What is the first word that pops into your mind when you think of church? Fellowship? Potluck? Sermon? Worship? Communion? God? Hope?
I’ve been blessed to travel to many countries around the world and meet people from several cultures. I’ve rubbed shoulders with the poorest of the poor in Bangladesh and Nepal, and with people of status and wealth in several countries. Like most of us, I’ve seen people in their highest highs and their lowest lows. I’ve been with several family members and friends as they have faced horrendous trials and losses. One common theme I’ve encountered all over the world is the need for people to have hope.
Wherever you go, you see people without hope. The homeless population around the world is staggering. Whatever country you live in, people face trials they simply cannot bear on their own. Poverty, sickness, corrupt government, abuse is rampant. People struggle to make ends meet. Like Jesus, we can look around our neighborhoods and cities and see a great crowd of hurting people. Our hearts fill with compassion, “because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34 NRSV).
Where can people find real, tangible hope and assurance? The answer of course, is in relationship with Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:27; 1 Timothy 1:1). Where does that relationship have opportunity to be introduced, supported, and realized? In a healthy Christian church.
Our GCI theme is Healthy Church, and to work toward this goal we focus on the three venues of Faith, Hope, and Love, based on Paul’s words to the church in Corinth, “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NRSV).
The last three issues of Equipper focused on Love—encouraging us to see people in their true identity as children of God, although many do not know their Father. This issue of Equipper begins a three-month period of opening conversations concerning the Hope Venue. We will be undergoing a deeper dive into the Hope Venue in Equipper throughout 2020.
Our vision—which we believe is Holy Spirit inspired—is for Grace Communion International to be a denomination filled with churches that provide hope.
We envision churches filled with members who reach out to their communities and neighborhoods because the love of Christ compels us to teach that Christ died for all. Because of this, we no longer regard anyone from a human point of view, but as God’s beloved (2 Corinthians 5:14-16).
We envision congregations willing to make whatever changes are necessary to make church accessible to others. This may mean changing the day of worship, location of worship, or time of worship. Healthy churches are more focused outward than inward.
Here are some key items healthy church leaders focus on:
- Assimilation—making visitors and new members feel welcome.
- Participation—finding ways newer members can participate in worship services, ministry and mission, as they are made to feel comfortable and vetted through the personal care of the members.
- Intentional preparation—pastors, worship leaders, and teachers working together to provide meaningful and inspiring worship services.
- Celebration—celebrating Jesus first and foremost, then taking time to celebrate key events in members’ lives as well as the fruit that comes from the missional events and activities of the church.
- Inspirational preaching—staying in tune with the Christian Calendar and commemorating Christ events throughout the year. Using the RCL, which integrates worship and educating the congregation, and takes the congregation through most of the Bible every three years. giving the congregation a more holistic approach to Scripture.
- Developing others—liberating leaders to be leaders and watching how ministries grow and multiply.
People need hope, and church is the place where they can find the answers to the questions they face daily.
May God continue to bless GCI as our worldwide congregations provide places of healing and hope.