Life in the Kingdom: Joy and Peace at the Next Level

My dear friend Charles Fleming sent me a personal email after the denominational celebration. He was deeply moved by the kingdom of God theme. Charles is an analytical thinker and he has much to add to the theme of the kingdom. I’ve invited him to share, and before we get to his thoughts, let me go on record and thank him for serving as a regional team member for the Southeast US alongside Anthony Mullins. Thank you, Charles, for your good words. May we continue to seek first the kingdom of God in our pursuit of healthy church and healthy lives.

– Greg Williams, President

 


For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval – Romans 14:17-18

The recent Denominational Celebration fed my soul at many levels. Seeing and hearing of God’s kindness and generosity to his people around the world was a high point. But what has stayed with me longest was the reminder that we are already citizens of the kingdom of God. We are already enjoying some of the greatest blessings that await the entire human family when that kingdom is established in all its glory. In our Covid-weary, disaster-riddled world, I needed that.

It’s been too long since we have had any teaching on the present reality of the Kingdom of God. So, I thank God for inspiring our President, Greg Williams, to devote his keynote address to the subject. As he introduced his message, he called on us to think and talk about the present reality of the kingdom. Here is a sampling of some of what he said.

(As I was preparing for this sermon) “it just kept coming back to me that we need to talk about the kingdom of God and the reality of the kingdom of God… seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness is the priority… the kingdom and what that means.”

He did not just call on us to reflect on our new reality. He set the tone by highlighting three kingdom realities that the apostle Paul says are already available to us – righteousness, peace and joy.

I decided to take Greg’s encouragement to think deeply on the kingdom as a personal challenge. And now I want to take the second step he recommended. I want to talk about it with the hope of encouraging you to similarly think and talk about the kingdom. I gave more thought to what Paul wrote in Romans 14. Here are two things that I found particularly inspiring.

First, I was struck by the fact that the joy and peace Paul is talking about are not just the natural peace and joy we humans experience. Verse 18 shows there are two dimensions to this peace and joy. On the horizontal level we have right relationships with fellow humans. He says that when anyone “serves Christ in this way” the result is he or she “receives human approval.” And what does he mean by “in this way”? In the context Paul is writing in, it is following Christ’s example of accepting and not judging others (vv. 1-4) as well as joining Jesus in giving up personal rights to meet the needs of others (vv. 13-15, 19-23). There is a natural experience of joy and peace when we do the right thing.

But – and this is the truly inspiring part – there is more!

There is also a vertical dimension. What makes this version of peace and joy hallmarks of the kingdom is that the King himself is filled with joy. In verse 18, Paul also said that when anyone “serves Christ in this way (that) is pleasing to God.” What makes Paul declare the presence of the kingdom is that the King himself is filled with joy when he sees his people living true to their calling. And his joy is contagious. We get to experience it.

Living lives of inclusive, sacrificial love leads to the fulfillment – in this life – of promises of joy that Jesus made to his disciples. In one of his parables of the kingdom, Jesus promises the “good and faithful servant” that she or he will enter into or experience the very joy of his or her master (Matthew 25:21). Our ultimate reward is that for all eternity we will participate fully in the joy that Jesus experiences. But we do not have to wait for the resurrection to begin experiencing some of King Jesus’ joy. In John 17, he prayed for us to receive and experience, not just our (horizonal level) human joy, but his very joy even now!

And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you…. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves (John 17:11, 13).

The same can be said of peace. Jesus promised us not just our human-level peace, but an experience of his very own peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27).

My first great encouragement from thinking of this scripture is that when we are under the reign of King Jesus, we even get to participate in his emotions. He gives us a capacity for joy and peace that is beyond our natural, human ability to generate. Oh, how we need that just to keep going in our broken world!

My second reason for being encouraged is that we also get to share that joy and peace with others by participating with the Spirit in helping others know and accept the loving rule of King Jesus. Dallas Willard has a definition for the kingdom of God that captures what Paul says in Romans 14, “The Kingdom of God is God reigning. It is present wherever what God wants done is done.”

The kingdom of God is present wherever what God wants done is done

The kingdom is present whenever we allow the love of God shed abroad in our hearts to move us to serve others. In doing so we are bringing to others an experience of life under the rule of the King of love. It’s as if a new reality flashes into the conscious life of another person. And – wonder of wonders – we get to be loving, walking, talking representatives of that kingdom because Jesus lives in us by his Spirit!

Why should we actively think and talk about the kingdom of God? There are lots of reasons, but here are two. In a world that can lead us to despair and high anxiety, we are “hooked up” with a source of joy and peace that not only sustains and emboldens us but makes us beacons of hope for others.

Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you to take our President’s encouragement as a personal challenge to think and talk about the kingdom of God. Having an imagination shaped by Jesus’ kingdom gives us eyes to better understand the new creation life that Paul says is now ours (2 Corinthians 5:16-21.)

 

By Charles Fleming
GCI-USA Southeast Regional Support Team Member

 

 

 

P.S. If you would like to view the Sunday Worship Service from the Denominational Celebration, click here.

 

 

Budget Planning for Healthy Church

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Conclusion

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!

Greg Williams

 


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.

 

President’s Video: Faith Forward and Transitions

In this Update, GCI President Greg Williams talks about this year’s theme, “Faith Forward”. He shares about the different transitions happening in the life of the church and how we are aligned with our faith in Christ moving forward.

The Denominational Celebration 2021 videos are now available for all registered participants but will be released with open access on GCI.org on November 1st, 2021.

Program Transcript


Faith Forward and Transitions

Hello church!

Hopefully, you are aware that our 2021 theme for Grace Communion International is “Faith Forward.” Galatians 2:20 states it very clearly:

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20 (KJV)

It is by the faith OF the Son of God. It is the faith of Jesus in me strengthening my belief and quelching my unbelief.

Back in July, we took a short detour from Faith Forward to “Focus on Hope” (the theme of our Virtual Celebration). Not everybody could fit into the rhythm of the schedule and participate in the live streaming. The good news is that we recorded most of the presentations and I suspect that many of you are watching and learning from the recorded videos. Enjoy!

I am currently preparing to gather with some of our US pastors and their Faith Avenue champions to take a deep dive into all aspects of the Faith Avenue ministries. Please lift this weekend of training up in prayer. This can be a catalyst to move our Faith Forward.

In speaking of moving forward, an ongoing process that I have been involved with has been to work through the reality of leaders who are aging toward retirement and entering retirement. It is a privilege to work with leaders who are proactively thinking about who their replacement will be, and how to end their current level of responsibility on a high note.

There are no big announcements to make in this video update, but I can mention that we have a GCI Board rotation coming up in October and more news will follow.

When I became President of GCI, I came alongside many of our senior, trusted, and faithful leaders and had the privilege of walking with them to their retirement (a responsibility that I never fully anticipated but is a privilege).

Retirement is especially tricky as our old paradigm was to work in ministry until you die. Thankfully our good friend Joseph Tkach shifted the culture by his personal example.

The “working until you die mentality” is problematic.  The most glaring concern with this thinking is that the demands of ministry may send you to an early grave. Another issue is determining what is the best scenario for the extended family. The more difficult piece is when you’re holding on too long and too tightly and possibly standing in the way of an emerging leader that the Lord has called and prepared. Walking through this season is a prayerful journey with many conversations, and it is good that we can reach out to others who have gone in front of us.

==

In alignment with our 2021 theme, Faith Forward is about growing deeper in relationship with Jesus and with one another who make up the family of the church. As your President, I have a clear responsibility to our leaders – the ones who are presently serving, and even the ones who will be coming after them. I solicit your prayers and support that together, we handle this responsibility well, strengthened by the faith of Jesus in us.

Thank you for responding to the faithfulness and love of Jesus, and your ongoing support to Grace Communion International!

In this Update, GCI President Greg Williams talks about this year’s theme, “Faith Forward.” He shares about the different transitions happening in the life of the church and how we are aligned with our faith in Christ moving forward.


The Denominational Celebration 2021 videos are now available for all registered participants, and will be released with open access on GCI.org on November 1, 2021.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WeAreGCI
Website: https://www.gci.org

Copyright 2021 – Grace Communion International All Rights Reserved

GCI’s Mission in Bangladesh

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Friends and Family,

Grace Communion International is a wonderful mosaic of churches networked across 66 countries. The purpose of our church is to share the good news of Jesus through building loving meaningful relationships with our neighbors. As we participate with Jesus to make new disciples, we plant churches and identify elders who have pastoral gifts to lead these churches toward healthy expressions captured by the Faith, Hope and Love Avenues of ministry. As these churches grow and thrive, we expect them to become a mother church who gives birth to daughter churches. Some have even started parachurch ministries to serve local needs.

Since 1986, GCI has partnered with Bengali Evangelical Association (BEA) to establish missionary outreach to the Bengali people. Dr. John Biswas founded and led this missionary effort up until his death this past March. As part of his parachurch ministry, John set up the BEA Board of Directors, which has appointed Naomi Biswas to become the new President.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Naomi and listening to her desires to continue the operations of John’s ministry—BEA. I was also delighted to share with her the news of how GCI has a vetted young leader who is leading a GCI church plant in the city of Dhaka, under the guidance of Regional Director Danny Zachariah. Allow me to introduce Amiyo Bacher.

Amiyo Bacher attended the International Graduate School of Leadership in the Philippines and participated in our GCI CrossWay congregation under pastor Aron Tolentino while attending school. Amiyo returned to his native country of Bangladesh, where he is now planting a GCI house church under the direction of his Regional Director Danny Zachariah.

Naomi shared a similar story of a young leader that John had hired to take a leadership position in the BEA Ministry Center. Meet John Adhikary.

John Adhikary, who has a work history related with administrative skills and some ministry background, was hired to work in the BEA Ministry Center in Bangladesh. Because Naomi requested that John be introduced and oriented to GCI, Danny Zachariah will seek to establish a relationship with John and hopefully take on a mentoring role. It will be exciting to see how these young emerging leaders will grow and develop and how the Lord will work through them to reach the people of Bangladesh. It excites me to see a younger generation rising up.

Naomi and I agreed that we need indigenous leaders on the ground in Bangladesh to do the day-in and day-out work of ministry. The Lord is faithfully providing.

Roger and Anthea Lippross
Roger and Anthea Lippross

Another development that deserves mention is that Roger Lippross, who served beside John Biswas from the beginning of BEA, stepped down in July. Roger’s health is such that he simply must retire from service. We deeply love and appreciate Roger and Anthea, and the BEA family will miss their presence.

We wish Naomi and her Board of Directors well as they regroup and reorganize.

We also solicit your prayers and contributions to the GCI general fund so that we can amply support GCI’s work in Asia where it is most needed. Superintendent Eugene Guzon and his team with Regional Directors Mein Kong and Danny Zachariah are continuing to work with young leaders like Amiyo in Bangladesh, Roshan Nepali in Nepal, and some forming relationships with potential leaders in Bhutan and Sri Lanka.

The role of supporting these young leaders in their education and their church planting efforts, which includes continued supervision and guidance from GCI leaders, requires funding. The mission field in Asia is ripe and ready for harvest, and through God’s grace and provision we join him in the field!

I end this message with the closing that Roger Lippross always used.

For the Kingdom!

Greg

Riding the Wave of Hope

GCI 2021 Virtual Denominational Celebration

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

What an amazing, inspiring time we shared over July 23-25. The Holy Spirit guided and blessed the months of preparation, the multiple audio/visual teams around the world, and the presenters and participants in such an incredible way that the global GCI family reconnected in rich meaningful ways. Our hope was renewed as we collectively worshipped Jesus.

There will be multiple quotes and pictures shared in this issue that you and I will enjoy reading and viewing. For my part, I want to share just a few highlights that came to me personally.

First, from our international audience we had Marie-Angelique Picard (Spokesperson of the French National Ecclesiastical council) who translated the messages into her native French language. Here’s what she wrote:

I was honored and blessed to translate your message. Oh, this is such a blessing to see how aligned we are in spite of the difference in language and culture. This is a miracle, the miracle of Jesus. How blessed we are to experience how united God makes this family. Righteousness, peace, joy, this is what we experienced all weekend, and this is what God allows us to experience with his grace that overwhelms us.

Today I experience again what it means to feel JOY, peace, righteousness and cry at the same time. Thank you! MERCI!!

One of my good friends whom I text often is Felix Heimberg. Felix is Assistant to President, Dr. Gene Getz of The Center for Church Renewal. Felix says this:

There’s no greater favor that you can do for any complex organization than to plug the right people into the right spots. What I saw this past weekend left me encouraged about the future of GCI.

Long-time member Wilma Peterson says this:

Just a note to thank you for the conference message this morning. I was baptized in the church in 1966 and I have never heard a sermon that explains what the kingdom of God is about from scripture like you explained. And in such a precise way. Yay! To God be the glory!

Pastor Linda Sitterley in Eugene, Oregon said this:

The biggest takeaway is the connection that everyone here feels with our brothers and sisters around the globe. We have newer members who are now realizing how big we are. How unified we are!

For me personally, it was truly a blessing to have a broader reach to our churches and members through virtual platforms. We are already considering ways and means for how we can refine and improve the technical services for our next celebration, June 28 – July 2, 2023.

The shared vision of “Healthy Church” was obvious as the reports and interview exchanges echoed this over and over. The alignment and unity of our leaders and churches around the world is a huge testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Now we continue to move forward and maintain the unity.

We anticipate the survey forms to continue coming in over the next few weeks. We will debrief and evaluate the impact of the celebration. We will then dream, pray and plan for how we can once again share in a global connection of worship and celebration.

Still focused on hope, and always focused on Jesus!

Greg Williams

 

 

Anam Cara

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

World Friendship Day, also known as International Day of Friendship, takes place on July 30th.

The original idea for a day of friendship came from Hallmark cards in the 1930s and was originally celebrated on August 2. The cynical public largely viewed the day as a money-making scheme by Hallmark. Sales of friendship day cards did not take off in Europe and by the mid-1940s the day had faded into obscurity in the USA. However, the idea of a day to honor friendship was adopted by a number of countries in Asia, where it remained a popular custom to reserve a day for celebrating friendships and the exchange of gifts between friends. I’d suggest this speaks to the understanding of the importance of relationships in the Asian culture, which is a strong biblical theme.

The Bible says a lot about the importance of friendship. Here are a few choice verses in Proverbs ESV

  • Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
  • Proverbs 18:24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
  • Proverbs 27:9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
  • Proverbs 27:5-6 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

The overall theme is that a friend is a companion who can tell you the truth, and who shows up especially in the difficulties of life. The question, “Who can you call at 2:00 am when you are in dire straits?” is quite telling. How long is your personal list?

Having a relationship where you are accepted, understood and well cared for is the most valuable treasure. Anam Cara is a concept that I was introduced to when I participated in an experiential graduate class called Celtic Spirituality. Anam Cara is a Celtic phrase meaning “soul friend.”

Dr. William P. Ryan describes Anam Cara as “compassionate presence,” a person who knows your heart and intent. In the companionship of a soul friend, you are recognized and known providing a deep sense of trust and belonging. Every one of us needs true, genuine friendship for our spiritual development and growth, and especially for our personal sense of worth and belonging.

Personally, I am blessed with spiritual brothers and sisters who “stick closer” than biological siblings. These friendships are like anchors that keep me grounded and stable. The greatest friendship, however, is the shared relationship with my Lord Jesus who calls me his friend. It is he alone who truly knows me to the depths of my being and loves me in spite of my warts and my moods. It is he alone who will never leave me or forsake me. This same promise is true for you.

Proud to be your friend,

Greg

P.S. The upcoming Denominational Celebration will certainly have the fabric and feel of an International Day of Friendship. It will be a time that we can see our GCI friends around the world and hear marvelous stories of what our friend Jesus has been doing in us and through us. I hope to see you July 23-25!

 

Role of Seniors in the Church

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Some people are late bloomers, making their greatest accomplishments in the later years in life. Age does not have to be a barrier to success. Allow me to share a few inspiring success stories of great accomplishment achieved by those well beyond 60 years of age.

Although Judi Dench, of 007 fame, had been a stand-out in her work for theatre and TV over her lifetime, she really hit her stride and became a household name in her 60s. To date, Judi has received seven Oscar nominations, all of them past the age of 60. She won the Oscar for “Best Actress in Supporting Role” in 1999 for Shakespeare in Love. She leads all actors for Academy Award nominees older than 60.

Harland Sanders did not start developing Kentucky Fried Chicken until he was in his 60s. Once the Colonel’s brand was developed and growing, he sold it and franchised it in his 70s and lived comfortably for the rest of his years. His chicken is still “finger-licking good.”

Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as Grandma Moses, didn’t start painting until she was 76 years old. When she could no longer hold an embroidery needle due to her arthritis, she decided to give painting a try. Her works were discovered by an art collector who bought her entire collection of paintings and displayed them at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Her popularity and skill are on display in museums all over the world.

What about “Grandpa Moses?” Yes, the Moses of Israel. He was 80 years young when God spoke to him from the burning bush in the desert. Then for the next 40 years he led the children from the clutches of Egypt through the Red Sea and into the desert for an entire generation before turning the reins over to Joshua to complete the mission of taking the people of God into the promised land.

I will be turning 60 in July and can officially get senior discounts. I expect that my body will begin slowing down some, but just like these late bloomers I have shared with you, my work is not over. My good friend Joseph Tkach, who still serves on our GCI Board and offers his wisdom with me as needed, has shared some commonsense wisdom for maturing adults. Here are some highlights of his list.

    • Never go up on the roof of your house
    • Be strategic with your daily steps, and don’t be bullied into thinking you have to do 10,000
    • Unless you were a national contender, NO skateboarding or surfing
    • Don’t go past two steps up on your ladder (use a spotter)
    • Forget about getting a gorgeous suntan (and rethink the beach body)

I hope this gave you a chuckle.

When it comes to the role our senior adults play in the life of our church, we can look at Paul’s instruction in his letter to Titus.

Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance. (Titus 2:2 NRSVA)

Titus was to teach older men about these six qualities that are marks of maturity. In other words, older men are to be wise, loving and balanced; they are to be fully grounded in doctrine and belief. Finally, they are to be a calming, stable factor to their church family.

Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behaviour, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good. (Titus 2:3 NRSVA)

The presence of older, saintly grandmothers can be a real inspiration to the church community and can add credibility and dignity to the testimony of the local church.

The book of Titus reminds older adults to resist the temptations of letting free time become idle, or to de-escalate into the realm of activities of gossip or alcohol abuse. In other words, they are to fight the proclivity to become grumpy, irritable and cynical. (This may be my biggest challenge in my older years.) My goal, however, is with all the other seniors in GCI, that we are known for being patient, gentle and gracious. These traits will win the day as we continue to contribute to the life of our church family.

Please hear me when I say as a senior adult, your work is not finished. You are to be a mentor, a counselor, and instructor for the younger women and men in your church. Use your kindness and wisdom to build these meaningful relationships that allow you to make deposits in the younger generations coming behind. Please also consider how you might use your financial resources to build the church and support the next generation as they continue sharing the good news about Jesus. You can and will make a significant difference!

Joining the Seniors soon,
Greg Williams

Focused On Hope

Listen in as Dr. Greg Williams, President of GCI, invites us to participate in the 2021 Virtual Denominational Celebration this coming July 23-25. He talks about coming together as a global family to celebrate how the Spirit is moving in our fellowship.

TO REGISTER and for updates on the 2021 VIRTUAL DENOMINATIONAL CELEBRATION visit gci.org/events/2021

Program Transcript


So how do you know that GCI is going to have an international event? Well, one good sign is that I am wearing a barong today. So, a shoutout to all my friends in the Philippines.

On Tuesday, March 2nd the GCI Managers held our monthly meeting. The top agenda item was to discuss whether we would go forward with the Denominational Celebration in Charlotte. Pam Morgan had met with the hotel managers and they expressed what they could do. We initially were thinking that even if we were limited to 500 attendees that it could work.

The longer we talked about details, like “How do you keep GCI members from hugging and shaking hands? Is cutting the conference from 1,000 participants to 500 a good idea? And so on. It became clear and evident that we must go virtual. The Holy Spirit led us to a unanimous decision, and instead of despair, there was a fresh wave of energy and excitement. 

In reality, we at the Home Office are getting a taste of what our field pastors experienced over the past year – the challenge to go digital.  

So, the “behind the scenes” work began. 

Tech research. Do we have the right equipment? Enough of it? Who has participated in a virtual conference and knows what quality we can achieve? What portions will be pre-recorded and what portions will be live? How do you schedule such a weekend with 24 time zones around the world?

There have been multiple trips to Best Buy, and packages showing up daily.

My office has been staged to be a studio and we have experienced pilot tests of the equipment. Then there will be a dress rehearsal before the actual event. More details than planning a wedding (and we have one of those coming up in the Williams family on Oct 3). We expect to have four different studio sets throughout the Home Office, so this is gonna be an epic production no doubt.  

What are the benefits, or value-added? 

  • Our Media Team is developing new skills that will be utilized in the future. I envision live and live-stream gatherings in the future.
  • Our budget for “on-site” has been repurposed to assemble needed equipment and staging.
  • This will be a tremendous test for doing online webinars, and we expect to do many more webinars in the future like this.
  • The greatest value-added is that instead of 500 participants we are hoping to connect with thousands of members from around the world.
    Praise God!

How can you participate?

  1. YOU NEED TO REGISTER TO GET ACCESS (https://www.gci.org/events/2021)
  2. Make plans to watch as a congregation or a group. Having a retreat planning team of 4-5 people to plan and host your church’s watch party.
  3. Especially create spaces for Hope Avenue Leaders. This includes Hope Avenue champions, Children’s Ministry teams, and Worship Ministry teams to utilize the workshops.
  4. Use this as an opportunity to engage and immerse your congregation in the Hope aspect of ministry. This can be an amazing re-launch event to bring you out of the throes of COVID.
  5. Check out many more ideas on the Make it A Church Retreat link on the event page (https://www.gci.org/events/2021)

If you cannot be with a group there is certainly value in Individual participation. The Celebration is created for engagement: 

    • Q&As in the workshops and the main sessions 
    • Breakouts in the workshops 
    • Join the Facebook Group to connect with members from around the world.
      Use the hashtag on your screen to share your Celebration experience and check out takeaways from others. 

Here is the “fine print” portion:

Your registration entitles you to the two components of the Denominational Celebration: the live broadcast on July 23-25 and the recording of it.

The live broadcast is happening in real-time; this means attendees will not be able to stop and start the broadcast at their own pace on July 23-25. The event is happening in US Eastern Time.

Once the broadcast has completed on July 25, been edited, and uploaded then you will have access to the full conference to watch at your own pace and preference. We will get it out as soon as our small but valiant group can manage!

So please do not panic if you log in at your own time zone and the conference is already underway from that Eastern Time start – simply join in from where we are and know you will have access to the full conference recording a short time after the conclusion of our gathering. 

Keep in mind that these are privileges for those who have paid registration.

The overall greatest aspect of the Virtual Celebration is that we shall Worship & take Holy Communion together.

To get the most out of this denominational event think of these three stages:

  1. Intentional Local Preparation 
  2. Make the weekend experience special and revel in the celebration.
  3. After the event, review the learning and let the shared experience soak into the fabric of your church as you participate in the ministry of Jesus!

May the Lord bless our global event and I will see you July 23rd!

Listen in as Dr. Greg Williams, President of GCI, invites us to participate in the 2021 Virtual Denominational Celebration this coming July 23-25. He talks about coming together as a global family to celebrate how the Spirit is moving in our fellowship.

To register and for updates on the 2021 Virtual Denominational Celebration visit gci.org/events/2021


Invite a Friend!

We are now offering a special deal for new registrants. When you register, enter your information, then click Add Another Registrant, add your friend’s information, and at the bottom enter coupon code “BOGO”. This 2-week offer ends June 30.

Faith Forward

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

I have started traveling again within the US. In a recent trip, I was dumbstruck when my bag was the first up on the luggage carousel. Only the second time in my years of travel. Was the Lord shining favor on me?

My neighbor is an avid wild turkey hunter. For the past three years, he hasn’t “bagged a bird.” Fast forward to this year, and he has already bagged two turkeys. He shared with me about being out in the field at Sandy Mush, NC, and sitting, waiting and praying. While he was talking to God, the turkey appeared and he successfully took it. When this happened again a few weeks later, he was even more enthusiastic. He believes the Lord favored him, and who am I to say otherwise?

What is faith in God all about? As believers, do we go through life expecting all phases of travel to go well, and for turkeys to magically appear when we hunt them? Is God our genie in a bottle or good luck charm?

Notice how, in the Mirror Study Bible by Commentator Francois du Toit, he translates a passage in Hebrews:

Persuasion confirms confident expectation and proves the unseen world to be more real than the seen. Faith celebrates as certain what hope visualizes as future. (Hebrews 11:1)

Faith celebrates what hope visualizes as future – Wow! So much more than luggage being the first on the belt or a turkey presenting itself to an expectant hunter.

Francois adds this comment,

The shadow no longer substitutes the substance. Jesus is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of everything the prophets foretold. The unveiling of Christ in human life completes man’s every expectation. (Colossians 1:27)

Faith is about the reality of Jesus, the Redeemer who redeems wholly and the Savior who saves completely. He is the one who draws all humanity to himself and is preparing the splendid, perfect, eternal Kingdom that we will inhabit with him.

He (Jesus) will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 RSV). This perfect world with perfect relationships is for you, for me and for all of God’s children. Hallelujah!

This faith is a sure faith because of who Jesus is. If you continue reading through Hebrews 11 you will resonate with the biblical characters, their struggles, their triumphs and their expectations even when circumstances are dire. Many of these men and women lost their lives but did not lose their faith.

I pray for our churches and members scattered across the 66 countries where we have people who meet in the name of Jesus under the banner of GCI. I know a lot of your names and even more of your faces. I think of you as characters the Lord is adding to his biblical “Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11.

Many of you have suffered greatly through the COVID-19 pandemic. Loss of health, loss of jobs and loss of loved ones. My prayer for you is that through this global struggle your faith in Jesus has been strengthened, that your hope and vision for the fullness of the kingdom has been reinforced and that your unrelenting faith in Jesus will boldly go forward as we emerge from the pandemic!

Onward in Jesus!
Greg Williams

P.S. Please join me over the weekend of July 23-25 for the GCI Virtual Celebration. I shall be speaking more about the fullness of the kingdom of God and how our hope is built on Jesus.

The “R” Word

From time to time, I invite a guest writer to share meaningful experiences and information with our church audience. This issue is a contribution from my good friend John McLean. In February 2020 John handed over his mantle of leadership of Superintendent of Australasia to Daphne Sidney. However, John’s stepping down has not meant stepping away. John remains active on the Australian Church Board and he faithfully oversees Ambassador College of Christian Ministry, and I am deeply grateful for his leadership of the many cohort learning groups around the world that he facilitates.
– Dr. Greg Williams, GCI President


Let me introduce you to Randall. Randall officially retired from his role as pastor of a large capital city church. This gave an opportunity for a younger minister to pastor the congregation. Randall continues to serve and contribute in many ways – in worship, teaching, fellowshipping, mentoring and continuing with his connections and service into the local community. He does this without the same office, or title (or pressure), and remains a highly valued elder within the church community.

Many of our pastors are sharing this same journey.

Yet, “Many think that approaching Retirement is like approaching death”, writes a well-known management expert. Retirement is often one of those words we often don’t like to hear, let alone talk about. For some, the word conjures up loss of identity, meaning, purpose, respect—something to be devoutly resisted!

We never retire from being a Christian. Yet it is normal and healthy that we do retire in a timely fashion from roles, offices, ministries and functions within the church. And, yes, sometimes this can be challenging, even daunting. There can be a tendency to want to hold on, even a feeling that it is not responsible to “let go” or step down. And sometimes there is the accompanying notion that Retirement means the end – the end of being useful, engaged, productive. The erroneous notion that stepping down means stepping away.

This approach to retirement is not a recipe for healthy church cultures and healthy, vital congregations. Healthy church cultures of faith, hope and love understand, affirm and support the reality that there are seasons in life, as Ecclesiastes so eloquently tells us. And retirement, rotation, renewal is a healthy and desirable part of church life.

Leader as Steward: Making Room

The church belongs to Jesus. The congregations are not ours. Our identity is in Jesus, not in our roles. While we take any role, ministry or responsibility seriously, we hold such responsibilities as stewards in trust for others. That is, servant leaders do not think in terms of personal position or power, but always hold their leadership on behalf of, and for the serving of, others. We are given gifts from God, including sometimes ministry responsibilities and functions. These are from God, not of ourselves.

What we do is important. Who we are, in Christ, is foundational. The reality is that it is Jesus’ church, and he takes care of it. We participate in the ministry of Jesus through our union with him in the Spirit. We don’t run our own ministry. It’s not about us, but about Jesus.

The church emerges from the deep Trinitarian relationship of Father, Son and Spirit – a communion of mutual love and caring. Indeed, it’s a beautiful, rich fellowship of mutual indwelling, of continuous self-giving and self-emptying one into the other. This relationship is often described by a theological term which translates as “making room” for one another.

Servant leaders don’t just hold on to their positions. They actively seek to make room for others. They intentionally seek to engage, equip, empower and encourage others. And there’s not much point empowering others if we also don’t “make room” for them.

That means prayerfully, professionally, and responsibly developing succession plans and preparing for stepping down and stepping aside for others. This means training and giving others experience and opportunities for development in advance – opportunities for leading. This is really about translating the theology into good, healthy practice!

Have you heard something like this: you will know when it is time to retire, because you will wake up one morning and not want to do what you are doing any more. While understandable, that is not a recipe for a healthy congregational life! It’s a very individual-centered approach, rather than congregationally-centered approach. It’s not the approach of servant, stewarding leadership.

Of course, there are many factors to consider. Context is always important. Health, age, family, and financial circumstances may impact how we do all of this. And we all understand the challenge of finding the right person at the right times. So, this whole process is a vital part of our collective prayerful walk of faith, involving the pastor, the leadership teams and the whole congregation.

Healthy congregations need to value, appreciate and affirm those who currently serve, and give due honor and respect to those who have gone before and served over many years, and who may be stepping into different roles and functions. Because many individuals, and congregations, may not like change, it’s often easier to go with the status quo than to risk what might appear to be loss or discomfort. Yet we are engaged in this journey of faith, looking for the lead of the Holy Spirit. And looking to Jesus to shape his church as he wills. We are not just talking about change for change’s sake, but prayerful involvement and inclusion of people God has called into ministry. Healthy churches really want to see members grow in faith and service.

Stepping Down, not Stepping Away

Stepping down doesn’t mean stepping away. What healthy congregation wouldn’t want to utilize the gifts and wisdom of someone who has accumulated much ministry experience?

Stepping down means making room for others and creates new opportunities and challenges for those who take the initiative to step down. Opportunity to creatively explore things you have not had time or energy to pursue. Being able to focus on a particular area of ministry that resonates with you and your personal gifting. Acting as a mentor rather than doing all the things you once did. (As long as you recognize that others will not do what you did the way you did it!) It means “giving room” – including the room for people to make mistakes. (And who hasn’t made mistakes?) It means helping to equip and develop and grow other leaders enveloped in an atmosphere of encouragement. It means opening up new avenues of service and contribution, in faith.

This season of Easter, right up to Pentecost, we celebrate the new era of the new covenant – the new life we share in Christ through the Spirit. We celebrate the church as the creation of Jesus himself. We often reflect on good analogies of renewal, refreshing, revitalizing, and regeneration.

We never retire from being a Christian. And the “R” word doesn’t have to mean Retirement from Christian ministry, from making significant contributions to our congregations, our denomination and the world. Stepping down from one role, moving into other areas of service, can mean Renewal and Regeneration – for the congregation, and for the individuals involved.

May God bless our congregational and individual renewal.

John McLean Portrait

 

By John McLean
Brisbane, Australia