Honoring our mothers

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach

In a recent online search, I learned that 54 countries, including the United States, celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May (May 13, this year). Other countries celebrate something similar on other days of the year. For example, the UK celebrates “Mothering Sunday” on the fourth Sunday during Lent. The roots of that celebration are the tradition of visiting one’s “mother church” (where you were baptized). As time progressed, the day became a time to give honor to one’s birth mother. While I believe it’s appropriate to take a day each year to give honor to our human mothers, I also think (in the spirit of what Jesus said in Matthew 12:46-50) that it is good and right that we give honor to our spiritual mother, the church.

Honoring our mother, the church

Though some Christians ignore and even dishonor the church, Scripture teaches us to give her the highest honor. Protestant reformer and theologian John Calvin did just that, teaching that the church is necessary for the spiritual growth and well-being of all believers:

John Calvin (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Let us learn even from the simple title “mother,” how useful, indeed how necessary, it is that we should know her…. I shall start, then, with the church, into whose bosom God is pleased to gather his sons, not only that they may be nourished by her help and ministry as long as they are infants and children, but also that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith… so that, for those to whom he is Father the church may also be Mother. And this was so not only under the law but also after Christ’s coming, as Paul testifies when he teaches that we are the children of the new and heavenly Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26). (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.1.1)

In a couple of books on evangelical theology, Sung Wook Chung (Professor at Denver Seminary) notes that Calvin identified six functions of the church as our mother:

  • Conception: God’s people are conceived in the womb of the church through the power of the Spirit and the Word.
  • Birth: God’s people receive life (regeneration) by the Spirit within the context of the church.
  • Spiritual nourishment: The church “nourishes us at her breast” (Inst. 4.1.4).
  • Care and guidance: The church takes care of us throughout our lives, offering direction and counsel.
  • Forgiveness and salvation: We cannot hope for either forgiveness or salvation “away from her bosom” (Inst. 4.1.4). As bearer of the gospel and as led by the Spirit, the church is God’s agent of forgiveness and salvation in the world.
  • Cultivation of godliness and piety: In the fellowship of the church we are shepherded by and for good works.

The apostle Paul, whom God used to establish the church among the gentiles, compared his ministry to that of a nursing mother caring for her children (1 Thess. 2:7). He also compared Christ’s relationship with his church to a husband’s relationship with his wife (Eph. 5:25-32). Closely aligned (though not perfectly parallel), Jesus, the head of the church, compared himself to a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings to provide protection (Luke 13:34). Down through the ages, teachers of the church, including Calvin, added these biblical images and metaphors up, and recognized how fitting it is to identify the church’s ministry as spiritual “mothering.”

Happy Mother’s Day!

As Mother’s Day draws near here in the U.S., I am remembering my baptism and the care I have received from my spiritual mother, the church, and the good works of my human mother who nurtured me in the ways of God. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you reading this who are human mothers, and also to our spiritual mother the church.

—Joseph Tkach

PS: In the We’re Often Asked section of the GCI website, we addresses the importance of our mother, the church (also referred to in Scripture as “the body of Christ”):

God calls sinners into the fellowship of the saints, which is the body of Christ. Regardless of denomination or choice of Christian congregation, the spiritual nurture of fellow Christians is essential for a faithful life in Christ. It is from Christ that “the whole body [is] joined and held together by every supporting ligament… as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:16). Speaking of the importance of the church in the lives of Christians, Paul wrote: “It was [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13).

For more about the nature and functioning of the church, see Section 9 in GCI’s new publication, We Believe.

Are we “evangelicals”?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach

I was talking recently with a member who was wondering where Grace Communion International fits within the larger body of Christ. Noting that GCI is not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, they asked, “Does that mean we’re Protestant?” I answered yes, and they continued: “Since we’re not liberal or fundamentalist Christians, does that mean GCI is evangelical?” Again, my answer was yes, though as I’ll point out in this letter, the term “evangelical” is widely misunderstood and misrepresented. Note this comment from Christian scholar and professor Mark Noll:

In the rough and tumble world of American politics, the label [evangelical] is now often used simply for the most active religious supporters of President Donald Trump. By contrast, in the rarified world of professional scholarship, academics now sometimes treat it as a term with so much ambiguity, fluidity and imprecision that it cannot meaningfully designate any single group of Christians. (Source)

Despite the ambiguity and controversy swirling around the term evangelical, Professor Noll believes that it does have continuing value and should not be abandoned. He concludes: “When used with responsible attention to history and careful focus on generally accepted norms of… definition, [it] can still communicate reality and not just confusion.”

A related question is this: Who gets to define who and what an evangelical is? Often overlooked in answering that question is that, first and foremost, evangelical is a theological identifier. Before it identifies a group of people, it identifies the gospel (the evangel) of Jesus. It is first Jesus’ gospel, not ours—it is first about him, not about us. Those who rightly call themselves evangelicals are careful to point first to Jesus and his gospel, and then to what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Faithfulness to the gospel is measured by faithfulness to the Bible, whose authors were appointed by Jesus. Central to the Scriptures are the four Gospels authored by the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As these authors show, Jesus is the gospel—he is the true evangelical!

Sadly, for many in North American society, the term evangelical is defined not by Jesus and his gospel, but by the media and entertainment industry, along with politicians, psychologists, sociologists and historians—people often with little or no understanding of the biblical and theological roots and meaning of the term evangelical. The result is the confusion, controversy and outright misrepresentations that swirl around the term in our culture today.

To add to the problem, there are religious leaders who call themselves evangelicals but, at best, are on the extreme edges of what theologically can rightly be called evangelical. Some of these leaders are hypocrites who, wanting to justify themselves or cover up their unfaithful ways, co-opt the label evangelical. Though these pretenders are rightly criticized, the media often portray evangelicals as a monolithic group that is largely white, privileged, ultra-right-wing, racist and homophobic. The unfortunate result is that all who call themselves evangelical are tarred with the same brush by the media, casting a spell of guilt-by-association on those who, in actuality, rightly bear the name evangelical.

The reality is that evangelicals are not a monolithic group—in fact, they are quite diverse, including racially and ethnically, as shown in this chart:

In an article published by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Ed Stetzer notes that research on evangelical identity has tended to focus on three measures: behavior, belonging and belief. The article quotes NAE President Leith Anderson who, in weighing up the research, notes that “evangelicals must be defined primarily by their beliefs rather than politics or race.” Stetzer then offers this:

Dr. Ed Stetzer

In the hopes of crafting a consensus definition of core evangelical beliefs, we evaluated the statements of a diverse group of sociologists, theologians and evangelical leaders. In weighing the insights of these leaders, LifeWay Research developed a definition of evangelical belief around strong agreement with these four statements:

  • The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
  • It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
  • Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
  • Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation. (Source)

GCI agrees with these statements, though we would locate them within the larger theological context of our whole Statement of Beliefs. Our agreement is reflected by our membership in the National Association of Evangelicals (in the U.S.), the World Evangelical Alliance, the Evangelical Alliance (in the UK and Philippines) and similar organizations elsewhere. The beliefs and ideals that characterize these evangelical organizations are addressed in The Capetown Commitmentan 80-page document that resulted from deliberations at the Third Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization. If you’d like to learn more about what it means to be evangelical, I highly recommend that you read this document.

Sue and Don Lawson

As a denomination, churches and individuals, we are healthy when we are living out our biblically based, evangelical beliefs. With that in mind, I close with the admirable example of one of our retired pastors, Don Lawson. For many years Don served GCI-USA as a pastor then as a district superintendent. Following retirement, Don experienced severe health problems, had to be hospitalized, then spent time rehabilitating in an assisted-care facility. Don sent me a note recently, letting me know he had returned home. His note included this:

About a month ago, the nurse in charge of memory care, where [my wife] Sue lives, asked if I would do a church service each Sunday for the Alzheimer’s patients in her ward. I agreed, and have spoken to them for the last three weeks. What a challenge for an 81-year-old, but I enjoyed it. We have had an average of 15 attending and I will continue to help them as long as I am able. My purpose is to try to find a level of teaching they might understand. I begin with He knows my name. Second: Jesus loves me this I know (and some sang along with me). Third: What is Jesus doing now? (I talked about a place of eternal joy and happiness, with no sorrow or tears).

That’s what being an evangelical looks like, and that’s the gospel evangelicals love to share!

Gospel blessings to you all,

Joseph Tkach

PS: Is the evangelical movement in the U.S. and elsewhere perfect? Of course not, and its leaders know that. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, a denominationally, racially, ethnically and politically diverse group of 50 prominent evangelical leaders met at Wheaton College, west of Chicago. Their purpose was to discuss the current condition of the evangelical movement in the U.S. According to Skye Jethani, a meeting participant,

We gathered to have an honest, and at times uncomfortable, conversation about the current state of American evangelicalism. The focus of the dialogue was not the [U.S.] President or any current policy matters. The focus was how to have a consistent Christian public witness that affirms the dignity of all people as created in the image of God. We explored our history and affirmed when evangelicals did this well, and when necessary we lamented when we have not. There were extended times of prayer, confession, repentance and open discussion.  (From a post on Skye Jethani’s Facebook page, 4/20/2018)

For an additional report on this meeting, click here.

The apostle to the Apostles

This letter is from GCI Vice President Greg Williams.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Greg and Susan Williams

Several early Christian writers call Mary Magdalene “the apostle to the Apostles.” We learn why in John chapter 20:

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
(John 20:1-18)

Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene After the Resurrection
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Mary Magdalene was among several women who were followers of Jesus. She had been present at Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, and with some other women had gone to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 15:47-16:8; Luke 23:55-24:11; Matt. 28:1-10). She was also the first person of either gender to encounter the risen Lord, and the first to testify to the resurrection when she informed the apostles that Jesus was alive. No wonder she is called “the apostle to the Apostles”—a title that highlights how Jesus held women in high esteem and included them in his ministry.

In a culture where a woman’s testimony was not legally valid, it was shocking that Jesus chose a woman to be the first person to testify to his resurrection. This was even more shocking when you consider Mary Magdalen’s background. She is thought to be the unnamed penitent woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears and hair, then anointed his feet with expensive perfume (Luke 7:36-48). From that passage, plus the statement in Luke 8:2 that Jesus had cast seven demons out of Mary, the tradition arose that she had been a prostitute before becoming a follower of Jesus. Mary is thus a powerful demonstration of the redemption and transformation that comes to anyone who in faith, and with repentance, follows Jesus.

The penitent, Mary Magdalene
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Can you imagine how Mary Magdalene felt that Easter morning? She no doubt excitedly testified to Jesus’ resurrection—doing the work of an evangelist! In doing so, perhaps she shared the story of her own life. Understanding that Mary had been a demon-possessed prostitute prior to becoming a follower of Jesus highlights the amazing power of Jesus to redeem and transform people. Her life was a powerful witness to the gospel of God’s grace. What a wonderful example of how God reaches out to all people, inviting them to receive Jesus with an open heart and mind, trusting him as Lord and Savior.

Just as Mary played a foundational role in the ministry of Jesus, in GCI we have hundreds of women who faithfully serve as ministers of Jesus Christ in various roles, including that of lead pastor. I thank God for these women. I also thank our triune God who, in love, reaches out to all humanity, calling all sorts of people in all kinds of situations to worship him and to share in his ongoing mission to a sin-sick world.

I wish you all a wonderful Holy Week as we gather to prayerfully reflect on Jesus’ suffering and death, and to joyfully celebrate his resurrection.

Greg Williams

PS: Due to Holy Week, the publishing of GCI Equipper on April 4, and the closure of our Home Office from April 5-22 (as we complete the move to Charlotte), GCI Update will not be published again until April 25. See you then!

Glendora mission complete

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach

Twelve years ago, we relocated our International Headquarters from Pasadena to Glendora, California. I’m amazed we’ve been in Glendora that long! Though we have discussed moving out of California for several years, the financial reasons for doing so became even more compelling recently. We are joyful about the upcoming relocation to Charlotte, North Carolina, understanding that our Home Office mission in Glendora is complete. The move to Charlotte, already underway, will be completed late next month. For that reason, the Home Office will be closed from April 8 through 22, and GCI Update will not be published on April 11 and 18.

Not all of our Home Office employees will be relocating to Charlotte. Most who are not moving are retiring, though a few, wanting to stay in Southern California for family reasons, are seeking new employment. I’m among those who will not be moving—as we’ve announced previously, I’m retiring at the end of this year and Greg Williams will replace me as GCI’s President.

I’ve been richly blessed to work alongside our Home Office employees—some for many years. Please join me in thanking them for their faithful service! Below are short descriptions of the church-related employment of the eight full-time Home Office employees who are not moving to Charlotte (part-time employees Thena Pla, Kenny Ryan and Mike Butterfield are also not moving):

Deborah Paz, my Executive Assistant for 31 years, will be retiring at the end of this year. Dependability, attention to detail, concern for others—all three are apt descriptions of Debbie. She was first hired part-time in May 1984 as Deb Nickel, a student at Ambassador College in Pasadena working in the Telephone Response Department, with a second job in the Ambassador Auditorium. In May 1987, Deb took a full-time job in our Publishing Department as a Production Services Assistant. Deb then transferred in 1988 to Church Administration, where in 1995 she became my Executive Assistant. More than an excellent assistant, Deb is a dear friend to Tammy and me. When our children were young, Deb would often babysit them, and remains their friend to this day. Having said that, I can’t resist sharing with you a picture from several years back that shows Deb hard at work babysitting my children:

Celestine Olive has been in the church’s employ since October 1992 when she was hired as an on-call worker in our pool of clerical staff. She worked as Secretary/Receptionist for our Fleet Department until August 1996, when she became a full-time employee. She then worked in our Plain Truth Magazine Customer Service area, and in the Executive Office as an Administrative Assistant. In December 2005 Cella transferred to be in charge of Cash Accounting in our Accounting Department. Cella also serves in our Eagle Rock congregation where she was ordained an elder in July 2007. Though retiring from GCI employment, Cella will continue serving on the GCI Board of Directors.

Maureen Warkentin was hired part-time as an Ambassador College student where she worked in the kitchen and on the custodial crew. She also worked in Mail Processing and in June 1974 was hired full-time as a Terminal Operator in the Mail Processing Center. She took a second job in 1990 as an usher in the Ambassador Auditorium. In November 1996 Maureen began full-time work in Human Resources as HR Assistant, then Administrative Assistant, then Human Resources Generalist and Pension Coordinator until 2015 when she became Manager of HR and Pension Coordinator. Even though Maureen is retiring, we know her as a diligent, seemingly indefatigable worker. Tammy and I have been on ocean cruises with Maureen and her husband Dennis where we saw them dance every night till the band quit! Maureen told me they take dancing lessons and still dance every week. Congratulations Maureen on 43 years of full-time employment with the church!

Gwen Schneider was hired in September 1990 as full-time Accounts Payable Clerk in the Accounting Department. In 1994, she took a second job as an usher in the Ambassador Auditorium. In 1995 Gwen was promoted to Assistant to the Accounts Payable Supervisor and then Assistant to the Payroll Manager. In 1997 she was promoted to Payroll Supervisor. In the Home Office, Gwen has the nickname of “plant lady”—her office resembles a greenhouse, distinguishing it as the best-decorated in our building. Gwen will be joining her husband in retirement. Congratulations Gwen on nearly 28 years of full-time employment with the church!

Steven Morrison was hired as an on-call Website Assistant in May 2010. In April 2013 he was hired full-time as a User Support Analyst and promoted to Support Specialist in June 2017. Steven was a tremendous help with running our audio-visual systems at the GCI International Conference in Orlando last summer. He plans to remain in Southern California, using his computer skills wherever God leads him. Last month he and Jillian Caranto (see below) announced their engagement with their wedding scheduled for this summer. We pray blessings upon them both!

Mitchell Vasseur was hired full-time in June 1987 to serve as a Telecommunications Dispatcher in our Telecom Department. In 1988 he took a second job as a driver in the Ambassador Auditorium’s Special Services Department (he has many interesting stories about working in that department!). In 1989 he took on a third job as Dispatcher for PBX Operations. In 1990 Mitch was promoted to Telecommunications Assistant Manager. In 1993 he took on an additional part-time job as stagehand in the Ambassador Auditorium. In 1997, Mitch became Supervisor of Telecom Operations and in 2002 was promoted to Manager of Telecommunications. In 2005 he was transferred to become the Manager of Facilities Administration. Mitch has long been active in worship ministry and plays drums for several praise bands. Mitch will not be relocating to North Carolina, but neither is he retiring. Congratulations Mitch on nearly 31 years of full-time employment with the church!

Jillian Caranto was hired part-time in 2014, serving first as an Intern in the GCI congregation in the San Diego, CA, area and then as a Pastoral Resident in GCI congregations in Glendora and Los Angeles, CA. In April 2017, Jillian was hired full-time as the Registrar for Grace Communion Seminary while continuing as a Pastoral Resident. In July 2017 she received her Master’s Degree from GCS and helped organize the GCS graduation at the Orlando Conference, along with participating in the ceremony herself! Jillian, who chose not to relocate to North Carolina, is training Georgia McKinnon to replace her as GCS Registrar. Jillian plans to continue serving as a Pastoral Resident and wherever else God sees fit. We extend early congratulations to her and Steven Morrison who, as noted above, will be married this summer.

I’m grateful for these wonderful employees, and all the others who have served our church family so faithfully out of the Glendora Home Office. Please join me in praying for them all, especially those seeking new employment. Though our mission as an international denominational headquarters out of Glendora is now complete, there is much work to be done. In future letters here in GCI Update and also in GCI Equipper, Greg Williams will fill us in on his vision for that mission and introduce the employees who will be working out of our new Home Office in Charlotte.

Love and blessings to you all!
Joseph Tkach

PS: Though our Home Office is leaving Glendora, we will continue to have a wonderful, loving congregation in that community. Its Lead Pastor is Bermie Dizon and Michael Morrison is an Associate Pastor, while also serving as Dean of Faculty at Grace Communion Seminary.

Our amazing God

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach

God challenged Abraham: “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them” (Gen. 15:5). Abraham couldn’t, and neither can we—only God knows the number, though astronomers estimate there are 100 billion galaxies in the universe, with about 100 billion stars added annually. God’s challenge to Abraham points out the limitations we have as humans in contrast with God’s omniscience. In this letter we’ll look at three additional characteristics of our amazing God: his uniqueness, his self-existence and his incorporeality.

God’s uniqueness

Maimonides (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The truth that God is unique is the bedrock of both Christianity and Judaism. Renowned Jewish rabbi Maimonides wrote that God is “perfect in every possible way… the ultimate cause of all existence.” Though a piece of candy can be said to be unique, there are many candies to delight our palates. I have a unique painting in my office, yet there are many unique paintings. Each fingerprint and snowflake is, in a sense, unique, yet they are in the same class with many others. Moreover, they are created. In contrast, God, who is uncreated, is in a class all his own—there are no other eternal, uncreated things. All that exists other than God is created or is the product of creation. God, alone, is truly unique, one-of-a-kind. Understanding that truth exposes as heresy the idea that our destiny as humans is to become God.

God’s self-existence

God is self-existent. He cannot create another God because the second would be dependent for its existence on the first, creator God. Understanding God’s self-existence exposes another heresy—the idea that there are two separate “God beings.” That belief is called ditheism (two Gods). But the Bible declares in no uncertain terms that there is one and only one God—a self-existent being. Therefore, God says in the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3).

God’s incorporeality

God is incorporeal in that he is not a creature—he is not limited to bodily existence. Therefore, God is not comparable to anything that has physical or empirical existence. Yes, it is true that the Bible has hundreds of descriptions of God as having corporeal characteristics. However, all of them are metaphorical descriptions, and are not to be taken literally. God is not literally a rock, a mother hen, or a door. God is spirit, and in talking about God, the Bible often uses anthropomorphisms—descriptors borrowed from human experience such as walking, standing, sitting and speaking. Such descriptors, when used concerning God, are intended to help us understand something of God’s character and nature—they are metaphors that convey who God is and what his will is in ways we can grasp. As the Jewish Midrash explains, “The Torah speaks the language of man” (Sifre 112). Calvin addressed this by noting that God “accommodates” himself to us—he speaks to us as a mother might coo towards her newborn infant.

Beware faulty reasoning

Athanasius (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

In attempting to define God, some people (even some Christians) mistakenly begin with themselves and then compare God to what they know about themselves. Through this wrong-headed attempt to fit God into their own frame of reference, they distort the biblical view of God, turning God into an idol that is congenial to their own liking. Fourth-century theologian Athanasius saw this problem in the teachings of Arius, recognizing that Arius was thinking out of a center in himself—seeing God in terms that apply to creatures, not God. According to Athanasius, Arius was teaching mythology, not proper theology. In doing so, he was rationalizing away God’s true glory.

In our day, some teachers are doing the same thing in teaching various heresies about God including the claim that God is a family. That false teaching is a form of polytheism—a pagan doctrine found in the pantheon of gods worshiped by the Akkadians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and found in the ancestor worship of the Far East.

Other misperceptions concerning the true nature of God are prevalent in our day. Two that are growing in popularity are open theism and process theology. Both limit God’s foreknowledge and omniscience, and process theology denies God’s omnipotence and the biblical teaching of creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo). Process theology also affirms classical panentheism—the idea that God and the world are mutually interdependent. These and other theological errors arise out of thinking about God as if he is a creature. As forms of mythology, these teachings are idolatrous.

Conclusion

God not only created all the stars, as the psalmist says, he “gives names to all of them…. His understanding is infinite” (Ps. 147:4-5 NASB). Because our human understanding is limited, we are subject to error. As Albert Einstein said, we humans have “been endowed with just enough intelligence to be able to see clearly how utterly inadequate that intelligence is.” Yet, despite our human limitations, God, in his love and mercy, will not let us remain blinded by heretical teachings concerning who he is. In his time, he reveals himself to us in accordance with his self-revelation in Jesus Christ, who alone knows and has seen the Father (Matt. 11:27).

Thankful that God in his freedom has chosen to reveal himself to us,
Joseph Tkach

PS: Because GCI Equipper will be published on March 7, the next issue of GCI Update will be published on March 14.

Equip the equippers

Our “From the President” letter this time is from GCI Vice President Greg Williams.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Greg and Susan Williams

On a recent video chat with publications editors Ted Johnston and Rick Shallenberger, we discussed GCI Update and GCI Equipper, our two primary international denominational publications. We came to the “profound” conclusion that the purpose for Update is to provide updates (on congregations, ministries, people and programs) and the purpose for Equipper is to provide equipping (for pastors and ministry leaders). If that conclusion seems obvious, that’s good—it’s important to return to the basics from time to time.

(source)

Thinking about the basics reminds me that Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi would begin each training camp, football in hand, addressing his highly-skilled group of professional players with these words: “Gentlemen, this is a football!” In that back-to-the-basics spirit I want to expore in this letter the purpose for Equipper, which is to equip pastors and ministry leaders to participate with the Spirit in equipping our members for their ministry with Jesus. Said more simply, Equipper exists to equip the equippers.

Let’s unpack that thought by exploring the biblical definition of the word equip. In the New Testament, it translates the Greek word katartizo, which appears first in Mark 1:19 and Matthew 4:21 where James and John are katartizo-ing (preparing, mending, repairing, restoring) their nets for what those nets are made for: to catch fish.

The principal message behind that Gospel story is that Jesus had come to mend, repair, restore and prepare James and John (and the other apostles-in-training) for their calling: to catch people. All members of the church, old and young, share in this calling to participate with Jesus in what he is doing to minister to all humanity. To advance this ministry of all believers, Jesus extends a particular calling to church leaders (including, in our context, pastors and ministry leaders):

Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip [katartismos] his people for works of service [“ministry” ESV], so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:11-13, emphasis added)

Jesus placed ministry leadership offices within his body, the church, so that other members are equipped (restored, mended, prepared and outfitted) for their various works of ministry in and through the church. The overall goal is that the people of God, through this ministry, will grow into the maturity of Jesus himself. Please read that again, and let it soak in!

In accord with the New Testament use of katartizo, equipping involves restoration, healing and other forms of outfitting. Thus the equipping that church leaders are to be involved in has to do with helping willing members identify and live into their calling to participate in the ministry of Jesus in and through the church. This equipping involves many tasks, including counseling, training, teaching, apprenticing, affirming-appointing, deploying, coaching and superintending. The overall goal throughout is to help them become who they truly are (and are becoming) in Christ.

This brief overview of what the Bible says about equipping for ministry points to our basic purpose in publishing GCI Equipper each month (online at https://equipper.gci.org)Its articles, features and RCL-synced sermon manuscripts seek to remind us that our ultimate source of strength is Jesus, and that our works of service with our Lord are meant to help us help others grow into the fulness of the maturity of Christ. Toward that end, it is our plan that Equipper will continue to address a wide range of equipping topics, including prayer, worship, preaching, missional living, developing Christ-like leaders, building and growing the community of the church, etc. It is our aim to provide information and inspiration that helps pastors and ministry leaders be the very best equippers they can be.

Thanks to all of you who serve as leader-equippers in the body of Christ. I pray this blessing over you:

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Heb. 13:20-21)

The mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that is at work within you—equipping you for doing our Lord’s work. It is this power that mends everything torn apart in us, that repairs everything broken in us, and that restores to us a life that is new in Christ. Dear fellow-minister, you are equipped in Jesus, so be equipped, and then participate in the powerful ministry of Jesus in equipping others!

Feeling equipped,
Greg Williams, GCI Vice President

PS: If you would like to subscribe to GCI Equipper in order to receive notification by email on the day it is published online, go to https://equipper.gci.org/subscribe.

Does grace mean tolerance of sin?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

I have had conversations with many people who think that to live fully in God’s grace, they must be tolerant of sin. Perhaps they came to that erroneous conclusion because their goal was merely to avoid legalism. But the Bible tells us that living in grace means rejecting sin, not tolerating or accepting it. The Bible is clear: God is against sin—he hates it. Scripture says that God, refusing to leave us in our sinful condition, sent his Son to deliver us. God could not possibly be for us without being fully against what is against us.

Jesus taught against sin. In addressing a woman who had been caught in adultery, he said, “I do not condemn you…. Go. From now on sin no more” (John 8:11 NASB). Jesus’ statement demonstrates his contempt for sin and conveys a grace that confronts sin with redemptive love. It would be a tragic mistake to view Jesus’ willingness to become our Savior as tolerance of sin. The Son of God became one of us, precisely because he was completely intolerant of sin’s deceptive and destructive power. Instead of accepting our sin, he took it upon himself, submitting it to God’s judgment, to be obliterated through his self-offering on our behalf.

Jesus and the Woman Taken in Adultery 
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

As we look around at the fallen world we live in and as we look into our own lives, it’s obvious that God allows sin to occur. However, Scripture is clear that God hates sin. Why? Because of the damage it wreaks upon us. Sin hurts us—it hurts our relationship with him and with others; it keeps us from living in the truth and the fullness of who we are, his beloved. In dealing with our sin in and through Jesus, God does not immediately remove us from all of sin’s enslaving consequences. But that does not mean that his grace gives us permission to continue sinning. God’s grace is not his passive tolerance of sin.

As Christians, we live under grace—freed from the ultimate penalties of sin because of Jesus’ sacrifice. As workers with Christ, we teach and preach grace in a way that gives people hope and a clearer image of God as their loving, forgiving Father. But that message comes with a warning—remember the apostle Paul’s question: “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4 ESV). He also said this: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom. 6:1-2).

The truth of God’s grace is never meant to encourage us to remain in our sin. Grace is God’s provision in Jesus to release us not only from the guilt and shame of sin, but also from its distorting, enslaving power. As Jesus said, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34) and as Paul warned, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom. 6: 16). Sinning is a serious matter for it enslaves us to the influence of evil.

This understanding of sin and its consequences does not lead us to heap words of condemnation on people. Instead, our words, as Paul noted, are to be “always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6). Our words should convey hope, telling both of God’s forgiveness of sin in Christ, and his eventual triumph over all evil. To speak of one without the other is a distortion of the message of grace. As Paul notes, God in his grace will never leave us enslaved to evil: “Thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance” (Rom. 6:17).

As we grow in our understanding of the truth of God’s grace, we understand more and more why God loathes sin—it harms and hurts his creation, it destroys right relationships with others, and it slanders the character of God with lies about God, undermining a trusting relationship with God. What, then, do we do when we see a loved one sinning? We don’t condemn them, but we do hate the sinful behavior that is harming them (and perhaps others). We hope and pray that our loved one will be freed from their sin and, as we are able, we reach out to help.

Paul at Stephen’s Stoning (source)

Paul is a powerful example of what God’s grace accomplishes in a person’s life. Prior to conversion, Paul violently persecuted Christians. He stood by (perhaps throwing stones) as Stephen was martyred (Acts 7:54–8:1a). Because he was vividly aware of the tremendous grace he received for the horrible sins of his past, grace remained a theme of Paul’s life as he fulfilled his calling to serve Jesus:

I consider my own life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)

In Paul’s writings, we find an interweaving of grace and truth in what he taught under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We also see that God radically transformed Paul from an ill-tempered legalist who persecuted Christians, to a humble servant of Jesus who was fully aware of his own sin and of God’s mercy in adopting him as his child. Paul embraced the grace of God, and throughout his life devoted himself to proclaiming it, no matter what the cost.

Following Paul’s example, our conversation and counsel to others should be grounded in God’s amazing grace for all sinners, and God’s firm teaching that we are to live lives apart from sin—the life that God’s grace frees us to live. We are to “encourage one another daily… so that none of [us] may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Heb. 3:13). When we find people living in opposition to God’s goodness, rather than condemning them, we are to gently instruct them, “in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25).

Comforted and instructed by God’s grace and truth,
Joseph Tkach

PS: Click here to download the GCI prayer guide for February. We publish these prayer guides on our GCI Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WeAreGCI.

How archaeology confirms the Bible

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

I enjoy reading about archaeology—it’s an important and fascinating field of study that helps us understand how ancient people lived and how their civilizations developed. Though archaeology adds greatly to our understanding of the ancient world (including the world of the Bible), it is not accurate to say that archaeology “proves” the Bible. Though the Bible contains history, it is not primarily a book of history. Its main purpose is to share the story of God’s love and faithfulness, pointing us to Jesus. That information is primarily theological and thus cannot be “proved” from the artifacts of history. Such truths must be revealed to us by God himself, and he has used Holy Scripture as his tool.

That being said, archaeology does add to our understanding of the Bible. With the unearthing of ancient artifacts in the Near East, many archaeologists have seen the need to take a fresh look at the biblical account. The reality is that no archaeological discovery has ever contradicted those aspects of the biblical record that can be corroborated by archeological means. Steven Ortiz, professor of archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the Charles D. Tandy Institute for Archaeology, teaches that when irregularities occur, or conflicts arise between the findings of archaeology and the Bible, it has turned out that it is our interpretation of scripture that needed correcting. That’s a lesson worth remembering.

Jerusalem Archaeological Park

There are many reputable books and magazine articles that show how archaeology confirms the historicity of the biblical record. A 2014 article in Biblical Archaeology Review summarizes the archaeological evidence for the existence of 53 biblical characters (click here to read it). An article in the archaeology journal Bible and Spade provides the following list of archaeological findings that verify the historical and cultural accuracy of the Bible:

  • The palace at Jericho where Eglon, king of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud (Judges 3:15-30).
  • The east gate of Shechem where Gaal and Zebul watched the forces of Abimelech approach the city (Judges 9:34-38).
  • The Temple of Baal/El-Berith in Shechem, where funds were obtained to finance Abimelech’s kingship, and where the citizens of Shechem took refuge when Abimelech attacked the city (Judges 9:4, 46-49).
  • The pool of Gibeon where the forces of David and Ishbosheth fought during the struggle for the kingship of Israel (2 Sam. 2:12-32).
  • The Pool of Heshbon, likened to the eyes of the Shulammite woman (Song of Songs 7:4).
  • The royal palace at Samaria where the kings of Israel lived (1 Kings 20:43; 21:1; 22:39; 2 Kings 1:2; 15:25).
  • The Pool of Samaria where King Ahab’s chariot was washed after his death (1 Kings 22:29-38).
  • The water tunnel beneath Jerusalem dug by King Hezekiah to provide water during the Assyrian siege (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chron. 32:30).
  • The royal palace in Babylon where King Belshazzar held the feast and Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5).
  • The royal palace in Susa where Esther was queen of the Persian king Xerxes (Esther 1:2; 2:3, 5, 9, 16).
  • The royal gate at Susa where Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, sat (Esther 2:19, 21; 3:2, 3; 4:2; 5:9, 13; 6:10, 12).
  • The square in front of the royal gate at Susa where Mordecai met with Halthach, Xerxes’ eunuch (Esther 4:6).
  • The foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus cured a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28) and delivered the sermon on the bread of life (John 6:25-59).
  • The house of Peter at Capernaum where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and others (Matt. 8:14-16).
  • Jacob’s well where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman (John 4).
  • The Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a crippled man (John 5:1-14).
  • The Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a blind man (John 9:1-4).
  • The tribunal at Corinth where Paul was tried (Acts 18:12-17).
  • The theater at Ephesus where the riot of silversmiths occurred (Acts 19:29).
  • Herod’s palace at Caesarea where Paul was kept under guard (Acts 23:33-35).

The biblical record has been confirmed through many archaeological excavations, including these three:

Excavation at Bagazkoy, Turkey

Lion Gate, Hattusa

Though mentioned 50 times in the Old Testament, the Hittites were once thought to be nothing more than a biblical legend, casting doubt on the validity of people mentioned in the Old Testament such as Ahimelech the Hittite (1 Sam. 26:6) and Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam. 23:39). The first mention of Hittites in Scripture is with the story of Abraham, who bought a field from Ephron the Hittite (Gen. 15:20; 23:3-18). Later, Esau took two wives from amongst the Hittites (Gen. 26:34; 36:2). Archaeologists excavated the ancient Hittite capital city of Hattusa (modern day Bogazkoy, Turkey) in the late 19th and early 20th century. They found many records, which were corroborated by other extra-biblical references of the Hittite civilization.

Excavation at Ebla, Syria

At right is a picture of one of the 1800 clay tablets (dated from around 2300 B.C.) discovered in the 1970s in Ebla, Syria. Critics and skeptics said that the name Canaan was not in use at such an early date and the word tehom (“the deep” used in Gen. 1:2) was said to be a late word demonstrating the late writing of the creation story. When archaeologists failed to find widespread destruction of Canaanite cities, they at first dismissed the Bible’s account of Joshua’s conquest. But when they looked at the book of Joshua more closely, they realized that only three cities were destroyed: Jericho, Ai and Hazor. This Ebla tablet demonstrates that the word tehom was in use at Ebla about 800 years before Moses, and it included the term Canaan. Ancient customs reflected in the stories of the Patriarchs have also been found in clay tablets from other archeological sites including Nuzi and Mari.

Excavation at Tel Dan, Israel

In 1993, a broken fragment of basalt stone was discovered at Tel Dan (at the foot of Mt. Hermon) in the north of Israel. The fragment came from a large stone about 12.5 inches high and 8.7 inches wide. Apparently, the stone had been purposely broken in antiquity. The fragment mentions King David’s dynasty, “the House of David.” Two additional fragments were recovered in two separate locations in 1994. According to pottery fragments recovered in probes beneath the flagstone pavement where the fragments were found, they were laid at the end of the 9th or beginning of the 8th century B.C. This discovery provided an archaeological connection to the biblical references of the ruling dynasty established by King David approximately two centuries before the events mentioned in the inscription. Not only is this the first mention of King David, it is also the earliest mention of a biblical figure outside of the Bible.

These and many other archaeological discoveries have confirmed the historicity of the biblical account. That does not surprise me, though it does fascinate me! If you’d like to read about more such discoveries, I recommend the e-book, Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries. To request a free copy, click here.

Appreciating how archaeology confirms the Bible,
Joseph Tkach

PS: GCI Update will not be published on January 31 (the fifth Wednesday this month) or on February 7 (Equipper will be published that day). The next issue of GCI Update will be published on February 14.

In the exchange zone

This “From the President” letter is from GCI Vice President Greg Williams.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Greg and Susan Williams

Shortly after our Denominational Conference in Orlando, GCI President Joseph Tkach and I were on what we call a “field trip”—an extended lunch to talk and share. On the drive to the restaurant, Joe looked over at me and said the time had come for him to decrease and for me to increase. His plan is that I “ride shotgun” alongside him throughout 2018, gradually taking on the duties of GCI President. This transition plan calls for me to write half of the GCI Update cover letters (like this one) and to be a guest presenter on our Speaking of Life program (click here to watch one). It is humbling and exciting to be on this journey, and I am thankful for Joe’s guiding hand. In this letter, I want to share some of the details of what lies ahead.

MOCHA express!

A major focus for us in the Home Office over the next few months is our move to Charlotte, the “Queen City” of North Carolina. After being in California for 70 years, we’re relocating 2,400 miles to the east, where we’ll be housed in the office building pictured below. We refer to the move as MOCHA (short for MOve to CHArlotte), and since it will be completed in April (only three months away!), we’re calling it MOCHA express!

Our International Home Office building in Charlotte

MOCHA express involves a good deal of physical and mental exertion as we reconfigure Home Office operations to fit the new location: Is the server working? Where is the copy room? How do I get a cup of coffee around here? Then there are the many personal adjustments related to setting up new homes in Charlotte: Where is the post office? What’s the best grocery store? Who can I trust to work on my car? What’s the best route to the office?

Reconfiguring the Home Office team

The move also brings the emotional challenge of saying good-bye to California friends, family and some long-time GCI employees who are retiring or not making the move for other reasons (Joe will share details in a future issue of GCI Update). These changes in the Home Office team will leave some big holes that will need to be filled by adding new responsibilities to the employees who are relocating and by adding some new faces to the team. While it will be exciting to bring in some younger employees, it will also be a challenge to find our new “operational balance” as we land in North Carolina.

Strengthening international connections

A big challenge I face in preparing to take on the mantle of GCI President, is to gain greater insight into GCI’s international operations. I’m grateful that over the last four years I’ve been able to attend Joseph Tkach’s annual planning meeting with our international Mission Developers and National Leaders. These fine men and women have graciously accepted me, and I feel like I already have a strong, collegial connection with most of them. I look forward to getting to know all of them better as we partner together in the gospel work of Jesus.

I’m already laying the groundwork for what lies ahead. I’m surveying the international leaders to gain their insights and knowledge related to needed modifications to structures and working rhythms. I’m also making plans for the 2018 international planning meeting to be held in Charlotte in October. During this year, I’ll be making three strategic international trips to help me understand more clearly how the Lord is moving within GCI around the globe. I’m tremendously excited to have a direct part in all of this.

Passing the baton

In my work as Director of GCI-USA Church Administration and Development (CAD), I’ve greatly enjoyed making deep investments into the CAD team. I have great confidence in these trusted brothers and sisters, and can easily brag about the good job each is doing in serving our U.S. pastors and churches. Though I will still be available to the CAD team, what we’ve achieved together over the past three years makes it possible for me to focus more of my time within what Joe calls the exchange zone—the area on the track where, in a relay race, one runner passes the baton onto the next.

Runners in the exchange zone (source)

Prayer requested

As I write, what lies ahead feels a bit weighty. Yet, because of Joe’s guidance, and the assistance of the other good people surrounding me, it also feels like a good fit. I have the peace of God that truly does pass human understanding. Thank you, Holy Spirit!

I solicit your prayers for Joe and for me as we traverse through our exchange zone, preparing to pass the leadership baton between us at the end of this year. I ask that you be in prayer concerning the many transitions that will be happening throughout 2018. Joe and I deeply appreciate those prayers, feeling in a tangible way the energy and comfort they provide.

With great appreciation,
Greg Williams, GCI Vice President

Looking forward to transitions in 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

GCI Vice President Greg Williams rightly calls 2018 a year of transitions. One of the biggest comes in April with the move of our Home Office from Glendora, CA, to Charlotte, NC. It’s a transition we have talked about for several years, but the timing never seemed right until recently.

In purchasing a building for our new Home Office just outside Charlotte, and in the sale of our building in Glendora (just completed), there have been several “blessed coincidences”—ones GCI Treasurer Mat Morgan and I view as God’s guiding hand. Our Triune God has blessed us with a beautiful building in Charlotte that is partially furnished (with furnishings nicer than those in Glendora), saving us on furnishings and moving costs. Here are some pictures of the Charlotte building (click to enlarge):

   

Another transition for us in 2018 involves the retirement of several long-time denominational leaders and pastors. We’ll be sharing information about those retirements during the year, but you’re probably already aware that I’ll be retiring at the end of 2018, and Greg Williams will take my place as GCI president. My decision to retire was made with much prayer and counsel. When I retire, I won’t stop doing ministry—Tammy and I plan to continue participating in what Jesus is doing, and that keeps us looking forward expectantly to what lies ahead.

Joseph W. Tkach
Joseph W. Tkach, Sr.

As I began planning my final year as GCI President, I recalled how I came into this ministry position in the first place. I was director of Church Administration and my father (Joseph W. Tkach, Sr.) realized he was losing his battle with cancer. We spent many hours talking about the transformation God was bringing about within Worldwide Church of God (WCG), and how that transformation was not complete. Dad shared that just before WCG founder Herbert W Armstrong (HWA) died, he told Dad there were changes that were needed, including looking at some of our doctrines. But because of his ill health, HWA did not have the time or energy to mentor my dad, nor did he give him a lot of details concerning the changes HWA felt were needed. However, he did tell Dad to follow the lead of the Spirit. That is just what Dad did, leading WCG through many changes during his tenure as president.

It was during those changes that Dad became ill and named me as his successor. Like HWA before him, he told me that WCG needed to continue on the path of transformation. However, he also said that he would not determine what those changes should be. You may recall that Dad’s health deteriorated quickly, so there wasn’t a lot of time for him to mentor me. Dad told me to surround myself with reliable, wise counselors, and never forget that it is Jesus who is the real leader of his church. I’ve tried to follow that advice throughout my 21 years as president of WCG, which became GCI.

Greg Williams

It gives me joy knowing that God has given me ample time to mentor Greg Williams as he prepares to become GCI’s next president (click here for Greg’s bio). I gave Greg the same challenge Dad gave me—to surround himself with wise counselors, and to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. I also told him that I do not believe GCI’s transformation is complete, and reminded him that we are to grow in grace and knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18), heeding God’s challenge given through Isaiah:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? (Isa 43:18-19a)

God continues to do new things in GCI. Our challenge is to discern what those are, embrace them, then live them out. I know Greg is committed to doing so.

Various changes have already been made in GCI administration in anticipation of the transitions ahead. Under Greg’s leadership, the Church Administration and Development (CAD) team in the US has been restructured. We now have five regional pastors serving as administrators/supervisors over their respective regions. Alongside Greg in the Home Office is Pam Morgan (CAD operations coordinator) and Michelle Fleming (CAD communications and training coordinator). The CAD team also includes Anthony Mullins (coordinator of Ministry Coaching, the Intern Program and the Pastoral Resident Program), Heber Ticas (coordinator of Church Multiplication Ministries), and Jeff Broadnax (coordinator of Generations Ministries). Ted Johnston (who, like me, is retiring at the end of this year), serves as CAD publications editor and assists Greg with special projects related to our ongoing transitions. This restructured CAD team works beautifully, in a highly collaborative way!

Internationally, Greg is already working with our denominational leaders around the world, helping them form working groups to maximize the effective use of resources and talents. We’re also refining and enhancing Grace Communion Seminary (GCS) and Ambassador College of Christian Ministry (ACCM). These two educational arms of GCI are of great importance to our current and future transitions as we identify, equip and send a new generation of leadership for our denominational ministries and congregations. In these ways and more, it’s clear that God is doing something new that will benefit GCI for many years to come.

Though the realization that 2018 will be a year of transitions in GCI will excite many of us, some will be apprehensive. Throughout my 21 years as GCI president, there have been many challenges and uncertainties, yet God has led us through them all. For that I give him, and you, my thanks and I encourage you to look forward with hope and expectancy. I see 2018 as an exciting year, and throughout the year I plan to share some of the lessons I’ve learned as GCI president, along with insights and dreams concerning GCI’s future. I ask that you join all of us here in the Home Office in praying for smooth and successful transitions.

Looking forward with anticipation,
Joseph Tkach

PS: Next week’s cover letter here in GCI Update will be from Greg Williams. Throughout this year, Greg and I will be sharing this duty as part of our transition plan. See you in two weeks!