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Hebrews 5:7 – In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
Never in life have I prayed so loudly, with crying and tears to our Father, than since becoming age 40 and over! You middle and older agers feeling me? Haha. I’m even open to the possibility that Jesus was in his late 40s during his last 3½ years (as a possibility put forth by Bert Gary in his book Jesus Unplugged.) Of course, I don’t underestimate how much even youth today might cry loudly and with tears considering the divorce rate, student debt, politics, racial division and technological franticness of our frenzied world, just for starters!
This scripture explains why believers (you?!) might be praying in such ways or find yourself doing so ever more! Jesus came into our very own broken humanity, feeling and knowing our pain to its depths (though without sin!), sharing with us his history, his relationship in hope with his Father, since we live also in times of being “made perfect”! Jesus sharing our flesh and sending his Spirit to us from his place of Ascension certainly goes a long way in explaining why we may pray—cry loudly and with tears in this world! He came and he’s still here!
Jesus praying this way also rules out the false belief that loud crying and fervent praying has only to do with “necessity,” “being religious” or believing the Father notices, hears and answers us only if we pray in that way! Nah. As we head towards death and also toward more abundant life and salvation with Father – believing Jesus is still to come and appear quickly – we cry loudly and with tears in the Spirit, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).
Timothy J. Brassell
Greetings from Malaysia,
GCI Malaysia celebrated our Festival 2019 from 26 to 30 September at Seri Malaysia Hotel in Genting Highlands. Around 50 members attended the festival. We had pastor Chanling from Myanmar and Asian Superintendent Eugene Guzon as our special guests. It was a Spirit-filled festival with cool weather throughout.
Pastor GCI Malaysia
Congratulations to Pastor Marty Davey and the GCI Jacksonville, FL congregation, Christian Family Fellowship, for winning titles in the Folio Weekly Magazine, “Best of Jax 2019” awards.
Christian Family Fellowship won fifth place in the Best Church category, and Marty Davey won third place in the Best Spiritual Leader category.
November 24, 2019, Grace Communion Cleveland (Cleveland Heights, Ohio) held an outreach for Thanksgiving Community Dinners. We served a specific area where our church meets and gave out invites to the local food bank.
We delivered 15 meals and had 19 ordered for pick up. We also were able to feed about 50 people including our church members in a fellowship hall provided to us free of charge by a church across the street from where we meet. We consider this a huge success for showing Jesus’ love in our community. Our plan is to stay in contact with the names and numbers we collected and see how we can assist them in the future. To God be the Glory!
Grace Communion Cleveland
Dear GCI Disaster Relief Fund Donors:
On behalf of GCI Bahamas, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the generous donation you sent for our members in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Your generosity helped 13 family units (35 persons) restore a sense of dignity and get back up on their feet again. It helped in providing immediate food and water needs, personal items, shelter in the form of apartment rental, etc., purchase building material to repair our church building in Moores Island, Abaco, as well as a number of member homes on the affected islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
In addition, we were able to assist our pastor in Freeport, Calvin Parker, in purchasing a used car, and we provided new fridges and stoves for 10 members who lost these appliances during the storm (thankfully we were able to catch the American “Black Friday” sale and purchase these items at less than half of what it cost here in the Bahamas.) I share the sentiments of Pastor Parker, who wrote recently, “you don’t know how much this means to us. We are a people most grateful. Please give our love to the brethren.” We receive similar expressions of gratitude almost every day.
We were also able to purchase some basic landscaping tools to assist a member in finding self-employment, and we will be assisting our pastor in Abaco, Joanne Jones, along with her mother and sister in setting up a small grocery business so they can be self-supporting in the future. Joanne’s father, Pastor John Paul Jones Sr., died a few years ago, and her brother, John Paul Jones Jr. died recently and was buried just one week before Hurricane Dorian hit the island. So assistance provided for them is especially meaningful at this time. Your kindness went a long way in helping them feel a special sense of love and connection to our international family.
Again, we say thank you, and may God continue to richly bless you.
Yours in Christ,
Robert W.T. McKinney
National Director, GCI Bahamas
Regional Director, Caribbean
It is with great pleasure we welcome Robert McKinney and his wife Tania as our new Regional Director of the Caribbean. Robert has served in ministry for over three decades. He currently pastors two congregations in Nassau, Bahamas. He has also served as the National Director for the churches in the Bahamas for a quarter of a century.
My wife and I, along with President Greg Williams and his wife Susan, had the privilege of spending some time with Robert and Tania (along with their children) this past September. We were amazed that everywhere we went on the island people came up to Robert as if they were old friends. Robert kept telling us it is a “small” island. This may be true, but the evidence of Robert engaging the people of his island was inescapable. He is dedicated to loving the people in the neighborhood surrounding his church building and lives only a few blocks from where his congregations meet each week. It was encouraging to see how a parish pastor can impact his neighborhood.
Robert loves to perform weddings – to date, he has performed over 1,000 of them. This ministry has helped him to meet and interact with thousands of people across the island. When we were there, we ran into at least three random couples whom Robert had recently married. Robert also has a passion for young people. His passion and giftedness are so well known in the Bahamas the government appointed him to a Review Board that adjudicates court-related decisions that affect juvenile offenders. Again, the place where these decisions take place is not far from where his church meets each week.
Robert and Tania have three lovely children, one daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. While we were in the Bahamas, Greg and I had the honor of ordaining Tanya as an Elder. I am excited to see how God uses her many gifts and talents.
I am thrilled to work with Robert and to see him spread his wings as he joins Jesus in loving and leading our congregations in the Caribbean. Please join me in welcoming Robert and Tania to their new responsibilities!
With Deep Respect,
Michael D. Rasmussen
Superintendent of North America and the Caribbean
Working alongside Charles and Carmen has been a pure joy. These two servants are fun and deeply caring individuals. They have impacted many with their good teaching and fine examples. This impact will echo through the lives of many people for years to come.
Charles and Carmen Fleming have been more than just a church employee and wife in our fellowship. For me, Charles was not only a consummate pastor but also with Carmen exemplars of a rich marriage in Christ. They were friends who always seemed to be ahead of the curve in understanding theology and rich core of grace upon which proper theology is based. I appreciate that their shared ministry always taught Jesus was the center of God’s plan.
In my time working with Charles, there was never an assigned task that was not handled well and managed to a smooth and fruitful conclusion. It is my heartfelt feeling that he made me feel a real part of his family and he is one of those for whom I can say that I always felt enriched when I was in his company. My only regret is that they live on the other side of the country, which will not prevent me from seeking to be in their company again. Tammy and I pray love and blessings upon this new chapter in their lives.
Join me in wishing Charles and Carmen a wonderful time in their well-deserved retirement. I know that they will stay active in GCI and be a blessing to all they encounter.
Dr. Greg Williams
Dear GCI Family and Friends,
I was introduced to Marva Dawn as an author early on in my post-graduate work. Her book Worship Evangelism resonated as she opened my mind to the power of worship and how singing our faith unites us relationally to the heart and mind of Christ. Her approach is thoughtful, spiritual, and valuable to the church.
In another book, Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, Marva proclaims that our churches aren’t bombarded by hostile outsiders, and the source of our struggles is not wrath and hostility, rather, we custodians of the church (pastors, ministry leaders, and congregants) are confronted by apathy, reticence, and intellectual feebleness. Let’s look at these three.
Apathy means a “don’t care” attitude. Practically speaking, when has anyone critically evaluated how we are doing as a worshipping church? Have we asked anyone to evaluate us, or have we gotten into a routine that is acceptable, and in which we’ve grown comfortable? Can we be more worshipful and better at pointing the worshippers to Jesus? What would happen if this was an ongoing conversation happening with worship leaders and team members who are organizing our weekly worship services? What if the pastor involved herself in these conversations as well? If this isn’t happening, the debilitating state of ritual and routine can easily become the norm.
Over the weeks, months and decades we have been “doing church,” have we allowed worship to become repetitive and hollow? Marva expresses that we often make this worse because of our present-day need for efficiency: How do we do what we do faster and effectively so we can get back to the other activities vying for our time and attention? This is one of the reasons we are focusing on the Hope Avenue (venue) this year in Equipper. It is the responsibility/opportunity of the church to make worship meaningful for any and all who step foot into our sanctuaries. It is easy to slip into apathetic tendencies and give the impression that Jesus is not the center of our worship. May the Spirit always stir us out of complacency.
Reticence means a reluctance to speak up. We don’t give constructive criticism; we hold back from getting involved. I have attended a few of our GCI churches where I have been surveyed with a list of questions about my worship experience, or directly asked by one of the pastoral leaders. I love this openness with a willingness to receive feedback and a desire to expand their expressions of worship. Will we become a church that gets past our hesitancy and seeks to make Jesus more fully known in our worship services? May I suggest you invite a friend or coworker to church and ask for an evaluation. Invite your Regional Director to come evaluate the worship service. His schedule may not allow a visit, but he can certainly recommend someone to help.
Intellectual feebleness is not a huge obstacle for GCI folk. Our journey into the depth of “Who God is” has expanded our understanding and awareness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The opportunity for us is to place the emphasis and attention on the Triune God as we come together in corporate worship, and not fall back into making it about us (e.g., “This is my favorite song,” “These are the activities going on in my life,” etc.).
Marva isn’t simply a disrupter to the church for the sake of disruption. Her motivation is to help the church plumb and discover the depths of knowing God in his fullness and for the church to be healthy in our representation of the living Jesus. I recommend her book to our pastors and worship leaders — not merely as an educational exercise, but as an opportunity to be inspired for greater creativity and fresh expressions of worship.
As we have just experienced the grandeur of Advent and Christmas, I challenge you to continue in the seasonal cycle of the calendar and make worship in your congregation more meaningful than ever. Let’s put Christ front and center of all our celebrations.
Making Him Known,
P.S. As we begin the new year of 2020, it is my privilege to inform you that not only will we focus on the Hope Avenue, but we will also be focusing on our GCI Worship Calendar. Our vision remains Healthy Church, but doesn’t the number of the year 20/20 just scream for clarity of sight? We will methodically dig deeper and wider into the many aspects of the Hope Avenue, and this will crescendo with our Denominational Celebration in July. We are serious about making Jesus the center of the center and fully known in our quest for Healthy Church.