On Saturday, March 20, I had the privilege of ordaining and commissioning Kairis Chiaji, Michael Smith and David Houck to serve as the pastoral team for Living Grace Fellowship, our GCI congregation in Sacramento, California. In addition to other elders present, I was also joined by Michael’s father (who pastors a GCI congregation in Fairfield, CA) and Kairis’ son Dwight, who served as the former pastor in Sacramento until last year.
The day included an inspiring worship service, praise dancing, prayers offered by the spouses of each of the team members, the lighting of a unity candle by Kairis, Michael and David, and a message presented by Kairis. Many of us were able to continue the celebration outside at a nearby restaurant afterward.
CenterPointe Church’s Love Avenue held its second Community Care Day on Sunday, March 21, 2021. The team spread smiles, warm wishes for a great 2021, and spring cheer in the neighborhood immediately surrounding the church. The team went door to door and gave away over 85 gift bags containing candy, flower seeds, an inspirational quote, and information about the church. Nearly twenty members volunteered in various capacities to make this day a huge success.
“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
– 1 John 4:19-21 (NIV)
Jen Gregory Pastor, CenterPointe Church Grove City, OH
Grace Communion Seminary, working in partnership with Grace Communion International, is happy to announce new diploma options designed for GCI members who lead the ministry avenues of faith (discipleship), hope (worship), and love (witness). This will include new courses designed for each of the three avenues.
The GCS Diploma of Christian Ministry involves seven classes. Six of the requirements are the same no matter which ministry a person is involved in; one class will be different based on the avenue of focus. The courses may be taken in any order, and at any pace, as fast as one course each semester, or only one course per year. Students are welcome to take one course without a commitment to take any others.
Not everyone will be able to keep to the same schedule, but we encourage the avenue champions (Faith, Hope, or Love) to take courses together and to stay together as a group.
Here is a basic sketch of the diploma program:
One Bible course, either Biblical Interpretation or New Testament Survey (both taught by Mike Morrison)
Three ministry courses: Practice of Ministry (Ted Johnston), Church Planting and Development (Randy Bloom), and Polity of GCI (Greg Williams and Mike Rasmussen)
One theology courses: The Holy Spirit, the Church, and Last Things (Gary Deddo)
One additional Bible course or one additional theology course
One ministry course chosen based on the ministry avenue:
For the Faith Avenue (discipleship): Pastoral Leadership, Trinitarian Youth Ministry, or a new course in Small Group Bible Study Leadership
For the Hope Avenue (worship): Trinitarian Youth Ministry or a future appropriate elective
For the Love Avenue (witness and outreach): a future appropriate elective
All courses are taught at a graduate level, discussions are held at a graduate level, and students are required to read several textbooks and to write papers. Each course will entail about 140 hours of work – about 12 hours each week for twelve weeks. Those who want to audit are still expected to read the textbooks and participate in the discussions.
Contact the GCS Registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
Twice in the past week two people have quoted this verse to me and pointed out the reality of iron sharpening iron. This verse, which is often quoted in sermons, article and books, is often used in reference to people spending time together in a connect group or in fellowship together. “How can we grow together unless we spend time together, after all, iron sharpens iron…” We often think in terms of rubbing off on each other—sharing the good things with each other.
What we fail to focus on is that when iron sharpens iron, friction occurs and sparks fly. The truth is, iron sharpening iron is not always a pleasant experience. People disagree with you. People get upset with each other and sparks fly. Things are sometime said that shouldn’t be said—or in a manner or tone that is less than graceful. Tempers can raise, voices can raise, friction occurs and sparks fly. And this is what the Scripture is telling us. These things are part of growing together in grace and truth.
Relationships are important for many reasons. They help fill a basic human need and they give us opportunity to love and share life with others. Relationships without friction and sparks might not be as healthy as one might think. It may surprise some to hear that Cheryl and I have disagreements. (Tongue firmly implanted in cheek.) She is not a mini-me and I am not a mini-her. We are two different people with different backgrounds, who grew up in different environments, who had different learning experiences and who—hold your breath—have different opinions about things. As a result, in some of our discussions friction occurs and sparks fly. And not every disagreement ends in perfect peace, we simply agree to disagree. However, and this is vital, we choose to not be disagreeable. There is a significant difference. Our goal is to love each other, to grow in our marriage, to understand each other better. Neither one of us is disagreeable—defined as being unfriendly and bad tempered. In our 36 years of marriage we have experienced iron sharpening iron, and I can say with conviction that I love Cheryl much more now than I did when we first married; she can say the same.
There are two other verses in Proverbs 27 that reinforce this principle.
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” (Verse 5)
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Verse 6)
Healthy relationships grow when we listen and seek to understand why someone disagrees—when we focus on the other rather than on the disagreement. Relationships grow when we try to see things from another’s point of view and choose to not be offended when someone doesn’t immediately agree with us or struggles to understand our point of view.
I would suggest that God is never put off when we disagree—and let’s be honest, we often do. Why didn’t you heal this person? Why didn’t you answer that prayer? Why didn’t I get that job? God, I disagree with your decision. God, I wish you weren’t so far removed from me. God, why don’t you take care of these people who bother me? God why aren’t you more involved?
The Psalms are full of David asking those very questions of God. God why didn’t you.., why won’t you…, why aren’t you… These questions don’t bother God because they are part of the friction of iron sharpening iron. David might not agree, we might not agree, but we are not being disagreeable.
And here’s the key: When it comes to our relationship with Father, Son and Sprit, God is always the one doing the sharpening. But notice, he does it by becoming like us. He becomes the iron that will sharpen us. He rubs off on us. He seeks to make us stronger, sharper, better. And while some of that sharpening causes friction, and there are sparks, we know the end result is good. In the end, we are sharpened into what God intends us to be.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for loving me enough to not be concerned about the friction and the sparks in our relationship. Thank you for dedicating yourself to mold me into whatever it is you want me to be. Thank you for putting up with my disagreements, and patiently helping me see things your way and to trust you. I may not like the friction and the sparks, but I know they are the result of your unconditional love. Thank you!
Rick Shallenberger Regional Director USA, North Central
“To pray is to accept that we are, and always will be, wholly dependent on God for everything.” ― Timothy Keller
Join us in corporate prayer this month as we thank God for the good work he includes us in. Click the image below to download and print the April Prayer Guide, celebrating how God is working in and among our fellowships around the world.
Charles Young, GCI Pastor in Atlanta, sent me word that his older brother, Larry, died last week of a heart attack. Please remember Charles, Debbie and the entire Young family in your prayers as they grieve and say goodbye for now.
As last Sunday powerfully bore witness, we don’t grieve as those without hope. Thanks be to God for the promise of the resurrection!
If you would like to send condolences:
Charles & Debbie Young 6290 Ponderosa Court College Park, GA 30349-4038
GCI mourns the eight lives senselessly lost at Atlanta-area spas, including six women of Asian descent. The attacks took place against a backdrop of increased violence against Asian Americans and intensifies fear and trauma for many in the Asian-American community.
GCI denounces violence and hate in all forms against any person or persons made in the image of God. To raise your awareness, over the past year, nearly 3,800 incidents of name-calling, shunning and assault against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate. Some of the incidents include being spat at, coughed on or physically attacked while being verbally blamed for the coronavirus.
Christians are ambassadors of grace and reconciliation. We have a unique and compelling call to provide leadership for the benefit and dignity of all (2 Corinthians 5:16–20). The Bible uniformly teaches the essential dignity of all humans and the shared desire to belong in community. GCI understands that the heart of Jesus is for the “other” and the marginalized.
As Christians, we seek to stand with the marginalized. We encourage our members to grieve for the families and friends of the victims, then to seek understanding of the historical and contemporary facets of racism in our country, to willingly enter into hard conversations, and to humbly listen to the hurt while empathizing with the pain of others. All in the hope of the healing that can only come from Jesus.
The COVID-19 pandemic was an external shock to our established systems unlike any of us have ever experienced. Our pastors and ministry leaders have been challenged to re-think church. It has certainly been a time we have needed the creative voices among us. Many congregations have done well to listen to the creatives and have found clever ways to worship and fellowship via technology. (GCI Creative Community FaceBook Page is a splendid resource for continued sharing of fresh ideas).
So, now that we are a quarter of the way through 2021 and are seeing signs of hope, how do we approach the possibility of movement out of the pandemic?
Meredith McNabb, Associate Director for Educational Programming at Lake Institute, says this:
“On the practical management side, in a time of external shocks, the leadership task might best be summed up as asset management: what resources do you have, and what do your core values say should be done with those resources?”
This is good, straight-forward advice. I would add that it needs to happen in the spirit of Acts 15 and the Jerusalem Council, where after hearing testimony and meetings bathed in prayer, they arrived at meaningful conclusions that “seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (verse 28).
As we have relied on our creative folks to help learn new ways to sustain the work and presence of the church, now is a good time to for church leaders to convene and have serious conversations about the values and mission of their local church.
McNabb adds these helpful questions:
Why does the congregation exist?
What is the spiritual, transformational, life-giving, and meaning-making work that caused the congregation to gather in the first place?
How do these elements play out going into our future?
These questions set the table for what could turn into a transformative leadership meeting.
I am happy that our focus this year is on the Faith Avenue. Much of our pre-Covid focus was on the Sunday gathering. I would speculate that up to 80% of our attention, resources and energy went into the Sunday meetings, and then the pandemic shut our doors. This blip in church life may prove to be an incredible wake-up call for the church to better distribute its attention, resources, and energy.
What is the new storyline for our church?
Connect Groups are a timely answer as we continue to build and nurture relationship with one another, and collectively walk with Jesus. These groups can thrive online or in the physical setting of someone’s living room.
Cross-Generational Care is a demanding need as some of our senior members and at-risk members will not be able to gather the same as before the pandemic. It is the authentic care of the church that finds meaningful ways to keep these members still included as part of church life. This is an area that requires us to step up.
Community-Building Events may receive more attention than usual since many of these activities can happen outside in a safer setting for social distancing. This is a key spot where the Faith Avenue Team converges with the Love Avenue Team. Sharing and comparing ideas from both teams that will develop into plans will be extremely helpful. And be sure to give special consideration to how these activities mix and match with neighborhood engagement.
A healthy church will find ways to function well in all three ministry avenues – Love, Hope, and Faith. It begins with a focus on Jesus as our Lord, Provider, and the Head of our church. What has Jesus been saying to us through this global health challenge? How has he reorganized our church? What priorities is he directing us toward? These questions need to begin the assessment process for your leadership teams, as you gather to set your eyes toward the future.
Jesus is our Love, Hope, and Faith. As we actively pursue thoughts, plans and activities in each of these avenues, let’s be assured that he is the one leading, and we are alongside as participants.
The We Are GCI Series is a collection of videos where various GCI family members are highlighted. In this episode, President, Dr. Greg Williams interviews Media Director, Michelle Fleming. Michelle shares her experience and connection with GCI. Together Greg and Michelle discuss the purpose for GCI Media content and preview the theme Faith Forward and resources that will be rolled out in 2021.