Letter from Joseph Tkach — April 2013

Posted by colin on April 5, 2013 under Pastor General's Monthly Letter | Comments are off for this article

April 1, 2013


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As president of Grace Communion International, I am very aware that we, like all Christian churches and organizations, are facing challenging times. The years ahead will need careful management to meet the needs of our congregations and our calling to share the gospel.

Jesus said we should not have anxious thoughts about the future, but he did not mean we should shy away from thinking about it. If we are to be faithful stewards, we must not only manage the day-by-day affairs of the church carefully, but also make wise preparations for tomorrow.

One challenge we face is that our ministry is aging. Some of the men and women who serve our congregations have been doing this for over half a century. Their spirits may still be willing, but we must acknowledge that the flesh is weak. Sooner or later – or I should say sooner than later –we will need a younger generation to take their places. Where will they come from?

When Paul faced a potential leadership shortage in the first-century church, he wrote to Timothy, “the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2). With this in mind, we have developed a Pastoral Internship Program, through which young men and women who aspire to the ministry can receive training and gain experience. I am pleased to tell you that this is bearing fruit.

Recently, in San Diego, California, I helped ordain a young woman into our ministry. Carrie Smith, who is now serving with the pastoral team in Pikeville, Kentucky, represents an encouraging trend among our younger generation. She grew up in our church, and her father is a pastor in Pennsylvania. Carrie wrote to me recently, telling me how she has taken advantage of the opportunities she’s had to prepare for her calling. I find her story very encouraging, and I’d like to share it with you.

Hi Joe,

I am writing to share with you my journey through the Pastoral Internship Program. I heard about the program during a Journey with the Master weekend in 2008, but it wasn’t until 2011 that I felt God calling me to the program. I was asked to meet Generations Ministry director, Anthony Mullins, at the airport. One of the first things he asked me was, “Have you ever thought of joining the Pastoral Internship Program?” I was getting ready to leave for Africa to teach for six months at our GCI school in Blantyre, but Anthony and others encouraged me to apply before I left.

I returned from Blantyre in February last year and moved to San Diego to begin my internship with Mark and Anne Stapleton at Cornerstone church. Mark and Anne proved to be two of the most gracious, servant-hearted people I know, and the time with them was not only a wonderful experience, but it also helped shape and prepare me for future ministry.

As Mark and Anne poured their lives and hearts into me, I saw a lot of personal growth. My public speaking improved each time I gave a sermon, not just because I was getting used to it. Mark and Ann worked with me to figure out what was making me so nervous and helped me to find ways to calm my nerves. They saw abilities in me I had not recognized for myself, and they gave me the space, time and encouragement to develop them. These were big things for me and each achievement was another moment of celebration and encouragement, showing me that this was the right path to take.

After almost a year with Mark and Anne, I’ve entered another part of the internship journey by moving to Pikeville, KY, to join another pastoral team. I was intrigued with the Pikeville congregation when I first heard their story in December. The congregation currently meets in a small university campus and I have a lot of training working with college students. I’m looking forward to seeing what God is going to do here in Pikeville.

I want to close this letter with a hearty “Thank you!” to God and everyone He has put in my life for such a time as this. I know I am at the beginning of some incredible experiences and I am so thankful for the guidance, direction, training and growth, which have come from my participation in the intern program. Many blessings to you, your family and all those who are joining with you as you follow Christ.

Carrie Smith

Another newly ordained elder who took advantage of an internship is Jason Frantz. Jason was an intern in Cincinnati, Ohio, when I first met him. He and his wife Julie grew up in our church and now have three young sons. They started pastoral training in Cincinnati with senior pastor Rick Shallenberger, and then an opportunity came to train in Kansas City, Missouri, with current pastor, Ray Meyer. Ray will retire in June, and Jason will become the pastor of the church. Here is Jason and Julie’s story:

Dear Joe,

Pastoral ministry has been a passion of ours for many years. We knew that our experiences were preparing us for this calling. We have always been passionate for our GCI family and wanted to serve within the denomination, but saw very little, if any opportunity to pursue a pastoral calling within GCI. That was until the Pastoral Internship Program. My wife, Julie, came across information on the GCI web page and we submitted an application. We were accepted into the internship program and began an amazing journey.

We learned how to better care for God’s people and the dynamics of how to participate in ministry as a pastoral family. Our love for our Lord and for the flock grew. The internship program provided a hands-on, face-to-face relational experience with actual pastoral ministry. It provided a venue for confidence to grow in what God is doing. I was able to get my feet wet while having a spiritual mentor, pastoral coach, and friend walk side by side with me. We were truly touched by the personal investment of our sponsor pastor, Rick Shallenberger, and the Christ Fellowship Church congregation. Our entire family has been blessed by the journey.

After completing the internship, we were given the opportunity to step into an associate pastoral position in the Kansas City congregation. While serving in this position, I am so thankful for the time I was able to spend in the internship. Not only do I feel better prepared for pastoral ministry, but I also have a huge support team of peers and mentors, which is priceless.

We are so excited for the future of the program and the opportunity that it gives to so many who are gifted and share a passion in the shepherding of God’s people. The relational aspect of the program is unique and builds a strong support team for new pastors. It is a wonderful example of generational ministry in action. The internship models investment and mentorship for the congregation involved. The lessons and experiences involved are so valuable to both the intern and congregation. We are so thankful for the opportunity, our sponsor pastor, our sponsor congregation, and all of the amazing people who supported us in this journey. Thank you!

Jason and Julie Frantz

I have one more story to share with you. It’s an inspiring example of how God provides a pastor. This story is about our congregation in Hazard, Kentucky, a congregation that does not have a pastor, but has been served by a dedicated team. The congregation is seeing growth, and they celebrated nine baptisms in March. It was evident they needed a pastor, and several were praying that God would provide one. Little did they realize God was way ahead of them and was working with member Mark Beverly. Here is his story:

I became interested in the teachings of Mr. Armstrong and was baptized, but I did not truly know Christ. After a while, I quit attending church and even came to question God’s existence. Then a few years ago, I was challenged through my little granddaughter, Alyssa, when out of the blue she approached me and said, “Poppaw, let’s go to church.” This stirred something inside me to begin searching and asking questions again.

I challenged God by saying, “If you are really there, reveal yourself to me. If you exist, I want to know, and I want to know you personally.” To make a long story short, my family and I ended up where we are today, with a group of believers who have become our family. Now I am coming to truly know God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I believe I’ve always been called to serve others. For most of my adult life people have come to me for advice or for someone to listen and to know someone actually cares. This has led me to a lot of reading (which I love) on the subject of theology (Trinitarian theology in particular). Recently some of our congregation voiced a need for a preaching minister, I agreed to try to fill this position. I have now presented several sermons, and have experienced spiritual growth and fulfillment in serving others in this capacity.

I look forward to helping others who are on the road to discovering who they are in Christ Jesus and to encourage believers to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. Finally, I want to join Jesus Christ in reaching out to let others know they are loved and accepted.

Mark was recently interviewed by District Pastor Rick Shallenberger and will be ordained this month to serve our Hazard congregation.

I share these stories with you in the hope that you will find them as encouraging as I do. We have several other interns working with experienced pastors, and they too will eventually be ready to serve our congregations. Times may change, but Jesus’ instruction to Peter to “take care of my sheep” (John 21:16) must always be a top priority. Thankfully, we have younger men and women who want to rise to that challenge.

None of our interns are “in it for the money,” but they do need financial support. Your ongoing general contributions to GCI make it possible for us to pay them a small stipend while they are training and to further the gospel in so many other wonderful ways that I share with you in these letters. On behalf of the interns and all the other people blessed to learn about Jesus through your generous support, I sincerely thank you for joining us in mission as we prepare to share the gospel with the next generation!Your Brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach

President – Grace Communion International


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