This article is from Dr. Greg Williams, director of GCI-USA Church Administration and Development and a faculty member at Grace Communion Seminary. For a related article in GCI Weekly Update, click here.
When it comes to the church and its ministry, GCI is firmly committed to having strategies, plans and actions that flow within the stream of renewal that the Holy Spirit has generated within our fellowship. We prayerfully desire that all our ministry efforts be authentic, focused participation in the ongoing ministry of Jesus. We know well that Jesus, revealed in the apostolic witness of Scripture, is the head, foundation and cornerstone of his church, and (thankfully) that includes our fellowship, Grace Communion International.
The book of Ephesians gives a clear description of the nature and purpose of the church along with instruction concerning how the church is to conduct its life and administer its various leadership offices with the overall goal being to equip the saints to participate in the mission of God. Though we conduct that ministry in a fallen world, we do so with hope knowing that the kingdom, which already has broken into the world, is coming in fullness when Christ returns in glory. (Come Lord Jesus!)
Given this biblical perspective on the church and its mission, it’s vital that we establish and maintain clarity concerning the headship of Jesus and the renewing work of the Spirit among us as members of the body of Christ. Doing so is vital to our health and focus, both now and into the future as we pass along to the next generation what we have been given by the Father according to his Word and Spirit.
Toward that end, GCI President Joseph Tkach called for the establishment of an Educational Strategy Task Force (ESTF) several months ago. Its assignment was to evaluate GCI’s educational programs and resources to ascertain whether or not they are adequate to the task of equipping us to live into the renewal that the Spirit has granted us.
As the ESTF met, it agreed that a key to GCI continuing its God-given renewal will be to help emerging pastors and other leaders understand what the Spirit has done, and will yet do, to renew us as his church. The task force feels that it’s vital that we be proactive in providing our congregational and denominational leaders with support, teaching, training and equipping related to the following seven biblically-based understandings that have been fundamental to our renewal:
- Understanding the centrality of Jesus Christ, who reveals to us the essential and eternal character, nature, purpose, mind, heart and work of the reconciling, justifying, sanctifying and glorifying triune God. Jesus is the resurrected, living cornerstone of the church and so of its worship and mission.
- Understanding Jesus’ role as the one Mediator between God and humanity, and how he is the living, speaking, acting, interpretive key to the apostolic and prophetic witness of Scripture.
- Understanding the priority of God’s covenant of grace as fulfilled in Jesus, who is one with the Father and Holy Spirit.
- Understanding the nature of the worship of the triune God, who, in himself, is holy love, fellowship and communion. The first ministry of the church is to worship our Triune God with all we are and all we have.
- Understanding the fullness of Christ’s justifying, sanctifying and glorifying gracious work, which comprises the whole completed saving work of the Triune God who created all humanity for fellowship and communion with himself.
- Understanding what it means to grow up into Christ, who through his vicarious humanity reveals the true nature and destiny of humanity created in the image of God, so that we may, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, share more and more in our Lord’s transforming sanctification and, beyond our death, his glorification. To grow up into Christ means to share in Christ’s own faith, hope and love for God, and in his love for our neighbors. It means having our entire identity defined by our relationship to Christ, established by grace and lived out of that center through all other relationships.
- Understanding how our life in union with Christ frees and enables every member of the the Body of Christ for their participation in the church’s ministry of bearing witness to the self-revelation and saving, self-giving of God in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. That ministry is accomplished through proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in preaching, teaching and testimony and confirmed by deeds of service accomplished in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
Those who the Holy Spirit has drawn into the stream of the Lord’s renewing work in our midst are the ones we wish to equip for the sake of their participation in Christ’s continuing ministry in and through our fellowship. All of our educational resources and strategies (involving persons, materials and funding) must direct attention to these features of Christ and his continuing ministry through his Body (the church) by the Spirit, since these features are central both to our ministry, and to the gospel of Jesus Christ and life in the Spirit, all to the glory of the Father.
Another matter that came into focus during ESTF meetings and related conversations (like the ones with our international mission developers in Bogota, Colombia) was the need for a more complete explication of our doctrine of the church (ecclesiology) and its ministry practices (missiology). Over the last couple of decades, our focus has largely been on clarifying our doctrines of the person and work of Christ, the covenant of grace fulfilled in Christ, the nature of God’s grace, and our justification and sanctification and union with Christ. Considerable attention has also been given to the doctrines of the Trinity and the kingdom of God.
It seems that as we seek to find, train and appoint new congregational leaders—pastors and church planters, in particular—renewed focus is called for in filling out our doctrine of the church. This is especially needed for those who will be joining us with little or no GCI history. It’s vital that our explication of the doctrine of the church with its ministry be consistent with our Incarnational Trinitarian theological center and the spiritual renewal that is behind that theology—a renewal granted us by the Word and Spirit of God.
In response to this need, a series of articles will be produced by a team of ESTF members (and others) who will explore and set forth a more comprehensive understanding of the church and its ministry practices. We will be rolling out some of those articles between now and the Denominational Conference coming to Orlando in August 2017. The first of these articles was recently published in the November 23 issue of GCI Weekly Update (click here to read it). Please read these articles carefully, and I invite you to comment on them as we go (using the comment feature in both Update and Equipper). We’ll then continue the conversation in Orlando. Please be in prayer about this journey as our renewal continues.