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President’s Video – Pastor Appreciation

As we’re finishing 2022, GCI President Greg Williams summarizes some steps that we can take next as we move forward in our vision of Healthy Church and participating with Christ in his ministry.

To check out the Place-sharing series Greg mentions, please visit gci.org/placesharing

Program Transcript


GCI President Update | October 2022
Greg Williams

We are finishing up our 2022 theme of Compelled by Love. Please realize that we don’t stick this in a file and move on to the next thing. In fact, we have recently produced a video series on the art of “Place-sharing.” I highly recommend that all our members check this out, and it would especially be important for our pastors and ministry leaders to engage with this learning.

What if? (I’m known for that introductory question). What if Love Avenue Champions and Love Avenue Teams really dug in on this learning? I believe this can truly enhance how we approach our mission of Living and Sharing the Gospel.

Sunday, October 9th is celebrated as Pastor Appreciation Day (some use the month of October to say kind words and offer gestures of appreciation). As President of GCI, let me say a huge Thank You to our pastors! Your role is day in and day out, and it is true that ministry never sleeps. I love what Paul says about elders in his letter to Timothy:

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” 1 Timothy 5:17 (English Standard Version)

In my spirit of gratitude please indulge me to offer some words of explanation as well. Last year Superintendent Mike Rasmussen and the US Regional Directors shared an updated job description for the job of pastor. It is summarized in the 4Es – Engage, Equip, Empower and Encourage. These are the areas of emphasis that Paul spoke about in the development of the saints within the community of the church. These focus areas are crucial if GCI is to become a family of Healthy Churches that effectively operate as “A Priesthood of All Believers.”

Pastoring will have a general feel of recruiting, training, entrusting, and coaching a team. Hence our ministry model of “Team-Based Pastor-Led.” I am sure that many of our pastors felt a sense of “High Challenge” when this new job description came out. You clearly saw the sharper laser focus. Please be reminded that in GCI, when we bring “High Challenge” that we will also bring “High Support.”

The first line of support is your Regional Director to walk with you as you shed some old ways of operating and try on new practices. GCI is also able to supply you with coaching as you prayerfully sort out your personal Ministry Action Plan (MAP). Oversight from a caring Regional Director along with helpful encouragement from a ministry coach is a great platform toward positive outcomes.

As we are learning new ways of joining Jesus in his ministry through our pastors and churches, we will look to add more training on the 4Es. I can assure you that I will be writing on the “Why” questions related to the 4E’s and our Equipper writers will be offering ideas and methods for the “How” questions. The High Support will continue.

My beloved pastors around the world, can I make a deal with you? Can we use this final quarter of 2022 to deeply consider how the 4Es will impact how you spend your time and energy in 2023? Will you seek the Spirit’s guidance in helping you construct a personal ministry MAP? Then will you share your MAP with your Regional Director and be poised to really hit the ground running in 2023? This would do your President’s heart good to know this is happening throughout our fellowship.

These steps we are asking you to take are greater steps toward Healthy Pastoring for the vision of Healthy Church. We see this path toward greater liberation in Jesus, and also greater participation with Jesus.

Let us pray. 

Father God, Lord Jesus, we enter your courts with praise and thanksgiving. Thank you for choosing and appointing our pastors as under-shepherds of Grace Communion International. Thank you for helping them (men and women alike) to walk in the counsel of the Godly and to guide our precious members through the dark valleys and the green pastures. Holy Spirit, may you continue to strengthen them, encourage them and empower them to point their members and neighbors to Jesus. We ask these blessings in the name of the Great Shepherd and the true Pastor of our church, Jesus.
Amen!

 

Compelled by Love in Australasia

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Greg & Susan Williams, with Australasia Superintendent Daphne Sydney

Susan and I had the wonderful opportunity to join Australasia Superintendent Daphne Sidney and 90 or so pastors and ministry workers for a “Compelled by Love” conference. We met on Thursday and Friday with the leadership and began with training sessions in “Appreciative Inquiry,” conducted by Ambassador College of Christian Ministry (ACCM) Director John McLean. This grace-based process of how we set our minds and attitudes to think on what things are noble and good is incredibly helpful for ministry teams who are seeking to determine what is good to the Holy Spirit and to us.

John’s training set the tone for National Team members Dennis Richards and Peter Edalere to speak about the model of Team-Based Pastor-Led. This gave a great overview for how we see pastors building their teams and provided oversight as we dug into the need to have “Ministry Action Plans” (MAPs). These MAPs help teams set attainable goals that help them move toward our vision of Healthy Church and make progress toward their Three-Year Plan.

This is the first gathering Daphne has been able to host since the onslaught of COVID. The ability to meet face-to-face, to hug necks, to sing worship songs in corporate worship, to share meals, and to simply be together was met with deep enthusiasm and appreciation.

More members were able to join the celebration over the weekend, and I was able to give them a pictorial update of the GCI family around the world. Sharing faces of brothers and sisters from Africa, Canada, the US, and the UK warmed their hearts immensely. The training continued as several pastors and avenue champions shared concepts about the Love, Hope and Faith Avenues of ministry. A highlight to me was seeing that the presenters are moving beyond concepts and are growing as practitioners. They are organizing their teams, developing plans, and trying new approaches to the various ministries of the church. Dare I say that they are discovering how to better join Jesus in what he is doing in and through our expression of the local church.

During the Saturday sessions, newly ordained Pastor Helen Callaghan gave a wonderful summary of Michael Frost’s book, Surprising the World. She aptly pointed out how the instruction in the book is simple and straight-forward, and centers on how we as believers can engage the not-yet-believers through meaningful relationships. Helen pastors a small church in Sydney with mostly aging members, so she was quick to point out that age is not a factor keeping us from loving and knowing our neighbors.

As I travel the world and spend time with our GCI church family, I am refreshed and encouraged to see how the material that we are producing at the denominational level is being embraced and applied. These materials are meant to center us more and more into the relationship and ministry of Jesus, who is the center of the center. It does my heart good to see so many presenters who have grasped what we are teaching and where we are going as a worldwide denominational family. Our sole purpose is to ground ourselves in Jesus, and to build out from him as our true foundation. As we receive the faith, hope and love that originates in him, it channels through us as we reach out to a broken, hurting world.

It is a beautiful journey that we are on as a collective fellowship around the world. Read more from Daphne here. And by the way, your brothers and sisters from Australia say “G’day.”

Greg Williams

P.S. I am extremely pleased with the good work that John McLean, Registrar Nadia Worthing, and other faculty members are doing through ACCM to equip ministry workers around the world. Please see the details in this issue of Update.

Homecoming for Canada

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Greg Williams with two young conference attendees.

In early August, I was able to join Board Chair Dr. Randy Bloom and North America and Caribbean Superintendent Michael Rasmussen in a gathering with Canada National Director Bill Hall, and 120 conference attendees in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Due to COVID, this was the first gathering like this in four years. Hence, Bill titled the conference “Welcome Home.”

The family reunion element was a big part of the celebration, and we were grateful to the hotel property to honor their rates from the original contract signed three years ago. We give thanks to our triune God.

Bill invited Christian music recording artist, Steve Bell, to share his music and his thoughts about the trinity and worship. Steve inspired the audience with his meaningful songs and stories, and he fit perfectly into helping us have deeper thoughts about worship through the Hope Avenue. I was especially pleased for how Steve immersed himself within the group, and how he reinforced our values for the Revised Common Lectionary and the annual worship calendar.

Early in the conference, I shared the “big rocks,” or priorities of how our ministry is structured. Long before we move into the how and implementation, there is need for us to be crystal clear on the questions of who? Who we are? And the why? Hopefully, you have some answers in mind, but allow me to fill in these answers. The “who” is the triune God revealed to us in the person of Jesus. “Who we are?” includes believers and followers of Jesus, and as such we are fellow members of his church. I reminded the attendees that “We are Church People.” It was music to my ears to hear them echo those words back to me. “Why?” is the mission of the church, expressed in our motto, “Living and Sharing the Gospel.”

Mike Rasmussen picked up the training from this point and gave a wonderful thousand-foot view of the Faith, Hope, and Love Avenues, with a deeper dive on the Hope Avenue. Mike shared stories out of his past decades of pastoral ministry, and most recently what he has been learning as he participates in the church and Ministry Training Center in Surrey Hills, Oklahoma. It was amazing to observe the interaction of the pastors and ministry leaders as Mike fielded questions and comments. There was a spark of life, creativity, and hope in this mix of church people. Praise be to God!

Randy Bloom met with the Canadian Board of Directors. The board members are those “hidden figures” that offer their time, experience, and wisdom in support of the national director as he attends to the business and mission of the church. A major decision made in this meeting was to elect Gillian Houghton as the Board Chairperson for the coming year. Please keep her and the work of our Canadian church in your prayers.

On Sunday our conference group was joined by another 200+ attendees through a video link. I was humbled and privileged to be able to address just about half of our dear church members across Canada. I shared with them a message out of 1 Corinthians 3 about “Jesus Our True Foundation.” Any enduring work that we will do in this life will only happen when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, when we participate by building with him, when we build on him and when the work is inspired and saturated by his love.

We join Jesus and our brothers and sisters in Canada as we go forward into the life of GCI. May God continue to bless our participation with him and his work in GCI Canada.

Greg Williams

Pray Better

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

As I write this update, I am travelling to Fargo, North Dakota (Susan’s home state). From there, Superintendent Mike Rasmussen and I will head north and join the National Director of Canada, Bill Hall, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for a three-day conference with pastors and ministry leaders with the theme, “Welcome Home.” We anticipate a wonderful time of regathering after the Covid pandemic and a time of learning and inspiration. (I’ll write about this in our next issue.)

When I prepare to make such trips, I solicit prayer support from the extended Home Office family. Safe and uninterrupted travel is part of the request (especially with all the travel-related horror stories circulating in the news). In a book on Christian leadership I recently read, the author challenged us to think about better prayers, rather than just more or longer prayers. I surmised this to mean more thoughtful and more specific prayers. It caused me think about the words of James when he said, “You have not because you ask not.”

I have come to take a fresh look at prayer. Beyond my personal safety and comfort, plus a general covering of blessing on the meetings, what if I prayed about conferences and celebrations with more intent? Would you join me?

Lord, be with the presenters in their time of preparation. Give them the thoughts and words that the attendees need to hear. Bless them with creativity and passion so that the presentations of the gospel are exciting and move the listeners to action. Jesus, be in the hearts and minds of all who gather that there is a palpable sense of receptivity. Jesus, meet us in the informal gatherings – the shared meals, chats in the hallway, late night discussions, and even the difficult conversations that need to take place. Bring us together in a spirit of unity and harmony. May we deeply appreciate the opportunity simply to come together after this long season of being unable to gather. We join the Psalmist in saying, “How good and pleasant for brothers to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). Most importantly, we come together to raise up your name, Jesus, and proclaim you as Lord of our lives and Lord of your church. Jesus, we worship you and declare that we are here to seek your will and humbly ask that you empower us to be the church you would have us be. In your strong name, we anticipate your positive response to our requests. Amen!

May we also be in prayer for our weekly services and our neighborhood engagement. God is present in and cares about our Hope and Love Avenues. We’re soaking up Jesus’ presence when we pray, and his presence transforms us.

After the Canadian conference, Susan will join me, and we will jet off to Australia and Fiji. In late September, I am in the Philippines for a week, and I will then end my 2022 travel outside the U.S. in October with a trip to France. All of these are important gatherings that deserve to be covered in prayer. And just as we pray about the preparation and execution of these gatherings of God’s people, let’s remember to pray about the longer-term lasting impact that they have as pastors, leaders, and members return to the local expression of the church. Lord, continue to guide, bless, and empower our journey toward Healthier Church!

Going Forward on Our Knees,
Greg Williams

Outside the Walls

It is my pleasure to have Heber Ticas as a guest writer. The consulting and coaching he has done with several churches through “Outside the Walls” (OTW) have been transformative. To see our congregations come together and intentionally focus on how they as a corporate body can better connect with their neighborhood, and to work together with their Love Avenue activities and events is helping them to shine the light of Jesus beyond the interior walls of their church building. In this issue, Heber will share what happened in three US sites during summer 2022. It is our goal that OTW will be shared with our brothers and sisters outside the US also.

Heber, thank you for the way you have served our churches. It is making a positive difference!

–Greg Williams, President


Dear GCI Family and Friends,

As I address all of you through this Update, I pray that you are enjoying the riches of the grace that our heavenly Father has poured over every one of us in Christ. Amid the many challenges that we may face in our lives and in our local congregations, we are sustained through his love. In union with Christ, we are empowered to live out our individual and corporate church expressions as we participate with Jesus in his everyday mission.

Our GCI mission statement of “Living and Sharing the Gospel” is at the core of who we are as followers of Christ. We are a sent people to bear witness to the saving grace of our God in Christ Jesus. In GCI, we desire that our churches live out our mission statement as we are compelled by his love. His love motivates us to move out of the four walls of our churches in order to engage our neighborhoods with acts that express the love God has for all.

As GCI’s National Coordinator for Church Multiplication, I have been entrusted with the task of bringing high support to some congregations that possess the bandwidth to move outside the walls of their churches. We call this support Outside the Walls (OTW) consulting. The purpose of the consulting is to assist the pastor and leadership teams through the process of understanding the current environment of the congregation and the demographics of the church neighborhood and to help the congregation move towards missional participation with Jesus. This high support provided to these churches is holistic in nature and consists of five phases. This year we offered this support to three congregations in the US, as Greg mentioned.

At the center of the consulting is the planning and preparation of the OTW weekend at each of the congregations receiving the support. The weekend consists of comprehensive healthy church equipping coupled with a missional event that is put together with the purpose of creating a relational space for the congregation. This space affords the church the ability to meet their neighbors and forge new relationships.

Terry McDonald, pastor of South Kansas City, reflected on their OTW experience:

“What we discovered together as a team was that there needed to be a shift in the mindset of the fellowship regarding the reason and purpose of engaging our neighborhood. People deserve to be loved because they are the image-bearers of our triune God, not because we need more bodies in the seats. We need persistent engagement, clarity of purpose, and intentionality as we love our neighbors as ourselves.”

By God’s grace, our experiences in all three events were formative and helped shaped the churches’ approach to living and sharing the gospel. Our church members stepped out of their comfort zones and engaged God’s children in ways that powerfully reflected the love of God. One of the churches hosted a neighborhood block party, the other hosted a neighborhood summer celebration, and the third church hosted a Christmas in July event. All three events expressed the vibrancy of our fellowship, the local congregation, and our desire to make disciples with Jesus.

As we move forward as a church family, we must not discount the calling that God has placed on our fellowship to step out in faith and partake in the joy of joining Jesus as he calls his children by the Spirit into communion with his body. I ask you to join me in prayer, petitioning our God to give us the ability to discern Jesus’ movements in our neighborhoods so we may step out in faith to join him.

In him,
Heber Ticas
Latin America Superintendent & CMM Coordinator – US

Unity

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Susan and I are part of a new church plant in Steele Creek, NC (a neighborhood in Charlotte). So far, we have been gathering in the home of the pastor, Dishon Mills, and it has been a delight. I am proud to say that we follow the Revised Common Lectionary and keep in step with the GCI Worship Calendar.

During Easter season, we studied John 17 and explored the prayer of Jesus that he prayed for the disciples and us. How amazing for Jesus to include all believers in his prayer, and even more amazing to include us in his life and love. The essence of the prayer is, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:21)

It struck me how the Godhead of Father, Son, and Spirit are all at work in this process of bringing the oneness and unity that only God possesses, and only he can give. My mind went to Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus.

In GCI we spend a great deal of focus and instruction on this New Testament letter. In chapter 4, Paul speaks about the offices of the church and the purpose for each office. It was from this letter and other passages that I extrapolated the 4 E’s of pastoral ministry – Engage, Equip, Empower and Encourage. These aspects of ministry had a solid biblical foundation for the New Testament church and still do for our church today.

Notice that before Paul speaks specifically about the church offices, he says this, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3, NIV).

The oneness, the unity that Jesus prayed for us is produced through the presence and power of the Spirit. It is a gift for us to receive, and then for us to pass along.

In light of all this, who God is and who we are as his adopted, redeemed children, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. (Ephesians 4:1-3 MSG)

There is a lot going on here in our walk with Jesus through the Spirit. Allow me to draw your attention to three basic actions that allow us to stay in step with Jesus and to maintain the Spirit-produced unity.

    1. Pour yourselves out in acts of love for each other – tangible, selfless acts of kindness and care.
    2. Be alert in noticing differences. Noticing differences is not meant to divide, but to motivate us for positive actions toward building meaningful relationships. This begins with knowing that all humanity is under the spilled blood of Jesus, and we can’t see anybody in any other way. This means we regard others as we regard ourselves. (2 Corinthians 5:16)
    3. Be quick to mend fences. Saying, “I was wrong, please forgive me” is one of the most powerful statements a human can make. Instead of simply being peacekeepers, Jesus said to be peacemakers.

Our walk with Jesus and participation with the Spirit will move us on this path of unity. If you read to the end of chapter four it speaks about us growing up into the stature and fullness of Jesus. We are back to the “oneness” that he prayed in John 17. May the prayer of Jesus be fulfilled in you and me, and throughout the church.

In him,
Greg Williams

P.S. I solicit your prayers for this new church plant and for all church plants that are springing up across our global family of churches. Church experts will tell you that there is no stronger demonstration of the gospel than the start of a new church.

The Dilemma of Good Works

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Many Christians have a passion to want to do something “for” Jesus, with perhaps an underlying motivation to impress Jesus. The apostle Paul speaks of this conundrum in his letter to the Romans. He talks about having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2). Even if the intent is energetic and well-meaning, when it isn’t channeled in the true knowing of Jesus and flowing through his power accomplishing his purpose, then it easily moves in the wrong direction. Often it results in tearing down rather than building up. In Paul’s case, his zealousness found him actively persecuting and destroying the church.

Our western culture values being active and productive, and this creates the dilemma of thinking we can somehow achieve and earn salvation with our energy, our hard work, our effort, our sweat, and our pain. Doesn’t that count for something? It does count if it is channeled toward the knowing of Jesus. Notice what Paul shares about his personal journey in his letter to believers in Philippi.

Yet whatever gains (earthly accomplishments and credentials) I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11 NRSVA)

Jesus didn’t become human and fulfill his mission to then throw us back on ourselves. He rescued us from our sins and our human treadmills. He created us for relationship, and it is through knowing him that we can now see our brothers and sisters under the same umbrella of grace. This motivates—even compels us—to make strides in loving our neighbor as ourselves. It really is about the two great commandments.

Paul offers the clarity we need concerning works and grace. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, he clearly stated that we are not saved by works, only by the grace of Jesus. He adds, because of grace and our relationship with Jesus we now engage in good works. It is with and through Jesus that we are saved, and it is with and through Jesus that we engage in good works.

Many years ago, I attended a Youth Specialties conference where one of the speakers made an over-the-top challenge. In his attempt to spur us on toward making new followers of Christ, he submitted the idea of us in the next life standing in front of Jesus and being asked by our Lord why we didn’t share the good news about him with every single person that we had encountered in this life. The implication is that somehow, we are responsible for any of these people who may find themselves in the speaker’s version of hell. This rang loudly in my ears with the sensitivity of “What am I doing for Jesus?” Certainly, he must be disappointed in me. I found the “motivational speech” de-motivating and quite perplexing. Is part of our heavenly reward an arena of guilt?

As I continued to sort out this concept of evangelism and making disciples I came upon a fresh approach from another author and speaker from the Youth Specialties circuit, Andrew Root. I found that he had the same perplexities I held. He had discovered that the love of Jesus was unconditional rather than transactional. He had discovered that salvation of humanity was through the vicarious work of Jesus, who was 100% God and 100% human. He discovered the “place-sharing” ministry of Jesus that Dietrich Bonhoeffer had written about in the early 20th century. And he had written a book, Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, that was a huge gift to me at that stage of my life and journey with Jesus.

I count this as one of the huge benchmarks of grace in my life, and it prepared me to be a better minister, educator, and Christ-follower for the roles I have served within GCI.

It is in the true knowing of Jesus, and experiencing his unconditional love and acceptance, that now prepares us to join with him in accomplishing good works (dilemma solved). It isn’t about our individual striving and the “look at me, look at me” attitude that takes us to where we want to be with Jesus. It is not the good works that somehow bring us to Jesus and make us right and just, it is only Jesus who makes us right and just and then from there the good works can flow.

In His Grace and Unconditional Love,

Greg

Compelled by Love: Generosity with Time and Talent

From time to time, I invite a guest writer to share meaningful experiences and information with our church audience. It is my pleasure to have GC Cleveland Pastor, Tamar Gray, as our guest writer this issue. Tamar presented at the Love Avenue workshop in March, and she is uniquely gifted as an educator. Her relational connections in her community are serving her very well in reaching out to new people with the love of Jesus. Tamar has some important words to share about how we use our time and talents to better participate with Jesus in his mission to the world.

–Greg Williams, President


“This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11, The Message)

I was asked to join a prestigious music board and replied “yes” immediately to the honor before knowing the requirements. I was disappointed to learn there was an expectation of a sizeable monetary donation. As I prepared to decline the invitation, the board president explained that it was not the financial contribution they required, but my time and talent.

This epiphany moment poses the question, how often do we allow our preconceived mindsets to limit sharing ourselves because we believe what we have to offer will not be of value? Placing our time and talents into the hands of the Master will be an invaluable resource for work being done here on earth as the compelling love of Jesus overflows in every aspect of our lives.

Time

There are only so many hours in a day, and giving time speaks to what and who we consider important. In scripture, we witness Jesus being generous with time. He would share with those considered the least in society, heal their infirmities, or share the good news that would change their lives.

One example is found in Mark 5: 25-34. Jesus was on his way to heal Jarius’ daughter when he was “interrupted” by the woman with the issue of blood as she reached out to touch his garment. He could have told her he would pray for her as he continued on his way. Instead, Jesus stopped, saw her, and by faith, she was healed. As we move about our busy lives, may the Holy Spirit make us aware of those who are touching our garments.

Taking time for others means something else will not get done at that moment, but it is usually time well spent. As a teacher, I find interruptions occurring every day in the classroom with students and colleagues who need to be seen and heard. Participating as Jesus works in their lives and sharing the time becomes a privilege.

A transformation can take place with a touch, word, or prayer. As the church, we can impact our communities by taking the time to share our personhood and allowing space for others to do the same. It is in our relationships that we encounter Jesus.

Talent

We can use our God-given talents to place-share and create relationships that allow us to see Jesus and begin to know each other. Some skills are apparent, while others take some discovery and encouragement. When we share our abilities for God’s glory, they become the conduit for spreading his word and praise.

As I view my life, I can see three talents God has gifted in me:

      • Teaching—the ability to share knowledge that people can use in the classroom, community, and church.
      • Singing—a ministry that brings people together, gives hope, and can bring others closer to God.
      • Administration—the capability to see the big picture, implement details, and gather groups of individuals to put a plan into action.

I am using these skills in the classroom, community, church, and now as a member of the prestigious music board which helped me recognize the value of time and talent.

What about you? Are there any newly developed giftings that you see God growing in you for this specific season? Take time to pray, reflect, and ask God to show you the areas in your life where God may be calling you to share your gifts.

As we continue on this compelling journey of love, may our Lord of generosity continue to bless us, and may we give him the praise so richly deserved.

Tamar Gray

Tamar Gray
Pastor, Cleveland, OH, US

 

 

Editor’s Note: Pastor Tamar wrote about using our God-given talents to place-share and create relationships. Want to dig deeper into place-sharing? See this GC Buzz.

President’s Video—Living and Sharing the Gospel

In this month’s Update, GCI President Greg Williams reminds us why “Living and Sharing the Gospel” continues to be our mission statement. He goes on to share the activities that are happening in our denomination as we give light to this year’s theme, “Compelled by Love”.

Program Transcript


GCI President Update | June 2022

Hello GCI.

You can see our Mission Statement handsomely displayed on this large wooden plaque gifted to the denomination by the UK Church in the 1990s. It looks good in our office and is a constant reminder of what God has called us to do.

Our Mission Statement – “Living and Sharing the Gospel” is historical and still spot on. This first part of the slogan is alive and vibrant. As I travel the world and meet with GCI folks, I see the fruit of the Spirit in the members. I see the amazing,
Christ-like qualities of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Our members shine brightly as they live out the Gospel in their personal lives. However, the second part of the slogan, “Sharing the Gospel” needs attention.

The good news is that when we talk to pastors in all regions around the world, no one argues against this observation. I think we have a consensus that we need to attend to this matter, and I can assure you that we are.

The theme for 2022 is “Compelled by Love” – which means being fueled and driven by the love of Christ that fills our lives to the point of spilling over to our neighbors around us. This is the only fuel that will properly operate the church in the manner that Jesus intends. Any other fuel of clever tactics or schemes that are empty of the authentic, unconditional love of Jesus will not do.  

Permit me to come back to the example of Nehemiah. My mind has been captured by this story. Nehemiah’s mission was to rebuild the walls of his beloved Jerusalem. He began with prayer, seeking the Lord’s will, favor, and provision. Like Nehemiah, we acknowledge that all ventures of the church must begin with seeking the face of God, and the continued reliance on him.

The Lord answered Nehemiah’s prayer and gave him favor with the king, and the Lord worked through the king to supply the provisions (security guard for protection and then physical supplies to accomplish the project). We would call this arrangement a “strategic partnership.” We have more to learn about these types of partnerships as we journey forward.

I get ahead of myself in the story. On Nehemiah’s first trip to Jerusalem, he saw the rubble and ruins.  He was “broken-hearted” and lamented. The context of the story sounds as if this was a lingering lament, not just a passing emotion. What are we lamenting? Rather than a broken wall, hopefully, our lament is lingering because of people we know who are living broken lives because they do not know the salvation and joy of a relationship with Jesus.

After the period of lament and utilizing the resources supplied by the king, Nehemiah rolled up his sleeves and got busy. Ministry is work that requires diligence and a great deal of energy and sweat. And the real genius in Nehemiah’s God-backed plan was that he was gifted to organize others and achieve the goal of including all the returning refugees. In church speak, we would call this “ –” You have probably heard me say that we are better together. It was true for Nehemiah, and it is true for you and me.

While Susan and I recently met with leaders across three of the four regions in Africa the notion of “intentionality” kept coming up. May I recommend that we be intentional in three areas? Intentional in prayer; intentional in lament; and intentional in our thought-out plans and execution. During our trip to Africa, the leaders agreed that we can’t just gather and talk about ministry concepts, these ideas need to become actions. The church needs to join the Lord of the Harvest in the white, abundant harvest field.

Speaking of ministry actions, it is my good pleasure to announce the efforts of Outside the Walls events that will be happening in the US this summer. In June we will be having OTW weekends in Grace Communion Ladson, SC, then in Grace Communion South Kansas City, MO. In July we will be on the west coast on Grace Communion River Road.

Behind the scenes, work has been happening working with the local pastors, their Love Avenue Champions, and Love Avenue team members to do the prayerful planning and preparation. Many Zoom video meetings have occurred as part of the training and preparation. Church Multiplication Ministries Coordinator Heber Ticas has been serving as a consultant for these events and the US Regional Directors have been actively involved as well. It has been “all hands on deck.” That’s how important it is for us to learn how our churches can better connect with our neighbors to spark meaningful relationships that can lead to knowing Christ and joining his church. Sharing the Gospel is a priority for us to become Healthy Churches.   

These purposeful events are now upon us. Join me in a prayer of blessing…   

Father God
Jesus, Lord of the Harvest and Holy Spirit the transformer of lives
We call on you our great Triune God to bless our OTW events that will happen in June and July
From the east coast to the middle of the country and the west coast
Please inspire the last-minute preparations
Bless us with comfortable, temperate weather
And most of all, please bring new people to us that we can love with your love,
and tell them about you
May each of these events be launching pads for other Love Avenue events to come in the future
We join you Lord Jesus in the Harvest Field, and we trust you for the growth
It’s in your strong and true name that we pray
Amen!

I am Greg Williams, speaking about the life of the church.

The Good, Long Day in Nairobi

Greg and Susan Williams, planting the palm tree

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

In the previous Update, I raved about the conferences held in South Africa and Zambia, and they were highlight events. But that was only part of our African journey. Susan and I also went to the eastern region with Superintendent Kalengule Kaoma (KK) to spend a good, long day in Nairobi, Kenya.

We arrived late on Monday afternoon, giving us time for a relaxed evening of rest. We were going to need to be well-rested to meet the rigors of Tuesday’s schedule.

Our day started with getting a Covid test so that we could board our flight scheduled for that night at 10:45 p.m. Thankfully the young man administering the test allowed us to do the mouth swab (I experienced the Q-tip in the nostril several times, and I am not a fan).

The Gachanja Family. Left to right: Anthony, Jane, Lucy, Philip, Beth, Peter

Once tested, Regional Director, Anthony Gachanja came to pick us up at the hotel. Riding across Nairobi gave us a feel for their culture. I made three observations as we travelled the busy streets. My first impression was how closely the cars and trucks tailgate one another—getting cut off by another vehicle is the rule of the road. Even with what felt like aggressive driving to me, there were no car accidents along the way. The second observation in traffic was how many passengers can ride on a motorcycle. It was common to see three people on a motorbike and occasionally there would be four. Amazing! My third observation was the abundance of Bible scriptures or Christian slogans on van and bus windows. A good reminder that the gospel gets displayed even in traffic.

Anthony’s first stop for our group was his home. His wife Jane and their four lovely children greeted us. They were so pleased to welcome us into their home. We shared stories around the table as we ate fresh fruit and thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality of the Gachanjas.

Anthony and Jane then took us to the Nairobi church building, where their pastoral team and key leaders were dressed in their Sunday best to greet the GCI President and his wife. I am deeply humbled by the reception I get from our members, and it continues to amaze me how many want to get their picture taken with Susan and me. I realize that it is the office in which I serve that they respect, and what a privilege it is.

KK with the trees planted in 2021

At the church building, which is a remarkably beautiful and well-thought-out facility, we were given a short history of the building and a tour. They are just now completing a space with one room that will serve as a teen meeting room and a second room that will be the pastor’s office. It was wonderful to have a prayer circle with the pastor and pastoral team and pray a prayer of dedication over that space. From there we went outside, where Susan and I were to plant a tree to honor the occasion (in December 2021, KK and the four Regional Directors of Africa met at this location, and each planted a tree to represent GCI Africa and its leaders). Susan and I planted a nice-sized “Royal Palm” tree that we hope grows to be a healthy plant, just as GC Nairobi grows to be a heathy church. I love the symbolism.

If this had not already been an eventful day, we went from the church to a hotel conference room where we met with church leaders from across the eastern region. The countries of Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, and Kenya were represented, and the lead pastor from the Kakuma Refugee Camp was able to join us. I had the opportunity to give a presentation explaining GCI’s vision, starting with Jesus as the center, who we are in him, and how our ministry models and strategies are reflective of who he is. KK gave out copies of A Giant Step Forward (the book I wrote with Rick Shallenberger and Tom Nebel), along with the GCI Toolkit so that these leaders can continue to learn about GCI’s overall movement and its ministry concepts. We are coming to better realize that it is Jesus’ ministry, and we are privileged to join him and participate with him. As KK often says – “Hallelujah!”

The various leaders came bearing gifts, and Susan and I were lavished with many wonderful tokens of their love and gratitude. Several of these items will go into our Presidential display case in the Home Office where we can cherish the wonderful memories while honoring the faithfulness of our beloved members in east Africa.

We ended this good long day at the “Carnivore Restaurant.” It was a meat-lovers festival, giving us a taste of some of the exotic meats that Kenya offers. Ostrich and crocodile topped the list. The servers continued to come around with their variety of meats on long skewers until the group finally surrendered by laying down a service flag at the head of the table. As desserts were being served, Susan and I were whisked off to the airport for a late-night flight.

I don’t ever recall having such an eventful day with so many highlights packed in, and it was my good pleasure to assure Anthony and the eastern region that we will return for a full-length conference in 2023—God willing!

Still rejoicing in the good, long day,
Greg Williams

PS
We acknowledge the deep pain the violent attack in Buffalo, NY has caused our Black community. We lament with them and join with the entire Body of Christ in rejecting white supremacy. We embrace this statement from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE):

We reject white supremacy, call for justice for victims and their families, and exhort churches to combat attitudes and systems that perpetuate racism. We also lament the violent attacks this past week in California, Dallas, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Every person is created in the image of God and has inestimable worth (Genesis 1:27). (Read full statement here.)