Faith Forward

GCI President, Dr. Greg Williams, gives an update on the life of Grace Communion International. Greg talks about the significance of the Faith Avenue as we move forward into 2021.

 

In light of recent events in the United States, Greg Williams has written an additional message this week. Click here to read it.

Video Transcript

Over the past two years, we have been teaching, promoting, and reporting about what we call the “Team-Based, Pastor-Led” model for congregational oversight. It is beginning to lodge in our thinking and vocabulary, and it is also being manifest in the shape of our ministry practices. I am impressed with how this expression of ministry is translatable to all 6 regions of GCI around the world. Our African Superintendent Kalengule Kaoma said this in a recent monthly report.  We re-stated our Vision 2025 of being a Healthy Church that is Living and Sharing the Gospel through the three ministry avenues of Faith, Hope, and Love. We then spent time discussing “How to create a Healthy Faith Avenue, Hope Avenue, or Love Avenue”. The seminar was very timely as it became clear that as we prepare to re-open our churches, we can make a clean break with the past, and chart a new journey of Faith, Hope, and Love towards 2025. We can develop new habits, new plans, and new ways of doing ministry in line with our Vision. This was music to my ears and to my spirit. Having common ministry practices supported by a common language and ministry tools positions us to better join with Jesus as a denominational movement. As we launch into 2021, we will emphasize the Faith Avenue. We are calling this “Faith Forward.” The COVID year has slowed us down on many levels, and yet it has created a season of deeper examination and reflection. I am happy to say that we have used this time to revise and update publications, manuals, etc. It has also provided space to create fresh ideas and new support material. An expanded view of the Faith Avenue is one of the new pieces. The Faith Avenue is about discipleship – believers growing in their walk with Jesus as well as their walk with their Christian brothers and sisters. Growing deeper in relationship with Christ and becoming more like him is the faith forward that we desire, and this best happens in the community and life of the church. We talk about the Faith Avenue in the “Three C” subsets: Community-building, Connect Groups, and Cross-Generational Care. Community-Building: Spending meaningful time with the church family in activities and events with the goal of growing deeper in relationships. Connect Groups: Small groups gathering typically in the comfort of members’ homes for relationship building and spiritual growth. Cross-Generational Care: Recognizing and meeting the needs of the different life stages in our congregation. These three areas define where we establish Faith Avenue ministries and help to provide spaces for ministry leaders and ministry workers. How will we know that our Faith Avenue ministries are making a difference? Here are some key markers.

  • Church Life is happening outside of the Sunday Service
  • New disciples are being formed
  • Existing disciples are growing in relationship with one another & in following the way of Jesus
There will be much more to come as we dive into 2021. We will not neglect the other Avenues of Love and Faith, rather we will highlight the aspect of the Faith Avenue. Many of our articles and church hacks will further educate our church about ways they can further develop the Faith Avenue. It is my hope that we can see the person of Jesus through the lenses of Faith, Hope and Love. If this is who he is, then it only makes sense that his ministry would exude his nature and find expression in practical application. I pray that 2021 will be the Post-COVID year we all hope for. I also encourage you to continue to learn and apply the Christ-centered aspects of Faith, Hope, and Love as you continue to live and share the Gospel. Let me end my message with a foundational Bible passage. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life 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 2:19-20 (NRSVA) May the faith of Christ in you and the faith of Christ in me be the catalyst for our collective “Faith Forward.” I am Greg Williams updating you about the life of the church.

State of the Church

In this Update, GCI President Greg Williams talks about the 2020 theme “Focused on Hope”. He continues to expound on the significance of “Hope” and how it has taught us to persevere throughout these challenging times. During this season let look unto Jesus, our true Hope.

Video Transcript

Hello GCI. It is hard to believe that 2020 is actually coming to a close. You are probably aware of how in a dog’s life 1 year is equivalent to 7 human years. One of my good friends equated the COVID year to that of a dog year, and in many ways, it seemed to be much longer than normal. In this State of the Church address, we will reflect on how the theme of “Hope” was set for 2020. Hope is one of the three key elements of our ministry focus as we seek to join Jesus in his ongoing ministry. The Hope Avenue centers around the church gathering in worship, and how the support teams work in alignment to point people to Jesus and make the gathering transformative and memorable. Think of the three “I’s” when you think of the Hope Avenue.

  1. Intentional preparation
  2. Inclusive gathering
  3. Inspirational Sunday Service
The Worship Leader and Team, the Audio Visual Leader and Team, the Host Leader and Team, and the Pastor all are considering what they are doing days and even weeks ahead of time. They are addressing questions like “What season of the worship calendar are we in?” “How do we decorate the hall?” “What songs will be meaningful to the season?” “Will my sermon be timely and fix the spotlight on Jesus?”
  1. Intentionality – on purpose, with a purpose!
The Hope Avenue Teams mentioned before are considering how all peoples and age groups are being included. “Can people with physical limitations negotiate our meeting space with ease?” “Do we have nursery facilities?” “Is there a quality children’s church being offered?” “Can the senior members readily be served the communion elements?”
  1. Inclusive – no one left out or behind
The Worship Team and Pastor are especially thinking about inspiration. “Does the music help usher the worshippers to the throne room?” “Are we singing not only about the Triune God but to the Triune God?” “Does the scripture reading wash over the worshippers with awe and wonder?” “Does the sermon move the congregation closer to Jesus, and call to greater participation?”
  1. Inspiration - being mentally and spiritually stimulated to more fully join Jesus
You may be thinking that’s all exciting Mr. President, but do you forget that this was a COVID year? I do realize. “It was a year for Hope to be re-imagined.” We had to become technologically savvy if we wanted to gather our people. Pastors had to figure out what setting they would broadcast from, and what platform to use. For those who used Facebook Live there had to be “online greeters” who managed the ongoing comments. Thank God we already had “Text to Give” in place. In 2019 there was hesitation to give offerings through texting, but 2020 sped up that process. I wonder what special ways the Lord worked among our people as they prepared their own communion elements to then be shared as the church gathered online? There are probably scores of COVID stories yet to be told. What truly amazed me was how that by physically closing the doors to our church buildings we now opened the virtual doors to our church through media platforms. Many of our churches have connected to old friends and new contacts. We are faced with the challenge of continuing to serve our online audience and going deeper with new contacts. One church analyst said this: Growing churches in the future will become digital organizations with physical expressions, not physical organizations with a digital presence – let that sink in. The New Year will bring new challenges. I encourage you to view the challenges as opportunities. Opportunities to adapt, create, and grow as the Spirit guides you. The Hope Avenue wasn’t shut down in 2020 as some suggested, it was simply challenged and expanded in new ways. Isn’t that just like our mysterious God? The one who had the strange notion to save humanity meant becoming human. The one who was and is king would be born in an animal stall and not a palace. The one who is Head of the Church is Head of the Gathered and the Scattered, the in-person and online. So, whether you are gathered with others or still in place at home this Christmas, may you intentionally, inclusively, and inspirationally welcome Jesus our Savior! Merry Christmas from Susan and me, and all of the staff from the Home Office.

Welcoming New GCI Board Members

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Not too many people get excited about governmental structures and systems. Who recalls civics class as the most scintillating of your educational journey? I suppose that I am a bit nerdy when it comes to church government, and I will do my best to make this article more exciting than the dry class lectures you may dimly recall.

In Grace Communion International we are “Board Governed.” The GCI Denominational Board of Directors are a diverse group of elders responsible for overall stewardship of the Church and the appointment and oversight of the President. The President is responsible to the Board for the general management of the Church, with the help of other officers, managers, and staff to carry out day-to-day operations of the church. (This is the short version for the civics test.)

The Directors operating according to the organization’s Articles and Bylaws have 3 fiduciary responsibilities mandated by law: duty of care, duty of loyalty, and duty of obedience. Board directors are called fiduciaries because they are legally responsible for the high-level oversite of a nonprofit entity ensuring that support is raised and resources are spent well in support of its mission.

Duty of Care

Duty of care means that directors are required to give the same care and concern to their board responsibilities as any prudent and ordinary person would. Board members must be active participants in board meetings and committees. Working with other directors, they actively advance the mission of the Church. They fulfill their responsibilities by overseeing and monitoring the Church’s activities, including strategic planning, finances, audits, board director development, and recruiting to ensure the Church’s long-term goals are achieved.

Duty of Loyalty

Duty of loyalty means that board directors are required to place the interests of the Church ahead of their own interests. Board members do not serve on the board for personal gain but for the benefit of the organization. They must be loyal to the organization by appointing qualified and loyal members to replace themselves as they rotate out of their positions so that the Church successfully operates as a healthy entity in perpetuity.

Duty of Obedience

Duty of obedience means that directors must ensure that the church is abiding by all applicable laws. The duty of obedience also means that directors carry out the mission of the Church.

Board Officers

The Board appoints “officers” to administer the operations of the Church. The Chair, Vice-Chair, President, Chief Financial Officer, and the Secretary of the Board serve in this capacity. Currently, these positions are filled by Dr. Joseph Tkach, Dr. Randy Bloom, Dr. Greg Williams, and Mathew Morgan, respectively. Dr. Williams and Mr. Morgan serve as ex-officio Board Directors in our governance structure, which means they serve as Board Directors as long as they hold their current positions.

Administration

Under the Board’s oversight, the President, working with other officers and managers, provides direct management and administration to carry out the Church’s mission and is a steward over the administrative functions and day-to-day management of the Church.

In our governance framework, the President, under the supervision of the Board, provides oversight of Superintendents in the US and abroad, providing worldwide focus and collaboration in pursuit of the mission of preaching the gospel and caring for the church.

Board directors and officers carry weighty responsibilities for the care and welfare of the denomination and must have specific requirements necessary to serve. In addition to a willingness to shoulder the duties mentioned earlier, a director must be an ordained elder in GCI, have relevant advanced education, a willingness to work together with other directors to advance the mission of the Church and be nominated and selected by the Board.

It is my pleasure and joy to share the news that Celestine Olive and Jennifer Gregory have been nominated and elected to serve alongside the current Board Directors (Chair Dr. Joseph Tkach, Vice Chair Dr. Randy Bloom, CFO and Secretary Mathew Morgan, GCI President Dr. Greg Williams, Dr. Russell Duke, and Pastor Tommie Grant).

It is a “Welcome back” to Celestine, as she has served a previous term on the Board. She is now retired from GCI employment and serving actively as an elder in the Lancaster, CA, congregation. (see her attached bio)

Jen will be coming on as a Board Director for the first time. She serves side by side with her husband Anthony as they pastor the Grove City, OH, congregation. Welcome Jen! (see her attached bio)

I think we all can appreciate the quote from the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”

It brings me great joy to have the presence and voices of Celestine and Jen on the GCI Denominational Board of Directors.

I would be remiss not to mention that Dr. Charles Fleming and Elder Wendy Moore just completed their terms of service and have cycled off. A big thank you to Charles and Wendy for their dedicated service.

Please pray for the health and wisdom of the GCI Board of Directors, and that the Lord will continue faithfully guiding our journey forward.

 

Greg Williams

Leadership Matters – Meet Dishon Mills

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

It may sound cliché, but we do live in challenging times. The struggles with and through COVID-19 continue; the politics and elections in many countries are more divisive than they have been in years; there is the constant fight for our personal time, attention and resources (not that I am a conspiracy theorist, but the documentary The Social Dilemma on NetFlix made me think); and there is a great need for racial reconciliation and equality. Amid all this, we have our unified mission to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ into the 21st-century world – not a small task. And I especially think about how best to share the gospel with Generations Z and Alpha.

Leadership matters – this concept shows up across all eras of history and certainly is needed today. In a recent internet search, I came across a site for the organization “Leadership Matters for America.” (While we do not affiliate with or endorse this organization, their site provided some useful information that follows.) They identified the markers below as vital ingredients to leadership:

      • Strategic Thinking: We want someone who can bring about the right change not just out of rage but with the right thought.
      • Planning & Delivery: Planning the right course of action and making sure that the action has brought you to the right place.
      • Persuasion & Influence: All the planning will go to waste if people do not understand the right way to be the change.

These are excellent qualities that we want for all our GCI leaders and they certainly align with Christ-centered leadership qualities described in Scripture. This leads me to an important and exciting announcement.

We are at a juncture where a significant leadership transition will be taking place in GCI. Our current Generations Ministry (GenMin) National Coordinator, Jeff Broadnax, is handing over the baton of leadership to Pastor Dishon Mills in January 2021. Jeff will continue to be one of five U.S. Regional Directors. (See the attached article from Jeff called “The Acceleration Zone”).

In our prayerful and careful process of identifying Dishon for his new role, we were looking at his experience along with the following leadership characteristics we list on our job descriptions that make him a good fit to take on the leadership of GenMin.

        • Personal health: lives in community, with integrity, and maintains good spiritual/emotional/relational health.
        • Self-aware: knowing who he is in Christ, having clarity about personal strengths and weaknesses, and is comfortable filling in his own gaps with competent team members.
        • Time manager: well organized and able to divide his time between specific activities and effectively fulfill work-related goals.
        • People skills: the ability to deal with a wide range of people in a friendly and effective way that achieves good results.
        • Life-long learner: continuing to grow in knowledge and capacity, especially in the areas of youth culture and development resources for Christian ministry in the 21st century.

Above any life experience or leadership qualities, there is the matter of spiritual calling. Is this a role that the Lord has been preparing and grooming Dishon for? How has Dishon discerned this? And what does Dishon want to share with us as a way of introduction? I will ask Dishon to continue this introduction in his article entitled “Big Things with Small Things,” and in our December issue of Equipper Dishon will introduce a new column. I will end by saying “Welcome to Dishon and Afrika, his delightful and supportive wife. We are so glad that you said ‘yes’ and we are excited to see what the Lord accomplishes through you.”

Looking forward to equipping leaders,

Greg Williams

Help in Times of Disaster

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

The year 2020 will be remembered as the year the world faced a pandemic that stopped much of the economy, sent people to “shelter in place” in their homes and churches revised the way they get together for worship. It will also be remembered for several natural disasters—fires, earthquakes, severe drought and volcanic eruptions. Some wonder if we’ve reached “the end of time”; others understand these cataclysmic events have always been with us. The Bible is transparent in letting us know that trials, persecution, plagues, famines and weather events are a part of our fallen world. Notice the words of Jesus:

And the rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. (Matthew 7:25 NRSV)

Over the years we have experienced many natural disasters with our extended family around the world. Some have asked what our GCI Disaster Relief fund is for and how we have used it. The purpose of this letter isn’t to solicit donations, but to inform and to show our appreciation.

Since the inception of the Disaster Relief fund in 2005, over $800,000 has been distributed to provide relief to the GCI family from the effects of hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, drought, and Ebola, just to name a few.

In just the last couple years, donations have helped the GCI family in the following disasters:

  • Hurricane Dorian – Bahamas
  • Taal Volcano – Philippines
  • Cyclone Idia – Mozambique
  • Flooding – Nepal
  • Hurricane Maria – Dominica
  • Hurricane Harvey – Houston, TX

Because many have given to this fund before a disaster has struck, we have been able to quickly send aid as soon as needs are made known. We want to thank the congregations who have contributed and allowed us to provide aid in times of need.

The Disaster Relief fund is never meant to cover all costs related to any emergency; rather, it is designed to provide help where we can, and perhaps where other help is not available. It is our practice to have those affected by natural disasters seek the help provided from government and other relief agencies because we do not have the capacity to cover the extent of long-term needs or complete rebuilding, in some instances. Your superintendent, national or regional leader can help lead you to resources available.

Being able to provide financial relief in the event of a natural disaster is just one of the ways that we live up to the word “international” in our denominational name Grace Communion International. It is a blessing to be a global family connected and able to display our compassion and love in times of disaster.

Again, a special thanks to all of the congregations that have contributed. You are much appreciated.

Keeping you informed,

Greg Williams

P.S. I want to be clear that the bulk of our offerings and donations are meant for the work of sharing the gospel through the life and ministries of our local churches. So, please understand that this letter is not meant as a solicitation for the Disaster Relief Fund.

The Measure of a Healthy Church

 

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Friends and Family,

A significant Christian author and church leader is how I describe Dr. Gene Getz, a long-time friend of GCI. A few years back Gene hosted me for his annual men’s retreat and ski outing in Beaver Creek, CO. He is a kind, welcoming man with loads of spiritual depth.

Gene wrote a book in 1995 called The Measure of a Healthy Church (updated in 2001 and 2007). He recently sent me a signed copy and it has stimulated more thoughts and ideas about our shared quest toward Healthy Church.

Throughout the book, Gene shows how spiritual growth must be the focus above monitoring numerical growth. He also points out, however, that spiritual growth and numeric growth are not mutually exclusive – it is recorded in Acts chapter 2 that about 3,000 were added to the church after Peter’s compelling sermon about Jesus, the true Lord and Messiah.

Gene tells stories about several of the New Testament churches, and the one that intrigued me the most is the back story of Ephesus. Paul made this large Roman city of 300,000 people his base of operations for nearly three years. In Acts 19:9-10 we see that Paul met with people on a daily basis in the lecture hall of Tyrannus for a stretch of two years. Can you imagine what that lecture series was like?

An important factor in the growth of the Ephesian church that often gets missed is this raising up of other leaders. In Acts 19:6-7 Luke tells us that there were 12 men raised up and gifted in a similar way as the original apostles on the day of Pentecost. Recruiting, equipping and empowering other leaders matters.

The most encouraging and conforming section for me was chapter 4 – “A Divine Trilogy.” Gene demonstrates how faith, hope and love are a trilogy that jump off the pages of the New Testament and form a comprehensive perspective for evaluating corporate Christian life. He cites a quote from C.K. Barrett, a British Bible scholar who says, “Faith, hope and love are the central, essential and indefectible elements in Christianity.” Not only are these three qualities the true measure of the church, they are the best words in our English language to describe the person of Jesus. Jesus is faith, hope and love personified.

In GCI we encourage our members to manifest the spiritual virtues of faith, hope and love as Christ lives and shines in them. We have taken this a step further to design and structure our church ministries around this divine trilogy.

        • The faith avenue is about discipleship. As individual believers, are we growing in our walk with Jesus? Are we growing deeper as a community of Christian believers?
        • The hope avenue is about worship. Is Jesus being proclaimed in our church gatherings? Is corporate worship inspiring and are lives being transformed?
        • The love avenue is about engaging in our church neighborhood and witnessing to the love of Christ. Are we out there daily as we see demonstrated by Paul in Ephesus? Are relationships being built and cultivated so that witnessing naturally happens?

So, what have we learned from this thumbnail sketch from Dr. Getz?

        • Healthy churches preach Jesus and trust the Lord to add the numeric growth.
        • Healthy churches multiply leaders for the work of the church.
        • Healthy churches are centered around faith, hope and love (we can abbreviate this by saying healthy churches are centered in Jesus).

As President of GCI, my goal is to make the main things as plain as possible. I sincerely believe if we are attending to the basic principles outlined in this letter, we will see an abundance of spiritual and numeric growth in ways in which we have only dreamed.

A big thank you to my friend Dr. Gene Getz for his teaching and most of all for his loving support.

 

Growing Healthy Together!

Greg Williams

 

 

Denominational Vision

GCI President, Dr. Greg Williams, gives an update on the life of Grace Communion International. He talks about our plans for the future of the denomination and addresses the question, what is our greatest need?

For further reading on our denominational vision, please check out our next issue for an article from Dr. Kerry Magruder about the strategy for Ministry Training Centers (MTC’s) across the global landscape of GCI.

Additional content will be coming out in future issues as well, including a video interview with GCI Development Coordinator, Cara Garrity, who will oversee the development of current and future MTCs.

Video Transcript

As we wind down 2020 and look forward toward 2021, it is a good time to think about our highest priorities as a global fellowship. As I travel the world and interact with our Superintendents and Regional Directors, the unified answer to the question of “What is our greatest need?” is the development of new leaders. Our church is aging and if we are not investing in younger men and women then our future could be in jeopardy. At the denominational level, we have been listening and are continuing to respond in tangible ways. We have Grace Communion Seminary offering graduate-level degrees in theology and pastoral ministry, and we have Ambassador College of Christian Ministry offering a Ministry Certificate that is being utilized in many regions of GCI. The vision of “Healthy Church” means that we have educated pastors and ministry leaders. We have been making progress in becoming more educated, but we have further to go. In churches where “Team-based Pastor-led” is being utilized, the Faith, Hope, and Love ministry champions could easily enroll in classes that can enhance their knowledge base. I highly recommend that these ministry champions make the effort to enroll in a class and see how stimulating and helpful this experience can be, especially if you take courses together. There is something dynamic about being in a learning group that is also practicing ministry shoulder to shoulder. Be courageous and take this next step and sign up for an upcoming class. The development of a new generation of leaders means that we must have practical learning opportunities where these emerging leaders can get their hands dirty and be able to skin their knees doing meaningful ministry. All GCI churches are making efforts toward better church health and all healthy churches should be practical training grounds developing new leaders, yet we have some spots where there is greater capacity and greater opportunity for young adults to learn. We are calling these sites “Ministry Training Centers” (MTCs). MTC sites will work with interns who are undergraduate students who will be immersed in the Faith, Hope, and Love ministries of the church. Then the secondary level will be pastoral residents who are specifically learning pastoral skills. Working with these young men and women takes careful, focused attention over 4-6 years. It isn’t a rapid process, it is, however, methodical, and thorough, and will serve us well for the future of GCI with new leaders who are carefully prepared. It costs $6,200 per year to provide the learning opportunity for an intern, and it costs $25,900 per year to support a pastoral resident as they pursue a master’s degree from Grace Communion Seminary, and simultaneously serve longer hours in the life of their church. Please understand that the interns and pastoral residents will be trained in fundraising skills and be required to raise a significant portion of their income and it is our hope that this experience will prepare them for future roles in church leadership. Their fundraising efforts will reinforce the program for others who come behind them. Surrey Hills, Oklahoma, on the west side of Oklahoma City, is our first official MTC in the US. Their building, designed to house an MTC will be completed in 2021. We will continue to update this church’s progress as they engage in their neighborhood and intentionally work to develop younger leaders. The church there was chosen because they have a dynamic leadership team that is well connected in the neighborhood and is already actively ministering. This project is a large undertaking and one that will require financial help through their infancy stage as they seek to add new members from the surrounding neighborhood. Operation expenses that involve utilities, internet, custodial, and maintenance will cost around $90,000 per year. The local church is sharing these costs and is planning to become completely financially self-sustaining within a few years, but this will take time and diligence. Paying for operations is not the most exciting part of ministry, yet these are real needs that either make or break a church. In the US, we have established a GCNext fund to help underwrite the process and programs for developing new leaders. Donations to this fund will perpetuate the MTC strategy for developing a new generation of leaders. I am working with our six Superintendents around the world to follow the pattern of establishing GCNext funding in their regions, to formalize an internship program that fits their context, and to identify their potential MTC sites. As this global network gets established, we will coordinate the operation of these sites under the guiding leadership of Cara Garrity. Cara is a product of the intern / pastoral resident program, and now she is at the helm working with others to refine and improve our efforts. I invite you to watch the interview that I did with Cara and hear her story on the video interview series “We Are GCI” which will be released on the next issue of GCI Update. If you are compelled to get behind the MTC strategy and the development of interns and pastoral residents, and we hope you will, please send your financial gift to the GCNext . Please consider making this gift in addition to your regular donations so current local missional operations will continue to be sustained. This additional gift will be an investment in the future of GCI as we participate with Jesus to grow his kingdom. The Lord has been generous to GCI in providing us with good people and gracefully allowing us to learn how to best develop the next generation. We have good, dedicated senior leaders in place who are working with sound development strategies, and our programs are already spawning new innovative leaders. It is our long-range vision to have a network of successful MTCs around the world in addition to other healthy churches that are spawning new leaders. We are making the initial steps to take us in this direction.  We envision every congregation participating with Jesus mentoring new leaders and being the church in their neighborhood. Healthy organisms reproduce and grow! Your partnership with us through prayers and financial offerings is an investment in the next generation of pastors and ministry leaders. It is a great season for GCI, and we thank you for your participation! I am Greg Williams updating you about the life of the church.  To send your financial gift to the GCNext fund visit gci.org/give2gcnext

The New GCI Pastor DNA

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

For 2020 I asked our GCI leaders to consider the word “focus” as our word for the year. To achieve a perfect focus of 20/20 sight, there must be clarity. Anyone who has ever undergone an eye exam was given a series of lenses to peer through and asked, “Which one is most clear?” until you achieve clear vision.

The clarity for GCI starts with me as the President having a well-defined job description – a clear lens of what my job is. (Thanks to the GCI Board of Directors, I have such a lens.) Once clarity for my job was established, it is on me to fashion priorities and goals around the activities that I have been asked to accomplish on behalf of the denomination. One of those priorities is to create a job description for the leaders who serve at the management level of the church. This applies, in turn, to our church pastors.

Our pastors are the frontline managers for our church. These men and women are the backbones of our organization. As go our pastors, so goes our church. This is not meant to imply a sense of heaviness or pressure, just simply stating the reality.

The old DNA for pastoring in our church was:

  • An able teacher who could support and articulate our church doctrines
  • A counselor to the members on all of life’s issues
  • An available leader who regularly visited members in their homes

As we are now 20 years into the 21st century the job description for pastors has changed significantly.

In accordance with what we see in Ephesians 4, we desire that pastors look to the leadership of the ascended Christ in not only using their gifts, but in helping members use their God-given gifts. Pastors and ministry leaders are called “to equip the saints for the work of ministry,” so that the church is built up. Equipping is done through the training and empowering of believers.

We desire a dynamic movement of ministry within our churches where people come alive in Christ, grow up into his maturity, and walk in step as they share in Christ’s ministry (verses 13-16).

We are asking our pastors to be theologically educated in GCI’s Incarnational Trinitarian theology and to express their abiding relationship with Father, Son and Spirit in how they relate to others and how they teach the gospel message.

We are asking our pastors to be intimately familiar with the Love, Hope and Faith avenues of ministry, and to prayerfully appoint leaders and teams of people for the ongoing attention and execution of these foundational ministries. Pastors must first be Team-Builders, then Leaders of Leaders, as well as Constant Custodian over the foundational ministries.

It takes a lot of effort to be a healthy church, yet isn’t that our goal? Every pastor wants his or her local congregation to be the healthiest expression of church it can be. This requires focus and clarity. A pastor’s congregation is his or her local focus of operation. To provide clarity, allow me to share—in a condensed fashion—how we are asking pastors to see their role as described in the flow of Engaging, Equipping, Empowering and Encouraging.

Engagement means being among people in the congregation and community to discern individuals who can possibly grow into ministry leaders, then intentionally engaging and recruiting potential leaders by giving them opportunities to stretch their capacity and helping them become better known.

Equipping God’s people for works of service begins in the awareness of who God is, and then who the individual is in relationship to God. How has God shaped them through their personality, life experiences, talents, and spiritual gifting? What is God calling them to in correspondence to building up the church? The pastor must rely on the help and resources from the Faith Avenue leader and team members to thoroughly work through this process. Equipping then means matching individuals to appropriate educational opportunities, and relationally connecting them with able ministry leaders who will make space for the new believer to be apprenticed—knowing that information without imitation falls short, mentoring counts.

Empowerment is a function of trust and resourcing. A pastor will give meaningful opportunities for leaders under him or her and allow liberty for the person to succeed or fail; celebrating the successes and patiently working through the failures. The pastor will work collaboratively with the team leaders to wisely determine their needs, and will follow through with provision of finances, tools and related resources.

The constant Encouragement will come to the broader congregation with the week-in-week-out preaching that is in correspondence to the Christian calendar, and in harmony with the Hope Avenue leader and team. The more specific role of encourager applies to the oversight of the core ministry team leaders, as the pastor facilitates vision-casting and alignment, relational management, and strategic review and careful planning. The pastor is the greatest cheerleader for the ministries of the church, showing support by participation and ongoing communication.

The passage in Ephesians implies growth in spiritual maturity and the winning of new disciples to the church. The pastor will rely on the Love Avenue leader and team to make sure that healthy rhythms of neighborhood engagement and relational connections are happening in the target community. A vigilant pastor will be attentive to numeric and spiritual growth and proactively lead the congregation to receive the growth provided by the Lord.

The new DNA of the four “E’s” – Engagement, Equipping, Empowering, and Encouraging – will be the catalyst for how pastors lead and serve their congregations. This continued transformation is a part of the spiritual renewal of our fellowship that has been going on for more than a quarter of a century.

Thank you, Holy Spirit. We will have some more please!

Greg Williams

P.S. The Regional Directors will be helping pastors have more clarity about their role and how to most effectively shepherd our precious congregations.

Biblical View of Racism

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

The interracial and international makeup of Grace Communion International is a blessing and a strength of our fellowship. As I hear and read about the controversies between the “black church” and the “white church” in America, I am pleased that we have ongoing dialogue internally as a GCI family that cares about one another.

As President, I must continually pay attention to ways that the church is being challenged and then prayerfully consider how we move forward. Thankfully, I have a wonderful team of people around me who help me with the multitude of issues. Just as I ask our pastors to be “Team-Based, Pastor-Led,” I seek to be “Team-Based, President-Led.”

I recently asked one of my team members, Dr. Gary Deddo, to write some helpful thoughts on the topic of racism as we see it addressed in Scripture. See his thoughts below.

What does biblical revelation contribute to the concern regarding the evil of racism?

What biblical revelation offers out of its incarnational and trinitarian center can be summed up in four points.

  1. Biblical revelation sheds strong light on this form (and all forms) of evil. It does so by locating all sin—including racism—in the most comprehensive context there is. That context, that reality, is the history of humanity’s need for our Triune God’s redemption through Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit. That history reaches back to the beginning of created time and out to the future of eternity. In contemporary terms, the whole of biblical revelation provides us a complete story of humanity’s individual and collective brokenness—from its founding to its redeemed culmination. It is a history of all peoples, of all the families of the nations. By God’s grace, we have been given a metanarrative that includes the histories of all particular individuals, peoples, and nations. It is a story of our Creator and Redeemer’s redemption and, as such, is a story of true hope.
  2. Biblical revelation centered in Christ tells us what is wrong with our world and so with racism. It does not offer a superficial, biased, or naive view of any evil, including racism. It does not merely expose the symptoms of evil, but the root, the source of any evil including that of racism. Evil is rooted in our distrust and alienation from God. After being tempted by the evil one, humanity rejected a personal relationship with God. Evil is rooted in the lie that we don’t need God and we don’t need to be in relationship with God. The true seriousness of any and every evil is uncovered in biblical revelation. It identifies the root of all sin operating in this “present evil age.” It tells us that our real enemy is not other persons (“flesh and blood”), but the powers of evil that tempt us all and take advantage of our weaknesses. It tells us that every human being needs to be freed by the grace of our Triune God from the power of evil at the deepest level of who we have become.
  3. Biblical revelation, which has its center in Jesus Christ, makes known the final end goal of our Triune God’s own eradication of all evil, including racism. It ends upon Jesus’ return as Lord of all. It does not stop short by pointing us to false hopes, misguided compromises, partial results, or hopelessness. Rather, it supports the true hope for all—ultimate redemption and reconciliation between all. Going to the root, Jesus has—through his shed blood on the cross and resurrection from the dead—achieved victory over the source of all evil. At his return, he will eradicate sin as everything is placed under his total rule and reign. Nothing less can bring to a complete end all evil, including the sin of racism.
  4. Biblical revelation informs and forms those who are members incorporated into the Body of Christ as to how to participate in our Triune God’s own work of reconciliation and redemption in this present evil age—even as we wait in hope for our ultimate reconciliation, redemption, and the renewal of all things in heaven and earth upon Jesus’ personal and bodily return. We have been given a mission and message of reconciliation to actively share (2 Cor. 5).

My synopsis from Dr. Deddo’s helpful points are:

  • I am thrilled that our shared theological foundation—in what is called “Incarnational Trinitarian Theology” (ITT)—is for all people groups, for all ages, in all cultures. We rest and hope in the God revealed through Jesus. He is our solid rock!
  • Racism is evil. Treating any people group with prejudice, discrimination, and judging them as inferior is against the nature and intent of the Triune God. We are not to view any person from a “worldly view.” Rather, we are to see all people under the spilled blood of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:16). Jesus died for people of all races; he values people of all races, and no race is to look down on or feel superior to any other race; the same is true for all ethnicities. In Christ, there is no slave, no barbarian, no Scythian, no Gentile, and no Jew. We are all equal in him.
  • Racism will not fully be eradicated until Jesus returns and makes all things new. However, as the church of Jesus Christ we participate with him by the power of the Spirit to demonstrate love and respect to all peoples, and to be peacemakers advocating for equal treatment for all in the systems around us. As a church, we are called to be a light on the hill.

As part of our effort toward greater corporate health, we are forming an Advisory Council of minority leaders who will work with North American Superintendent Mike Rasmussen to inform him and the other Regional Directors as to ways we can more faithfully demonstrate our true unity in Jesus Christ.

As we move forward in our journey toward healthy church, we must make certain that our interracial relationships are healthy. Black lives and Black voices matter in GCI because our denominational story is incomplete without them. Hispanic lives and voices matter. All minority voices must continue to have a greater contribution within our denominational journey with Jesus. We will have more to share once the council is formed.

Please pray for the Lord’s leading in this new initiative and that wonderful fruit will be produced.

In Christ,
Greg Williams

 

100 Year Church

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

More than 100 years ago my great-grandparents on my mother’s side of the family were founding members in Hendersonville First Baptist Church. Hendersonville is a touristy-type town with mom and pop shops and a strong population of retired people. Agriculture sits atop the economic sector, with apple production leading the way. (The Apple Festival over Labor Day weekend celebrates all that is Hendersonville.)

Not only was this a great place to grow up, it is also a great place to return to for periodic visits. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of attending a service at Hendersonville First Baptist. My mother attends this church, along with my younger brother and his family. My brother Mark is a deacon and his wife Penny is on the church staff.

What is the current state of the century-old Baptist church of my great-grandparents? The day Susan and I attended with my mom, we accompanied her to the 9:30 am service. (They have three services on Sunday morning – 8:00, 9:30 and 11:00.) First off, it was difficult to find a nearby parking space. Once we parked, we passed a steady stream of churchgoers coming out and going in. There were lots of smiling faces of young and old, and an astonishing number of families.

My mother struggles with aching knees, and to make life simpler, she sits in the back row of the sanctuary. She has a usual group of friends who sit with her. When Susan and I joined the merry band, I was sitting on the end seat next to the aisle. I knew who Pastor Steve was, but to my surprise, he was circulating through the sanctuary and he made a point to come over to me and shake my hand. My brother told me later that he has a keen eye for spotting new people and intentionally introducing himself. Instead of sitting on the front row and waiting to be called to the pulpit, Pastor Steve joins in with the ushers and makes himself available (what a novel approach).

I was wondering what the worship and preaching would look like. Traditionally, Baptist churches sing mostly hymns, and they are known for their fiery sermons warning about the perils of hell. To my surprise there was a mix of contemporary songs and some people were even raising their hands in worship. The sermon was outstanding. Pastor Steve preached grace with a posture of humility, and there was no bait and switch (grace for salvation, but now on to the requirements to live the Christian life).

What were the signs of Healthy Church at Hendersonville First Baptist?

  • Offering multiple services and having a pastor who is dedicated to preaching three times each Sunday is remarkable.
  • The blend of young and old, and the core group of multiple generational families is a sign of endurance. My mother and brother’s involvement marks four generations of membership.
  • Providing a service that is worshipful—especially when it is done week in and out. This is a defining factor of Healthy Church.
  • A pastor who is outgoing and welcoming, and who consistently preaches the grace of a loving, personal God. Our GCI ministry model is defined as “Team-Based, Pastor-Led,” and while this expresses the need for the pastor to engage, equip and empower others to join Jesus in ministry, the role of the pastor still sets the tone for the congregation. Pastor Steve is a wonderful example.

In our quest to be the best expression of church that we can be, we need to be attentive to establishing stronger roots within a neighborhood/community. We also need to practice patience, because establishing those roots takes time, but will never happen unless we first identify the neighborhood where we fit, and we then roll up our sleeves and begin loving and serving that neighborhood. As we continue to give attention to the Hope Avenue of ministry, we need to constantly evaluate how welcoming we are, how worshipful our services are, and how clear is our grace-based preaching and posture. What will a new person experience when they visit our church service?

What will the story of our church be in 100 years when our great-grandchildren assemble to worship? I say thank you to my great-grandparents, Walter and Essie Garrett, for being part of a church that is still vibrant today.

Keeping the Faith!

Greg Williams