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Lent AND Easter Preparation

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

As I travel around the world visiting our various GCI regions I hear and learn many new things. I become informed about cultural nuances, and I am asked to clarify various aspects of what we believe in GCI, and how our theology informs our practices.

In my recent trip to France, I engaged in a lively discussion with our leaders. They shared that many of the GCI members are former Catholics, and their view of Lent is based in traditional Catholicism. Based on their past experiences, they view Lent as a works-based practice that is intended for a Christian to establish their personal worthiness. It feels like a backward step into legalism, and a move away from the vicarious atonement of Jesus that alone makes us worthy.

The French leaders went on to express that the phraseology that we have used, “Easter Preparation” is acceptable, and our members can embrace it. For former Catholics, it aligns with our grace-based Christ-centered focus.

In the greater Christian community, Lent is celebrated by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians. The practices in observing Lent and the importance placed on it vary. The conundrum for GCI is that in primarily Protestant-based regions, using Lent as terminology to describe what we call Easter Preparation is acceptable and interchangeable, and therefore it has appeared in some of our GCI publications. Please understand that this is not intended to create confusion, nor is meant to be offensive to any of our former Catholic members (be they in France or any other country with strong Catholic influence).

It is extremely important to know that the GCI worship calendar is informed by GCI theology. The pure intention is to rehearse and celebrate the salvific events of Jesus Christ. In no way are our celebrations designed to throw us back on ourselves and place our eternal salvation on human works. Our goals are to point to Jesus, be focused on Jesus and to worship him only. This alone is why we promote and support the GCI worship calendar.

For our members who have had challenging experiences and carry painful memories associated with Lent, please use the terminology “Easter Preparation.” We have openly asked our leaders across the international churches to contextualize the tools that we provide from the Home Office. We have often experienced that clear communication is difficult, especially when translating from one language to another.

In France and several other countries, I have been asked why I only carry the title of President and why the title of “Pastor” is not included? Most understand why Pastor General was dropped because General is a military title. The sentiment that members convey is that they see me as the Pastor of the denomination, and I embrace this role.

This letter is written out of my pastoral heart to extend the care and love for our members who may have experienced misunderstanding and hurt. Written out of my pastoral mindset, I desire that all of us in GCI relentlessly pursue Jesus and see that he is central in every season, year in and year out.

Everything begins and ends with Jesus. This is the focus of a healthy church. This is the focus of GCI. May God continue to bless us as we keep Jesus the center of the center.

Greg Williams

P.S. Are you interested in a fuller explanation of the primary worship days and seasons? Check out this list.

Faith, Hope, and Love in Action

GCI President, Greg Williams, shares how in 2023, GCI will focus on our theme of “Faith, Hope, and Love in Action.” We will be emphasizing moving from ministry concepts to active participation with Jesus in ministry. We rely on Jesus to guide us in being effective ambassadors to our neighbors.

Program Transcript


Faith, Hope, and Love in Action
GCI President Update | January 2023

Greg Williams

Happy 2023! We are beginning an exciting new year with new hopes and new possibilities.

In 2022, we promoted the theme of “Compelled by Love.” We understand that it is the pure love of Jesus that allows us to see others being included in his sacrifice and love. We teach a universal atonement in that when Jesus died, all humanity was included in his spilled blood. Therefore, the reconciliation of mankind to the triune God was made available to “all” in Jesus. God is not counting our sins against any of us. When he looks at us, he sees Jesus standing in our place for us. This is the good news we identify as the gospel. And this is our mission: to live and to share this gospel.

As we look ahead to what 2023 holds—in GCI this means moving into Year Two of our 3-Year Plan—we ask how does this mission play out for our six global Regions of GCI? We share the same vision of “Healthy Church” that is reflected in the same structure of “Team Based–Pastor Led” with the ministry Avenues of Faith, Hope, and Love. So where do we need to focus on? Leadership is part of our focus.

Fleshing out the clear role of the Pastor to build his/her team – with called and competent leaders who can champion the ministry Avenues of Faith, Hope, and Love – is a must to further our movement toward Healthy Church.     

As each Superintendent leads their Ministry Directors to train, educate, and coach on these important steps forward, we realize that each region is working at its individual pace as the Spirit is guiding. And that’s okay. The critical factor is that we are all progressively moving in the same direction – and that direction is always keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and growing in our participation in his ministry of faith, hope, and love. Eugene Peterson was right when he said, “It’s a long journey in the same direction.” And that direction is always toward Jesus.

Year One in our shared global plan was focused on learning the ministry concepts and developing a common language. Having visited almost all GCI regions in 2022 and participating in pastoral conferences, I was pleased to see how the concepts are being grasped and talked about. We are out of the starting block.

In Year Two, our GCI theme for 2023 is “Faith, Hope, and Love in Action.” This is moving the concepts into action. It is our faith goal that as we better understand the ministry of Jesus conceptually, that we follow through with better participation.

Allow me to explain what I mean by better participation. It’s one thing to know that it is the commission of the church to make disciples, and it is altogether another experience to participate with Father, Son, and Spirit in actively making disciples. This is where the Love Avenue comes in for us to become intentional about engaging and building meaningful relationships with those who don’t yet know Christ.

Then as new people are coming along, it is imperative that our Hope Avenue is vibrant. Every Sunday gathering needs to be a time of inspiration in worship of Jesus, experiencing the power and presence of the Spirit, as believers come together corporately.

Following up on where the Love and Hope Avenues have helped us reach new believers, the action of the Faith Avenue will then help them learn how to walk with Jesus and find their place in the life of the church. The Apostle Paul describes a progression of moving from the milk of the word to the meat of the word. This is a relationship with the Savior that is maturing in understanding and reliance. GCI’s role is to help others become committed followers of Jesus.  

The hope that I cling to is that GCI will make disciples who will make even more disciples.

The effectiveness of how the church is operating in the Faith, Hope, and Love Avenues has a major impact on how the mission of Making Disciples is fulfilled. I believe you can see just how critical it is for GCI to move from knowledge to practice. Faith, Hope, and Love in Action mean that we are focused on Jesus and relying on him to channel his faith, hope, and love into us, so we more effectively operate as his ambassadors to a broken, hurting world.

To speak candidly, I fully realize that not all our churches are the same. Some are smaller and aging and in their twilight years. By the grace of God, some are experiencing renewal, and yet others are celebrating their history and closing their doors. Please know that this is the cycle of the church and that your denomination still loves and cares about you deeply. There is no judgment or hard feelings.

For the smaller churches, you will be hard-pressed to build out the Faith, Hope, and Love Avenues to the scale that you would like. Please don’t feel bad about this. Continue to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and think about ministry through the lens of Faith, Hope, and Love, and participate as you are able.

I have advised our Superintendents and their team of leaders to identify the congregations that have the greater capacity of size, adequate funding, opportunity in their neighborhood, and teachable leaders who are willing to try new methods, and we begin there. You have heard the expression that “life begets life” – so, this is our long-range thinking. If we can help the healthier churches among us to become even more vibrant, then these renewed congregations have the potential to become mother churches that give birth to daughter churches – bringing new followers to Christ. This will be an incredible marker to indicate that our shared vision of Healthy Church is being fulfilled.

Let me pray for us.

Father in Heaven, Lord Jesus, and Holy Spirit, we are at the beginning of a New Year on our calendar. We thank you for being faithful in our past and especially for our shared journey in GCI. You have brought us such a long way and have never left us or forsaken us.

We stand here now as we roll our calendars forward to 2023. We stand in the faith, hope, and love of Jesus and we collectively ask you that we can better join you in your purpose of drawing all men and women to yourself. That your Kingdom can grow from a small seed to a huge, expansive bush where all birds can be gathered and find refuge and peace.

Thank you, Spirit, for unifying our fellowship with a shared plan that has a common vision, common structure, common strategies, and a plan full of faith goals that can only be fulfilled as you build the house.

Father, we humbly ask that the Faith, Hope, and Love of Jesus would become even more alive and tangible among our churches and members. May the light of Jesus shine brightly through our people, and Lord add new members as it pleases you.

In a year’s time, may we look back on 2023 and see the amazing ways that you answered this prayer.

In the mighty name of Jesus!

Amen 

I’m Greg Williams, updating you about the life of the Church.


Dear Family and Friends,

Happy 2023! We are beginning an exciting new year with new hopes and new possibilities. In 2022, we promoted the theme of “Compelled by Love.” As we look ahead to what 2023 holds, we ask, how does this mission play out? I hope you will watch this first video update of the new year. In this update, I describe our focus and theme for 2023.

I also have some exciting news from the Home Office. Allow me to introduce our new Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Rose Hamrick. To learn more, visit her bio here.

Mat Morgan, who has served as GCI and GCS CFO since November 2005, will be retiring next month. Stay tuned to read more about Mat’s faithful and competent service to our fellowship in a future Update issue.

Grateful for healthy transitions,
Greg

Reflecting on Important 2022 Themes

Since this entire issue of Update is dedicated to looking back at 2022, we gave our hardworking president a break from writing. In place of a letter, I combined all of Greg’s letters from the entire year and generated a word cloud. A word cloud is an image composed of words in a particular text, in which the size of each word indicates its frequency or importance. You will see by this image, that the word “Jesus” occurred more than any other word in the president’s letters. As it should be! Amen?

Allow me to point out another word. Greg mentioned his wife, Susan, so often that she showed up in our word cloud. How appropriate! We’re grateful for Susan and her tireless devotion to our denomination. I am sure our members around the globe who received a visit from our president in 2022 were equally blessed by Susan’s presence. Thank you, Susan.

Have a meaningful and merry Christmas,
Elizabeth Mullins
Update Editor


 

President’s Video—For God so Loved

In this month’s Update, Dr. Greg Williams talks about the significance of Jesus’ coming into our world and how our Father loves us beyond our comprehension.

Program Transcript


For God so Loved
GCI President Update | December 2022
Greg Williams

In late September I visited our brothers and sisters in Manila, Philippines. I arrived, either late in the night or early in the morning, around 4:00 am. To my surprise, I found the airport decorated with Christmas trappings. One Canadian-Filipino fellow traveler was so moved, she requested that I take her picture in front of the nativity scene.

In my mind, I was thinking “Jesus sure came early this year.” But we know, he is always here.

John 3:16-17 is one of the most important passages revealing the mind of God toward humanity. Both verses are of equal importance.

16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3: 16-17 (NRSVA)

“For God so loved” – what is the genesis of this love? When did it kick in? Was it at the fall of Adam and Eve? At the flood when God started over with Noah and his family? At the tower of Babel when he confused the languages. Perhaps when the prophets and kings failed?

Certainly, God’s heart was broken by the suffering of his children. The reality is that the Triune God was ahead of human history. John, the same author of the Gospel we just read, declares in Revelation 13:8 that Jesus was the lamb slain before the foundation of the world.

In essence, Jesus coming in the flesh was always God’s plan. The design for the second member of the Godhead to become a flesh and blood human was in the mind of God before the creation of Adam and Eve. In a small way, it’s kind of like a nativity scene in September.

God’s love is before what we call the beginning. And John 3 verse 17 tells us his love is a rescuing and restorative love. The incarnation of Jesus wasn’t intended for him to come and judge humanity in its fallen state. Humanity’s brokenness was highly visible, and the sting was felt by all. We were, as the line from O Holy Night says, “in sin and error pining.” So, Jesus didn’t come to rub this in. He came to make things right.

This child who came into the world, not in a palace with attending servants and nurses, but to an animal stall or cave, with lowly shepherds attending, was the embodiment of God’s love for the world. We celebrate this entry into the world because it was the greatest of miracles.

C.S. Lewis called the incarnation “the Grand Miracle.” He wrote: “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. … Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. … It was the central event in the history of the Earth—the very thing that the whole story has been about”
– C.S. Lewis, Miracles

Jesus always was, is, and will be, God’s plan of salvation. The incarnation is the central and greatest miracle that we all benefit from.

By a miracle that passes human comprehension, the Creator entered his creation, the Eternal entered time, God became human; it is reason to fall on our knees. And why did he come? Jesus became human with the life mission to die and rise again for the salvation of all people. Think of it this way, the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension do not happen without the incarnation. It is for this very reason that we walk through the season of Advent, to prepare our hearts and minds for the crescendo of the coming of Jesus into the world.

So to all the GCI family, I say, “Come let us adore him.” May your Christmas season be filled with Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father.

From Susan, me, and all your friends at the Home Office – A Very Merry Christmas!

Team Based—Chair Led

Dear GCI Friends and Family,

From time to time, I invite a guest writer to share with our church audience. It is my pleasure to have GCI Board Chair, Randy Bloom, as our guest writer this issue. Check out our interview here.

In Him,
Greg Williams


Grace Communion International exists as a beloved part of the universal church of Jesus. It exists to preach the Gospel of Jesus, and to make disciples as it participates in his ministry. GCI also exists as an organization recognized by and functioning under the laws of the US government. As such, it has a necessary structure for fulfilling its mission, as it is led and directed by the Holy Spirit. Under the direction and support of the Board, this structure is headed by the GCI President, Dr. Greg Williams, along with the Home Office staff and regional superintendents around the globe.

As Chair of the GCI board, I have been asked to explain the purpose of the board and how it functions.

The board provides high-level direction and support for the work of the church, mostly from behind the scenes, leaving the more visible aspects (the administrative aspects) of church ministry and mission to the President and his team. But the “behind the scenes” work of the board provides a solid foundation and pathway for the work of the church. The board also provides an extra layer of accountability within GCI – the President is accountable to the board. The primary responsibilities of the board include serving as a governing body (not involved in day-to-day administration or management) to:

      • Ensure the integrity of GCI’s theological framework and doctrine
      • Establish and maintain the vision and mission of GCI
      • Set basic policies (regarding personnel, finances, risk management, etc.)
      • Maintain financial health
      • Hire and support the President.

GCI theology and doctrine.

The “heavy lifting” of developing and establishing the foundational theological framework and doctrine for GCI has been accomplished by the prior work of the board. Today the board maintains the ongoing integrity of our theology and doctrine and is responsible for any future adjustments or clarifications as revealed by the Holy Spirit. The board has a doctrinal committee that reviews and decides doctrinal issues that arise from time to time.

GCI vision and mission

The mission of the church has been clearly set by Jesus: to preach the gospel and make disciples. This is the purpose of GCI (and any church). How that mission is lived out—what it “looks like” in various locations and cultures—needs to be worked out by the President, superintendents, regional directors, and pastors within the 69 countries in which GCI has a presence. With the Spirit leading, Greg and his team have developed missional plans and strategies for pursuing our GCI vision of “Healthy Church.” Greg keeps the board updated regularly on the development and progress of these plans.

Financial health and accountability

Through various committees, the board works to ensure GCI’s financial health. It reviews and approves the annual budget. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) provides quarterly financial updates to the board. Several committees are involved in managing the annual audit and providing oversight of investments. The CFO is also accountable to the board for all financial management systems, ensuring GCI operates according to established legal requirements. We are happy to say that every year GCI receives an “Unqualified Opinion,” the highest audit rating possible.

Support the President

While the President is accountable to the board, the board is also accountable to support the President. The board does this through its review and support of the President’s initiatives. More specifically, the board chair provides more focused support. I do this by maintaining regular contact with Greg. We talk regularly by Zoom. He shares his plans and ideas with me on a consistent basis, and he is open to suggestions and ideas from me. We have been friends and colleagues for many years, so our working relationship is professional and relational. We get along well, and communication is easy between us. He has often described our working relationship as one of coach and coachee.

I think it is important for people to realize that no one person “has the reigns of authority” within GCI. The President is accountable to the board and while the board has a Chair, the Chair is accountable to the board. Responsibility and accountability are shared. The board is, I hope, a good working example of “team based—chair led.”

Board composition

You may be wondering, “Who comprises the board? What kind of people are they?” I am honored to serve alongside a group of men and women who are experienced and competent in a variety of fields essential to the effective work of the board. Some are highly accomplished in various aspects of finances, management, and legal work. Some are experienced pastors. The board directors are as diverse as they are competent. What they all share in common is love for Jesus, for people, for GCI, and a respect for their fiduciary duties. To learn more about GCI board directors, click here.

Grace Communion Seminary board

An additional blessing, I encountered when I accepted the nomination as GCI board chair was that the GCI board chair also serves as the chair for Grace Communion Seminary. I enjoy serving alongside GCS President, Dr. Michael Morrison and other GCS board members. The GCS board fulfills the same purposes for the seminary as the GCI board serves for the church – to ensure the seminary mission, vision and finances are upheld and managed with integrity. The GCS board is comprised of directors who are experienced, competent, and committed to GCI and GCS. To learn more, visit GCS board.

As I was preparing to retire, I spent a great deal of time pondering and praying about “what was next,” what Jesus may have had in store for me in his ministry. Being asked to serve on the GCI board came as an unexpected surprise, and it has been a great joy to serve alongside GCI and GCS board members. The work is challenging in a good way and fits well into a very fluid retirement schedule. Serving on the board provides an opportunity to continue to work with dear friends and colleagues and serve GCI pastors and congregations in the U.S. and around the globe.

Randy Bloom
GCI Board Chair

Successful Transitions in the Philippines

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Greg Williams with the Filipino National Ministry Team

I recently had the pleasure of joining Dr. Eugene Guzon, many Filipino leaders, and the Asian Regional Directors in Manila for a historic week of meetings and events. Dr. Guzon and I have been working together for more than two years to move the Filipino governance from a Corporate-Sole model to a Board-Governed and National-Director-Led model. Mat Morgan and our Home Office Legal Department played a significant role in helping rewrite the bylaws for the Philippines and helping them through national registration modifications. The other significant milestone was recognizing and commissioning the four members of the National Ministry Team (NMT).

Settling out these significant changes took much time, prayer, and discussion from leaders on both sides of the pond. We arrived at a place where it seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us. The story below from Dr. Guzon describes the details of what took place. From my perspective, I exhale a resounding hallelujah and amen!

I am excited and expectant about how the Lord moves in and through our new structure.

Greg


On September 25 – October 2, Greg Williams visited Manila for a series of strategic meetings with ministry leaders of GCI Philippines and the Asia region. The week ended on a high note with a face-to-face combined worship service – the first of its kind since the pandemic hit in 2020.

Ministry Meetings

Wong Mein Kong

Dr. Greg spent time with the Philippines’ National Ministry Team (NMT) to discuss organizational matters and ministry directions towards the pursuit of Healthy Church, with a focus on leadership transition planning at the national level.

He met the Faith, Hope, and Love Avenue teams of GC Crossway (Manila) for updates and coaching on the development of a Ministry Training Center (MTC). MTCs are part of GCI’s initiative for growing emerging leaders through strategic ministry equipping within the life of the church, in line with the Healthy Church vision.

Dan Zachariah

Another key meeting was between Dr. Greg and the new seven-member Board of Trustees of GCI Philippines. The board members are (pictured at the top, left to right) Dr. Eugenio Guzon, Audie Santibanez, Jerome Manriquez, Romeo Pusta, Vicky Constantino, Dr. Ana Lasco, and Timoteo Sotalbo. All these board members are GCI elders in the Philippines. The formation of the board is a milestone as the Philippine National Office transitions to the legal status of a religious non-profit organization, following a two-year study in consultation with the Home Office, with the goal of providing a better legal and organizational platform for a team-based, elder-led ministry.

Dr. Greg also spent time with 70 leaders – Community of Practice (CoP), board members, district directors, pastors, and ministry workers from across the Philippines to help provide a deeper understanding of GCI’s vision, team-based leadership model and culture, and to give updates from other areas around the world.

Dr. Greg’s visit was an opportunity to convene the GCI Asia CoP, composed of Eugene Guzon, Wong Mein Kong, and Dan Zachariah. This meeting was also attended by Pastor Devaraj Ramoo and his wife, Parameswary, from GCI Malaysia, and Pastor Aron Tolentino of GCI Philippines. The discussions provided clarity and contextualization for the Healthy Church vision and guidance on plans for the region over the next few years.

Overall, these gatherings were edifying, timely, fruitful, and beyond expectations.

Combined Metro Manila Worship Service

On the last day of Dr. Greg’s visit, 605 members were in attendance for a face-to-face combined worship service in Metro Manila. Many more members were able to watch the service online. The sermon was about Jesus as our true foundation and our participation in the great commission through healthy Avenues of Faith, Hope, and Love. His message was very well received!

During the service, Dr. Greg commissioned the two team-based leadership bodies serving GCI Philippines: the Board of Trustees (named above) and the NMT composed of Rex dela Pena, Dr. Eugene Guzon, Audie Santibanez, and Aron Tolentino. Pastor Audie Santibanez, who serves as NMT team member and Metro Manila District Director, was also commissioned as Deputy National Director.

Commissioning Audie Santibanez

It was a joyful culmination to a meaningful week, and a celebration of God’s continuing faithfulness to GCI in the Philippines and the rest of Asia.

 

Eugene Guzon HeadshotBy Eugene Guzon
Asia Superintendent and Philippines National Director

Bula from Fiji

Greg and Susan Williams with Sue and Dennis Richards

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

I don’t always enjoy surprises, but I do appreciate good surprises. This is exactly what Susan and I experienced when we visited the island nation of Fiji. When you hear Fiji mentioned in a conversation, your mind goes to wonderful artesian drinking water, gorgeous flowers of all types, exotic birds, and breath-taking sunsets. These are all true, but my mind was mostly captured by the beautiful people – especially the GCI people.

Three years ago, James and Alisi Panuve extended a formal invitation for Susan and me to visit the church in Fiji. Upon the heels of the Australian conference in August, we were at last able to join Regional Director Dennis Richards and his wife, Sue, for an extended weekend visit.

The church gathered on Saturday morning for a formal Fijian welcoming ceremony called Veiqaravi Vakavanua. It is a solemn event performed and observed with dignity. The presentation of ceremonial items acknowledged how far the visitors have come. The ceremony signifies the respect for the honored guest in the spirit of welcoming a chief or a state dignitary. It also symbolized the joy and submission of the group in receiving me as their President of GCI. I was humbled and highly honored.

Susan and I were greeted by all the members in attendance, and we enjoyed a wonderful social gathering in the British tradition called “Tea.” After the food and fellowship, Susan and Sue Richards met with the ladies and shared testimonies, life stories, and prayer for one another. Dennis and I were turned over to the care of the Young Adult group, a most lively and fun group ranging in ages of 17 to 35. We did an icebreaker exercise where we learned interesting facts about one another, and then one of the leaders facilitated a short lesson from Philippians 4:8. The energy and mutual love the group demonstrated was exceptional.

To further the relationship building, and to simply have some good clean fun, I invited the youth group back to the ice cream shop at my hotel. It was quite a spectacle of 30 of us walking down the city streets across the pitch (sports field) to the hotel, and then lining up to order our cups of ice cream. The hotel was kind enough to allow us to gather poolside and enjoy a beautiful afternoon in a delightful setting.

The youth group and a children’s choir played a significant role in the Sunday worship service. Their musical gifts were on display, especially the harmonies of their blended voices. I gave a sermon entitled, “Jesus Our True Foundation.” I have been giving this message in many places around the world for the purpose of showing that our model of Team-Based Pastor-Led ministry, accompanied by the ministry avenues of Faith, Hope and Love, are fully based in Jesus and better align us as we seek to participate with him under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Many commented how this message helped provide clear direction about where we are going as a church family, and many expressed how this feels like a restart for our church. I sense that too.

One of the highlights of the day and a main purpose for the trip was to ordain Frank Boyd, alongside his wife, Emily, as the new lead pastor for Grace Communion Fiji. Frank and Emily are deeply committed leaders who love the Lord and his church. They have the respect of the people and move with wonderful ease and grace as they interact and flow among the members. I am confident that this church has an able under shepherd who will flourish as he is led by the Great Shepherd.

Fiji was a happy surprise to Susan and me, and we enjoyed being in the company of one of GCI’s healthy churches in the middle of the Pacific. On their behalf let me say a hearty, “Bula!” This word embodies the deep joy in greeting another person. You certainly feel the joy of the Lord when you are with our dear brothers and sisters in Fiji.

Honored to be the GCI President,

Greg

P.S. Don’t miss more about the Fiji gathering in this issue by Epeli Nakautoga.

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