GCI President, Dr. Greg Williams, gives an update on Grace Communion International. He talks about our mission as a denomination and shares the three basic ideas of how we can be more intentional in living out our shared mission.
The mission of Grace Communion International is still “Living and Sharing the Gospel.” Healthy Churches and Healthy Christians participate in this mission.
GCI’s belief in the Incarnational Trinitarian Theology informs us that all are included in the love and life of Jesus. The Apostle Paul told the Corinth church that when Christ died, we all died, and we cannot look at other people in a worldly way outside the spilled blood of Jesus (my paraphrase of II Corinthians 5:14-16).
This beautiful, inclusive theology fuels our mission of Living and Sharing the Gospel. So how are we doing in connecting with neighbors and co-workers who don’t look like us or embrace Christian values? I have three basic ideas of how we can be more intentional in living out our shared mission.
Be interested before being interesting.
My neighbor Skip is so very good at this. Professionally, he is a chiropractor and he must’ve really paid attention the day they taught tableside manner. These doctors are told to listen to their patients like they are the only ones in the world that matter. Good advice for us.
Here are a few other questions to consider. Who is this person you are encountering? What is their story? What makes them tick? Truly listening and being interested is one of the strongest displays of love there is. Be interested before being interesting.
Be genuine and engaging.
The person you are interacting with is the beloved child of God and Jesus died for him or her; being mindful of this value is a gamechanger. Realize that people can discern authenticity. Are we treating them respectfully and valuing them as a person?
Remember that sharing the gospel is not a church project; it is personal. It truly is the second great command from Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves. People know when we are real and genuine.
Take a posture of hospitality and openness
Hospitality is fueled by the love of Jesus operating in you and through you. No matter the sin issue of your neighbor, the authentic love of Jesus can appease the lost soul. If you can extend love in tangible ways, maybe there is hope for a God in heaven whose motivation is love?
Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 (NRSVA)
It is the unfailing love of Jesus that brings about forgiveness, restoration, and meaning for living. It is the only fuel that will drive our mission forward. May we be a church actively living and sharing the gospel, and especially in this season that we celebrate our risen Lord!
I am Greg Williams updating you about the life of the church.
When reading through the stories of Jesus with his original followers, it stands out that they didn’t ask him “teach us to preach” or “teach us to heal,” but rather they requested “Lord, teach us to pray.”
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ (Luke 11:1 NRSV)
The robust prayer life of Jesus was not lost on the disciples. Jesus answered their request with what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” Jesus instructed them to direct their prayers to God the Father, and to make their requests in his name (as he is the Mediator for humanity for all ages). In the apostle Paul’s writings, he explains how the Holy Spirit bears witness with our human spirit making prayers out of our wordless sighs and deep yearnings (Romans 8:26-27). Prayer at its very fabric is about communicating and relating to Father, Son and Spirit.
In 2020 we are digging deep into the Hope avenue of ministry. You will recall that this avenue envelops how we as a community of believers interact in our formal gatherings and how we point people to the real, tangible hope found only in Jesus. Prayer is an integral part.
In my various travels I hear a wide array of prayers from our GCI family. We are without doubt a praying church, yet some of the shorthand expressions I hear are a bit confusing. I am not implying that there are perfect or imperfect prayers, and ultimately the Holy Spirit can clean up any utterance that we humans make. Nonetheless, allow me to discuss a few expressions that could be improved upon.
“Lord please be present in our meeting.”
The sense here is that we come across as inducing God to do something he may not be inclined to do. Within the omnipresent nature of the Triune God we know that there is no place where we are not in his presence. Therefore, it is illogical to think that we are doing anything outside of his presence. It is more appropriate to pray for our heightened awareness of the Lord’s presence, and to express gratitude in knowing he will never leave or forsake us.
A better phrase for a prayer of invocation would be “Father and Son, we welcome your Spirit to be at work in us and among us.” It demonstrates connection with the persons of the Father and Son following the clear instructions of Jesus. This idea of “welcome” helps to avoid the impression that we are trying to get God to be or do something he would rather not.
“Lord bless our plans.”
I admit I have been guilty of short-changing the process of interaction with the Lord and simply wanting his power and blessing to perform my will. (Isn’t this quicker and easier?) Before any plans germinate, shouldn’t they begin by seeking his wisdom, guidance and perfect will? In the prayer life of Jesus, as he communed with the Father, he makes this amazing statement:
“Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.” (John 5:19-20 NRSV)
If this is true of Jesus, how much more does it apply to us?
The core problem with any shorthand expression in prayer is a narrow view of prayer—mostly trying to get God to do something he is not inclined to do by exerting some kind of inducement. So, such prayers are trying to get God to turn around.
A classic example of this is a line from the Lord’s Prayer, “lead us not into temptation.” It is assumed—but also very troubling—to think that we pray this because God is inclined to lead us into temptation. That can’t be right. But then why pray it? Allow me to explain:
Prayers can express to God exactly what God wants, what he is inclined to do. In such a prayer statement, we are not presuming upon God by having it in the form of a request; rather we are indicating to God that what we want is aligned with (not in tension with) what we know he wants. We know God does not lead us into temptation, so we agree in a non-presumptive way, by praying “Lead us not into temptation Lord, for we know that’s what you want and what we want too!”
So rather than pray, “Lord, bless our plans,” we should pray, “Lord, make your plans clear to us so we can participate with you.” Or, “Lord, because you are revealing your plans to us, help us see how we can be most effective in that plan.”
Prayer is a non-presumptive expression of our agreement with and welcome of the Triune God’s good will for us. It’s simply being in communion, joining with Jesus in his prayers, praying according to his name (who we know him to be and what we can trust him for). As we experience a heightened awareness of his presence in our meetings and gatherings, let’s then allow our thoughts and ideas that become our plans and actions to flow from a robust prayer life.
Father, may we do only what we first see you doing. In the strong name of Jesus, amen!
P.S. In light of the Corona Virus threat, we certainly want to be diligent in prayer for God’s intervention and his mercy on those suffering with the disease. The effects of the virus are having a huge economic impact on the global economy. Remember to thank our great God for his provision and continue to seek “our daily bread” from the one who cares for us. Without doubt it is a season for prayer!
Most of us are familiar with the wise saying in Proverbs 29:18 – Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (KJV)
In the more modern interpretation of Eugene Peterson it says this:
If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals,they are most blessed. (MSG)
Vision is incredibly important. None of us want to stumble all over ourselves or even worse, to perish.
Grace Communion International’s vision is “Healthy Church.” We began this journey when I became President in October 2018. We arrived at this part of our journey based on the miraculous works that the Lord had been performing in us for over two decades.
God has gifted GCI with:
His amazing grace as he brought us out of the shadowlands of the old covenant into the glorious light of Jesus and the new covenant that he ratified by shedding his blood.
Revealing to us the significance and depth of his triune nature. We have come to learn that the doctrine of the Trinity is the crown doctrine from which all other beliefs flow. The “one and three” Father, Son and Spirit are relational and have drawn us into loving, eternal communion.
A stream of renewal to live out of this grace and communion as Healthy Church. It is our vision to become the healthiest expression of the church of Jesus Christ that we can be.
Some have observed that this vision is inwardly focused. This is mostly true. In our ongoing journey with Jesus we are seeing the need to become more focused and improved on how we worship, how we include newcomers, and how we grow deeper in our commitment to Christ and strengthen the fabric of our church family. Healthy church needs some inward focus so we are better prepared for outward focus.
I equate our season of focus and improvement to what it is like when we invite another couple over to our home for an evening dinner and entertainment. What goes into the preparation? We straighten the house and vacuum the carpets. There is intentionality in planning the menu. Do the guests prefer fish or beef? Do they have any special dietary needs? Would they like wine with dinner? Perhaps this will be an occasion to light candles and play background music. Would they enjoy playing a card game or watching a movie? Do you see how the planning details grow as you focus on the quality of the event and what the experience will be like for your guests?
During the years following the grace awakening of GCI, there was quite a lot of struggle. Not all members made the journey from the old covenant to the new covenant. Not all pastors were able to negotiate the changes. The high volume of leadership changes and the downsizing of our congregations created a dynamic that is best described as survival. As we settled into the “newness” of who we now were, the attention to the details on how we present ourselves as a church had waned. While we rejoice in having the incredible gifts of the New Testament gospel and the supreme doctrine of the Trinity, our means for how we live and share this has become worn and tattered.
Our congregational meetings and meeting spaces need attention. Is our hall clean and inviting? Is there ample parking and clear signage to get into the building? In what shape are the restrooms? Do we start our services on time and do they follow a meaningful and worshipful flow? If your Sunday service feels more like an informal small group gathering in someone’s living room, then attention is needed (small groups have their place, but the Sunday worship service needs planning, preparation, and intentionality in focusing on Jesus).
What is a first-time visit like for a guest to your church? Is there an order of worship outline that they can easily follow so they know what is going on? Is it easy to find childcare services or youth meetings? Is there an up-to-date information center with clear communication pieces that help a new person navigate what services are offered by the church? Is the congregation friendly and inclusive so that the newcomer feels like there can be a place for them in this church family? Will there be a new believers class available to them in a timely fashion? If we desire for guests to become members, then we must be mindful of clear pathways for this to happen.
Beyond sharing a weekly worship service, what is the fabric of the fellowship of your congregation? Is there sharing in how relationships are being nurtured and deepened? Is the gift of hospitality alive in your membership? Do members break bread in one another’s homes, and include the neighbors? Does your church host annual picnics, campouts, and other events? When was the last time the church gathered to do a service project? This project could be beautification of the church property, serving the needs of the widows, or assisting a need in the surrounding target community of your church.
For me, the renewal stream that began in 1995 is continuing 25 years later, and the vision is clear. The Lord is beckoning us to more fully join him through the leadership of the Spirit. He is calling and empowering us to become the vibrant lighthouse in the neighborhoods where our churches are located. It is time for GCI to rise up and become the Healthy Church the Lord wants us to be.
GCI President Greg Williams gives an update on Grace Communion International. He shares our focus on Hope for 2020. This will also be the theme of our Denominational Celebration this summer. May we remember throughout this year that Jesus is our hope.
The phrase “High Support, High Challenge – Grace Always” is the ministry philosophy of Grace Communion International. We have a sign in the presidential suite to remind us of this every day.
I would like to unpack this philosophy to help you better understand the depth of its meaning. Let’s begin with the inspiring words that the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus. His letter begins by focusing on the God revealed in Jesus and who we are as adopted sons and daughters. Then he continues with the theme of how we come alive in Christ and what the community of the church will look like. He says in chapter 4:15,“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
It is Christ in us that forms the maturity and provides the ability to speak the truth in love. I think we all know that truth often brings challenge, and if the truth is given out of frustration or anger, it tends to engender frustration and anger in the person being challenged. Christ’s love in us gives us the ability to whole-heartedly love God and our neighbor. Love for our neighbor is having his or her good in mind. Therefore, we bring challenge to our neighbor with their good in mind, and ultimately any challenge we raise is seasoned with grace and humility. This most often means it is done privately, with sensitivity and respect.
The interaction of Jesus with Simon Peter over the span of less than a week is the apex of High Support, High Challenge – Grace Always. You will recall that Peter was the one disciple who identified Jesus as the true Messiah, the Son of the living God, and Jesus told him that his Father in heaven had revealed that truth to him (Matthew 16:13-17). Moving forward in the story you will recall on the evening of the Last Supper that Peter pledged his allegiance to Jesus even unto death.
Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd,and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:31-35)
The rest of the story is that after Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter followed at a distance to the courtyard of Caiaphas the High Priest, and it was there he was confronted three times and all three times he denied Jesus. Matthew’s gospel says he went outside and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). How much pain and sense of failure did Peter experience?
Even after Jesus was resurrected and had appeared to the disciples, Peter decided to return to his nets. Going back to the fishing trade seemed his only option, since denying Jesus in such grand fashion was the ultimate ministry washout. It is on the beach of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus graces Peter.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)
Thrice Peter denied Jesus and now thrice Jesus restores Peter. Peter is humbled by the truth that his love for Jesus is not superior to that of his fellow disciples. Do you sense the grace of Jesus in the fact that he never once talks about the three denials, and he simply reaffirms Peter’s calling to care for the church that will be formed on the coming Pentecost? Peter was smarting under these three confrontations of Jesus, and yet he was simultaneously being healed and restored. Peter could finally leave his nets for good and be the “Under-Shepherd” that Jesus had made him to be.
Love is the driving force behind high support and high challenge. It is through the love of Jesus that we can be honest and challenging with one another. It is by the power and presence of Jesus that GCI can and will live out our philosophy. Just as the sign in the office is a reminder to me, may you also think about our High Support, High Challenge, Grace Always philosophy daily as we march forward as a global church family.
Did I hear a chorus of all of us shouting together, “High Support, High Challenge – Grace Always?”
The National Association of Evangelicals in the US is a body of evangelical denominations, organizations, schools, churches, and individuals. There are 40 denominations that represent 45,000 churches across America. The NAE works to connect and represent evangelicals with a desire to be an influence for good.
In early December, Susan and I attended the two-day executive meeting where denominational leaders meet with the NAE President for an open forum. We sit in an informal circle and we discuss whatever topics the various leaders bring up.
The meetings informed and inspired me on several levels. Many of the denominational leaders identify themselves with the role of being the chief executive and spiritual leader for their organization, and this is a specific job that only a few people hold. So, it is a marvelous opportunity to be able to discuss how each of us approaches our day-to-day work, the challenges we face and the trends we are seeing. The comradery we share and the noticeable love for Christ and his church are palpable.
I am also inspired by the magnificent work of planting and growing churches that are being accomplished by several movements. City-wide campaigns to tangibly share the love of Christ and the message of the gospel are taking place in Omaha, NE, Austin, TX, and Fort Wayne, IN. The stories were inspiring and humbling. In representation of GCI I stated my amazement of these wonderful efforts and then shared that we are making a humble effort to engage the one-square-mile neighborhood where our church meeting halls are located. I was affirmed by several leaders that this may seem small, but you must start from where you are.
It is a good place to start – wherever it is that God has placed us to meet and worship and share his love with others. I pray that our 900 churches around the world are getting started in this endeavor to know your one-square-mile neighborhood and the neighbors who live there (if you are a rural church the area would expand beyond a mile). Our challenge is getting to know the rhythms and activities of our neighborhoods, and to discover the connecting points. There are many ways to connect to life in the neighborhood — a weekend farmer’s market or a community Facebook page — the question is how do we then connect the neighbors back to the life of the church? Maybe it’s a free hamburger at a fun day in our parking lot? Maybe it is a seat in one of the member’s homes at a small group meeting? Whatever the connection is, it must be about the relationship and valuing each person in that one square mile as a beloved child of God. This is the gospel engagement we are aiming for.
In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells us we are the light of the world and a city built on a hill cannot be hidden. As a church, we want to be reflecting the light of Jesus to the neighborhoods we inhabit. This is how we share God’s love and life with others. If the church is being the body of Christ, it will be known, and it will continually aspire to be an influence for good as the love of Jesus is freely shared. In essence, GCI needs a big debut to spread the life and love of Jesus that we all possess and want others to experience as well. Share the story of your debut and let’s celebrate together.
I was introduced to Marva Dawn as an author early on in my post-graduate work. Her book Unnecessary Pastor, which she co-wrote with Eugene Peterson, resonated as she opened my mind to the power of worship and how singing our faith unites us relationally to the heart and mind of Christ. Her approach is thoughtful, spiritual, and valuable to the church.
In another book, Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, Marva proclaims that our churches aren’t bombarded by hostile outsiders, and the source of our struggles is not wrath and hostility, rather, we custodians of the church (pastors, ministry leaders, and congregants) are confronted by apathy, reticence, and intellectual feebleness. Let’s look at these three.
Apathy means a “don’t care” attitude. Practically speaking, when has anyone critically evaluated how we are doing as a worshipping church? Have we asked anyone to evaluate us, or have we gotten into a routine that is acceptable, and in which we’ve grown comfortable? Can we be more worshipful and better at pointing the worshippers to Jesus? What would happen if this was an ongoing conversation happening with worship leaders and team members who are organizing our weekly worship services? What if the pastor involved herself in these conversations as well? If this isn’t happening, the debilitating state of ritual and routine can easily become the norm.
Over the weeks, months and decades we have been “doing church,” have we allowed worship to become repetitive and hollow? Marva expresses that we often make this worse because of our present-day need for efficiency: How do we do what we do faster and effectively so we can get back to the other activities vying for our time and attention? This is one of the reasons we are focusing on the Hope Avenue (venue) this year in Equipper. It is the responsibility/opportunity of the church to make worship meaningful for any and all who step foot into our sanctuaries. It is easy to slip into apathetic tendencies and give the impression that Jesus is not the center of our worship. May the Spirit always stir us out of complacency.
Reticence means a reluctance to speak up. We don’t give constructive criticism; we hold back from getting involved. I have attended a few of our GCI churches where I have been surveyed with a list of questions about my worship experience, or directly asked by one of the pastoral leaders. I love this openness with a willingness to receive feedback and a desire to expand their expressions of worship. Will we become a church that gets past our hesitancy and seeks to make Jesus more fully known in our worship services? May I suggest you invite a friend or coworker to church and ask for an evaluation. Invite your Regional Director to come evaluate the worship service. His schedule may not allow a visit, but he can certainly recommend someone to help.
Intellectual feebleness is not a huge obstacle for GCI folk. Our journey into the depth of “Who God is” has expanded our understanding and awareness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The opportunity for us is to place the emphasis and attention on the Triune God as we come together in corporate worship, and not fall back into making it about us (e.g., “This is my favorite song,” “These are the activities going on in my life,” etc.).
Marva isn’t simply a disrupter to the church for the sake of disruption. Her motivation is to help the church plumb and discover the depths of knowing God in his fullness and for the church to be healthy in our representation of the living Jesus. I recommend her book to our pastors and worship leaders — not merely as an educational exercise, but as an opportunity to be inspired for greater creativity and fresh expressions of worship.
As we have just experienced the grandeur of Advent and Christmas, I challenge you to continue in the seasonal cycle of the calendar and make worship in your congregation more meaningful than ever. Let’s put Christ front and center of all our celebrations.
Making Him Known, Greg Williams
P.S. As we begin the new year of 2020, it is my privilege to inform you that not only will we focus on the Hope Avenue, but we will also be focusing on our GCI Worship Calendar. Our vision remains Healthy Church, but doesn’t the number of the year 20/20 just scream for clarity of sight? We will methodically dig deeper and wider into the many aspects of the Hope Avenue, and this will crescendo with our Denominational Celebration in July. We are serious about making Jesus the center of the center and fully known in our quest for Healthy Church.
Correction notice: When first published, we stated that the introductory book by Marva Dawn was entitled Worship Evangelism. However, it was brought to our attention that the book referenced is actually Unnecessary Pastor, which she co-wrote with Eugene Peterson.
As President of an international denomination, I am learning more and more how clear communication is both difficult and rare. Some words and phrases can seem so logical and clear to a GCI team in one part of the world, only to find those same words have quite different connotations in another part of the world. Miscommunication happens more often than any of us like, and that is why in a healthy relationship or healthy organization we need to continue to ask clarifying questions, and we need to listen to the input of others. When we agree on language, the words and concepts that matter must be stated and restated.
In GCI we are striving to communicate the vision of “Healthy Church.” We have done this through a variety of platforms, including the monthly Equipper publication for pastors and ministry leaders. Another such platform is the GCI website, which offers support articles, video segments and podcasts on ministry practices that support the cause. On top of the media offerings, the denomination holds annual conferences, and our Regional Directors facilitate cohort groups of pastors who are making progress toward the vision of Healthy Church. We have been educating, training, consulting and coaching in the long journey toward Healthy Church. It is a good journey, and you have my word that we will stay on this path.
One important piece of “Healthy Church” is our style of church governance that we call Team-Based Pastor-Led, and the accompanying ministry priorities that are described as the Love, Faith and Hope venues. A recent meeting with the international supervisors showed me the need to adapt the term venues to “avenues.” Venues has a different, and sometimes negative, connotation in some international areas. What may work in one area of the world, simply does not in another. As a result, we need to be able to adapt. While the word “venue” seems to work in the US and some other areas, the word “avenue” gives a clearer picture in other parts of the world. Either works for me and we will include both as we move forward.
This is just part of our forward movement, a movement I see as the ongoing renewal of our fellowship. It is vital that we not only grasp the concepts but learn how to apply these concepts in how we live and operate as the church. After all, the ministry outlined in the three avenues of faith, hope and love is the ongoing ministry of Jesus, and they serve as markers showing us where to join in.
I think we are making good progress overall and this letter is an opportunity for me to restate the foundational purposes for the church.
Vision: Healthy Church
Mission: Living and Sharing the Gospel
We seek to make Christ known, to help non-believers become believers and be given opportunity to participate in the life of the church.
Love Venue (Avenue): We seek to make authentic relationships where the love and truth of Jesus is shared. This is practiced in neighborhood engagement as we serve and relate to our neighbors by the power of Christ’s love through us.
Hope Venue (Avenue): We seek to make worship meaningful and transformative for persons in our present culture, as we gather as a church, especially in our weekly worship services.
Faith Venue (Avenue): We seek to create environments and events that foster genuine Christian community, promoting relational growth with Jesus and one another. This often occurs in small group settings and other relational events where people gather to strengthen their walk with Jesus and fellow believers.
In my earlier years as an athletic coach, I discovered that success for the players and teams happened when we stuck to the fundamentals. If it was basketball, then dribbling, passing, and shooting had to be developed through much repetition and long practice sessions. Christian ministry has similar qualities in that we must first realize the basic skills that need attention, and then put in the days, weeks, months and years of practice that elevate us to the place where we are operating with consistency and quality.
I believe that GCI is in a good place. I believe that 2019 has been a good year of understanding the basics of ministry and many are beginning to practice these afresh. If you have never dribbled a basketball, it takes time to develop the eye-hand coordination to get the feel. First-time dribblers must watch the ball hit the floor and then return to their outstretched hand, and repeat. After enough practice and with muscle memory kicking in, a player can begin dribbling without looking down and can then play with their head up watching the activity around them. All of us are first-time dribblers in some aspect of Christian ministry, and that is okay. Go ahead and dribble with your head down for a while, and I bet when you first look up, you may very well see the face of the one whose ministry it belongs to.
As we collectively move forward toward Healthy Church, let’s not allow miscommunication to be a roadblock. Please access the vast array of ministry tools designed to serve you where you are in the journey and please feel free to access your ministry supervisors as well. It is imperative that we contextualize what it means to be Team-Based and Pastor-Led in our multiple cultures around the world, and in the midst of our cultural nuances that we share the Christ-like principles of understanding, respect, collaboration, and love, which apply in all circumstances.
As 2019 quickly draws to a close, many of you have held strategic planning meetings with your leaders, seeking the Lord’s direction for your congregation, and you have formed annual budgets. As you prepare to launch into 2020, it may be helpful to meet again and evaluate whether your plans and budgets fit into the avenues of Love, Hope and Faith. Let’s not miss what it means to participate with Jesus, the living and active Head of the Church.
My prayers are with you for this upcoming New Year and I am poised alongside you to receive the gifts that the Father may have in store for us. And there is none greater than “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Could the Father’s love be more clearly communicated?
By now you have likely viewed my video update inviting you to come together in the keeping of the annual cycle of worship that we call “GCI Worship Calendar.” Our denominational calendar is designed to guide and direct our worship out of the seasonal flow of celebrating the life and salvific work of Jesus. We are not simply borrowing or importing another calendar. We are endeavoring to design a calendar that our church family around the world can embrace.
The initial diagram of the annual calendar that we sent out rightly displays Jesus in the center. I especially like the outer ring that shows the progression of our Lord’s coming, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and the continual building of his church. Is there anything greater, that we can rally around and make the focus of our praise and worship? A Christ-centered church is “Healthy Church.”
I just completed an outstanding week of meeting and planning with the GCI Superintendents. They are all enthusiastic and supportive of having a GCI Worship Calendar. However, through their wisdom and experience, they have convinced me that some of the wording of our initial design deserves reconsideration. So, we will take the necessary time to provide a revision that will allow us to move forward together.
Keep in mind, the calendar is a framework that guides us through the seasons of the life and work of Jesus. Living out of this calendar and ordering our worship must be done nation by nation, and literally congregation by congregation. There is more education to come and much more practice as we seek to make Jesus the center of our center. This is a long journey in the right direction, and I solicit your prayers as we attempt to craft a calendar that rightly represents who we are.
Please know that our desire for a GCI Worship Calendar is not a step into legalism or ancient rituals of the historical church. Pure and simple, this is a step toward Jesus, the true object of our worship. I am convicted that our GCI Worship Calendar can be unifying and life-giving to our global church, and I especially believe it will be a blessing to our children and grandchildren.
GCI President, Dr. Greg Williams, gives an update on Grace Communion International. He shares the importance of a worship calendar to help churches keep Jesus at the center of our church services and rhythms.