Letter from Joseph Tkach — September 2013

Posted by colin on October 23, 2013 under Pastor General's Monthly Letter | Comments are off for this article

September 1, 2013

 

 

 

September 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As president of Grace Communion International, I don’t like to promote myself. A church’s emphasis should be on the message, not the messengers. So, apart from a standard “head shot,” I don’t encourage our media department to focus on pictures of me.

However, I’ll make an exception this time. When looking for photographs to illustrate a report on our recent International Conference in Florida, one of my colleagues suggested this one. “It reflects the joy you expressed at the conference,” he said. Well, I certainly did reflect joy at that conference, and I’d like to tell you why.

Though Grace Communion International is a relatively small denomination, we truly are international. That means that our leaders around the world get to know each other as people, and not just names in a mission handbook or on a prayer list. Some of those relationships go back many decades. But, like any relationships, they will deteriorate unless we maintain them. So every three years we get together for an international conference. Such a conference helps us to see the big picture of what God is doing through our church. And it was a time of deep and intense emotion for me personally.

Each day at the conference there were plenary sessions with inspiring worship and thought-provoking presentations from GCI leaders and guest speakers, all related to this year’s conference theme: Participation-Fellowship-Communion. My friends and colleagues from all six continents shared their stories, showing what God has been doing as we strive to follow his lead.

We learned that some areas, like Europe and Australia, have become spiritual “stony ground,” where the Christian church faces a challenge to survive. In other parts of the world, we have had explosive growth. Kalengule Kaoma, who serves as our church leader in East and West Africa, told us of whole networks of congregations in Namibia, Tanzania and Burundi that are asking to join us. It looks as if we could be adding dozens of congregations in these countries in the next few years. This has already happened in Mozambique. Tim Maguire, who leads our mission outreach in Southern Africa, told us he has had 96 congregations join us in the last three years!

Statistics can be helpful, but number crunching is not really a reliable way to gauge the health of a church. As Kalengule pointed out in his presentation, real progress is made at the deeply personal and individual level, whether it is in an American inner city or a remote village in Africa or South America. The conference reminded us that one of the greatest assets our denomination has is the relationships we have built with each other over the years. It produces a unique atmosphere.

Like most churches today, we face many challenges, but we are also seeing many successes as God uses us to reach people and transform lives. Our small denomination is living proof that human beings can set their differences aside and work together in harmony, love and mutual respect. During the conference, one of our pastors posted this on his Facebook page: “On earth, I get to know a bit more about heaven all the time in moments like this.” I know how he feels. I get a glimpse of how God sees the world – as a wonderful potential harvest of people he has redeemed, and to whom he intends to share everlasting life. He allows us to share in making this great news known. To have a part in this fills me with a genuine, deep-down joy.

As the renowned Christian writer Henri Nouwen once observed, “When people say of us: ‘See how they love one another,’ they catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.”

I pray that God will continue to work through us as we join together to share in his work. We are all part of something wonderful. As Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth,

The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20The Message)

As I write these words, my friends are beginning to go home to their various responsibilities. God willing, we will meet together again in three years. As we say our temporary “goodbyes,” we remind ourselves that God has given us this new life that will last forever. So there will always be a “next time.” And there will never be a “last time.”

That is why I was filled with joy. I want to share that joy with you, because I want you to know it, too. You are also a part of something wonderful, and your continued generosity allows us to reach into some of the darkest corners of our world, shining a light of hope.Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach President – Grace Communion International

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