Letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach – June 2014

Posted by colin on June 6, 2014 under Pastor General's Monthly Letter | Comments are off for this article

Letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach


Grace Communion International - Living and Sharing the Gospel

June 2014

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In Deuteronomy 34, Moses had a “mountain top” moment where God gave him the chance to look out over the promised land. After being chosen to lead the Israelites out of slavery and through the desert, he was able to see the fulfillment of God’s promise. Though the journey was long and difficult, Moses lived to see, from afar, the good gifts God had in store for the Israelites.

As a denomination, we too have been on a journey, one that has often been difficult. We’ve survived doctrinal growing pains, a depletion of our numbers in the United States and various other challenges along the way. Day after day in the desert, the Israelites had to depend on God’s faithfulness to lead them in the right direction. They moved forward in faith, toward a future not yet seen, and trusted that God would not forsake his people or his promises. This has been true of GCI as well.

Now we are at a place where we can look forward in confidence and joy. Our numbers are not in decline any longer – in fact, we have seen astonishing growth and renewal in our denomination in many parts of the world. We have always been international, but this has been a season of significant growth overseas. It brings me real joy to know that the demographics of GCI are coming to represent the diversity of the worldwide body of Christ. We are not a denomination with one language, one culture, one country, or a limited view of the church. Instead, we reflect a mosaic of different cultures, languages, and backgrounds, as we remain united in the good news of the gospel.

Because of our growing diversity, we at GCI want to remain open to how the Holy Spirit wants to use us in ministry. The gospel of Christ is meant for all people, and we have sought to embody that invitation. We are grateful for the diversity of our members and the wide variety of GCI’s ministries the world over. Let me give you some examples of what I mean.

The missions director for South Africa, Tim Maguire, is also working to meet needs in neighboring Mozambique. One of the unique ways he and others there are reaching out is by teaching communities to dig wells, giving them the tools they need to access clean drinking water. He also fosters relationships in these communities allowing him to spread the gospel message. When language presents a barrier, he uses a translation app on his smart phone to help him communicate as he meets this immediate and desperate need for clean water throughout rural communities.

In Western and Central Africa, there are whole congregations of Christians who lack leadership and desire theological guidance – they’ve found GCI online, and in turn have been put in contact with Kalengule Kaoma, a native Zambian and the GCI missions director for the region. This desire is so strong that a full one-sixth of our denomination’s fellowship is now made up of congregations within Africa! I praise God for this global growth and renewal, which has been made possible by being open to new ways of connecting. I can truly see God at work in Africa and in leaders like Kalengule and Tim.

We at GCI don’t believe that the only model of missions is one where Western missionaries bring the gospel to unreached parts of the earth. Instead, within our denomination right now we have missionaries who are breaking the traditional mold. For example, Angie and Saddie Tabin came from the Philippines to Los Angeles, California in order to minister and reach out to Filipinos who have immigrated to the city. They have now planted a vibrant Filipino congregation as a result. We also have a family from Africa planting churches in Holland! Exciting ministries like these reflect the unique ways GCI is being called to meet cultural needs.

Another wonderful area of growth beginning for GCI is in Spanish-language churches across the American West and Southwest, spearheaded by leaders like Heber Ticas and Lorenzo Arroyo, as well as in Mexico and down to Guatemala, where pastors Nathanael Cruz and Alfredo Mercado are organizing conferences and connections across borders. I am thrilled that GCI is involved in meeting the thirst for the gospel in these communities – and not only because of how much I love the food! GCI remains faithful to spreading the gospel of Jesus, but does so in diverse ways. It seems to me that this creativity and diversity accurately reflects Jesus’ good news for the whole world.

I want us to take a moment to look ahead just like Moses did. We have come a long way as a denomination, and we know that God has led us on this journey. The promised land was beyond what Moses or the Israelites could ever have imagined after generations of hardship. I trust that God wants to give us “beyond what we could ask or imagine” as well! My prayer is that we will continue to trust in God’s promise that he will complete the work he has begun as we move into the future and that we continue to seek the guidance of his Spirit.

When I look ahead, I feel confident and hopeful. Not in myself, or even in the good work of GCI – I feel hopeful because I know that each of us has already been liberated by the message of the gospel. Jesus has completed and continues his work of salvation for us and in us. The Bible assures us that we have been brought out of bondage, and are now co-heirs with Christ in his kingdom. Because of what Jesus has already done for us, we are now invited to participate in his ministry. And GCI is doing just that: participating in God’s kingdom, following where he leads.

We have been led by God thus far in our journey as a denomination. I know that we are empowered by God to live missionally, and as you can see there are many vibrant and good ways this is happening. I ask you to pray for GCI as we continue to follow the truth of Christ and to listen to the guidance of his Spirit as he leads us into a future more wonderful than we can imagine. The future fills me with joy, a joy that both you and I can delight in. As you can see, your donations to the denomination help serve across our ministries in many places and in many ways, and together we are helping others look to Christ and see who he is and how he works in and through his body.

With joy and hope in Jesus’ name,

Joseph Tkach
President – Grace Communion International

Letter from Dr Joseph Tkach – May 2014

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

Letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach


Grace Communion International - Living and Sharing the Gospel

May 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I’d love to share a story with you about a man you’ve never heard of, but whose life has had a lasting impact on GCI. His name is Joseph Dulaney. We remember him because of a decision he made a long time ago – one that has continued to bear more and more fruit for God’s kingdom.

Photo of Joseph Dulaney

Mr. Dulaney was the son and grandson of doctors and became a pharmacist himself, carrying on his family’s medical profession, dedicated to those around him. When he was still a young man, his father passed away and left him an interest in some land. It wasn’t especially valuable, but one day that all changed. Oil was discovered on that property, and suddenly Mr. Dulaney was a wealthy man. His good fortune didn’t alter his values, however; although he retired from the pharmacy, he spent the rest of his life as a philanthropist, managing his wealth to help those around him. For example, he donated the land across the street from his house for a public library and is remembered to this day as a pillar of his town in McKinney, Texas.

How does this relate to GCI, you ask? That story began 48 years ago, when he had an attorney help him draw up documents that directed his trustee, a financial institution, to donate approximately 4% of his trust assets to our denomination every year. Mr. Dulaney was a faithful churchgoer, and he knew he wanted to participate in the work of the gospel here on earth – even after he had passed on. This gift was modest to begin with, but it grew over time and has gone on to bless others more than Mr. Dulaney could have ever imagined.

Scripture reminds us that the future is uncertain. Given the demands of the present, whether in times of abundance or of need, it can be hard to think about the future. I know for myself how easy it is to get caught up in the needs of the moment. When the roof is leaking or the car is making strange noises, I don’t always have the future on my mind! We can sometimes forget to plan ahead, beyond what we can see. But God asks us to be eternity-minded – to look in hope beyond the pressures of the present. So Paul instructs Timothy to teach his congregation ” to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (1 Timothy 6:18-19 NASB).

A powerful example of such far-sighted faithfulness is that of another Joseph – Joseph in Egypt. Joseph was given prophetic insight by God that after seven years of plenty, the known world would be struck by seven years of famine (Genesis 41:28-32). Joseph advised Pharaoh to “look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt” to prepare for the lean years in a time of prosperity (Genesis 41:33). Ultimately, Pharaoh chose Joseph to oversee the reserve of a fifth of the nation’s harvest each year to prepare for the challenges ahead.

Joseph’s faithful dedication of resources to the future had an impact that even he couldn’t anticipate. The famine affected the surrounding nations as well, including Joseph’s father and brothers. Though his brothers had sold him into slavery, God used Joseph’s position in Egypt to save their whole family. Joseph tells his brothers in joy, “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7).

We have no idea how God will use our present faithfulness to bless future generations. Joseph’s wisdom in light of God’s revelation saved countless lives and allowed for the story of God’s chosen people to continue. Just like Joseph in Egypt, Mr. Dulaney was given responsibility by God and managed his wealth wisely for an unknown future. And, as we give, looking forward in hope, we too can step out, believing that God will use what we offer for the good of the church and the world.

The most recent check from Mr. Dulaney’s trust arrived last month. I marvel that these annual payments, which started at only a few thousand dollars, have grown to approximately a quarter of a million dollars. This endowment, set up long ago by someone who believed he could make a difference for the future, has grown greatly over the years and has had untold impact here at GCI.

Mr. Dulaney made a faithful commitment 48 years ago. That investment has continued to grow, and has made possible numerous opportunities for ministry. As soldiers fought in Vietnam, as the Berlin wall fell and as human beings first walked on the moon, Mr. Dulaney’s gift grew and bore fruit. As the gospel work continues on a global scale, I know such a gift will continue to bless future generations as well.

Because of this gift, and ongoing gifts like it, we have been able to sponsor countless summer camps, plant churches around the world and minister effectively in our own local congregations. I hope this story reminds you of the need for a will or a more comprehensive estate plan.  If you choose to make GCI a beneficiary in some way, you can rest assured that your ongoing gift, like Mr. Dulaney’s, will have a lasting impact for the kingdom of God. By planning ahead, you can make provisions for your loved ones, as well as your future participation in the work of this fellowship. If you have questions about ways to give to GCI, please feel free to contact our treasurer, Mat Morgan, at 1-800-423-4444.

I am immensely humbled and grateful when I think of all those who give so selflessly, like Mr. Dulaney and like each of you. We here at GCI take seriously the task of utilizing these gifts in eternity-minded ways, and we know that God blesses this investment in his kingdom.

With love, in Jesus’ name,

Joseph Tkach
President – Grace Communion International

Letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach – April 2014

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


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, One day a reporter heard a story about an old Jewish man who had been going to the Western Wall to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time. So the reporter and a team went to check it out and there he was!

Letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach



Grace Communion International - Living and Sharing the Gospel

April 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Every day, I marvel at how God invites us to participate in his ministry. As president of Grace Communion International, I am blessed to hear about the many wonderful ways God is working through our denomination. He is especially making an impact through the youth of GCI. We have a powerful generation rising up today, one that is making a true difference in the world and in our church.

As I look at the changing face of the church body, I feel a great sense of gratitude. These young people are a vibrant and diverse mosaic from a wide variety of backgrounds, nationalities, and cultures – but they are united in their commitment to live a mission-centered life for Christ.

These young people are known for their desire to have a measurable impact for good in the world. As part of an older generation myself, I feel encouraged when I see the shifting dynamic of our denomination. These emerging leaders have been equipped and empowered by GCI’s ministries, especially through our camps for elementary, middle school, and high schoolers. They have been enriched by “mountain-top experiences,” which have powerfully reminded them of God’s love. They return to the larger world energized and ready to give to others from what they have received.

This new generation of leaders remind me so much of Christ’s first disciples, who also had their own mountain top experience, standing with the resurrected Jesus before his ascension to the Father. The Gospel of Luke records that Christ “lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51).

I sometimes wonder whether the disciples were tempted to linger there at that place where they had been so close to their Savior. I even wonder if they might have wanted to stay and build a place to worship, as Peter wanted to do at the transfiguration, which was an earlier mountain-top experience  (Luke 9:33). It would certainly have been easier to stay on the mountain and continue worshipping with only close friends and fellow believers than to face the harsh realities to come.

But these disciples knew that they were meant for more than a mountain-top experience. They knew that their risen Savior did not want them to keep the good news to themselves. Before Jesus ascended, he told his disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The disciples had a mission – beginning close to home and extending to the whole world. And that mission continues today.

The young leaders in our denomination know that they too are called to minister where God has placed them – and they are doing so in a wide variety of ways. Daniel Leon, a college-aged member of our denomination in Eagle Rock, California, is investing his time and energy to support sustainable farming by providing local communities with much-needed equipment. Michelle Fleming and Ish Beloso have partnered with their local congregation to form a coffee shop ministry in Orlando, Florida that reaches out to those who might not set foot in a conventional church. And in the troubled city of Juarez, Mexico, the youngest member of her congregation, Naoko Gonzalez, has started a magazine for believers in her community.

Remember, our world was changed by a small number of faithful disciples. And these, and others, are continuing the work that Christ began so long ago. Jesus came as the Savior of all nations, and commanded his church to take this good news of inclusion to the whole world. It is vitally important for an older generation of the faithful to come alongside and support young believers, so that they too may be empowered to make a lasting impact. Through intergenerational support and connection within GCI and its ministries, Christians of all ages and backgrounds can give from what they have received and follow the light of Christ.

As we look toward summer, and our 2014 Summer Camps season, we also look toward the future of our denomination. I am truly delighted to know that the ongoing work of the gospel is being carried forward by a wave of energetic and creative young leaders, eager to exert positive influence for God’s kingdom. We know that the leaders of tomorrow are being trained today, and we are deeply grateful that our legacy generations are contributing to that momentum through mentorship, ministry, prayerful and financial support. Whether it be a college student returning to volunteer at a camp where he turned to Christ for the first time, or the financial gift of a grandmother with her grandchildren in mind, we know that the community of believers is made strong when each generation gives to the next, especially for the growth of God’s family. This attribute of inter-generational relationships continues to be a treasured hallmark of GCI.

Thank you for your faithful financial support. Your generosity allows us to share the good news of the gospel and equip a new generation of leaders to continue the important work that Jesus first gave to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20.

With love in Jesus’ name,

Joseph Tkach
President – Grace Communion International

Monthly Letter from Dr Tkach — February 2014

Posted by colin on February 7, 2014 under Pastor General's Monthly Letter | Comments are off for this article

February 1, 2014
Letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach  

Grace Communion International - Living and Sharing the Gospel


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

There are so many areas that God continues to shape within our organization, bringing changes we could have never imagined. He has guided important decisions that have helped bridge us to the future role we play in his ministry. I’d like to share a story about one of those areas.

Four years ago it became clear that we needed to redefine our system for training new pastors. Dan Rogers, our Director for Church Administration & Development in the United States, asked Greg Williams to coordinate the building of such a program. Knowing we would need to design and grow an effective program from the ground up, Greg spent a lot of time reading about intern programs, studying how other churches develop pastors, and interviewing people interested in becoming a part of this new program.

Developing the GCI Internship Program has allowed our team to evaluate the role of pastor and help to prepare a new generation of leaders who can shepherd our congregations in the coming decades.

First group of GCI interns (From left to right) Skylar Lewkowicz, Hillary Irusta, and Jason Frantz 

You may be aware of the first group of interns who came through the program from my previous letters. One of those graduates now fills a role as senior pastor in Kansas City, Missouri. Another serves as an associate pastor in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the third is working with Youth for Christ in Oregon. I’m delighted to see that there is a new wave of interns now completing the program and taking on responsibilities in our congregations.

As we participate in the work of the gospel, developing new leaders and pastors is a central component. They not only step into leadership roles as existing leaders move on, they also bring fresh ideas and contact with new communities. This is an important model for our family of churches, as it is for all churches.

Someone who knows the importance of this idea is Jeff McSwain. Jeff is the founder of Reality Ministries, an established outreach in Duram, North Carolina. He has a successful track record for developing young leaders throughout his ministry. You may already know him from our You’re Included video interview series on the GCI website. As he has built a successful ministry that will now continue to make an impact, he now starts as the developer and coordinator of our internship program. He will join Greg and others in the ongoing effort to recruit quality candidates into the program as well.

Dan Rogers and Greg Williams lay hands on Jeff McSwain during his ordination. 

We just finished a formal intern orientation with the addition of Jeff. One of the highlights was his ordination on Sunday, January 5. The ministry work that Jeff has been doing is an extension of the person God made him to be, and we’re glad to have him with us.

We want the interns to know we are soldidly behind them and that we will actively coach them through these two years of training. We are here to help! This isn’t something that should be done alone, especially within the body of Christ.

As Greg emphasized at the orientation, “This is not meant to be an assembly-line program that produces pastors. We want these young leaders to see God’s call on their life so that they can be who God is calling them to be – not just to fill our needs.” Our desire is to offer a program that seeks to meet the needs of those in training while also providing multiple opportunities. He then shared that our previous graduates have shown a desire to start new faith communities, and some want to move into planting churches. “We won’t be surprised to see up to 50 percent of our interns desiring to go into church planting.”

I’m sure by now that you can gather my enthusiasm for the growth of our GCI Intern Program. Such a program sees growth only as God blesses it. We pray that God enables us to add new interns this fall. We’ve already experienced success, and we are confident the program will continue to provide qualified pastors and church planters well into the future. Please join me in praising God for this program and asking him to provide us with qualified applicants.

Thank you for your continued prayers and financial support, which make this and our many other ministries possible. Together we are ensuring that Grace Communion International will continue to lead others to experience God’s grace and glory as we live and share the gospel.Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach President – Grace Communion International

Monthly Letter from Dr Joseph Tkach — January 2014

Posted by colin on January 3, 2014 under Pastor General's Monthly Letter | Comments are off for this article

January 1, 2014


Letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach  

Grace Communion International - Living and Sharing the Gospel


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

One day a reporter heard a story about an old Jewish man who had been going to the Western Wall to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time. So the reporter and a team went to check it out and there he was!

They watched the man pray, and after about 45 minutes when he turned to leave, they approached him for an interview.

The Western Wall in Jerusalem

The Western Wall in Jerusalem

“I’m reporting for CNN. Sir, how long have you been coming to the Wall and praying?”

“For about 60 years.”

“60 years! That’s amazing! What do you pray for?”

“I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims. I pray for all the hatred to stop and I pray for all our children to grow up in safety and friendship.”

“How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?”

“Like I’m talking to a wall.”

His response often brings a chuckle, but it can also make one think. The hopelessness of the old man’s prayer should not be misinterpreted. What he prays for will become a reality–not in his time, but in God’s perfect time. This illustration brings to mind what Israel must have thought as Jeremiah was sharing God’s words with them. They had been taken into captivity and were praying for God to release them so they could return home. In Jeremiah 29:5-6 we find the prophet telling the captives to “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.” Then Jeremiah writes, “This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (verses 10-11).

God may not answer our prayers in our time, but this is not a reason to stop praying. Rather, we can learn some insights about prayer from the very words used in the Old Testament. For example, the Hebrew word for prayer is tefillah. The word from which tefillah is derived isl’hitpalel which means “to judge oneself.” It is interesting that the nature of prayer is meant to be introspective. When we pray in such a way, we open ourselves up to reflect on the God’ ways and how he has been working in our lives. Prayer is supposed to help increase our alertness and appreciation for what God is doing with us. If you only pray when you feel inspired (that is, when you are already aware of God), you may not increase your awareness of God.

We all recognize there are different kinds of prayers, such as prayers of petition, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of confession and prayers of blessing. The Jews refer to a berakhah(blessing) as a special kind of prayer. Even if Hebrew is a totally foreign language to you, this kind of prayer is easy to spot because each thought starts with the word barukh (blessed or praised). Barukh is not a verb describing how we bless God; rather it is an adjective describing God as the source of all blessings. In other words, it is an expression of wonderment about how magnificently good God is. In English we might start a prayer with something like, “Blessed are you, Lord, King of all creation.”

When we openly attribute to God being the source of our blessings, we acknowledge who God is and who he is in relation to us. He is the Lord of all and the King of all creation; you and I are part of his creation. We are blessed because of who he is and who we are in that relationship!

So even if we’ve been praying at the Western Wall for 60 years or we are praying for relief from something that is holding us captive, we can acknowledge our trust in God who does work all things out wisely according to his plan and his purpose.

When I look back over the past few years, I confess things haven’t always gone the way I wanted them to go. But I praise God with prayers of blessings that he is always faithful. He’s opened doors I would not have imagined opened; he’s brought churches and people to join with us that I could not have dreamed possible, and he is moving us forward in ways that are beyond my ability to plan. My prayer for 2014 is that even though we may not get what we want, we praise God that his plan will be accomplished – and even more that his plan will work out for eternity.

I invite you to join us in our exciting future as God continues to guide us in sharing his good news with others and I thank you for your faithfulness in prayer and your continued financial support as we follow God’s lead. Together we are helping others increase their awareness of God in their lives.

Yours in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach President – Grace Communion International

Letter from Joseph Tkach — December 2013

Posted by colin on December 6, 2013 under Pastor General's Monthly Letter | Comments are off for this article

December 1, 2013
Letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach  


Grace Communion International - Living and Sharing the Gospel


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Christmas season is here again, and you know what that means: Christmas cards! Sending out letters of encouragement to my friends around the world is one of the best perks of being denominational president. But it doesn’t compare to the joy I experience when I read the letters and cards that you send me here from around the world. Whether these come in the form of a handwritten letter or an email, I am always encouraged by seeing how God is using our denomination. It makes me feel like we are drawing closer to a time when, as Isaiah wrote, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). I like that image and I think it speaks to where we are as a denomination. Let me explain.

When we think about Isaiah’s imagery, we could envision it as a great revival where people seeking God will be like an ocean reaching from horizon to horizon. We like this type of dynamic image and pray for such dramatic success. But that is not the only way the “waters cover the sea.” Have you ever stood by the shore and watched the tide come in? The water level rises slowly, but relentlessly, covering the beach, filling in tide pools, and reclaiming its territory. I think this second image reflects how I have seen God begin working within our denomination. We are a culturally diverse group with a myriad of ethnic viewpoints. But what unites us is our need for the grace of Christ and our love of that communion. We may only be a trickle, but our movement toward Christ is as relentless as the incoming tide.

In this letter, I would like to share with you some of the ways we are moving closer to Christ and spreading the good news around the world. First, I will relay a message from Papua New Guinea. Then, I would like to highlight our efforts in Haiti. And finally, I want to tell you about what we are doing here in the United States. I think you will find these letters as exciting as I have.

Rod Mathews supervises our work in South East Asia and the Pacific. He recently told me about a dangerous trek he made with Mark Latham to visit some of our congregations in the Mount Wilhelm region of Papua New Guinea. For those of you who don’t know, Mount Wilhelm is one of the most inaccessible regions in the world. But even so, God has blessed our largest congregation in that region with nearly 200 regular attendees. This gathering is even having a significant impact on the nearby communities and continues to grow. Rod writes:

Getting to Mt. Wilhelm is no easy trip. The Highlands Highway from Goroka to Kundiawa starts well enough with a sealed surface, but progressively deteriorates to large stretches of mud, gravel and rocks. After two and half hours we pulled into the provincial town of Kundiawa, which reminded us of a frontier town from a western movie. Here, we had to purchase a range of hardware and equipment needed for the construction of the church’s community activity building.

We piled into a 4-wheel drive pickup for the final 2½-hour drive up into the mountains. It rained off and on almost all the way. The passengers in the back crouched under a tarpaulin and hung on, laughing at the “hardship.” It was normal for them.

As we climbed upwards, hugging the side of steep valleys, we crossed a few cascading rivers on old military–built Bailey bridges. The vehicle bounced over the rocks and slithered through the mud, and somehow no one on the back fell off. Late in the afternoon we arrived at Keglsugl, where we were to stay at a guesthouse owned and run by members, Arnold and Josephine. It was still raining lightly. And at over 8,000 ft. altitude, it was now cold, but the welcome made up for it in every way. No church visitor could forget it.

On the day of our official welcome, a group of cultural dancers (left) led us onto the church property through a corridor of children, ladies and men, before everyone assembled in front of the buildings for the formal speeches. The children sang and the ladies’ choir presented a welcome song. I felt like I had always known these wonderful people. The grand church service two days later was a celebration of unity in Christ. It lasted over 3½ hours, with hymns, a special worship presentation of music and dancing.

On the day prior to our departure, the church came together again in the dining room of the guesthouse for a special church service where the Lord’s Supper was celebrated prior to a mumu – a traditional meal cooked in an earth oven with hot stones. There was excess food for everyone, including anyone from the local community who wished to come.

While these members are remote, I marveled at how the Holy Spirit connects us all and works in our lives in special ways. We were so privileged to become attached to one another in the Body of Christ through our international fellowship.

I also have some encouraging news from the other side of the world. Haiti is by far the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. Our small church there owns and operates a school in the capital, Port au Prince, although keeping it open and functioning is an ongoing challenge. Our pastor in Haiti, Joseph Franklin, wrote to me about the latest progress:

Let’s thank and praise God for His gracious ministry to the Haitians! Our school is finally open for the 2013-2014 academic year, after a delay of one month and many difficulties. We have 132 children – 105 in preschool and 27 in primary. We are still expecting about 75 more children.

After services on Sunday, November 3rd, we discussed an important plan the members proposed some time ago – to launch a project on the church’s property at Ganthier, near the Dominican border. The plan is to develop a farm that raises chickens and turkeys. I have grown a dozen young coconut trees, which I offered them to start with.

Opening a small school that offers basic education, or providing a dozen homegrown coconut trees to start a plantation may not seem like great progress. But we should never underestimate the impact these things can have for people who live in poverty. They are life-changing material evidence of the even greater spiritual blessings that come from having a relationship with God.

One of the great blessings we have is that our denomination is truly worldwide. We who live in rich nations can develop partnerships with congregations in poorer parts of the world. For example, our congregation in Indianapolis has coordinated a program that donated dozens of bicycles for our pastors in Mozambique, a place where we have had a surge of growth in recent years. Now Pastor David Perry tells me his congregation is cooperating with our South African churches to establish some chicken farms in the African nation of Namibia. A few chickens and a small vegetable garden can help lift a family out of poverty. I am very thankful for congregations like Indianapolis, whose vision extends far beyond their geographical and cultural borders, and helps us reach the uttermost parts of the earth.

Of course, all the need is not overseas. Many of our churches are quietly getting on with helping the poor and needy in the United States as well. The Book of Proverbs advises us to “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth” (Proverbs 27:2). So it was good to read this story the local paper published about our congregation in Kenockee, Wisconsin.

It’s hard to imagine a congregation tinier than the 25 or so members of In His Grace Community Church at 8950 Lapeer Road. But don’t let the size fool you. With the help of their neighbors, members of the church are making sure people who are hungry receive the food they need. The church had a food giveaway on Oct. 19.

“We know the need is there,” said Pastor Grant Forysth. “There still are a great number of people who, due to the economy, are not making it. We are trying to, in any little way we can, help people make it.”

He said 161 families signed up for the latest food giveaway, which represented 516 people. The food comes on a truck from the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. “We try to do two a year,” Forsyth said.

We may be a small denomination, with limited resources, but God has allowed us to have an impact in so many different places. As Rod Matthews wrote to me recently, “The scope of the work of the Holy Spirit is not seen by just looking nearby. Nor is the significance or nature of our international fellowship measured by what we see locally. We are indeed a communion brought together by the remarkable grace of God that girdles the globe; a microcosm of the ultimate fullness of the kingdom of God.”

Thank you, my friends, for helping make this possible. It is because of your help that we can continue to play our part in making the desperately needed truth of the gospel known in so many places. And we can be confident that eventually, what may seem like a trickle will become a mighty flood, and all the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as surely as the waters cover the sea.

May your Christmas be blessed and joyful!

With love, in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach President – Grace Communion International

Monthly Letter from Joseph Tkach — November 2013

Posted by colin on November 20, 2013 under Pastor General's Monthly Letter | Comments are off for this article

November 1, 2013


Letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach  

Grace Communion International - Living and Sharing the Gospel


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,With Thanksgiving Day approaching, I feel that it is important for me to take a moment and say, “Thank you!” Your faithful generosity has continued to touch us here at GCI. We also know that Jesus was touched by hearing words of appreciation. In Luke’s account of the life and ministry of Christ, he tells us of an encounter with ten lepers. I’d like to explore that incident with you. It has some encouraging lessons for all of us who have made giving and sharing a part of our lives.

We find the story in Luke 17, beginning in verse 11: “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’”

Today, leprosy, or Hansen’s disease as it is now called, can be easily treated. But in Jesus’ day, it was a lingering death sentence. Lepers were outcasts, forced to live on the fringes of society. They were dependent on charity for their every need. These tragic men did not ask Jesus to heal them – but just to have pity. They were asking for any assistance he could give. Jesus did more than give pity. “When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14).

In the rare case of someone recovering from leprosy, it was necessary for him or her to be pronounced “clean” by a priest. So, although perhaps somewhat puzzled, the ten lepers did as Jesus had told them. On the way, they were healed. We don’t know what happened next to most of these people. However, Luke tells us that “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well’” (Luke 17:15-19).

Another translation reads: “Your faith has made you whole,” showing that the leper who turned back to thank Jesus received more than just a physical cure. Just like then, people still turn to God for help when in need. Heaven is deluged with prayers – for healing, for peace, for good weather at a picnic, for a parking spot on a crowded street, as well as for one’s favorite football team to win. While those prayers may be asked in faith and sincerity, for some, that is as far as it goes – until the next time they face a desperate situation.

Sadly, there is not much of a relationship when people view God like a bank’s ATM machine. They expect it to give them what they want, when they want it. Like the nine lepers, they don’t intentionally take God’s blessing for granted, but that is what it amounts to. And as a result, no deeper relationship is developed.

That is what made the tenth leper so unusual. He went back to Jesus and thanked him. The Greek word translated “thanked” in verse 16 is eucharisteo. It implies more than just being aware that we received something we wanted – it implies personal appreciation. The giving of a gift, and the gratitude that comes in response, helps strengthen personal relationships.

Because God is love, he loves to bless us, even if it only results in a fleeting “ATM-like” relationship. But what he really is looking for is an ongoing relationship based on more than just getting an occasional prayer answered. He offers us a “communion” of working together in a close, loving relationship that will last for eternity. It is interesting that the word “Eucharist” (the sacrament which symbolizes our relationship with God and each other) is derived from this Greek word Luke used to describe how the leper who came back thanked Jesus.

Have we ever thought of ourselves as being like that leper who came back? While he may not have understood exactly who Jesus was, he felt the need to return and give thanks. Jesus told him that his faith had not only led to his leprosy being cured, but had also made him “whole” or complete.

Our resurrected Savior is still at work, bringing the human race to the understanding of all God has intended for them, so they may become “whole.” He makes that knowledge known through human instruments and their resources. The world we live in today is hurting, and so many are like those outcast lepers, pleading with God to have mercy on them.

As we minister with Jesus, I thank you for becoming who God created you to be and for yielding to the lead of the Holy Spirit. Many of you have expressed to me personally how grateful you are for God’s transforming our denomination from top to bottom. I thank you for your friendship, and for partnering with us in order to further the ministry he has given us. It is joyful to be counted among the thankful ones!

In closing, I would like to remind you of one of my favorite verses from Colossians: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:15-17,  ESV).

Thank you, my dear friends and coworkers, for being so willing to lend a helping hand.

Sincerely, in Christ’s service,




Joseph Tkach President – Grace Communion International

Letter from Joseph Tkach — October 2013

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

October 1, 2013
Letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach  

Grace Communion International - Living and Sharing the Gospel


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last month I shared with you the joy I felt at our international conference. In that letter I said our denomination is living proof that human beings can set their differences aside and work together in harmony, love, and mutual respect. I want to add one more thing to that list: mission.

GenMinDuring the conference our Generations Ministry team held a separate track for about 90 students and young adults. They discussed various life issues during morning devotions. They spent time worshipping together, building relationships and putting our mission statement into practice by serving at a local food bank. Within a few hours our young adult team had cleaned shelves and refrigerators, organized food and other items, washed windows, painted trim, stair rails and posts, and cleaned the area outside the food bank. One young man said the only reason he went to the conference was because he saw that the group had plans to serve in the community.

I am often inspired by the younger generation’s passion for serving others. This generation seems focused on making a difference for the kingdom. As a result many of our camps now have outreach projects and provide opportunities for campers to make a positive impact for Christ. They are a great example for all of us at GCI.

Even the young children of our congregations are getting involved. In Cincinnati, children collect funds for Les Ambassadeurs, GCI’s school in Port au Prince, Haiti. Over the past six years they have already raised more than $10,000. They call it Small Change for a Small Change. Each week after collecting from the congregation, they also pray for the children of Haiti. I can only imagine the impact this is going to have on their lives long term.

It warms my heart when I hear our young believers say that they want to make a difference. It tells me our mission statement: “Living and Sharing the Gospel” is more than a slogan to them. They love showing that God’s way of life is more than theology or a good worship session. God’s way of life is reaching out to others in mission. And when I say mission, it can be as simple as seeing the people right around us who have needs and reaching out to them, helping them. I’m talking about getting involved in the local community and letting others know we are there to help.

Carolyn's CupboardIt also thrills me to see a growing number of our congregations enthusiastically finding ways to live and share the gospel. For example, Abundant Grace Fellowship, our GCI congregation in Rochester, New York, runs a food pantry. The members went to the local community leaders and asked what was needed in their community. The food pantry mission emerged from those discussions.

To hear more of the story, check out the video about Carolyn’s Cupboard athttp://www.gci.org/av/carolyns

Other congregations also run food banks; some serve the homeless, some mentor and tutor children. Others find ways to serve widows, orphans, single parents, and special needs children in their communities. There are so many ways that our churches are actively making a difference. I wish I had room in this letter to share what every congregation is doing.

I am encouraged because these are signs of a group of Christians who are confident in their faith, which is the result of being confident of who they are in Christ. When we are secure in our identity in Christ, our focus is much more outward than inward.

We love others because we know we are loved and we can stop seeking affirmation of that love. Rather, we affirm God’s love to others. We reach out to others because we know Christ reached out to us and gathered us together, and his desire is that all are gathered in. We serve others because we know how much we’ve been given and we want others to see what Christ has given them. We seek mission opportunities because we know we are participating in what God is doing, and he is doing it with us and through us.

We live and share the gospel through mission because we know that our actions often speak louder than our words. If we want to share the love of God with others, it begins by being the light on a hill Jesus spoke about in Matthew 5. Making a difference for the kingdom through mission is one of the best ways we can share God’s grace with others.

Living and sharing the gospel should include reaching out and serving others in a variety of ways. But it also involves teaching and helping others come to know Christ and his love and mercy. You are making this possible, and I want to thank you. Together we are helping others look to Christ and see who he is and how he works in and through his body.

Yours in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach President – Grace Communion International

Letter from Joseph Tkach — September 2013

Posted by colin on 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

Letter from Joseph Tkach — August 2013

Posted by colin on August 9, 2013 under Pastor General's Monthly Letter | Comments are off for this article


August 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I admit to being somewhat of a techno junkie in that it seems I live on my computer, I use my smartphone several times a day and I am on the Internet constantly looking things up – researching ideas and reading the news.

I am fascinated by the idea behind much of the technology of cell phones, email and the Internet. That idea, of course, was to find better ways for people to connect with each other. There are several social media sites designed specifically to connect people with old friends from school, extended family members and/or to find someone to spend the rest of your life with. Some even brag about the hundreds of friends they have on Facebook or other social media sites.

While the idea is intriguing, the reality is much different. Most of us have seen groups of teenagers, couples or even families sitting in a restaurant, playing with electronic devices and not talking. We often see people walking and paying more attention to their cell phones rather than their surroundings.

Technology that is designed to connect us and bring us closer can often distract us from developing real relationships. Cell phones, which were originally designed to help people reach friends, family and business associates more easily, have now become smartphones. They can be used for watching movies, playing games, searching the Internet, listening to music, viewing pictures and updating social media sites in addition to making phone calls. Employers often complain about how much time their employees spend on the Internet rather than working. All this available technology can easily distract us from developing deep and real connections with each other and with God, but that certainly doesn’t make technology bad.

Technology is here to stay, so we’ve made it our goal to use it effectively. One way is through our website (www.gci.org). Our efforts through this online resource strive to connect people to God and to each other, and it appears to be working quite well. At this very moment, while you’re reading this sentence, we have more than 35 people accessing our website. Over 125,000 people use it each month!

In the US, we recently hired Dustin Lampe, a new pastor who became interested in joining GCI after visiting our website, reading articles, listening to interviews and researching our theology. Dustin, who now serves as Associate Pastor in Cincinnati, Ohio, attended Friends Seminary in Kansas and graduated with a master’s degree last December. His professors often used our “You’re Included” video interviews from our website as teaching tools. Dustin says he spent a lot of time on our website and through that, he became very excited about Trinitarian theology and what the church was doing because of it. He dreamed of serving as one of our pastors, and that dream has now become a reality.

Internationally, the story is even more exciting. A pastor in Myanmar (Burma) recently wrote asking to join GCI. “We have learned about your church and ministries, and so we are very, very interested in it. We humbly request to affiliate with your church and work together in Myanmar.” A ministry couple in Croatia has sent us a similar request and we are looking forward to seeing how this relationship will develop.

In Guyana, our Speaking of Life video series has been playing once each week on a local TV station since the first week in December 2012. Our ministry leader in Guyana said, “The girl at the TV station asked me to tell Mr. Tkach hello.” They enjoy the short, to-the-point programs.

Our website has the largest collection of incarnational Trinitarian lectures and presentations in the world. This has proven to be an excellent library resource for use by many seminaries, including our own Grace Communion Seminary. Our learning institution can serve those who wish to pursue a master’s degree in pastoral studies through online courses; making it easy to attend classes from anywhere.

We’ve recently put our denominational magazine, Christian Odyssey, online. This enables us to provide our publication to a readership we hadn’t reached previously. Christian Odyssey is in “the cloud,” enabling it to be downloaded on Kindle, iPad and most e-readers, as well as smartphones. Check it out at www.christianodyssey.org.

We praise God that our website and online resources are being used in many different ways to connect people to him and to each other. We also thank God that technology makes it possible to reach people all over the world, through the Internet, and the many resources we have available on our website. And we especially give God praise for you. Your donations make it possible for us to provide this connection to God for thousands of people around the world.

Please join me in praying that God continues to guide us in using technology for his glory, as we continue to follow our mission of living and sharing the gospel.Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach President – Grace Communion International