is your love for me. Guide me as I love those around me in my daily life.
By Andrew Rakestraw
GC Next Leader, Southeast US
Dear GCI Family and Friends,
At the Home Office we are in the season of preparing our budget for 2022. This is a large task, and yet a rewarding opportunity to collaboratively reflect on what the Spirit is doing among us, as well as prayerfully discerning where and what the Spirit is pointing us toward for the coming year.
We begin this process by reviewing how the budget served our vision of Healthy Church over the past year. We consider what projects may be winding down and how monies can be reallocated to promising new opportunities; what events were supported and what ones are coming in the next year; what equipment we have procured to enable our staff, and what new equipment we may need in 2022; what staffing needs might we face (we continue to work through retirements and the onboarding of new staff).
We are mindful that a similar process happens with our local congregations. This is a great time to take a few moments and reflect on the concept of budgeting to support the vision and mission of your church. Allow me to share some guiding principles that can help you in this important process.
- The work of the church is to make disciples and grow the community of the church.
Our budgeting priorities are going to support the ministries that are outlined by the Faith, Hope and Love Avenues and the annual rhythms of how these avenues interact to accomplish the work of the church.
As an example: GCI is not the humane society rescuing animals, even though a local church may get involved with pet rescue because of their affinity for specific people who love pets. But when our churches sink money into such an organization, that is a misuse of funds dedicated to the work of the church.
When donations are received and receipted by your local church, they should be used for local church initiatives, not for other non-profits. If you have members with a passion for a non-profit, then they can make a personal donation to that organization and not expect the local church to donate to it. The work of the local church is to make disciples by reaching into their neighborhood and connecting people to Jesus and his body, the church.
- The church is to do good.
Various scriptures inform us about the charitable, generous posture of the church. For example, Galatians 6:7-10:
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.
Doing good for all people doesn’t necessarily mean making a monetary contribution. It can be spending time, providing acts of service, making phone calls, sharing a meal, etc. How do you place a price tag on a genuine, caring relationship?
As Christ followers, we have a heart for “the good of all,” but realistically, our first responsibility is to the household of faith (this is why we offer help in the wake of devastating natural disasters). We are not the American Red Cross or local government with long-term care. As a denomination, we can only offer short-term emergency help. Neither is it our place to get out in front of biological families and circumvent their role in caring for one another. In GCI we have a history of serving members around the world during times of disaster, and the operation of the emergency fund has been monitored and managed by a Board Committee to assure good oversight.
- The church serves the needy.
James 1:27 is another scripture that helps us order our priorities. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Helping the helpless is a Christian responsibility and yet none of us have deep enough pockets to care for the vast population of the world’s poor. We do good where we can, as we can, and we do so in the tradition of Peter and John who declared that they had neither gold or silver, and yet they did have access to Jesus and his healing power for the lives of the people in front of them. We have the same riches and the same access to share with others.
The denomination supports the movement toward church health, and the growing number of healthy churches are becoming more impactful in their neighborhoods with the good news of Jesus and the active love of Jesus. The unique ways of how you will invest your time, talent and treasure in 2022 begins now with the prayerful planning, and discernment of the Spirit’s lead.
Some questions to think about when budgeting in your local church for a particular ministry:
- Is this ministry “making disciples?”
- Is the ministry doing the work of the church?
- Does this ministry build and multiply local leadership?
- Is this ministry working toward local sustainability?
We join you in prayer as we collectively look toward 2022 and a rich season of ministry!
One of our core values in GCI is stewardship—protecting and preserving what we have. Though stewardship is praiseworthy, when given too much importance, it can get in the way of progress. Some of our congregations are sitting on large sums of money in their financial reserves. The money in your reserves was donated for the purpose of preaching the gospel and making new disciples, should it not be put to work in advancing that gospel mission? Does your church budget for evangelical outreach (Love Avenue)?
If your church is not able to have a Love Avenue due to size or location, work with your Regional Director for suggestions on how you might partner with another church within the region to financially support an outreach project they are working towards or support a neighborhood camp within your region.
These are just a few ways that you can make a legacy for your church within GCI instead of allocating GCI funds toward outside organizations.
This summer, our congregation hosted two Love Avenue events: our second annual Carnivalfest and a Laser Tag Party.
I came up with the idea for our Carnivalfest a couple years ago inspired by the desire to bring back local events that had stopped happening in our community. There used to be an annual 4H Carnival and a Community Fest in town and those just slowly went away, hence the name Carnivalfest. I had lots of fond memories from them as a kid. I knew we needed to reach out to our community and thought this was a great way to make this happen as a congregation. As a congregation we are committed to involving every age group in the planning and hosting of these events. We need everyone to make this work.
The first year, our theme was the Armor of God. It was a huge success. By the time participants made it through each game or station, they were taking the whole Armor of God with them home. After the first carnival, we were sitting at the GCI conference in Dallas and the theme for our next carnival came to my mind: Mysteries of God, which turned into the Miracles of God Carnival. Even though I love the miracles from the Old Testament, I wanted people to see the whole picture of what Jesus had done for each person.
When you started through our Carnival, you walked in and were met by a huge rock mound, with a stone that was to be rolled away as they entered the tomb. The next room was dark with a bright light in the corner with a tomb with the words written “he is risen” and the cloth laid upon the tomb empty. This room had a fog machine to give it the full effect. They then went through the black plastic to an open room with bright colors and a display of taking a walk with Jesus. This is where the parents signed them in, with phone numbers and signed our waivers, received a crown of their choice, received their “God is especially fond of you” bags and our church information. Then Pastor David set them in our crowning chair and crowned them a child of God with: “Know that you were formed a child of God, placed in his heart and placed in this world for a purpose.” At this point they could play laser tag or walk through our Red Sea, welcomed by Moses. We had a photo booth, with take-home pictures with the name Carnivalfest 2021 Community by Grace. We had many games, a face painting booth, handprints (laminated with a magnet), Donut Bobbing, Cake Walk, Balloon Stomp, Cave walk to the Fiery Furnace and a Maze that brought you through to the Big Room. Each one of our booths had a miracle attached to it. The maze was dark and long. It took a good five minutes to get through it, and halfway through they changed it up. Everyone had a great time.
One of the highlights was seeing all the teens and adults coming together to work on booths. The hardest part for me was letting go and being ok with kids and teens taking creative license—things didn’t have to be perfect; God is not looking for perfect people. I had to be ok with whatever they produced for me! I knew it was in God’s hands and from the beginning I had to remember that. Too many times kids do things and get a “that’s fine,” or “that will work,” instead of a “Yes, great work! God would love it! Thanks so much for being here to help.” We have to meet them where they are instead of expecting them to do things exactly as we would. As a congregation, we live that, no judgment, none of us are perfect. God loves us and meets us where we are, and Jesus is present in our lives whether we accept it or not.
Several members of our congregation shared photos, insights, and highlights for weeks after the carnival on their Facebook pages, Snapchats and Instagram. We have had one new family start coming since the carnival, but when we have a game night, laser tag, or bonfire, everyone from the neighborhood shows up, whether they have been attending church or not. I feel this is great–we are meeting them where they are.
Even though our regular attendance is low sometimes, we have about 75 to 80 attend our church when they can or an event is planned.
My sister, Niki Katzenmeier, has been a huge asset to our church, since she moved here in June. She came up with the idea of laser tag and we planned it together. We purchased 32 guns and batteries and started gathering big boxes, used our half doors from the maze and put black plastic up and turned off all the lights. We used our whole church area. In our eating area, we had the laser gun table set up with waivers. While the first bunch played we would get the second bunch set up with the rules. Anyone who was not playing still could enjoy visiting with the parents, or the visitors. During the first event we had a make-your-own-pizza station, which was a huge success as well. Thanks to Niki’s help we were able to make this event happen.
Niki has also completely revamped our bulletin board, so we have sign-up sheets for all the events, church service, anything we do! It’s bright and pretty. We also have included a spot for prayer requests, and all our upcoming events are added to the board. People want to get out and need to see who we are!
Love Avenue Champion