Looking Back, Looking Forward

Dear Pastors and Ministry Leaders:

Ted and Donna Johnston

During the season of Advent, which prepares us for Christmas, we share in the hope, love, joy and peace of Jesus as we contemplate his three-fold coming (advent) for our salvation: Jesus came 2,000 years ago through the Incarnation, permanently uniting his divinity with our humanity. Jesus comes now through the Holy Spirit, indwelling those who believe. Jesus will come again bodily at the end of the age, ushering in the fullness of the kingdom of God.

During Advent this year, in addition to contemplating our Lord’s comings, my wife Donna and I will be reflecting on the ways our triune God has been faithful to us throughout the many years of my employment with WCG-GCI in ministry (I’m retiring shortly after Christmas, though I’ll continue teaching and serving as a board member at Grace Communion Seminary, and volunteering as a GCI ministry coach). Let me share some of those reflections with you (including ones related to Equipper). I’ll also share some thoughts concerning the road ahead for GCI, then conclude with an outline of the contents of this issue.

Looking back

In 2006, Dan Rogers (then Superintendent of U.S. Ministers) asked that I launch Equipper (click here for the inaugural issue). The goal then, as now, was to equip GCI pastors and ministry leaders to participate with Jesus in his ongoing ministry. After taking on Equipper, I was asked to also produce The Surprising God blog and GCI Update. To that was added work on GCI websites and Facebook groups.

Throughout the years, this editorial work has been informed by my concurrent service in ministry as a pastor, district superintendent, Generations Ministries director, regional pastor, mentor and ministry coach. Add all these up, and it’s been 32 years of GCI-employed ministry.

Shaped by a sense of calling from God, my passion and focus throughout those years has been “to equip [God’s] people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Eph. 4:12). What a journey it has been! Though sometimes overwhelming, it has always been a blessing and privilege, leaving me with many wonderful memories. For that, I thank our Lord, my wife, and all of you, the men and women I’ve been blessed to journey alongside. Many of you have given me lots of encouragement, along with direction and support in multiple forms. Most importantly you’ve given Donna and me your prayers and friendship.

Looking forward

As a Christ-centered, gospel-focused team (We are GCI!), I see our future as bright, despite the challenges of living and sharing the gospel (our mission) in ways that lead to healthy church (our vision) in a world that grows increasingly postmodern and post-Christian. We need not fear this reality, and we must not hold back in moving forward. Jesus has this! (Eph. 3:20-21).

Though I’ll miss working with Equipper, I’m grateful to be leaving it in capable, dedicated hands. As Greg Williams mentioned last month, Rick Shallenberger is taking over as editor and publisher of Equipper later this month. I know you’ll support him as you have me.

In this issue

We hope you like the new look for Equipper introduced with this issue. The changes we’ve made bring this publication into alignment with GCI’s new branding, seen already on our new websites.

Within this issue, in addition to our regular Equipper features, you’ll find various tools designed to help your congregation pursue our shared vision for healthy church. You’ll also find two articles that conclude our series on worldview conversion—whole-life discipleship. I encourage you to use the articles in this series for personal study and for guided discussions in your congregation. To minister well in a post-Christian, postmodern world, it’s vital that we be equipped to deal with the challenging issues these articles address.

It’s my prayer that all the resources we provide in this issue (along with all other issues of Equipper) will help equip you for the gospel ministries to which our Lord has called you.

Journey on with Jesus!
Ted Johnston, Equipper editor-publisher

Equipping for GCI’s Next Chapter

Dear Pastors and Ministry Leaders,

Greg and Susan Williams

October was a whirlwind month for me! As most of you know, on October 14 in Charlotte, NC, I was installed as GCI’s new President (click here for a report in GCI Update). It is a privilege to be entrusted with this responsibility and I look forward to what lies ahead as, together, we enter a new chapter in GCI’s story.

The week following the handoff of the presidency to me from outgoing President Joseph Tkach, was followed by a busy week of planning and strategy meetings held with GCI denominational leaders from around the world. During those meetings, I introduced a new organizational structure for our denomination—I’ll share details in GCI Update reports in January.

During the meetings in Charlotte, we honored various denominational leaders who recently have retired or soon will retire from GCI employment, including outgoing President Joseph Tkach. Another of those leaders is Ted Johnston, who (among other responsibilities) has served as GCI Equipper publisher and editor. As this year finishes out, Ted’s Equipper responsibilities are being passed to GCI-USA Regional Pastor Rick Shallenberger (more about Rick below).

Ted Johnston

I want to thank Ted for the work he has done. He launched Equipper 12 years ago then, over the years, added various features—most recently sermon manuscripts synced to the Revised Common Lectionary. Beginning with this issue, he has added to each sermon a Speaking of Life video and discussion questions. Both are synced with the RCL scripture readings and thus with the sermon.

As you will see in the December sermons, our Speaking of Life video program has been revamped. In addition to being synced with the RCL, it now has multiple presenters who represent the diversity we are blessed with in GCI. I will be the primary presenter and other presenters will include elder-administrator Michelle Fleming, and pastors-administrators Jeff Broadnax, Anthony Mullins and Heber Ticas.

The discussion questions provided with each sermon are for use by small groups in unpacking what is covered in the scripture readings, Speaking of Life program and sermon. Having these discussions helps reinforce learning while building relationships among group members. It’s our prayer that these expanded RCL-synced resources will assist our pastors, preachers and teachers in their ministries of the word of God within their congregations.

Rick Shallenberger

As mentioned above, Rick Shallenberger will become the new editor and publisher of Equipper as 2018 draws to a close. I first met Rick in 1981 on a camping trip in California. At the time, we were both Ambassador College (Pasadena, CA) students. Though I did not know Rick well (I was a sophomore, he was a senior), a life-long friendship between us began on that trip.

Rick graduated later that year and started full-time work with the denomination, eventually working in our editorial department. Over the years, Rick held many different positions in that department, most notably as lead writer and finally editor for Youth magazine. Rick worked alongside accomplished writers and editors like Herman Hoeh and Dexter Faulkner, who served as his mentors, preparing him well for the role he is now assuming from Ted Johnston.

Rick eventually entered pastoral ministry, as did I. We occasionally saw one another, but it was not until 2013 that we began working closely together. Along with Ted and Randy Bloom, we helped reorganize GCI’s U.S. administrative structure. This led to Rick becoming a GCI-USA Regional Pastor, along with spending significant time contributing to GCI publications as a writer and editor (most GCI denominational leaders wear multiple hats!).

I recently asked Rick to add more hats by becoming Assistant to the President and Editor and Publisher of Equipper. Rick taking on these responsibilities will enable me to cease writing lead articles for Equipper in order to focus my attention on writing lead articles for GCI Update (I will continue contributing to Equipper as time allows).

As a US Regional Pastor, Rick is “in the trenches” with our pastors on a regular basis. He also has strong relationships with many of our international leaders. His new responsibilities are thus a natural fit and I’m confident that Equipper will continue to serve as an effective tool for equipping our pastors and ministry leaders for their participation with Jesus in his ongoing ministry to the world through the church.

Let’s all thank Ted for his years of service, and pray for Rick as he takes on his new responsibilities.

In Christ’s service,
Greg Williams, GCI president

From Greg: Adjust Your Posture

Dear Congregational Leaders:

Greg Williams

I’m not easily disheartened by setbacks, and I thank Jesus for that gift.  Recently, though, I was deeply impacted when one of our young pastoral couples left us. I’ll not share the details, but I want to note that the situation showed me a need our congregations have to adjust their posture (spirit, orientation) to be more open to receiving new, younger leaders and members into the GCI fold.

Though I usually write with a positive, what to do, approach, I sense the need to address in this letter what not to do. I want to share with you three exhortations, and I’ll end each with a positive prayer.

Exhortation #1

Don’t let the mindsets and habits of our past (old DNA) get in the way of adding to our church the creativity that new, younger leaders bring. Saying “We’ve always done it this way” is a non-starter that kills hope.

Father, as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, may that maturity be reflected in the life of our church and may our expressions of worship always be fresh and vibrant.

Exhortation #2

Don’t allow personal biases to get in the way of including new people and the exploration of new expressions in your worship. What I have in mind are things like willingness to adjust meeting times, hall locations and worship formats. Ask yourself this question: Are we simply doing church or are we being church?

Lord Jesus, may we be the very best expression of your love that we can be, and help us better position our congregation for making disciples alongside you.

Exhortation #3

Don’t allow negativity to overthrow the passion of young leaders and members. Rejecting new ideas without taking time to fully consider them and try them out, is tantamount to placing more value on the old wineskins than on the new, vibrant wine that God has graced us with.

Holy Spirit, allow us to remain flexible and have the awestruck wonder of a child as we welcome new people and new expressions of worship.

In an article in last month’s Equipper, I asked pastors and ministry leaders to provide space, resources and relational support to young emerging leaders by serving as their sponsor-mentors. Now I ask all congregational leaders to work toward developing a posture within their church that welcomes young people into the life of the congregation with open arms—providing them opportunity to join in and participate right away.

Though we must not think of these younger ones as GCI’s saviors (we already have a Savior, and these young leaders don’t need that sort of pressure), we must tear down barriers that discourage them from bringing their creativity and abilities into the life of our congregations. It’s powerfully transforming when a congregation makes space for new, young leaders—making them feel safe and fully-supported.

I believe that all GCI congregations aspire to be the healthy church we’ve been discussing recently. My point in this article is that it takes careful thought and intentional action for a congregation to express that health by being a fertile environment that allows new, younger leaders to be birthed and then developed. Providing that sort of environment leads to a vibrant, sustainable future for a congregation, and thus for us as a denomination.

Thank you for prayerfully considering and then acting on these exhortations,
Greg Williams, GCI Vice President

From Greg: Let’s Be Sponsor-Mentors

Dear Pastors and Ministry Leaders,

Greg and Susan Williams

I’ve been emphasizing our need to work together to take the micro-steps necessary for us to realize our macro-vision of Healthy Church. As Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10).

In conversations with GCI leaders around the globe, I’ve been pleased to learn that we are in substantial agreement concerning many of the steps we need to take, including recruiting, equipping and deploying new, younger leaders who will work in team-based ways to help their congregations develop the adaptive leadership and vibrant love, hope and faith venues that are so vital to church health. To help them take these steps, many of our leaders are gathering in cohorts, seeking the Lord’s answers to these two important questions:

  1. Where will our new, younger leaders come from?
  2. How can we provide environments where they will grow and flourish?

A plea to pastors

Pastors, I urge all of you to prayerfully seek the Lord’s answers to these questions in your context. As you do, please consider the pressing need we have for pastors to serve as mentors of new, younger leaders. I know you’ve heard this plea before, but perhaps we’ve not adequately defined the type of mentors that are needed. At this time in our journey, GCI needs each pastor to be what I’ll refer to as a sponsor-mentor. This is a mentor who provides their protégés with three essential things: space, resources and relational support. Let’s look at each one.

1. Provide space

Providing “space” for an emerging leader means giving your protégé meaningful team-based (as opposed to solo) opportunities to contribute creatively to ministry within your congregation. Such a space includes the latitude to succeed and to fail, and thus to learn and grow. Learning is greatly enhanced when there is the possibility of failure. Effective sponsor-mentors walk with their protégé through the lessons of disappointment as well the triumphs of success.

Copyright 2012, Keven Spear
Used with permission: www.kevinspear.com

2. Provide resources

Sponsor-mentors provide their protégés with the resources they need to learn and grow—things like adequate funding, tools (equipment, meeting space, technical support, etc.), and the man- and woman-power needed to conduct successful events or activities. One of the most crucial resources involves access into the mentor’s network of relationships. Vouching for a younger protégé in a way that connects them with the right people is the ‘electricity’ that ‘lights the bulb.’

3. Provide relational support

Even when adequate space and resources are provided, an emerging leader’s development is stifled when their mentor fails to provide them with abundant relational support. Though effective sponsor-mentors don’t micro-manage, they do make themselves accessible, showing keen interest in the person and ministry projects of their protégé. Relational support is extended by asking good questions that facilitate growth-enhancing dialog and by being their protégé’s number one cheerleader.

Concluding thoughts

Pastors, in asking you to be sponsor-mentors, I’m not asking you to clone yourselves. Instead, I’m asking you to recruit and develop brave, creative new leaders who, following your example, will become mature leaders who work powerfully, in team-based ways, through other people.

Ministry leaders, much of what I’ve said here applies to you as well. The need for new leaders at all levels is great, and the time for each of us to step up as sponsor-mentors is now. Please identify a protégé or two and sponsor and mentor them with all you’ve got!

Asking the Lord for more sponsor-mentors,
Greg Williams

From Greg: Worldview Conversion

Dear Pastors and Ministry Leaders:

Greg Williams

Because we humans are “prone to wander,” those of us called by God to serve within the church as under-shepherds must join Jesus, the Great Shepherd, in protecting his flock from harm (Acts 20:28). This is a vital calling, given the many forces in our day that threaten our members, including the devil’s schemes to undermine a worldview that is solidly Christ-centered. Sadly, an increasing number of Christians view reality (including the Christian faith) through the “lens” of a worldview that is more secular than it is centered on the heart, mind and ways of Jesus.

This issue of Equipper begins a new series of articles that, over the next few months, will explore the topic of worldview conversion. The focus of the series is how we, through what we refer to as whole-life discipleship, can first help ourselves and then help those in our care develop a  worldview that is fully Christ-centered.

This letter introduces the series, looking at what we mean by worldview and providing additional comments. I’ll then hand you over to Ted Johnston’s article in this issue for additional details. We’ll then build on this foundation in future articles published here in GCI Equipper.

What is a worldview?

In his book Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept, James W. Sire offers this definition:

A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being. (p. 141)

Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Whether we know it or not, we all have a particular worldview. As disciples of Jesus, it is vital that we embrace and live out of a Christ-centered worldview, then help others do so as well. The articles in this series on worldview and whole-life discipleship are designed to help us do that. It is our goal that we will use this material to help our members identify their current worldview, then help them realign their worldview, as needed, more fully with Jesus’ own view of the world—his values, perspectives and commitments. As part of the series, we’ll look at some “hot button” ethical issues—seeking a Christ-centered response in ways that are redemptive rather than merely confrontational.

We pray that this series will help inform our teaching and preaching, leading to positive, Christ-centered, Spirit-led change in our own lives and in the lives of the people we are called to disciple in the way of Jesus.

A shift in worldview

In his helpful book God, Freedom & Human Dignity, Ron Highfield asks a penetrating question concerning the shift in worldview that has occurred within Western culture:

How, when and by whom did it come about that nature, family, community, moral law and religion were changed in the Western mind from identity-giving, happiness-producing networks of meaning into their opposites—self-alienating, misery-inducing webs of oppression? (p. 18)

The dominant worldview in the modern West in our day encourages people (particularly young ones) to cast off family and religious values to embrace an identity that is largely me-centered. This secular worldview, which has become one of the cornerstones of Western culture, is grounded in a form of self-expression that, rather than valuing higher good and right action, has become an end in itself. Highfield continues:

The modern self asserts. “I am irreplaceable, and none can tell me how to realize my own uniqueness or judge my choice or ways of self-expression. I have every right to celebrate my own utterly unique being in ways that I experience as fulfilling.” (p. 31)

The need for grace

A sad state of affairs, isn’t it? Yet, lest we point a finger of condemnation, let’s remember that all of us (due to our fallen nature) are inclined toward self-centeredness, and so are in need of God’s grace. Let’s also remember that our calling as followers of Jesus is not to rail against the culture, or to turn our backs on it in disgust. Instead, we are called to participate with Jesus, by the Spirit, in speaking redemptively into the lives of people—sharing with them not the bad news of a failed culture, but the good news of God’s culture—God’s kingdom. Note this comment from Highfield:

Approaching people with the least hint of judgment or arrogance or love of argument will fail to produce the desired engagement. In my experience, patient listening, sincere probing, and autobiographical confession is the only way to engage with our contemporaries in meaningful conversations about important matters. (p. 36)

Instead of buying into the culture’s propensity toward asserting our “rights” by being confrontational and condemning, we must reach out with the love of God to people, no matter their worldview, to help them discover and embrace Jesus and his beliefs and values. We want to help people experience the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ; to discover God’s plan to give them their true identity as his children, and thus to discover a way of life that is truly fulfilling and liberating. I pray that this series of articles on worldview will equip us to participate with Jesus in the disciple-making work that he is now doing in our world with its largely secular worldview.

Be sure to read the articles in this new series (you’ll find the first one, written by Ted Johnston, in this issue). As we proceed, I invite you to share your thoughts in the comment box that appears at the end of each article.

Seeking to embrace and share a Christ-centered worldview,
—Greg Williams, GCI Vice President


PS: Over the last several months, I’ve been casting a vision for what we refer to as healthy church. It’s my desire to help us examine the steps we’ll need to take in order to move toward the realization of that vision. In my Equipper letter last month I addressed one of those steps: the implementation within our congregations of adaptive leadership. This month, we’ve included an article in which I address the key issue of the faith, hope and love venues. I’ll be addressing additional topics in future issues. Please read these prayerfully, then discuss them with your leaders.

From Greg: Mind the Gap

Dear ministers of our Lord, Jesus Christ:

Greg Williams

If you’ve visited England and traveled on the London area trains, you’ve likely noticed the ever-present “Mind the Gap” signs in the city’s “underground” (subway, called the “tube”). These warning signs tell travelers to mind their step as they stand nearby or enter and exit the tube, lest they fall into the gap between the platform and train. When these warnings go unheeded, a what seems like a minor gap can lead to a major catastrophe!

(source)

I want to draw your attention in this letter to a gap in our practice of ministry that needs minding. We say we value being a healthy expression of church, actively following the Spirit in participating with Jesus in seeking the lost and making new disciples, but that is not what we always do. There is a gap between our aspirational values (what we say we value) and our actual actions. We need to close the gap, but how?

Adaptive leadership needed

It starts with us—the leaders of the church. If we don’t close the gap in our own lives and ministries, it will widen in the lives of those we lead (as go the leaders, so goes the church). Closing the gap in a congregation between what it aspires to do and what it actually does requires…

…adaptive leadership [that] consists of the learning required to address conflicts in the values people hold, or to diminish the gap between the values people stand for and the reality they face. (Ronald Heifetz, Founding Director, Center for Public Leadership, Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government)

Here are four steps you can take to become an adaptive leader—one who helps your church turn aspirational values into concrete missional action:

1. Practice intentional listening

By listening deeply over long periods of time, adaptive leaders discern the deeper systemic realities at work within their congregations. They then use those discoveries to develop strategies and plans to close gaps between aspirational values and actual practices. Listen deeply to discern what the “music” is that keeps your congregation on the “dance floor.” Then compare how that music resonates (or fails to resonate) with non-believers in your congregation’s target community. Through intentional listening in both your congregation and the surrounding community, you can learn new “tunes” that will bridge relationships between these groups.

2. Include the people most affected

Are you the only one losing sleep over the challenge of becoming a healthy, disciple-making church? A common misconception is to think that if we as leaders initiate a strategy, others will automatically fall in line. Rather than “flying solo,” we need to identify others who share our angst and are willing to join us in doing something about it. This means collaboration—helping others join with you in identifying and sorting out the issues, wrestling with you in dreaming, planning and executing. You accomplish more as a team!

3. Engage the mature and motivated

A lot of your work as a leader in the church involves putting out fires, dealing with the resistant, attending to the cantankerous, and trying to placate the complainers. Though people are our greatest joy in ministry, they can also be a burden. But when it’s time to get serious about turning aspirations into consistent action, more and more of your energy must be invested in those motivated to share with you the responsibility for the life of the congregation. Do you recognize who those people are? How will you engage the mature and motivated?

4. Invest in growth

One of our core values in GCI is stewardship—protecting and preserving what we have. Though stewardship is praiseworthy, when given too much importance, it can get in the way of progress. To be frank, many of our congregations are sitting on large sums of money in their financial reserves. Yes, it’s better to sit on money than to spend it frivolously. However, given that the money in your reserves was donated for the purpose of preaching the gospel and making new disciples, should it not be put to work in advancing that gospel mission? We recommend that churches following steps 1 – 3 (above) budget at least $10,000 annually to fund evangelistic outreach executed by the congregation. However, if you are a small, aging group that simply is unable to focus on local outreach, and you are stewarding a large bank account, our recommendation is that you have a conversation with your Regional Pastor (or Regional Director outside the U.S.) to determine where you can invest those funds in the evangelistic outreach being conducted by another GCI congregation.

Do it now

The reality is that if we in GCI merely maintain what we have, we will gradually decline. Though you might view this letter as an effort to “rally the troops” to rescue GCI, that is not its purpose. This letter is my plea to GCI’s congregational leaders to remember that they are called and commissioned by Jesus to join him in making disciples (that’s our mission). Fellow leaders, it’s time for us to rise up together as adaptive leaders to lead our congregations in making the changes necessary to close the gap between what we say we value and what we actually do. Please join me in praying about this, and in taking sustained action to close the gap.

Your brother in Christ,
Greg Williams, GCI Vice President

From Greg: Pilgrimage of the Faithful

Dear Pastors and Ministry Leaders,

Greg and Susan Williams

We all face seasons of change and movement. For my family, April of this year was one of those seasons. My brother Mark sold his house and set out to build a new one. My son Gatlin left his apartment to join his best friend from high school in a location new to both of them. Then Susan and I joined the happy throng of GCI Home Office staffers, moving 2,400 miles from Glendora, CA, to Charlotte, NC. This personal and corporate move was a big challenge to us all—and now, whether we’re at home or at work, we are faced with boxes to unpack.

During this season of change and movement, I’ve found myself asking, How is our loving God speaking to us, both personally and collectively? In pondering that question, I recalled God’s command to Abram:

Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Gen. 12:1-3)

Abraham and Sarah (source)

Reading on in Genesis 12, we find that Abram, in trust, obeyed God—he and his wife Sarai pulled up stakes and moved. As they journeyed, they must have felt some of what my wife Susan and I felt during our move to North Carolina (though, unlike Abram and Sarai, we knew where we were headed). Abram and Sarai surely experienced a sense of loss, thinking about what lay behind, mixed with some fear thinking about what lay ahead. However, those feelings were likely counterbalanced by ones of hope and expectancy as they pondered the promises God had given. Through it all, God gave them both support and challenge—a combination that produced in Abram the faith that is celebrated in Hebrews chapter 11.

Abram’s faith grew as he first heard God’s word; then, trusting God to fulfill his word, obeyed. Along the way, Abram developed an intimate relationship with God like the one a beloved son has with a caring father. As a result, the Lord renamed Abram, calling him Abraham (meaning “the father of many”) , promising to raise up through him God’s chosen nation, the people of Israel.

Fulfillment of this promise to Abraham came in unexpected ways, often including seemingly crazy commands and promises from God. God commanded Abraham to pack up and leave his ancestral home to journey to an unknown location far away. God’s promise that Abraham would become the father of a great nation seemed crazy, for Abraham was 75 at the time, and his barren wife Sarah was 65 and the promise wasn’t fulfilled until Abraham turned 100 and Sarah turned 90! Then, years later, God told Abraham to take his miracle child Isaac and place him on the altar of sacrifice. As you know, Abraham obeyed, and the Lord saved Isaac. Through these events of high challenge (which included God’s high support), Abraham demonstrated that he would hold nothing back in obeying God.

In the GCI Home Office, we too have experienced support from God as we made our journey from Glendora to Charlotte. Our triune God, who always is present with us, speaking to us through his Word and Spirit, showed us his care—directing and blessing us in selling our Home Office building in Glendora and in buying our new building in Charlotte. Our Home Office staff can tell you many stories about how they too experienced God’s guiding hand in finding new homes for their families in the Charlotte area. The Lord also gave us some challenges during our move. We faced trying circumstances with contractors, building inspectors and movers. But in all the twists, turns and trials, we gave our concerns and needs over to the Lord. He is in control of us and our circumstances, even during times when we are perplexed and confused.

Whether you are in a season of change and turmoil, or in a “spacious place” of relative calm and tranquility (Ps. 18:19), know this: the Lord, who is ever faithful, is present with you. In and through your relationship with him, his faithfulness is becoming yours. It’s all about relationship and trust, and I’m grateful that, together, we have joined Abraham in a pilgrimage of the faithful.

— Greg Williams, GCI Vice President

From Greg: Hitting the Refresh Button

Dear Pastors and Ministry Leaders,

Greg and Susan Williams

Thanks for your prayers! The move of our international Home Office from Glendora, CA, to Charlotte, NC, is now complete. It’s been an exciting and busy time. Moving employees, supplies, records, furniture, etc. across 2,400 miles was no small operation!

Despite some challenges, surprises and a lot of work, the move has given us opportunity to hit the “refresh button,” yielding several benefits. First are the significant financial savings (see Mat Morgan’s comments below). Second, the relocation provides opportunity to re-brand GCI a bit (see Michelle Fleming’s comments below).

Third, our new office building (pictured above) is more functional. Our office space in Glendora was about twice as large as what we now occupy in Charlotte. In Glendora, our staff members were widely separated, with break rooms and restrooms in the far corners of the building. As a result, there was a lack of “rubbing shoulders” between the various Home Office departments. Our new building in Charlotte has one central break room and one bank of restrooms, and is laid out more efficiently otherwise. As a result, our staff will interact frequently and naturally, helping us implement new ways of working together, yielding a more interactive work culture than we were able to have in Glendora.

We are pleased with the appearance and functionality of our new office building. It represents well who we are as an international denomination and it gives our Home Office staff a total refresh. Each staff member was given the opportunity to design their new work space, giving them a sense of ownership. Most of these work spaces have adjustable desks so employees can stand while working if they choose.

As most of you know, GCI’s Home Office was in Southern California for the past 70 years. While there were many benefits in being located there, the increasingly high cost of living had become a real hardship for our staff members—making home ownership nearly impossible, especially for younger employees. Charlotte has affordable housing, allowing us to hire younger men and women to round out our staff.

Charlotte is also a great location for our Home Office because it is accessible to a greater number of our U.S. congregations. Over 2/3 of those congregations are in the Eastern part of the U.S., with North Carolina squarely in the middle. We trust that our new location will make GCI and GCS meetings and classes held at the Home Office accessible to more people. We look forward to entertaining more visitors—please take this as a standing invitation to drop by. One of our Home Office staff members will gladly give you the fifty-cent tour!

The greatest challenge related to the move involved the restructuring of our Home Office staff. I am deeply grateful for the GCI employees who served on our Home Office staff in Glendora. Fourteen of them did not move with us to Charlotte. Of those, four will continue as employees (working remotely) and several have retired from GCI employment (for a tribute to several of them from Joseph Tkach, click here). The ones not moving, including GCI President Joseph Tkach, gave us a beautiful, gracious send-off. We will dearly miss these wonderful coworkers, most of whom have been employed by GCI from 20 to as many as 43 years.

Nine of our Glendora Home Office employees have now relocated to Charlotte. In doing so, most have taken on greater responsibilities. To fill out this staff, we are planning four or five strategic hires in the near future.  It is our goal that our Home Office staff and facilities will show our members and the public that we are careful and thoughtful about the stewardship of the church. We also want them to see that, rather than standing still, we’re moving forward in ways that will serve GCI well for many years to come.

Relocating the Home Office gives me as GCI’s incoming President, the opportunity to review how we operate and to establish my style of leadership. The new Home Office team is working to reshape the culture of GCI for its next chapter. What an awesome opportunity and responsibility that is—thanks for your continuing prayers!


From Mat Morgan, GCI Treasurer

Mat Morgan

One of my responsibilities as GCI’s Treasurer is to make saving and refocusing our resources a priority in the way we do business. Relocation often re-energizes an organization by encouraging a reassessment of all operations, and by providing invigorating opportunities and fresh challenges for employees and the organization. This move encouraged all of us at the Home Office to look at why and how we do what we do, leading to better use of human and financial resources.

GCI will benefit from the move in cost savings and efficiency in several areas, allowing funds to be used in new and better ways to support our mission. For example, utility, insurance and employee costs will be significantly lower. Earthquake insurance, which was costing the church about $40,000/year, will no longer be needed. Sales taxes in North Carolina, unlike California, are refundable to churches, saving GCI thousands this year alone. Closer proximity to more congregations and the Charlotte International Airport (see the map below) provides financial benefits. Computer and phone systems have been upgraded providing efficiencies in work flow and reduced maintenance. Many GCI and GCS records have been digitized, reducing storage and retrieval costs. We expect even more financial benefits next year after the office and employees are settled in. Though moving and reorganizing have not been easy, we’re excited about the cost savings and the sharper mission-focus, which will benefit GCI for many years to come.


From Michelle Fleming, Communications and Training Coordinator

Michelle Fleming

Moving to Charlotte begins a new chapter for GCI media, and we have updated our branding to reflect the changes being made. Our new branding honors our history while telling who we are today – an international mosaic of churches knit together by grace, who emphasize the gracious triune God. We are committed to a life transformed, lovingly and enthusiastically proclaiming the incarnational Trinitarian gospel.

Earlier this month we launched the GCI Resources website (Resources.GCI.org) and we’ll soon be re-launching our main website (www.gci.org/). Both websites are aligned with GCI’s new denominational branding, with the Resources website providing downloadable versions of our new GCI logo and other graphics, and a branding book that, in addition to giving guidelines for using the logo, shares the story of the transformation the Holy Spirit is bringing about in GCI.

[Note: Michelle’s job responsibilities and title will be changing in June when she becomes GCI Media Director.]


In the future, I hope many of you will visit our new Home Office. In the meantime, please continue to pray for us as we settle in and continue to follow the Spirit on the exciting path God has mapped out for us. As we often say in GCI, “Thank you Holy Spirit, we’ll have more, please.”

Blessings to each one of you,
Greg Williams, GCI Vice President

PS: Here is contact information for our new Home Office:
Address: 3120 Whitehall Park Drive, Charlotte, NC 28273
Member and donation services phone: 980-495-3977
Church Administration phone: 980-495-3976

(click on the map to enlarge)

From Greg: Pursue healthy church

Dear pastors of churches and facilitators of fellowship groups,

Greg and Susan Williams

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Though it has been 50 years since his tragic death, Dr. King’s influence for good in the world continues on. That’s how gifted he was in his leadership of the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Gifted leadership is vital in all places, and that includes the church. I’ve had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with several internationally prominent church leaders at conferences. Though I’ve found them to be gifted strategic thinkers, what had impressed me most is the genuine humility they show as devoted servants of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A common theme I’ve heard from several of these leaders is that flourishing churches are led by people with the spiritual gift of leadership. They also frequently note that this leadership is provided by a team of brothers and sisters who prayerfully give their churches vision, strategy and inspiration. Together they see the big picture, then help the other members find meaningful places in the ministry of Jesus Christ in the context of that vision. That they embrace this approach to leadership should come as no surprise—it’s the same one the apostle Paul advocated in the letter he wrote from prison in Rome to the church at Ephesus:

Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift… He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. (Ephesians 4:7b, 11-13, The Message Bible)

“St. Paul in Prison” by Rembrandt
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Our calling as church leaders today is to equip all the members of the church, so that, in harmony with Jesus, we minister together in ways that reflect how the church functioned as it emerged on the Day of Pentecost:

That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved. (Acts 2:41-47, The Message Bible)

The Acts 2 church was a place (environment) where believers exemplified community at the deepest level—caring for one another, listening to each other, praying together. All this activity centered on their communion with the triune God, informed and shaped by the teachings of Jesus, transmitted by his apostles. This church was a powerful example of God’s transforming power, with new members being added daily.

What we see in Acts 2 is a vision for healthy church—one we desire for all our churches and fellowship groups. It’s a vision toward which we want all our pastors and facilitators to lead. Concerning that leadership, while we encourage the utilization of leadership teams within our congregations, it’s important to realize that each team needs a primary leader—a faithful, available, enthusiastic and gifted person who will:

  •  Keep the team focused on mission.
  • Make sure the right people with the right gifts and right talents are in the right positions.
  • Maximize the contribution of each team member.
  • Evenly distribute the load so that morale stays high and burnout stays low.
  •  Facilitate communication so that all team members remain in the information loop.
  • Assess and raise the level of community within the team.

To each of our church pastors and fellowship group facilitators I offer this challenge: Dear brother or sister, will you follow through on your calling to equip, empower and release the saints into the present-day ministry of Jesus through his body, the church? Will you own the leadership charge you have been given to help your members discover and develop their spiritual gifts? Will you then help them find meaningful ways in which those gifts can be deployed so that your congregation is making a difference in the world?

Please know that along with this challenge comes continuing high support from GCI’s Home Office staff and your regional pastor (in the U.S.) or regional or national director (elsewhere). We are committed to resourcing, encouraging and otherwise supporting you as you pursue your important leadership calling within the body of Christ.

May God bless GCI with many healthy, flourishing churches,
Greg Williams, GCI Vice President

PS: For a helpful article from Lifeway Pastors on how to equip your members for their part in Christ’s ministry, click here. For the GCI Prayer Guide for April, click here.

From Greg: Preach with passion

Dear Pastors and Ministry Leaders,

Greg and Susan Williams

This issue of GCI Equipper looks at the craft of preaching. Like many of you reading this, I love to preach—I love the challenge of taking a passage of Scripture and finding ways to share the gospel. I enjoy doing so in ways that make the gospel relevant—showing how God’s Word is alive; helping others grow deeper in their relationship with our Triune God.

As we think about the craft of preaching, it’s important to remember that we are called to preach, not merely teach. Whereas teaching involves imparting knowledge through instruction, preaching involves proclaiming the gospel with passion. As one author put it, preaching is “theology coming through a man who is on fire.” A sermon delivered with passion moves people to action by appealing to hearts as well as informing minds. Sure, some people teach with passion, but that’s not the same as passionate preaching that focuses people’s hearts and minds on Jesus and his gospel—the best topic in the world!

The apostle Paul preaching the gospel in Athens
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

In a graduate homiletics class I took at Liberty University, the professor recommended that lead pastors not be out of their pulpits more than a couple of Sundays a year. Though we don’t have that requirement in GCI, even if you are preaching four out of every five Sundays, that’s 40+ sermons a year! It’s easy to see why it’s important to excel at preaching.

Whether you are a beginner or a veteran preacher, there are several aspects of preaching that this issue of Equipper addresses. I ask that you give them your prayerful attention and make growth in preaching ability one of your primary goals. To help you do so, I encourage you to ask yourself four diagnostic questions:

1) Do I spend adequate time wrestling with the text?
Good preaching flows from meaningful personal study of Holy Scripture. As you interact with the written word of God, ask God to teach you—to make things clearer to you. Doing so will make for much better preaching than merely studying what you perceive your congregants need. Good preachers are first good students of the Bible.

(used with permission, CT cartoons)

2) Do I understand what the text meant to the original audience, and how it applies today?
Hermeneutics is the study of biblical interpretation. In GCI, we begin by looking at Scripture, asking “Who is God?” and “What is he up to?” We then follow the scholarly practice of staying within context as noted in this statement from Focus on the Family:

Perhaps the greatest principle of biblical interpretation is context. The words used are important, as is the context of those words. Whenever seeking to rightly interpret the Bible, make sure you understand the immediate context. What is the passage about? What comes before the passage you are examining? What comes after? Along these lines, not only is immediate context important, but so is the broader context. In other words, given a passage that speaks to a certain topic, what does the Bible as a whole say on the subject? Don’t overlook the immediate context or the broader context.

It’s vital that we accurately present the text. We must avoid proof-texting, which means bending the text to fit our preconceived ideas. When we let God’s word speak for itself, we are using it to its maximum benefit. For more on this point, see Dan Roger’s article in this issue.

3) How is the Holy Spirit leading me through my study, sermon preparation and delivery?
You’ve got your text, you’ve listened to God, you’ve looked at the text asking, “Who is Jesus?” and “What is he up to?” Now ask the Spirit to help you answer this question: What is the best way to preach this text with passion to my congregation? You don’t want to merely convey information—you want to inspire your members, to help them see Jesus more clearly, to help them desire a more intimate relationship with their Savior, to desire to bear his image more clearly, and to participate more fully in what Jesus is doing in their world.

(used with permission, CT cartoons)

4) Who is the hero of my sermon?
Is your sermon focused on Jesus, the true hero of the gospel story? In your sermons, it’s fine to use various illustrations, biblical and historical characters, and personal experiences to achieve this Christ-centered focus, but don’t lose that focus through the use of your “props.”

(used with permission, CT cartoons)

Jesus is the Hero—he, alone, is the answer, the bread of life, the door, the way, the truth, the life, the resurrection. Jesus is the “I AM” that we are to proclaim. So, preach Jesus, and please do so with passion! Keeping these four points in mind will help you do that.

May God fill you with Jesus’ passion for his Word and his people,
Greg Williams