Letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach - Sept. 2015

Date: 

September 1, 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I want to tell you the story of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. They were a remarkable group of individuals who used their God-given talents to overcome tremendous adversity to build a legacy that has burned bright for more than a hundred and fifty years.

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September 2015    

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It’s that time of year again: the weather is getting cooler, the stores are selling fresh pencils and notebooks, and students are headed back to school. I went to the same grade school as my dad, Nightingale Elementary. (See if you can pick me out of the crowd in the photo below). I’ll never forget one parent-teacher conference where Mrs. Atkins, who had taught my dad before me, told him he should be proud – that I was a much more attentive student than he ever was! I still get a laugh out of that.


Photo from the 1964 Nightingale
School Safety Patrol

Although it’s been a long time now since I was in elementary school, I can still remember the lasting impact my teachers had on me. In fact, I still remember my favorite teacher! His name was Mr. Gordon. He taught 6th grade science. He made science fun, performing chemistry experiments in class that wowed us all. He expanded my horizons, laying the foundation for a life-long interest in science for me. That’s what an inspiring teacher can do: make a difference in a student’s whole life, introducing opportunities he or she might not have had otherwise.

Whether it was a junior high English teacher who taught you the beauty of poetry or a Calculus professor who made math understandable, I bet you have a favorite teacher too. These people are so memorable to us because of their role in our lives: a good teacher nourishes a young mind, and can be the reason we pursue a favorite hobby, choose a certain major, or even select a career later in life.

One reason our teachers are so special to us is that, in their own way, they come alongside us when we don’t yet understand what they have to teach, and meet us where we are. Mr. Gordon had performed those same science experiments for sixth graders before my year, and would perform them again with the next class. But he joined us in our wonder and discovery. He walked alongside us, cheered us on and helped us. He celebrated with us when we gained skills and understanding.

Perhaps you remember that Jesus is called “Rabbi” throughout the Gospels, but it can be easy to forget that “rabbi” actually means “teacher.” Jesus’ calling on earth, along with atonement and communion, was to teach. He spent his three years of ministry spreading the good news of salvation. Jesus is called teacher for a reason – he walks alongside his followers, teaching us and encouraging us, even when we are slow or when we stumble. He supports us along the way, as we grow in Christlikeness. He lived out on earth the life he calls us to, and he’s there every step of the way celebrating our progress with us.

This is a wonderful truth of the incarnation. Christ, the Son of God, instead of remaining untouchable and above us, came down to inhabit our experience alongside us. An elementary school student isn’t likely to get much out of a college-level lecture on physics. If a teacher won’t meet the students at their level of learning, they can’t benefit from instruction. The same is true of God’s relationship to us. He knew that we could never reach him on our own. So God gave us the gift of Jesus, who was really and truly one with us in our humanity. He joined us on our level so he could advocate for us, encourage us, and reach out to us when we were ignorant of all he had to offer.

Jesus, the Good Teacher, has opened opportunities for us that we never could have imagined. He revealed to us the wonders that God prepared before the foundations of the world. He showed us the way to the Father through himself. Jesus, as the incarnate person of the Trinity, is the ultimate revelation of God – a personal God, full of mercy, grace, and forgiveness. A teacher who is truly on our side.

As I mentioned in my previous letter, GCI has a long history of valuing education. It’s why we have a seminary, why we invest in training pastors in the truth of theology and equipping ministers to spread the gospel more effectively.  It’s why we have such an extensive video, audio and article library of educational tools on our website at gci.org. When you give to GCI, you contribute to teaching and training at all levels in the church, from summer camps to seminary. Thank you for doing your part to support the chain of influence from teacher to student – an influence that can last a lifetime. If you have a story of a teacher who changed your life, why don’t you write in and tell me about it? I believe good teachers can have a lasting impact, and would be interested to hear other school-time memories. If you have a memory to share, write me a note or send me an email at: backtoschool@gci.org. I’d love to hear how your favorite teachers changed your life!

Learning and growing in Christ,


Joseph Tkach
President – Grace Communion International

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