Dear Brothers and Sisters, The 4th of July will be here soon, and so will the celebration of Independence Day across the United States. Many nations have a day to celebrate independence, a holiday to commemorate their identity. On Wikipedia, you can scroll through a list of them from around the world. There are multiple Independence Days every month of the year - some founded as recently as 2011.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As I write this letter to you, I’m wrapping up a year of attending our wonderful GCI conferences, put on all over the world. Each year, we host regional conferences within the US, and an international developers’ conference to support the flourishing of our denomination abroad. This year at every US conference, I met at least one couple who had returned to our fellowship. Every conference I attend brings me real joy, and I’d like to share some of what I look forward to with you.
Our yearly regional conferences are a wonderful opportunity for pastors, church members, and ministry leaders from one geographic area to develop a vision together for the coming year. I love getting to meet new members at these gatherings – some attending our conferences for the first time! I also enjoy being able to connect with friends and fellow workers I’ve known for years, catching up over lunch, hearing about the wonderful things God is doing in their local communities. I am likewise blessed each time I attend our international developer’s conference. This year, it was in Bogota, Columbia. Our Spanish-speaking pastors from all over Latin America – Argentina, Columbia, El Salvador, Honduras, and Peru – shared the astonishing growth they are experiencing in their churches and ministries. I was deeply encouraged also by the large number of young people infusing our Latin American churches with energy and new ideas. Last year, our developers’ conference was held in South Africa, where ministers from twelve nations were represented. It was another great opportunity for me to meet co-workers for Christ face-to-face, many of whom I had only connected with over email before.
As energizing as all these conferences have been, I want to share with you something on the horizon that I’m looking forward to even more. At each of these conferences over the past year, I’ve seen a glimpse of what’s to come at our 2017 GCI Denominational Conference. As many of you know, every few years, instead of numerous conferences in many different locations, we have just one – our Denominational Conference. Our all-church gathering to be held in Orlando, Florida, in 2017 is shaping up to be our best yet with the theme, “We Are GCI!”
These denomination-wide gatherings are always rich and rewarding. They are family reunions. They offer a chance to connect with lifelong friends, and invest in lasting relationships within the body of Christ and Grace Communion International. Our name says it all and well describes our journey of faith – we truly are international, which means GCI brothers and sisters all over the world rarely get a chance to gather in one place. Our Denominational Conference offers us a rare opportunity to fellowship across language, culture, and geography. The speakers and workshops offered are some of the best I’ve ever experienced. They are a great reminder of who we are as a denomination, and how we can grow in relationship to God and one another.
The conference in 2017 is being held at the Lake Buena Vista Hilton in Orlando, Florida. It is not just an exclusive meeting for the ordained ministry – it’s open to all who want to learn more about where we are at GCI, and where we’re headed. Our last Denominational Conference had over a thousand attendees, and we expect next year’s turnout to be even better! The conference is scheduled for August 2nd through the 6th, so mark your calendars if you don’t want to miss any of the training, equipping, and important updates that will be shared. You can register as early as December, and we’ll continue to offer more details as the conference gets closer. I’m as eager for this denomination-wide gathering as I’ve ever been, because I know what an important one it will be in the history of our denomination.
We have a world-class lineup of speakers already, who will share from the heart about their experiences over the past few years, and update us with their visions for the future. Jeff McSwain, the head of our wonderful intern program, will tell us about the many young leaders rising up within GCI. Gary Deddo, the president of Grace Communion Seminary, will share about our seminary’s growing reach, and he and his wife Cathy will discuss how we can better integrate Trinitarian theology into daily missional living. I’m also thrilled that we’ll have a new youth delegation joining us for the first time – including some of our graduated interns, and giving us a glimpse of what the future of GCI holds.
Mostly though, I’m looking forward to our Denominational Conference because at no other time do I get to see so many representatives of our vibrant denomination in one place. We are a beautiful mosaic, made up of ministries and churches large and small from all over the world. We’ll hear from our international brothers and sisters about the continued spread of the gospel in many nations. Our denomination is a vibrant, global one, connected by a love of God and of each other, and this conference confirms that for me each time.
GCI is also in a unique time of transition. I know that I myself have some important news to share with you all at our 2017 conference, as we look toward the future of this beautiful denomination. It will be a significant and historic moment, a chance to look back in gratitude over where God has brought us, and look forward with hope where he continues to lead. I know you’ll want to attend to hear from Greg Williams, Director of Church Administration and Development, as he begins an on-going conversation about the next chapter of Grace Communion International and its growth.
Here at GCI, we want to move into the future with clear eyes and with sensitive hearts to the guiding of our Triune God. We are in an important season as a denomination, one of transition and of goal-setting, as we continue to celebrate the wonderful things God has continued to do for us. I joyfully invite you to join us at our landmark 2017 Denominational Conference. You can check gci.org/events for updates, and be the first to know when registration opens in December. My heart is full as I look forward to the blessings and the richness of this family gathering.
What a joy to participate with Jesus and each of you in this life-changing work of sharing the good news about Jesus with others around the world. Thank you for your support!
I’ll keep an eye out for you in Orlando!
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Grace Communion International is dedicated to helping people everywhere understand the truth about God and the gospel. Because of your generous support, we can share the good news of who God really is for us with many more around the world. We appreciate your support.