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Mentoring Insights from Paul

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

When we turn to Scripture for biblical instruction about mentoring, we often look to the life of the apostle Paul. One passage that stands out is in Paul’s second letter to his young protégé Timothy.

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2 NKJV

What you have learned from me is not exclusively for you, Paul is pointing out. As a pastor and overseer of the church, Timothy is to pour into others. He is to teach what he has learned from Paul, which is grounded in the life and person of Jesus. He is to teach “sound doctrine,” not myths or speculations. He is to be a guardian and preacher of the good news of Jesus. He is to keep the message and teaching pure and unstained.

Timothy’s doctrine was grounded in what he was given from Paul, and I would strongly suggest that his pastoral skills were shaped by what he learned from Paul as well. Paul’s mantra was, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” In other words, take on the Christ-like ways you see me operating and treating others, and cast away anything that is not Christ-like. This is the relational aspect of ministry skills and practices, which are caught more than taught. This is what is called “the special sauce,” the secret ingredient of mentoring that can only take place in relationships and over time. To learn more, don’t miss our new series, The Art of Mentoring.

Let’s be clear that Timothy and all Christian ministers are to preach the gospel to everybody, but take note to whom Timothy was to pass along the ministry treasures he had received from Paul — to faithful individuals. It doesn’t say popular, smart, good-looking, etc. It says to mentor those who are demonstrating the faithfulness of Jesus in their lives. It is from this passage that we latched onto the acronym FATE. Is this emerging leader, pastor, Avenue champion flowing in the Faith of Christ? Is this candidate Available? Is this individual Teachable? Does this person demonstrate Enthusiasm for the ministry of Jesus? This short checklist proves time and time again to be helpful.

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Going Out in Love

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

The December 20 issue of Update was a recap of the year. It featured a word cloud showing the most frequently used words in my 2023 letters. By a wide margin, “Jesus” was the most used word. He is the radiance of the Father, and if you have seen him, you have seen the Father. In GCI, we stand on the truth of the triune God revealed in the person of Jesus.

The 2023 word cloud did not show me using the words trinity or triune frequently. Please understand, this does not infer that we are moving away from our bedrock Incarnational Trinitarian Theology. In fact, our direction in GCI is to see what we do in ministry fully dependent on how we relate to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

God is three personal realities; these three do not exist in isolation. Rather, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are always interweaving and interpenetrating each other, are pure oneness in thought, purpose, and action, and are perfection and beauty—one God in three persons eternally in relationship. (This might be a good spot to pause and worship.)

The story of creation and subsequent salvation of fallen humanity tells us that God goes out from God’s self in love. The triune God is intentionally sharing a communion of life and love with his created children.

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Leading from the Deepest Place

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

When I attend National Association of Evangelical (NAE) events, I get to sit next to denominational leaders, Christian organizational leaders, and presidents of Christian seminaries. There is a wealth of experience and knowledge in this esteemed group, and I am humbled and enriched to sit among them.

In a recent gathering, I sat next to Richard Stearns, former director of World Vision. World Vision started in the 1950s and has a long history of working around the world to help hurting communities lift themselves out of poverty. Richard, who has recently retired from his position at World Vision, is also a published author and highly respected among his peers. It was unexpected that we ended up at the same table and in conversation.

During our NAE gathering, we listened to a session entitled “Leading from the Deepest Place.” It was a prompt for us to think about what is most important to us in this stage of life and ministry. Another prompt was, “How do we decompress from the pressure of our jobs?” I found Richard’s answer humorous for both questions. He said that retirement was his new stage of life and his method of decompression. That rang true for many of the attendees.

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Jesus Conversations

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Back in July I had an interesting weekend involving two separate occasions with two people with whom I was able to engage in what I call “Jesus conversations.”

The first event was a Saturday golf tournament where my playing partner was an 80-year-old who was new to the neighborhood. It was a hot day, and the tournament lasted six long hours. Waiting between shots gave us ample time for extended conversations. We spoke of family, travel, fine wine, his time as a Navy aviator. Then he queried me about GCI. What kind of church is GCI? What was my seminary training? I enjoy talking about GCI, but I enjoy talking about Jesus more so.

My golf partner was harkening back to his college days when he had taken a class on Christianity and an overview of the Bible. His family of origin was Lutheran, and his wife’s family of origin was Methodist, so for most of their church-going time they went to a Presbyterian church (that makes sense). He had been stationed in foreign countries, like Japan and Saudi Arabia, so he had been exposed to other world religions. Now at age 80, he was having a heightened curiosity about Jesus and Christianity. We conversed how most other world religions require you to sacrifice and appease their gods through all sorts of ritual and idolatry, where our God took on flesh and came into our world to live and die for us.

We went deeper into the matter of salvation by grace alone. Apparently, he was impressed by how I had been treating him. He is older and, on top of that, he has had double knee replacement surgery. The course was quite hilly so often I would offer to pick up his stray golf ball and bring it to the cart. He would say, “Aren’t you a gentleman?” It was a great opportunity to turn the glory back to Jesus.

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Healthy Denomination

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

In February 2020 I wrote an article explaining the concept of health related to the life of a congregation. You have heard me and other denominational leaders expressing our desire to seek Healthy Church through the three Avenues of Hope, Love, and Faith.

  • Hope Avenue – Worship: A congregation where all who attend find Christ-centered worship and inspiration.
  • Love Avenue – Witness: A congregation devoted to getting outside the walls of the church to demonstrate the love of Jesus to their neighbors and to proclaim the good news when neighbors ask.
  • The Faith Avenue – Discipleship: A congregation where members, young and old, are growing in relationship with Jesus and deepening their bonds with each other.

We want to see these ministries flow from teams of believers and be guided by the careful leadership of Christlike pastoral leadership. These vibrant expressions are the pathway toward congregational health.

Our U.S. leadership team is continually asking the question, “How do we become a more vibrant expression of denominational health?” This is the right question as we work through the difficult stage of reclassification of congregations and determine how we need to shift to provide meaningful oversight.

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Reflection and Anticipation

This issue of Update is dedicated to reflecting on the past year. The image above is a word cloud, generated by combining all the 2023 Update letters from our president. A word cloud is a graphic that shows us which words were repeated frequently. The larger the size of the word, the more often it was used.

The words in the image reflect the most important GCI themes in 2023.

Read on to hear from Greg and look ahead to 2024.

Have a meaningful and merry Christmas,
Elizabeth Mullins
Update Editor

As we approach the end of 2023, there’s much to celebrate and be thankful for in our GCI journey! During my recent travels, I’ve been truly blessed to witness firsthand the remarkable ways the Spirit is moving in and through GCI and is moving us forward in unity.

Looking ahead to the coming year, I’m thrilled about the prospect of visiting four of our six global regions and attending regional gatherings across the United States. It’s a privilege to connect with many of you during these events, and I’m looking forward to sharing inspiring stories from across GCI through the GCI Update.

In addition to keeping you informed about GCI news, the letters, and stories you’ll find in the upcoming Update issues will center around our 2024 theme: Faith, Hope, and Love Integrated. This might sound familiar, as we’ve emphasized these values throughout this year.

Our ongoing pursuit of a Healthy Church involves a transformative journey to deepen our engagement with the neighborhoods where GCI congregations are present. We’re making progress, recognizing that becoming our healthiest expression takes time. It requires continuous learning, practice, reflection, adjustments, and execution—all guided by discernment of what is good to the Spirit and to us.

Throughout this period, our focus remains on a theological and practical orientation toward a holistic and interconnected approach to ministry. We firmly believe that this approach will help pastors and Avenue champions understand and execute the harmonious flow of ministry, reflecting the interdependent relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

As always, Christ will be the only foundation we build from.

      • Christ’s first love given to us—because of his love we are filled and compelled to witness.
      • Christ’s faith imparted to us—because of his faith we are empowered for great commandment living and great commission sharing.
      • Christ who is our source of hope—because our hope is rooted in him, we can be the church, the hope of the world.

As we look forward to the coming year, stay tuned for the development of resources and articles that align with our Faith, Hope, and Love Integrated theme. Your continued support and participation are essential as we navigate this exciting and transformative path together.

Wishing you all a joyous conclusion to 2023 and anticipating a year ahead filled with growth, connection, and shared inspiration.

With hope and appreciation,
Greg Williams


Christ the King

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear Family and Friends,

With the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas that began on October 7, many people are concerned. Some Christians may wonder what the prophetic significance of this war is. Is this something we need to be overly concerned about as we await Jesus’ return? Are end-time events unfolding in front of our eyes? There is much to consider.

Let’s put this conflict in perspective. Understanding that there are 32 ongoing conflicts in the world right now—ranging from drug wars, terrorist insurgencies, ethnic conflicts, and civil wars—gives a global perspective. This confirms the teaching of Christ in Matthew 24, where he says, “there will be wars and rumors of wars.” The ongoing division and resulting warring disposition of humanity is strong evidence of the fall and the brokenness in our nature.

As Christ followers, should we be aligned with Israel and seek their eventual victory? Certainly, we want the killing to stop and peace to come. But because we are Christ followers, we should be aligned with his universal atonement and be for all people, desiring goodness for all—Israel and Hamas, Ukraine and Russia, Nigeria and Boko Haram, both sides of the civil war in Myanmar, and on and on. Jesus died for all, and Jesus wants all to be saved. I believe that as Christ followers, we join Jesus in weeping over the hatred and needless bloodshed in all places around the world.

An ex-military building contractor that I know in my hometown is a sincere believer, and he continues to quiz me on what is happening to Israel. He peppers me with questions like, “Is the king of the north moving on Israel? Who is Gog and Magog, and how do they come into play?” I’m not that guy who sits with my Bible opened to the book of Revelation with all the newsfeeds open at the same time trying to match current events to Bible passages. Good luck with that. However, I assure my friend that if these truly are the final events to human history, which would indicate Jesus is returning, I am all in. In fact, there is nothing I am doing in my human life of such importance that I should desire a delay of his coming for one more minute. I tell him I trust that Jesus has everything in control and nothing this world does or doesn’t do will advance or delay his coming. What we do know is that he will come at the right time—in his time.

We are fast approaching the end—of the liturgical year, that is. This Sunday, November 26, is Christ the King Sunday, which marks the end of Ordinary Time and ushers in the Advent season. We celebrate Christ’s messianic kingship and sovereign rule over all creation. The meaning of the celebration can be summed up in this collective prayer.

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Considering world events, I pray that Christ the King Sunday will be especially meaningful as we celebrate in our GCI congregations around the world.

Come Lord Jesus,