Dear ministers of Jesus,
At our recent Denominational Conference held in Orlando, Florida, GCI President Joseph Tkach announced that I will be replacing him as President when he retires at the end of 2018. Many people congratulated me and shared other positive responses—none more positive than the kind words spoken by Mrs. Norva Kelly.
Norva recounted the many conferences she and her husband Ron have attended in their long, storied history with GCI. She mentioned that this might be the last Denominational Conference they would be able to attend (I hope not!). Then, drawing close and looking me in the eyes, she shared the part of Psalm 66 that was part of her devotional reading that day:
Praise our God, all peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard;
he has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
For you, God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
You let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:8-12)
These words deeply moved me, bringing to mind our journey in GCI from trial to abundance. I rejoiced as I reflected on the way God has turned us into a global mosaic of churches, knit tightly together by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Psalm 66 is a hope-filled reminder that one day the whole earth will worship God. The verses Norva quoted point to a particular occasion when God delivered Israel. Written in the plural (“us” and “our”), it speaks on behalf of the whole nation, reflecting on Israel’s experience as the people of God. The first part gives assurance that it is God who gives life, lovingly holding his people in his hands no matter what trials come their way. We absolutely do live and move and have our being in God!
For multiple centuries, Israel suffered the oppressive hardship of Egyptian slavery. Yet through it all, the Lord was faithful—preserving Israel, then as promised, delivering his people out of slavery and into the Promised Land—a place “flowing with milk and honey.”
Though Norva and I did not sit down and exegete this passage together, she told me she felt the Holy Spirit had given her this message to share with me, and I agreed. It is a vivid reminder that in our journey as a church fellowship, we have always had a gracious God worthy of our praise. He has always been faithful to us—never allowing our feet to slip, no matter what stormy trials came our way (and come they did!).
Going through an extended season of trial and testing is not uncommon to the people of God—in fact, it is normal. However, the purposes God is working out through trials and tests typically are understood only in hindsight. Yet, through them all, the Lord is with his people, making a way for their deliverance from trial to abundance. That truly is our story.
What is the abundance the Lord has granted GCI? I see three things:
- An abundance of grace, manifested in our clearer understanding of the triune God of grace revealed in Jesus.
- An abundance of unity, seen clearly at the conference in Orlando where 1,000+ GCI members sang “We Believe” at the top of their lungs.
- An abundance of faithfulness to the mission of God, which I see unfolding in our midst as more and more of our congregations participate in what Jesus is doing to engage a lost world.
This abundance of grace, unity and faithfulness to God’s mission are gifts from God—ones of far greater worth than any measure of gold or diamonds. They are the precious fruit of the long, often painful, journey of the past 20+ years—a journey that has taken GCI from trial to abundance.
GCI brothers and sisters, we truly are a blessed people! Please join me in responding by blessing our Triune God—shouting together his praises with joy and thanksgiving.
Your brother in Christ,
GCI Vice President
PS: I want to extend my sincere thanks this month (Pastor Appreciation Month in the United States) to our many faithful pastors, pastoral team members and fellowship group facilitators. I know the many sacrifices you have made in shepherding your congregation(s) on our often difficult journey from trial to abundance. Thank you for both teaching and exemplifying God’s grace, for contributing to our unity, and for your faithfulness. All of you are deeply appreciated!