GCI President Update | April 2023
In February, the US managers had a two-day retreat to share work-related items for the year ahead. This, and other similar retreats, have become valuable for the teams of people who make up our church leadership. Not only did we cover work-related items, we also shared in the meal preparation and the fellowship of breaking bread together. We have conversations around the evening firepit, and we deepen our bonds of friendship. And all of this serves to make the overall work environment better. These retreats are becoming an annual tradition and a strong part of our GCI culture.
A couple of things that happened during the US manager retreat made me pause and think about the value of traditions.
Most of you know that my primary voice is pioneer, hence I am a future thinker. The ears of my closest work colleagues perk up when they hear the words “what if?” coming out of my mouth. Something futuristic is coming.
Back to the retreat. In the first session we participated in an exercise called “Worthy of a Toast.” We begin our time together by reflecting on the good works God has done in us and through us over the past year. We need to stop and remember, then celebrate and praise the goodness and faithfulness of our triune God. This will continue to be our starting place as we come together to plan. We must have meaningful pauses and reflection before we seek God and his direction for the next steps.
We begin our retreat by remembering and then we bookend the retreat with communion – remembering Jesus. This year North American Superintendent Mike Rasmussen led the group in celebration of the Lord’s table. Through the scriptures, he walked us alongside the two disciples and Jesus on the road to Emmaus. As the travelers took the seven-mile walk, they hashed out the events of the past week, including who Jesus was and what he allowed to happen to him. The remarkable piece of this story is how the grief-stricken disciples were not recognizing this stranger who had joined them. It wasn’t until Jesus enacted the newly instituted service of communion with them that their eyes were opened. When the bread was broken and the wine poured out, the recognition of Jesus happened.
Isn’t it fascinating to consider that this is only the second Biblical recording of the Lord’s Table being observed, and it is on its way to becoming a tradition that will stand the test of time for the life of the church? When I took the symbols with my dear co-workers, I was somehow translated to the communion table of Emmaus and the revealed Jesus.
The tradition of communion that we call a church sacrament is critical. It establishes our foundation for all other structures, all other expressions of ministry, and everything that the church is about. It speaks to the resolute comment of the Apostle Paul when he said, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Jesus for who he is, and Jesus for what he has done. Period.
The sacrifice of Jesus and the completion of his work on behalf of humankind achieves the deep human needs of belonging, believing, and being. I think about the sense of comfort and centeredness that comes over me as I approach the table and then ingest the bread and wine that demonstrates my secure union with Jesus, and the additional blessing of connection to the believers around me. It’s a place where you want to linger.
I am seeing the church, across all 69 countries where we exist, starting to more fully embrace the Christian calendar and to establish traditions around the annual seasons that keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
One activity I took note of was a group retreat in Tasmania, Australia during the Advent season to better understand and be immersed in how these days lead to Christmas and the Incarnation. I’ve heard it said that you get out of Christmas what you have put into Advent.
The same is true for this season of Holy Week and Easter. What have the weeks of Easter Preparation looked like? I’ve observed a movement, especially in some of our younger members. They embrace this season with spiritual practices that demonstrate creative ways of attending more to Jesus in their daily lives. In many instances, that may mean skipping some routine activities to read Scripture, dedicating more focused time to prayer, and even experiencing Christ-centered periods of fasting.
I am pleased to see more corporate services being offered on Good Friday to remember that dark day when Jesus willingly took up the cross and went to Calvary. And for Holy Saturday as we anticipate his resurrection.
As your president, I am asking you to please be more considerate and deliberate about how we are establishing Christ-centered traditions. This is more than turkey at Thanksgiving or figgy pudding at Christmas. It is about Jesus for all seasons. This will impact our individual lives. It will impact our families and hopefully impact our children for generations to come.
A traditional expression for this coming Easter is, “He is risen!” You respond by saying, “He is risen indeed.” He is risen – now you.
Susan and I, along with your friends at the Home Office, wish each of you an inspiring Easter!
I’m Greg Williams speaking about the life of the church.